One Hundred and One Dalmatians

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This article is about the 1961 animated film. For the original children's novel, see The Hundred and One Dalmatians. For the Disney franchise, see One Hundred and One Dalmatians (franchise). For the 1996 live-action film, see 101 Dalmatians (1996 film). For other uses, see 101 Dalmatians.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
One Hundred and One Dalmatians movie poster.jpg
Directed by Clyde Geronimi
Hamilton Luske
Wolfgang Reitherman
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Bill Peet
Dodie Smith
Starring Rod Taylor
Cate Bauer
Betty Lou Gerson
Ben Wright
Lisa Davis
Martha Wentworth
Narrated by Rod Taylor
Music by George Bruns
Mel Leven
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
  • January 25, 1961 (1961-01-25)
Running time 79 minutes
Country United States, United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $4 million[1]
Box office $215.8 million[2]

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, often abbreviated as 101 Dalmatians, is a 1961 American animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney based on the novel by Dodie Smith. The 17th in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was originally released to theaters on January 25, 1961 by Buena Vista Distribution.

The film features Rod Taylor as the voice of Pongo, the first of the Dalmatians, and Betty Lou Gerson as the voice of Cruella de Vil, the film's antagonist. The plot centers on the fate of the kidnapped puppies of Pongo and Perdita.


Songwriter Roger Radcliffe lives in a bachelor flat in London, England along with his dalmatian Pongo. Bored with bachelor life, Pongo decides to find a wife for Roger and a mate for himself. While watching various female dog-human pairs out the window, he spots the perfect couple, a woman named Anita and her female dalmatian, Perdita. He quickly gets Roger out of the house and drags him through the park to arrange a meeting. Pongo accidentally causes both Roger and Anita to fall into a pond, but it works out well as the couple falls in love and got married.

Later, Perdita gives birth to 15 puppies. One almost dies, but Roger is able to revive it by rubbing it in a towel. That same night, they are visited by Cruella De Vil, a wealthy and materialistic former schoolmate of Anita's. She offers to buy the entire litter for a large sum, but Roger says they are not for sale. Weeks later, she hires Jasper and Horace Badun to steal them. When Scotland Yard is unable to determine the thieves or find the puppies, Pongo and Perdita use the "Twilight bark", normally a canine gossip line, to ask for help from the other dogs in London.

Colonel, an old sheepdog, along with his compatriots Captain, a gray horse, and Sergeant Tibbs, a tabby cat, find the puppies in a place called Hell Hall (Cruella's abandoned and dilapidated family estate, also known as The De Vil Place), along with many other dalmatian puppies that Cruella had purchased from various dog stores. Tibbs learns they are going to be made into dog-skin fur coats and Colonel quickly sends word back to London. Upon receiving the message, Pongo and Perdita immediately leave town to retrieve their puppies. Meanwhile, Tibbs overhears Cruella ordering the Baduns to kill and render the puppies that night out of fear the police will soon find them. In response, Tibbs attempts to rescue them himself while the Baduns are preoccupied watching television, but they finish their show and come for them before he can get them out of the house. Pongo and Perdita break into the house through a window and confront the Baduns just as they have cornered and are about to kill them. While the adult dogs attack the two men, Colonel and Tibbs guide the puppies from the house.

After a happy reunion with their own puppies, Pongo and Perdita realize there are dozens of others with them, 99 altogether including the original 15. Shocked at Cruella's plans, they decide to adopt all of them, certain that Roger and Anita would never reject them. They begin making their way back to London, aided by other animals along the way, with Cruella and the Baduns giving chase. In one town, known as Dinsford, they cover themselves with soot so they appear to be labrador retrievers, then pile inside a moving van bound for London. As it is leaving, melting snow clears off the soot and Cruella sees them. In a maniacal rage, she follows the van in her car and rams it, but the Baduns, who try to cut it off from above, end up colliding with her. Both vehicles crash into a deep ravine. Cruella yells in frustration as the van drives away.

