101 Dalmatians (1961) Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review: An Amusing and Entertaining Film

Disney at its best.
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Disney's 101 Dalmatians is narrated by Pongo (Rod Taylor), an adult male Dalmatian, and starts cleverly with him introducing us to his human pet, Roger. Both are bachelors and Pongo is trying to find them suitable mates. He spots a lovely female Dalmatian, Perdita (Cate Bauer), and her pet, Anita, walking in the park. He manages to orchestrate a meeting and both couples are married soon after.

Fast-forward several months and Perdita is now about to give birth to puppies. This brings Cruella De Vil (voiced fabulously by Betty Lou Gerson), a long-time friend of Anita’s, into the picture. One of the great classic Disney songs, “Cruella De Vil” is introduced at this point. Roger is a songwriter with a new melody but no words and her visit inspires him. Cruella wants to buy the puppies for top dollar but Roger and Anita are unwilling to sell. Perdita is scared of her and knows she is nothing but trouble. The birth scene of the puppies is really cute as the housekeeper counts up to 15 in the new litter.

After the birth, when Cruella is unable to convince Anita and Roger to sell her the puppies, she uses her henchmen to kidnap them. Once Pongo learns that the puppies are gone, he utilizes the “twilight bark” to issue an all dog alert. This stretches all over the city and even makes it out to the country where the puppies are discovered by some farm animals along with 84 other Dalmatian puppies. Once news of their location gets back to Pongo and Perdita, they are off to the rescue and the rest of the movie is action packed.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 or can be viewed with Disney View, painted by Mike Umphries, which fills in the rest of the screen. The colors are vibrant and the dreary look of London creates a great backdrop for the story. The detail on the puppies is amazing and the impressionistic backgrounds help give the characters depth. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is very well done. Music and effects fill the channels. Vehicles can be heard panning across the soundscape and barking echoes throughout.

Bonus Features in HD. "The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt" (2 min) edits new material with the pups watching the TV show.  "Lucky Dogs" (9 min) are Disney employees, who talk about working on the lot and this film, including the new Xerox process used for the animation.  "Dalmatians 101: Hosted by Cameron Boyce" (5 min) is a goofy look at the film with this Disney Channel actor, who will be playing De Vil's son in an upcoming film, Descendants. "Walt Disney Presents 'The Best Doggoned Dog in the World' (1961 Version)" is from the TV show Walt Disney Presents and showcases different dogs.

Classic Features from the previous Platinum Edition release are all in SD. “Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (34 min) contains interviews with many noteworthy people, and the information provided here are really interesting. 101 Dalmatians was a new form of animation for Disney and the details behind this change are fascinating given the state of animation today. “Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad” (7 min) takes from the same interviews and offers more in-depth specifics on how Cruella came to be. Walt Disney began correspondence with Dodie Smith, the author of the novel the film was based on, prior to the release of the movie that then continued for years. “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney” (13 min) is a dramatic re-creation of that correspondence. “Trailers & TV Spots” is exactly what the title implies: advertising for the film's release and subsequent re-releases over the years, and the same goes for "Promotional Radio Spots." “Music & More” features deleted, abandoned, extended, and alternative versions of the songs from the film, including a new “hip” version of “Cruella De Vil” performed by Selena Gomez, star of the Disney Channel Original Series Wizards of Waverly Place.  Past features that didn't get included with the Diamond Edition are “Pop-up Trivia Facts,” “Art Galleries,” and “Games & Activities.” 

101 Dalmatians is Disney at its best. The storyline serves as a solid foundation for the movie to build from. The puppies with their different personalities are adorable. You come to care about them and their safety, and the farm animals introduced during the rescue are delightful supporting characters. Cruella is also the perfect villain that you love to hate. All of these elements together make for an amusing and entertaining film.

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