Following the very expensive Sleeping Beauty, Walt Disney placed his primary focus in other aspects of his company. His theme park was booming, television had become successful and the industry of animation was not the same one that he had helped build all those years ago. The appeal of the short cartoon was dying and Disney was, for whatever reason, less interested in this side of his company than the others. However, the Disney animated feature film would go on regardless in 1961 with One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
This film is notable for being the first feature to use the the new Xerox process, designed by Ub Iwerks. Those familiar with Disney history will recognize that as the man who helped create Mickey Mouse along with Walt Disney in the early days of the company. By this time, Iwerks was using modern technology to help create movie magic, for Disney as well as other studios. With this Xerox technology, the animators were able to copy their drawings directly to cells, bypassing the usual step of inking. Not only did this save time, but it saved a great deal of money as well. This was particularly effective in terms of the many spots that needed to be placed on all of the Dalmatians. Unfortunately, Walt himself hated the way this process made the final movie look and he vowed that they would never make a film that way again.
Though the technology may have made the film look a bit rough around the edges, the animation style itself sets it apart from other films of the period in a positive way as well. There is an unmistakable classiness to One Hundred and One Dalmatians that makes it particularly memorable. It takes place in London during the 1960s and the style of the animation reflects this.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians is one of those Disney movies that is perhaps best remembered for its villain, in this case Cruella de Vil. There are a lot of memorable villains in the Disney canon, but I would argue that Cruella, alongside Maleficent, might be the best known and most recognizable of the bunch. From her outrageous outfit to her unique song, she is one of the best parts of this movie. Another fun aspect of this film are the interactions between the animals who are trying to solve the problem of the stolen puppies. The dialogue is expertly written and the sincerity of these characters makes them believable and heartwarming.
Though One Hundred and One Dalmatians may be a bit simpler than some of the studios other works, it is still an enjoyable watch and worth revisiting.
Live-action remake: In 1996, the first live action remake of a Disney animated movie was released: 101 Dalmatians. Starring Glenn Close in the role of Cruella De Vil, this began the tradition of remaking Disney animated classics in live-action. A sequel to this was released in 2000, titled 102 Dalmatians. Both of these films are noteworthy due to the change of time period from the 1960s to the 1990s. Another live-action adaptation is due to be released in 2021. Titled Cruella, this will be an origin story of the character rather than a direct remake of the original film. Emma Stone is starring in the lead role, with Emma Thompson playing the role of the Baroness. It is expected to be released theatrically on May 28, 2021.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians in the theme parks: This movie is another one with very little representation in the theme parks. Cruella herself can often be seen as a costumed character, whether walking around or featured in Disney Villain themed attractions. However, anything specifically Dalmatian themed is almost nowhere to be found.
Sequel/Spin-offs: Fresh off of the success of the two live-action remakes of 101 Dalmatians, Disney decided to continue this franchise by releasing a sequel to the 1961 classic. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure was released by DisneyToon Studios directly to video in 2003. Two animated spin-off shows have also been released. The first, 101 Dalmatians: The Series, was released in 1997 and the second, 101 Dalmatian Street was released in 2019.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians is available to stream on Disney+.