My earliest movie memory was going to see Walt Disney's 101 DALMATIANS ($30) in a theater as a very young child. Sure, I was far too young to remember any thing about the plot, other than there were a lot of dogs in the movie. However, from that experience, I do have vivid recollections of the colors, the sounds and a very nasty lady named Cruella De Vil, who did a whole lot of shouting. Since that initial experience, I have seen the animated 101 DALMATIANS quite a few times and have certainly taken pleasure from finally being able to understand what I experienced during that early childhood trip to the movie theater.
Set in London, the plot of 101 DALMATIANS centers on two Dalmatians named Pongo and Perdita, who conveniently arrange a courtship between their human "pets" Roger and Anita. The four soon find themselves "married" and living together in a small London home, with Perdita expecting a litter of puppies. Unfortunately, Anita's fur loving friend Cruella De Vil expresses an interest in purchasing the puppies. The idea doesn't sit well with anyone, and her offer of cash for the litter is flatly rejected. When the joyous day finally arrives, Pongo and Perdita find themselves with a brood of 15 puppies. After a few weeks, the Dalmatian puppies mature to the point where they begin showing their spots and pick up the bad habit of watching television. One evening, while the adult Dalmatians are off for a walk in the park, Cruella's two bumbling henchmen make off Pongo and Perdita's offspring- as well as every other Dalmatian puppy in the city of London.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the fur coat loving Cruella plans to do with the 99 Dalmatian puppies that she has hidden away in her country home. With the humans unable to pick up the scent, it falls to Pongo and Perdita to rescue the puppies from Cruella's clutches. 101 DALMATIANS is filled with wonderful canine characters, as well as a funny feline and an equine that packs a real kick. The human characters take a back seat in the story, except for Cruella De Vil and two numbskull henchmen Horace and Jasper, who are the butt of many jokes. 101 DALMATIANS features the vocal talents of Rod Taylor, Betty Lou Gerson, Cate Bauer, Lisa Daniels, Ben Wright, Frederick Worlock, Lisa Davis, Martha Wentworth, J. Pat O'Malley, Tudor Owen, Tom Conway, George Pelling, Thurl Ravenscroft, David Frankham and Ramsay Hill.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has made 101 DALMATIANS available on DVD in marvelous looking 1.37:1 transfer. I still find it odd that a movie from 1961 was produced in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, but nothing appears missing from the sides of the image and the compositions do not appear to be compromised in any way. The image is of excellent quality; everything appears sharp and has fine detail for a 2D cel animated film of its vintage. Colors are fresher and more vibrant than they have appeared in the past. Blacks are pure, whites are crisp and contrast is just fine. The film elements appear pristine and grain is virtually absent. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.
For this release, 101 DALMATIANS has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Fidelity is very good for a film originally released in 1961. The musical component is pleasant enough. The surround re-mix of them monaural material is well handled and never comes across as forced or overly artificial. Dialogue is totally understandable. Most of the age related background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a smooth sonic quality. A cleaned up version of the filmís original theatrical soundtrack is also present on this release, as are French and Spanish language tracks. English, French and Spanish subtitles are also present.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features spread across this two-disc set. Disc one features two text base supplements 101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts For The Family and 101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts For The Fan, plus a Cruella De Vil Music Video by Selena Gomez.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. The main supplement of the Backstage Disney section is Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians, a thirty-three minute look back at the production. Also featured are Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad (seven minutes), Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney Trailers (twelve minutes), TV Spots and Promotional Radio Spots, plus Art Galleries. In Music & More, one will find March Of The One Hundred And One (Deleted Song Sequence), Cheerio, Good-Bye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip! (Abandoned Song), Donít Buy A Parrot From A Sailor (Abandoned Song), Dalmatian Plantation (Extended Version and Temp Version), Cruella De Vil (Demo Recordings and Alternate Takes) and Kanine Krunchies (Jingle Alternate Takes). Under Games & Activities the kids will find Disney Virtual Dalmatians Game, Puppy Profiler and 101 Dalmatians Fun With Language.
101 DALMATIANS is a life long Disney favorite that has been given an excellent presentation on DVD. Highly recommended.
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