Back in London, Roger and Anita are attempting to celebrate Christmas and his first big hit, a song about Cruella, but they miss their canine friends. Suddenly, barking is heard outside and, after their nanny opens the door, the house is filled with dogs. After wiping away more of the soot, the couple is delighted to realize their companions have returned home. After counting 84 extra puppies, they decide to use the money from the song to buy a large house in the country so they can keep all 101 dalmatians.

Voice cast



In 1956, Dodie Smith wrote the book The Hundred and One Dalmatians. When Walt Disney read the book in 1957, it immediately grabbed his attention and he promptly acquired the rights, Smith had always secretly hoped that Disney would make her book into a film.[3] Disney assigned Bill Peet to write the story, marking the first time that the story for a Disney film was created by a single story man.[4] Although Disney had not been as involved in the production of the animated films as frequently as in previous years, never-the-less he was always present at story meetings. However, he felt that Peet's original draft was so perfect that he had little involvement in the film all together.[5] Peet sent Dodie Smith some drawings of the characters, she wrote back saying that Peet actually improved her story and the designs looked better than the illustrations in the book.[3]


After the very expensive Sleeping Beauty (1959) failed at the box-office there was some talk of closing down the animation department at the Disney studio.[5] During the production of Sleeping Beauty, Walt told animator Eric Larson: "I don't think we can continue, it's too expensive".[6] Despite this Disney still had deep feelings towards animation because he had built the company upon it.[5]

Ub Iwerks, in charge of special processes at the studio, had been experimenting with Xerox photography to aid in animation.[7] By 1959 he had modified a Xerox camera to transfer drawings by animators directly to animation cels, eliminating the inking process, thus saving time and money while still preserving the spontaneity of the penciled elements.[4][7] However, because of the new technology's limitations, the Xerox was unable to deviate from a black scratchy outline and lacked the fine lavish quality of hand inking.[7]

One of the benefits of the Xerox however, was that it was a great help towards animating the spotted dogs. According to Chuck Jones, Disney was able to bring the movie in for about half of what it would have cost if they'd had to animate all the dogs and spots.[8] To achieve the spotted Dalmatians, the animators used to think of the spot pattern as a constellation. Once they had one "anchor spot", the next was placed in relation to that one spot, and so on and so on until the full pattern was achieved.[9] All total, 101 Dalmatians featured 6,469,952 spots, with Pongo sporting 72 spots, Perdita 68, and each puppy having 32.[10]

The production of the film also signaled a change in the graphic style of Disney's animation.[5] Sleeping Beauty had a more graphic, angular style than previous Disney films, and the same look was carried over to One Hundred and One Dalmatians and in most subsequent films. For One Hundred and One Dalmatians the background artists would paint loose molds to represent an object and photocopy the details onto the mold.[5] Walt Disney disliked the artistic look of One Hundred and One Dalmatians and felt he was losing the fantasy element of his animated films.[5] The art director Ken Anderson felt very depressed by this. Walt eventually forgave him on his final trip to the studio in late 1966. As Anderson recalled in an interview:

Live-action reference

As done with other Disney films, Walt Disney hired an actress to perform live-action scenes as a reference for the animation process. Actress Helene Stanley performed the live-action reference for the character of Anita. She did the same kind of work for the characters of Cinderella and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.[11]

According to Christopher Finch, author of The Art of Walt Disney:


The best known member of the cast was Australian actor Rod Taylor who had extensive radio experience. He was cast as Pongo. The filmmakers deliberately cast dogs with deeper voices than their human owners so they had more power.[13] Walt Disney originally had Lisa Davis read the role of Cruella De Vil, but she did not think that she was right for the part and she wanted to try reading the role of Anita. Disney agreed with her after the two of them read the script for a second time.[14]


