The skyrocketing cost of continuing to do a full-length animated feature with the classic hand-inked cells and the need for another Disney blockbuster handed Walt Disney with a basket of lemons; which he then turned into lemonade when his studio adapted Dodie Smith’s modern-day doggie adventure story. With the usual Disney changes, of course – simplifying the story, merging some characters and omitting some incidents, and adding one of the most flamboyant and malevolently hilarious villainesses ever created; Cruella De Vil, with her penchant for a puppy-fur coat, her crumbling country mansion and her two hapless and bumbling henchmen. Given the sight of an impossibly scrawny woman in an oversized full-length fox coat, nine out of ten Americans are probably humming the ‘Cruella De Vil’ song under their breath. (It’s one of the featured extras, sung by Selena Gomez, in case anyone has forgotten that little ditty) This movie alone has probably put as many viewers off the notion of fur coats as PETA ever did.

The plot itself is as thin as a whisper: Pongo, the Dalmatian belongs to Roger the striving song-writer, who marries Anita – who also owns a female Dalmatian Perdida; Pongo and Perdita have arranged their human pets’ happy marriage, as well as their own. Their happy family is rewarded by the birth of fifteen puppies. But when Anita’s old school friend, Cruella visits and decides that she simply must have a new bespoke ‘Dalmatian’ fur coat, she arranges to sequester sufficient puppies in her ancient family home out in the country, intending to harvest their skins for her new coat – including Pongo and Perdita’s puppies!

How these devoted canine parents discover where their kidnapped (pup-napped?) puppies are, rescue them – along with all the others – with the aid of other stout-hearted dogs, cows, a horse and one gallant and able cat, Sgt. Tibbs – and bring them safely home is the rest of the movie. And a charming and witty movie it is, also, full of gentle visual jokes, daring in adversity and a suitable come-uppance for the horrible Cruella and her luckless henchmen. (although my daughter pointed out that the scene in the cow barn was so sweet it was dangerous to a diabetic… and that keeping 101 dogs in one house is a clear caseof what we today call animal hoarding.)

This release has been digitally restored; the colors are rich and clear. There is an option to watch it with one-hundred and one pop-up trivia facts; one set for the family and another for the fan. Other notable extras include a dramatization of the personal correspondence between Walt Disney and Dodie Smith- who insisted that she liked the movie that he had done of her book. There is a collection of songs eventually omitted, and the usual “making of” features, and art galleries. One amusing feature centers on creating the character of Cruella – whose manner and appearances were based on that of actress Tallulah Bankhead.

101 Dalmations 2-Disc Platinum edition is available March 10th, from Amazon.com and other commercial outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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