One Hundred and One Dalmatians

This article is about the 1961 animated film. For other uses, see 101 Dalmatians.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Original theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by Walt Disney
Story by Bill Peet
Based on The Hundred and One Dalmatians
by Dodie Smith
Music by George Bruns
Edited by
  • Roy M. Brewer, Jr.
  • Donald Halliday
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release dates
  • January 25, 1961 (1961-01-25)
Running time
79 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million[1]
Box office $215.8 million[2]

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, often abbreviated as 101 Dalmatians, is a 1961 American animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney and based on the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. The 17th Disney animated feature film, the film tells the story of a litter of dalmatian puppies who are kidnapped by the villainous Cruella de Vil (Betty Lou Gerson), who wants to use their fur to make into coats. Their parents, Pongo and Perdita, (Rod Taylor and Cate Bauer respectively) set out to save their children from Cruella, all the while rescuing 84 additional puppies that were bought in pet shops, bringing the total of dalmatians to 101.

Originally released to theaters on January 25, 1961, by Buena Vista Distribution,[3] One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a box office success, pulling the studio out of the financial slump caused by Sleeping Beauty, a costlier production released two years prior.[4] 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. It was reissued to cinemas four times: in 1969, 1979, 1985 and 1991. The 1991 reissue was the twentieth highest earning film of the year for domestic earnings. It was remade into a live action film in 1996.[5]


Songwriter Roger Radcliffe lives in a bachelor flat in London, along with his dalmatian, Pongo. Bored with bachelor life, Pongo decides to find a wife for Roger and a mate for himself. While watching various female dog-human pairs out the window, he spots the perfect one, a woman named Anita and her female dalmatian, Perdita. He quickly gets Roger out of the house and drags him through the park to arrange a meeting. He and Anita fall in love and get married.[6]

Later, Perdita gives birth to a litter of fifteen puppies. That same night, they are visited by Cruella De Vil, a wealthy former schoolmate of Anita's. She offers to buy the entire litter, but Roger says they are not for sale. A few weeks later, she hires her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, to steal them. When Scotland Yard is unable to find them, Pongo and Perdita use the "Twilight bark", a canine gossip line, to ask for help from the other dogs in London.

Colonel, an old sheepdog, along with his compatriots Captain, a gray horse, and Sergeant Tibbs, a tabby cat, find the puppies in a place called Hell Hall (Cruella's abandoned and dilapidated family estate, also known as The De Vil Place), along with many other dalmatian puppies that she had bought from various dog stores. When Tibbs learns they are going to be made into dog-skin fur coats, Colonel quickly sends word back to London. Upon receiving the message, Pongo and Perdita leave town to retrieve their puppies. Winter has come, and they have to cross the Stour River which is running fast and laden with slabs of broken ice. Meanwhile, Tibbs overhears Cruella ordering Jasper and Horace to kill the puppies that night out of fear the police will soon find them. In response, Tibbs attempts to rescue them while Jasper and Horace are preoccupied watching television, but they finish their show and come for them before he can get them out of the house. Pongo and Perdita break in and confront Jasper and Horace just as they are about to kill the puppies. While the adult dogs attack them, Colonel and Tibbs guide the puppies from the house.

After a happy reunion with their own puppies, Pongo and Perdita realize there are dozens of others with them, 99 altogether including their own. Shocked at Cruella's plans, they decide to adopt all of them, certain that Roger and Anita would never reject them. They begin making their way back to London through deep snow; all open water is frozen solid. Other animals help them along the way. Cruella, Jasper, and Horace chase them. In one town, they cover themselves with soot so they appear to be labrador retrievers, then pile inside a moving van bound for London. As it is leaving, melting snow clears off the soot and Cruella sees them. In a rage, she follows the van in her car and rams it, but Jasper and Horace, who try to cut it off from above, end up crashing into her. Both vehicles are smashed to smithereens and fall into a deep ravine; and battered, bruised and stranded, Cruella and her henchmen are defeated at last. Cruella yells in frustration as the van drives away.

