101 Dalmatians (1961)
You'll be seeing spots!
Tired of the bachelor life they lead, a Dalmatian named Pongo (voice of Rod Taylor) decides to play cupid for his pet Roger (voice of Ben Wright), a pipe-smoking, quiet-living songwriter. When he sites a bookish looking woman (Anita) accompanying a rather attractive spotted canine (Perdita) on an afternoon walk, the determined dog drags his man into the park after the pair. With a little ingenuity the boys manage to cross leashes with the girls, and soon wedding bells are pealing for both couples.
But the bliss of matrimony and the blessed discovery that Perdita (voice of Cate Bauer) is in a family way hardly has time to settle upon the newlyweds before a dark cloud rains on their happiness. Cruella De Vil (voice of Betty Lou Gerson), an acquaintance of Anita's (voice of Lisa Davis), blows into their lives demanding to buy the expected puppies. When Roger refuses to sell, the fur clad, cigarette-puffing socialite storms out, sputtering indignantly and thundering threats.
Then, a few weeks after the arrival of fifteen bundles of joy, a couple of hooligans (voiced by J. Pat O'Malley and Fred Worlock) break into the house and abduct the entire litter. Although Roger and Anita are immediately suspicious of Cruella, the police can find no evidence to connect the eccentric heiress with the crime. Frustrated by the red tape of the human world, Pongo and Perdita decide to take matters into their own paws.
Calling on the help of the "Twilight Bark", the concerned parents spread the word amongst the four-legged inhabitants of London. Sure enough, someone sniffs out a clue. But when the Dalmatians set out on the trail of their dog-napped offspring, they find a lot more tail-wagging adventure than they ever imagined.
Based on a book by Dodie Smith, Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians has been a family favorite since it debuted in 1961. Yet for very young viewers, the slapstick violence may be a bit frightening. From the moment we are introduced to the fanatical villainess, the canines are in constant peril. Bumbling, booze-drinking burglars talk of killing them and making their skins into fur coats. As well, the animals are hunted, chased by cars and have to endure blizzard conditions. Another concern with the production is the frequent portrayals of tobacco use (by both "good" and "bad" characters). While the studio does include a warning about smoking at the beginning of the movie, moms and dads will want to discuss these depictions with their children.
Looking past these blemishes, the film does provide an entertaining romp while promoting the value of family, demonstrating the love of parents, and illustrating the power of co-operation. But beware! After spending time with this pack of pups, your own brood may start howling for 101 pets of their own.