101 Dalmatians (1961)

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This film is just ridiculous. They had a team of artists whose sole responsibility was to draw close to six and a half million total spots throughout the course of the animated feature. The 300 artists used 800 gallons of paint over the duration of 3 years! So did the painstaking labor pay off? Eh, sort of.

Rotten Tomatoes gives 101 Dalmatians a prestigious 97% on its tomatometer, which places the movie only behind Disney’s Pinocchio and Snow White. One critic from TIME Magazine goes as far as to say:

It is the wittiest, most charming, least pretentious cartoon feature Walt Disney has ever made.

And you know what, based on these comments, I have no idea if we watched the same movie. Call me a cruel devil, but this is honestly a pretty average kid’s movie.

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Disney’s first film directed towards dog-lovers and owners was Lady and the Tramp in 1955, and I can’t help but to feel like 101 Dalmatians came too soon afterwards. In fact, Lady and the Tramp characters make a quick cameo in this one, and while that was funny, it only reminded me of the charm 101 Dalmatians seems to have borrowed. I mean, it is 99 little puppies put to screen; of course it is going to be cute! The gimmick of putting dogs to animation was wearing out its welcome on me.

But disregarding its place in cinema history, it is a cute, friendly, and welcoming film to any child. There’s a cat that actually helps the puppies escape, and so there’s even room for cat-loving children in this one! While the villains are evil, they are never overly menacing and come off as idiotically humorous. I like how the human protagonist, Roger Radcliffe, is made a musician so to provide the movie with its classic Cruella De Vil song. With that said, this movie will likely bore adults. Some of the visuals in the beginning were really jazzy, but this distinct animation-feel dissipates as the film progresses. Instead, London becomes looking a lot like Peter Pan, which makes the animation seem lazy considering its four million dollar production cost.

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But the film is ambitious with its spots! I mean, you really feel like there are 99 puppies escaping Cruella De Vil. Of course I never had time to count them all, and the number of spots on the screen is ridiculous. I appreciate the effort, but that’s not what makes a good movie. This movie lacks purpose. It is nothing more than an entertaining story that’s made to entertain. It doesn’t teach moral lessons, make us think about any ideologies, or recall moments in our lives; it’s just another story. However, I like how the story doesn’t rely on Disney love, like in Lady and the Tramp, to provide a happy ending. The emotional authenticity of its ending comes from the love of family, and for that, I’ll say the story is satisfactory.

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