I only have the animated version, so you only get one of these reviews, but it is one of my all time favorite movies. This is one of those movies I will love forever, if for nothing other than nostalgic reasons. I LOVED 101 Dalmatians as a kid, I love dogs, and a whole movie full of puppies, for a very young me, there was nothing better. This is one of the things I fangirled over long before I knew what a fangirl was, I had bed sheets, toys, so many toys. I actually think I still have some of them, I know I still have my stuffed Patch, and I think a handful of toys from the TV show, which I also loved. It wasn’t until years later that I even found out that there was a book.
I know this is a movie review but I highly recommend reading the book. It’s very 1950s, so it’s a little sexist, but it was also written by a woman, so it’s not in a condescending way just a product of its time. It’s actually charming. If you are interested in book to movie adaptations, this is one Disney didn’t go all ‘Disney’ on, the movie is actually pretty similar to the book, in one of the interview’s I’ve seen I think the author was also very pleased with the adaptation. Go check it out The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.
This review isn’t about the book however, this is about the movie. In 1961 Walt Disney studios released their 17th animated feature (wow, didn’t they just come out with their 56th movie?!). Walt Disney himself acquired the rights to the book just one year after it was released. The studio was having some money issues leading to using a different technology that lead to 101 Dalmatians’ sketchy quality. I love clean animated lines, I even love the new computer animated films, I think I just love like 90% of Disney in any formats, but this is a one of a kind movie, and I think in this case it kind of works.
Okay you aren’t here for me gushing about my favorite movies, you are here for a review, I’ll try to keep some of my biases out of it and give a legit review…but no promises.
On with the show….spoilers ahead
“Twice that many dad, now there’s 99 of us!” – Patch
So, a few years ago my dad pointed out how he really doesn’t like this movie because it’s so sketchy, the backgrounds aren’t really defined or anything. I guess it just isn’t something I paid much attention to as a kid. It’s funny now because when I rewatch movies I often watch the backgrounds or the background characters for the little details. Zootopia, Megamind, and How to Train your Dragon are some of my favorites for watching the side characters, it’s like a whole new layer to the story. Funny enough you don’t get that in 101 Dalmatians, but then maybe because it is so focused on the characters, literally, then that is all you need to see. I noticed in one scene where Nanny was in Roger’s music room there is a larger string instrument behind her, and it is just a sketch on the wall with a block of tan color over it, it’s not even colored in the lines, literally just a tan square in the same general shape as the instrument. Or when the dogs are running around they don’t always connect with the world around them. I think if they had tried to blend it more then it would have looked cheap but I think, in this case, they just fully embraced it. They never tried to make the backgrounds detailed, because they don’t need to be, they didn’t even always make the puppies detailed. There was one scene when they were all covered in soot and it’s like they had made the puppy too dark so they tried to outline it in grey or white and it just didn’t work, but it still kind of did work on a certain level, the puppy didn’t really stand out that much unless you were paying attention, and the point is you are only supposed to be paying attention to whatever is moving at the time in this movie. Even the main characters didn’t escape the background treatment. During the Twilight Bark scene Roger and Anita are just part of the painted background, granted they had color that was in the lines, but they obviously were drawn on the background and not supposed to move, because you are watching Pongo and Perdita not their humans. I just really like how the committed to the art style, I think it’s part of what makes Disney Disney. They can do something different and a lot of times it still works.
I’ve also always loved the art style of the puppies, I don’t know how many times I doodled them in art class, there is just something about drawing their ears. The puppies however are the exception to ‘nothing going on in the background.’ The animators actually made them act like puppies. If you watch them there is always one crawling on another, or biting someone’s ear, or pulling a tail, and they act like dogs, not humanized at all. I think it’s cute. I kept comparing their antics to my own little dog while watching it, which is something I think I’ve always done since I’ve had a dog since I was really little. I used to wonder if my old dog thought of me as her Pet like Pongo thinks of Roger, I know Cricket thinks I’m her personal servant.
Another thing I enjoy about this movie is that although there are songs it isn’t a Disney musical. They actually work it into the story why Roger would randomly start singing, he’s a musician and writes songs, so of course he would walk down the stairs singing about Cruella De Vil, or when the dogs get home he would happily start singing about a Dalmatian Plantation. Sometimes music just doesn’t work in a movie like this unless it should be a musical, but I really enjoy how they did make it work.
I don’t know how excited today’s young audiences would be about this movie, it isn’t as visually interesting as what they are used to these days, and the story is fairly simple, and the action kind of slow. The most exciting moments are when Cruella is trying to drive, and she’s really bad at it. Also, there is a lot of smoking in this movie, it’s kind of funny watching where that line was drawn in time between it being okay for a main character to smoke a pipe to not even the villains can smoke in children’s movies. Like I said about the book, it’s a product of its time and there is a certain charm to that. I still think the cops in this movie suck though, I mean come on, how hard would it be to track down the person buying every Dalmatian puppy in the county and think of all the food they would need to feed that many dogs. Also, technically Roger and Anita stole most of their new dogs since they were all bought and paid for, not like they have their papers or anything. You can’t tell me they won’t sell any of those dogs, isn’t that the point of a plantation? I think I’m starting to over think this. I’m going to go put my nostalgia goggles back on and enjoy this movie for the cute little slice of life, slight adventure, cute animated old Disney movie that it is.
Over all I will give 101 Dalmatians a 4, there aren’t any moments in it that make me cringe, although now that I’m an adult it’s a little boring, so it’s more like a 3 with a big fat nostalgia sticker on it. I will always love this movie, if for nothing other than how much I loved it as a kid. Also cameos! If you watch during the Twilight Bark scene through London, you can see most of the cast of Lady and the Tramp ❤ talk about movies that hold my heart.
Okay enough of my gushing about Disney, next week will be the review for 2012, the last numbered movie I have. Yes, I know it’s just a dumb disaster movie, but I have a soft spot for dumb disaster movies, I once watched a documentary on Netflix at least twice that was all about how to survive the end of the world. I also watched a movie about the end of the world that made me cry because it ended and stuff and I was not emotionally prepared for that, I’m an odd duck. See you next week.
Also, since I started reviewing all of my movies so I will stop rewatching the same ones, I’ve watched Zootopia twice… don’t judge me.