One Hundred and One Dalmatians

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One Hundred and One Dalmatians
One Hundred and One Dalmatians movie poster.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by
Story by Bill Peet
Based on The Hundred and One Dalmatians
by Dodie Smith
Produced by Walt Disney
Edited by
  • Roy M. Brewer, Jr.
  • Donald Halliday
Music by George Bruns
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • January 25, 1961 (1961-01-25)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.6 million [1]
Box office$303 million [2]

One Hundred and One Dalmatians [lower-alpha 1] is a 1961 American animated adventure comedy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and based on the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman. The 17th Disney animated feature film, it tells the story of a litter of Dalmatian puppies kidnapped by the villainous Cruella de Vil ("deVille"), [3] who wants to make their fur into coats. Their parents, Pongo and Perdita, set out to save their puppies from Cruella in the process of rescuing 84 additional ones that were bought in pet shops, bringing the total of Dalmatians to 101.


The film was originally released in theaters on January 25, 1961, [4] and was a box office success, pulling the studio out of the financial slump caused by Sleeping Beauty , a costlier production released two years prior, [5] and became the eighth highest-grossing film of the year in the North American box-office. Aside from its box office revenue, its 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. Disney would later release a live-action remake titled 101 Dalmatians in 1996 and its sequel 102 Dalmatians in 2000. A direct to video animated sequel to the 1961 film titled 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure was released in 2003. A live-action reboot titled Cruella directed by Craig Gillespie was released on May 28, 2021 in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access simultaneously.


Roger Radcliffe is an aspiring songwriter who lives in London, England in a squalid bachelor flat. His dalmatian dog, Pongo, decides to watch women and their dogs walking in the street until he finds suitable matches for them both. Spotting a woman named Anita and her Dalmatian Perdita, Pongo drags Roger to the park to arrange a meeting. Roger and Anita fall in love and marry, as do Pongo and Perdita.

The family acquires a nanny and moves to a small townhouse near Regent's Park. Perdita becomes pregnant with a litter of 15 puppies. Anita's spoiled, fur-obsessed former schoolmate, Cruella de Vil, stops by and inquires about the arrival of the puppies, causing fear and distrust in the family. In response, Roger writes a jazzy song to make fun of her. When the puppies are born, one puppy appears to be stillborn, but Roger manages to save his life. Cruella barges in again and demands to buy the puppies. Roger finally stands up to her and tells her the puppies are not for sale; furious, Cruella vows revenge.

Some months later, Nanny puts the puppies to bed after an evening of watching TV, while Pongo and Perdita go for a walk with Roger and Anita. Horace and Jasper Baddun, two burglars secretly hired by Cruella, pose as men from an electric company and steal the puppies. In response, the Radcliffes enlist Scotland Yard and put advertisements in all the papers. Roger immediately suspects Cruella, but a police investigation offers no evidence against her.

The Dalmatians contact Danny the Great Dane at Hampstead, who uses the Twilight Bark gossip chain to forward their request for help to dogs all over England. In Withermarsh, Suffolk, Old Towser the bloodhound passes the word on to the Colonel, a Sheepdog, and his cat friend Sgt. Tibbs. They investigate the nearby "Old De Vil Place," where puppies had been heard barking two nights earlier. Tibbs sneaks inside and is nearly killed by Jasper, but escapes. The Colonel sends word back to London that the puppies are found. Pongo and Perdita leave through a back window and begin a long cross-country journey, crossing a flooded and icy river and running through the snow towards Suffolk.

Meanwhile, Cruella tells the Badduns the police are on their trail. She orders them to kill and skin all the dogs by daybreak. After she leaves, Tibbs helps the puppies escape through a hole in the wall, but the Badduns notice and pursue. The Colonel meets up with Pongo and Perdy and tells them of the trouble. The two Dalmatians attack Jasper and Horace, destroying part of the house and giving the puppies time to flee. Pongo and Perdita reunite with their litter of 15 at Colonel and Tibbs' home farm, only to discover there are 84 more puppies with them. Upon learning from Tibbs that Cruella intended to make Dalmatian fur coats, Pongo and Perdita decide to take all 99 pups home with them.

