101 Dalmatians (1961) Movie Review

101 Dalmatians (1961)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

 

Starring: Rod Taylor, J. Pat O’Malley, Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Cate Bauer
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Series: 101 Dalmatians Animated Film #1
Release Date: 25 January 1961
Language: English
Length: 79 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Shortly after celebrating the birth of 15 pups, Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita find themselves on a mission to save their offspring from the clutches of the dastardly Cruella De Vil before she turns the cuddly canines into a fabulous fur coat. With the aid of London’s underground dog network, the determined Pongo and Perdita stage a daring rescue in this animated Disney classic featuring one of the screen’s most hissable villains.” — Netflix.com

Review:

This is an old-school style Disney cartoon.  It is drawn in the same style as The Rescuers and is veddy British.  I have read the original book and this movie is  very loosely based on it, but it a cute, fun movie to watch with your children. There is only 1 song, “Cruella de Vil” and the rest is accompanied by orchestral music (I don’t feel like you can really count “Dalmatian Plantation” as it is super short & repetitive).  I think that this feature could have been strengthened by including more songs, especially since Roger is supposed to be a songwriter, but that is my opinion.  Most of the humor comes from Jasper & Horace, Cruella de Vil’s incompetent henchmen, who seem to botch just about everything.  I missed having some cute, funny secondary characters in the movie like most other Disney animated features.  The puppies are pretty cute, though, and they made a successful effort to keep the original 13 puppies born to Pongo & Perdita unique with individual personalities.

Pongo & Perdita are definitely the leads in the movie and I did enjoy how Pongo kept referring to Roger (his human owner) as his “pet” and a bit incompetent.  The opening sequence where Pongo forces Roger & Anita to meet is one of the best in the film and is really well done.  My second favorite scene is where the old Colonel (a dog), a cat and a horse try and outwit the villains and help out Pongo & Perdita.  They reminded me of the elephants in The Jungle Book and it was really cute and fun.  Cruella de Vil is one of Disney‘s most infamous and memorable villains and so it is almost worth watching the film just to see where she originated!  She is one of the strongest characters in the film for me and I wish that we could learn more about her as she is pretty one-dimensional.  The movie as a whole is pretty darkly illustrated and a bit gloomy looking and feeling.  Still, if your children enjoy watching movies about dogs then they will enjoy this one.  Just brace yourself for requests for Dalmatian puppies – all of my nieces and nephews ask for them after we watch this film!  As Dalmatians are not great dogs for little kids, it is kind of ironic that the movie features cute, cuddly Dalmatians everywhere.  This is a fun rental for families to watch if you haven’t seen it in a while, but I confess that I have never heard anyone list this film as their favorite Disney animated feature-length film – though I am sure that there is someone out there who adores it!

Content:

This movie features dognapping, discussions of turning puppies into a fur coat, a couple of bungling burglars, smoking, drinking, reckless driving and an intense car chase.  Disney does show a little feature at the beginning telling kids how bad it is to smoke to try and counter the “cool” factor of smoking.  Recommended for viewers ages 5 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies

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