Anybody out there a fan of spotted dogs? Pongo and Perdita walked into our lives on January 25, 1961, and animation would never be the same after it. 101 Dalmatians was the first technologically-contemporary film that Disney had released to this point. Basically, it was set in the present time. A possibility of another would be Bambi (1942), but since there is no visible technology to identify the timeline, we can’t be sure. It could be set in the late-1800s or early-1900s. Although, the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods was written in 1922 and published in 1923.
When Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959, Disney initially didn’t bring in much revenue from the film. With a budget of $6 million and only bringing in $10 million, it just broke even. Disney needed a way to cut costs on their next project, 101 Dalmatians. Ub Iwerks, who was in charge of special processes at the studio at the time, was experimenting with Xerography photography to help in animation. By 1959, he had altered a Xerography camera to transfer drawings by animators directly to the animation cells, eliminating the inking process and preserving the spontaneity of the penciled elements. In the past, inkers would place a cell overtop of the artist’s drawing and have to trace all the lines. Then they would get sent to the paint department, where the individual cells were filled in.
The Xerography process eliminated the inking step, so they could just photocopy the artist’s original drawing straight onto a cell and then send it out to get painted. This is why you can see faint lines around and sometimes through the characters while watching the film. They are the artist’s pencil marks that remained during the Xerography process. It is rumored that Walt disliked the look of the animation which was a result of this animation process. In fact, it is said that Walt was upset with the production designer, Ken Anderson, and wouldn’t let him be in charge of production again. This is what Ken had to say in an interview about the last time he saw Walt in 1966 before his passing;
“He looked very sick, I said “Gee it’s great to see you Walt”, and he said “You know that thing you did on Dalmatians”. He didn’t say anything else, but he just gave me this look and I knew that all was forgiven and in his opinion maybe what I did on Dalmatians wasn’t so bad. That was the last time I ever saw him. Then, a few weeks later, I learned he was gone.” -Ken Anderson
Ken would later be in charge of production on The AristoCats (1970).
Okay, enough talk. It is time for some fun facts.
1. The full title of the film is sometimes shortened to 101 Dalmatians.
2. There were 6,469,952 spots on all the Dalmatians throughout the entire movie on all the cells. This, of course, is an estimated guess as it would be nearly impossible to count all the spots on all the original cells. It was a number that Disney threw out there for publicity materials but was then later confirmed on the bonus footage on the Blu-ray release.
3. Pongo has 72 spots, Perdita has 68 spots, and each puppy has 32 spots.
4. Animators animated clusters of puppies at a time and would re-use the same animations and movements for the background in multiple scenes in order to cut back on animation time.
5. Due to a continuity error, there are roughly 150 Dalmatians shown in the end scene when they counted 101.
6. This Xerox process became the standard for Disney’s filmmaking covering the films The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The AristoCats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) before it changed for The Rescuers (1977).
7. Due to the failure of Sleeping Beauty (1959), Disney went from a staff of 500 artists down to a staff of 100 artists.
8. Eight of Walt’s Nine Old Men worked on 101 Dalmatians with Ward Kimball absent from the collective.
9. Live-action reference model Helene Stanley was used while animating Anita. She was also the live-action reference for Cinderella, Anastasia (Cinderella’s step-sister), and Aurora.
10. Cruella de Vil was voiced by actress Betty Lou Gerson. Betty also provided the voice for Miss Birdwell in the television show that Horace and Jasper are watching. She was also the opening narrator for Cinderella (1950). To see what the actress actually looks like, you will have to watch Mary Poppins (1964) and keep an eye out for the old hag who scares Jane and Michael Banks after they run from the bank.
11. The Baduns are holding a newspaper while talking on the phone to Cruella. Along with the dognapping article, there is a headline that reads “Carlsen Speaks” with a photo of a capsized ship. This headline helps to identify the timeline of the film. In January 1952, Captain Kurt Carlsen of the ship Flying Enterprise stayed on his sinking ship for 13 days before getting forced to abandon it. They tried for those 13 days to pull the ship to shore with a tug boat, but it ended up sinking with its cargo of pig iron, coffee, peat moss, rags, 12 Volkswagen cars, antique musical instruments, typewriters, and naphthalene (the main ingredient in mothballs). Nine of the ten passengers survived. Captain Kurt Carlsen was given a parade in New York for his bravery and everyone around the world learned of what happened.
12. To create the car scenes, Disney built model cars out of cardboard on which they drew dark black lines for angle reference. They then filmed the scenes with the movement showing the cars from all angles. They later traced each frame of the film to get the movement and the angles of the cars perfect and lifelike. The model of Cruella’s car was about 18” long.
13. Cruella’s car was modeled after a 1930s Rolls-Royce Phantom.
14. Ben Wright provided the voice of Roger with this being his first Disney film. He later voiced Rama in The Jungle Book (1967). If you have seen The Sound of Music (1965), he was Herr Zeller. His final film for Disney and the final film of his career was The Little Mermaid (1989), in which he voiced Grimsby. When he showed up to the sound studio to do his recordings, no one there knew who he was until he said he was Roger from 101 Dalmatians. He never got to see the finished product of his final film before he died.
15. In the early 1990s, Disney had released merchandise that had to be recalled because they spelled Dalmatians as “Dalmations” with an “O” instead of an “A.” Most of the merchandise was released in the parks or in the Disney stores.
16. There is a stock sound called “Castle Thunder” that was originally recorded for Frankenstein (1931). In 101 Dalmatians, you can hear it when Cruella enters the kitchen to purchase the puppies from Anita, and then again when she is leaving. The sound can also be heard in the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland right after the Ghost Host says, “There’s always my way.” It can also be heard in other films such as Bambi (1942), The Little Mermaid (1989), The Brave Little Toaster (1987), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), The Fox and the Hound (1981), Pete’s Dragon (1977), and The Jungle Book (1967), to name a few.
