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Dachshunds get their time to shine

'Wiener Dog Nationals,' by feature director Kevan Peterson, enjoys its world premiere at Newport Beach Film Festival.

April 26, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • "Wiener Dog Nationals," a family comedy by first-time feature director Kevan Peterson, will have its world premiere Saturday at the Island Cinema 7.
"Wiener Dog Nationals," a family comedy by…

Talk about underdogs.

This year's Newport Beach Film Festival features a slew of marquee names, from rocker Billie Joe Armstrong to "Office" star Steve Carell to Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallstrom. But when tickets went on sale April 1, the film that sold out first belonged to a group of stars with decidedly lower stature.

Those would be the canine leads of "Wiener Dog Nationals," a family comedy by first-time feature director Kevan Peterson that will have its world premiere Saturday at the Island Cinema 7. The filmmaker expects a crowd of dachshund owners to bring their pets to the screening — the theater, for this showing only, will lift its no-dog policy — and they'll have more than just the premiere to celebrate.

"We can now officially say we sold out before Green Day," said Peterson, a Los Angeles resident.

As a lover of the breed, Peterson felt proud to contribute to the admittedly slim history of dachshund-centric cinema. Wiener dogs have had notable bit parts in many movies — Peterson cited Slinky Dog in the "Toy Story" trilogy as a favorite — but only occasionally have they scored the leading role.

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An Internet Movie Database title search brings up a 1915 silent comedy titled "Dicky's Demon Dachshund" (of which the Moving Picture World declared at the time, "Some amusing incidents occur in the picture which will be found to be a comedy worthwhile"), plus a 1917 animated short called "Evolution of the Dachshund." An episode of a 1970s mystery TV show also sports the grim title "Dirge for a Dead Dachshund."

Most prominent is the 1966 live-action Disney comedy "The Ugly Dachshund," in which a Great Dane puppy grows up amid a litter of wieners and needs an intervention to realize it isn't one of them.

Having already made his first foray into the genre, Peterson hopes to expand it again with his next film: the sequel "Wiener Dog Internationals," which is scheduled to start shooting this fall.

For now, though, he has a packed weekend ahead. "Wiener Dog Nationals" is part of a two-day family program at the festival, which includes classic Warner Bros. cartoons, dozens of other live-action and animated shorts, the high school drama "Underdogs" (about football, not dachshunds) and 1996's "Muppet Treasure Island," among others.

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