Dog City originally aired as part of episode 104 of The Jim Henson Hour on May 5, 1989 and was later shown on The Odyssey Channel as a stand-alone special without the MuppeTelevision framing segments. It was in this form that it was released on region 2 DVD, where it was marketed as Dog City: The Movie.
The special inspired an animated spin-off series, Jim Henson's Dog City.
The full film is available for viewing at the Paley Center for Media.
The story, inspired by a series of paintings by C. M. Coolidge, and adapted to the film noir genre, follows the exploits of a cast of Muppet dogs featuring Rowlf as the only character to break the fourth wall as a guide to the audience.
The story begins with a the title sequence. After the all the singing and dancing, it cuts to Sprocket (in a beggar outfit) being thrown out of a bar, known as the Dog House. The bartender tells him that he can only come in if he has money. The scene pans to Rowlf explaining where the audience is and what is going on. He then introduces Ace Yu, who gets into a bit of a bad joke witht he bartender about his name. He asks to see Bubba. The bartender, whose apron clearly says "BUBBA", asks why he wants to know. Ace Yu reveals his full name, and the bartender finally realizes that Ace is friendly. Ace asks about the circumstances of the death of his Uncle Harry, whom he inherited the Dog House from. Bubba comments that he didn't know Harry had a nephew and Ace reveals that he never knew that he had an Uncle Harry. Bubba explains that Ace's uncle was killed by them, Bugsy Them. Rowlf comments this is an inside joke. The story seems to get stuck when Ace gets into an argument with one of the dogs, who says that Bugsy will be sure to find them. "But what if he doesn't?" "Oh, he will all right."
Rowlf quickly switches the scene to Bugsy inside his hideout, having his long tail being combed by Miss Belle, talking about how there is a new dog in town (Oh, he did all right). Bugsy seems to have a problem with being senseless (he knocks down the only remaining belonging of his mother). Bugsy calls in Scruffy, Laughing Boy and Mad Dog. They decide to break into the Dog House to confront Ace Yu.
Ace is still having the argument with the other dog when Bugsy enters the scene. Bugsy confronts him to tell him that since Ace has inherited the Dog House from his uncle, he wants all the money the bar has (in gold dog bones) to be paid to him. Ace refuses. Rowlf then talks about Miss Belle, how the sheer mention of her name will make dog's mouth water. With that, everyone (excluding Rowlf) starts wiping their mouths. When Ace refuses to do anything, Bugsy has Scruffy and Laughing Dog hold him. He hits Ace three times. Rowlf points out that any more would be senseless; with that Bugsy hits Ace 5 times. He tells Ace that he has to repay the money tomorrow, or he'll be in trouble.
Following the moment Bugsy leaves the scene, Ace asks all the dogs to help him. The dogs promptly leave the Dog House. Ace, disappointed, decides to go to bed.
Just as Ace has fallen asleep, he hears a clanging out in the alley. He takes the only weapon he can find (a skillet) and jumps out. He finds no one. Puzzled, he backs into Colleen Barker. He offers to cook her some food inside the Dog House, but Colleen comments that what he's cooking seems to be burning. Ace isn't sure what she means, until he sees smoke coming out of the door.
Entering the bar, he calls the fire department. "Fire! Fire" The fireman replies "Water! Water!" Ace seems annoyed that everyone seems dumb in Dog City. Colleen points out the fire is only a bunch of coals in a garbage can. She quickly puts it out.
Ace suspects that Bugsy Them started the fire. Colleen comments that if she ever ran into them, she'll chop his head off, tie his tail tight... Ace quickly tells her to stop. He talks about his earliest memory; a black blob (his father) and a rubber duckie. He wonders what happened to his real parents, and knocks down a vase. In it, he finds a rubber duck and a note that says "ACE'S FIRST BIRTHDAY PRESENT FROM HARRY, HIS REAL FATHER". Ace realizes that Bugsy Them killed his real father, and vows revenge.
The next day, he and Colleen are at the docks with the duck (Ace has dubbed him Quackers) and Ace yammers on about how he wants to get back at Bugsy Them. Meanwhile, Bugsy is watching them. He asks Mad Dog to kill Ace. However, Ace and Colleen are saying all sorts of dog commands, and unfortunately, Mad Dog follows them,and ends up in the harbor.
That night, Colleen asks Rowlf to play a song, and she begins singing. At the end, she sings so high, the windows and the glasses (and eyeglasses) break. During the applause, she is kidnapped. Ace is upset, and once again asks the dogs in the bar to help. They again leave. Rowlf comments that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself. Ace finds a note that says if he doesn't come to Bugsy's hide out with 10,000 gold bones, Colleen will soon be a hot dog.
Bugsy has Colleen bound and gagged. He is torturing her with a dog biscuit on her nose. Ace comes in and challenges Bugsy to a duel. However, over their word battle, Colleen gets free. The guards start to chase her, but decide to get back at Ace. Colleen, on the other hand, takes a car and drives right into the guards and Bugsy. As she and Ace drive away, the gang get up and chase after them.
As the cars chase with several gunshots, Rowlf comes rolling out on a piano on wheels. He comments he always wanted to get his show on the road. He plays dramatic music while the car chase continues. Ace and Colleen dodge away from a billboard, but Bugsy's guards fly into it. Miss Belle says they should just go home. Bugsy says he doesn't even know the meaning of go home (not literally). Mad Dog starts to say all the definitions he can think of, leaving Scruffy and Laughing Boy baffled.
Ace and Colleen are at the docks, when Bugsy and Miss Belle come up with guns. Ace distracts them while Colleen runs for help. Ace decides to use Quackers to place on Bugsy's tail. Bugsy ends up shooting the head off Quackers, along with part of his tail. The police are about to come by when Ace walks up to Bugsy and Miss Belle. Bugsy takes out a gun and says that he can now finish off Ace's family. But Ace shoots the ground, and Bugsy along with Miss Belle fall into the harbor. Ace proposes to Colleen, who agrees. Rowlf then offers to take the love dogs home. They sing a reprise of the Dog City song before the special ends. A beaten up Bugsy and Miss Belle can be seen in the song.