Another one of Don Knotts’ attempts at voice-overs occurred in 2000, just six years before he passed away, when he lent his voice to the animated musical comedy film , which put an anthropomorphic spin on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by animating a bunch of animals instead of humans to take the roles of the characters. Many of the film’s voice-overs were done by popular country singers, especially for the lead characters, which made the movie appealing to a wider range of audiences.
Don Knotts’ role was as Mutt Potter, and old and scared dog with big ears, a haircut that looks like a piece of synthetic grass, and sad droopy eyes. The film received mixed reviews from fans, with a 66% score on Rotten Tomatoes by over 1,700 of the site’s users, but got almost no attention from film critiques and largely went unnoticed by them. It was considered a good take on the 1876 novel and a great and humble entry for Don Knotts’ long filmography.
Cats Don’t Dance
Don Knotts made another attempt at voice-over work with Warner Brothers' nostalgic 1997 animated musical comedy, Cats Don't Dance. The film featured Danny, a young and motivated dancing cat who goes to Hollywood with the goal of becoming a famous movie star. Don Knotts voiced in a supporting role as T.W. Turtle, the anxious and superstitious (not at all surprising) turtle who uses fortune cookies to make his decision to came to Hollywood with the hopes of making it big as a star. The character's singing parts were not done by Don, as they were actually performed by singer Rick Logan. This one was another box office failure and made only $3.5 million against its production budget (not including marketing) of $32 million.
Putting aside the film's poor commercial performance, it actually received favorable reviews for its great animation, fun humor, and a fantastic soundtrack. This was the first non-Disney film to have ever won a Best Animated Feature award. Cats Don't Dance was also nominated for numerous awards including Best Effects Animation, Best Sound Editing, Best Animated Picture, Best Performance in Voiceover and much more. It was officially released on VHS in 1997 and then on DVD in 2002. The film was also released in widescreen in 2008 and then re-released in 2016 and is now available for streaming through Google Play and Amazon Video.
One of the most creative films of the last two centuries was a feature film called Pleasantville, that starred Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, Reese Witherspoon and our man, Don Knott. It was a critically acclaimed and very popular film due to its brilliant premise of a brother and his sister getting trapped inside a fictional black-and-white TV show town in Iowa, as they add their "humanity" to the town and it gradually becomes colorful. It was a wonderful homage to an era just recently over, with films transitioning from traditional black and white to more engaging color films starting from the '40s and up to the late '60s.
Pleasantville was an absolute winner with the critics and got itself three Academy Award nominations and raving reviews. Don Knotts made a cameo in the film as the mysterious TV repairman who causes the two siblings to get transported into the black-and-white town of Pleasantville in the first place. Quite a fitting role, as the actor truly embodies the transition from the old to the new and lived through it, with one of his shows literally transitioning from black to white and into color in the middle of its long runtime.
Don Knotts' final film role prior to his passing was a straight to DVD comedy film titled Air Buddies, which was the 6th entry into the Air Bud film series about a sports-playing Golden Retriever named Buddy and his gang of puppies. The film series is one of the world's most successful direct-to-DVD franchises and had grossed over $200 million by 2014. This was not only Don Knotts' last film, as it was also Patrick Cranshaw’s final one, as both passed away just prior to the release of the film.
Air Buddies came out on December 12, 2006, just a few months after the death of the popular actor. He lent his voice to portray Sniffer, an old bloodhound who lost his sense of smell a long time ago. His character later regains his sense of smell after being sprayed by a skunk. He's one of the protagonists of the movie and serves as a wise and old dog. The film received mixed reviews, scoring a rating of 4.8 out of 10 on the popular film review site IMDB, based on the combined ratings of over 3,000 of its users.
Don Knotts' popularity peaked around the '50s and '60s as he starred in numerous films and TV shows in both leading and supporting roles. He was one of the crowd's favorites and managed to draw audiences who fell in love with his skits, authenticity and brilliant sense of humor. The actor made a short appearance in 1973 on the popular sitcom Here's Lucy starring Lucille Ball. The series also starred her boyfriend Gale Gordon and her two children.
Don had an extremely good decade in the '70s in relation to his acting career, with countless acting opportunities flowing his way after his immense popularity gain in the previous two decades. The actor made many guest appearances on TV shows, and the episode where he appeared in Here's Lucy ended up becoming the season's most beloved and most watched one.