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Lassie returns to the spotlight

As a recent article in The New York Times makes clear, Lassie, the canine star of classic film and television, is making a comeback in 2014, but not on movie or TV screens. Instead, the iconic collie is being positioned as a brand property for new owner DreamWorks Animation, which has trotted Lassie out for a series of publicity gigs in various media venues. DreamWorks currently says it has no plans for a new television series or feature film starring the current Lassie incarnation, which leaves classic Lassie fans with only her earlier work to enjoy.

Lassie, seen here in 2011, is returning to the spotlight in 2014.
Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images

In the 1940s, Lassie was a huge box office star. She made her first appearance in 1943 in "Lassie Come Home," which also boasted an impressive human cast, including Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Crisp, and Elsa Lanchester. The success of that first outing led to several sequels; "Son of Lassie" appeared in 1945, "Hills of Home" in 1948, and both "The Sun Comes Up" and "Challenge to Lassie" were released in 1949. The television series that began in 1954 ran for nearly twenty years and became one of the longest running primetime series in history, helping to cement Lassie's unique place in the hearts of American viewers. The most recent Lassie film, a new adaptation of the original novel by Eric Knight, appeared in 2005, with Peter O'Toole and Peter Dinklage among its human stars.

As most Lassie fans already know, the female character has been played by a male dog since the first Lassie movie, when Pal originated the role with the help of owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax. While the Weatherwax family is no longer involved with Lassie, the newest dog to inhabit the role is a direct descendent of the original Pal and is owned and trained by Carol Riggins. The current Lassie, seen in the video above, is a 10th generation descendant of Pal, with all of the markings required by the Lassie trademark.

See one of Lassie's recent publicity appearances in the video at the top of this article. You can also find out more about upcoming Lassie media events at the official Lassie Dog Co. website.