When it comes to Disney love stories, they often focus on the falling in love and not so much the being in love – what happens after the proverbial “Happily ever after?” One Hundred and One Dalmatians eschews the former in favour of the latter and answers the aforementioned question. However, they do this without marginalizing true love's first beginnings. Even though it occurs within the first five minutes of the movie, Roger and Anita LITERALLY falling for each other is among the most charming and grounded of Disney's many cliché, fairy tale love stories – there's no magic or implications of royalty (Cinderella), no star-crossed lovers (Lady and the Tramp) and/or no otherworldly extenuating circumstances keeping said lovebirds apart (Sleeping Beauty). Pongo and his pet Roger meet Perdita and her pet Anita in a park, they all fall in love and get married - boom! With that, we have the rest of the story to really get into it and, as Roger tells Anita, “Melody first, my dear, and then the lyrics, hmmm?” “Hmmm,” indeed! If melody is the more abstract love then the lyrics are definitely the tangible and more substantive family that follows.
In many ways One Hundred and One Dalmatians functions as almost an unofficial sequel to Lady and the Tramp. This is particularly relevant when it comes to bachelorhood; what took Tramp the whole movie to sniff out, Pongo posits within the first few minutes: “The old notion that a bachelor's life was so glamorous and carefree was all nonsense. It was downright dull.” Pongo wanted a spouse and a family, not only for himself, but for his pet Roger and that's exactly what they got. However, family doesn't come without its added stresses and responsibilities. As Pongo would soon learn, not every night would be comfortably spent in front of the television watching “Thunderbolt” with his wife and fifteen puppies. In fact, the added stakes of being the patriarch of a family become apparent early on when the skeletal fur monger, Cruella De Vil makes her first not-so-veiled threats towards the puppies while Perdita is still pregnant. Then it's during the puppy's birth that Pongo experiences the fleeting yet harrowing moment where it looks like one of his sons has been lost in childbirth. Luckily, Lucky made it but these two instances would be nothing compared to the horror the young parents faced when all fifteen of their puppies were stolen. Having a family sure is stressful!
“Family” isn't limited to only those living under the same roof either. When it comes to raising children, Hillary Clinton taught us that “It Takes a Village” and, when you find that matters are beyond your control, there's no shame in turning to your community for help. The humans with their Scotland Yard and various newspaper outlets were no help in solving the case of the stolen puppies so Pongo and Perdita would turn to the “The Twilight Bark” - the animals' all-in-one law enforcement, gossip chain and detective agency. It took only one night of barking for word to reach Suffolk where the Colonel, Captain and Sergeant Tibbs would locate the stolen puppies at nearby Hell Hall (the Old De Vil place) and send word back to the Dalmatians in London. It's during the one hundred and one Dalmatians nearly hundred mile trek from Suffolk back to London that a Collie offers shelter, cows give nourishment and a Labrador provides transportation – a true team effort and proof that one family's lost children is EVERYONE'S lost children.
If anything, One Hundred and One Dalmatians proves that falling in love is easy but keeping a family safe, happy and healthy is more challenging and rewarding than any love story we've seen from Disney up to this point. It really makes you appreciate Pongo and Perdita’s fully-developed, lyrical love story in contrast to the more melodic, half-cocked trysts of Cinderella and her Prince, Lady and Tramp and Aurora and Phillip. Also, when issues fall outside the depth of the nuclear family, it's nice to have the support of the community and the heroics of “The Twilight Bark” provide the perfect example of this. Let’s just hope the Dalmatians have a less tumultuous go of it on their Dalmatian Plantation, where they can spend their nights in peace, plopped in front of the TV – like all well-adjusted, happy families.
On a more whimsical note...
With imminent danger to the unborn, the puppies subsequent birth, a sizable adoption and a very happy ending, could One Hundred and One Dalmatians be a thinly veiled allegory espousing the virtues of the anti-abortion/pro-life movement? Probably not since the movie predates the movement by nearly twenty years. However, when you consider that a frightened and very pregnant Perdita says “I was so happy at first. But now I wish we weren't having any.” Then Pongo, as narrator, surmises “Poor Perdita, of course she had no choice.” “No Choice????' Sounds like fodder for pro-life propaganda to me!
I love it when a spotted Roger stands up to Cruella – what a hero!
According to the certificate on the wall, Roger Radcliffe received a degree from the London Conservatory of Music.
There were no guests at Roger and Anita's wedding... all the church pews were empty.
With all the pictures of Pongo and Perdita on the walls, Roger and Anita really did consider their dogs to be a part of their family.
As Anita's old school mate, maybe Cruella De Vil was just mad about not being invited to the wedding.
Cruella's home comes furnished with her very own Devil phone!
Anita affectionately calls Roger an “idiot” once, Cruella calls Horace and Jasper “idiots” six times, Anita not-so-affectionately calls Roger an “idiot” once more and even Roger gets into the act calling Pongo and “idiot.”
We only hear six of the fifteen puppy's names: Lucky, Patch, Rolly, Pepper, Freckles and Penny.
You’ll notice that Lucky’s spots form a horseshoe pattern on his back.
The cartoon the puppies are watching in Hell Hall is Disney's Springtime (1929).
No matter how much Rolly complains about being hungry, he never gets fed.
All eighty four adopted Dalmatians were bought and paid for by Cruella De Vil from various pet shops.
Even though the two movies take place over forty years apart and on two different continents, five characters from Lady and the Tramp make brief cameos: Jock, Peg, Bulll, Lady and Tramp (he's on top of the car!).
We know the story takes place in 1952 because one of the headlines on the newspaper Horace and Jasper are reading reads “Carlsen Speaks” which is in reference to Henrik Kurt Carlsen, captain of the freighter Flying Enterprise, which sank after a prolonged struggle in the Atlantic.
A plethora of colourful language is used throughout the film – especially by the Baduns Horace and Jasper. Here are some of the more notable words and phrases: palaver, fiddle-faddle, Johnny Horner, balderdash, hocus pocus, hogwash, collywobbles, peeper, lummox and hullabaloo.
The animated original would be given a live-action remake with 101 Dalmatians (1992) and then that would receive it's very own sequel in 102 Dalmatians (2000).