Today in 1961, Disney’s 17th animated feature film, 101 Dalmatians premiered in cinemas.
Based upon the original story by Dodie Smith (only published 6 years earlier) it would be the success the Disney Studios were waiting for. Made using xerography – where the animator’s initial drawings are directly transferred and copied on animation cels, eliminating the inking process – it cut down animation costs. Aligned with its box office and commercial success, it pulled the studios out of the financial slump caused by Sleeping Beauty a couple years prior.
Whilst it wasn’t a style particularly liked by Walt Disney (he said it lost the fantasy element of prior animated films), the film’s production signalled a change in the graphic style of Disney animation that would be the norm for future films like Sword in the Stone, and The Aristocats. We’d also start seeing cameos of characters from earlier films. For example, in the Twilight Bark sequence, we can spot Peg, Lady, Tramp, and Jock from Lady and the Tramp. This re-use of animation and characters was also a great cost-cutting motion, especially when the studios fell into a rough chapter.
It would also be the first of Disney’s animated films to actively portray the era in which it was made, firmly highlighting its social and cultural importance to the development of cinema in the 1960s.
Unlike previous films, it only features three songs – Cruella de Vil, Kanine Krunchies Jingle, and Dalmatian Plantation.
Notable cast members include:
Rod Taylor as Pongo
Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella
Cate Bauer as Perdita
After its initial release, it was re-released four more times:
- January 1969,
- June 1979,
- December 1985,
- and July 1991,
And during that time, it earned $215,880,014 in domestic box office earnings.
Since the film’s release, 101 Dalmatians has had quite a few revivals. The earliest was the live action remake (1996) starring Glenn Close as Cruella. Its theatrical success then led to 102 Dalmatians (2000). A televised cartoon series was also launched; the designs of the characters further stylised to allow for cheaper animation and to appeal to contemporary trends. There was also a direct-to-video sequel with 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure in 2003.
In addition, Disney has announced that another live action film is in development, focusing on the origin of Cruella, and said to be starring Emma Stone in the title role.
I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again but this film is one of my personal favourites. I love everything about it. It’s also filled with a lot of childhood nostalgia.
One negative aspect is that it is rarely represented in the parks – all I can think of is the old Disney Cinema parade that used to run in the Walt Disney Studios at DLP, and the inclusion of the puppies in the Swing into Spring topiary displays.
Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!