Snow Day Movies

Best Snow Day MoviesSo I’ve heard of this little thing called Snowmogeddon that many of you are experiencing.  It is gorgeous here in Utah so go figure! As many of you are stuck inside with travel restrictions I thought I would help you out and suggest some great movies for watching on a snow day.  I figure you either want something you can cozy up with, something long or something cold.

For some reason I always think of making popcorn, hot cocoa and brownies when there is a blizzard outside.  Yum!

I am also specifically not picking any Christmas movies  because most people don’t watch those in January.

Here we go!

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy-

lord of the ringsWhat better for a day stuck inside than a good trilogy and it’s hard to top Lord of the Rings.  You could even watch the extended editions with all that time.  What Peter Jackson did truly fits the word epic. They hit every movie lover need- great action, beautiful worlds, good performances and a battle against evil that has real heart at the core. When you get to the final scene with Samwise, Frodo, Gollum and the ring it is so satisfying.

2. Up

up_posterPerfect time to watch a movie about a floating house when you are stuck in the house!  I can’t think of a time when I wouldn’t want to watch Up.  It’s sweet, funny and touching.  I love the opening sequence more than any other piece of filmmaking I’ve ever seen.  I love that a character passes away yet her presence is felt throughout the film.  It’s a reminder to us that those we love and have lost are still a part of our lives. It’s also very funny and has some nifty action, a good villain, great voice performances and a perfect score.

3. Shining

shiningGot a little cabin fever?  I can’t think of a more appropriate and terrifying movie than Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  It is the only horror movie I like because it is about a man going insane not some outside force attacking.  The artistry is a huge step above the typical horror movie and there is a lot of symbolism that can keep you thinking.  Plus, great performances from all involved.

4. 101 Dalmatians

101 dalmations

My tails froze and my nose is froze and my ears are froze and my toes are froze

Of course I have to include a Disney and I almost went with Lady and the Tramp because that is a very cozy movie but I decided on 101 Dalmatians because it is warm, funny and has a lot of scenes in the snow. Cruella is one of Disney’s best villains and the dogs get really close to getting caught many times.  The scene getting into the van makes me always hold my breath.  Cruella’s plan is so outrageous it also gives us some great laughs.  One of my favorites and a rare time where the sketch style is actually a benefit to all those spotted puppies.

5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

ferrisWhat is a snow day but an unexpected day off, so this is a perfect film for the occasion.  Ferris’ antics are obviously over the top but there is a real heart to the film which I actually find quite moving.  There is a theory that the whole day is planned by Ferris because Cameron is going to commit suicide and it is all set up to get him to the moment with the car and confronting his father.  I don’t know if that is true or not but it makes sense.  It’s one of those rare pictures which balances comedy, great writing, likable performances, 4th wall jokes and pretty intense drama. I like it more each time I see it.

6.  Frozen

Frozen-movie-posterHow could I not put it in?  Let the cold never bother you anyway and watch one of Disney’s most satisfying movies and one of the best musicals in a long time.  I love the relationship between the sisters as I have 3 sisters and trying to figure out what’s in their heads is really hard.  I thought the ending worked and the villain twist surprised me, which is hard to do in a fairytale.  They also used just enough of Olaf to be funny without overdoing it.  I know it has its detractors but I love it!

7. Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice

Technically this is not a movie but a miniseries but I figure you have 6 hours when snowed in why not watch Colin Firth stare longingly into Lizzie’s eyes…Sigh?  This is the standard by which all Jane Austen adaptations are measured.  Andrew Davies is such a great director for period pieces and the whole cast is engaging with the exception of Susannah Harker who is a rather blank Jane.  I love Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie and of course Colin Firth with the staring, eloquence, and a little dip in the lake we won’t soon forget.  Other great miniseries to watch are North and South (my favorite book), Wives and Daughters, Little Dorrit, Downton Abbey, Persuasion/Emma/Sense and Sensibility.  They are all great!

8. Groundhog Day-

groundhog day

It’s only a few days away from Groundhog Day so why not watch a hilarious comedy about the holiday? Bill Murray is at his best as a cranky weatherman named Phil who is forced to cover the groundhog day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Then he lives that aggravating day over and over again.  It is funny but there is also a nice heart to the story where he learns to see people in a new way including Andie MacDowell as the love interest.  He starts looking at her very cynically but as the days continue he understands her and starts to think a little less selfishly.  Terrific writing and directing by the great Harold Ramis.

