101 Dalmatians Blu-Ray“The puppies are here!” On February 10th, Walt Disney’s animated classic 101 Dalmatians is “finally releasing from the Disney Vault.” “Finally” is defined here as 5 years, which is exactly how long the film has been unavailable for public consumption. However, its journey to Blu-Ray feels a little longer since the format was around in 2008 when the Platinum Edition of 101 Dalmatians came out.

In 1957, Walt Disney fell in love with a children’s book by British author Dodie Smith called The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Bill Peet was tasked with giving it a screenplay treatment. A typical Disney animated film had its story created by a team, but Walt thought Peet’s version was so perfect that he received sole story credit. However, 101 Dalmatians almost didn’t get made.

Sleeping Beauty nearly destroyed Disney Animation. Walt Disney’s “moving tapestry” ran over time and over budget, becoming the most expensive animated film up to that point. It cost so much to make that it was unable to make a profit in its initial release, even though it did decent business at the box office. As a result, the studio was in need of a way to make these films less expensive. The only alternative: shut down the animation department.

The solution came from Ub Iwerks, co-creator of Mickey Mouse and a technical wizard. He adapted the brand new Xerox copier to print on celluloid. This technical breakthrough allowed the studio to dismiss the ink department, their job now replaced by a machine. And it also made a project possible that would have been very difficult before. A project that would feature so many spots that it would have taken too long to ink them all by hand. The animators were thrilled because for the first time, their drawing lines would be represented on screen exactly the way they wanted.

When a litter of dalmatian puppies are kidnapped by Cruella De Vil, their parents Pongo and Perdita set out on a journey to rescue them. They soon discover that their puppies are part of a plan to make a fur coat that requires 99 puppies. Now the will have to face off against Cruella in a madcap chase to save the lives of all of these puppies before it’s too late.

When One Hundred and One Dalmatians was released in 1961 (it became known as 101 Dalmatians with later releases), it was both a critical and commercial hit. And because the studio was able to lower production costs significantly with the Xerox process, it turned a profit in its first theatrical release. It had such a lasting impact that Disney had planned to reuse Cruella De Vil as the villain of The Rescuers, although they later changed their mind.

101 Dalmatians arrives on Blu-Ray for the first time on February 10th in a combo pack that comes with a DVD and a digital copy. Disney has yet to announce plans for a standalone DVD release, but it will be available digitally through all major providers.

Video

The Blu-Ray reuses the 2008 restoration and presents it in HD. It looks marvelous, a definite upgrade from its standard definition counterpart. Colors are more vivid, sometimes brighter, and line art is incredibly detailed. You can see the weight of each pencil line with this transfer in all its glory.

The film is presented in academy ratio (1.33:1), and believe it or not, this IS the original theatrical aspect ratio. Like previous fullscreen Diamond Editions, you have the option to watch the film with Disney View (artwork that fills in the pillarboxes). The artwork changes colors to match the overall color that appears on screen, but unlike previous releases only two images ever fill the sides. One is guitars and sheet music, the other London rooftops. A lot less care went into this Disney View experience and this is the first time I prefer a fullscreen Diamond Edition release with black bars instead of Disney View.

The DVD is a fine standard definition presentation of the film, although compared to the Blu-Ray it lacks wuite a bit of detail and the colors feel slightly less vibrant.

Audio

The Blu-Ray features a brand new 7.1 DTS-HDMA surround sound mix. Dialogue stays almost exclusively in the front speakers, while score fills the rear. Other audio options include English Original Theatrical Mix, French 5.1 and Spanish 5.1.

The DVD offers the film in English, French and Spanish 5.1.

