Fun Academy Motion Pictures introduced “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” its animated movie based on the events of Sgt. Stubby, Robert Conroy, and World War I, at the DFW Humane Society on Thursday Sept. 14 as a part of North Texas Day of Giving. The movie is expected to be released in theaters on April 13, 2018.
Before Sergeant Stubby became a famous American war hero, he was a starving stray dog wandering the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. In July of 1917, he ran into Private First Class Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment as Army recruits were training on the Yale University grounds.
Since the soldiers taught Stubby how to salute, he was able to stay as the unit’s unofficial regiment mascot. When the men were being shipped off to France to join the war, Stubby was not allowed to go since military dogs were not being used during WWI for battle. Conroy did not want to leave Stubby behind, so he snuck Stubby onto the ship. When officials discovered Stubby, they learned the dog could salute and decided to allow the dog to remain with the soldiers.
“He was actually very helpful,” said Jacy Jenkins, director of outreach and partnerships of Fun Academy Motion Pictures. “He uplifted morale, he got rats out of the trenches, he once caught a German spy and he saved a whole town from a surprise mustard gas attack because he warned them.”
Stubby participated in 19 battles and four offensives. After capturing the spy, Stubby was promoted to Sergeant. The women of Chateau-Thierry made Sgt. Stubby a chamois coat for his honorary medals.
To this day, Stubby was the only dog in military history to be promoted to Sergeant, surpassing even his owner’s ranking.
“Stubby was wounded twice,” said Thomas Doyle, DFW Humane Society rescue volunteer. “When guys would run into battle with bayonets fixed, Stubby would run right next to them. He would go into no-man’s land where guys would get wounded, find them, bark until the medics came and then stay with them.
“There are so many guys that stayed alive because of one dog.”
After Stubby came back from the service, he became a service therapy dog.
“Our founder, Richard Lanni, made the most aired World War II documentary series,” Jenkins said. “When he went back to the drawing board to create a WWI documentary series, he found this story of an amazing dog. He was so captivated by Stubby that he wanted to make more than just a children’s book or a serious documentary where no one would see it.
“He wanted to make a movie that would reach a larger audience, while having full creative control. He decided animation does the best at the theaters. On one hand we’re going to be producing this CGI animated, top-caliber, educational film. Our whole mission is to produce fun educational movies.
“Not many people know about WWI, but we believe more people will learn about WWI through the eyes of this dog. Our launch pad is Stubby and we do plan to make a trilogy out of the story. The world is hungry for more story driven content,” she said.
Today, Stubby is preserved in the Smithsonian in his military jacket.
“Conroy rescued a dog, and Stubby felt obligated to rescue him along with a bunch of other people because they were keeping his human alive,” Doyle said.
“This is a story of an animal and human bond and it’s powerful. This is why I volunteer at the Humane Society. We see dogs like Stubby every day and we help make that animal/human bond every day. It happens because of volunteers and generous donors.”
“We wanted to keep the film a PG rating,” Jenkins said. “For example, one of the guys in the movie has a pipe without tobacco in it. We tried hard to really make it family friendly.”
“Richard wasn’t concerned about how we were going to demonstrate war in an animated film,” said Jane Sheehan, Public Relations for Fun Academy Motion Pictures. “He thinks we coddle children too much when they could actually be learning something. It’s not going to be like your average war movie, think of it as an adventure set in a war setting. Stubby’s story is literally zero to hero.”
“If you look at Stubby, he really is the poster for shelter dogs,” Doyle said. “He is the quintessential shelter dog because he is a mutt, but he also has some bully breed in him. Most dogs seen in the shelters are bully breed.
“Stubby was a half-starved dog running around in the streets and he literally did run into a solider. He did end up out ranking his human. In the history of war dogs in this country, Stubby is still the most decorated war dog in American history compared to the purebred dogs they spend thousands of dollars to train.
“Rescue dogs come in all shapes and sizes,” Doyle said. “Finding them homes is one of the things we strive to do in rescues. We’re not selling dogs here, that’s the reason why we use the word adoption.
“Several local groups in this area are official rescue partners for this movie. This includes DFW Humane Society, Paws for Irving Animals, Two Bullies and a Blonde, and Trinity Gap Rescue. This is the start of a partnership that will continue through the entire three sequels.”
“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” will be helping select non-profit partners across America by donating a percentage of the movie’s net box office on opening day, Sheehan said.