HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: 101 Dalmations
HTS Overall Score:82
With “101 Dalmations” we can now say that there is only one last Disney animated classic left to release (the last one being “Aladdin”) and we have all their classics on Blu-ray. “101 Dalmations” happens to be famous for a second reason and that is because it is considered the movie that saved Disney from going under back in the 60s. At that point animated movies were becoming quite expensive to produce and the profits from “Sleeping Beauty” were frustrating Disney to no end. With the end of animated films in sight, a visionary animator came up with an ingenious idea that used a slightly modified Xerox machine to transfer the drawings to cel frames at a fraction of the cost. By doing this he was able to save Disney millions and keep the studio afloat with the much reduced cost and manpower required to pump out these classic films.
“101 Dalmations” is one of my personal favorites of the golden age of Disney films. It’s an extremely simple film that just works BECAUSE of its simplicity. It’s simply drawn, simply narrated and a quite simple plot at heart. However, the simplicity is its main attraction as it allows us to focus on those cute little bundles of fur and their adventure trying to keep away from the evil Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson). Our tale tells the story of Pongo (Rod Taylor) and Perdi (Cate Bauer) along with their human pets, Roger (Ben Wright) and Anita (Lisa Davis), in a tale fraught with adventure. Pongo and Perdi are just about to have their first litter of puppies when a disaster in the form of the monstrous Cruella De Vil befalls the household. Brash, vile and despicable from the moment she walks in the door, Cruella is bent on buying the puppies from Roger and Anita. After Roger vehemently refuses to sell to the crone, she decides to come back with another plan. Using a couple of bumbling thieves named Horace and Jasper, Cruella steals the puppies and whisks them away into the Suffolk countryside.
Overcome with grief, the family of humans and doggies grieve for the loss of the puppies and do everything to find the little ones. Roger calls Scotland Yard only to be met with failure, which prompts Pongo and Perdi to take matters into their own paws. Using the underground dog communication network (us humans just think those dogs are howling at the moon, but some of us know better) they send the word out until finally the pups are found by some country animals. Now it’s a full on race against time for it seems that there are more than just the litter of 15 pups at risk. There are 99 Dalmatian puppies at a little farmhouse just waiting for the monstrous Cruella to come and make fur coats out of them. With the realization that it’s now or never, Pongo and Purdi race out to the country to make a daring rescue of the near 100 puppies in danger. While the escape turns out quite well, the dogs aren’t out of the woods yet as Cruella and her bumbling henchmen are hot on their tails, determined to make sure the canines don’t make it back to London in one piece.
“101 Damations” is a delightfully charming little movie that is sure to please people of all generations. I mean, who doesn’t like a movie that’s dedicated to a pile of squirming puppies? Disney was king of mixing cute and scary together back in those days. In modern movies we have PG rated movies for “thematic elements”, but back in the good old days they were able to create movies that dealt with the attempted murder of 99 puppies in an effort to harvest their skin for coats, and still keep the movie fit for youngsters. The villains are over the top, with Cruella leading the pack. Horace and Jasper are your typical blundering bumpkins, but Cruella is the epitome of the devil in human form. From her craggy face, wild and unkempt hair and the noxious vapors from her cigarette, she just oozes villain. If you look real closely you’ll notice that there was a lot of effort to paint her as the over the top villain as her car is designed to look like a leering face from straight on, and even her telephone at home is shaped like a devils head.
There’s not a lot of musical numbers in this one, contrary to most of Disney’s work to date, but the Cruella De Vil song is one of the most remembered and catchy songs in all of Disney history up to that point. It’s almost as hard to get out of your head as that blasted “Let it Go” song from “Frozen”! Despite its simplicity and obvious efforts to keep costs low, the film is a golden age classic and rightfully so. The tight storytelling and straight to the point plotline keep the movie focused and aimed at all the right people. Adults can adore the little nuances at painting heroes and villains, while the kids can laugh themselves silly over the antics of the animals. A winner in every sense of the word.
Rated G For General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38106[/img]Disney provides a very strong looking encode of “101 Dalmations” in its original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The movie has had some digital manipulation done to it in the form of grain reduction and DNR, but it’s nowhere as egregious as “Sword in the Stone” or a few others in the collection. There’s a bit of softness to the picture as a result of the grain removal and a few of the lines looks a little blurred at times, but it’s very minimal and unobtrusive. I’ve very very sensitive to DNR and the nasty effects that it can have if misused, but I wasn’t bothered by the slightly smoother looking picture. There is still plenty of detail left in the simplistically drawn frames and the clarity looks excellent. There isn’t a whole lot of color in the filming (the reduction of costs was made much easier with the Xerox transfer by using a lot of blacks and whites in the movie), but there are several standout scenes with some very warm looking colors. Cruella’s bedchambers is full of bright reds and pinks, looking in line with her socialite standing as well as the somber red glow in the old house in Suffolk county where the puppies are being held. Black levels remain strong and keep the darker looking scenes looking quite good. Besides the use of DNR I didn’t notice any other digital manipulations or side effects such as banding or macroblocking. A very solid presentation for the second to last in the Diamond Edition line from Disney.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38114[/img]Disney has been kind enough to give us two options in listening to the movie in English. We have their famed 7.1 remixes in DTS-HD MA lossless, as well as the original mono track in lossy dolby digital. The 7.1 Remix doesn’t seem like a good fit for an old mono track such as this one, but it works surprisingly well, giving good channel separation as well as nuancing some of the sound effects in the rear and side channels. It’s still quite front heavy naturally, but those little nuances make for a good presentation on a surround sound system. The dialog is locked firmly up in the center channel and there is even a mild amount of LFE used for the chase scenes at the end, or the whomp as a villain is dispatched by our heroes. The mono track may be in lossy Dolby digital, but it sounds excellent and is given a high bitrate compared to the old DVD and definitely edges out it’s SD counterpart.
• Lucky Dogs
• Dalmatians 101
• The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt
• The Best Doggoned Dog in the World
• Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians:
- Puppy Dog Tales
- Howling at the Moon
- New Tricks
- Animation 101
- Drawing All Cars
- Seeing Spots
- A Dog's Eye View
• Music & More Bonus Content:
- Music Video by Selena Gomez: "Cruella De Vil"
- Deleted Song: "March of the One Hundred and One"
- Abandoned Song: "Cheerio, Goodbye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!"
- Abandoned Song: "Don't Buy a Parrot from a Sailor"
- Demo Recordings and Alternate Versions
• Cruella De Vil: Drawn to Be Bad
• Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney
• Trailers & TV Spots
• Promotional Radio Spots
Saving some of the best for last, Disney’s release of “101 Dalmations” is a great example of the diamond edition line, boasting a fantastic little romp for children and adults alike, with a good audio and video representation to boot. The inclusion of both the original audio for the movie along with a 7.1 remix is a thumbs up in my book, as it allows those purists and home theater enthusiasts alike to listen to the film in whichever format they prefer. The inclusion of some great extras as well as all the extras from the previous release makes this a must buy for any Disney animation fan.
Starring: Rod Taylor, Betty Lou Gerson, J. Pat O'Malley
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet (Story), Dodie Smith (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French DTS-HR 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, English DD 1.0 Mono
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 79 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 10th 2015
Buy 101 Dalmations Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Definite Watch
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