The film stars Rod Taylor as the voice of Pongo, Cate Bauer as the voice of Perdita, and Betty Lou Gerson as the voice of the villainous Cruella De Vil. The plot centers on the fate of the kidnapped puppies of Pongo and Perdita.
This is the first Disney animated feature film (since Dumbo, which took place in its release year 1941) to take place in the time period it was made (late 1950s to early 1960s), as all previous features were either period pieces or set in some kind of fantasy world with no specifically recognizable time period. Adjusted for inflation it is the 11th highest grossing movie of all time and second highest grossing animated film, just behind Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it is also a critical gem, as critics praised it for defying Disney convention and for its character animation.
Pongo is a Dalmatian that lives in a London bachelor flat with his owner, professional songwriter Roger Radcliffe. Bored with bachelor life, unlike Roger who spends his days writing music, Pongo decides to find a wife for Roger and a mate for himself. While watching various female dog-human pairs out the window, he spots the perfect couple, a woman named Anita and her female Dalmatian, Perdita (or Perdy for short) heading to Regent's Park. He quickly gets Roger out of the house and drags him through the park to arrange a meeting. After an awkward and unusual meeting that goes awry, Pongo's efforts pay off and had accidentally caused both Roger and Anita to fall into a pond, but it works out well as they fall in love. Both couples marry.
Once Roger and Anita (and Pongo and Perdita) get married, Perdita gives birth to a litter of puppies. One appears to be stillborn, but Roger is able to revive it by rubbing it in a towel (because of which, they name it "Lucky"). That same night, they are visited by Cruella De Vil, an eccentric and wealthy social parasite known to Anita from their school years. She offers the Radcliffes to buy the entire litter for a large sum, but Roger says they are not selling any of them. Weeks later, she hires two thieves named Jasper and Horace to kidnap them all. The humans try every effort to locate them but to no avail. When Scotland Yard is unable to prove she stole them or find them, Pongo and Perdita use the "Twilight Bark", normally a canine gossip line, to alert and ask for help from the other dogs in London to locate them. The first one to answer the call is the Great Dane.
Colonel, an old sheepdog, along with his compatriots Captain, a gray horse, and Sergeant Tibbs, a tabby cat, find the puppies in a place called Hell Hall (aka The De Vil Place), along with others that Cruella had purchased from various dog stores. Tibbs learns they are going to be made into dog-skin fur coats and Colonel quickly sends word back to London. Upon receiving the message, Pongo and Perdita immediately leave to retrieve their puppies. Meanwhile, Tibbs overhears Cruella ordering Jasper and Horace to kill and render them that night out of fear the police will soon find them. In response, Tibbs attempts to rescue them himself while Jasper and Horace are watching the television, but they finish their show and come for them before Tibbs can get them out of the house. Pongo and Perdita burst through a window just as Jasper and Horace have cornered them and are about to kill them. Horace is knocked into the fireplace and Jasper gets his pants pulled down while Colonel and Tibbs guide the puppies from the house.
After a happy reunion with their own puppies, Pongo and Perdita realize there are 84 others with them in Cruella's possession. Shocked after learning of her plans, Pongo and Perdita decide to adopt them all, certain that Roger and Anita would never reject them. They begin making their way back to London, aided by other animals along the way; including the Collie and the cows who give them shelter and food. However, Cruella, Jasper, and Horace are in hot pursuit of them and will stop at nothing to catch them. In order to try and fool them, they cover themselves with soot so they appear to be Labrador retrievers.
They pile inside a moving van going back to London. As it is leaving, melting snow cleans off the soot and Cruella, Jasper, and Horace see them through their disguises. In a maniacal rage, Jasper and Horace in their truck and Cruella in her car follow the van with the dogs inside. Cruella repeatedly rams it off the road (promptly damaging her car in the process), while Jasper and Horace attempt to cut it off from another direction to crashing into it. Jasper almost succeed to crashing into the van, but just as he is about to do so, a panicked Horace accidentally rips the steering wheel from the truck's dashboard, causing the vehicle to swerve out of control. Because of this, they end up colliding with Cruella and her car, sending both vehicles crashing into a deep ravine. Comically, they are shown and well among the wreckage of their demolished vehicles. As Cruella screams in anger and frustration and berates Jasper and Horace for ruining everything, she begins weeping over the loss of both her car and her dream coat, as the van drives away.
