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One Hundred and One Dalmatians

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This article is about the 1961 animated 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 written 101 Dalmatians, is a 1961 American animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions and adapted from Dodie Smith's 1956 novel of the same name. It is the 17th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The film stars Rod Taylor and Cate Bauer as, respectively, the voices of Pongo and Perdita, the film's canine protagonists, and Betty Lou Gerson as the voice of Cruella de Vil, the film's antagonist who kidnaps the pair's puppies.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was originally released to theaters on January 25, 1961, by Buena Vista Distribution.[3] Upon release, the film was a box office hit, successfully pulling the studio out of the financial setbacks caused by Sleeping Beauty, a costlier production released two years prior.[4] Aside from its box office revenue, the film's commercial success was due to the employment of inexpensive animation techniques—such as using xerography during the process of inking and painting traditional animation cels—that kept production costs down. It was re-issued to cinemas four times: in 1969, 1979, 1985 and 1991. The 1991 reissue was the twentieth highest earning film of the year for domestic earnings. It was remade into a live action movie years later.[5]


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 one, 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. Anita and Roger fall in love and get married.[6]

Later, Perdita gives birth to fifteen puppies. That same night, they are visited by Cruella De Vil, a wealthy former schoolmate of Anita's. She offers to buy the entire litter, but Roger says they are not for sale. A few weeks later, she hires Jasper and Horace Badun to steal them. When Scotland Yard is unable to find the puppies, Pongo and Perdita use the "Twilight bark", 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 bought from various dog stores. When Tibbs learns they are going to be made into dog-skin fur coats, Colonel quickly sends word back to London. Upon receiving the message, Pongo and Perdita leave town to retrieve their puppies. Winter has come, and when they have to cross the Stour River it is running fast and laden with slabs of broken ice. Meanwhile, Tibbs overhears Cruella ordering the Baduns to kill the puppies that night out of fear the police will soon find them. In response, Tibbs attempts to rescue them 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 and confront the Baduns just as they are about to kill the puppies. 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 fifteen. 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 through deep snow; all open water is frozen hard. Other animals help them along the way. Cruella and the Baduns chase them. In one town, 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 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



Dodie Smith wrote the book The Hundred and One Dalmatians in 1956. 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.[7] Disney assigned Bill Peet to write the story, which he did, marking the first time that the story for a Disney film was created by a single person.[8] Although Disney had not been as involved in the production of the animated films as frequently as in previous years, nevertheless 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 making of the film altogether.[9] When Peet sent Dodie Smith some drawings of the characters, she wrote back saying that he had actually improved her story and that the designs looked better than the illustrations in the book.[7]

Changes made in the story from the book to the movie include:

  • Characters dropped: the liver-spotted Dalmatian Perdita (and her name transferred to Missis); the boy Tommy; the old spaniel and his master; the gipsies
  • Name changes: the farm near Hell Hall, from Dympling to Withermarsh
  • Events added: the car chase between Cruella's car and the furniture van


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.[9] During the production of Sleeping Beauty, Walt told animator Eric Larson: "I don't think we can continue, it's too expensive".[10] Despite this, Disney still had deep feelings towards animation because he had built the company upon it.[9]

Ub Iwerks, in charge of special processes at the studio, had been experimenting with Xerox photography to aid in animation.[11] 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.[8][11] However, because of its limitations, the camera was unable to deviate from a black scratchy outline and lacked the fine lavish quality of hand inking.[11]

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 complete the movie for about half of what it would have cost if they had had to animate all the dogs and spots.[12] To achieve the spotted Dalmatians, the animators used to think of the spot pattern as a constellation. Once they had an "anchor spot", the next was placed in relation to that one spot, and so on until the full pattern was achieved.[13] All totaled, 101 Dalmatians featured 6,469,952 spots, with Pongo sporting 72 spots, Perdita 68, and each puppy 32.[14]

The production of the film also signaled a change in the graphic style of Disney's animation.[9] 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 animated 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.[9] Walt Disney disliked the artistic look of One Hundred and One Dalmatians and felt he was losing the fantasy element of his animated films.[9] 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:

He looked very sick, I said "Gee it's great to see you Walt", and he said "You know that thing you did on Dalmatians". He didn't say anything else, but he just gave me this look and I knew that all was forgiven and in his opinion maybe what I did on Dalmatians wasn't so bad. That was the last time I ever saw him. Then a few weeks later I learned he was gone.[9]

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.[15]

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

Disney insisted that all scenes involving human characters should be shot first in live-action to determine that they would work before the expensive business of animation was permitted to start. The animators did not like this way of working, feeling it detracted from their ability to create character. [...] [The animators] understood the necessity for this approach and in retrospect acknowledged that Disney had handled things with considerable subtlety.[11][16]


The best known member of the cast was Australian actor Rod Taylor, who before the making of this movie had 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.[17] 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 wanted to try reading the role of Anita. Disney agreed with her after the two of them read the script for a second time.[18]


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 Baduns 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.[19] 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 two-disc Platinum Edition DVD was released on March 4, 2008. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom on September 3, 2012.[20] A Blu-ray Diamond Edition of the film was released in North America on February 10, 2015.


Box Office

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was the tenth highest grossing film of 1961 in the US and Canada, accruing $6,400,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals during its first year of release.[3]

It was the most popular movie of the year in France, with admissions of 14,705,526.[21]

It was one of the studio's most popular films of the decade.[citation needed]


The film 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 out of 5 stars.[22] In 2011, Craig Berman of MSNBC ranked the film and its 1996 remake as two of the worst children's 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."[23]

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 to appeal to 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.[26]

Disney has announced that another live-action remake is on development, but will focus more on Cruella De Vil.[27]


  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 Gebert,, Michael (1996). The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. [page needed]
  4. ^ King, Susan (January 31, 2015). "'101 Dalmatians' was just the hit a flagging Disney needed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "1991 Domestic Grosses #1–50". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 April 2008. 
  6. ^ "One Hundred and One Dalmatians". 
  7. ^ a b Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney, 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD, 2008
  8. ^ a b Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 7: The Postwar Films", page 106. Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules, 1997
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 101 Dalmatians, 2008 DVD
  10. ^ Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  11. ^ a b c d Finch, Christopher: "Chapter 8: Interruptions and Innovations", pages 245-246. The Art of Walt Disney, 2004
  12. ^ "An Interview with Chuck Jones". Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  13. ^ Encyclopaedia of Disney Animation
  14. ^ 101 Dalmatians Original Animation Forensically Examined
  15. ^ "Cinderella Character History". Disney Archives. 
  16. ^ "Walt's Masterworks: Cinderella". Disney Archives. 
  17. ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p77
  18. ^'s Interview with Lisa Davis, the voice and model for 101 Dalmatians' Anita Radcliff. Retrieved April 5, 2014
  19. ^ "1991 Domestic Grosses #1–50". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  20. ^ "101 Dalmatians [Blu-ray]". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  21. ^ Box office for 1961 at Box Office Story
  22. ^ "Philip Martin @ Rotten Tomatoes". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  23. ^ "Someone save Bambi's mom! Worst kid films". MSNBC. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  24. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  25. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  26. ^ 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure - Special Edition DVD Review Retrieved August 8, 2014
  27. ^ Kit, Boris (September 30, 2013). "Disney Preps Live-Action Cruella De Vil Film (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 

External links