Saturday, 29 January 2011

50 Years - 101 Dalmatians!

One of the most popular Disney features of all-time which has delighted millions and millions of people worldwide and that is One Hundred and One Dalmatians. I'm here to celebrate the 50th birthday of the film which first came out in the cinemas on January 25th 1961 - I know it's pass but the fun's not over yet, isn't it?

It was at a time during the late 1950's when Walt Disney was at its most successful years - and that time wasn't a great time for Disney because Sleeping Beauty had lost money at the box-office and the film cost so much money to make - and Walt really wanted to find out a way to make the film a lot cheaper - so during the making of the film - the marvelous Xerox process was made. Bill Peet got the privilege to storyboard and script the story all by himself - and the animators' work was on the screen without the ink-and-paint department doing it - and it continued on to Disney features.

101 Dalmatians is one of my favourite all-time Disney films, and also "one of my favourite all time films". The story is superb, and it has some brilliant art direction by Ken Anderson and colors by Walt Peregoy, and of course masterful character animation by not only Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis or Milt Kahl, but also by a lot of the unknown Disney animators that need to be looked into more. I've always had a soft spot for the film, and the staff take a break with the song musicals - and only a few songs were written in the film.

To start off with: we know that our main character is Pongo who is our hero, and the film starts off with him living with his partner Roger Radcliffe and it was a tedious life for Pongo because he lives in a small, untidy flat and Pongo doesn't like his bachelor life. So, he sees an attractive dalmatian and woman, which eventually gets Roger and Anita hooked. Eventually, they get married.

Pongo and Perdita seem to enjoy marriage life, as they have moved into a small house, and Perdita was pregnant and was expecting puppies to be born in three weeks, and they were so excited for the puppies. Until, Anita's old schoolfriend Cruella DeVille who is a rude, evil, chain-smoker who goes smirking around the house trying to find the puppies - and mentions that she only wants then so that they are skinned into fur coats.

So, as the puppies were given birth - and Cruella finds out, and wants to bid the puppies. Roger rejects, and this makes Cruella furious and then vows revenge on the couple. And, she does get her revenge, while she orders her two henchmen Jasper and Horace Badun to capture and kidnap the puppies by tricking Nanny Cook and stealing all fifteen puppies.

The news of the fifteen puppies hits the front headlines in the newspapers the next day, and Roger and Anita have tried everything and calling Scotland Yard (the London police), but they weren't any help - and now it was up to the dogs - the twilight bark!

The Twilight Bark is one of the most delightful sequences in the film, and it's interesting on how it's one of the fastest way to send the news - and we even see some characters reused from Lady and the Tramp like Jock, and some of the pound dogs from Lady and the Tramp are in it as well. No guess that the director of the sequence is Wolfgang Reitherman - who is well known for reusing old animation into films.

Jock reuse.

The Twilight Bark was reached all the way in the county Suffolk, and here the farm animals who are named as they are part of the military: the horse is the captain, Sgt. Tibs (cat), and the Colonel who is a sheepdog. Tibs rumors that the puppies are located at Hell Hall where he heard "puppy barking". Tibs investigated, and discovers the 15 stolen puppies, along with 84 other puppies from the pet shop. Pongo and Perdita get the news and then the rest of the film is to rescue the puppies and get home safely.

What is fascinating about the film is the fact, that the layouts and the style. It is a lot unique and the backgrounds are lovely. The style that Ken Anderson used was actually influenced by famous cartoonist Ronald Searle. Ken Anderson's style and art direction is beautiful and the crew liked it - but unfortunately Walt Disney didn't like Ken Anderson's work on the film. Walt wasn't really pleased with the film because of the rough drawings, and the layouts. He just didn't care.

What I do love about the film is how the way it looks like Britain. Bill Peet did a great job at making the film look a lot like Britain with the British accents and the sayings we use - and even the companies that we have here in England. For example, early in the film where Pongo is poking through the magazine covers, there is the British magazine Lilliput where a lot of Ronald Searle cartoons are used in.


In the scene of Jasper and Horace pretending to read the papers to avoid suspiciousness from Roger and Anita, or Pongo and Perdita - if you look really closely, you can see Jasper holding the newspaper and it reads "Daily Mail", and the Daily Mail is a popular British tabloid newspaper here in Britain, although it is a rather controversial paper, but I'm not going to go there in details.

Jasper reading the Daily Mail.

What I also love about the film is the one and only Cruella de Ville. In my opinion, I think she is the greatest Disney villain of all-time. Why not? She's a horrible, rude, aggressive, stubborn chain-smoker who always throws tantrums. She desperately wants to get those puppies and skin them, and nothing can stop her from taking the puppies. She can only live for fur-coats. Her dialogue is superb, and I love how she talks about the family, by calling the Pongos as Anita's "spotty friends", or describing Roger as a "bashful Beethoven", or even describing the puppies as mongrels because they haven't had spots yet when they were born. Brilliant, pure genius. Animator Marc Davis did a brilliant job with the character as he animated every single scene of Cruella.

Jasper and Horace have brilliant personalities because in real life they really don't want to kill the puppies but they are only doing it for the money - but yet they were very cruel to the puppies - and they really don't like working for Cruella as she forces them to skin the puppies, and won't let them give up. They are both very clumsy people, and very stupid. Horace appears to be the smart one because he always seems to be suspicious about the puppies escaping, while Jasper stupidly rejects them - while it saves the puppies' lives. They are very foolish characters who are more interested in watching the TV.

What's also interesting is the TV shows - and that the puppies have personalities - they all seem to like watching the TV, and their favourite TV show is Thunderbolt: The Wonder Dog and when you see then watch the TV, they just sit down there and stare at the TV, and not moving an inch. One of the puppies, Rolly appears to be the person who is always watching the TV, as he was the last person to be off to bed while still watching the telly - and as Tibs took him away from the TV as the pups were escaping.

What's My Crime? is a funny spoof of the TV game-show What's My Line? and the scenes were animated by Art Stevens and Julius Svensden, and the British caricatures are amusing - and it shows a contestant nicknamed "Meathead" who is a prisoner who doesn't seem to speak and has a funny personality - because he can't seem to write properly.

I heard a funny anecdote by Dodie Smith (who wrote the book), and said that the dalmatian dogs would make good fur coats, but not in a Cruella DeVille way.

I'm afraid that I'll leave it here - and hear your responses. Well, Dalmatians. 50 years have passed, and you delight us - and the humour and animation is still wonderful - live on forever!


Eric Noble said...

I'll have to rewatch this film. It's been awhile since I've seen it, but I remember it being very entertaining. Nice job Steven. Would you mind taking a look at my blog? I've posted a review.

Steven Hartley said...

I think it's worth the rewatch for the film, because when I watch it, it doesn't ever seem to get boring at all.

I've taken a look at your blog and your review for "The Illusionist" was brilliant!