Set on a farm, the show focuses primarily on three particular puppies: Lucky, TV expert, leader, and unconventional hero; Rolly, his loyal, scholarly, and always-hungry brother; and Cadpig, their sister, runt of the family. The three siblings are often joined by Spot, a chicken who wants to be a dog and a member of the "Bark Brigade." Early promotional material had listed "dictatorial Penny and mischievous Patch" as two other puppy cast members, but the highlighted puppies were whittled down to three.
Other puppies appearing in the show have included the brave, three-legged Tripod; the well-meaning but clueless Dipstick; the constantly urinating Whizzer; the indecisive, fashion-conscious Two-Tone; and the Sheepdog mix, Mooch, who serves as the farm's bully. Penny and Patch also make occasional appearances, though with different personalities than originally promoted. The show seems to be a blending of both the original animated film and the live-action feature.
101 Dalmatians: The Series debuted in syndication on September 13, 1997 running new episodes five days a week. Less than two weeks later, the show came to ABC's One Saturday Morning lineup, airing original episodes that could only be seen on the network. Sixty-five episodes were produced: Twelve shows with 21 episodes on ABC and 53 shows containing 84 episodes in syndication. By March 1998 the show played its last episode in syndication.
Reruns continued to play on ABC until 2002, when the show was moved to the Disney Channel and then later to Toon Disney. On January 30, 2006, Toon Disney aired the show for the final time regularly, while four episodes were shown in March 2007 for the final time. As of that day, 101 Dalmatians: The Series is off the air in most countries with a Disney Channel franchise. It is currently being aired on the United Kingdom channel Sky Movies Disney and was also aired on the Latin American version of Disney Channel during 2008, then on January 2, 2010, Season 2 moved to RTE Two in Ireland. The series aired on Disney Junior in 2012, however, only several select episodes are shown and some episodes are also abruptly edited for possible time or censor reasons. The show went off the channel in 2013. The show was added to streaming services such as iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and YouTube in February 2017 and was added to Disney+ on June 19, 2020.
Lucky (voiced by Pamela Adlon and Debi Mae West): The most adventurous of the puppies and is unique in having his only spots in the shape of a horseshoe on his back.
Cadpig (voiced by Kath Soucie): Cadpig is the runt of the litter and the smallest of the puppies but quite possibly the most intelligent, if not deluded. She is unique in having long floppy ears, a big head, a kind personality, and she's also quite strong for her size.
Rolly (voiced by Kath Soucie): Rolly is the very hungry one. Almost all his decisions are based on food and this, at times, gets him and the pups into trouble. He is, however, a loyal and helpful sibling, especially when it comes to his incredible sense of smell.
Spot (voiced by Tara Strong): Spot is a chicken who wants to become a Dalmatian. She is a voice of reason for the foursome but, more often than not, is ignored. She is easily frightened and is prone to literally bouncing off the walls. She is, however, a good dancer (which has to count for something, according to her) and appears to be good at math. She is also able to fly.
Cruella De Vil (voiced by April Winchell): Once again the main antagonist of this series, Cruella is now a corporate criminal and most of her plans revolve around getting richer, tormenting the Dalmatians, and plotting to steal the Dearly Farm. Unlike her original animated counterpart, this version of Cruella isn't a heavy smoker nor is she obsessed with animal fur.
Curly straws from McDonald's restaurants located in Wal-Mart stores
Beanbag toys included with Sweethearts candy (Caldor exclusive)
Disney Channel branded keychains (Japan only)
The series does not take place in the same continuity as the movies; an example of which being the fact that everyone in the series (except Cruella) has American accents while the movie is set in London and its surroundings. The original animated movie is set in the early 1960s, while the live-action films and the series are set in a modern day world (1996 at the time). Also, Roger and Anita's last name is Dearly, just like in the original novel and 1996 film. It is also notable that the movie is more realistic, while the series is very cartoon-like. The series comes closer to the essence of Dodie Smith's book than the movies and is based on everything 101 Dalmatians-related (Cadpig is one character that is not characterized in the movies). Therefore, all three media can be considered canon, even though they are not in the same continuity.
As mentioned above, there were originally supposed to be five main characters: Lucky, Cadpig, Rolly, Patch, and Penny. Patch was relegated to the role of a minor character, and Penny does not appear in the series at all, as it was feared that there would be too many main characters. Spot was added in later.
Most episode titles are based on dog-related puns.
A running gag throughout the TV series is Cruella calling Roger by a different name.
In the episode "Virtual Lucky", Lucky's name in Roger's video game is known as "Barkio", which is an obvious reference to Nintendo's Mario. The opening of Roger's game featuring Barkio's floating head is also a reference to Nintendo 64's launch title, Super Mario 64.