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Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Rod Taylor, Betty Lou Gerson, Cate Bauer, Lisa Daniels, Ben Wright, Frederick Worlock, Lisa Davis, Martha Wentworth, J. Pat O'Malley, Tudor Owen
Writing Credits:
Dodie Smith (novel, "The One Hundred and One Dalmatians"), Bill Peet

Back in 1961, Walt Disney got a little hip with 101 Dalmatians, making use of that flat Saturday morning cartoon style that had become so popular. The result is a kitschy change in animation and story. Pongo and Perdita are two lonely dalmatians who meet cute in a London park and arrange for their pet humans to marry so they can live together and raise a family. They become proud parents of 15 pups, who are stolen by the dastardly Cruella De Vil, who wants to make a fur coat out of them. Cruella has become the most popular villain in all of Disney; she's flamboyantly nasty and lots of fun. But it's the dalmatians who shine in this endearing classic, particularly those precocious pups.

Box Office:
$4 million.

Rated G

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Stereo 2.0
Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 11/9/1999

• Trailer


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101 Dalmatians (1961)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 26, 2008)

Here are some fascinating facts about Colin: He like dogs. He likes Disney animation. He likes movies.

Here is a logical conclusion one may reach: Colin should like 101 Dalmatians.

Here is the fact: Colin does.

(Here is another obvious one: Colin is really desperate for introductory paragraphs to his reviews.)

The film was something of a departure for Disney in that it utilized a cartoonier, less realistic style of animation. No, the strokes weren't as broad as those we'd see in wilder shorts such as those from Warner Bros., but Disney's typically more naturalistic approach was not on view.

101 also took a more broad action stance than most Disney efforts and seemed a bit light on the usual magic and sentiment. By no stretch of the imagination would I state that the film lacks heart - the interactions of the dogs can be touching at times - but it's clear that the emphasis is on broad humor and thrills, not on warmth and tenderness.

In that regard, the film works well, but it does feel like something's lacking. I enjoy 101 quite a lot, but I feel it could never enter the ranks of my absolute favorites because the emotional component takes such a backseat to the more visceral thrills. It's a very enjoyable picture, but it doesn't get under my skin like more rounded efforts like Lady and the Tramp or Pinocchio do.

One contrast between the two dog films comes in the "villain" category. Whereas Lady lacked a concrete antagonist, 101 features one of the most famous Disney baddies of them all: over-the-top uber-skank Cruella DeVil. While I recognize that she is a fiendish creation, I must admit that she's never appealed to me as much as she seems to impress others. Perhaps it's the sketchiness of the film as a whole, but I never took Cruella all that seriously. Her cartoonishness makes her nowhere near as scary as someone like Stromboli in Pinocchio or Scar in The Lion King. She's entertaining and wild, but I just don't think she's all that terrific a villain.

Still, despite the impression I may be leaving, I really do like 101 Dalmatians. It's a fun film that provides a rambunctious thrill ride experience. I think Disney neglected some broader emotions in their attempt to make it so exciting, but it's still a successful effort. (One thing's for sure: the original beats the miserable live action 1996 version without raising a sweat.)

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

101 Dalmatians appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. In regard to the dimensions, it seems completely unclear whether or not 1.33:1 duplicates the original theatrical ratio or not. I rented the title, so I cannot refer to any statements on the DVD's case; however, my 1999 laserdisc of the film states that 1.33:1 was the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio.

Many folks feel this is not true. IMDB indicate that the film was shot 1.37:1 but "intended" to be seen 1.75:1. That may well be correct, but at this point, I don't think I'm going to find a definitive answer. All I do know is that I noted no signs of cropping on the sides of the frames at any point during the movie, so this edition does not seem to represent a "pan and scan" transfer. The original theatrical release may have used slight matting to achieve 1.75:1, but I also saw no evidence of too much space at the top or bottom of the frames; 1.33:1 looked about right to me.

As for the quality of the image, it held up well, though didnít rival the best Disney transfers. Sharpness usually looked fine. Some edge enhancement meant that wider shots tended to be a bit soft and fuzzy, but the rest of the flick was reasonably concise. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws were delightfully absent. This was a clean and smooth presentation.

Colors were good but not spectacular. The hues came across as erratic, a fact that might have stemmed from the source. Skin tones lacked much consistency, and other tones seemed somewhat pale at times. For the most part, the hues were fine, though. Blacks looked dark and dense, and shadows showed good clarity. This wasnít an amazing image, but it worked fine.

The film's Dolby Surround 2.0 audio also was acceptable for such an old movie. What was originally a monaural soundtrack has been remixed into a passable surround mix, with unspectacular but decent results. Really, the audio remained largely monaural. Some stereo effects appeared from time to time. We might hear a bark emit from a side speaker, and some panning occurred during scenes like when the Captain kicks the Baduns. The surround channel basically just gently reinforced the music, though some dialogue and effects occasionally bled through to the rear.

The quality of the sound seemed fine for its era. Dialogue appeared clear and relatively natural, though the lines could be a bit flat, and effects also seemed fairly realistic. The film's music lacked bass but otherwise sounded clean and listenable. The audio won't dazzle you, but it's pretty good for a film from this period.

The disc suffers from a lack of supplements. For 101, we get a trailer from one of the film's reissues. I don't know which, but I'd guess it was no earlier than the Eighties. And that's it. I must admit this situation isn't as appalling as those instances where a DVD omits supplements available on LD versions since no LD releases of 101 featured any extras. Still, for such a good film, the lack of supplements remains a disappointment.

Despite that factor, 101 Dalmatians remains a winner. The movie itself isn't quite as good as the best Disney offer, but it's very fun and flip and it's sure to entertain a wide audience. The DVD itself provides acceptable picture and audio, though it omits any substantial extras. I like the movie but donít feel too positive about this lackluster release.

To rate this film visit the Platinum Edition review of 101 DALMATIANS

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