9. Fargo-

Fargo_movieposter

I admit the ending I have to look away.  It’s pretty bloody but aside from that a perfect mystery set in cold Fargo, North Dakota. William H Macy is great as the man who’s plan begins to unravel.  Steve Buscemi is so creepy as one of the kidnappers. But the real star is Frances McDormand as the pregnant sheriff Marge who is one of the most likable characters in recent memory.  She is smarter than everyone else in the room but everyone discounts her because of her sex, way of speaking and being pregnant.  It makes you root for her and smile at the same time. Great direction by the Coen Brothers making the cold landscape of Fargo practically a character in the story.

10. 7 Brides for 7 Brothers

seven bridesA classic musical directed by Stanley Donnen and starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel as a couple who marry on first sight which gives Keel’s backwoods brothers a bad idea for getting their own brides.  It is silly and over-the-top premise but it works almost in spite of itself.  The engaging cast of mostly dancers helps keep it likable and light.  It also has some of the best dancing in any Hollywood movie of its era. The barn raising scene alone is amazing.  And it is a perfect musical to watch in a blizzard because the girls get snowed in by an avalanche!

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There are a lot of other movies I could have picked.  What are some of your favorites? Please share in the comments and stay warm!

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Is Hand Drawn Animation Dead?

I just wanted to share this video with all of you from the Cartoon Palooza.  He covers the history of the transition from hand drawn to computer animation.  This is a divisive topic but I will share some of my thoughts after the video.

I’ve said it a number of times I think 2014 has been one of the best years for animation in the last 20 years.  It is thrilling to see so many different voices and visual styles being told.  Everything is out there from Book of Life to The Lego Movie to Big Hero 6. And I’ve liked at least on some level every animated movie I’ve seen this year except for Legends of Oz and The Nut Job. It’s an exciting time to be an animated movie fan and part of the reason we are able to have such variety and creative output is because of computer animation.

It is just a fact that the average studio can put together a computer animated film faster than hand drawn.  Disney just admitted as much when they changed their upcoming release Moana from 2D to CG so it could be finished 2 years sooner.  2 years is a long time for a studio to hold out a film just for artistic integrity that will probably not show as any benefit in the box office (of the top 5 biggest animated films ever at box office only 1, Lion King, is hand drawn).

Cartoon Palooza makes a good point about Tangled but the reason why that film was so expensive was not because of the animation.  It was all the rewrites, reshoots and it being their first 3D film. If a studio can make a movie 3D than they are going to make more profit and computer animation looks better in 3D than hand drawn.

Now we are getting hand drawn movies from the Studio Ghibli team and other smaller studios.  This December we get Song of the Sea which looks stunning.

What I want is good quality movies and if computer animation makes more people jump into the game than I think it is great.  If I was just going on personal preference I’d pick hand drawn but not a strong preference.  I love the artistry of the Pixar films.  Ratatouille, for instance, has some of the most gorgeous backgrounds of any movie I’ve ever seen.  So it just depends on the movie.

ratatouille-paris-pixar-dvdbash

Or how about this scene from Wall-e?  It’s stunning.

Most importantly I just want to be entertained whether it is 2D, 3D, hand drawn or stop motion.  So if CG allows for more than 2 players to be in the game of animation and we get more years like 2014 I am a happy girl.

That said, maybe John Lasseter could set aside a few animators that could work on something over time like a Lilo and Stitch- not a big expensive epic just a simple story with hand drawn animation?  Something that would keep the medium alive?  Or it would be great if studios came to be known for hand drawn like Laika with stop motion animation.  Someone could make it their nitch and at least do well enough to keep the studio profitable.  If they are careful about release dates (which has been brilliantly timed for all the animated movies this year.  Only one stinker at the box office Legends of Oz) than it will probably do quite well.

Maybe a way to go is to use characters from an animated series like reclaiming the Avatar series after what Shyamalan did to it?    That way you would have a natural fan base to tap into? If they can pump out the hand drawn for the shows maybe it wouldn’t be too hard to make them into a movie?

Again, thankfully we do have Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon putting out quality, if not American, hand drawn films.  So it is not a totally dead art.

