Archive for the ‘101 Dalmatians’ Category

DVD Review – “101 Dalmatians” Platinum Edition

March 17, 2008
Image © Disney.

For the first time this decade, the Disney classic with the most outrageous villain of all time arrives of DVD with a plethora of supplemental materials, some of which definitely deliver fans a fantastic, worth-the-wait look at this 1961 Disney animated masterpiece.

By Blake

Originally posted March 17, 2008.

Since I had never seen 101 Dalmatians, the 1961 Disney animated film that was recently released on DVD, I was quite excited as I popped the new Platinum Edition into my player. I wasn’t expecting anything too extravagant, but my hopes were a little high . . . after all, this was considered a Disney classic and I hadn’t even seen it yet! Luckily, my expectations were pretty accurate, as 101 Dalmatians, although not extravagant, is certainly a film worthy of the Platinum Edition label.

Disc One
Total Disc Running Time: about 250 minutes (about 4 hours and 10 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: Feature Film
Highlight Runner-Up: 101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts “For the Fan”

The film itself (about 79 minutes) tells the story of Pongo and Perdita, two Dalmatians who marry and settle down in a quaint house with their “pet” humans and nanny. Life is good until Perdita gives birth to 15 adorable Dalmatian puppies (the other 86 are introduced later) that are quickly snatched away by the evil Cruella De Vil and her henchmen Jasper and Horace. It’s up to Pongo and Perdita, along with a crew of other canine (and feline) critters to save the puppies from being skinned and turned into coats.

Three of the 101 Dalmatian puppies. Image © Disney.

The movie seems a bit more contemporary than other classic Disney films, lacking the majestic prestige of some of the other masterpieces but establishing a more modern feel that fits in well with today’s audiences. For one, some of my family that gag and complain when we watch other older Disney movies didn’t do any groaning at this one, and actually laughed at some parts. That being said, 101 Dalmatians seems to have a naturally more mature feel to it, possibly meaning that it might not appeal to the younger audience that draws in the likes of Cinderella or Peter Pan. That’s not to say that 101 Dalmatians isn’t a good movie. If I’m being honest, it’s quite fantastic. It’s just a little more “grown up” than other Disney animated films.

Additionally, I believe 101 Dalmatians is one of the first Disney animated films to slip in references to popular culture. Throughout the movie, you’ll spot six cameo appearances by characters from Lady and the Tramp (Lady, Tramp, Jock, Peg, Bull, and Trusty), as well as a parody of the 1960’s TV show What’s My Line?. Plus, when the puppies are watching TV in the De Vil Mansion, take a look at what’s on screen: the 1929 Disney Silly Symphony cartoon Springtime.

101 Dalmatians is probably most remembered in the Disney canon for its outrageous antagonist, Cruella De Vil. With a dash of Lady Tremaine and a hint of Yzma, she’ll stop at nothing to make sure she gets her precious fur coat! Spoiled and overreacting at almost every situation, she goes to drastic measures to get what she wants. Her sidekicks, Jasper and Horace, play the “Marv and Harry” role of the two henchmen who get constantly beaten upon, making for plenty of scenes with physical comedy.

Unfortunately, like nearly all films, 101 Dalmatians certainly sports a few flaws. The beginning feels somewhat rushed, while the rest seems like it drags on just to get us to a specific plot point in the film.

As for the film’s restoration for its Platinum Edition release, for the most part the picture looks pristine and the sound is great. The only problem I could spot was that at times the restoration of the humans’ faces gives them that look of cheap computer animation, which I know it isn’t. The film is completely hand-drawn, but the way the humans’ faces are restored just looks a bit odd to me. Other than that, the restoration seems dandy.

Disc One Bonus Features

101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts For the Family (about 79 minutes) – In this first of two extra versions of the film, pop-up trivia facts appear on the screen throughout the movie. This version, “For the Family,” is mostly so-so. It mainly deals with the differences between the film and the book on which it was based. There are a few generic facts thrown in about animation, but it primarily deals with the film/book comparisons.

