I've been waiting for this for years. The movie A Dog of Flanders is the modern incarnation of the TV series of the same name that aired in 1975, and is also directed by the original director. That original show was the first of what was termed World Masterpiece Theater, a series of shows that ran from 1975 to 1997. WMT animated Western literary classics every year, many of them as famous as Tom Sawyer (1980) and Little Women (1987), and others so obscure that the original novels are not available in English. Sadly, although many have been dubbed and rerun countless times in European countries, most of these quality shows are virtually unheard of in the United States. This is very unfortunate, considering the involvement that the greatest animators of all time, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, had in their beginnings. Takahata is the other master behind Studio Ghibli, and is now called Miyazaki's right-hand man but is often underappreciated in his own right. He directed Heidi (1974), the series that prompted the officialization of WMT, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (1976), and Anne of Green Gables (1979). Miyazaki singlehandedly did the continuity and layout of both Heidi and 3000 Leagues, and the late Yoshifumi Kondou, the director of Whispers of the Heart, was in charge of the entire image of Anne. It was really through their involvement in these works that Ghibli developed its now signature "look" in their characters. ...But I digress. For anyone who wants to know more about WMT, http://tky.hut.fi/~otakut/anime/sekai.html is a great web page that goes over a lot of the shows and illustrates the importance of many of them as a foundation block to the history of anime and anime direction.
The original short story for A Dog of Flanders was written in 1872 by Marie Louisa de la Ramee, and is probably the first "a boy and his dog" story. It was chosen as the first in the series of movie remakes of WMT as it had the highest rating out of all of the other shows (3000 Leagues is currently next in production). The show was so dear to the hearts of so many people in Japan, and not just anime fans. Apparently, Japanese tourists still visit the Flanders region, ask about Nello and Patrasche, and then proceed to cry over them. Another proof that the show was widely well-known is that my old kids' book of dog breeds described the Bouvier des Flanders as "the real dog of Flanders", as opposed to the collie-Saint Bernard mix that the show implied Patrasche to be. But it doesn't matter what he technically is; to me, he will always have that Saint Bernard look. I'm really happy that CJAS finally gets to see such a classic, and I hope that there will always be room here for such a quiet piece of work.