The company was in debt following the flop of Sleeping Beauty (1959) and desperately needed a hit. There was even talk of closing down the animation division as the company was refocusing on live action films, television and theme parks.
The birth of the puppies actually happened to the author Dodie Smith. Her dalmatians had 15 puppies, one was born lifeless and her husband revived it. However, they sold most of them, and kept only a small number.
Clarence Nash (best known as the voice of Donald Duck) did the dog barks for this film.
(at around 23 mins) When the puppies are watching TV, you can see that the spots on Lucky's back form a horseshoe - a symbol of good luck.
Xerox was a crucial help in the animation of hundreds of spotted dogs. Disney was able to bring the movie in for about half the cost thanks to this process.
When Walt Disney read Dodie Smith's story in 1956, he immediately snapped up the film rights. Smith had always secretly hoped that Disney would do just that.
Due to the commercial failure of Sleeping Beauty (1959), production costs needed to be cut. As a result, this was the first Disney feature film to use photocopying technology (Xerography), which made an animated film with this much visual complexity possible. It also set the visual style of Disney animation (a scratchy, hard outline look) for years until the technology advanced enough (with the production of The Rescuers (1977)) to allow a softer look.
(at around 1h 5 mins) The scene where the puppies suckle from some friendly cows attracted a lot of criticism at the time of release as it was deemed to be inappropriate for a children's film.
Note that the male puppies wear red collars and the females wear blue ones, as always seen with Pongo and Perdita.
In the early 1990s merchandise tied-in with the video's release was quickly pulled from shelves because the word Dalmatian had been spelled incorrectly as "Dalmation" on some of the product packaging. The merchandise was only available at Disneyland or the Disney Stores.
(at around 35 mins) Characters from Lady and the Tramp (1955) are shown in brief cameos during the Twilight Bark scene: Jock is first shown coming out of a doghouse and then barking into the drainpipe to a dog in an upper apartment. The strays Peg and her friend the bulldog are seen in a pet shop with various puppies, and both Lady and Tramp are shown very briefly with several dogs at the end of the scene when the barking reaches across the entire city.
The author of the book on which the film is based, Dodie Smith, was a successful playwright and novelist who had nine Dalmatians of her own, including one named Pongo. She got the idea for the book when a friend who was at her house saw all the dogs together and remarked, "Those dogs would make a lovely fur coat."
Someone counted all black spots in the movie, frame-by-frame, and reached the total of 6,469,952. This breaks down to 72 spots on Pongo, 68 on Perdita and 32 on each pup.
Quite a few liberties were taken in bringing the book to the screen. In the original story, the two Dalmatians who ran across England to rescue their pups were named Pongo and Missis Pongo, or just plain Missis; Perdita was a stray whose own puppies had been sold, and who was taken into the household to help wet nurse Missis' fifteen puppies. In the film, their owners are named Roger and Anita Radcliffe; in the book, they're Mr. and Mrs. Dearly, no first names given. The book also features two Nannies (Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler) to the film's one; Jasper appears under the same name in both versions, but Saul is changed to Horace for the film; and Tib, the book's heroic gray tabby female, is transformed into an orange-colored tom. However, the film was not the first time the story had undergone changes; "The Hundred and One Dalmatians" first appeared as a serial in Ladies' Home Journal, under the title "The Great Dog Robbery".
Out of the 15 puppies Perdita gives birth to, only 6 are named in this film (Lucky, Rolly, Patch, Penny, Pepper, and Freckles). Other incarnations like the live action film and the TV series revealed 6 other names (Wizzer, Dipstick, Two-Tone, Cadpig, Fidget and Jewel), which combined still leaves 3 puppies unnamed.
Cruella De Vil was designed as a manic take-off on the flamboyant actress Tallulah Bankhead, as well as some of her personality quirks.
Walt Disney disliked the rough drawing style brought about by the Xerography process.
At the time of its release in January 1961, this was the biggest grossing animated film of all time.
In the book, Roger is not a struggling composer but a financial wizard who helped wipe out Britain's national debt.
The filmmakers deliberately cast dogs with deeper voices than their human owners so they had more power.
Contrary to popular belief, the cartoon that the puppies watch on the TV in Hell Hall is not Flowers and Trees (1932). It is actually Springtime (1929).
(at around 3 mins) The author, Dodie Smith, noted that her favorite cel in the movie, was the one where Pongo stretches while lying on a window sill near the beginning.
Barbara Luddy (the voice of Lady in Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Merryweather in Sleeping Beauty (1959)) provided the live referencing for Nanny.
Lucille Bliss, the voice of Anastasia in Cinderella (1950), sings the Kanine Krunchies theme song.
