Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Release Date: January 25th, 1961

Inspiration: “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith

Budget: $3.6 million

Domestic Gross: $145 million

Worldwide Gross: $303 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

IMDB Score: 7.2/10

Storyline (per IMDB): Pongo and Perdita have a litter of 15 puppies. Cruella De Vil takes a fancy to the pups, and wants to get hold of them, as well as more pups, to make herself a lovely dalmatian skin coat… Cruella hires some thugs to kidnap the pups and hold them at her mansion. Will Pongo and Perdita find them in time?

Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on as we come to a new decade in the 1960s, and I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined how tumultuous the decade would be not just in the USA, but also around the world. It was also during a time where Walt Disney was contemplating closing the animation studio after the underwhelming performance of Sleeping Beauty, but fortunately he presses on and we have this film. This was one of my favorite films growing up and it had been a long time since I last watched it, and I’m hoping this is one of the films that has held up well over time and I still have that same feeling that I did when I was a child.

Voice Cast: As I had mentioned back in Sleeping Beauty, that film had probably the smallest cast to date and now we get the complete opposite as this film had probably one of the largest casts in the history of the Disney film canons. While we do have a few actors that have been previous films before returning here, the majority of the cast are first timers and possibly future returnees as well. Our first returning actress is Betty Lou Gerson who had a brief appearance in Cinderella as a narrator, and she has a much more memorable role here as she brings Cruella De Vil to life in what would be one of her last roles though arguably it is her greatest role. We also see J. Pat O’Malley in a dual role as he voices both Jasper and the sheepdog Colonel in some solid performances, and then we have Thurl Ravenscroft return as he voices Captain the horse in a small, but good role. Finally we have Barbara Luddy and Lucille Bliss return in small roles as Luddy voices the puppy Rover and Bliss sings the jingle during the Kanine Krunchies commercial as they are good filler roles. Now moving onto the new actors, we first have Rod Taylor voicing Pongo in what would be one of only two animated films he would be in though you could say this one was way more memorable. We then have Cate Bauer who voices Perdita in what ends up being her only major film role as she would retire after this film, and then we have Ben Wright who voices Roger Radcliffe in his speaking role while Bill Lee from the Mellomen provides his singing voice which would be more common in the future. Next we have Lisa Davis as she does the voice of Anita Radcliffe in what would be one of her last roles in her career, and then we have Martha Wentworth in three different roles as she voices Nanny, Queenie the cow, and Lucy the goose. We then have Frederick Worlock voicing Horace as well as the inspector on the TV show “What’s My Crime?”, and then we have David Frankham providing the voice of Sergeant Tibbs the cat. We will just lump the next bunch together as the following actors provide the voices of the puppies and they are Mimi Gibson, Barbara Beaird, Mickey Maga, Sandra Abbott, Mary Wickes, and Rickie Sorensen as they do a good job in their roles. We then have the various dogs that help Pongo, Perdita, and the puppies make it home and they include Tudor Owen who voices Towser the bloodhound, George Pelling as Danny the great Dane, Tom Conway as Collie and he also voices the quizmaster in “What’s My Crime?”, and Ramsay Hill as the Labrador. We also have Queenie Leonard and Majorie Bennett voicing Princess and Duchess the cows, and finally voicing the mechanic and the truck driver are Paul Wexler and Basil Ruysdael though these roles were pretty minor at best. Going forward, I will have to decide if it is worth it to mention every single person in the cast or just focus on the main characters, but part of it will also be determined by how big the cast is going forward.

Hero/Prince: As mentioned in the Sleeping Beauty recap, that would be the last fairy tale adapted into a film for 30 years so going forward while we will have heroes, we will not be seeing any princes to be included in this category. While it may be feasible to include a bunch of different characters in this category, there really are only two main heroes and they are Pongo and Perdita who go to great lengths to save not only their puppies, but the other puppies that had been kidnapped. They traverse the countryside and at one point actually fight off Jasper and Horace to ensure the puppies can escape the manor, and they lead the puppies back home where the remaining 84 are welcomed in by Roger and Anita. We do have to make a few honorable mentions to those that helped along the way including the Captain, Colonel, and Sergeant Tibbs who help Pongo and Perdita rescue the puppies from the manor. We also have Collie who provides them shelter and the three cows who offer them food, and finally we have the Labrador who helps them get on the truck back to London while briefly holding off Jasper and Horace. I know I seem to mention this in every recap, but it is going to be interesting to see where Pongo and Perdita ultimately land in the full rankings and having to compare them to the other heroes and/or princes.

