My opinion right after watching movie
My opinion right after watching the movie is that it is dull. The plot is so thin and so dragged out, the characters have some charm, but flat and dull for the most part, and it is less than stellar. It just has little to no pacing or focus. I can definitely see how this can be seen as the beginning of the Dark Age, though I still stand that this is the Silver Age.
Walt Disney grabbed the rights to the book in 1957, and decided to greenlight it. This is probably the first (or one of the first) where Disney had little to no involvement in the film. He claimed that director Bill Peet did a perfect job with the script, but it was well-known across the studio that his interest died in the animated film segment in the late 50’s and considered closing the studio.
They decided to stop the cel animated films and went with the cheaper Xerography process, where they copied and pasted from the paper drawings, resulting in the sketchier look. This is the first out of the consecutive 7 films that had a huge involvement of Wolfgang Reitherman.
So the film starts with Pongo (Rod Taylor) and Roger (Ben Wright) living the single but boring life. Pongo says in his head that he needs to hook himself and his songwriter “pet”, so he decides to go to the park, where they meet Perdita (Cate Bauer) and Anita (Lisa Davis). His scheme causes the humans to fall in the water. Anita is weeping over her ruined outfit, but ends up laughing with Roger, leading up to this…
The ladies move into the small home with the boys, and Perdita soon ends up pregnant. Cruella De Ville (Betty Lou Garlson) and asks about the puppies, making them uncomfortable. Perdita is worried about her children being taken away; rightfully so. I am curious as to how Anita and Cruella became such close friends, since it is clear Cruella does not give a fuck about Anita.
Anyways, Perdita gives birth a few weeks later to 15 (then 14) then back to 15 Dalmatians (they thought one was a stillborn, and they name him Lucky (MiMi Gibson). We see Roger and Anita interact and it is so cute and realistic. It is so quirky and fun to watch. Cruella comes by to visit, and Roger refuses to give her the puppies. She gets mad and insults them when they refuse to sell it, and storms off and plans to steal them. She really wants her coats.
So we waste 5 minutes with the dog family watching a television show (which adds to nothing) and things honestly start to drag and get boring here. Cruella’s minions Jasper (J. Pat O Mally) and Horace Badun (Frederick Worlock) to break into the house and to steal the dogs. The house nanny (Martha Wentworth) tries to stop them, but fails.
So the dog napping ends up in the front news (In the newspaper? Where I am from, there will be a few signs on the streets and that is all. Alrighty), which Cruella cackles about. The police tells the family that the chances of finding the dogs are not good, so Pongo and Perdita then decide to bark to the dogs in the area. This turns into all the dogs in London barking, and then the countryside barking. It is like the telephone; over 5 minutes long of filler telephone. The pacing is really bad here, and I believe it is about 40 minutes in the film -_-, which makes me engage less in the film.
Seargant Tibbs (David Frankham) and Colonel (J. Pat O Malley) finds the 99 dogs in Cruella’s abandoned estate, and they hear the two sidekicks talk about how they have to kill the puppies. Word gets back to Pongo and Perdita that their children are gonna turn into a coat, so they rush to the estate. Cruella visits and tells her incompetent minims that they have to kill the dogs tonight because the police are all over the place.
So when the sidekicks continue to watch TV (after Cruella loses her top), Tibbs sneaks the puppies, which they realize too late. They meet with Pongo and Perdita, and take a rest at a farm to get food (sucking on a cow’s utters). S0 we get a good 10-50 minutes of them walking through the countryside to get them home (as Cruella and the sidekicks are looking for them in their cars).
They make it to the city, and Cruella is crazily driving to get her fur coats, but she gets into a car crash and arrested. It is Christmas and Nanny, Anita and Roger have a lot of money, as his song Cruella became a big hit (couldn’t she just sue for defamation?), but they are sad because they have no puppies. They cheer with glee when 101 Dalmatians arrive at their door, which makes them decide to get a Dalmatian Plantation.
The characters in this film are flat and bring for the most part. While the human characters have charm and likability, the dogs and animals (the MAIN characters) are duller and flavorless than water.
The animation is clearly not the best; since they are still getting used to the Xerography. They have some good details, but the backgrounds can get extremely dull. Speaking of dull, the color scheme is very dark a lot of the time, as it gives a dark atmosphere to it. The character designs are kind of stylized, but the style int he film is appealing enough.
The music is the typical jazzy 1960s type, but the few songs that it has are small but good. Not the best songs though. Here is where the jazz starts to make it in the Disney scene.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on January 25, 1961, it was a huge success; one of the biggest ones so far. It made $6,400,000 and it granted some great revenue from the loss of Sleeping Beauty (this had to do with the smaller budget). This caused them to continue the Xerography for almost 3 decades.
Well, it has become a franchise. It garnered a sequel 101 Dalmatians II: Path’s London Adventure, the 2 live action films, and the TV series. It is not seen as a huge classic (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella), but it made some great revenue to the studio.