To cut costs, the studio was forced to reduce its staff of inkers from 500 to less than 100.
Lisa Daniels only provided about a third of Perdita's voicework in the film. Halfway through the movie's lengthy production, she got married and moved to New York City so Cate Bauer completed the vocal performance.
Bill Peet kept in close consultation with Dodie Smith whilst preparing the story, including sending her some sketches of the characters. Smith felt that the Disney studios were improving on her story.
Cruella's telephone reflects her mood! Watch the face on it closely each time Cruella's mood changes
The dogs aren't actually white-they're very light grey. White would have been too bright on screen, and wouldn't have worked well in the snowy scenes.
There is a scene where The Colonel and Jasper come face to face. They are both voiced by the same actor, being J. Pat O'Malley.
Walt Disney was said to have been so disappointed in the layout work done by Ken Anderson on the film that he did not forgive him until the end of his life.
Art director Ken Anderson came up with the idea of overlaying cels of line drawings over the painted backgrounds to match the Xeroxed cels of the characters. For the next twenty years, all Disney features - with the exception of The Jungle Book (1967) and the animated segments in Mary Poppins (1964) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) - would use this technique for their backgrounds. With The Fox and the Hound (1981), Disney returned to fully painted backgrounds, with a brief reprise of the cel overlay for Oliver & Company (1988).
Disney Feature Animation later adopted "The Twilight Bark" as the name of their internal newsletter.
Bill Lee is Roger's singing voice. Four years later, he would go on to provide the singing voice for Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965). Ben Wright who provides Roger's speaking voice also appears in The Sound of Music as Nazi Gauleiter, Herr Zeller.
800 gallons of special paint weighing nearly 5 tons were used in producing the animation cells and backgrounds - that's enough to cover 15 football fields or the outsides of 135 average homes. Nearly 1,000 different shades of colour were created.
On previous Disney animated features, the top animators were assigned a character and drew the bulk (if not all) of that particular character's scenes individually. Animation on this film was far more of a "team effort" - for example, seven of the famed "Nine Old Men" worked on Perdita. There was one notable exception: Marc Davis drew Cruella De Vil entirely on his own.
Mary Wickes, who did live reference for Cruella De Vil, would later go onto voice Lavern the Gargoyle 35 years later in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).
The various vehicles in the movie are live-action models painted white with black lines. Each frame of the live-action footage was Xeroxed onto cels and painted the same as the hand-drawn characters. This would become standard procedure at Disney and other studios until the mid-1980s, when computer animated models first came into use.
The final film for animator Marc Davis. After animating Cruella De Vil in this film, Davis went to work for WED Enterprises, designing for such Disneyland rides as the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Bill Peet was assigned the task of writing the story, making him the first man at the Disney studios to single-handedly create the story for one of the animated features.
Helene Stanley acted as the live-action reference model for Anita, as she had done for the title character of Cinderella (1950) and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (1959).
One of the few Disney animated features to have only 2 songs. All others contain 3 or more
The final Disney animated feature film that Les Clark worked on before his retirement.
2 of the Voice Actors in this film had previously been the Narrators in 2 Previous Disney Animated Movies prior. Betty Lou Gerson who did the voice of Cruella De Vil and Miss Birdwell previously did the Opening Narration in Cinderella (1950), whilst Tom Conway who did the voice of The Quizmaster and The Collie previously did the Opening Narration in Peter Pan (1953).
CASTLE THUNDER: Various versions are used during the storm while the puppies are born. The version used on Bambi (1942) is heard when Cruella enters, and again when she leaves and Pongo barks at her.
(at around 31 mins) When the Baduns are talking on the phone to Cruella, they are holding a newspaper. The only headline on the front page (apart from the dognapping) is CARLSEN SPEAKS, and a picture of a capsized ship. This helps us to date the story, since the Carlsen in question is Henrik Kurt Carlsen, captain of the freighter Flying Enterprise, which sank after a prolonged struggle in the Atlantic. This was the media event of the year in 1952. However, at the very beginning of this scene, on the front pages of the newspapers that Cruella is reading, just right under the masthead, you can clearly read the date, which is November 2 (Sunday), 1958.
Walt Disney originally had Lisa Davis read the role of Cruella De Vil, but she did not think that she was right for the part and wanted to try reading the role of Anita. Disney agreed with her after the two of them read the script for a second time.
When Bill Peet sent Dodie Smith some drawings of the characters, she wrote back saying that he had actually improved her story and that the designs looked better than the illustrations in the book.
This is one of three films in the Disney animated canon to feature cigarette smoking, cigar smoking, and pipe smoking, the other two being Pinocchio and The Great Mouse Detective (1986).
