|Movie poster for 101 Dalmatians|
Disney Animation’s film 101 Dalmatians was originally based around the source material from Dodie Smith's books. Her 1956 children’s novel ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’ or ‘The Great Dog Robbery’ as it is sometimes known, was a heartwarming novel written a whole five years before Disney originally released it to theatres on January 25 1961 by Buena Vista Distribution. This film is the 17th Disney animated feature film and its plot revolves around the life of Dalmatian Pongo and his Master Roger, as well as Dalmatian Perdita and her owner Anita.
This film is definitely one for the children to love, which it has proved for generations. Most remember it as a heart warming film about Dalmatians and the ‘evil lady’ Cruella DeVill. This film is slightly different to any other dog loving film as is told from Pongo’s point of view. It is his narration that documents his life and that of his human ‘pets’, a young English couple, Roger and Anita. It was Pongo that initially got the two humans together. This film is in essence a double love story, as Roger falls in love with Anita, Pongo falls in love with Perdita.
As Cruella visits her friend Anita, it is clear to see that Perdita is terrified of her, as she hides away in the kitchen out of sight. It is obvious to all that her appearance is more of a recon mission to find out when the puppies will be born.
Three weeks later, the two dogs have a litter of 15 puppies. Cruella bursts in unannounced on the night of their birth, just minutes after they were born and offers to pay ‘for the lot’. Rodger stands up to Cruella, stating that they are not for sale much to the delight of the others. Cruella is furious that Anita would turn down her overly generous check and yells “Do as you like with them! Drown them! But I warn you Anita, we’re through. I’m through with all of you! I’ll get even. Just wait. You’ll be sorry!”
Soon these puppies are stolen by Horace and Jasper; two small time crooks that Cruella has hired. The film begins to follow the families attempts to find their stolen puppies but to no avail. The human police have had no luck in finding them so the dogs decide that its up to them to find their puppies; so they use a gossip chain called the ‘Twilight Bark’. This ‘Twilight Bark’ is a wonderful creation from Disney. We can only assume that it is based round the SOS code. It echoes from one dog to another, from London to the Moors and they soon get word that their puppies have been found inside of Hell Hall - the old DeVill property.
|Still from the movie showing Sargent Tibbs trying to protect all 99 puppies from the wrath of Horace and Jasper|
Pongo and Perdita race across the countryside after escaping out of the back window of their London home. When they reach Hell Hall, Sergeant Tibbs, the Colonel and Captain have already taken it upon themselves to investigate. Sergeant Tibbs has snuck into the building and is trying to retrieve all 99 Dalmatian puppies after overhearing the conversation between Cruella, Horace and Jasper saying that she wants them all killed ready to make her fur coat.
|Still from the movie showing the puppies making an escape across a snowy road|
Several beautifully animated sequences of puppies running from room to room, a fight scene and an escape later we are treated to small warmhearted gestures from other dogs along the way. Finally they reach home much to their owners delights and they soon realise the sheer amount of puppies sat in their house. Roger declares “We’ll buy a big place in the country. We’ll have a plantation. A Dalmatian plantation!” Cue end credits and forget the horrors of what could have happened to these adorable creatures. Remember it as a family favourite and a heart warming film ready to relieve the shock and horror on the next viewing.
Of course, there is so much more to this story than first meets the eye. One could argue that this film has a darker undertone which focuses on kidnapping or in this case dognapping and what might have become of them had they not been rescued. Although it is mostly hinted at, Disney did have the innocent young puppies say “they were going to make coats out of us!” and “Horace and Jasper are going to pop us off and skin us!”
Of course, for adults this context is explicitly clear as the intended audience is of course the children, its blatantly obvious that this small puppies would have been killed, skinned and their fur used to make a ‘spotty coat’ in a cruel representation of the fur industry. Although this is a very clever idea, it of course is gut wrenching when it is laid bare for us to see.
Although this film was adapted from Dodie Smith's book, it tends to stay true to the book with a few Disney-esque flairs like the Twilight Bark. It is beautifully animated in 2D with rich hand drawn backgrounds that give the whole film a unique charm. It is definitely a unique film and brought the book to life in glorious technicolour. It was a box office success, bringing the studio out of its financial issues caused by the release of Sleeping Beauty two years prior. It's budget was estimated to be $4 million but has since made an approximate $251.8 million in the box office. Other than its box office revenue, it has often been stated that its commercial success was due to its employment of and expensive animation techniques for its time. They used xerography during the process of inking, painting and creating a traditional animation cells.
Its success was so great, that it was re-issued to cinemas another four times: in 1969, 1979, 1985 and 1991. It was during the 1991 re-issue that it was ranked the 12th highest earning film of the year for domestic earnings. In fact, Disney deemed its success so great that it was remade into the live action film in 1996.
The films overall reception, still holds a 98% “fresh” rating from critics and users on Rotten Tomatoes. It has had some negative criticism in its time, often revolving around the completely absurd notion of making a fur coat from dog fur.
This film is definitely not one of Disney’s all singing all dancing theatrical films but we are still treated to some wonderful backing music from either the resident musician Roger or in the form of character themed music. The music is there to heighten the mood at any given point and its main tune is sure to be stuck in your head for days. Most can safely say that it is one of their childhood favourite films and continues to hold a place in our hearts from generation to generation and is in no doubt, for many generations to come.