Snow Dogs

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays hot-blooded Miami dentist Ted Brooks, a man whose life gets an Alaskan overhaul when he travels to the icy cold state to find his biological mother. Once there, he discovers that not only is his mother deceased, but he has inherited her award-winning pack of sled dogs.

  • Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn and Joanna Bacalso
  • Director(s): Brian Levant
  • Producer(s): Winterdance Productions, Ltd.
  • Screenwriter(s): Jim Kouf, Tommy Swerdlow
  • Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
  • Animal Coordinator: Birds and Animals Unlimited
  • Release Date: Friday, January 18, 2002

Featured Animal Action

Canine Culture Shock
Ted enters his first Alaskan bar and sees a dog sitting in a booth inside licking some beer out of the glass belonging to the man next to him. The beer was actually chicken broth. Soon, the intimidating sled-racing champ Thunder Jack (James Coburn) enters the bar, causing the beer-swilling canine to cower underneath the table. A trainer off-camera cued the dog to cower and rewarded the animal with a treat.
Upon Ted’s first meeting with his new canine pack, the dogs surround him, growling and snarling at him. Demon, the meanest looking dog, jumps from the stairs onto the kitchen table, snarling menacingly. Ted, who is wearing a long down filled coat, is suddenly knocked down by the dogs, who proceed to tear his coat apart. To achieve this, the trainers put the dogs on their marks and stood off-camera using a combination of hand signals and verbal cues to get the dogs to follow the actor’s stunt double. The dog who played Demon was very good at leaping on command and had no problem jumping from its mark from the stairs to the table. The dogs were also verbally cued to bite onto the stunt double’s coat.
Scared and whimpering, Ted gets up and runs as dogs chase him. Ted runs up a tree and Demon jumps against the tree base. A final show of his alpha-maleness, Demon urinates on the tree. Ted yells at the dog, who seems to take it all in stride. The trainer placed the dog on its mark and cued it to jump. The dog was verbally cued by the trainer to roll on its back and get back up. Later, the dog was verbally cued to chase the actor off-camera to an awaiting trainer and treat. The dog was then put on a mark by the tree base and the trainer stood off-camera using hand signals to get the dog to jump up and bark. To prompt the dog to urinate on cue, the trainer marked the spot with urine from a spray bottle. Then, on a verbal command, the dog ran right to marked spot and completed the scene.
Trainers stood off-camera using a combination of hand signals and verbal cues to get the dogs to achieve lots of action throughout the film such as barking, growling, lying down, sitting, standing, and even digging. In one scene, a dog called Scooper begins to dig in the snow as the other dogs lie in the snow and enjoy a much-deserved rest. The dog finally digs up a flask. A trainer buried some treats in the snow near the flask and used a hand signal from off-camera to get the dog to begin digging. Once the dog got scent of the treat, the rest of the scene came naturally to the pooch. After the scene was filmed, the other dogs also received edible rewards for a job well done.
In another scene, Ted’s dogs are inside looking out the window of their home. Nana, the mutt, scratches at the window, while Demon jumps up on hay bales between two of the dogs. Bales of hay were placed next to the window. The dogs were placed on their marks on the hay bales by trainers. Two trainers hid inside and seven others stood outside the windows using verbal cues to get the dogs to look in different directions. The dog that played Demon was verbally cued by a trainer hiding inside the barn to jump up on the bales between two dogs that were already seated by the window. Nana was also verbally cued to paw at the window by a trainer.
During a fantasy/nightmare sequence, Ted’s dogs lie on beach chairs with sunglasses on. Each dog had a trainer and was prepped for one month prior to filming. Each dog had its own foam padding which was cut out to fit its hips and back so it could lie on the beach chair and not slip down or tip over. Custom-made bathing suits were made for each dog to wear. The trainers placed the dogs in the chairs and set sunglasses on their faces then stood off camera calling to the dogs to get them to look in various directions. After the scene was filmed, the trainers retrieved the dogs and disrobed them, rewarding each with a treat. All of the mouth movements and facial expressions here and throughout the film were computer generated and edited in during post production.
Alpha Male Struggle
As an attempt to establish his dominance over Demon, Ted pads his butt with straw and tempts Demon to bite it. Demon sinks his teeth into the seat of Ted’s pants and Ted twirls him around. Demon finally lets go and falls onto a bale of hay. A stuntman was brought in to double for the actor in this scene. Along with lots of padding, a treat wrapped inside a towel was put inside the seat of the stuntman’s pants to entice the dog to bite the padded part. The dog holds on to the pants as the stuntman drags the dog across the yard and into the barn. The dog was given the treat inside the towel afterwards.