Princess: N/A

Villain: We have been on a pretty good run in terms of the villains as we have had some of our most memorable ones over the last few films, and we continue that trend here as we have another great villain here in Cruella De Vil. She is not shy in showing off her love for fur and quickly attempts to buy the puppies from Roger and Anita though Roger refutes her, and then she has Horace and Jasper kidnap them along with 84 other puppies. Pongo and Perdita manage to rescue the puppies with the help of other dogs across the countryside despite Cruella’s efforts, and she finally goes psychotic at the end trying to catch them only to be thwarted inadvertently by Horace and Jasper. Speaking of Horace and Jasper, we have to include them as well as they kidnap all the puppies and are tasked with killing them by Cruella, but their incompetence leads to Pongo and Perdita being able to save the puppies and the three villains are left stewing after a car wreck. This was a clear example of Cruella being the mastermind behind this plan and trying to have her henchmen do the dirty work, but it ended up backfiring on her and she was left completely humiliated. There is no question that she is still regarded as one of the best villains in Disney’s history and she will probably rank pretty high in the rankings, though it is yet to be seen how high she ends up reaching.

Other Characters: It is pretty funny that coming off a film where there weren’t many other characters to talk about, it is the complete opposite here as we have a lot of characters that play a role in the film whether it be major or minor. We’ll start off with the humans in the film as we of course have Roger and Anita Radcliffe who are brought together by Pongo, and they have their struggles until Roger makes it big with his song about Cruella De Vil which allows them to get a plantation after bringing in the puppies that were kidnapped by Cruella. We also have Nanny who works for Roger and Anita as she tries to keep Horace and Jasper from coming into the house, but they overpower her and steal the puppies under her watch. We did have a few other humans show up including the truck driver and the mechanic working on his truck, and we also had those involved on the show “What’s My Crime?” but they didn’t play much of an impact in the film. Most of the main characters involved were the animals featured which we begin with not only Pongo and Perdita’s 15 puppies, but the 84 kidnapped by Cruella that brings the total to 99 puppies who are eventually adopted by Roger and Anita. We also have all the animals that assist Pongo and Perdita in their journey to find the puppies and bring them home, including all the dogs that helped them along with Sergeant Tibbs the cat, Captain the horse, and the three cows that provide milk for the puppies. While a majority of the characters didn’t have a lot of screen time aside from a few, they were fairly balanced especially in terms of their importance to the plot and they all made an impact in some way or another.

Songs: For the second film in the role, we have a film that doesn’t have a lot of songs as it seems like that way of thinking is seemingly going by the wayside and the films are having less and less songs. On the flip side, if the one song you have is a great one and is remembered very fondly, then quite frankly you don’t need to have a lot of songs as they just water each other down. That is the case here as we have the song that this film is remembered for and it is “Cruella De Vil” sung by Roger which becomes a hit and earns him millions, and it is still regarded as a great song and one of the best in the canon. There was another song in the film that should be mentioned and that is “Dalmatian Plantation” which we hear at the end of the film though not enough of it that it is as fondly remembered. I would also like to give an honorable mention to the Kanine Krunchies jingle played on TV, but unfortunately jingles don’t count in this list so it will not be included in the end. It will be interesting going forward to see if they continue down this path or if they go back to having multiple songs in a film, and we will see if that affects the quality of the song or if it helps enhance the film.

Plot: One thing I have not mentioned in terms of talking about the plot of these films is how the film sometimes differs from the source material, and it can be minor changes or it can be a completely different re-telling. In this case, the majority of the film stays somewhat faithful to the novel that it is based off of aside from various characters being removed and a few having their names changed, but the base of the film is still the same as the novel with Cruella De Vil having Pongo and Perdita’s puppies kidnapped so she can make a fur coat out of them. With the assistance of other dogs and various other animals, Pongo and Perdita find their own puppies along with other puppies taken as well and they manage to outwit Cruella and her henchmen as they return to Roger and Anita who adopt all of the stray puppies. I have mentioned in previous recaps that sometimes the simplest plots can work out the best if done properly, and there is no reason for a plot to become too over complicated as it can end up dragging the film down. In this case, the plot was fairly basic and it was done to a good extent that you felt good for Pongo and Perdita when they found their puppies and brought them home, and there is no question that the film worked well around the plot and made it one of the better adaptations of the novel.