Back in London, Roger and Anita are attempting to celebrate Christmas and Roger's first big hit, a song about Cruella, but they miss their canine friends. Suddenly, barking is heard outside and after their nanny opens the door, the house is filled with dogs. After wiping away more of the soot, they are delighted to realize the Dalmatian clan has returned home. They decide to use the money from the song to buy a large house in the country so they can keep all 101 Dalmatians.
- Rod Taylor - Pongo
- Cate Bauer - Perdita
- Betty Lou Gerson - Cruella De Vil; Miss Birdwell
- Ben Wright (Speaking) and Bill Lee (Singing) - Roger Radcliffe
- Lisa Davis - Anita Radcliffe
- Martha Wentworth - Nanny; Queenie; Lucy
- Frederick Worlock - Horace; Inspector Craven
- J. Pat O'Malley - Jasper; Colonel
- Thurl Ravenscroft - Captain
- David Frankham - Sergeant Tibbs
- Barbara Beaird - Rolly
- Mickey Maga - Patch
- Sandra Abbott - Penny
- Mimi Gibson - Lucky
- Tudor Owen - Towser
- Queenie Leonard - Princess
- Marjorie Bennett - Duchess
- George Pelling - Danny
- Tom Conway - Collie; Quizmaster
- Ramsay Hill - Labrador; Television announcer
- Dallas McKennon - Hound barks
- Lisa Daniels
- Paul Wexler
- Helene Stanley
- Barbara Luddy
- Jeanne Bruns
- Mary Wickes - Cruella De Vil (model)
- Don Barclay
- Sylvia Marriott
- Max Smith
- Bob Stevens
- Paul Frees - Dirty Dawson
- Lucille Bliss - Kanine Krunchies singer
- Clarence Nash - Dog barks
- Rickie Sorensen - Spotty
The film is a landmark in animation history for many reasons. It was the first Disney animated feature to be set in a contemporary setting. It was also the first one created by a single story man (Bill Peet).
The production of the film also signaled a change in the graphic style of Disney's animation. Ub Iwerks, in charge of special processes at the studio, had been experimenting with Xero photography to aid in animation. By 1959 he had modified a Xerox camera to transfer drawings by animators directly to cels, eliminating the inking process and preserving the spontaneity of the penciled elements.
The introduction of xerography eased graphic reproduction requirements, but at the price of being unable to deviate from a scratchy outline style because of the new (and time and money saving) technology's limitations. Since the line would not have fit the "round" Disney drawing style used until then (with the exception of Sleeping Beauty), a more graphic, angular style was chosen for this and subsequent films. Rotoscoping, a technique formerly used for tracing live-action human characters into animated drawings, became less important.
Another reason for its look was that the animators were used to producing sketchy drawings, as the clean-up was done in the process of transferring the drawings to the cells. With the hand inkers gone, the animation remained as the animators drew it. Later it became common to do clean-up on paper before the animation was copied, and with time and experience, the process improved.
According to Chuck Jones, Disney was able to bring the movie in for about half of what it would have cost if they'd had to animate all the dogs and spots.
The studio cut its animation department after the failure of the very expensive Sleeping Beauty, resulting in a reduction of staff from over 500 to less than 100. Walt Disney, who for some years had spent his attention more towards television and his Disneyland amusement park and less on his animated features, disliked this development. The "sketchy" graphic style would remain the norm at Disney for years until the technology improved prior to the release of The Rescuers. In later animated features, the Xeroxed lines could be printed in different colors.
Unlike many Walt Disney animated features, the film features only three songs, with just one, "Cruella De Vil", playing a big part in it The other two songs are "Kanine Krunchies" (sung by Lucille Bliss, who voiced Anastasia Tremaine in Disney's Cinderella), and "Dalmatian Plantation" in which only two lines are sung by Roger at the end. Songwriter Mel Leven had, in fact, written several additional songs for the film including "Don't Buy a Parrot from a Sailor", a cockney chant, meant to be sung by Jasper and Horace at Hell Hall, and "March of the One Hundred and One", which the dogs were meant to sing after escaping Cruella by van.