In the book, Roger and Anita's last name was Dearly instead of Radcliffe. Presumably, Walt Disney changed it since they already had two similarly named couples: Jim Dear and Darling from Lady and the Tramp (1955), and George and Mary Darling from Peter Pan (1953). Dearly though would later be used as their surnames in the Live Action Film, 101 Dalmatians (1996) and 101 Dalmatians: The Series (1997).
Chuck Jones once commented that only Walt Disney would make an animated film about one hundred and one dalmatians: "if I had tried to make One Dog Named Spot for Leon Schlesinger, he would not let me do it. Spots cost money."
The new Xerox process had been initially tried out on the animated short Goliath II (1960).
In the scene when Horace and Jasper are watching television, the TV show they're watching "What's My Crime" is loosely based off of a current TV show called What's My Line? (1950). What's My Crime consists of a panel asking several questions to guess what crime the guest has committed, while in What's My Line? (1950) is the same but the panel tries to guess who the mystery guest is while blindfolded.
The production of the film signalled a change in the graphic style of Disney's animation. Sleeping Beauty (1959) had a more graphic, angular style than previous Disney films, and Dalmatians had an even more stylized look, inspired by British cartoonist Ronald Searle, which would become the norm for Disney animation for years to come.
This film was shot in Standard Academy (1.33:1), although it was designed to be matted to a ratio of 1.75 for widescreen-equipped theaters. When re-released in the mid-1990s, the entire 1.33 frame was matted within a 1.85 (flat) viewing area, so that the entire animated frame could be seen, since most modern theaters no longer have the equipment to run films in Academy ratio.
Songwriter Mel Leven wrote several additional songs for it including "Don't Buy a Parrot from a Sailor", a cockney chant, meant to be sung by Jasper and Horace at the De Vil Mansion, and "March of the One Hundred and One", which the dogs were meant to sing after escaping Cruella by van.
According to Lisa Davis, Walt Disney took Cruella's look from Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was known for wearing fur coats. Though Davis made use of her exceptional Zsa Zsa impression to read for Cruella, she felt that she was better suited to the role of Anita. Walt listened to her read some of Anita's lines and ultimately agreed that it was a perfect fit.
Although Walt Disney had not been as involved in the production of the animated films as frequently as in previous years, nevertheless he was always present at story meetings. However, he felt that Bill Peet's original draft was so perfect that he had little involvement in the making of it altogether.
The Sherman Brothers had written a song for the film that was intended to be the film's opening theme. The song never made the final film for reasons unknown.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
This was the first time that the story for a Disney film was created by a single person (Bill Peet).
101 Dalmatians is 1 hour and 19 minutes long, and it has 113,760 frames. Disney's The Sword in the Stone (1963) is also 1 hour and 19 minutes long, and it also has 113,760 frames.
It took nearly all of Disney's Nine Old Men to work on animating Perdita. While Ollie Johnston was her primary animator, Frank Thomas, John Lounsbery, Les Clark, Milt Kahl, Eric Larson and (though uncredited) Ward Kimball did the animation for the character as well. Marc Davis was working as the sole animator for Cruella De Vil, and Wolfgang Reitherman was directing the film.
In 2008, the American Film Institute put together a list of the Top 10 Animated Films. While this movie didn't make the Top 10, it was one of the 50 films nominated for the list.
The character Cruella De Ville is pictured on one of ten USA nondenominated commemorative postage stamps celebrating "Disney Villains", issued as a pane of 20 stamps on 15 July 2017. The set was issued in a single sheet of 20 stamps. The price of each stamp on day of issue was 49¢. The other villains depicted in this issue are: The Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Honest John (Pinocchio (1940)), Lady Tremaine (Cinderella (1950)), The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland (1951)), Captain Hook (Peter Pan (1953)), Maleficient (Sleeping Beauty (1959)), Ursula (The Little Mermaid (1989)), Gaston (Beauty and the Beast (1991)), and Scar (The Lion King (1994)).
The Platinum Edition DVD of this movie was one of the biggest-selling DVD's of 2008.
Before the release of the 2015 Diamond Edition Blu-Ray, the Platinum Edition was reissued in the U.K. as a Blu-Ray in 2012.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2008 list of the 50 movies nominated for the Top 10 Greatest American Animated Movies.
Cruella De Vil ranked as #39 on the American Film Institute's 2003 list of Top 50 Greatest Movie Villains.
On February 11, 2015, a special screening of the movie was shown at Disneyland to promote the release of the Diamond Edition Blu Ray. It was held in the Fantasyland Theater and was hosted by Disney Historian, Tim O'Day, and Disney animator, Andreas Deja.
As of 2009, this movie was ranked as #14 on Ultimate Disney's Top 20 Disney Animated Features.