From the Archive: One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Though the release model was already suffering from the continuing explosion of the home video market, Disney was still slipping into their vaults for regular theatrical release of their animated classics. Not 3D version or even prints that were given anything but the most cursory clean-up, but instead they’d just drag one of the old favorites out confident that youthful moviegoers hadn’t had a chance to see it previously. One Hundred and One Dalmatians took its turn in the summer of 1991. As the mostly dutifully transcriptions below indicates, I had the official formatting of the title wrong. I’ve cleaned up my most egregious misspellings, though, including the breed of dog and the name of the villain I effusively celebrate. Luckily, this was for the radio. I said the stuff right.

With the rerelease of Walt Disney’s classic animated feature 101 DALMATIANS, we all get a chance to spend some time with one of the greatest villains the studio ever put to screen. Cruella de Vil is the lanky fur-lover with sharp, rigid features that puffs yellow smoke and whose chief desire is to take 99 of the cutest Dalmatian puppies you’ve ever seen and turn them into fur coats. Just seeing Cruella de Vil scowl into a window as she crawls by in her lavish automobile is enough to send a chill up anyone’s spine. Betty Lou Gerson provided a wonderfully wicked voice characterization for the 1961 feature, hissing and growling her way through every nasty moment. Among the 99 pups are the kidnapped offspring of a Dalmatian couple named Pongo and Perdita who lauch a rescue mission that is genuinely suspenseful and enormously fun. And of course each and every one of the puppies is incredibly cute, especially when they’re playing in soot to cover themselves from snout to tail, or arguing their way through a session of family television viewing. At times the backgrounds seem a bit too static and the figure animation shows its rough edges more than one would expect for a Disney feature, but those seem like minor concerns when one realizes all of the painstaking effort that must have gone into keeping all those Dalmatians from losing their spots. 101 DALMATIANS delivers the way the best Disney features do: it brings out the child in everyone and proceeds to delight. (3 stars, out of 4)

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