Random Watching Thoughts: I believe this is the first film to not have a song in the opening credits and it is just music; This might be my favorite opening credits sequence to date; It is funny hearing the dogs refer to their human owners as “pets”; You can tell Roger is single just based on the state of his flat; You heard the old saying that people sometimes look like the pets that they own, well they took that to heart when Pongo was looking at all the humans and dogs walking down the street in looking for a mate for Roger; How bad would it have been if Perdita’s owner was not what Pongo had hoped for Roger?; It is funny that Roger noticed the clock was a different time as his watch and just assumed the clock was right; Poor Roger just wants to light his pipe and Pongo won’t allow him the chance; Perdita was clearly interested in Pongo if she looked away quickly when Pongo looked back at her; You have to give Pongo points for the length he went to so he could get Roger and Anita to meet; Pongo was so determined for Roger and Anita to meet that he would even cause them to get tied up and fall into a pond; Anita was so upset that she wanted Roger to go away until they realize the humor of the situation and Perdita quickly takes a liking to Pongo; Roger pretty much moved everything from his flat into the attic of this house; I love how Roger just figured he could use Cruella’s name in his song though he did a good job coming up with lyrics on the fly; Cruella must now know much about dogs if she assumed the puppies would be there by now; Who knew that Roger was so fluent in several instruments?; Considering that Cruella and Anita were once classmates, you have to think that Cruella was the school bully and Anita was one of her targets; Wouldn’t you think that Anita would be a bit suspicious as to why Cruella wanted to be there when the puppies arrived?; What is it with there being storms when a baby or babies are being born?; I don’t know who was more anxious about the puppies arriving, Pongo or Roger; What was Pongo must’ve been thinking as the number of puppies kept increasing before getting to 15?; I was curious so I looked up what the typical number of puppies in a dalmatian litter is, and I saw that it is usually between 6 and 9 though it did say that 15 is common as well; I always thought it was weird that Roger was able to bring the one puppy back to life just by rubbing it, but I searched this as well and apparently it does work in real life; Again, Cruella not knowing enough about dalmatians that she doesn’t know their spots would come with time; It is a bit funny when Cruella flicked her pen and the ink went on Pongo though you couldn’t tell what were ink spots and what were his real spots; Give Roger credit for being firm with Cruella even though he was constantly stammering; I do like how they create their own shows within the film to make it seem like real life; Pongo doesn’t even attempt to deny Perdita’s claims; Lucky is not even taking up that much space in front of the TV yet the other puppies demand he get down; How can Pongo handle that one puppy being on his head the whole time?; Ahh, the days of when a TV show was sponsored by something and they had the commercial after the show aired; It is funny that the announcer had a surprised expression on his face when Pongo turned the TV off like he knew the TV was being turned off; Horace’s bag has “Electric Company” on it and he still says they are from the gas company, and he has the “r” where it would spell the word “electirc”; I know the puppies aren’t that big, but that bag didn’t seem big enough to carry all 15 of them; Nanny just took a dive right into Roger’s cello with a picture frame around her neck and she shook it off like it was nothing; Cruella yells at Jasper for calling her directly, but I think she doesn’t have to worry about her phone being tapped because technology is not at that point; Roger knew immediately that Cruella had something to do with the puppies’ disappearance; Humans have the telephone and dogs have the twilight bark; They clearly took some of the dogs from Lady and the Tramp and retrofitted them into this film; I can’t imagine trying to sleep with a slew of dogs barking throughout the night; Sgt. Tibbs was so keen to stay asleep until the Captain forced him awake; I like how they treat the barks like it’s Morse code so they had to be sure everything was correct; I wonder how the De Vil place came to be known as Hell Hall, but I guess they assumed that it was haunted; Tibbs was certainly stunned when he learned that there were 99 puppies there and not just the 15 they assumed; Some good sound effects as it matches when Horace bites the sandwich, finds that it has been cleared off, and when Jasper puts his ashes on the bread; So a bit of an error made as they did a wide shot of the puppies with Tibbs claiming it was all 15, but if you actually pause and count them there are only 14; All the puppies are barking at what is going on and Lucky just wants to watch TV; A cat casserole a la mode just doesn’t sound that appetizing; So I did a check and a car ride from London to Suffolk is just under 2 hours, so traveling their on foot like Pongo and Perdita do takes about 7 hours; That river looks absolutely