STUDIO:  Walt Disney Home Video
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 79 Minutes

-    “Cruella De Vil” Music Video
-    Virtual Dalmatians Game
-    Pop-Up Trivia Facts
-    One Hundred and One Dalmatians Fun with Language Games
-    Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians
-    “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney”
-    Cruella De Vil: Drawn to be Bad
-    Deleted Songs

The Pitch

A jazzy detour in the Disney filmography.

Dog owners, don’t let your puppies watch Chinese meat commercials.

The Humans

The voices of Rod Taylor, J. Pat O’Malley, Betty Lou Gerson, Martha Wentworth, Ben Wright, Cate Bauer

101 Dalmatians say, “Banana in the tailpipe is for chumps, cut the fucking brake line you pussies!”

The Nutshell

It’s your classic boy meets girl, dog meets bitch story. Once the kennel started knocking, Cruella came knocking, looking to make some of her world-famous puppy patchwork quilts. When she absconds with our lovingly animated progeny, the animals take matters into their own hands and stage a daring rescue mission to free these ill-gotten pups and lead them back home. However, there’s a few more Dalmatians being held than anyone (HUNDREDANDONE!!!) was counting on.

Martha knew the relationship wouldn’t last once George unveiled his love of Alec Baldwin in The Shadow.

The Lowdown

It’s a shame that Disney didn’t allow for such idiosyncratic work such as 101 Dalmatians to continue to be churned out into what many consider its ‘golden age’, but it’s hard to argue messing with a template if it’s proven to be successful so consistently and for so long. In any event, Dalmatians really comes across as a breath of fresh air in terms of its plotting (set in the modern day of its release), style (impressionistic backgrounds and sharp, angular character design instead of what would be considered ‘traditionally’ Disney) and storyline (the villain and her plan of skinning puppies to make a coat is gruesomely realistic given the more fairy tale bent of most Disney films*). That’s not to say that this doesn’t conform to the Disney house rules, as they do manage to shoehorn some music in, although again to the filmmakers’ credit they managed to not make the few numbers in the film feel attached with a rivet gun to the plotline. (The ‘Cruella De Vil’ number actually feels off-the-cuff and inspired just like it’s meant to in the script, so again, good on them). 

Even animated dogs know blackface sucks.

It should be said, however, that this isn’t some sort of avant garde art piece masquerading as an animated feature, it’s simply notably different from the template that Disney has hewn closely to ever since it’s early days of animated features, and for that it feels like something of an anomaly. What it lacks in the polish of latter Disney features and the amazing beauty of some of the earlier pictures it makes up for by straying ever so slightly from the status quo. One of the big ways that is done in story is by having a very human threat this time out in Cruella De Vil. Far from the more operatic and less realistic Disney villains Cruella’s kidnapping and planned skinning of dogs is pretty horrifying stuff for a kids film to be dealing with. It’s just another example of the kind of powerful immediacy provided by setting a story in the present instead of a far off time and place. 

Every dog instinctually knows how to react when the cold steely hands of Bob Barker come calling for them.

It’s one of the golden era’s last gasps before the Little Mermaid-led renaissance and it’s a nice addition to anyone’s Disney collection. If for nothing else, then for the somewhat exciting and different animation employed versus what the mouse house style tended to be up until that point. It feels more free-form and spontaneous than other Disney films, and allows for a little bit of the modern era to creep into the storytelling mechanism. A fascinating aberration in the Disney chronology, that’s for sure. 

The Package

The cover art is fine, but it’s not particularly alluring, although all of these releases have the same sort of ‘huge title, small pictures of the characters’ template they work from. And again, like most Disney DVD releases, this transfer is as delicious as you’re gonna see this side of Blu-Ray. I’d eat a Denny’s Grand Slam off of it. In terms of extras you’re getting the standard platter of extras for Disney classic re-releases: a handful of meh-tastic kids material and then some more interesting in-depth look at the production of the film itself. 

Cruella was more than happy to sign an autograph for one of her adoring fans until they piped in with “I’ll never believe you did it, Mr. Spector.”.

For the little chippies you get fun with language games, a virtual Dalmatian game** and some pop-up trivia. The pep-peps get an elaborate behind-the-scenes documentary, well worth watching, as well a completely overblown and ridiculously reenacted featurette about the correspondence between Walt Disney and the author of the book the film is based on. I love the effort there, but when the source is as dry as it is, it all comes off a bit overcooked. You also get a Cruella De Vil feature and some deleted songs (helping to support to de-Disnified Disney movie feeling this movie has). As always, Disney brings the goods to their DVD’s for both sides of the parent/child equation. Or movie nerd/movie nerd playing children’s DVD games equation.

7.8 out of 10

*The scene where Pongo watches nervously as his possibly stillborn child is being resuscitated (via the old fashioned ‘rub things until they’re alive’ method) is more visceral than standard Disney fare.
**Unfortunately Michael Vick is not a level boss (TIMELY!).