Bonus Features

  • The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt (1 min 45 seconds) – This new animated short finds every Dalmatians favorite action hero fighting crime in the old west. Footage from the original film is interspliced with this all-to-brief short. But the animators attempted to replicate the style of the film and did a great job. It’s written by Floyd Norman, who worked on the original film.
  • Dalmatians 101 (9 minutes) – The animation team (including Rolly Crump, Floyd Norman and Burny Mattinson) reflect on making the film. It’s full of wonderful anecdotes.
  • 411 on 101 (5 minutes) – Cameron Boyce from Disney Channel’s Jessie and the upcoming DCOM Descendants give you the top 5 reasons why 101 Dalmatians is the “number 1 dog movie of all time.” It’s much more informative than it sounds like.
  • Walt Disney Presents The Doggoned Dog in the World (51 minutes) – This original episode of Disneyland from 1961 is presented in black and white. This episode originally aired in 1957 to promote Old Yeller, but was re-edited to promote the original theatrical release of 101 Dalmatians. It features Walt telling the story to an adorable Dalmatian puppy.

Under the heading “Classic Bonus Features” are the majority of bonus features from 2008’s Platinum Edition.

  • Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians (33 minutes) – This making-of feature was made in widescreen, but is presented here in a letterboxed format (so it sits in the middle of your widescreen TV). You can watch individual segments or use the “play all” feature.
  • Cruella De Vil: Drawn to be Bad (7 minutes) – This detailed exploration of one of Disney’s greatest villains provides some interesting facts, including photos of Mary Wickes as the live action reference model.
  • Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney (12 minutes) – A dramatic recreation of the letters between Walt Disney and Dodie Smith.
  • Trailers & TV Spots (16 minutes) – 12 trailers and TV spots are presented from four theatrical releases (1961, 1969, 1979 and 1985).
  • Promotional Radio Spots – 3 radio spots are presented from 1961: 60 seconds, 30 seconds and 10 seconds.
  • “Cruella De Vil” Music Video by Selena Gomez (3 minutes)
  • “March of the One Hundred and One” (2.5 minutes) – Storyboards are presented for this deleted song from the film.
  • Deleted Songs (5 minutes) – Two deleted songs are presente: “Cheerio, Good Bye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!” and “Don’t Buy a Parrot From a Sailor.”
  • Demo Recording and alternate Versions (28 minutes) – Multiple demo recordings are presented of the film’s three songs: “Dalmatian Plantation,” “Cruella De Vil,” and “Kanine Krunchies.” Concept art accompanies the audio.

It’s clear to see that the meatiest bonus features from the 2008 DVD have made their way to this Blu-Ray set. The substantial items missed are art galleries and two pop-up trivia tracks that were a lot of fun. Four DVD games are also missing, but that’s to be expected.

The DVD only has three bonus features, one new and two from the past release.

  • Dalmtatians 101
  • “Cruella De Vil” Music Video by Selena Gomez
  • Cruella De Vil: Drawn to be Bad

Packaging & Design

101 Dalmatians is housed in a standard sized Blu-Ray case with both discs held on either side of the interiors. Neither disc contains disc art. Inserts include a Disney Movie Rewards code and an ad for Disney Movie Club. The case is housed inside a foil embossed slipcover that is so shiny it can be used as a mirror.

Both discs open with ads for Disney Movies Anywhere, Aladdin Diamond Edition, Cinderella and a new anti-smoking PSA starring Cruella De Vil. Selecting Sneak Peeks from the menu also plays ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, Dog With a Blog, Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions, Big Hero 6 and Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast. The menu features the streets outside of Roger’s flat as dogs walk past.

The digital copy code provides instructions for redeeming it through Disney Movies Anywhere. If you plan to use it through iTunes, Vudu and/or Google Play, this is a great way to redeem it on all three. But you can also redeem it from one of those providers individually in addition to Amazon Instant Video if you redeem it through www.DigitalCopyPlus.com/101Dalmatians.

Final Thoughts

101 Dalmatians is a true classic in every since of the word. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without it and I still love it as an adult. The film has never looked better than it does on Blu-Ray and the new bonus features combined with the ones form the Platinum Edition make this a must own for any fan.