To achieve the spotted Dalmatians, the animators used to think of the spot pattern as a constellation. Once they had one "anchor spot", the next was placed in relation to that one spot, and so on and so on until the full pattern was achieved. All total, the film featured 6,469,952 spots, with Pongo sporting 72 spots, Perdita 68, and each puppy having 32.
As done with other Disney films, Walt Disney hired an actress to perform live-action scenes as a reference for the animation process. Actress Helene Stanley performed the live-action reference for the character of Anita. She did the same kind of work for the characters of Cinderella in the title movie and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.
According to Christopher Finch, author of The Art of Walt Disney: "Disney insisted that all scenes involving human characters should be shot first in live-action to determine that they would work before the expensive business of animation was permitted to start. The animators did not like this way of working, feeling it detracted from their ability to create character. [...] [The animators] understood the necessity for this approach and in retrospect acknowledged that Disney had handled things with considerable subtlety."
- Main article: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (video)
The film was first released to theaters on January 25, 1961. After its initial theatrical run, it was re-released to theaters four more times: June 1979, December 1985, and July 1991.
The film was released on VHS on July 17, 1992, as part of the Walt Disney Classics video series.
It was re-released on March 9, 1999, as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video series, but only for "one hundred and one" days.
On November 9, 1999, it received its first DVD release as part of Disney's Limited Issue series.
A 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD was released on March 4, 2008.
In Europe and the Middle-East exclusively, the film was issued on a non-commemorative Special Edition Blu-ray, featuring a static menu and no new bonus features.
The film was released under the Diamond Edition in the United States on February 10, 2015.
The film was the tenth highest grossing film of 1961, accruing $6,400,000 in distributor' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals during its first year of release, and one of the studio's most popular one of the decade. It was reissued to theaters in 1979, 1985, and 1991. The 1991 reissue was the twentieth highest-earning film of the year for domestic earnings. It has earned $215,880,014 in domestic box office earnings during its lengthy history. It currently holds a 97% "fresh" rating from critics and users on Rotten Tomatoes. IT did receive some negative criticism. Phillip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette only gave the film 2/5 stars. In 2011 Craig Berman of MSNBC ranked it and its 1996 remake as two of the worst kid films of all-time saying, "The plot itself is a bit nutty. Making a coat out of dogs? Who does that? But worse than Cruella de Vil’s fashion sense is the fact that your children will definitely start asking for a Dalmatian of their own for their next birthday."
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of the critics gave it a positive review based on 37 reviews.
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- Cruella De Vil - #39 Villain
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Animated Film
Sequels and spin-offs
In the years since the original release of the film, Disney has taken the property in various directions. The earliest of these endeavors was the live-action remake, 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil. None of the animals talked in it. Its success in theaters led to 102 Dalmatians, released on November 22, 2000.
After the first live-action version of the film, a cartoon called 101 Dalmatians: The Series was launched. The designs of the characters were stylized further, to allow for economic animation, and appeal to the contemporary trends.
101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, the official sequel to the original animated film, was released straight-to-VHS/DVD on January 21, 2003.
More recently, Lucky and Freckles starred in several shorts on Disney Junior.
In 2019, a second animated series was produced, 101 Dalmatian Street, that serves as a continuation of the original animated film involving the adventures of the modern day descendants and step siblings of the original 101 Puppies in modern day London.
- The TV show that Jasper, Horace, and the puppies are watching when Tibbs finds them is the 1929 Walt Disney Silly Symphonies cartoon Springtime.
- Several cast members from Lady and the Tramp make cameos in this film:
- According to a newspaper headline seen the morning after the puppies' theft, the bulk of the film takes place in 1959.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 7: The Postwar Films", page 106. Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules, 1997
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Finch, Christopher: "Chapter 8: Interruptions and Innovations", pages 245-246. The Art of Walt Disney, 2004
- ↑ http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Funnyworld/Jones/interview_chuck_jones.htm An Interview with Chuck Jones
- ↑ Encyclopaedia of Disney Animation
- ↑ http://americanroyalarts.com/catalog_search.php?p=1&id_nivel3=100&cat=1&id_sub=0&id_nivel_padre=1 101 Dalmatians Original Animation Forensically Examined
- ↑ "Cinderella Character History".
- ↑ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJQJzsJvpIw Silly Symphonies: Springtime (October 24, 1929)
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