One Hundred and One Dalmatians will leave you seeing spots. This is the seventeenth animated Disney production and the first released in the groovy 60’s. By this point, the animation studio was facing a financial crisis caused by Sleeping Beauty. The expensive production failed to make back its budget, so it was decided that more inexpensive animation needed to be utilized. Making this the first Disney movie to replace hand inked cel animation with xeroxed photographic techniques. I don’t really understand animation well enough to tell you how, but they gave One Hundred and One Dalmatians a sketchy look.
The film is based on a 1956 children’s book written by Dodie Smith titled The Hundred and One Dalmatians. It was a simple enough story that Walt Disney loved. Hardly anything from the book was changed. Making this one of the few animated Disney movies set in modern day. As most others up to this point were either fairy tales or set several decades in the past. One Hundred and One Dalmatians also returned to the relatively safe animal focused narrative. Some dogs from Lady and the Tramp even make a cameo. Well 101 canine friends were more than enough to win people over…
One Hundred and One Dalmatians was definitely a pleasant viewing experience as a young pup. Although I only occasionally watched it on VHS, I still knew the movie well enough as a Disney staple. Set in modern day London, England, a Dalmatian named Pongo lives with his pet songwriter Roger. Of course everything is from a dog’s perspective. So to a dog, a human would be a pet. When Pongo gets lonely, he searches for a companion for him and Roger. After examining several women who look like their dogs, he finally finds their respective soulmates. A lovely Dalmatian named Perdita and her equally lovely human Anita. Each couple is promptly married after a funny meet-cute.
Months later, Pongo and Perdita are living happily with Roger and Anita. Along with their caring newly appointing Nanny. Perdita is expecting, meanwhile Roger tries to find words for his new song. At least until the perfect inspiration comes strolling in. As if her name wasn’t an indication, Cruella de Vil is one of the most unsympathetically evil Disney villains ever created. She’s a cruelly vain devil of a woman who both lives for and worships furs. Despite being frail, her enormous fur coat represents her eccentric personality. Throw in an extra long cigarette holder plus black & white hair and you’ve got another iconic Disney villainess. With one of the greatest villain songs ever written. “Cruella de Vil” is the infectiously catchy signature song that Roger comes up with.
Since Cruella somehow knew Anita from school, she tries repeatedly to purchase their puppies before being told no. When the puppies are born, Perdita gives birth to 15 of them. 15 absolutely adorable Dalmatian puppies with cute British accents. The most notable ones being the rowdy Patch, the miracle dog Lucky, the always hungry Rolly, the sweet Penny, Freckles, Pepper, etc. Although commonly associated with firefighting, Dalmatians received an increase in popularity at the time. Even though they’re a notoriously temperamental breed that require a great deal of patience. Regardless, the Pongos are a loving family that enjoy watching dog shows together (specifically Thunderbolt). Unfortunately, Cruella sends bumbling hooligans Jasper & Horace to kidnap the puppies. It’s only at her aptly named “Hell Hall” manor that her despicable plan becomes clear. She plans to make spotted fur coats out of over 99 Dalmatian puppies.
When humans fail, devoted parents Pongo and Perdita spring into action. They send a distress call out to every dog in the surrounding area using a barking chain called the “Twilight bark.” There’s something sort of heart warming about seeing such crisis concerning canine comradery. Of course plenty of other animals help out as well. Along with a goose and horse, it’s a cat that initially helps the 99 puppies escape. Then it’s some cows that give the puppies milk after they’ve been walking in the snow. Meanwhile, Jasper, Horace, and Cruella are in hot pursuit of the Dalmatians. Who are finally able to get away using soot as a Labrador disguise. What follows is a tense car chase where Cruella’s driving just gets angrier and angrier. Until she crashes into her henchmen, losing the puppies forever.
The Dalmatians return in time for Christmas and it’s decided that a large plantation is the only thing that can accommodate 101 dogs. One Hundred and One Dalmatians is actually more charming with its sketchy animation. Disney may not have been a huge fan of it, but that many spots would have been a nightmare to draw any other way. Apart from the “Kanine Krunchies Jingle” and “Dalmatian Plantation,” “Cruella de Vil” is really the only noteworthy song in the movie. Nevertheless, One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a wholesome doggy tale you’re bound to love 101%.