101 Dalmatians (1961)

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Released 1-May-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 76:16
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (46:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Wolfgang Reitherman
Hamilton Luske
Clyde Geronimi
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Rod Taylor
Betty Lou Gerson
Cate Bauer
Ben Wright
Fred Worlock
Martha Wentworth
J Pat O'Malley
Dave Frankham
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music George Bruns


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Greek Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
Greek
Icelandic
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Those of you that have been following my reviews of Disney animated classics will realize that I have been reviewing them in the reverse order or release, except for Lady And The Tramp, which I reviewed before this classic. I did this because it seemed logical, as some of the character animation in 101 Dalmatians has definite origins in Lady And The Tramp. Origins? What origins? I could keep you in suspense, but if you really must know...do you recognize any of the dogs in this film? You should do, as they are straight out of the earlier film - just check out some of Lady's and Tramp's acquaintances and you will see them here, too. In some ways it is a nice little homage back to the earlier film. You will also notice the name of Wolfgang Reitherman listed as a director on this effort. Disney aficionados will no doubt recognize this name, as they well should. Look back over the animated features of Disney, and Wolfgang Reitherman's name is on many of the genuine classics - initially as an animator and then slowly working up the chain to director. The film history of Wolfgang Reitherman is almost a history of Disney animated features.

    Providing a synopsis of 101 Dalmatians is almost a pointless exercise, as it surely has to rank as one of the most well-known of the Disney animated features. Indeed, it so well known and loved that Disney paid it the ultimate homage by using it as a basis for the live action version released in 1996, starring Glenn Close (and shortly to be joined by a sequel apparently, tentatively titled 102 Dalmatians). Still, on the off chance that some are unaware of the film, I suppose a short synopsis is in order. 101 Dalmatians is the story of a Dalmatian by the name of Pongo (vocalized by Rod Taylor) who goes in search of a mate for himself and his pet human, Roger Radcliff (Ben Wright). Success was near at hand and he meets and settles down with Perdita (Cate Bauer), whose pet human Anita (Lisa Davis) marries Roger. Like all good middle class marriages, children are soon on the way in the form of fifteen little Dalmatian puppies, but where there are puppies, trouble is bound to follow. In this case it comes in the form of Anita's friend Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson) who has a penchant for fur coats (common in what would now be considered the politically incorrect sixties). Cruella wants the fifteen puppies to make a fur coat, so when Roger and Anita nix the idea of selling her the puppies, Cruella hatches another plan. Enter one Jasper Badun (the wonderful J. Pat O'Malley) and Horace Badun (Fred Worlock), two bumbling crooks engaged to dognap the puppies. This they achieve and head off to the De Vil mansion in Suffolk to hide the puppies, along with 84 others bought by Cruella from pet shops. But things go a little awry when Pongo and Perdita, tired of the lack of success by the humans in finding their puppies, decide to use the dog gossip network, The Twilight Bark, to seek and locate their puppies. Naturally, they arrive in time to thwart the plans of Cruella by spiriting the puppies into the night for the long trek back to London, with the assistance of Sergeant Tibs (David Frankham) and The Colonel (J. Pat O'Malley).

