"101 Dalmatians" was the first movie that I took my son to see in a movie theater. He could not have had any idea of what sort of magical place we were walking into with all those rows of seats and the giant curtain (this was a classic movie palace in Champaign, Illinois, with a gigantic screen and all of the seats laid out in a horizontal rectangle rather than the traditional vertical arrangement). I think the first movie I saw in a movie theater was "Pinocchio," although I might be wrong. I do remember that the first movie I saw that was neither at the drive-in nor at the base theater was "Mary Poppins." We drove to some town near the base and had to wait in line during the showing we had intended to see in order to actually get in to the one after that. Decades later when Disney released "Mary Poppins" for the last time in theaters I finally got to see it again, and remembering how great it had been that first time many years ago was something of an emotional experience. I wonder if my son will have anything like that reaction when he sees "101 Dalmatians" on DVD; after all, it is not quite the same.
The story here should be familiar to most. Dog (Pongo) meets dog Purdy) and helps boy meet girl. The dogs have puppies and the evil Cruella De Vil wants to buy the puppies to make a fur coat, thereby giving rise to a generation of children who grow up to be anti-fur. Cruella arranges for the puppies to be puppynapped, at which point Pongo and Purdy go off to the rescue, aided and abetted by a nice collection of supporting animal characters as the story goes on to reveal the meaning of the title (the movie is both anti-fur and pro-adoption). The tale is relatively simple simply, but it is hard not to have 99 spotted puppies and not be rather charming, espcially given the dedication of the Disney studio to giving each of the original puppies their own personalities (and patterns of spots).
This is the eleventh release of Disney's Platinum Editions, and in their effort to update the idea that the studio's films are something special, Disney has been loading up these DVDs with a quantity and quality of extras that make the folks putting out the Criterion Collection editions seem like pikers. There are two pop-up tracks with 101 trivia facts, the first geared for the family and the second intended for the family (somebody actually counted all of the dogs' spots throughout the movie). Disc One also has another one of those teeny-bopper music videos with Selena Gomez of "Hannah Montana" doing "an all-new rocking version" of "Cruella De Vil" (Like there was an old rocking version). There are more treats to be found on Disc Two divided in Games & Activities (e.g., Puppy Profiler, "101 Dalmatians" Fun With Language Games), Music & More (deleted songs, extended versions, and the "Kanine Krunchies" Jingle), and Backstage Disney. That last one has a half-hour featurette on the innovative art work of the film, "Cruella De Vil: Drawn to Be Bad," a reenactment of the correspondence between Walt Disney and author Dodie Smith, and an assortment of trailers, radio and TV spots. In short, there is way too much here to get through in one sitting. Final Note: "Sleeping Beauty" is due for a Fall release this year and the lucky 13th Platinum Edition will finally be "Pinocchio."