The Dalmatians start their homeward trek, pursued by the Badduns. All water has turned to ice, so the dogs use the creeks to avoid leaving tracks. They shelter from a blizzard in a dairy farm with a friendly collie and some cows, then make their way to Dinsford, where they meet a Black Labrador, who is waiting for them in a blacksmith's shop. Cruella and the Badduns catch up, so Pongo has his whole family roll in a sooty fireplace to disguise themselves as other Labradors. The Labrador helps them board a moving van bound for London, but melting snow falls on Lucky and exposes his spots. Cruella pursues and tries to ram the moving van off the road. The Badduns, in their truck, attempt the same thing and accidentally smash into Cruella's car instead, which sends both their vehicles into a ditch. The moving van continues to London as Cruella throws a tantrum; Jasper, having had enough, tells her to shut up.

Back in London, a sad Nanny and the Radcliffes try to enjoy Christmas, and the wealth they have acquired from the song about Cruella, which has become a big radio hit. The soot-covered Dalmatians suddenly flood the house. Upon removing the soot and counting the massive family of dogs, Roger decides to use the money from his song to buy a big house in the country, forming a "Dalmatian Plantation." All the dogs of London begin barking, celebrating the return of the Dalmatian puppies.



Story development

Dodie Smith wrote the book The Hundred and One Dalmatians in 1956. When Walt Disney read it in 1957, it immediately grabbed his attention, and he promptly obtained the rights. Smith had always secretly hoped that Disney would make it into a film. [6] Disney assigned Bill Peet to write the story, which he did, marking the first time that the story for a Disney animated film was written by a single person. [7] Writing in his autobiography, Peet was tasked by Disney to write a detailed screenplay first before storyboarding. Because Peet never learned to use a typewriter, he wrote the initial draft by hand on legal paper. [8]

He condensed elements of the original book while enlarging others, some of which included eliminating Cruella's husband and cat, as well merging the two mother Dalmatians, birth mother Missis and adopted mother Perdita, into one character. [9] Another notable character loss was Cadpig, the female runt of Pongo and Missis' puppies, whose traits were transferred between Lucky and the newly-established Penny in the film (although it is never indicated outright that Cadpig was dropped); the Colonel's cat assistant was re-gendered from being a female by the name of Lieutenant Willow in the book, and Horace Baddun was renamed from Saul to presumably make him sound more akin in tone to Jasper. Bill Peet did retain a scene in which Pongo and Perdita exchange wedding vows in unison with their owners, by which the censor board warned that it might offend certain religious audiences if the animals repeated the exact words of a solemn religious ceremony. The scene was reworked to be less religious with Roger and Anita dressed in formal clothes. [10]

Two months later, Peet completed the manuscript and had it typed up. Walt said the script was "great stuff" and commissioned Peet to begin storyboarding. Additionally, Peet was charged with recording the voice-over process. [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. [11] When Peet sent Dodie Smith some drawings of the characters, she wrote back saying that he had improved her story and that the designs looked better than the illustrations in the book. [6]


Art direction

After Sleeping Beauty (1959) disappointed at the box-office, there was some talk of closing down the animation department at the Disney studio. [11] During the production of it, Disney told animator Eric Larson: "I don't think we can continue; it's too expensive." [9] Despite this, he still had deep feelings towards animation because he had built the company upon it. [11]

Ub Iwerks, in charge of special processes at the studio, had been experimenting with Xerox photography to aid in animation. 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 preserving the spontaneity of the penciled elements. [12] [13] 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. [12] Disney would first use the Xerox process for a thorn forest in Sleeping Beauty, [9] and the first production to make full use of the process was Goliath II . [12] For One Hundred and One Dalmatians, one of the benefits of the process was that it was a great help towards animating the spotted dogs. According to Chuck Jones, Disney was able to complete the film for about half of what it would have cost if they had had to animate all the dogs and spots. [14]

Ken Anderson proposed the use of the Xerox on Dalmatians to Walt, who was disenchanted with animation by then, and replied "Ah, yeah, yeah, you can fool around all you want to". [15] For the stylized art direction, Anderson took inspiration from British cartoonist Ronald Searle, [16] who once advised him to use a Mont Blanc pen and India ink for his artwork. In addition to the character animation, Anderson also sought to use Xerography on "the background painting because I was going to apply the same technique to the whole picture." [15] Along with color stylist Walt Peregoy, the two had the line drawings be printed on a separate animation cel before being laid over the background, which gave the appearance similar to the Xeroxed animation. [11] [17] Disney disliked the artistic look of the film and felt he was losing the "fantasy" element of his animated films. [11] In a meeting with Anderson and the animation staff concerning future films, Walt said, "We're never gonna have one of those goddamned things" referring to Dalmatians and its technique, and stated, "Ken's never going to be an art director again." [15]

Ken Anderson took this to heart, but 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. [11]

