johnlink ranks 101 DALMATIANS (1961)

My intake of animated films has bumped up noticeably with my son’s ability to sit through entire movies happily. He’s big into animals because, well, you know, he’s three. I’ve been proud of his choices so far with the way he has gone after classic Disney blindly. I’m sure I have years of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS ahead, so I am going to enjoy this while I can. crudvil-431x300 I watched 101 DALMATIANS (1961) on 2.5.14. It was my first viewing of the film that I can remember, though I probably saw it as a very young kid.

The opening scene of Disney’s 101 DALMATIANS is a wonderful view into the creation of character for a Disney film. We are introduced to Pongo, a dalmatian with an owner (who Pongo thinks of as “his pet”) named Roger. Pongo wants Roger to find a mate. He watches pairs move down the street, as dog and owner mirror each other in look and attitude. He finally settles, understandably, on the human Anita and her own dalmatian Perdita. Pongo eagerly creates a sloppy meeting and accidentally knocks Roger and Anita, two strangers, into a lake. Anita comes up feisty, but soon realizes the humor in the situation. She and Roger begin laughing together as Perdita gives Pongo a smile which can only be described as seductive (yes, I know she is a dog). We jump forward to a wedding.

In that quick bit we know our heroes, their sensibilities, and their likability. It’s quick and professional work. When Cruella De Vil comes billowing into the young couple’s new home, blowing smoke and demanding puppies, we know she is bad news. Roger provides a soundtrack from above in a wonderfully memorable scene.

De Vil is a memorable villain for a reason. Her bulky fur coat makes her seem much more intimidating than her skinny frame should. The billowing, ugly smoke emanating from her omnipresent cigarette is foul and evil. Both this smoke, and her look in general, were heavily borrowed for the character of Ursula in THE LITTLE MERMAID.

If some of the puppies are underdeveloped, well that is the nature of a 79 minute film. We get an overview and can tell, mostly, one from another. Once the litter of 15 is stolen and merged with other puppies to become a litter of 99, all bets are off though. The movie doesn’t suffer here, as the puppies are merely there in order to show the love of Pongo and Perdita and the action of the animal community as they come together after the puppies are kidnapped.

In fact, one of the readings of the film could be that this is a holocaust story. A large group of people (well, dogs with spots instead of stars) are persecuted, rounded up, and scheduled to die. The underground animal community uses their secret language to betray the whereabouts of the villains’ hideout. The first animals to get to the puppies are a dog known as Colonel, a stray cat known as Sergeant Tibbs, and a horse that goes by Captain. The old Colonel stands back and gives orders while the Sergeant goes in and springs a rescue. In the return home, a second network of safehouses is used to get them back safely. As they move along, these dalmatians have to pretend to be another breed in order to blend in and get back. The bad guys, meanwhile, are comprised by a dictatorial woman and two career criminals with no real hatred towards the dogs, but who are just blindly doing what they are told.

Stretch? Probably. But it just made this article one paragraph longer. And really, that’s all anyone is looking for here, right?

Ultimately, 101 DALMATIANS is a classic for a reason. This is a quaint and friendly little film with tons of British charm. Perhaps bits of it are dated, and perhaps the action set pieces are grossly underdeveloped when compared to modern animated film. Yet those factors, it would seem, only add to the charm even more. I’m glad I finally sat down and watched this.


When considering an animated film, the ACTING score factors in both voice over work and the animation to make a judgment on total character creation.


The hand drawn animation here, for some reason, is just so endearing. The classic Disney look is on display, but something intangible makes the look of this particular film stand out, specifically in the attention to detail and a willingness for whimsy.



~ by johnlink00 on February 5, 2014.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks 101 DALMATIANS (1961)”

  1. Was the Holocaust theory a stretch? I don’t know. On it’s face it makes a certain sense. I’d have to see the movie again to really evaluate it.

    I agree on the movie. It is a solidly good animated flick.

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