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Back in 1961, Walt Disney got a little hip with 101 Dalmatians, making use of that flat Saturday morning cartoon style that had become so popular. The result is a kitschy change in animation and story. Pongo and Perdita are two lonely dalmatians who meet cute in a London park and arrange for their pet humans to marry so they can live together and raise a family. They become proud parents of 15 pups, who are stolen by the dastardly Cruella De Vil, who wants to make a fur coat out of them. Cruella has become the most popular villain in all of Disney; she's flamboyantly nasty and lots of fun. But it's the dalmatians who shine in this endearing classic, particularly those precocious pups. Telling the story from the dogs' point of view is a clever conceit, a fundamental flaw of the live-action remake. --Bill Desowitz
- This title will be available for only 60 days after street date before being placed on moratorium 1/6/2000
- Full-Color Character Artwork On Disc
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First, the film itself is so beautifully restored its like watching it for the first time. All the characters are magnificently and perfectly depicted, with sharp personalities for each one of the puppies. I love the scenes of parks and streets in London, and the lovely English countryside. (I now realize this film must have been an early encouragement for my rabid Anglophilia, which manifested itself at a young age.) From an adult perspective, I was struck by the "Britishness" of the culture of the film, so to speak. So many of the characters have an air of the old Empire about them, from the name Pongo itself (originally a sort of nickname widely used among British soldiers) through to the innumerable Colonels and Sergeants among the animal characters, right down to the Cockney rhyming slang employed by the brothers who steal the puppies. Its very definitely late 50s early 60s vintage, but it has a timeless charm.
The second disc is very worthwhile, too. I enjoyed the early history of Walt Disney and the story of the making of the film, especially a short piece on Disney's correspondence with Dodie Smith, the author of the book on which the film is based. The film turns out to have been truly revolutionary in its use of new techniques and equipment, including early photocopiers. I also liked the extra songs which were originally deleted from the film but are included here. You can understand why some weren't used, but there's one called "Cheerio, Goodbye, We're On Our Way to London" which I wish had been kept in. Its a lovely tune, and one which (to continue the military theme I alluded to earlier) its easy to imagine British troops singing in 1945. Another really pleasing inclusion is a series of unused trial versions of the "Kanine Krunchies" Jingle, which I can listen to over and over (be forewarned that you'll have it running through your head for the next several hours, though!)