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DVD Review: 101 Dalmatians (1961)
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Week of Geek: Disney's 101 Dalmatians

101 Dalmatians101 Dalmatians
Animated (1961)
2-Disc Platinum Edition
Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release date: March 4, 2008

Pongo is a dalmatian who lives in London with his “pet” Roger, a human who works as a songwriter. One day, Pongo decides that both Roger and he need companions, so while out for a walk in the park one day, Pongo gets the attention of another dalmatian, Perdita, and her “pet” human Anita. Roger and Anita eventually fall in love, as does Pongo and Perdita and they all live happily together … but not for long.

After finding out that Perdita is pregnant, an old acquaintance of Anita — the evil wealthy Cruella De Vil — shows up demanding the puppies with the intention of using making a dog-skin coat. Anita and Roger refuse to give in to Cruella’s demands, so Cruella hires too bumbling goons to kidnap the 15 puppies once they’re born. While the humans search for the puppies, the dalmatian parents try their own methods of locating their babies with the help of other animals in the area.

Disney’s 1961 animated feature 101 Dalmatians has stood the test of time, not only with its animation, but also with its tugging of the heartstrings storytelling.

The film’s animation was a major change for Disney Studios, whose animators had previously used the process of rotoscoping — tracing over live-action human characters for animation. The studio had just come off a financial failure with Sleeping Beauty (I know, hard to believe, but true), so they had to find a way to cut costs on Dalmatians. Aside from drastically cutting the number of animators working in the studio, they used xerography for the first time to transfer the line art onto the cels instead of having the artists hand-draw everything. The art ended up having a thick, black-lined sketchy look to it, which was nothing like Disney’s previous animated films. And Walt Disney himself, we learn from the bonus features on this 2-disc platinum edition, actually hated the look of the 1961 film.

While the change in animation style may have made it possible for fewer animators to work on the film, the artists still had a major challenge in making each of the eventual 99 spotted puppies look — and act — unique, and they do so brilliantly.

As far as the story goes, the idea of a villainess wanting to do harm to the innocent lead characters was not new to Disney’s animated movies. They’d already gone that route with Cinderella and the aforementioned Sleeping Beauty. The difference in 101 Dalmatians is that it was not set in a fairy tale with fantastical occurrences, but in modern-day London with real people. It’s totally possible in real life for someone like the wicked Cruella to want to bring harm to animals for her own selfish desires and to try and use her money and power to frighten those less fortunate into giving in to her threats. Cruella needs no magic or disguises to get what she wants, just her relentlessness and the power that her money can buy.

And what would an animated Disney movie be without its lovable animal characters? 101 Dalmatians is filled with them. Aside from the titled canines, there’s the network of city dogs as well as the barnyard animals, all who come to Pongo and Perdita’s aid.

Luckily for the Disney, 101 Dalmatians turned out to be the highest grossing film of 1961 and was re-released in theaters several times after that. It’s definitely a classic that children and adults can still enjoy today.

DVD Bonus Features

This 2-disc edition features an all-new digital restoration, which really makes a difference, along with tons of bonus features.

DISC 1

Games & Activities

• 101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts For The Family
When turned on, these facts pop-up throughout the movie and includes information about the differences between the film and the book it’s based on, as well as tidbits about the “Cruella De Vil” song and the programs the puppies were watching on television. There’s also a guide to telling the puppies apart and much more.

• 101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts For The Fan
When turned on, these facts pop-up throughout the movie and includes information like about the filmmakers as well as the voice actors and other notable roles they’ve had.

Music & More

• “Cruella De Vil” Music Video By Selena Gomez
A rockin’ cover of the film’s popular tune “Cruella De Vil” performed by Disney Channel star Selena Gomez. The video includes clips from the film.

Sneak Peeks
Previews of other Disney movies and products: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sleeping Beauty, WALL•E, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Mickey’s Wonderland, The Jungle Book Special Edition, and Disney Movie Rewards.

DISC 2

For “The Humans”: Backstage Disney

• Redefining The Line: The Making Of 101 Dalmatians
This making-of feature is separated into seven featurettes: Puppy Dog Tales, Howling At The Moon, New Tricks, Animation 101, Drawing All Cars, Seeing Spots, and A Dog’s Eye View. Various modern-day animators and filmmakers express their thoughts on how 101 Dalmatians influenced them and how innovative the film was at that time because it used a new animation technique, the Xerox process, to replace the old method of ink and paint; it differed from previous Disney cartoons, as it wasn’t based in fantasy and fairy tale and it wasn’t a musical; there were modern-day characters who showed real affection to each other, and a villain who smoked cigarettes and truly endangered the other characters. Also included are behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s animators and details on how they tried to make the dog’s expressive; and interestingly, there was a whole animation unit devoted to making the spots on the dalmatians.

• Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad
Various filmmakers, animators, and film historians, including Incredibles director Brad Bird, offer up their thoughts on the creation villainous Cruella De Vil from her origins in Dodie Smith’s book, to voice actress, to the character’s animators. Old interview footage with Cruella’s directing animator Marc Davis is included. Live-action stills are shown of Mary Wickes, who acted out the part as a reference for the animators (though it was Betty Lou Gerson who provide Cruella’s voice in the film).

• Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney
In 1957, Walt Disney purchased the rights to Dodie Smith’s book The Hundred and One Dalmatians) and long after production of the film, the two maintained a correspondence. This narrated feature contains the letters read aloud and there’s some reenactment of their correspondence is shown between storyboards and sketches. There’s also Smith’s feedback regarding the changes that were made to her story for the animated film adaptation.

• Trailers, Radio & TV Spots
Contains the original 1961 teaser trailer that was adapted for cinemascope, as well as the theatrical trailer, neither of which have voiceover narration. There’s also the original TV spot, which does have voiceover but is in black and white, and boasting of the cartoon being in Technicolor. Trailers and TV spots for the 1969, 1979, and 1985 reissues are also included. There’s also a collection of audio radio spots for the film for the 1961 release as well as those for the 1969 and 1979 reissues.

• Art Galleries
This feature contains seven separate galleries with images and sketches for the film: Visual Development; Character Design; Layouts, Backgrounds & Overlays; Storyboard Art; Live-Action Reference; Animation Art; and Production Photos.

• For “The Humans”: Picture & Sound
This feature contains deleted song sequences as well as demo versions and alternate takes of “Cruella De Vil,” “Dalmatian Plantation,” and the “Kanine Krunchies” jingle. The songs are played to the backdrop of a still image or a montage of sketches and storyboards for the film. Some of the selections are prefaced by audio commentary or video interviews, while others have a text introduction and explanation.

For “The Dogs”: Games & Activities
• Disney Virtual Dalmatians
Put the disc into your computer’s DVD-ROM drive to play the full version of this feature which lets you adopt, name, train, and care for your very own virtual puppy where there are over 101 possibilities.
• Disney Virtual Dalmatians Set-Top Sampler
Choose one of the Dalmatian puppies to play with and teach tricks to.
• Puppy Profiler
Find out which dog you’re most compatible with.
• One Hundred and One Dalmatians Fun With Language Game
This feature seems to be for very little children who are just learning the alphabet.

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