Live-action reference

As with the previous Disney films, actors provided live-action reference in order to determine what would work before the animation process begun. Actress Helene Stanley performed the live-action reference for the character of Anita. She did the same work for the characters of Cinderella and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. [18] Meanwhile, Mary Wickes provided the live-action reference for Cruella de Vil. [19]

Character animation

Marc Davis was the sole animator on Cruella De Vil. During production, Davis claimed her character was partly inspired by Bette Davis (no relation), Rosalind Russell, and Tallulah Bankhead. He took further influence from her voice actress, Betty Lou Gerson, whose cheekbones he added to the character. He later complimented, "[t]hat [her] voice was the greatest thing I've ever had a chance to work with. A voice like Betty Lou's gives you something to do. You get a performance going there, and if you don't take advantage of it, you're off your rocker". [20] While her hair coloring originated from the illustrations in the novel, Davis found its disheveled style by looking "through old magazines for hairdos from 1940 till now". Her coat was exaggerated to match her oversized personality, and the lining was red because "there's a devil image involved". [21]


Before starring in high-profile roles such as The Birds and The Time Machine , Australian actor Rod Taylor had extensive radio experience and was cast as Pongo. The filmmakers deliberately cast dogs with deeper voices than their human owners, so they had more power. [22] Walt Disney originally had Lisa Davis read for 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. [23]

Betty Lou Gerson, who was previously the narrator for Cinderella , auditioned for the role of Cruella De Vil in front of Marc Davis and sequence director Wolfgang Reitherman, and landed it. [24] While searching for the right accent of the character, Gerson landed on a "phony theatrical voice, someone who's set sail from New York but hasn't quite reached England". [25] During the recording process, she was thought to be imitating Tallulah Bankhead. However, Gerson disputed, "Well, I didn't intentionally imitate her...I was raised in Birmingham, Ala., and Tallulah was from Jasper, Ala. We both had phony English accents on top of our Southern accents and a great deal of flair. So our voices came out that way". [26] In addition to voicing Mrs. Birdwell, Gerson finished recording in fourteen days. [24]


To have music involved in the narrative, Peet used an old theater trick by which the protagonist is a down-and-out songwriter. However, unlike the previous animated Disney films at the time, the songs were not composed by a team, but by Mel Leven who composed both lyrics and music. [10] Previously, Leven had composed songs for the UPA animation studio in which animators, who transferred to work at Disney, had recommended him to Walt. [27] His first assignment was to compose "Cruella de Vil," of which Leven composed three versions. The final version used in the film was composed as a "bluesy number" before a meeting with Walt in forty-five minutes. [10]

The other two songs included in the film are "Kanine Krunchies Jingle" (sung by Lucille Bliss, who voiced Anastasia Tremaine in Disney's 1950 film Cinderella ), and "Dalmatian Plantation" in which Roger sings only two lines at its closure. Leven had also written additional songs that were not included in the film. The first song, "Don't Buy a Parrot from a Sailor," a cockney chant, was meant to be sung by Jasper and Horace at the De Vil Mansion. A second song, "Cheerio, Good-Bye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!" was to be sung by the dalmatian puppies as they make their way into London. [10] A third song titled "March of the One Hundred and One" was meant for the dogs to sing after escaping Cruella by van. Different, longer versions of "Kanine Krunchies Jingle" and "Dalmatian Plantation" appear on the Disneyland Records read-along album based on the film. [28]

The Sherman Brothers wrote a title song, "One Hundred and One Dalmatians", but it was not used in the film. [29] The song has been released on other Disney recordings, however. [28] [30]


One Hundred and One Dalmatians was first released in theaters on January 25, 1961. The film was re-released theatrically in 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991. [31] The 1991 reissue was the 20th highest-grossing film of the year for domestic earnings. [32]

Home media

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was first released on VHS on April 10, 1992, as part of the Walt Disney Classics video series. [33] By June 1992, it had sold 11.1 million copies. [34] At the time, it was the sixth best-selling video of all time. [35] It was re-released on March 9, 1999, as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video series. Due to technical issues, it was later released on LaserDisc and was delayed numerous times before its release on DVD. The film was re-released on VHS, and for the first time on DVD, in December 1999, as a Walt Disney Limited Issue for a limited 60-day time period before going into moratorium. [36] A two-disc Platinum Edition DVD was released on March 4, 2008. It was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom on September 3, 2012. [37] A Diamond Edition Blu-ray of the film was released in North America on February 10, 2015. A Limited Edition from Disney Movie Club was released on Blu-ray and DVD combo on November 6, 2018. Then it was re-released on HD digital download and Blu-ray on September 24, 2019 as part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection. [38]


