Cruella De Ville is on the hunt for spotted puppies in an effort to turn them into dog-skin coats in the 1961 Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “101 Dalmatians.” Pongo and Perdita are dalmatians who get married when their pets, or owners from a human perspective, get married. They welcome 15 puppies. But when Anita’s, Perdita’s pet, old acquaintance Cruella De Ville arrives, she kidnaps the puppies and buys 84 more in an effort to turn the 99 puppies into coats. But Pongo, Perdita and a host of other dogs, cows, horses and cats along the way help get all the puppies to safety.
This film doesn’t take a very bold stance. Killing dogs is bad should be common knowledge, but there are still evil people out there, so this film does a good job of stating what should be obvious. It still gives us one of the most iconic villains in the entire Disney canon. Social media memes that show how the villains are mostly misunderstood when they describe their plans also show those villains in shock at how truly evil Cruella’s plan is. She isn’t misunderstood. She’s evil through and through. But, as a truly evil villain, she gets an iconic song that has stood the test of time.
This is an important film in the Disney canon, despite being one that Walt, himself, hated. Disney had experienced some box office flops in the late 50s that had the company looking to save money to keep the animation studio open. After changing the style of animation, this film looks less crisp than its predecessors. It’s grittier. Some have even called it dirtier, but I don’t think that’s exactly fair. It’s a Xerox style of animation and its cheaper than what was used for most of Disney’s Silver Age. Walt hated the gritty look, but there’s no denying it was a success. The film cost less money to make while being a box office success following the failures of “Lady and the Tramp” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Yes, both are classics following re-releases and television airings, but both were initial box office failures. I don’t know if it’s true to say that “101 Dalmatians” saved the studio, but, its cheaper production costs certainly helped.
The animation style may be different, and there may be fewer hit songs, but I absolutely loved this movie growing up. I had it on VHS and I wore out the tape. It was my favorite Disney movie at one time; until I discovered “Aladdin.” I love that this film gave us one of the better live action versions with Glenn Close playing Cruella De Ville. Quite frankly, to me, this is the best film of Disney’s Silver Age of animation. I love the story. It’s simple, yet it works. Plus, dogs are almost always going to get a thumbs up from me.