One Hundred and One Dalmatians

USA 1960, 79 mins
Directors: Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton S. Luske, Clyde Geronimi

SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.

One of the most delightful notions in Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians is that domesticated dogs see humans as their pets, to protect and make happy. It’s a joke for both parents and children, though perhaps kids relate to it more. As in many children’s stories, normal power frameworks are inverted, and the (literal) underdogs are in charge. Later, though, we’re shown this is a lie. A Dalmatian couple, Pongo and Perdita, have their beloved puppies stolen, and are frantic for news. While walking ‘their’ humans, Pongo barks his plea, but is pulled away by the man who’s now plainly his master.

At this point, the film becomes a different kind of fantasy, in which a parallel animal society works heroically to save the pups. It’s a precursor to Toy Story’s parallel world of playthings, and like Toy Story this isn’t a simple children’s film. Rather it’s a comedy-thriller, mixing The Great Escape’s derring-do with Hitchcock’s playful suspense. In one marvellous scene, a brave cat tries to marshal the kidnapped pups into fleeing their prison, while their captors watch a TV gameshow where toffs quiz criminals (‘Did you… do someone in?’). Earlier the dogs saw an adventure show, containing all the thrills (a maniacal villain, fast-flowing rivers) they must later face for real.

Visually, One Hundred and One Dalmatians moved Disney into graphics-led modernism, when most of the studios who’d championed the style as a reaction against Disney – most famously, UPA – were on the way out. As often happens in animation, the aesthetic came from cost-cutting technology. Mickey Mouse’s first animator, Ub Iwerks, developed a variant of the Xerox process (‘Xerography’) that transferred animated drawings to cels without the need for tracing. The characters were defined by black outlines which Walt disliked. However, the film’s designer/art director Ken Anderson envisioned a cartoon built out of those lines.

The style snowballed. In the final film, lines are the measure not just of the characters but the backgrounds as well. Painter Walter Peregoy’s loose, mood-creating colour blotches and the Xeroxed lines look like what they are – separate elements of a picture, kept apart for deeper stylistic harmony. The spotted opening-titles have the visual puns, spiky unpredictability and self-referencing of an ad campaign. (Peregoy’s colours wash over the screen when his credit comes up.) Pongo – whose cut-out style hind leg in the first scene is brazen for Disney – even inspects a chic art magazine, Lilliput.

The outlines redefine motions, especially the characters’ struggles for traction. When the pups slide on a frozen river, the outlines convey the contact of an ice surface even more than Bambi’s famous skating. The characters are infused with modern voices. Pongo narrates the opening like a cooped-up bachelor, following the suburban comedy of Disney shorts such as Donald’s Diary (1954). His ‘pet’ human Roger, an impish bluesy songwriter, supplies an almost-naturalistic diegetic soundtrack.

Parents, not orphans, are valorised, and Pongo and Perdita are grown-ups who know their enemy. Wholly animated by Marc Davis, the dog-skinning devil Cruella De Vil is a customised, bisexual fiend, with her black-and-white hair, sallow skin, goblin cheeks, phallic car and cigarette-holder, and swathing fur coat. She was partly inspired by the overbearing actress-personality Tallulah Bank, whom Orson Welles called ‘the most sensational case of the ageing process being unkind.’ In a cartoon so broad, the metaphorical devils are no different from real ones. Cruella hurls a bottle into a fire where it explodes in orange smoke.

The film’s slightly odd structure – Pongo and Perdita almost vanish in the middle act – matters less than the moment-to-moment thrills. The puppies’ trudge through snow swells into an epic, and their final perilous escape in a furniture van finds suspense in artful animation cycles, as the identical dogs creep past the villains. The film delighted animators, critics and audiences. It did not please Walt. Ken Anderson recalled, ‘(Walt) said, “We’re never going to do another one of those goddamned things like Ken did…” He didn’t talk to me for about a year.’
Andrew Osmond, 100 Animated Feature Films (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Director: Patrick Osborne
USA 2014
6 mins