Here is the sound effect
Here it is in the movie.
17. This was the last feature that animator Marc Davis worked on. He animated Cruella de Vil and then left the Animation Department and went to WED Imagineering, to develop attractions for Disneyland. His first was the elephant pool on The Jungle Cruise.
18. This was the 9th highest-grossing film in the U.S. in 1961, taking in $6.4 million.
19. It was the most popular film of the year in France after its release, earning $14.7 million. More than double what it made in the U.S.
20. After all of its releases, it had grossed $216 million worldwide, which is a higher gross than some movies of our present time.
21. This is the 17th animated Disney film. It is also the third film made that isn’t fantasy based and is sans anthropomorphic animals. The first two are Bambi (1942), film #5, and Lady and the Tramp (1955), film #15.
22. Bill Peet wrote the whole story by himself. This is unusual because most films from the Disney Company to this point had multiple writers. The film Pinocchio (1940) had seven writers, Cinderella (1950), Dumbo (1941), Peter Pan (1953), and Sleeping Beauty (1959) all had eight writers, The Three Caballeros (1944) and Alice In Wonderland (1951) both had thirteen writers, and Fantasia (1940) had an outstanding twenty-five writers. Bill was also the stand-alone writer for The Sword in the Stone (1963). He did the complete storyboard and wrote out the dialogue for every scene himself. Almost all of it ended up in the film exactly how it was.
23. The dog character on the television show that the puppies are watching is Thunderbolt. He was inspired by the television canine Rin-Tin-Tin, a series that ran from 1954-1959.
24. When the Blu-ray of the film was released in 2015, Disney included an animated short titled The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt (2015), which was the episode of the television show the puppies were watching in the film. The narrator in the short was the voice of Corey Burton, the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay Ghost Host, and Dirty Dawson was voiced by Jim Cummings, the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Ray, Darkwing Duck, Razoul, and about 100 other characters.
25. The voice of Donald Duck, Clarence Nash, did the vocals for the dogs barking.
26. Lucille Bliss was the vocal artist who sang the Kanine Krunchies commercial. She was also the voice of Anastasia in Cinderella (1950), the Sunflower and Tulip in Alice in Wonderland (1951), a mermaid in Peter Pan (1953), but would be most recognizable as Smurfette in The Smurfs series and television specials from 1982-1989.
27. Lucky has a horseshoe shape on his back patterned by the spots. It is easy to spot when he is standing up to watch the TV.
28. When the puppies are watching TV in Hell Hall, they are watching the Disney short Springtime (1929).
29. When casting the voices for the dogs, they were cast with more dominant voices than the human owners, so they would seem more dominant.
30. Out of the fifteen puppies, Perdita gives birth to, only six are named in this film: Lucky, Rolly, Patch, Penny, Pepper, and Freckles. The others are named later in children’s books.
31. In the film, there are several cameos of canines from Lady and the Tramp (1955) during the Twilight Bark sequence. You can see Jock show up first. He is the one barking up the drain pipe. Then there is Peg and Bull in the pet shop window followed by Lady in the street and Tramp on top of the vehicle.
32. The animation used for the “Jock look-alike” when he was gasping were the actual cells used in Lady and the Tramp (1955). They were just re-photographed for 101 Dalmatians. When he turns to bark in the drain pipe, it is new animation done with the Xerography process.
33. Opposing the patterns of previous films that contained multiple songs, there are only three songs featured in 101 Dalmatians. They are “Cruella de Vil,” “Kanine Krunchies” (if you count that as a song), and “Dalmatian Plantation.”
34. The original story this film was based on was titled The Hundred and One Dalmatians, aka The Great Dog Robbery, and was published in 1956 by author Dodie Smith.
I leave you with these key points that compare the movie to its original source material.
35. There are several differences to note between the book and the film adaptation.
- The two dogs that had to rescue their puppies were Pongo and Missis
- Perdita was just a stray liver-and-white Dalmatian whose puppies had already been sold to Cruella by her owners and so Perdita ran away to go find them
- Perdita’s husband, Prince, was also lost.
- Pongo’s “pets” were named Mr. and Mrs. Dearly, not Roger and Anita.
- Roger was a musician and was just getting by until his hit song “Cruella de Vil,” whereas Dearly was a financial banker of sorts and had lots of money.
- Dearly found Perdita in the rain and took her in and utilized her as a “wet nurse” for Missis to help nurse her own 15 puppies.
- They had two nannies, Nanny Cook, and Nanny Butler.
- and Mrs. Dearly attends a dinner party at Cruella’s place where she talks about her hatred for animals. Later they discover that their 15 puppies had been stolen.
- Perdita stays behind with Mr. and Mrs. Dearly while Pongo and Missis go after the puppies.
- Jasper stays the same, but Saul is changed to Horace.
- Tib is a grey, tabby female instead of an orange male.
- When Tib, aka Lieutenant Willow and later changed to Sargent Tibbs, finds the puppies in Hell Hall, there are 97 of them. Pongo, Missis, Perdita, and Prince make up the other four.
- The dogs make it to Cruella’s house and destroy all her fur coats with the help of her cat, who is angry with Cruella for drowning all her litters of kittens.
- Cruella is a mysterious, dark, and quiet character; a complete opposite character type than what was presented to us by Marc Davis.
- Dearly buys Hell Hall and turns it into a “Dynasty of Dalmatians,” a variation of the “Dalmatian Plantation.”
- Prince returned home and his owners gave him to the Dearly family to make it One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
If you liked the fun facts in this article, you should get a copy of my book that has over 3,700 fun facts about Disneyland and Disney Movies in it