Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians

by Erika Cox
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Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a full-length animated film first released on January 15, 1961. The story features Roger, a struggling songwriter, and his Dalmatian dog Pongo who fall in love with artist Anita and her Dalmatian dog Perdita.

The happy couples (man and dog) are married and move in together, along with their no-nonsense maid, Nanny. Before long, Perdita is expecting puppies, and when they are born, she has an outstanding fifteen of them. Raging from Rolly, a puppy who never stops eating, to Lucky, the runt who almost died but was saved by Roger, the family is overwhelmed but also overjoyed by the new dogs in their life.

The movie's villain is Cruella DeVil, a rich social contact of Anita's. When the puppies are born, she visits the family in order to purchase them—and money is not an issue. However, Roger and Anita soon find out that Cruella is only after the puppies because she wants to make a coat from their pelts, and they refuse to sell them to her. Angered, Cruella sends her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, to steal the puppies instead, and Pongo and Perdita embark on an adventure to save their children.

When the two finally find their puppy-napped family, they also find that Cruella has stolen a huge number of other Dalmatian puppies as well, all for her coat production. Pongo and Perdita save them all, and after narrowly escaping the hands of Cruella, they return to Roger and Anita. Roger finally finds success with the hit song "Cruella DeVil" and the two decide to keep all of the dogs—one hundred and one of them—and start a "Dalmatian Plantation."

Disney's 17th animated feature, One Hundred and One Dalmatians was the highest grossing film in 1961, and followed Disney's 1959 animation, Sleeping Beauty. The film was originally based off of Dodie Smith's 1956 children's novel of the same name.

Voices featured in the animated film include Rod Taylor as Pongo, who is best known for his role in the 1963 Hitchcock film The Birds; Cate Bauer as Perdita; Betty Lou Gerson, a prominent television actress, as the wicked Cruella DeVil; and Ben Wright, who went on to work with Disney as voices for The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid, as Roger.

Other actors lending their voices to the film included Lisa Daniels, Frederick Worlock, Martha Wentworth, J. Pat O'Malley, Tudor Owen, Tom Conway, and George Pelling. Released by Buena Vista Distribution, the film was directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wolfegang Reitherman.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was the first Disney film to introduce the use of xerography, a process making graphic reproduction much easier. This largely replaces the rotoscoping technique, which was used up until that time. Xerography was also less expensive, crucial to Disney because of major cuts made in the animation department after the expensive Sleeping Beauty was an economic failure.

Because One Hundred and One Dalmatians was such a success, the movie was reissued in 1969, 1979, 1985, 1991, 1992, and 1999. It was scheduled to be re-released as a Platinum Series DVD in 2007, but that release date was postponed until as least March 2008.

In 2003, One Hundred and One Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure was created as a sequel to the original 1961 film, and the movie has also been made into an animated series based on this film. To further bank on the success of this movie, 101 Dalmatians, a live-action film starring Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil, was made in 1996. Its sequel, 102 Dalmatians, was released in 2000.

Immediately after the movie was released, Dalmatians became very popular, although in real life, most Dalmatians are not as family-friendly as the ones portrayed in the movie. The breed ultimately suffered because many were abandoned.

The movie itself makes reference to a number of fun cultural characteristics. Cruella DeVil was said to be based off of the actress Tallulah Bankhead, the henchmen in the movie watch the television show "What's my Crime?" playing on the real television show "What's my Line?" and in once scene the newspaper has headlines coinciding with real events of the 1950s and 1960s.

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