Or, as the DVD cover calls it, 101 Dalmatians.
For me the highlight is the look. The change in art style, specifically in the backgrounds, is a pleasant treat not just because it's so different from what we've been seeing in Sleeping Beauty and the like but also because this is the only one of the Disney films that has that look. If it had been used subsequently the interestingness may have worn off quickly, but as that colored-straightly-but-outside-the-lines scenery stays within the confines of 101 Dalmatians and 101 Dalmatians only (I don't think the sequels/spin-offs even used it), it's the best reason to revisit Pongo and his pals. If I were to choose a favorite dalmatian of the 101, it'd definitely be Pongo. Which is a shame that not enough of the movie is about him, but the less dynamic puppies. I quite enjoy everything up that happens before the scene with his children watching television, and for me I actually think it goes downhill from there. The movie does a nice enough job of showing us A Day in the Life of Pongo at a calm pace, then has to go and ruin things by trying to be an action flick. Except, even when the story calls for action, things still seem to happen awfully slowly and leisurely! Do we really need to wait as the colonel listens to each single line of Twilight Bark code? Get on with it! Sure, Pongo forcing his pet to flirt isn't hugely exciting either, but I'd rather watch almost-mundane events played out well than almost-exciting events played out boringly. It doesn't help things that, as b***hy as Cruella DeVille is, she isn't what I would call scary or threatening. It's already established that she's not the type to get her hands directly dirty, so why would we be worried about her finding the dalmatians? Because if she did, she'd...what, call over Jasper and Horace and have them do something about it? I'm shakin' in my bootses, I am. Oh, and since it's obligatory that every review of a Disney film must point out any racial insensitivities as if the reader wouldn't have noticed it on their own (see my own Lady and the Tramp post, I guess), how offended do you think actual English people are by the two thugs?
Kevin's Kontemplation: So, we see the animals talk to each other while humans are around. But they're not really speaking the same language as the humans, because the humans and animals can't understand each other. So one would think that maybe when we see the animals talking to each other, they're really just barking/meowing/whinnying at each other (and that a dog can understand a cat who can understand a horse and so on) and we're just getting the "dubbed" version of their sounds.This holds up when you note, for example, that Sergeant Tibbs "whispers" (which would really be soft mewing?) when earshot of the bad guys. But if this is the case, why is the "Twilight Bark" a special thing (that we don't hear dubbed)? What would be the difference between sending out a Twilight Bark and, well, just bark-talking as they've (supposedly) been doing but very loudly? Are the barks really an entirely separate form of communication from the way we see them talk normally throughout the picture? If so, what exactly is going on when they non-barkingly (or meowingly, mooingly, etc) speak to one another?
I can't disagree that the style of this picture is so obvious as to define it. I find the scratchy animation lines, and the blocky background layouts both interesting, and yet not distracting. Kevin mentions that it is not seen elsewhere and this is not so. Patch's London Adventure does indeed attempt the blocky background style, but doesn't do all that good a job of it and because the character animation is clean and without the xeroxed look, it does nothing to align itself with the original film.
That being said, I think this film is a standout for the many technical breakthrough that happened at the time. The Xeroxed cell animation was among those breakthroughs. While I would never claim to be an expert nor indeed an amateur animation buff, I can't deny that seeing the actual animation of the actual artists up on the actual screen really makes one appreciate how much individualism and genuine artistry is in something so large as a Disney film.
Naturally it was impossible to develop the personalities of so many characters, and I find it a shame that we weren't even given the names of the main 15 puppies. Of them I can only name Penny, Patch, Freckles, Roly, Lucky, and Domino, and that last one might only be canonical in the Sequel!
Alas, I disagree with my dear Kevin at this point because I for one adore Cruella. She's not one to get her hands dirty, but she represents a new sort of villian that hasn't been seen quite as deliberately in previous Disney films. She represents the scheming, clever (though crazy), managerial villian. She hires or intimidates others to do her dirty work before attempting to take matters into her own hands. She makes sense in today's society as the CEO who is corrupt but unaccountable for his deeds as he allows his underlings to take the wrap. I also know that there are some truly excellent corporate evil deeds in future films that we shall encounter soon enough and I salute Cruella for laying a little bit of groundwork in this sense.
Fave: Cruella. I can relate to Crazy Ladies.
Least Fave: Perdita. Perdy, you need to pull yourself together. If it isn't "OHHhh my babies!" it's "OOhhh it's that devil woman!" or "OOOhhh it's no use Pongo." Would even a little bit of positivity cause you to lose your spots or something? Grow a spine already!
Overall: This movie falls somewhere in the middle ground. There's a lot to love, but there's an awful lot to make it a bit of tediousness.
Incidently, I found the opening sequence of this film to be one of the most memorable thus far and again, it has everything to do with the technology of the time.