The way I see it animation has gone through different periods.  We went through the Xerox phase in the 60s and 70s and there were some good one’s (Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Winnie the Pooh) and some bad one’s (Aristocats, Sword in the Stone, Black Cauldron). Now we are in the CG phase and there have been hits and misses but all it takes is that one big movie to hit with hand drawn and people will be back on the bandwagon.  So, no I do not think the medium is dead. Like I said Song of the Sea is coming out this year so it is being made by smaller, foreign studios.  Even a moderate hit will prick the executives ears and they will make hand drawn again. It goes down to supply and demand.

But like I said to me what matters most is being entertained.  I want to see art, music, and a great story in any medium. I hope hand drawn is not dead but I understand why studios don’t want to take the risk. From a business decision it does often make sense, and they are after all businesses first.

 

Addition-

Here’s something I think shows what I am trying to say.  For years we would get 1, maybe 2 animated films a year.  This is the result of hand drawn animation. As glorious as those films could be and could not be it was just not a venture every creative thinker could do.

If we look at the 100 best reviewed films on rotten tomatoes we see the following.  You will notice that in the 90s during the renaissance there was only 1 film that made the list for most of the years.  It wasn’t until 1998 when we got both Antz and Bugs Life that things start to pick up in numbers.  The largest number is 2012 with 9 films that critics at least gave the highest scores too. My point being with computer animation more ideas and projects are able to get greenlit and that’s a good thing.

People are still making traditional animated films.  Even if it is not the big studios there are 2 releases this year so they exist. I can totally see a studio like Liaka emerging with the hand drawn niche. There will be 2 more added to 2014 by the time the reviews come in for Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya to this list . That will mean that 2014 will have as many critically lauded animated movies as the highest year 2012. That’s a good thing for the future of animated films. Plus, all of the animated films in 2014 made money except Legends of Oz. That’s also a good thing. People feel inspired to take creative risks when they know there is a population that wants to see said movies. So if you want hand drawn movies than support the one’s that do come out. It’s as simple as that.

1991 1
1992 1
1993 1
1994 1
1995 1
1996 1
1997 2
1998 4
1999 5
2000 3
2001 6
2002 4
2003 3
2004 2
2005 4
2006 4
2007 4
2008 6
2009 8
2010 7
2011 6
2012 9
2013 3
2014 7

Now you can debate whether critics were duped by certain movies and the blogosphere knows better but the output has without a doubt increased. I like hand drawn but if computer animation means we get more stories and things as beautiful and different as Book of Life or as funny as The Lego Movie than sign me up.

I hope the big studios will make hand drawn animation but I don’t agree that it is dead, and like I said, I think the state of animation is in an amazing place.

But again this is just my opinion but it’s my blog and so I call it like I see it. Feel free to disagree. Just do so politely.

Most Rewatchable Disney Canon Films

I will be seeing Big Hero 6 in the next 3 hours! Oh boy!

I was talking with a friend about Robin Hood and told her despite its problems it is one of the most rewatchable Disney’s.  What I mean by that is some movies are masterpieces but more weighty than the kind of thing I want to watch over and over again .

So what are those movies that I don’t mind repeat and frequent rewatching?  What’s the one that if I’m feeling like a movie that will entertain but not challenge me what do I pick?  I will add that I seem to have a unique high tolerance for repetition.  Other people tire of music, movies, food, books and I just don’t.  If it is something I like than I like it forever and repeatedly.

That said, some films like The Lion King I love but the intensity makes it tough to rewatch again and again.

I will also say that all of the Pixar movies with the exception of Brave (yes even Cars 2) are very rewatchable.   That’s why I’ve struggled to write up reviews of Pixar ,movies . How many ways can I say masterpiece?

pixar

 

Here goes in no particular order:

1.  Tangled- romantic comedies are probably my favorite genre to rewatch.  Tangled is funny, light, joyous, beautiful and a terrific villain.

Tangled_rapunzel_poster_20

2. Robin Hood- Maybe not the most ambitious Disney film but the humor makes it very rewatchable.  I love the voice performances and while it is a bit too long it is so much fun I enjoy rewatching it.

robin hood poster

3. Jungle Book- I hate the ending but other than that it is charming, funny, and the music is the true star.  It clips along so well with moments of real heart.  It is certainly up there in the movies I’ve seen the most.