Back in London, Roger and Anita are attempting to celebrate Christmas and his first big hit, a song about Cruella, but they miss their canine friends. Suddenly, barking is heard outside and, after their nanny opens the door, the house is filled with dogs. After wiping away the rest of the soot, they are delighted to realize their companions have returned home. After counting 84 extra puppies, they decide to use the money from the song to buy a large house in the country so they can keep all 101 dalmatians.

Voice cast



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 acquired the rights. Smith had always secretly hoped that Disney would make it into a film.[7] Disney assigned Bill Peet to write the story, which he did, marking the first time that the story for a Disney film was created by a single person.[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. However, he felt that Peet's original draft was so perfect that he had little involvement in the making of it altogether.[9] When Peet sent Dodie Smith some drawings of the characters, she wrote back saying that he had actually improved her story and that the designs looked better than the illustrations in the book.[7]

Changes made in the story from the book to the movie include:


After the very expensive Sleeping Beauty (1959) failed at the box-office there was some talk of closing down the animation department at the Disney studio.[9] During the production of it, Disney told animator Eric Larson: "I don't think we can continue, it's too expensive".[10] Despite this, he still had deep feelings towards animation because he had built the company upon it.[9]

Ub Iwerks, in charge of special processes at the studio, had been experimenting with Xerox photography to aid in animation.[11] 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.[8][11] 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.[11]

One of the benefits of the Xerox however, 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.[12] To achieve the spotted dalmatians, the animators used to think of the spot pattern as a constellation. Once they had an "anchor spot", the next was placed in relation to that one spot, and so on until the full pattern was achieved.[13] All totaled, the film featured 6,469,952 spots, with Pongo sporting 72 spots, Perdita 68, and each puppy 32.[14]

The production of the film also signaled a change in the graphic style of Disney's animation.[9] Sleeping Beauty had a more graphic, angular style than previous Disney films, and Dalmatians had an even more stylized look, inspired by British cartoonist Ronald Searle,[15] which would become the norm for Disney animation for years to come. For the movie art director Ken Anderson and color stylist Walter Peregoy worked out a new way of painting backgrounds by leaving out the usual linework. The linework was instead printed on a separate animation cel before being laid over the background. This gave it an appearance similar to the Xeroxed animation.[9][16] Disney disliked the artistic look of the film and felt he was losing the fantasy element of his animated films.[9] 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.[9]

Live-action reference

As done with other Disney films, Disney hired an actress to perform live-action scenes as a reference for the animation process. Actress Helene Stanley performed the live-action reference for the character of Anita. She did the same kind of work for the characters of Cinderella and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.[17]

According to Christopher Finch, author of The Art of Walt Disney:

Disney insisted that all scenes involving human characters should be shot first in live-action to determine that they would work before the expensive business of animation was permitted to start. The animators did not like this way of working, feeling it detracted from their ability to create character. [...] [The animators] understood the necessity for this approach and in retrospect acknowledged that Disney had handled things with considerable subtlety.[11][18]


The best known member of the cast was Australian actor Rod Taylor (The Birds, The Time Machine), who before the making of this movie had had extensive radio experience. He was cast as Pongo. The filmmakers deliberately cast dogs with deeper voices than their human owners so they had more power.[19] Walt Disney originally had Lisa Davis read 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.[20]


Unlike many Disney animated features, the film features only three songs, with just one, "Cruella De Vil", playing a big part in it. The other two are "Kanine Krunchies Jingle" (sung by Lucille Bliss, who voiced Anastasia Tremaine in Disney's 1950 film Cinderella), and "Dalmatian Plantation" in which only two lines are sung by Roger at its closure. Songwriter Mel Leven had, in fact, written several additional songs for it including "Don't Buy a Parrot from a Sailor", a cockney chant, meant to be sung by Jasper and Horace at the De Vil Mansion, and "March of the One Hundred and One", which the dogs were meant 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.[21]

Cameos of characters from Lady and the Tramp

During the scene where all the dogs of London are sending out a message that the puppies have been puppy napped (the twilight bark), Peg from Lady and the Tramp is seen in a pet store as one of the animals for sale. Lady, Tramp and Jock also appear, and get the message, and send it on.


