As I did with Pinocchio, I'm going to do a mosaic for the film One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Before starting, I have to thank Hans Perk, who has generously provided the studio documentation for this and many other Disney films on his website. The mosaic to come would not be possible without Hans' collection.
I also want to talk a bit about the film before getting into the details of each shot. My own career and interests are focused on direction, story and animation, so those are the things that I'll be concentrating on. I know that Dalmatians was a major design change for Disney features in terms of art direction, colour styling and the use of Xerox to transfer the animators' drawings to cels. However, there are people who are far more qualified than I to talk about those aspects of the film and I can only hope that somebody else will write on those subjects.
Dalmatians is popular with audiences and well thought of by critics. It has comedy, suspense, and excitement and it moves at a very brisk pace. In addition, the personalities in the film are memorable; each of them is specific, consistent and compelling. The film is lighthearted entertainment that succeeds on many levels.
Two levels where the film does fall short are character and theme. Character, as opposed to personality, has to do with depth and change. The personalities of Dalmatians are all on the surface. There are no hidden qualities that are revealed as a result of the events of the film. The personalities end the film identical to how they started it. Unlike many other Disney films, such as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi, the characters do not grow; they do not see the world differently as a result of what they've experienced.
Part of this has to do with the nature of kidnapping stories. Dalmatians was the first use of this idea as the basis of an entire animated Disney feature, but it was not the last time that Disney used it. The Aristocats and The Rescuers are also built around this motif. Other studios have also used it: Dick Williams' Raggedy Ann and Andy as well as Pixar's Toy Story films and Finding Nemo.
One aspect to these stories is that there's a perfect world that is disrupted by the kidnapping. The victims are rescued and they, as well as additional characters, are returned to the perfect world. It can be a very conservative form because, in some ways, it's a return to the womb. That's almost explicit in Raggedy Ann and Andy, but it's also the case in Dalmatians. Because the world is perfect to start with and perfection is regained, there can't be any growth and it's hard for the story to add up to a theme.
Pixar's handling of this is more sophisticated than Disney's. Finding Nemo starts and ends in the world of the reef, but both Marlin and Nemo change over the course of the film and their relationship changes as well. Nemo is forced to be more self-reliant and Marlin realizes that risk is unavoidable and that parents must leave emotional room for their children to grow away from them. There is nothing like this in the parent-child relationships in Dalmatians.
Dalmatians completes a transition from focusing on children in a hostile world in the earliest Disney features and children as members of a bored middle class in the films of the '50s. In the '60's films, the characters with the most potential for growth -- the children -- are ignored in favor of the adults who supervise them. I've written that it's probably a result of the artists getting older and getting farther away from a child's viewpoint, but all the children of the animated Disney 60's films (the puppies, Wart, Mowgli, the kittens) are the focus of adult agendas rather than growing to create agendas of their own, as do Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians has just been re-released on DVD, so this seems like a good time to examine the film more closely. Let the mosaics begin.