Written by Senora Bicho
101 Dalmatians is narrated by Pongo, an adult male Dalmatian, and starts cleverly with him introducing us to his human pet, Roger. Both are bachelors and Pongo is trying to find them suitable mates. He spots a lovely female Dalmatian, Perdita, and her pet, Anita, walking in the park. He manages to orchestrate a meeting and both couples are married soon after. Fast-forward several months and Perdita is now about to give birth to puppies. This brings Cruella De Vil, a long-time friend of Anita’s, into the picture. One of the great classic Disney songs, “Cruella De Vil” is introduced at this point. Roger is a songwriter with a new melody but no words and her visit inspires him. Cruella wants to buy the puppies for top dollar but Roger and Anita are unwilling to sell. Perdita is scared of her and knows she is nothing but trouble. The birth scene of the puppies is really cute as the housekeeper counts up to 15 in the new litter.
After the birth, when Cruella is unable to convince Anita and Roger to sell her the puppies, she uses her henchmen to kidnap them. Once Pongo learns that the puppies are gone, he utilizes the “twilight bark” to issue an all dog alert. This stretches all over the city and even makes it out to the country where the puppies are discovered by some farm animals along with 84 other Dalmatian puppies. Once news of their location gets back to Pongo and Perdita, they are off to the rescue and the rest of the movie is action-packed.
According to the information in the DVD collection, a restoration team found the original Technicolor “dye transfer” of the film. They were able to confirm the color palette approved by Walt Disney and the artists, so that they could enhance the lines and proper shading of the puppies. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed. The newly enhanced picture is fantastic. The colors are vibrant and the animation brings the characters more to life. The dreary look of London also creates a great backdrop for the story. The detail on the puppies is amazing and really adds to the enjoyment of watching the film. The restored soundtrack is very well done as well. It is crisp and clear.
The 2-disc DVD set is jam-packed with bonus features. “Pop-up Trivia Facts” offers information that pops up throughout the film. There are two levels, one for the family and one for the fan. The information is interesting but the pop-up format is rather distracting and takes up a lot of room on the screen. There is also a new “hip” version of “Cruella De Vil” performed by Selena Gomez, star of the Disney Channel Original Series Wizards of Waverly Place, and the set includes the corresponding music video. I had no idea who this was nor did I enjoy the new version of the song but it will probably appeal to teens.
“Backstage Disney” includes the featurette “Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians”. The interviews, with many noteworthy people, and information provided here are really interesting. 101 Dalmatians was a new form of animation for Disney and the details behind this change are fascinating given the state of animation today. “Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad” continues the interviews and more in-depth specifics on how Cruella came to be. Walt Disney began correspondence with Dodie Smith, the author of the novel the film was based on, prior to the release of the movie that then continued for years. “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney” offers a dramatic re-creation of that correspondence. “Trailers, Radio and TV Spots” is exactly what the title implies. “Art Galleries” showcases the art behind the animation.
“Music & More” features deleted, abandoned, extended, and alternative versions of the songs from the film. “Games & Activities” gives children the opportunity to adopt a Dalmatian puppy to play with either on the computer or on TV. It also includes a questionnaire to help match up the viewer with the right breed of dog. I have a feeling this was done to help encourage parents to buy the right kind of pet for their kids and to not rush out and buy them a Dalmatian. There is some fun with language games for younger viewers too.
101 Dalmatians is Disney at its best. The storyline serves as a solid foundation for the movie to build from. The puppies with their different personalities are adorable. You come to care about them and their safety and the farm animals introduced during the rescue are delightful supporting characters. Cruella, voiced fabulously by Betty Lou Gerson, is also the perfect villain that you love to hate. All of these elements together make for an amusing and entertaining film.