Unlike many Walt Disney animated features, One Hundred and One Dalmatians features only three songs, with just one, "Cruella De Vil", playing a big part in the film. The other two songs are "Kanine Krunchies Jingle" (sung by Lucille Bliss, who voiced Anastasia Tremaine in Disney's 1950 film Cinderella), and "Dalmatian Plantation" in which only two lines are sung by Roger at the film's closure. Songwriter Mel Leven had, in fact, written several additional songs for the film including "Don't Buy a Parrot from a Sailor", a cockney chant, meant to be sung by the Badduns at the De Vil Mansion, and "March of the One Hundred and One", which the dogs were meant to sing after escaping Cruella by van.[citation needed]


One Hundred and One Dalmatians was first released to theaters on January 25, 1961. After its initial theatrical run, it was re-released to theaters four more times: January 1969, June 1979, December 1985, and July 1991. The 1991 reissue was the twentieth highest earning film of the year for domestic earnings.[15] The film has earned $215,880,014 in domestic box office earnings during its history.[2]

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was released on VHS on April 10, 1992 as part of the Walt Disney Classics video series. It was re-released on March 9, 1999 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video series. Due to technical issues, the film was never released on Laserdisc, and was delayed numerous times before its release on DVD. On December 19, 1999, it received its first DVD release as part of Disney's Limited Issue series. A 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD was released on March 4, 2008. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom on 3 September 2012.[16]


One Hundred and One Dalmatians was the tenth highest grossing film of 1961, accruing $6,400,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals during its first year of release,[17] and one of the studio's most popular films of the decade.

It currently holds a 97% "fresh" rating from critics and users on Rotten Tomatoes. The film did receive some negative criticism. Phillip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette only gave the film 2/5 stars.[18] In 2011, Craig Berman of MSNBC ranked the film and its 1996 remake as two of the worst kid films of all-time saying, "The plot itself is a bit nutty. Making a coat out of dogs? Who does that? But worse than Cruella de Vil's fashion sense is the fact that your children will definitely start asking for a Dalmatian of their own for their next birthday."[19]

American Film Institute Lists

Sequels and spin-offs

In the years since the original release of the movie, Disney has taken the property in various directions. The earliest of these endeavors was the live-action remake, 101 Dalmatians (1996). Starring Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil, none of the animals talked in this version. The remake's success in theaters led to 102 Dalmatians, released on November 22, 2000.

After the first live-action version of the movie, a cartoon called 101 Dalmatians: The Series was launched. The designs of the characters were stylized further, to allow for economic animation, and appeal to the contemporary trends. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, the official sequel to the original animated film, was released straight-to-VHS/DVD on January 21, 2003.[22]


  1. ^ "Magical Kingdoms". Magical Kingdoms. 1961-01-25. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  2. ^ a b "101 Dalmatians". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  3. ^ a b Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney, 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD, 2008
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 7: The Postwar Films", page 106. Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules, 1997
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 101 Dalmatians, 2008 DVD
  6. ^ Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  7. ^ a b c d Finch, Christopher: "Chapter 8: Interruptions and Innovations", pages 245-246. The Art of Walt Disney, 2004
  8. ^ "An Interview with Chuck Jones". Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia of Disney Animation
  10. ^ 101 Dalmatians Original Animation Forensically Examined
  11. ^ "Cinderella Character History". Disney Archives. 
  12. ^ "Walt's Masterworks: Cinderella". Disney Archives. 
  13. ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p77
  14. ^'s Interview with Lisa Davis, the voice and model for 101 Dalmatians' Anita Radcliff. Retrieved April 5, 2014
  15. ^ "1991 Domestic Grosses #1–50". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  16. ^ "101 Dalmatians [Blu-ray]". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  17. ^ Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (listing of "Box Office (Domestic Rentals)" for 1961, taken from Variety magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.
  18. ^ "Philip Martin @ Rotten Tomatoes". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  19. ^ "Someone save Bambi's mom! Worst kid films". MSNBC. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  20. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  21. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  22. ^ 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure - Special Edition DVD Review Retrieved August 8, 2014

External links