The year was 1997. The United Kingdom had just handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China. The Heaven’s Gate cultists committed mass suicide at their San Diego compound. The English Patient won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Pol Pot was still alive. These were heady, confusing times, and America needed a good, unambiguous hero. A hero that was a dog. A dog that could sort of play basketball. And thus, the legend and film franchise of Air Bud was born, earning twenty-seven million dollars at the box office against a mere three-million budget, and briefly catapulting its Golden Retriever lead actor and inspiration, Buddy, to canine superstardom.

Unfortunately, celebrity dog Buddy succumbed to complications from cancer the following year at the age of ten. The mythology of Air Bud continued however, and sequels were released at a rapid-fire pace. In short order, the fictionalized version of Buddy conquered (American) football, (the rest of the world) football, baseball, and even volleyball. And still to come was the Air Buddies spin-off films, about Buddy’s trouble-making puppies, including fan favorite B-Dawg, the relatable puppy who loves hip-hop culture. The puppies of the spin-off films had human actors do voice-over work for them, unlike the original Air Bud films, because of course dogs cannot speak.

Well, not until now, perhaps, because I’ve been sent up the meandering black roads of the Hollywood Hills by my drunk editor to interview the spirit of Buddy. We’re here to drum up anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the original film. Back in the old days, it was possible to celebrate an anniversary without resorting to communicating with the spirit of a dead animal, but the world is changing.