Directors: Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton S. Luske, Clyde Geronimi
©: Walt Disney Productions
a Walt Disney production
Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc.
Presented by: Walt Disney
Production Supervisor: Ken Peterson
Story: Bill Peet
Based on the book ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’ by: Dodie Smith
Special Processes: Ub Iwerks, Eustace Lycett
Directing Animators: Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Marc Davis, John Lounsbery, Ollie Johnston, Eric Larson
Character Animation: Hal King, Les Clark, Cliff Nordberg, Blaine Gibson, Eric Cleworth, John Sibley, Art Stevens, Julius Svendsen, Hal Ambro, Ted Berman, Bill Keil, Don Lusk, Dick Lucas, Amby Paliwoda
Character Styling: Bill Peet, Tom Oreb
Effects Animation: Jack Boyd, Dan MacManus, Ed Parks, Jack Buckley
Layout: Basil Davidovich, McLaren Stewart, Vance Gerry, Joe Hale, Dale Barnhart, Ray Aragon, Sammy June Lanham, Vic Haboush, Dick Ung, Homer Jonas, Al Zinnen
Layout Styling: Don Griffith, Ernest Nordli, Collin Campbell
Background: Al Dempster, Ralph Hulett, Anthony Rizzo, Bill Layne
Colour Styling: Walt Peregoy
Film Editors: Donald Halliday, Roy M. Brewer Jr
Art Direction and Production Design: Ken Anderson
Colour by: Technicolor
Music: George Bruns
Songs: Mel Leven
Orchestration: Franklyn Marks
Music Editor: Evelyn Kennedy
Sound Supervisor: Robert O. Cook

Voice Cast
Rod Taylor (Pongo)
J. Pat O’Malley (Colonel/Jasper Badun)
Betty Lou Gerson (Cruella De Vil)
Martha Wentworth (Nanny/Queenie/Lucy)
Ben Wright (Roger Radcliff)
Cate Bauer (Perdita)
Dave Frankham
Frederic Worlock
Lisa Davis
Tom Conway
Tudor Owen
George Pelling
Ramsay Hill
Sylvia Marriott
Queenie Leonard
Marjorie Bennett
Mickey Maga
Barbara Beaird
Mimi Gibson
Sandra Abbott
Thurl Ravenscroft
Bill Lee
Max Smith
Bob Stevens
Paul Wexler
Mary Wickes
Barbara Luddy
Lisa Daniels
Helene Stanley
Don Barclay
Dal McKennon
Jeanne Bruns

USA 1960©
79 mins

Wed 2 Aug 14:20; Mon 14 Aug 20:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:15
Turning Red
Wed 2 Aug 20:20; Tue 8 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 15:30
The Jungle Book
Thu 3 Aug 14:20; Sun 6 Aug 13:00; Wed 16 Aug 20:45; Wed 30 Aug 14:20
Thu 3 Aug 18:00; Sat 19 Aug 17:30
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Fri 4 Aug 18:00; Sun 13 Aug 18:10; Tue 22 Aug 14:20; Wed 23 Aug 20:20
101 Dalmatians
Sat 5 Aug 13:20; Thu 10 Aug 14:20; Sat 19 Aug 15:30; Tue 29 Aug 14:20
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Sat 5 Aug 15:40; Thu 17 Aug 14:20; Sun 27 Aug 18:20
Sister Act
Sat 5 Aug 20:40; Fri 18 Aug 18:20
Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)
Sun 6 Aug 13:10; Fri 25 Aug 18:00
Silent Cinema: Disney’s Silent Shorts + intro
Sun 6 Aug 15:30
Freaky Friday
Sun 6 Aug 18:20; Fri 18 Aug 20:30; Thu 24 Aug 20:50
The Parent Trap
Mon 7 Aug 18:00; Sun 20 Aug 15:10
Wed 9 Aug 14:20; Sat 12 Aug 11:30 (+ extended intro); Mon 14 Aug 14:20; Sun 20 Aug 19:00
Mary Poppins
Wed 9 Aug 17:50; Mon 21 Aug 14:20; Mon 28 Aug 13:00
Wed 9 Aug 20:30; Mon 28 Aug 12:30
The Love Bug
Fri 11 Aug 20:30; Sat 12 Aug 11:50; Sun 20 Aug 13:30
A Disney Day for Young Audiences
Sat 12 Aug 11:30-16:30
Sat 12 Aug 18:00; Sat 26 Aug 12:00
Sat 12 Aug 20:30; Sat 19 Aug 13:00; Thu 24 Aug 14:20
The Lion King
Sun 13 Aug 13:00 (+ Funday Sing-along); Sat 26 Aug 20:30; Thu 31 Aug 14:20
The Fiendishly Difficult Disney Quiz
Sun 13 Aug 15:30 Blue Room
Sun 13 Aug 15:50; Wed 16 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 12:20; Mon 28 Aug 16:20
Finding Nemo
Sun 13 Aug 18:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:30
The Rescuers
Mon 14 Aug 18:30; Sat 19 Aug 15:50
Sat 19 Aug 12:00; Tue 29 Aug 20:30
Dick Tracy
Fri 25 Aug 20:40; Tue 29 Aug 18:10 (+ intro by Ben Roberts, BFI CEO)
The Little Mermaid
Sun 27 Aug 16:00; Mon 28 Aug 16:40

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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