101 Dalmatians (1961)

FILE15951This full-length cartoon from the Walt Disney studios is a beautifully animated version of Dodie Smith's classic children's tale.

The adorable spotty dogs of the title, and a host of other animals, cause havoc in London and the countryside as they try to escape from Cruella de Vil, the most memorable Disney female villain since the witch in Snow White.

Our canine hero and narrator is a spotted pooch named Pongo, who lives with his songwriting human, Roger Radcliff. The two men need love, and Pongo spots potential mates in the lovely Anita and the equally fetching Dalmatian Perdita.

Pongo forces a rendezvous in the park that culminates with a spill into a nearby brook, and soon the two couples are wed.

Married life brings happiness for Roger and Anita and a litter of fifteen puppies for Pongo and Perdita. The Dalmatianlings are an adorable lot, but Roger's meagre earnings won't support such a huge family.

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Enter Cruella de Vil, a cigarette-smoking toothpick of a woman with a huge fur coat and a half-black/half-white coif. The sneering society gal offers to take the puppies off the Radcliffs' hands, but Roger smells a skunk-haired rat. Undeterred, Cruella sends henchmen Horace and Jasper to pilfer the pups while the adults (except the spirited but overpowered Nanny) are away.

When Pongo and Perdy discover their brood is missing, they send out a "Twilight Bark", a relay system of woofs that reaches the ears of country canine The Colonel. Together with a horse called The Captain and a cat named Tibbs, The Colonel finds the pups, along with eighty-four other stolen Dalmatians, whose pelts the wicked Cruella is planning to sew into a fur coat.

Dog, horse, cat and Dalmatian parents team up for a daring rescue, only to find themselves caught in a life-or-death chase with Cruella and her thugs.

101 Dalmatians was a mammoth hit for Disney, finding eager new Dalmatian disciples with each re-release.

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The multiple pup effects were achieved by means of the new (at the time) technology of Xeroxography, which allowed animators to duplicate pups rather than hand draw the entire legion.

Although the movie featured fewer songs than most Disney animated features, Roger's improvised Cruella de Vil (actually written by Mel Leven) provided some musical oomph to the proceedings.

More importantly, the music wasn't really necessary, as Ms. De Vil herself could carry the weight of the entire production on her own bony shoulders. The masterfully deranged aristocrat was an inspired invention, one that provided the model for countless villainesses that followed.

In 1996, Disney released a live-action version of the film, with Glenn Close in the villainess role. The following year brought the debut of 101 Dalmatians: The Series, which took the Radcliffs and pups to the countryside for weekly comic adventures.

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Pongo
Rod Taylor
Roger Radcliff

Ben Wright
Perdita

Cate Bauer
Cruella De Vil

Betty Lou Gerson
Anita Radcliff

Lisa Davis
Horace Badun

Frederick Worlock
Jasper Badun

J. Pat O'Malley
Colonel

J. Pat O'Malley
The Captain

Thurl Ravenscroft
Sergeant Tibs

David Frankham
Miss Birdwell

Betty Lou Gerson
Inspector Craven

Frederick Worlock
Nanny

Martha Wentworth
Queenie

Martha Wentworth
Lucy

Martha Wentworth
Towser

Tudor Owen
Quizmaster

Tom Conway
Collie

Tom Conway
Danny

George Pelling