Film of the Week: 101 Dalmatians (1961)


Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton Luske and Clyde Geronimi direct Betty Lou Gerson, Rod Taylor and Cate Bauer in this Walt Disney adaptation of the puppy kidnapping classic by Dodie Smith.

As a kid this was always one of those Disneys that I enjoyed but never loved… so imagine my surprise when a good 25 years further down the line I rediscovered just how brilliant it all is. I’m a dog loving bloke, so that accounts for some of the resonance, especially in the charming animation of Pongo, Perdita and the Twilight Bark across London, out into the countryside. The opening parallel romance between humans and dalmatians is affecting, the unexpected dips into grittier emotions (the clock ticking as the stillborn 15th pup is rubbed, P&P’s arduous snowbound trek across the countryside to reach Hell Hall) satisfying, and the adventure finale hums with echoes of The Great Escape, thrilling. The songs are used sparingly, a credit in my opinion as there is no ballady filler. Massive shout out too for Ken Anderson’s hard outline designs of London city life. Thanks to him the overall look is wonderful despite partly being a cost saving experiment at the time – possibly I’d say this is the most beautifully conceived animated feature I have ever watched. And Cruella De Vil is an iconic villian; manic, focussed and wrapped in acrid smoke and death. Chillingly fun but you already knew that. All in all, the faultless stuff that dreams are made of.


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