Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
If it weren’t for ‘101 Dalmatians‘, we might not have had any more Disney animated films, including ‘The Lion King‘ or even ‘Wreck it Ralph‘. Back in 1959, ‘Sleeping Beauty‘ failed to live up to expectations and didn’t make enough money for Disney to do another project. In fact, it got so bad at Disney, that people were being let go and the studio doors were on the verge of being shut for good. Can you imagine that? No more Disney animated films after 1959? I know I can’t.
That’s when a guy named Ub Iwerks entered the picture and used the method of Xerox to make a film. This meant that they xeroxed the animation directly onto the cels so that Disney didn’t have to pay for the extra inking and drawing. This saved Disney tons of money and ended up cutting their next project’s budget down by a couple of million dollars. That project was ‘101 Dalmatians‘, which cost $4 million dollars and ended up doing over $215 million in ticket sales. It was true, that this was a sad and harsh time for Disney and its employees, but they did pick themselves up and now the rest is history.
Based on the 1956 Dodie Smith novel of the same name, ‘101 Dalmatians‘ was a project Walt Disney himself became very interested in, which is why he chose it to be the 17th animated film for Disney. While it doesn’t have the big over-arcing stories that some of the later Disney films have nor did it look as colorful or as fluid, it still had one of the more iconic villains, a fun and thrilling story line, and a song that is still sung today. The lead animators at Disney along with Iwerks truly made these puppies come to life and have distinct personalities of their own with their brilliant work, which still holds up today.
Set in London, a songwriter named Roger and his pet dog Pongo are working and looking out the window one day when Pongo sees a beautiful girl for Roger named Anita who has a pet dog of her own named Perdita. The four meet, fall in love, and are married. It happens pretty quick. Sooner than later, Perdita has a litter of fifteen puppy Dalmatians. All seems to be right with the world. However, one of Anita’s old school mates comes over by the name of Cruella De Vil who wants to purchase all the puppies. Roger and Anita insist they are not for sale. But Cruella being the evil person she is, hires a couple of bumbling henchmen and they steal the puppies.
Pongo and Anita soon figure out that the rest of the Dalmatian puppies in town have been taken. With the help of some furry friends along the way including a horse, another dog, and a tabby cat named Sergeant Tibbs, they learn the Cruella’s goal is to kill the puppies to make one giant puppy fur coat for herself. Well that’s not going to happen on Pongo or Perdita’s watch, as the two enlist their animal friends to rescue their puppies along with the other dogs before they are killed. While this doesn’t have all the action beats as some more modern Disney films, nor does it pack the giant laughs, ‘101 Dalmatians‘ still has that nostalgic and easy going pace and attitude that keeps us entertained. And the final chase scene with Cruella De Vil and the puppies will still force you to the edge of your seat.
Interestingly enough, there were several other songs planned for this film, but were ultimately cut, which is why the Cruella De Vil song seems to not belong. But hey, it worked and became the hit of the film. I don’t think ‘101 Dalmatian’s‘ is the ultimate Disney film, but it has all the charm and wit that a family with kids can enjoy. And that’s enough.
This Diamond Edition Blu-ray release of ‘101 Dalmatians‘ looks great. It comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The biggest upgrade and change here is that the grain and dirt has been 100% removed from the image. We have now a crystal clear image of what this 1961 film should look like. That being said, there is a tiny bit of softness now to the image and some background images are blurrier than before, but it’s not that noticeable and you shouldn’t be unhappy about it. In fact, the animation and artist’s work looks impressive here with this new transfer. It pops right off screen. The colors look excellent as well, but don’t expect the normal modern day Disney colors to grab you. In fact, this is film has a dirtier color hue than let’s say ‘Toy Story’. But that’s all part of the plan here. Don’t get me wrong, the interiors of the Radcliffe house and Cruella’s wardrobe or striking and well-saturated, but the exteriors of the cloudy skies and keep the colors muted. The black levels are always deep and inky and the brush strokes are quite vivid. While some of you out there will be upset about the video noise reduction (which is small), most all of us will be quite happy with this new transfer, because it looks great.
This release comes with an impressive lossless DTS-HD 7.1 audio mix as well as its original Mono master. For you Disney purists, I imagine you’ll want to check in on the Mono mix, which sounds fantastic. But since we are in 2015, I highly recommend the 7.1 option, because it just fully immerses you inside the film. Sound effects are lively, robust, and full and the ambient noises of the puppies barking or chattering in the distance are excellent. Everything is layered and precise here, leaving no room for error. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, shrills, and hiss. The directionality is outstanding as well as you will feel as you are surrounded by dozens and dozens of cute and playful puppies. There are some loud crashes and booms on the low end, which the sub will pick up nicely. The score is always a treat and never drowns out any of the dialogue. This audio presentation is excellent and again, I highly suggest you choose the 7.1 option.
The Best Doggoned Dog in the World (HD, 51 Mins.) – I’m so excited they included this here. This is the entire 10th episode of the ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ from back in the 60s. Highly recommended.
Redefining the Line: The Making of ‘101 Dalmatians’ (HD, 35 Mins.) – Here is a group of small featurettes from the DVD version that cover almost all aspect of making the movie.
Lucky Dogs (HD, 9 Mins.) – This rather a gloomy and somber extra where a few artists and Disney employees discuss their time at Disney when the studio was firing, laying off, and cutting costs.
The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt (HD, 2 Mins.) – Here is a short cartoon about the animated dog Thunderbolt, which all the puppies are watching at the start of the film.
Dalmatians 101 (HD, 5 Mins.) – Here are five facts of the film you might not have known.
Cruella De Vil: Drawn to be Bad (HD, 7 Mins.) – Here is a look at what all went into the iconic villain.
Music Video (HD, 3 Mins.) – Selena Gomez sings Cruella De Vil.
Deleted Songs (HD, 7 Mins.) – There are three unused songs from the film, which you can hear.
Disney View – If you don’t want to have the black bars on the sides of your tv, when watching this, enable this option for an animated Disney version of colorful bars.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
The Diamond edition of ‘101 Dalmations‘ is a film that everyone should see and own. Kids and adults love it and continue to show their friends and younger ones. It’s funny, charming, and highly entertaining still after all these years. The video presentation is great and the audio is outstanding. There are a ton of worth-while extras too, all of them being worth the watch. For the time being, this version of ‘101 Dalmatians‘ is the one to own, so be sure to pick it up. Highly Recommended!
– Bryan Kluger