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Blu-ray Review 101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    XenForo Template 101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

    The last truly great animated film personally supervised by Walt Disney before his death, 101 Dalmatians ranks head and shoulders over other 1960s releases like The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book (later efforts also supervised by Disney) and was not surpassed by another animated Disney effort until The Little Mermaid over a quarter of a century later. Its undeniable quality, an animated comic thriller matched only in tension and heart by Pinocchio, found a ready audience in 1961 and in all of its subsequent theatrical reissues. In fact, for years it ranked as the studio’s highest grossing animated feature. Revisiting it now after a break of several years proves that the film has lost none of its charm, humor, or thrills. It truly deserves the Diamond Edition Blu-ray treatment it receives with this release. Available for over a year on Blu-ray in other regions, it’s finally been made available stateside in a combination Blu-ray/DVD release.


    Cover Art


    Studio: Disney

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English 1.0 DD (Mono), English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, Other

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

    Rating: G

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 19 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy

    keep case in a slipcover

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: ABC

    Release Date: 02/10/2015

    MSRP: $36.99




    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    Pongo (Rod Taylor) and Perdita (Cate Bauer), two noble London Dalmatians, are delighted when their pet humans Roger (Ben Wright, singing voice of Bill Lee) and Anita (Lisa Davis) are married, and the family soon adds fifteen adorable Dalmatian puppies to its number. There’s danger lurking, however, in the evil person of Anita’s old schoolmate Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson) who adores fur coats and desires to have one made from Dalmatian puppy fur. She’s certain her old, poor friend Anita will let the fifteen pups do for a start, and she has plans of purchasing every other Dalmatian puppy she can get her hands on to fulfill her heart’s desire. When her friend refuses to part with the puppies, however, Cruella has her henchmen Horace (Fred Warlock) and Jasper (J. Pat O’Malley) steal the dogs and keep them under wraps on her old family estate in the country until the proper time arrives that they can be skinned for her new coat. The pups’ only chance is to escape from the evil clutches of these fiends, and for that they’re going to need a lot of help.

    The stylized look chosen for 101 Dalmatians met with some criticism at the time of the original release since it was so different from the classic storybook animation of all of Disney’s past successes, but hindsight has enabled us to see its quality and appreciate it apart from the more elaborate and fluid animation of Bambi or Peter Pan. It’s a look as individual as the story itself, a dogs’ eye view of the world with highly static backgrounds and humans often grotesquely limbed and clothed. And the Xerox process perfected by longtime Disney contributor Ub Iwerks used to make the handling of all those spotted dogs feasible works to perfection allowing the animators to invest time and talent into giving many of these puppies real personalities paired with some terrific voice casting. At the same time, the animation storytellers haven’t spared the humor or the heart in the movie. A sequence where Roger brings a stillborn puppy back to life captures the nuances of emotion on both the human and dog faces to perfection, and the bumbling henchman of Cruella and her broad caricature of a witchy-like fiend are endlessly comical.

    Rod Taylor was just coming into his own stardom around the time of this release, and he makes a sincere and steady Pongo, but the hit of the movie has to be the Tallulah Bankhead-esque vocal histrionics of Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella. The witchiest non-witch in the history of the Disney animated features, she’s a nightmarish delight sweeping into a room with her venal green cigarette smoke trailing along behind her, bowling over everyone in sight with her insulting opinions and uninhibited desires. And her huge red limousine careening around the countryside fits her oversized personality to perfection, barreling along ready to mow anyone or anything down that gets in her way. Ben Wright and Lisa Davis are sweet and spirited as Pongo and Perdita, and Fred Warlock and J. Pat O’Malley bray and grovel to perfection as Cruella’s “gang.”

    101 Dalmatians relies less on songs than any other Disney animated movie up to that time. There are three numbers, but only one will stay with you: “Cruella De Vil” will haunt your psyche for days after watching this movie for the first or the one hundred and first time. As for the rest of the movie, the breathless, extended escape from the potential killers makes for a really tense number of climactic sequences, and the brilliant plotting by Bill Peet (based on Dodie Smith’s original book) keeps audience pulses racing as the escapees somehow manage to foil their own attempts continuously and of necessity must find other ways to elude capture. Mention should also be made of the most imaginative opening credits in Disney animated feature history up to that time. Superb animation, terrific voice acting, and a superlatively thrilling story combine to make 101 Dalmatians a true treasure in the Disney canon.



    Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

    As with previous home video versions of the film, it’s presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. (I had my Samsung Blu-ray player zoom the image slightly to 1.66:1 to no ill effect and gave a likely more accurate view of the way the movie must have been presented theatrically.) As with all of the classic animated features, Disney has digitally scrubbed the film of grain to fit its desire for the film to appear more like today’s computer animated pictures, but the DNR does have the effect of making some of the more delicate lines in the moving animation images come and go and blur somewhat distractingly. It’s not so much a problem with the Dalmatians since their lines are so solid, but other characters like the Colonel (also voiced by J. Pat O’Malley) have the same kind of problems seen in The Sword and the Stone, just not quite to such a disturbing degree. Color is certainly first-rate, and even Cruella’s elongated fire engine red roadster doesn’t bloom. There is also no banding present to distract from the visuals. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.



