One Hundred and One Dalmatians, often abbreviated as 101 Dalmatians, is a 1961 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and based on the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Seventeenth in the Walt Disney Animated Classic series, the film was originally released to theaters on January 25, 1961 by Buena Vista Distribution.
The film features Rod Taylor as the voice of Pongo, the first of the Dalmatians, and Betty Lou Gerson as the voice of the villainous Cruella De Vil. The plot centers on the fate of the kidnapped puppies of Pongo and Perdita.
Pongo is a dalmatian that lives in a London bachelor flat with his owner Roger Radcliffe, a songwriter. 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 couple, 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. Pongo accidentally causes both Roger and Anita to fall into a pond, but it works out well as the couple falls in love. Both the human couple and the dog couple marry.
Later, Perdita gives birth to 15 puppies. One almost dies, but Roger is able to revive it by rubbing it in a towel (because of which, they would name the pup, "Lucky"). That same night, they are visited by Curella De Vil, a wealthy and materialistic former schoolmate of Anita's. She offers to buy the entire litter of puppies for a large sum, but Roger says they are not selling any of the puppies. Weeks later, she hires Jasper and Horace Badun to steal all of the puppies. When Scotland Yard is unable to determine the thieves or find the puppies, Pongo and Perdita use the "Twilight Bark", normally a canine gossip line, to ask for help from the other dogs in England.
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), along with many other Dalmatian puppies that Cruella had purchased from various dog stores. Tibbs learns the puppies are going to be made into dog-skin fur coats and the Colonel quickly sends word back to London. Upon receiving the message, Pongo and Perdita immediately leave London to retrieve their puppies. Meanwhile, Tibbs overhears Cruella ordering the Baduns to kill and render the puppies that night out of fear the police will soon find them. In response, Tibbs attempts to rescue the puppies himself while the Baduns are watching the television, but they finish their show and come for them before Tibbs can get the puppies out of the house. Pongo and Perdita burst through a window just as the Baduns have cornered them and are about to kill them. While the adult dogs attack the two men, Colonel and Tibbs guide the puppies from the house.
After a happy reunion with their own puppies, the Pongos realize there are dozens of other puppies with them. Shocked at Cruella's plans, they decide to adopt all of the puppies, certain that Roger and Anita would never reject them. The dogs begin making their way back to London, aided by other animals along the way, with Cruella and the Baduns giving chase. In one town, they cover themselves with soot so they appear to be Labrador retrievers, then pile inside a moving van going back to London. As the van is leaving, melting snow clears off the soot and Cruella sees them. In a maniacal rage, she follows the van in her car and rams it, but the Baduns, trying to cut off the van from above, end up colliding with her. Both vehicles crash into a deep ravine. Cruella yells in frustration as the van drives away.
Back in London, Roger and Anita are attempting to celebrate Christmas and Roger's 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 more of the soot, the couple is delighted to realize their companions have returned home. After counting 86 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.
In 1956 During the production of Sleeping Beauty Dodie Smith wrote her book The Hundred and One Dalmatians. When Walt Disney read the book it immediately grabbed his attention and he acquired the rights in 1957. Smith had always secretly hoped that Disney would make her book into a film.. Disney assigned Bill Peet to write the story. This would mark the first time that the story for a Disney film was created by a single story man. Walt had not been as involved in the production of the animated films as he had been in the past, but he was always present at story meetings. However, Walt felt that Peet's original was so perfect that very little was changed. Peet sent Dodie Smith some drawings of the characters, she wrote back saying that Peet had improved her story.
After the very expensive Sleeping Beauty failed at the box-office the company was in debt, and there was some talk of closing down the animation department at the Disney studio. Although Walt Disney had been expanding the studio into other mediums such as live-action films, television and theme parks, he still had deep feelings for animation since he had built the company upon it. He wanted to continue producing animation at the studio, but he needed to cut the cost.
Up Iwerks, in charge of special processes at the studio, had been experimenting with Xerox photography to aid in animation. By 1959 he had modified a Xerox camera to transfer drawings by animators directly to animation cels, eliminating the inking process and preserving the spontaneity of the penciled elements. The introduction of xerography eased graphic reproduction requirements, but at the price of being unable to deviate from a scratchy outline style because of the new (and time and money saving) technology's limitations. One problem with the Xerox however, was that the animators were used to producing sketchy drawings, and the clean-up stage in animation prior to One Hundred and One Dalmatians was done in the process of transferring the drawings to the cels. With the hand inkers gone, the animation remained as the animators drew it. It later became common to do clean-up on paper before the animation was copied, and with time and experience, the process improved in 1977 with the release of The Rescuers. From then on animated features the Xeroxed lines could be printed in different colors.
The xerox was a great help towards animating the spotted dogs. According to Chuck Jones, Disney was able to bring the movie in for about half of what it would have cost if they'd had to animate all the dogs and spots. To achieve the spotted Dalmatians, the animators used to think of the spot pattern as a constellation. Once they had one "anchor spot", the next was placed in relation to that one spot, and so on and so on until the full pattern was achieved. All total, 101 Dalmatians featured 6,469,952 spots, with Pongo sporting 72 spots, Perdita 68, and each puppy having 32.
With the studio no longer able to afford the expensive, but lavish labour-intensive inking, the studio fired all of its inkers resulting in a reduction of animation staff from over 500 to less than 100. However painters were still needed to put color on the cels.
The production of the film also signaled a change in the graphic style of Disney's animation. Sleeping Beauty had a more graphic, angular style than previous Disney films, and this look was chosen for One Hundred and One Dalmatians and in most subsequent films. For One Hundred and One Dalmatians the background artists would paint loose molds to represent an object and xerox the details onto the mold. Walt Disney disliked the artistic look of One Hundred and One Dalmatians and felt he was losing the fantasy element of his animated films. The art director Ken Anderson felt very depressed by this. Walt eventually forgave him on his final trip to the studio in late 1966. As Anderson recalled in an interview
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.