Friday 25 January 2013

101 Dalmatians

In 1956, a woman named Dodie Smith wrote a story that was published in the Ladies Home Journal as "The Great Dog Robbery".  The world would know it as "101 Dalmatians" which premiered on this day in 1961.

The story is set in 1952 and based on a songwriter named Roger and his wife who live in a bachelor flat in London, England.  They have no children but they do have 15 puppies whose parents are Pongo and Perdita.  A villain named Cruella deVil spots the dalmatians and decides she wants to make furs out of them. She kidnaps the puppies and later adds dozens more to her collection.  Roger puts Scotland Yard on the case but they get nowhere.  The "Twilight Bark" or canine gossip line, however, proves very useful.  A sheep dog, a tabby cat and a grey horse discover the kidnapped puppies at Cruella's abandonned and dilapidated estate.  The puppies race back to London as they're chased by the villainous Ms. DeVil.  She crashes en route and the puppies make it back safely to the city.  Pongo and Perdita decide to adopt all 101 dalmatians.  

Back at Roger's apartment, he and his wife are celebrating Christmas.  He has just had his first big hit and the couple decides to use his money to buy a large house in the country where they can raise the precious pups.

Walt Disney read Dodie Smith's story and liked it so much that he decided to bring it to the big screen.  He handed the project over to the Nine Old Men, the animators that would work night and day to make sure that each frame was completed.  The work was time-consuming and methodical:  each pup had 32 spots.  The animators treated the spots as constellations.  Walt was concerned about keeping to the film's budget.  However, his old friend Ub Iwerks developped something called xerography, limiting the number of cartoonists needed on the project and ensuring that it did not go over budget.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was well received at the theatre.  It won 5 Oscars and grossed over 6 million dollars, the 10th highest grossing film of 1961.

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