1967_80sRR_JUNGLEBOOK

4. Emperor’s New Groove- Again not the most ambitious but so full of laughs that it is great to rewatch.  Comedies are often the best for rewatching as we don’t always feel up to an intense emotional experience.

emperors poster

5. Aladdin- Another comedy makes the list but Aladdin is so much fun with the manic energy of Robin Williams.  Every time I see it I spot a new impression or moment I had missed before.  It will entertain both boys and girls equally and it is just one I wouldn’t mind watching on most any day.

aladdin poster

6. Frozen- I can see many of you roll your eyes because you are sick of this movie.  I repeat I don’t get sick of movies.  If I like them I like them and I like Frozen.  I could listen to the music all day and the humor is great, pacing a lot of fun and I just enjoy watching it most any day.

Frozen-movie-poster

7. Lady and the Tramp- sweet, simple, romantic and with some tension and laughs.  Just something so pleasant I can’t think of a time when I would not enjoy watching it. As the poster says the ‘happiest motion picture’ from early Disney.

Lady-and-tramp-1955-poster

8. 101 Dalmatians- A lot of of humor with Cruella,  fun lively story, lots of great characters.  Dry with with Horace and Jasper.  Always at the top of my rewatch list.

101 dalmations

9. Lilo and Stitch- Probably my most emotional film on this list but it is so lovingly told and Lilo is such a real kid I am drawn to the picture despite my dislike for Stitch.  Maybe part of it is I find the Hawaiian local and music so relaxing it’s an easy rewatch for me..  It brings back many happy memories.

lilo and stitch poster

10. Mulan- Another movie with a lot of humor, romance, heart, and excitement.  Just thoroughly entertaining and not too deep or morose like other less rewatchable films.

Movie_poster_mulanHonorable Mentions- Beauty and the Beast although it feels a little long for a frequent rewatch, Little Mermaid because of my nostalgia for it, and Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is probably the most rewatchable for little one’s.

 

Off to see Big Hero 6!!!!

Movie 20: The Aristocats

poster

When I started this project I was hoping I might find some hidden gems or perhaps grow to love movies I had discounted as a young child.

I guess that kind of happened with Pinocchio and Fantasia but I had already grown to like them as an adult.  I just like them even more after this project.

With our next picture, The Aristocats, we are diving into the 70s and 80s which were rough for Disney animation. There were some gems but there is a reason they call 1989 to 1994 the Disney renaissance.

Unfortunately now on this blog we are in the dark ages…

Let’s talk about Aristocats.

This movie in basically every way is an attempt to merge everything we liked about Lady and the Tramp with 101 Dalmatians and  the result feels pretty mediocre.

Lady and the Tramp elements-

We have a high brow female pet

lady and duchessA tough talking street pet

tramp collage

The Plucky Friends Who Save the Day

napoleon and trusty

Borderline Offensive Asian Stereotype

siamese3

101 Dalmatian Elements-

Villain who doesn’t like pets- (And just to be clear Edgar is no Cruella.  I’m just showing how the copy was attempted)

villainsCute Kittens/Puppies-

aristocats4

Long Journey to Get Back to Owners  (they even both have a little one who can’t make it in the cold scene)

aristocats5Finally a European city local

ciities

And you throw in a fun score from the Sherman Brothers with Phil Harris ala Jungle Book and you’ve got the Aristocrats….

The Story-

So, we know what it is derivative of.  Does it do those things well?

It’s not terrible but the Aristocats is very forgettable.  Here’s the story:

A rich Parisian woman named Mademoiselle Adelaide has 4 cats- a mother named Duchess (awfully similar name to Lady don’t you think?) and 3 of her kittens named Marie, Toulouse and Berlioz.  They give the cats French names although none but the mother have a french accent. Why?

Duchess is voiced by Eva Gabor and to be honest I had a hard time understanding anything she said.  I had to put it on subtitles.  I think Disney fixed this with Gabor in The Rescuers but we will see. She is less interesting than Lady because we never feel any sense of growth or anxiety from her.  Indeed when she is away from her madame she seems to be in a good mood, if a little worried about her owner.  When Lady has the muzzle on her and is in the pound it feels much more desperate than anything we see out of Duchess.

Just woke up from and am in a basket in the middle of nowhere but expressions are just the same as before?
Just woke up from and am in a basket in the middle of nowhere but expressions are just the same as before?

Oddly enough, the Duchess and Madame are the only characters that speak with a french accent.