freezing and I can’t imagine that Pongo and Perdita were able to stay in it as long as they could; Cruella is so hell bent on Horace and Jasper doing their job and all they want to do is watch TV; Doesn’t she realize that if she calls the police and says that Horace and Jasper took the puppies that they can turn around and rat her out as well?; Considering all the reality TV shows and game shows that have come down the pike, I can’t believe that there has never been a show in the vain of “What’s My Crime?”; So the criminal receives a two week, all expenses paid vacation after he paid his debt to society, but what if he has a life sentence?; Tibbs tells the puppies to go through the hole one at a time yet he is telling them to go faster, they can only go so fast; Jasper tells Horace to grab a torch though they end up pulling out flashlights; Even though there are 99 puppies, we never seem to see them at certain points though we are to assume they are all there; This was also the first film that you can clearly see they used the same animations in certain scenes just with different backgrounds; The Colonel tells Pongo and Perdita to follow him as they go on ahead of him; The Colonel thinks they are ready to fight while Tibbs is trying to get the puppies out of there; That house must’ve been in such disrepair if the ceiling was able to collapse that easily onto Horace and Jasper; Clearly Patch was not smart in math since it would actually be 15 six times over and a little bit more; I love how Pongo just assumes that Roger and Anita would take the remaining puppies in just like that; I love how Tibbs pulls down on the Captain’s ear when he kicks Horace and Jasper into the wall, but it was a bit of a misfire since they could see where the dogs went; Horace is a lot smarter than we are led to think since he was right about the dogs being on the frozen river so they can’t leave tracks; That must be some pretty thick ice if they can just walk across it and not risk it breaking at any point; Cruella tells Horace and Jasper to watch their driving so not to attract the police, and meanwhile she drives like a lunatic; I get that the Collie was stopping them and telling them that there is shelter for them, but it does suck that they had to turn around and walk into the wind and snow; Considering how tired he must’ve been, kudos to Pongo for making sure that all 99 were there; An interesting plan by Pongo to try and brush the pawprints away, but he didn’t do such a good job since there were still plenty left for Cruella to see; So I did some more checking and Dinsford is not a real location in England; How was it that Lucky had the top half of his body covered in soot and Patch had the bottom half covered?; I wonder if the town was not occupied during this time because wouldn’t someone have confronted Jasper and Horace with them searching through the houses?; Again, Horace using his brain realizing that the puppies disguised themselves though Jasper just thinks he’s being dumb; Of all things to happen to them, the dripping water from the snow causes the soot to come off and reveal themselves to Cruella; That poor truck driver just trying to get to London and he has to deal with Cruella trying to run him off the road, but he does sound a bit sexist when he calls her a crazy woman driver; You would think that Cruella’s car wouldn’t be able to drive in the snow and it got destroyed pretty bad in those trees, but somehow it can still run perfectly; That was pretty dumb of Horace to grab the steering wheel and pull it out, forcing them off the road; That was quite the crash that Cruella, Horace, and Jasper had which caused Horace and Jasper’s truck to be completely destroyed, but yet somehow they managed to escape with no injures even though Cruella flipped completely; I wonder who that artist was that was singing Roger’s song; It’s amazing that they got the exact number correct since all three of them were counting; Pongo was surprisingly correct in his assumption that Roger and Anita would take all the puppies with them; Again, all the dogs barking in the night waking everyone up from their sleep.

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film ended up being a pretty great film that has certainly held up very well over the years, but it just didn’t quite reach the last step to hit the perfect score. Even though Disney had reservations with how the movie was made and after the underwhelming performance of Sleeping Beauty, all the stars aligned and this film was hailed by many as of the greatest Disney films of all time. It seemed like things were going along just fine for Disney as he was gaining steam with his TV programs and he had a new ambitious project churning in his head, and I’m sure he was thrilled with how this film did in terms of the box office and that there was still plenty of juice in the animation tank. We will see if they can keep the momentum going with our next film, but as for this film it is a really good film and ranks up there as one of the best films in the Disney canon.

Final Grade: 9/10

Author: Steve Riddle

I have been a wrestling fan since 1993 and that is probably my biggest love, with movies being a close second due in part to being employed at a movie theater for over 9 years.