    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The disc offers the original mono mix in Dolby Digital 1.0 as well as a new Disney enhanced home theater mix in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. While the film’s mono origins are still often noticeable (the Twilight Bark sequence has dog howls in the distance still coming from the center channel instead of discretely placed in various available surround channels), the wonderfully jazzy and jaunty George Bruns music score gets a nice spread through the soundstage, and there are occasionally discrete effects of country sounds placed in the fronts or rears, and there is some nice bass in the mix as well. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and appears in the center channel.



    Special Features Rating: 4.5/5

    The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt (1:46, HD): a quick wrap-up of the Thunderbolt TV show the pooches are watching during the movie.

    Lucky Dogs (9:08, HD): several of the legends from Disney’s classic era of animation offer sound bites of their memories working at the studio, among them Rolly Crump, Floyd Norman, and Lisa Davis.

    Dalmatians 101 (5:20, HD): The Disney Channel’s Cameron Royce (who will play Cruella’s son in a summer Disney release) offers five things that are cool about 101 Dalmatians.

    Walt Disney Presents: “The Best Doggoned Dog in the World” (51:05, HD): a 1961 episode of the series which offered some teaser clips from the movie and also relates stories about other special dogs from around the world.

    DisneyView: the user may choose to watch the movie with this feature turned on: art panels which replace the pillarboxing on either side of the picture.

    Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians (33:55, SD): paean to the film by current Disney animation personnel along with archived interviews with many of the people responsible for making it. The documentary is divided into seven segments which can be viewed together or individually.

    Cruella De Vil: Drawn to Be Bad (7:10, SD): a featurette mostly with animator Marc Davis talking about his work on this legendary villainess. We also see some stills of actress Mary Wickes who did the live action reference footage for the animators.

    Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney (12:48, SD): an interesting feature on the correspondence between Walt and original author Dodie Smith with restaged excerpts from their back and forth communications over a period of years during the production of the movie.

    Trailers and TV Spots (SD): there are trailers and TV spots for the 1961 original release (3 total), 1969 reissue (4 total), 1979 reissue (4 total), and one 1985 reissue trailer. There are 3 radio spots of varying lengths for the 1961 release, 6 for the 1969 reissue, and 3 for the 1979 reissue.

    Music & More (SD): deals with the six songs that were either used in the film or written and discarded at various stages of the production. The deleted song (“March of the One Hundred and One” - 2:29) features the original dialog and singing audio track and the storyboards for the sequence. Two other cut songs are presented in demo form: “Cheerio, Good-bye” (2:32) and “Don’t Buy a Parrot from a Sailor” (2:39). For the three songs that actually appear in the movie, each has demo versions plus numerous takes of various actors attempting to put down suitable recordings (“Dalmatian Plantation" 2:45, 1:03) and “Kanine Krunchies” (nine versions totaling 5:14). Most interesting here is “Cruella De Vil” which features a spooky original (3:47) and a blues (2:15) version as well as actor Ben Wright trying to do his own singing as Roger (3:24). We then get several takes of famed voice double Bill Lee first trying to mimic Wright’s British accent and then opting to sing in his own voice (4:29). A honky tonk version (1:22) closes out the section.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Aladdin, the live action Cinderella.

    DVD/Digital Copy: code sheet and disc enclosed in the package.



    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    One of the true classics of Disney animation, 101 Dalmatians finally arrives stateside in a handsome Blu-ray set mostly worthy of its pedigree. Though it does lack a commentary and some of the bonus feature games and trivia tracks are missing in the move from the Platinum Edition DVD to this Diamond Edition Blu-ray, the movie itself is as enchanting and entertaining as ever. Recommended!


    Reviewed By: Matt Hough


    Support HTF when you buy this title:

     
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  2. Vegas 1

    Vegas 1 Supporting Actor

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    Matt thanks for the review, been looking forward to this release. I have the LD but never picked up the DVD.
     
  3. Mark-W

    Mark-W Producer

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    I was likely to pick this up, but I am excited to read that the bonus content makes this worthy of buying even though I have the UK Blu-ray, which has served me well for a couple of years.


    Thanks, Matt! I feel like I say this all the time, but I really do appreciate your great reviews!
     
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  4. Jason_V

    Jason_V Lead Actor

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    Matt, did I read that right that there's a trailer for Aladdin here? And, I'm assuming here, it's for the BD release of the movie, most likely sometime in the fall?


    I know I'm jumping to a lot of conclusions, but this just made my night.
     
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  5. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Yes, it's coming this year.
     
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  6. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I've had the UK version of this for a while now...but I will upgrade to this version (maybe joining the Disney Movie Club to do so)


    This film holds a special place in my heart.


    My wife and I had a Dalmatian for our first dog when we got married. This is Schuyler keeping watch over downtown Albany in 1985:



    [​IMG]


    :D
     
  7. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Two more pictures. On the left, Schuyler was a young adult. On the right, he is a senior citizen.