The Madame decides to give all of her money to her butler Edgar but only after her cats are taken care of.  This angers the Butler, so he decides to be rid of the cats. edgar3

My question is wouldn’t this make the most sense to do once the Madame is failing?  Once she isn’t able to search for them or be of any help in finding them?  Also, could he really not share a mansion with some cats?  I mean most people would assume it was his house.  I’d put up with some cats for a mansion.

aristocats02

Even if abducting the cats made sense for Edgar, he is just not the presence and character that Cruella was.  He has very little personality and Cruella cared about looking good in furs which is so much more twisted and interesting than just wanting an inheritance sooner.  Cruella has more personality in her driving than Edgar has in his whole character (which they also try to copy with Edgar as a crazy motorcycle driver to much less effect).

However, before they are abducted we get a song.  It’s little Marie practicing her lessons and it’s okay not great.  It kind of reminds me of the Tremaine sisters practicing in Cinderella.

In this story nobody knows the animals can talk or behave like humans and yet nobody in the story is amazed when they play instruments throughout.  I find that a strange touch.  At least in Lady and the Tramp the one Italian guy thinks it’s strange they are talking to dogs.  In Jungle Book there is just one human and he has lived amongst the animals so he doesn’t know it is strange for them to be playing music and singing.

So, Edgar drugs the cats and puts them by the river; although, he is chased by 2 dogs named Lafayette and Napoleon, who were pretty good together. They are no Jock and Trusty, who had a lot more heart but they are pleasant comic relief.

lafayetteAt least they have some spunk in them. Honestly most of the time the Duchess looks bored.  Even when they meet a tough talking alley cat named Thomas O’Malley she looks disinterested. There is no spark between the two cats like with Tramp and Lady or Pongo and Perdy.

I know I’m over thinking this but if you aren’t going to have an alley cat in France speak with a french accent, and you are going to name him O’Malley shouldn’t he have an Irish accent? Thomas O’Malley is an Irish name if I’ve ever heard one.  I think they just had Phil Harris as the voice because he was so great as Baloo.  They put him in without caring if his character or performance made any sense.

It’s an ok song but it ain’t no bear necessities….

There’s no sense of real danger for any of them like with the dalmatians.  Cruella comes very close to killing the puppies and it is tense.  They have to be a step ahead, smarter and luckier than their foe to make it back home.  If you have both films compare the 101 scene getting onto a truck to the Aristocats getting on to a truck and there really is no comparison. The Aristocats scene is a walk in the park compared to 101.

Just as in 101 we have relief from the horse,  colonel, and sergeant Tibbs, the Aristocats are helped by a cute mouse and 2 British geese (3 if you include a drunk geese uncle who is briefly seen and then forgotten about).  These three side characters  are the best parts of the movies.  I wish the movie was about them to be honest.

roquefert AristgeesePretty quickly and with nothing but sore feet they make it to Paris and meet a group of scat musician cats.  (Again nobody thinks it’s strange all these animals playing music?).  But they sing and while the flashing colors during the song gets old quick it is a fun number and well written by the Sherman brothers.

I hate to keep harping on the accents but it is so distracting to have everyone else sounding like Americans with Duchess tough to understand she is so strongly French. I wish they didn’t have the little girl singing in the song because I don’t think she is good but the song is a lot of fun even if the chopsticks cat is pretty bad…

Without the Duchess even breaking a sweat they make it back home with the Madame and send Edgar to Timbuktu.  Next we get a scene of Thomas domesticated just like in Lady in the Tramp.   This feels hollow because there hasn’t been any chemistry between Thomas and Duchess.  I guess they danced but there was no spaghetti magic!

21474_4I know I’m overthinking things again but in Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians we have 2 couples that don’t have puppies till after they are basically married (quite literally in 101).  But in Aristocats the Duchess has 3 kittens at the start of the movie.  The journey from kitten to cat isn’t that long so we can assume the Duchess must have had some kind of cat relationship (can’t believe I’m writing that) where she was abandoned or left with the 3 kittens.  Isn’t that strange? You would think she had procreated by osmosis by this movie!

Another somewhat nitpicking point-

They are at the most beautiful city in the world and yet nearly every shot looks ugly and gloomy.  Here’s an interesting contrast.

Take a look at Paris from Ratatouille  (I realize different technology but hear me out)

ratatouille-paris-pixar-dvdbashIn their version of Paris it is light  and  bright and your eyes are drawn right to the skyline and the Eiffel Tower.  It looks magical.

In the Aristocats version

aristocats parisIn this version the Eiffel Tower is a part of a distant blur and the skyline is cloudy and gray.  It’s the smokestacks and rooftops which are most prominent.  You would think  the great thing about Paris was the smokestacks and the soot!