    This is a quite marvellously simple story, based upon the book by Dodie Smith, that in the usual Disney manner has been well transformed into an engaging enough 75 minute romp - one that has been amusing kids for near-on forty years, and probably will for another forty. What makes this film stand out for me, however, is that it is quite different to the usual Disney fare. The animation style is strikingly different to Lady And The Tramp and looks more like a water-coloured pencil drawing throughout rather than the traditional solid colour animation we normally see. The film is also less dependent upon musical content than most Disney films, although that does not stop it from including one of the great Disney songs in Cruella De Vil. But what really makes a difference is that even I can spot the goofs in this film! For a studio that prides itself on its technical expertise, these goofs are something of a nice surprise in many ways. Overall, I find returning to this film to be an enjoyable experience and have never yet tired of watching it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    101 Dalmatians represents a pleasant return to form here after the disappointment of the older Lady And The Tramp. Whilst it is still not in the league of the far more recent Mulan and Hercules, it still holds its age very well indeed.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Given the style of the animation, this is never going to be a glowing example of animation on DVD. The picture is quite flat and lacks a lot of depth, but this is a inherent result of the decision to use the animation style that was used. However, as far as the technical side of things is concerned, the film has been transferred well indeed and is as sharp and detailed as it has ever probably been. The transfer is generally quite clear, and this certainly does not display the problems of the earlier DVD in that regard. There do not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours are relatively muted throughout the transfer, other than during a number of scenes involving Cruella and the Badun gang. On these occasions, the colours really become quite bright and vibrant and tend almost to oversaturation. This style has again been deliberately chosen, since how more vibrant do you need to make black and white dogs than black and white? There is certainly a nice depth to these extremes, as is very necessary when you get to the sequence involving the greyer tone of the sooty puppies. There did not appear to be any colour bleed in the transfer, apart from minor problems in the opening credits with the red colour on the white background - always a problem area.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were pretty much absent from the transfer and the only real problem was a very slight wobble around the 10:30 mark, but that really was barely noticeable and hardly a distraction to the viewing experience. Film artefacts were hardly a problem either.

   This is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 46:05. This is a well-handled change, coming during a black scene change and is not too noticeable and is not at all disruptive to the film. It continues to amaze me that RSDL formatting has been used for such a short film, but the extra space allowed for compression of the data has certainly meant that we have got the best possible transfer that we could reasonably expect for a forty year old film.

Audio

   The audio transfer is not as distinctive as the video transfer, but does its job well enough.

   There are eight audio tracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded efforts: your choices are English, French, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Dutch and Greek. I stuck with the English default. It should be noted that the surround encoding is barely there at all, and for all intents and purposes this is actually a straight-out stereo effort at best.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

    The usual animation sync "problems" exist but nothing to worry about here.

    The musical score comes from George Bruns, and as possibly already indicated, is quite an understated effort that really is quite different to the usual Disney fare. It certainly lacks any real distinction, although it must make quite a contribution to the film as it barely draws attention to itself.

    There really is not an awful lot going on in the sound mix here and this really sounds at best a quite frontal, barely stereo effort. The surround channels hardly get a mention at all in the mix and you can certainly forget the subwoofer here. I would have expected the sound to have a bit more space to it, although I could hardly call it congested. The sound picture is quite frontal and is not the most enveloping soundtrack that you will ever hear. It does its job well enough and is free from any distortion, so I guess that there is not too much to complain about.

Extras

    I guess you have grown tired of the comments on the extras package by now, since this is the fourth DVD in a row with the same package.

Menu

    See Lady And The Tramp.

Film Recommendations

    See Lady And The Tramp.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This has already had one release in Region 1, a "Limited Issue" release that was on sale for 60 days, then supposedly placed on moratorium for years. However, as is common with those "Limited Issue" releases, it unlikely to be on moratorium for long and the film is probably due for re-release next year, as part of Disney's "Gold Collection", probably with pretty much the same content. The details quoted below are in relation to the "Limited Issue" release.

    The Region 4 release misses out on:

    Okay, in essence there is not an awful lot of difference between the two releases, unless THX certification really means something to you and a theatrical trailer is a compelling extra. Since this is not the case for me, and THX certification seems to be a rather hit and miss affair, I would say that there is not much to choose between the two releases other than the PAL resolution of the Region 4 release. A direct comparison between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases indicates that there is not much difference at all visually, although to my ears the Region 1 sounds a little brighter. Really not much to choose between them at all here, so call it even.

Summary

    101 Dalmatians is a film that I always enjoy returning to and it is good to have it available on Region 4 DVD. It is recommended to all, but the asking price of $39.95 for a featureless 76 minute DVD may be a turn-off for some people. Short of an all-out restoration job (which Disney will no doubt eventually get around to), this probably looks as good as it has in years.

    A pretty good video transfer.

    A reasonable audio transfer.

    Forget the extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, May 23, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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