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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 22: "One Hundred and One Dalmatians"

(Originally published on 6/2/22)


One-hundred and One Dalmatians

Run time: 79 min.

Release Date: June 25, 1961.

Where/when I first saw it: On video, 1992.

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Memorial Day evening

The best way to appreciate the artistry of “One-hundred and One Dalmatians” is to see every Disney animated film that came before it. Having done that this year, I can now see why the film has always been so beloved. This has eluded me for a few decades now, ever since I sorta watched it at Blockbuster Video (probably a dozen times) while helping customers and putting VHS tapes back on the shelves. It just didn’t interest me enough to sit down and watch it. After watching “Sleeping Beauty” last week and admiring the sheer perfection of every choice in animation, I sat down and begrudgingly fulfilled my obligation to watch the follow-up.

It hit me pretty quick what a radical and brave departure this movie was. While the classic Disney animation, up to this point, had been so meticulously constructed with great care with the loveliest of flourishes from the artist’s paint brushes, “One-hundred and One Dalmatians” is decidedly, deliberately imperfect all the way through. The colors don’t align perfectly with the drawings. The characters look rough around the edges. Finally a Disney movie that feels modern (for 1961, anyway), complete with the longest opening credits sequence they had yet (three minutes). The Disney artists threw away all the rulebooks for their process and started all over. What a way to follow-up one of the studio’s highest peaks. It’s no surprise it took Walt a long time to come around to it and forgive his artists for going their own way.

And of course, you have another classic villain and more adorable protagonists, everything the Disney artists have always done well. Also, it’s refreshing to see a cat who’s not a villain, or a villain’s pet, for a change.

It’s viewings like these that I love the most when I take on a year-long viewing project. This may as well have been the first time I’ve ever really seen “One-hundred and One Dalmatians” instead of just listening to it as background noise. It’s a Disney film with a life of its own, free from the constraints of the old Disney process, looking ahead to the future. It’s also a fun piece of entertainment that is worth sharing through generations. I do think the chase aspect of the final act goes on a bit too long (my one criticism), but many will forgive that. I may, too, on another viewing.


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