DVD/Blu-ray review: ‘101 Dalmatians’

The Disney animated feature “101 Dalmatians” is Disney’s first modern feature-length animated feature and a break from the romantic Disney tradition. On 10 February 2015, Disney brought this animated treasure out of the vault and the “101 Dalmatians” Diamond Edition is the first time this movie has been made available in Digital HD and Blu-ray. The two-disc set is well worth having for dog fans, Disney fans, and animation fans.

The look of “101 Dalmatians” was stylized by production design and art director Ken Anderson (1909-1993) with blocks of color that would bolding exist outside of the lines.  The movie featured the villainess Cruella de Vil who was animated by Mark Davis.

Dodie Smith wrote the story which was published in 1956. She and Walt Disney had a friendly correspondence dating from 1957 about the book. The animated feature “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” debuted in 1961.

The story is about a Dalmatian named Pongo (Rod Taylor) who decides that his “pet” Roger Radcliffe is a songwriter who seems perfectly content with his bachelor lifestyle in his cluttered London flat. Pongo though is bored and from his windowsill perch considers his options (This celebrated sequence is used as the menu for the DVD/Blu-ray). Spying another Dalmatian, Perdita, and her owner ,Anita (Lisa Davis), Pongo springs into action and takes his “pet” on his daily walk.

Although things go a bit wrong, Roger and Anita do end up meeting, falling in love and marrying as do Pongo and Perdita. Perdita ends up having 15 puppies and despite a near tragedy of one pup almost dying, things are fine until an old acquaintance of Anita’s shows up: Cruella de Vil.

Cruella lives for furs and has always wanted a fur coat made from the soft coats of Dalmatian puppies. Although she offers to buy the whole litter, Roger refuses. Cruella decides to hire two men, Jasper and Horace, to dognap the puppies. Roger and Anita and, naturally, Pongo and Perdita, are devastated. When the humans can’t find the dogs, Pongo uses the Twilight Bark to contact other dogs in search of the pups.

Outside of London, in the countryside, an old English Sheepdog, the Colonel, and his troops, the gray horse he calls Captain and a scrawny cat called Sergeant Tibbs find the puppies in Cruella’s dilapidated family estate, Hell Hall. Hearing the news, Pongo and Perdita leave London traveling through a threatening wintry landscape.

As Pongo and Perdita travel to meet with the Colonel, Tibbs goes in and overhears that the pups are destined to be coats and helps the pups escape but ends up being trapped by the two thugs. Pongo and Perdita break in just in time to attack Jasper and Horace as Tibbs leads the puppies out.

Pongo and Perdita begin their journey, deciding to take their 15 and the additional 84 puppies with them. The group are pursued by Cruella in her luxury car and Jasper and Horace in their rickety jalopy. At one point, the dogs decide to disguise themselves as Labrador Retrievers by rolling in suit to blacken themselves. Cruella sees through their disguise and pursues the Dalmatians but crashes into Jasper and Horace, wrecking their vehicles and leaving all three in the deep snow down a ravine.

The dogs make it back to London just in time to celebrate Christmas and Roger’s first hit song: “Cruella de Vil.”

If you didn’t see this movie, or if you’ve only seen this movie on TV, then by all means get this DVD. If you’re interested in animation, the bonus features are well worth having.

For this Diamond Edition

Bonus features:

  • “The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt”
  • “Lucky Dogs”
  • “Dalmatian 101: Hosted by Cameron Boyce”
  • “Walt Disney Presents ‘The Best Doggoned Dog in the World” (1961 version)
  • Classic Bonus Features

You might be wondering a few things. Who is Thunderbolt? Who is Cameron Boyce. During the original feature, the pups are watching a Western TV series about a dog, most likely a German Shepherd, named Thunderbolt.  The bonus feature takes Thunderbolt and completes the episode so we can see the full story.

Cameron Boyce is featured in Disney Channel’s “The Descendants” and plays Cruella de Vil’s son.

Classic Bonus Features:

  • “Redefining the Line: The Making of “One Hundred and One Dalmatian”
  • “”Cruella de Vil: Drawn to Be Bad”
  • “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney”
  • “Trailers & TV Spots”

“Redefining the Line:”

  • “Puppy Dog Tales”
  • “Howling at the Moon”
  • “New Tricks”
  • “Animation 101”
  • “Drawing All Cars”
  • “Seeing Spots”
  • “A Dog’s Eye View”

The bonus features provide a great education for art students, Disney fans and animation lovers. The features discuss how the animation was made and the people behind it.

Bill Peet (1915-2002), who wrote the script based on Dodie Smith’s book “101 Dalmatians,” was an American children’s book illustrator and a story writer for Disney. He joined Disney in 1937 and joined the team working on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and ended his association with Disney in 1964 after a quarrel with Walt. Peet went on to write picture books such as the 1959 “Hubert’s Hair-Raising Adventure.”

One of the innovations that made “101 Dalmatians” possible was closing down the inking department and photocopying the drawings. While the techniques used were modern and we still use photocopiers and the company Xerox still exists, you might get a kick out of seeing them use a Xerox machines that took up three rooms.

Voice Cast: 

  • Rod Taylor as Pongo
  • Ben Wright as Roger
  • Lisa Davis as Anita,
  •  J. Pat O’Malley as Jasper
  • Cate Bauer as Perdita,
  • Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella de Vil

MPAA Rating: G

Genre: Comedy, Animation, Family
Running Time: 1 hr 19 min
Video Release Date: February 10, 2015
Original Film Release Date: January 25, 1961
Language: English
Format: Blu-ray Combo Pack
Audio: Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HDMA / 1.0 Dolby Digital 
Video: Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Number of Discs: 2 disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack and Digital HD
Distributed by: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

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