You see what I mean? The sketchy xerox style of this era already makes things look dark and dreary and the choices the artists made enhanced that not made it better. And when they did add color it wasn’t in a sparkling magical way like in Lady in the Tramp, it was distracting, like an assault to the eyes. It’s like a cat rave.

dancingI don’t know if it was just the netflix version I was watching but some the animation was alarmingly bad on this as well.  There were times when characters spoke where it didn’t quite match up to the images on the screen, especially when the Madame was speaking.

Look at this scene and see if you agree with me they are slightly off.  Like when she says ‘you’re a shameless flatterer George’ her lips don’t match up with what she’s saying.  It kind of reminds me of anime when the translators get really close but not quite with the English dubbing.

Movie Review-

So if you haven’t gathered this is not my favorite film.  I suppose it is harmless fluff but in a world where you can watch the real deal why watch the mediocre copy of the better Disney films? I guess since it’s on netflix right now it will entertain small children.  The music is fun and it isn’t offensive just kind of lazy.  Even on Netflix there are better Disney films like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or Robin Hood.  Put on one of those and then only after you have watched everything else put on the Aristocats.

I guess it was a big hit for Disney so they knew what they were doing in that regard but as a lover of Disney art this fails to impress.  The music is fun but not the Sherman Brothers best.

In a way I kind of feel the same way about the Aristocats as I felt about Fun, Fancy and Free.  Both felt very lazy and derivative of better films.

Plus, Aristocats has such bland characters, a boring villain and no real tension with the cats journey.  The lack of accents bugged me and other story flaws like Edgar’s motivation for killing the cats at that moment didn’t make sense.  Also, why is the Duchess an unexplained mother?

Those are just some of the objections but all in all it’s just a boring, lazy film.

Overall Grade- D- (my lowest grade so far because it is the movie I would least want to rewatch of all the movies I’ve seen to this date)

This is what I call Disney phoning it in…

Movie 17: 101 Dalmatians

101 dalmationsIn any genre of movies we like different films for different reasons.  Some are pure entertainment.  Others teach us lessons.  Some help us empathize with others.  Others are artistic experiences.  Some have great special effects taking us to a new world and then others are just a lot of fun.

101 Dalmatians falls into that latter category.  It is not one of Disney’s ambitious artistic masterpieces; although it certainly has it’s own style.  But, it is an incredibly charming movie for the whole family.  I watched it again today and literally every scene works.  Every character is right on pitch for the story they are trying to tell.  Disney’s more ambitious pictures will always be my favorites but 101 Dalmatians is it’s own version of perfection.

Production-

Released in 1961 101 Dalmatians had the unenviable job of trying to save the studio after the disaster of Sleeping Beauty.   (It seems the end of a decade this happens for Disney.  Always looking for that savior project!).  Sleeping Beauty had taken 9 years to finish, was incredibly labor intensive and it did not turn a profit.  Walt Disney at one point even considered closing down the animation department, as the live action Disney wing was doing very well.

Like so many times before Disney needed a hit.

The project actually began with Walt Disney.  At this time he was minimally involved in the actual production but heavily involved with the storyboarding and brainstorming process.  He had read the novel by Dodie Smith and really liked it.  He then gave it to writer and illustrator Bill Peet and told him to come up with a script.

When Peet gave Disney the script he said it was ‘so perfect’ he didn’t need to be involved and handed the project over to Peet.

At the time a xerox technique had been invented where hand inking could be replaced by a camera that would copy the lines on the cells.  They had tried using this for Sleeping Beauty but it didn’t look right.

Fortunately, the process looked great with black and white, black and white dalmatians that is!

This is why the style of the movie looks like a sketch book.  It was where the xerox technology was and saved animators 1/2 the cost and time it would have otherwise taken.

101-london

The characters were also done using hand drawings and not the rotoscoping of previous films requiring human actor filming, which saved money as well .

DalmatianPuppies

On the xerox they used a spot pattern like a constellation and once they had one anchor spot they went outward.  By the end of the movie they had animated 6,469,652 spots!

They also had a terrific villain that the author Dodie Smith said Bill Peet script had improved upon the book (that’s pretty cool to have an author say about a movie!)

Like Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians did very well at the box office and is still the only Disney animated movie to be remade (for better or worse). Although 2 versions of Jungle Book are coming (groan).

This is also the first time Disney had a movie set in the time period they were writing in.  Previous movies had been period pieces or fantasy settings.