During another scene, two dogs play tug-of-war over a bone as the other dogs watch them and run to window when Ted drives up. One dog appears in barn with a bone it its mouth as another one eats from a food bowl. The dog with the bone drops it down on the ground and looks for a reaction from the dog that’s eating. It stops eating and nudges the bone with its nose as another dog swoops in the scene and grabs the bone. Trainers placed the dogs on their marks and stood off-camera using a combination of verbal cues and hand signals to achieve this action. Trainers standing off-camera verbally cued the dogs to run to the window as Ted pulls up outside.
It wasn’t hard to get Nana the dog to curl up in bed with Cuba in a later scene. A trainer put the dog on its mark and stood off-camera. To get the dog to lick the actor, some baby food was placed on the area to be licked and the dog happily complied.
Sledding Action
Trainers hooked the Siberian Huskies up to lines called gang lines, which were then attached to the sleds. Because the dogs were always teamed together, they were very comfortable with each other. All of the dogs were used to being hitched to sleds and pulling them in the snow. The snow on the ground was real, although the snow that fell from the sky was not. It came out of a machine and fans placed around the set helped to blow it around to achieve a blizzard effect. The snow drifts and hills that the teams of dogs are shown traversing were all man made and stunt riders and dogs rehearsed these scenes numerous times. Stunt doubles drive the sleds and teams of trainers guided the dogs to run in various directions by running in front of the sled. The dogs only ran a few feet at a time and ran even slower when the paths got curvy. The help of several cameras and various angles helped in the final race scene where the sled appears to go over the side of a cliff.
Ted and Nana sit inside a VW car being pulled by a team of dogs. Nana jumps out the window of the makeshift sled while the other disobedient dogs romp in the snow. One dog even stands on top of the parked car. The dogs were hooked up to the car by the trainers, who stood off-camera during filming. The actor sat in the car with Nana the dog. The car was on a process trailer being towed by the camera truck. One trainer hid in the car while another stood off-camera. On a verbal cue, the dog jumps out of the window of the car and a trainer is there to reward the dog. A dog is placed on its mark on top of the parked car and trainers surrounded the car during this shot. The dog was then retrieved by the trainer and rewarded with a treat.
Ted drives his team of dogs out of the barn and sleds along a mountainside. A close-up of a fox is shown and the team of dogs enthusiastically chases it along the precariously windy path. Two trainers accompanied the fox. One trainer released the fox, which ran across the set to another trainer, who rewarded it with a treat. The team of dogs secured to the sled is then put on its mark and the dogs pull the sled around the mountainside. The team stops running when it reaches a log that was placed in the pathway by crew members. Ted loses control of the sled when it crashes into the log. This carefully choreographed scene was filmed in cuts; the dogs did not actually crash into the log. Trainers retrieved the dogs after the scene was filmed.
During the big race, the team of dogs races around the narrow cliff and the sled goes over the side. The sled and several of the dogs dangle over the edge. The dogs are then pulled back up in slow motion. Several cameras using various angles were used to help simulate the danger of this scene. Trainers hooked the team of dogs to the sled using extra gang lines and harnesses. Trainers stood on either side of the sled as it moved and other trainers and crew members surrounded them. The team was placed on their mark and ropes were attached to the gang lines and the dogs’ harnesses. The ropes acted as pulleys and were maneuvered by trainers standing on the other side. On “action,” the rope slowly pulled the dogs up and over the side to awaiting trainers who unhooked the dogs and rewarded them with treats.
Skunky Cold
In one scene, a skunk crawls on the inside of Ted’s car. It sprays Ted. Two skunks were on call for this scene, but a skunk named Flower actually ended up doing the work. Two trainers accompanied the skunks to the set. Flower was placed near the rear window of a Volkswagen car that was on a process trailer being towed by the camera truck. A trainer hidden in the backseat of the car cued the skunk to lift its tail. The spray was a computer generated effect.
Ted Meets a Bear
Out in the icy wilderness, Ted encounters a big brown bear who growls at him and stands up on its hind legs, then chases him. A stuntman doubled for the actor in this scene while two trainers stood off-camera cueing the bear to achieve its action. The bear was rewarded with lots of big treats and hugs.
Chester, Wet Poodle
Back in Miami, Ted lives next door to a little poodle named Chester, whose incessant barking annoyed the pre-dog-friendly Ted. One day, Ted is out on the balcony and sees Chester next door barking. Ted yells at the dog then takes a sprinkling can with water in it and pours it on the dog. The trainer placed the dog on its mark and stood off-camera using hand signals to get the dog to bark. The actor picked up the sprinkling can, which had some warm water in it and poured it on the dog. The trainer retrieved the dog - which was unphased - and dried it off.
Dogs, Dogs, and More Dogs!
During the opening credits, a girl rollerblades at the beach while holding onto the leash of a dog. A trainer gave the leash to the actress on blades while another trainer ran in front of them calling to the dog, who followed obediently.