Film Review: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

Also known as: 101 Dalmatians (alternative spelling)
Release Date: January 25th, 1961
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet
Based on: The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Rod Taylor, Cate Bauer, Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Bill Lee (singing voice), Lisa Davis, Martha Wentworth

Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Buena Vista Distribution, 79 Minutes

Review:

“My only true love, darling. I live for furs. I worship furs! After all, is there a woman in all this wretched world who doesn’t?” – Cruella De Vil

I had reviewed every classic Disney animated film of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and then decided to take a break, as I covered a lot. But I figured it was time to revisit and review the ’60s, which starts with this film.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians is probably the most iconic classic Disney animated picture that features animal characters. While, Lady and the Tramp has a slight edge on it, in my book, this property has probably been tapped the most by Disney in regards to sequels and live action remakes and their sequels.

The thing I like most about this film is just its vibe. It uses a unique art style that fits well with Disney’s older pictures while still being fresh looking for the time, giving the film more character that helps it stand out. With that, I like the character design and it’s a combination of the art style and character design that brought one of Disney’s most iconic villains to life: Cruella De Vil.

This was Cruella’s debut into the world on the big screen and like Maleficent, before her, she made one heck of an impact and cemented herself as one of Disney’s greatest villains of all-time. And she’s held that distinction now for decades, which is why we recently got a live action origin story for the character starring Emma Stone.

I think that Disney did a good job, here, at telling a lighthearted and sweet story that also had a lot of darkness running through it. We knew what Cruella wanted all those puppies for but somehow the film doesn’t get bogged down by that.

Then again, this was such a different time, culturally, that I think introducing this story to kids, today, would get every easily offended busybody in an uproar. This is probably why Emma Stone’s Cruella only made a flippant joke about making a handbag out of a puppy while she just accepted the Dalmatians into her family of friends and pets.

Overall, this isn’t near the top of the list as one of my favorite classic animated features by Disney but it’s still a wonderful picture and better than anything that studio puts out these days.

Rating: 7.25/10