With the sweltering, sunny season winding down, The Hub has been joyously embracing the theme of "the dog days of summer." For the first week of August, the network invited dog owners to submit pictures of their four-legged friends for their "Pup-ularity Contest." Voting to determine a winner amongst those entries was subsequently opened to fans in a search for the world's happiest pup, and now, the competition will culminate on Saturday, August 25 with a marathon of the Hub Original Series Pound Puppies from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST, during which the victor will be announced on-air. The canine champion will receive a $5,000 donation in their name to the Petfinder Foundation, a non-profit organization with a mission similar to that of the titular protagonists of Pound Puppies: finding loving homes for shelter and rescue animals. The winning pet will also receive a trip to Hollywood, California with their owner and three friends, along with $2,500 in cash and a gift certificate to a doggie spa. The special two-hour marathon will be followed up with encore presentations of Hotel for Dogs and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed later that evening.
In support of The Hub's Pup-ularity Contest and animal welfare in general, we had the opportunity to catch up with actress Alanna Ubach, who voices the character of Strudel on Pound Puppies. For those new to the show, Strudel is a brown dachshund who, as a bona fide canine genius, is the group's inventive and resourceful gadgetmaster--essentially, the wiener dog equivalent of James Bond's Q. Her elongated frame and stubby legs also give her an undeniable adorable factor, because, let's face it, wiener dogs use their cute and comical appearance to steal attention from their peers even in real life. The animated world is no different.
For Alanna--whose work has encompassed stage, film, and television--the Pound Puppies gig was a fortunate convergence of her personal and professional lives. First, she's a dog lover who currently has two rescues of her own: Lucy (pictured with Alanna above), who coincidentally happens to be a dachshund, and Stewie, a three-legged shepherd mix who was nursed back to health after being hit by a car. Second, she has a natural penchant for voices and accents that fits perfectly with the business of animation, a fact pointed out years ago by her manager, who encouraged her to pursue voiceover roles.
As the name might imply, Strudel has a German accent, though it is slight enough that many listeners might label it simply as "posh" or "aristocratic." Alanna says this wasn't always the case, and that as a self-described "character actor," she originally brought out the big guns and delivered an accent heavy enough to leave no room for debate.
"It was a very thick accent in the beginning," she explains. "It was huge. In fact, they could barely understand what I was saying, and so we had to lighten it up. And I was like, 'Are you sure I don't sound English?' They were like, 'No you don't sound English--your name's Strudel, people will get it.'"
Becoming a part of the Pound Puppies cast also reunited her with 'toon veteran John Di Maggio (Futurama), who had worked with her previously on the Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Manny Rivera. "It was so cool because I was able to work with John Di Maggio, who's a great buddy of mine," Alanna recalls. "So it was really fun to be working with [an] old co-worker again. He's a lot of fun." She cites her in-studio collaboration with Di Maggio amongst her favorite experiences related to the show--high praise for a project that has enjoyed an impressive list of guest voices, including Betty White, George Takei, and Jim Parsons, as well as voiceover icons like Tara Strong, Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen, Jeff Bennett, Tress MacNeille, and Frank Welker.
With the show currently in the middle of its second season, Strudel has created an impressive myriad of inventions to date. Mentally sifting through her alter-ego's electronic wizardry, Alanna describes her favorite Strudel construct as an ATM machine that talks back, specifically remaining vague and spoiler-free. But technological brainiac is only part of Strudel's DNA--she has also demonstrated a bit of love for the limelight, as seen in an episode where she runs away and joins the circus. Alanna equates this to Strudel having innate aspirations, observing that "most geeks are big dreamers." (And yes, that was the first time I've ever heard anyone affectionately refer to a dog as a geek.)
Despite her advanced intellect, Strudel does have one noticeable limitation inherent to her loyal species: the lack of opposable thumbs. While one episode did see her invent an ingenious glove that fits over a paw and simulates the five fingers of a human, Strudel usually overcomes this impediment with the help of squirrels who do her dexterous dirty work, led by Mr. Nut Nut (who is also voiced by Alanna). And though Strudel is typically a benevolent boss to this small army of rodents under her command, Alanna would have different plans were the universe to bestow a personal entourage of minion squirrels upon her. She jokes about small jobs she would have them do--for example, taking dictation so that she would no longer have to send text messages herself--but her theoretical list of tasks gets more elaborate the more thought she gives it, eventually leading to the wish for squirrel clones that could stand in for her at auditions and lunch dates.
Pound Puppies has garnered accolades from fans and critics alike, placing it amongst the ranks of The Hub's successful reboots of '80s properties alongside Transformers: Prime and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. There's no reason to believe that it can't enjoy a long and healthy life going forward, given the world's never-ending love for man's best friend. And perhaps by this time next year, this inaugural Pup-ularity Contest will become an annual tradition, and dogs will rule the days of summer once more.