    Some will tell you the breed is skittish, but he was rock steady. I helped him receive his CD (Companion Dog) title in AKC obedience. And he was a loyal friend and protector to our two children as they were born and raised. A good dog:


    [​IMG]
     
  8. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    I have a burning question regarding the original animated 101 DALMATIONS:


    Why in blazes does the Walt Disney Company keep issuing this at 1:33.1 Aspect? As its original theatrical release was in 1961 (Well after the advent of Widescreen!), is 101 DALMATIONS for some unknown reason, not a Widescreen Film, or did the Widescreen Prints simply get lost (Or heaven forbid, junked by Disney!) somewhere along the way?


    Though I'm otherwise satisfied with our DVD version, I would have been willing to spring for a Blu-Ray of this were it being issued in a proper Widescreen Ratio, but alas!


    Any thoughts regarding the Standard/Widescreen debate for this one?


    Paging Bob Furmanek...


    CHEERS!


    Tony
     
  9. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Tony, I know it's been discussed here before, but I couldn't begin to remember which threads contained the discussion.


    Quite ironically, in the trailer section, there's a trailer of the movie matted in Cinemascope! It was paired with a widescreen feature and thus the movie got cropped to suitable dimensions to match with its playmate!
     
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  10. EddieLarkin

    EddieLarkin Supporting Actor

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    Disney recommended the film be shown at 1.33:1 on original exhibition. I'm sure I've heard something about it starting as a TV production, so that might be the reason why. I haven't seen the film for a long time but I've seen screencaps that make me feel at least some of the film may not be able to suffer any cropping.
     
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  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  12. GlennF

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    May be talking through my hat, but can't help but wonder if one reason is SLEEPING BEAUTY. That movie cost a bomb to make and one of the reasons was the amount of artwork it took to fill that widescreen frame. And of course, that movie lost money in its original release. Don't shoot me. Just a theory. I'm sure someone knows for sure. (Although I have to admit, having seen this movie theatrically a couple of times, I have never seen it screened at 1.33 I guess exhibitors here in Toronto didn't think it would fly.
     
  13. Jason_V

    Jason_V Lead Actor

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    You really have no idea how happy this makes me. I appreciate the confirm, Matt.
     
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  14. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

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    The 1.33:1 sounds like a recommendation that was either in error or never followed through by theaters. In 1961 there would not have been many if any theaters with a 1.33:1 screen and I can't see that many theaters showing this with black bars on the sides.

    I saw a reissue of this in the late 70's at a theater and I know there were not black bars on the sides.

    Like many of their other recent Blu releases I think 1.66:1 would have been the best release/compromise for this even though all the previous releases they have done at 1.66:1 should be 1.75:1

    .
     
  15. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Even though One Hundred and One Dalmatians has been presented in widescreen for most of its theatrical releases, Disney has been pretty adamant that the correct ratio is 1.33:1. In fact for it’s last theatrical release in 1991 (which I saw) they did an optical reduction for the release prints to be sure the movie was presented pillar-boxed in theaters.
     
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  16. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi Robert!


    What does RAH stand for?


    CHEERS!


    Tony
     
  17. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    RAH = noted film preservationist and HTF member Robert Harris.


    RAH has his own sub-forum here featuring his personal essays/reviews on various releases (A Few Words About...).
     
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  18. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    I did find the following on the 101 DALMATIANS imdb page:


    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.


    Assuming that the above information is correct, there should be no problem in issuing a Widescreen Version to Home Video. I say, why not release this both in Academy AND Widescreen Aspect Ratios? That way, EVERYBODY is happy!


    CHEERS!


    Tony


    P.S. For the record, I am of the opinion that where there is dispute, all Films originally released Cinematically ought to be issued to Home Video in their Original Theatrical Aspect Ratio presentation.
     
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  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This isn't much different than the BD release of "Shane". Paramount released it on Blu-ray in the aspect ratio the film was shot and refuse to release the blu-ray in widescreen as shown to most movie going audiences back in 1953/1954.


    I understand your point, but I also understand the studio's position. I word of caution, not all the information posted on imdb is accurate so be careful on what information you take for granted from that site.
     
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  20. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    Hi Robert!


    I'm all too aware of the inaccuracies that pop up on imdb, and I did make sure to qualify that in my post with "Assuming the above information is correct," though previous posts seem to support rather than refute the information posted on imdb, in this case.


    As for the Disney studio's position regarding this, how hard would it be for them to also issue a Widescreen version of 101 DALMATIANS to Home Video? I mean, the practice of issuing Standard Academy and Widescreen versions (Often on the same DVD set!) was exercised pretty routinely by many studios in the early to mid 00's when 4:3 TV screens were still commonplace!


    I just think that in the age of Widescreen TV's, preference should be given to Original Theatrical Presentations, rather than be greeted with a "This Picture Has Been Re-formatted To Fit A 4:3 Screen" disclaimer, (Which in 2015, is largely irrelevant, anyway!) or words to that effect!


    CHEERS!


    Tony
     

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