The film was first released to theaters on January 25, 1961. After its initial theatrical run, it was re-released to theaters four more times: January 1969, June 1979, December 1985, and July 1991. The 1991 reissue was the twentieth highest earning film of the year for domestic earnings.[22] It has earned $215,880,014 in domestic box office earnings during its history.[2]

Τhe film was released on VHS on April 10, 1992, as part of the Walt Disney Classics video series. It was re-released on March 9, 1999, as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection video series. Due to technical issues, it was never released on Laserdisc and was delayed numerous times before its release on DVD. On December 19, 1999, it received its first DVD release as part of Disney's Limited Issue series. 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.[23] A Blu-ray Diamond Edition of it was released in North America on February 10, 2015.


Critical reception

The film currently holds a 98% "fresh" rating from critics and users on Rotten Tomatoes. It did receive some negative criticism. Phillip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette only gave it 2 out of 5 stars.[24] In 2011, Craig Berman of MSNBC ranked it and its 1996 remake as two of the worst children's films of all time saying, "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."[25]

American Film Institute Lists

Box office

The film was the tenth highest-grossing film of 1961 in the US and Canada, accruing $6,400,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals during its first year of release.[3]

It was the most popular film of the year in France, with admissions of 14,705,526.[28]

Sequels and spin-offs

In the years since the original release of the film, Disney has taken the property in various directions. The earliest of these endeavors was the live-action remake, 101 Dalmatians (1996). Starring Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil, none of the animals talked in this version. Its success in theaters led to 102 Dalmatians, released on November 22, 2000.

After the first live-action version of the film, a cartoon called 101 Dalmatians: The Series was launched. The designs of the characters were stylized further to allow for economic animation and to appeal to contemporary trends. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, the official sequel to the original animated film, was released direct-to-video on January 21, 2003.[29]

Disney has announced that another live-action remake is in development, but it will focus more on Cruella de Vil.[30] Emma Stone is set to play Cruella.[31]

See also


  1. "Magical Kingdoms". Magical Kingdoms. January 25, 1961. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  2. 1 2 "101 Dalmatians". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  3. 1 2 Gebert,, Michael (1996). The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0-668-05308-9.
  4. King, Susan (January 31, 2015). "'101 Dalmatians' was just the hit a flagging Disney needed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  5. "1991 Domestic Grosses #1–50". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  6. "One Hundred and One Dalmatians".
  7. 1 2 Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney, 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD, 2008
  8. 1 2 Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 7: The Postwar Films", page 106. Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules, 1997
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 101 Dalmatians, 2008 DVD
  10. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Finch, Christopher: "Chapter 8: Interruptions and Innovations", pages 245-246. The Art of Walt Disney, 2004
  12. "An Interview with Chuck Jones". Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  13. Encyclopaedia of Disney Animation
  14. 101 Dalmatians Original Animation Forensically Examined
  15. "Animated Life: A Lifetime of tips, tricks, techniques and stories from an animation Legend". Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  16. Amidi, Amid (January 17, 2015). "Walt Peregoy, '101 Dalmatians' Color Stylist, RIP". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  17. "Cinderella Character History". Disney Archives.
  18. "Walt's Masterworks: Cinderella". Disney Archives.
  19. Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p77
  20.'s Interview with Lisa Davis, the voice and model for 101 Dalmatians' Anita Radcliff. Retrieved April 5, 2014
  21. "1991 Domestic Grosses #1–50". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
  22. "101 Dalmatians [Blu-ray]". Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  23. "Philip Martin @ Rotten Tomatoes". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  24. "Someone save Bambi's mom! Worst kid films". MSNBC. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  25. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  26. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  27. Box office for 1961 at Box Office Story
  28. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure - Special Edition DVD Review Retrieved August 8, 2014
  29. Kit, Boris (September 30, 2013). "Disney Preps Live-Action Cruella De Vil Film (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  30. D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 25, 2016). "Disney Puts A Slew Of Dates On Hold For 'Jungle Book 2', 'Maleficent 2', 'Dumbo', 'Cruella' & More". Deadline. Retrieved May 14, 2016. Cruella with Emma Stone set for the title role and Kelly Marcel writing
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