The Story

We start out being introduced to the male dalmatian Pongo.  He tells us about his pet human Roger, who is a confirmed old bachelor.  Naturally Pongo plays matchmaker after he spots a beautiful dalmatian and her equally beautiful owner.

Both pairs end up getting married.

wedding

Next we see wedded bliss and get introduced to Cruella De Vil who is a schoolmate of  Anita.  She is obsessed with beauty and furs. We also learn early on that she is an insane driver.  Her voice performance is so funny.

She is such a great villain because she isn’t even in it for the money.  She just wants to look good.    The vocal performance by Betty Lou Gerson may be my favorite in all of Disney.  It is so funny and over the top.

You will see in the scene above we get the main song in the movie which only has 2 full length songs- Cruella De vil and Dalmatian Plantation (which is actually not fully sung).  It’s actually a pretty big departure for Disney to have so little music.

Cruella finds out when the puppies are delivered and this scene is just hilarious and I love the light in the doorway.

With no luck Cruella sends her goons Horace and Jasper out to steal the puppies in a pretty heartbreaking scene.

The humans try everything but to no avail so Pongo and Perdy send word through the twilight bark- a system of telegraphing information from dog to dog.  What’s amazing about these scenes is the characters are only introduced for a moment or two and yet I like every one of them.  I particularly like a set of horse, a dog named the Colonel and a Tabby Cat that saves the puppies on more than one occasiondalmatian midnight bark.

The Tabby Cat notices some movement over at the old De Vil place ‘Hell Hall’ (not too subtle on names here Cruella De Vil living in Hell Hall!).  So they create a plan to get the puppies away.  To their shock there aren’t 15 but 101!

Like I said, the Tabby Cat is pretty great and saves the puppies until Pongo and Perdy storm in!

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I really like this tabby cat. He’s got guts!

tabby cat

I also like the thieves  are watching a show called ‘What’s My Crime’ set up like a quiz show and a friend of theirs is the guest criminal.  There are lots of little moments of humor in the movie.

what's my crimeCruella finds out they have lost the puppies and becomes enraged.  I find it hilarious to watch this woman drive.

The rest of the movie is a chase caper with various dogs helping the 101 Dalmatians, as well as some cows!  The dogs outsmart the humans every step of the way.

I mean if that doesn’t melt your heart something is wrong with you!

They end up arriving at the house and a dalmatian plantation is in the works!

My Review-

I think little kids respond particularly well to 101 because they can relate to the puppies.  They are cute and kids like stories were children (or small puppies) are smarter than the adults.  That’s why kids like Home Alone so much.  I remember seeing Home Alone in the theater and laughing so hard I could barely breathe.  I think you have some of that same spirit with 101 Dalmatians.

It’s also very well written.  Bill Peet did a terrific job endowing every character with humor and a specific personality.  It reminded me this go-around of the Toy Story movies where we get to know so many of the toys.  Except this was even harder because at least the toys don’t all look alike.  The writing had to be pretty special to make this story work, and they pulled it off.

Cruella is hilarious in every scene she is in.  It is such a preposterous notion for someone to want to kill puppies to make a coat.  I am no dog lover but even I know you don’t hurt puppies! With Lady and the Tramp the conflict came from other animals- cats, rats, etc.  The humans were kind of incidental carriers of the animals.  In 101 there is no real barriers between the dogs world and the humans and this is established right away with the courtship scene in the park.  The two worlds are basically coexisting together and the story does not treat the dogs as any less because they are owned by the humans.  In fact, it may be the reverse as Pongo gets the whole story going.

After my review of Lady and the Tramp I told a commenter that ‘for what they were trying to do it is about as good as they could make it’ but where that movie needed a stronger villain, 101 has that in spades and Cruella is one of Disney’s best.  Mostly because her motives are so shallow and she is completely insane.  It’s a great voice performance and the animators thought of ever detail down to her long icy cigarette and her crazy driving.  She’s so much fun to watch.crazy cruela

So yes, it’s not Disney’s most ambitious artistic film but it does have it’s own style and I just think every choice they made was right.  It is just about perfect.

Evidently Walt Disney was not a great fan of 101 Dalmatians because he felt it took them away from the fantasy and dreaming of earlier projects- was more pedestrian in feel.  I’d agree but it still works.  I wonder if this is why the movie is basically ignored at Disneyland?  No rides or other attractions despite it making a lot of money.

Oh well.  I love it!

Overall Grade A+