When people list off Disney classics, the first ones to come to mind are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. But I believe 101 Dalmatians should hold a place on the list.
Before we begin, the story. 101 Dalmatians follows British Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita as they fall in love and have puppies. When the puppies are stolen one night, they go on an adventure to get them back from the vile Cruella De Vil and find a few more puppies along the way. It’s a short synopsis, so this review is going to be kind of short.
Even as I was trying to write a summary, it’s difficult to summarize. It’s simple, so much so, it lacks any attempt at depth with the characters. But for me, the story is not the focus of this movie. Rather, I feel that this movie is a test in a new animation style that became utilized future Disney movies like The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, and Robin Hood. What I mean by the new animation style are the film’s backgrounds and the character design. The backgrounds are not like anything Disney had done before. Rather than ink and paint the distinct colors in the background, they instead drew the intricate detail and painted what appears to be broad strokes of color. This creates a unique, almost eclectic feel to the film, like a patched together feel.
This was at a period of Disney animation where they were developing new techniques in their character’s designs. Rather than the soft rounded features of Snow White and Pinocchio, characters were drawn with sharper lines. A perfect example of this is the devil woman herself, Cruella De Vil. Props to Marc Davis, the animator responsible for her design. She is one of my favorite villains and has one of the best villain songs (just under Gaston and his song).
Of course, I can’t avoid talking about the Dalmatians in this movie. I love them so much. To me, Pongo’s attempt to matchmake his “pet” Roger and Anita together so he could be with Perdita trumps Lady and the Tramp’s meatball scene (don’t get me wrong folks, that still tugs at my heartstrings too). It’s so innocent and just make me smile every time.
This is not a perfect Disney movie by any means. Is the story a little flat in parts? Sure. Is it just an excuse to show adorable animals run around for about an hour and 15 minutes? Absolutely. While this is not Disney at its peak, this movie is a perfectly fun romp with some cute animals and a captivating villain. It’s not for everyone, but for me, its one of my favorites and one I can watch multiple times. I would give this film a B.
Thank you for reading! What Disney movies do you see as underrated classics? What should I review next? Let me know in the comments!