Box office

During its initial theatrical run, the film grossed $14 million in the United States and Canada, [39] which generated $6.2 million in distributor rentals. [40] It was also the most popular film of the year in France, with admissions of 14.7 million ranking tenth on their all-time list. [41] [42]

The film was re-released in 1969, where it earned $15 million. In its 1979 theatrical re-release, it grossed $19 million, and in 1985, the film grossed $32 million. [39] During its fourth re-release in 1991, it grossed $60.8 million. [43]

Prior to 1995, the film had grossed $86 million overseas. [44] In 1995, it grossed $71 million overseas [45] bringing its international total to $157 million. The film's total domestic lifetime gross is $145 million, [35] and its total worldwide gross is $303 million. [2] Adjusted for inflation, and incorporating subsequent releases, the film has a lifetime gross of $900.3 million. [46]

Critical reaction

In its initial release, the film received critical acclaim from critics, many of whom hailed it as the studio's best release since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and the closest to a real "Disney" film in many years. [47] Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote, "While the story moves steadily toward a stark, melodramatic "chase" climax, it remains enclosed in a typical Disney frame of warm family love, human and canine". However, he later opined that the "[s]ongs are scarce, too. A few more would have braced the final starkness". [48] Variety claimed that "While not as indelibly enchanting or inspired as some of the studio's most unforgettable animated endeavors, this is nonetheless a painstaking creative effort". [49] Time praised the film as "the wittiest, most charming, least pretentious cartoon feature Walt Disney has ever made". [50] Harrison's Reports felt all children and adults will be "highly entertained by Walt Disney's latest, a semi-sophisticated, laugh-provoking, all cartoon, feature-lengther in Technicolor." [51] Dodie Smith also enjoyed the film where she particularly praised the animation and backgrounds of the film. [6]

Contemporary reviews have remained positive. Reviewing the film during its 1991 re-release, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times , while giving the film three stars out of four, asserted that "it's an uneven film, with moments of inspiration in a fairly conventional tale of kidnapping and rescue. This is not one of the great Disney classics - it's not in the same league with Snow White or Pinocchio - but it's passable fun, and will entertain its target family audiences." [52] Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel, in his 1991 review, also gave the film three stars out of four. [53] Ralph Novak of People wrote "What it lacks in romantic extravagance and plush spectacle, this 1961 Disney film makes up for in quiet charm and subtlety. In fact, if any movie with dogs, cats, and horses who talk can be said to belong in the realm of realistic drama, this is it". [54] However, the film did receive a few negative reviews. In 2011, Craig Berman of MSNBC ranked it and its 1996 remake as two of the worst children's films of all time, saying that, "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". [55]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported the film received an approval rating of 98% based on 49 reviews with an average score of 8.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With plenty of pooches and a memorable villain (Cruella De Vil), this is one of Disney's most enduring, entertaining animated films." [56]

Cruella de Vil ranked 39th on AFI's list of "100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains". [57]


Live-action remake and its sequel

Since the original release of the film, Disney has taken the property in various directions. The earliest of these endeavors was the 1996 live-action remake, 101 Dalmatians , which starred Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil. Unlike the original film, none of the animals had speaking voices in this version. Its success in theaters led to 102 Dalmatians , released on November 22, 2000.

TV series

After the first live-action version of the film, an animated series titled 101 Dalmatians: The Series was launched. The characters' designs were stylized further to allow for economic animation and to appeal to contemporary trends.

101 Dalmatian Street is the second TV series with a plot in the 21st century, with a new art style and a concept loosely based on the source material. Set 60 years after the original animated film, it centers on Dylan, a descendant of Pongo and Perdita, caring for his 97 younger siblings with his stepsister Dolly's help.


101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure , the official sequel to the original animated film, was released direct-to-video on January 21, 2003. [58]

Live-action reboot

In 2021, Disney released another live-action film that focuses on the origin of Cruella de Vil. [59] Emma Stone plays Cruella and Alex Timbers was in negotiations to direct the film, [60] [61] but he left directing duties for Cruella due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by the I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie in December 2018. [62] Emma Thompson portrays Baroness von Hellman, [63] while Paul Walter Hauser joined the project, [64] revealed to be as Horace, with Joel Fry cast as Jasper. [65] The film was originally scheduled to be released on December 23, 2020, [66] [62] but was delayed to May 28, 2021. [67] [68]

See also


  1. Usually abbreviated and promoted as 101 Dalmatians.

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