Classics Review: 101 Dalmatians (1961)

After “Sleeping Beauty” came out in 1959, Walt Disney worked on his next project adapting a book titled “101 Dalmatians.” The story is about two dalmatians named Pongo & Perdita who have a litter of 15 puppies. This encourage Cruella De Vil’s attention. She hires two henchmen to kidnap the puppies so she can make a fur coat. Pongo & Peredita embark on a mission to search for their kids before time runs out.

101 Dalmatians was released in 1961. (same year Stan Lee created Marvel’s first superhero team known as Fantastic Four) It received universal acclaim from critics and movie goers alike. In addition to positive reception, it also made enough revenue at the box office.

A live action remake of 101 Dalmatians was released in 1996 starring Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil. Unlike the original, the remake received mixed reviews from critics and made enough money at the box office. Glenn reprised her role in “102 Dalmatians.” Unfortunately, the sequel earned negative reviews and managed to recoup money at the box office. Cruella appears as a focal character on the ABC series “Once Upon A Time.”

A prequel titled, “Cruella” starring Emma Stone (one of my favorite actresses) filling in Glenn’s high heels, will be released in theaters and will stream on Disney Plus for a premium $30 fee. Glenn is an executive producer of the upcoming prequel giving Emma some advice. Before this particular origin story comes out, I want to share my thoughts on the original 1961 animated film.

This review contains SPOILERS. We’ve all seen the original and live action remake. Does the 1961 animated version still holds up? Let’s get down to business.

Good & Bad Elements

Good: Walt Disney did a great job producing the film. He made sure the script is polished.

Voice Actors did a good job for their respective voiceover performances.

Animation still holds up for a film from 1961 as it brings character models, fluid movement and environmental locations to life.

Fun Fact: “Dragon Ball Z” creator Akira Toriyama mentioned 101 Dalmatians inspired him to become an animator.

Chemistry with Pongo, Perdita & their puppies serve as the main highlight. They interactions keep the story flowing. I didn’t like the live action remake removing the animals’ dialogue.

Cruella’s theme song is perhaps the movie’s memorable tune.

Humor contains a few visual gags and good slapstick.

Pacing is isn’t slow, it climbs from one scene to the next. Something “Lady And The Tramp (both original and remake) lacked a cohesive Three Act Structure. I admit fellas, the animated Lady And The Tramp isn’t good. I’m tiring of pretending it’s a masterpiece. Same goes for “Cinderella” & “Sleeping Beauty.”

Opening Credits are creative.

There’s no early romance with Pongo and Perdita. A time skip actually made them a couple along with their owners Roger & Anita. Thank goodness they didn’t end up like Aurora & Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty. Again, I’m tired of pretending it’s not a masterpiece along with Cinderella & Lady And The Tramp.

When Pongo uses a “Twilight Bark” to deliver a distress signal about their kids are missing by barking from one dog to another, is sorta like a precursor to Twitter or text messaging. Heck, even the light the beacons scene from “The Lord Of The Ring: The Return Of The King” also uses the a similar scene sending an important message across Middle Earth. I laughed my butt off when every dog barks giving the same message. Gonna give it Bonus Points, because Twilight Bark is way ahead of its time.

Unlike the live action remake, Horace & Jasper aren’t exaggerated incompetent henchmen like Harry & Marv from “Home Alone.” Speaking of Home Alone, the John Hughes wrote the script from the remake which explains why Horace & Jasper became complete morons. Ugh! I hate incompetent bad guys lacking common sense, because they had one job and he/she screws it up big time.

The Chase Scene in The Climax is arguably my favorite part. You can tell Cruella looses her mind as she wants to accomplish her goal. She looks scary for a frail chain-smoking over-the-top woman.

Bad: I know it’s a cartoon targeted for kids, but The Ending seems unrealistic for 99 puppies are adopted living in one house. If this were real life, this would never work feeding and taking care of a ridiculous number of puppies.

Although The Pacing isn’t a problem, the dogs watching TV doesn’t actually connect to the plot whatsoever.

The Final Verdict: B, FOR BREATHTAKING!

From my point of view, despite two flaws, 101 Dalmatians still holds up as one of Disney’s best movies. Some of the things I’ve listed on the positive section, indicates why it’s great. If you wanna prepare for Emma Stone’s upcoming Cruella prequel, I highly recommend it. If you wanna rewatch the 1996 remake just to see Glenn Close’s over-the-top portrayal, go ahead and give it a watch. Can Cruella be Disney’s own version of Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar winning performance as “Joker?” We shall see.

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