Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).
Official Title:101 Dalmatians
Release: January 25, 1961
Running Time: 79 minutes
Estimated Cost: $4 million (1961) ($28,986,442.95 (2010))
Estimated Revenue: $14,000,000 (1961) ($101,452,550.34 (2010)) (That's just the original release!)
Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Pongo, tired of bachelor life, tries to set up his "pet," Roger, with a woman (later revealed to be Anita) so he can end of with the lady dalmatian, Perdita. After some misadventures in the park, Anita and Roger wind up together, and are soon married.
As winter approaches, Perdita becomes pregnant! And gives birth to 15 puppies (almost 14, but thanks to Roger's efforts all are safe). Cruella De Vill, a school friend of Anita, comes to visit and buy the puppies. Her visit both inspires and disgusts Roger (he eventually writes a best selling song called Cruella De Vill).
Cruella, not to be told "no," hires two goons (Horace and Jasper), to steal the puppies. Pongo and Perdita use the twigh-light bark to inform all of London an beyond about he puppy napping as Anita and Roger inform Scotland Yard. The twigh-light bark reveals the puppies (and 84 other, legally bought dalmatian puppies) will be turned into coats. Pongo and Perdita take action and run away to save the puppies.
Thanks to the help of various dogs, cows, horses and cats Pongo and Perdita and the 99 puppies (who were adopted by the Pongo family) safely make it back to London and the town house of Roger and Anita, who mistake the disguised dogs for labs, but are more than happy to welcome the 84 puppies into their family too! Deciding to open a dalmatian plantation, which will be a sensation!
None of these really became stand out songs, but this would become a trend for a while, where the songs were just a side bit.
Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5
What a great story! Who can't relate to dogs? I found myself wanting all of the dogs, even the unnamed puppies, to get home safely.
Cruella was a full 3 dementional character. She has a lot of depth and unlike other villains up to now, she has a reason to do what she's doing. She just wants to make coats. (I'm not saying this is a good reason, but looking back one movie to Malevicent, she was mean because she wasn't invited to a party!) She also had a bit of a history... we know she and Anita went to the same school... though it's not said if it is college or high school.
Animation Rating: 2 out of 5
One word: Xerox! After the bomb that was Sleeping Beauty, WDAS and Disney wanted to scale back. And now that they had more options, they cut the inking department and used more Xeroxing. That left more pencil marks all over the drawings.
Grant it, this was a great stylized technique, but I felt like I was watching the rough draft of a movie. The colors in the background would bleed into other objects, i.e. if a picture frame was pink, the pink would extend beyond the lines establishing the frame and into the brown of the wall. This did not help the finished product, but it did create a very distinct style for 101!
One thing that did work was the continued work of filming live actors as models for the humans. This really gave Roger and Anita some of the most realistic faces yet! (Although Walt was a bit more hands off at this point - his head was wrapping around the Florida Project (WDW) - he still insisted that all human characters first be filmed by real actors.)
Also, the animators were a bit lazy, many a time, when there were 99 puppies walking or moving, I would see the exact same puppy doing the exact same thing many times. Also at one point almost 50 had collars, because of this recycling.
Recycling is most apparent in Hanna Barbara cartoons when the background keeps repeating itself, so that Fred Flintstone now has 30 couches! Recycling puppies is lazy!
Something else that was recycled though, were character designs. Take a close look at the twighlight bark and you will see Jock (the Scottie), Bulldog and Peg (mutts who know Tramp), even Lady makes a silhouetted appearance! Now, if Lady and the Tramp took place in modern London, this would have been a great cross over, but given the fact that Lady and the Tramp took place in 1901 and in America (based on accents and such), this is a big problem! I don't appreciate the animators beings so LAZY!
The Test of Time:
I loved the dog movies as a child, but they aren't anywhere near my favorites. As with 101 Dalmatians, there just isn't a lot to write home about. They have little to no attractions in WDW (save for Cruella making an appearance in Fantasmic! trying to capture Mickey.
I hope that the new pet friendly hotel WDW is building uses their plethora of domestic animal characters to help create the atmosphere in this resort.
101 had many re-releases when it was popular to do so, and has made nearly $1 billion in adjusted figures over the life of the movie.
Through the Modern Lens
We've seem to taken a step back in Women's Lib as Perdita always follows whatever Pongo says, loosing some of the independent thinking that Lady had! But other than that, nothing stood out too badly as a gross misnomer of things to come. This movie taking place in "present day" probably helped this a bit.
I do have to say, that if PETA were around, they might have denounced the movie, for the mere fact the Cruella (who isn't actually cruel to the animals on screen) wants to kill the puppies! But in defense of WDAS, they never hold Cruella up on a pedestal, and she gets her cummupin's although she is never prosecuted for stealing the puppies (though she could have a counter suit that Roger and Anita essentially stole 84 puppies from her!)
Should be Sword in the Stone (but I've been sitting on Jungle Book from Netflix, afraid that it might have been pulled for the vault, so JB is next!).