Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jane's Review: 101 Dalmations on DVD

by Jane Louise Boursaw

Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: G
DVD Release: March 4, 2008
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Family, Animated

SYNOPSIS: Pongo and Perdita are two lonely Dalmatians who meet in a London park and arrange for their pet humans to marry so they can all live together. Soon after, the dogs become the proud parents of 15 pups, who are quickly stolen by the psychotic, fur-loving Cruella De Vil.

Sex/ Nudity: None.

Violence/Gore: Comic action by Cruella De Vil’s henchmen, as they chase the pups all over the countryside. Young kids might be scared of the cigarette-smoking villainess (note the word “devil” in her name).

Profanity: None

Which Kids Will Like It? Ages 4 and older who like Disney tales with talking animals, and who aren’t scared by villainous cartoon characters.

Will Parents Like It? Yes, the imperiled animals work together to set things right.

Special Features:

Disney's Virtual Dalmatians: Adopt, name, train and care for your very own virtual puppy, with over 101 possibilities.

Puppy Profiler: Find out which dog you're most like.

Fun with Language Games: Geared toward young preschoolers, it teaches numbers and the names of common household items.

101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts: Discover 202 amazing things you never knew about the movie as you watch it, with 101 pop-up facts for the family and 101 for the collector. Includes tons of film trivia about the voice talent, Disney animators who worked on the film, and technical devices, such as multi-pane shots and the Xerox process.

All-New “Cruella De Vil” Music Video: The classic song gets a contemporary twist when teen Disney Channel star Selena Gomez performs it in a brand new video.

Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians: Go behind the scenes with the animators, writers, historians, producers, and story men, and learn about the technological innovations employed in the film.

Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad: Marc Davis, an animation legend and one of Disney's immortal “Nine Old Men,” reveals how this iconic character, inspired by flamboyant actress Tallulah Bankhead, came to be.

Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney: A 12-minute dramatization of the correspondence between Walt Disney and author Dodie Smith.

Deleted Songs. A variety of deleted and abandoned songs, as well as many alternate versions used in the final film.

All-New Digital Restoration with Enhanced Picture and Sound.

REVIEW: It’s the familiar story we all know and love. Pongo (voiced by Rod Taylor) is the Dalmatian companion of Roger Racliffe (Ben Wright), a single song-writer living in London. Thanks to some fancy footwork, Pongo helps Roger to meet Anita (Lisa Davis) and her female Dalmatian Perdita (Cate Bauer) in the park one day.

Soon after, Roger and Anita are married, and Pongo and Perdita are the proud parents of 15 puppies, each with their own personality. The joyful birth leads to the visit of Anita’s over-the-top school chum, Cruella De Vil, who wants to buy the pups and make a fur coat out of them.

Refusing to take no for an answer, Cruella hires two bumbling minions, Jasper (J. Pat O’Malley) and Horace (Fred Worlock) to steal the puppies. They transport the scared pups to a ramshackle country mansion where 84 other dogs are awaiting their doom.

Thanks to the quick thinking of Pongo and Perdita, and some helpful old-fashioned networking among other animals in London, you can bet a happy ending is in the works.

By the time this movie was made, Disney was suffering some financial woes from the disappointing revenue returns from “Sleeping Beauty.” In short, they had to cut costs wherever possible.

As we learn in the special features, Un Iwerks came up with the idea of Xeroxing the drawings rather than animating every frame hand by hand. The result was a cost savings, but it also created some compromises. For instance, you’ll notice in some scenes where the foreground characters are fully animated, but the background looks more one-dimensional and static.

The highlight of the movie is the dastardly Cruella De Vil. With her operatic entrances and exits, wildly coiffed hairdo, and clouds of yellow smoke trailing her everywhere, she’s truly one of the great animated female villains of all time.

All in all, while not as technically advanced as other later Disney classics like “The Jungle Book” and “The Aristocats,” “101 Dalmatians” scores high with little ones because the puppies are so darn cute.

One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane Louise Boursaw is a freelance journalist specializing in the movie and television industries. Visit her online at or email

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