101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts For the Fan (about 79 minutes) – Providing an equivalent, if not more, amount of information to the kind we’d find on an audio commentary, this version of the film has notable fascinating facts that appear on screen dealing with topics that Disney fans or fans of just the movie are sure to find a real treat. The tidbits of info tell us the names and composers of each piece of music that is played, which of the three directors led each sequence, which animators worked on certain characters, and who voiced each of the characters (as well as what other Disney characters that that same actor lent their voice to). There are also several other fascinating bits of trivia throughout.

Sergeant Tibbs (left) and Colonel help search for the puppies. Image © Disney.

“Cruella De Vil” Music Video (about 3 minutes) – Performed by Selena Gomez from Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, this is another “Disney Mania”-ish, version of a Disney favorite. Aimed to get the tween crowd interested in the DVD set, I’m sure it succeeded in that aspect, but overall is an OK rendition.

Sneak Peeks (about 10 minutes) – The standard pack of Disney previews, this round features commercials of Sleeping Beauty Platinum Edition, Wall*E, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, Tinker Bell, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, The Jungle Book 2 Special Edition (a re-issue of the 2003 sequel), Mickey’s Wonderland, and Disney Movie Rewards.

Disc Two
Total Disc Running Time: about 104 minutes (about 1 hour and 44 minutes) + games and art gallery
Highlight of Disc: “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney”
Highlight Runner-Up: “Drawn To Be Bad”

Games and Activities

Disney Virtual Dalmatians (running time varies) – Almost identical to the Virtual Kitten game on last month’s DVD of The Aristocats, only this time the poorly-animated pet you’re adopting is a Dalmatian. Unfortunately, this version of the game is even more pointless than the kitten version. All you do is press five buttons that will make your dog do five separate tricks, and then the game is over. Whoopee. However, it says that if you pop the disc into your computer, several DVD-ROM features can be accessed.

Puppy Profiler (running time varies) – Something I haven’t seen on a Disney DVD in a loooong time, this is a questionnaire asking you several questions about your likes and dislikes to match you up with what dog species you’re most like and what owners you’d most likely enjoy. I was matched as a Dalmatian, and the owners I’d most likely be pleased with were Roger and Anita from the movie.

Pongo and Perdita. Image © Disney.

101 Dalmatians Fun with Language Games (running time varies) – After doing so on the DVDs of The Jungle Book and The Aristocats, Disney again includes a game that deals with identifying words on screen. Obviously this is aimed at the Kindergarten/first grade set, but I really don’t think many people purchase a Disney animated movie to be grammatically educated.

Music & More

“March of the One Hundred and One” Deleted Song Sequence (about 1 minute) – This is a set of storyboard drawings and demo recordings for a song that was eventually scratched in the final cut of the film, but apparently got very close to being green-lit. When seeing the sequence in the place that it would have been in the film, it’s clear to see why the happy mood of the song didn’t blend in well with the tense moods of the scenes before and after it.

“Cheerio, Good-Bye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!” Abandoned Song (about 3 minutes) – Another song that was dropped from the film, this would have taken place in the exact same part of the film as the song described above, in-between chase sequences. I suppose the filmmakers were stuck between which of the two songs to choose . . . and ended up dropping them both! Instead of being put into storyboard format, though, the audio is accentuated by random drawings from other scenes in the film.

“Don’t Buy a Parrot From a Sailor” Abandoned Song (about 3 minutes) – Another dropped song with random drawings thrown in, this is a song that was to be sung by Jasper and Horace, Cruella’s two henchmen.

“Dalmatian Plantation” (about 3 minutes) – This feature displays two different versions of a song that was used in the final version of the film. The first is a slower-temped version of the song that was changed in favor of the more upbeat, faster-paced version, which is also showcased here in a piano instrumental.

Pongo and Perdita with their many puppies. Image © Disney.

“Cruella De Vil” (about 20 minutes) – This is an entire third of an hour featuring alternate and demo versions of the song “Cruella De Vil,” which after a while seems to be quite repetitive. The different versions range from a spooky version, a blues version, a “honky-tonk” piano version, different takes for the finished song in the film as sung by Roger, and alternate renditions of the “hit” version of the song as heard towards the end of the film on the radio.

