In all of the Disney canon, is there a song
more insidiously catchy than "Cruella De Vil?" It isn't
just because of the way Roger (Ben Wright) keeps humming
it and sometimes even playing it when the villain flits
into his house. Something about the song and the woman seize
the imagination of child after child, making it and her
one of Disney's biggest figures in a vault full of those
larger than life. No wonder Glenn Close would have killed
to play her in the live-action remakes.
So it's almost strange that Disney would
have waited so long to give 101 Dalmatians it's "Platinum
Edition." Certainly Pongo, Perdita and their brood have
been popular since the film's original 1961 release. The
pups even had their own series on Disney channel, and one
of the better direct-to-video sequels.
Whatever the reason for the delay, it's
here at last, digitally restored and given a 5.1 Surround
soundtrack to make sure that song really worms its way into
the back of your brain. Heavily influenced by design trends
of the late fifties and early sixties, the movie also stands
as a transition film for the Disney Animation Studio. The
first to use xerography, it moved the Disney style into
a harder, scratchier look which worked for films while Disney
himself was alive to work on them. (You can see the downside
of xerography in far too many moments of the otherwise entertaining
The AristoCats and Robin Hood).
But you don't need me to go into a lot
of history of the film. The DVD has 101 pop-up facts, a
good use of DVD technology (and probably even more seamless
in Blu-Ray - sorry, haven't made the transition yet). What
it loses in exchange is the meticulous commentary tracks
that earlier Platinum Editions have had. Perhaps it's simply
a combination of two sad factors - Walt didn't live long
enough after this to do a lot of reflection on the film's
place in his history, and many of the key players have themselves
passed away by now.
Instead, animation fans have to turn to
Disc Two for a documentary on the making of the film, accompanied
by a "recreation" of Walt's correspondence with Dodi Smith,
the author of the original novel. Yes, there's a novel,
and it's quite a good piece of children's literature, too.
Of course, there has to be focus on Cruella herself, in
a decent little featurette.
Continuing with their DVD innovation introduced
in the previous AristoCats release, Disney offers
a virtual puppy option. Again, you can play it as a set-top
game, but most of the real action gets unlocked if you play
the DVD-ROM in your PC. Brilliant move to compete with products
like Webkins, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this as
part of a larger strategy to get kids deeply wrapped up
in Disney Online.
Buying the DVD, though, still centers around
the movie, and you already know it's a classic. If your
kids only know the live-action version, then you owe it
to them to buy this, because it really is far superior.
A fun adventure with a killer song (the disc does include
some deleted musical numbers - yet none hold a candle),
101 Dalmatians really is one of those movies that
you know kids will treasure.
101 Dalmatians (Two-Disc Platinum Edition)