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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

101 Dalmatians (1961)



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101 Dalmatians is a spectacularly satisfying film that, among other things, introduced audiences to a new style of animation that Disney adopted. Edges were more clear-cut, colors more vibrant, and backgrounds were intentionally made to look drawn rather than real. It was a style that, coupled with future budget cuts, would ultimately be a detriment to Disney's films, but here it's a definite plus, contributing a wonderfully quaint, upbeat mood to the quaint, upbeat story. The cast, besides the adorable dogs, includes one of Disney's best villains of all time, Cruella de Vil. Like the best of Disney's villains, Cruella is not just evil, she's manipulative, conniving, and imposing; she knows how to get her way and bend those about her to do her will. She has an insatiable lust for furs, smokes till the air is thick with the repulsive scent, has a violently short temper, and cackles with the best of the badguys. Just as wonderful, though for a different reason, are her two inept henchmen, Horace and Jasper, who provide comic relief -- but their function is more than that. Horace and Jasper, however funny or foolish, are also dangerous and mean, and the humor they provide does nothing to undermine their menace. Great villains, coupled with the disarmingly lovable dogs, make a marvelously entertaining (and suspenseful) film, and one of Disney's greatest achievements.

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