“Kanine Krunchies Jingle” (about 5 minutes) – This feature is really gets annoying after a while. It’s 9 different ways that the filmmakers recorded the “Kanine Krunchies Jingle” song, which is cute the first time you hear it but is not as enjoyable after hearing it 9 times in a row. The ways the song is played is based on how different age groups would sing it (like “young boy,” “young girl,” “boy,” “girl,” or “older”). Also included are several outtakes where either the singer or musician messes up.

Backstage Disney

Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians (about 34 minutes) – Here, we get some insights from some of today’s top filmmakers like Brad Bird, Peter Docter, Don Hahn, Andreas Deja, and others, and additionally we’re shown how the movie was made. The feature goes into detail about the music of the film (and several explanations as to exactly what we were watching in the “Music & More” section of the disc), as well as some looks at the storyboarding process, and the (at the time) new Xerox process (which allowed the animators to see their actual drawings on the screen instead of hand-done inked copies). We also hear what critics, and Walt Disney, thought of the film.

Nanny and Cruella. Image © Disney.

Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad (about 7 minutes) – A follow-up to the making-of, this feature deals with several interviewees talking about the villainess Cruella De Vil. Included are talks about Cruella’s supervising animator, Marc Davis, and his genius he brought to the character as his last ever animation role. Additionally, the feature goes on to talk about both the voice actress and live-action model for Cruella.

“Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney” (about 12 minutes) – Definitely one of the most fascinating features on the disc, this includes reenacting primary source documents that served as correspondence between Dodie Smith (author of the book on which 101 Dalmatians was based) and Walt Disney. The reenactment is narrated by Disney historian Brian Sibley and features actors portraying Smith and Disney. It features actual excerpts from letters written between the two, beginning from when the Disney Studio was originally conceiving of the idea of making the film, and all the way up to the movie’s release. This truly is one of the most treasured and intriguing features on the entire DVD set, and is definitely worth repeat viewings.

Publicity (about 16 minutes) – This is a handful of thorough, if not a bit repetitive, promotional devices including trailers, TV spots, and radio ads from the film’s original 1961 release, as well as its re-releases in 1969, 1979, and 1985.

Pongo and a pup. Image © Disney.

Art Galleries (running time varies) – A plethora of sketches, paintings, backgrounds, and more art pieces from the film that deal with visual development, character design, layouts, overlays, storyboard art, live-action reference, animation art, and production photos. Well, while that’s all just fine and dandy, it (like most DVD art galleries) severely suffers as a result of its navigational structure. The art is amazing, but viewing all of it at once becomes a hassle of going back-and-forth among several menus to view the next round of art.

Wrapping It Up

Since it hasn’t been available for sale yet this decade, many Disney fans probably don’t already own the 1961 classic 101 Dalmatians, and the new Platinum Edition will surely be a very welcome set to their DVD collection. Taking on a more contemporary and modern feel than other Disney animated features, the film has a tone that can still be enjoyed by today’s audiences in the same context it did 47 years ago when it was initially released. That being said, the DVD certainly supplies a bountiful amount of bonus material, but the main problem is that most of it is discardable. The music video is so-so, the deleted songs and publicity items seem a bit repetitive, the games are seemingly pointless, and the art gallery is somewhat difficult to navigate. However, there are of course some items that definitely make the set a more satisfying buy. The restoration is beautiful and some of the bonus features that especially stand out as exceptional include the making-of featurette, the Cruella De Vil retrospect, the pop-up trivia fun facts, and the reenacted correspondence between Walt Disney and the author of the original book The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Dodie Smith.

101 Dalmatians is a contemporary Disney tale that I’m sincerely sorry I hadn’t seen before two weeks ago. The DVD, with several easily overlooked bonus features, still delivers plenty of goodies to keep fans of the film busy for at least a few hours. And – with October 2008 and March 2009 on the horizon – this set will definitely hold Disney fans’ interest until the next two Platinum releases, Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio, come rolling along.

How do I rank 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD? (Bolded is my choice.)
Very good movie + very good bonus features =

  • Aaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD will most likely please: Disney Fans – Pet Owners – Kids (ages 5-7) – Older Kids (ages 8-10)

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By Blake; posted March 17, 2008. All images © Disney.