Out of the many timeless animated films that have been released by Walt Disney Animation Studios over the past eight decades, "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" is one of the many classic Disney Animation films that I've never gotten tired of watching. I remember first seeing this film when I was about eight having already seen a handful of films from Disney Animation and this one has always stuck with me from the first time I watched it. It's a film I feel that never gets dated but rather still remains as timeless ever since it came out in 1961. It's easily one of my all-time favorite animated films.
In London, a Dalmatian named Pongo (Rod Taylor) and his mate Perdita (Cate Bauer) have been living a happy life with their owners Roger (Ben Wright) and Anita Radcliffe (Lisa Davis) as well as their Nanny (Martha Wentworth) with the two Dalmatians expecting puppies along the way. Eventually, the two are blessed with fifteen Dalmatian puppies and all seem happy with the Radcliffe family. One day though, after being rejected to buy the puppies, one of Anita's old schoolmates named Cruella DeVil (Betty Lou Gerson) hires two goons named Jasper and Horace (J. Pat O'Malley and Frederick Worlock) to steal the puppies so Cruella can use their fur for a new spotted fur coat. Desperate to get back their children, Pongo and Perdita set off to find their children before it's too late.
Ever since I saw this film as a kid, this film has always stuck with me for some reason and never has left the recesses of my mind. Even though this film doesn't do much compared to the many other Disney Animation films, it's one that never loses its appeal and I feel it has to come down to the very simple yet fun story. This film was based on a children's book written by Dodie Smith who had secretly wished for the book to be adapted into a film by Walt Disney and was adapted to the screen by legendary story artist Bill Peet who wrote and storyboarded the entire film by himself compared to other films where about a handful of people storyboard the film. It's such an impressive feat and I feel Peet took what worked best about the book and made it translate so brilliantly to the screen. For one, he starts the film off with a relaxed vibe with my favorite scene being where Pongo watches the other owners and their dogs walk around while Roger plays music on the piano. It's a small little scene, but it's one that never has left my mind. Then once the puppies are kidnapped, the film picks up the pace and keeps the viewer on their toes including a crazy car chase climax that's so riveting that it's hard not to have fun. It's such a simple story, yet it works exceptionally well. As far as the animation goes, it's easily my favorite part of the film. This is one of the most gorgeous and stylish animated films to ever come out of Walt Disney Animation Studios and for good reason. After the costly "Sleeping Beauty" bombed at the box office, the studio had to make a film that wasn't nearly as complex as the latter and this film truly showed they could still make great magic especially with their new Xerox technology which eliminated the use of inking lines onto cells by hand. It gave the animation a sketchy vibe which matched with the gorgeous London scenery of Ken Anderson who was inspired by the work of Ronald Searle and it leads way to a film with a unique 60s look that still feels timeless to this day. I often wonder why Walt Disney hated the look of this film so much because I still feel it captures the fantasy that is seen throughout every Disney film while still have a modern look to it. Even the colors are pristine with their tones capturing the mood throughout the film. The only downside to the animation is that there are a handful of continuity errors that are very noticeable if you catch them. I do wish more care was put into avoiding those kinds of errors, but it doesn't bug me as much as it should. As far as the characters go, I really enjoy most of them. I like the chemistry that both Pongo and Perdita as well as Roger and Anita have. Their love feels very genuine and honest to me and I like that they're not afraid to put their foot down when necessary especially Roger when it came to standing up to Cruella. Speaking of her, she's easily the best character in the film and dares I say it, probably my favorite animated villain of all time. She's truly iconic with a diva personality and her short-fused temper and doesn't like hearing no for an answer. She also works perfectly off of Jasper and Horace, her two stupid and lazy henchmen that come off as menacing, idiotic, and fun to watch without getting too overbearing and annoying. I'm also glad the puppies don't come off as too cutesy or annoying as they could've. Even some of the other characters including a horse, cat, and sheepdog named Captain, Sgt. Tibbs and Colonel were fun to watch as they try to figure out how to rescue the puppies from Cruella's mansion, Hell Hall. It all made for such an enjoyable film.
In fact, an enjoyable film is a perfect description for "One Hundred and One Dalmatians". The story was simplistic and fun, the animation was stylistic and gorgeous, and the characters were sweet and cheerful. It's easily one of my favorite Disney films and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. It's easily a bright spot in Walt Disney Animation Studios' impressive legacy.