Critique of “101 Dalmatians” (1961)

Black polka dots in a white background

A dalmatian named Pongo notices a female dalmatian walking with her owner. Pongo leads his owner, Roger, to the other dalmatian, named Perida, and her person, Anita. 

Roger and Anita marry each other shortly after. A little while later, Pongo and Perida are expecting puppies – only for a woman named Cruella de Vil to visit Roger and Anita and demand the puppies once they are born. But Roger, Anita, and their maid, won’t allow it.

Yet, a few months after the puppies have entered the world, they are kidnapped. Pongo performs a twilight bark to alert the other dogs in London about their missing puppies. And so the mission begins.


The characters and their connections to one another

Pongo and Perita develop sweet bonds with each other as well as their puppies. Although they don’t all get spoken lines, the ones that do have distinct personalities. There is a heavy puppy who is always hungry and another one who always blocks the TV to get a better look at the screen.

Roger and Anita’s relationship did have a number of perks and disagreements, which made them more believable. Nanny’s fierceness to protect the puppies and the others in Roger’s home also made me like her.

The teamwork all the characters perform together throughout the movie promotes how crucial that is, especially during stressful or perilous times.

The song “Cruella de Vil”

It’s catchy, despite how she’s the villain and gets less screen time than I predicted. Roger writes it and sings it as a sarcastic joke. But that sure led to the wrong outcome.

I also found it surprising that Cruella got less screen time than other Disney villains, such as Ursula, Jafar, and Hades, even though the movies they came from didn’t exist until the 90’s.

The unexpected twists

When the dalmatians covered themselves in fireplace soot to disguise themselves as black labs, after two of the puppies fought about who pushed them in there, Pongo decided to do the same. Another interesting twist was when the cows offer the cold and hungry puppies milk

The TV shows watched

Those include a game show that will give a criminal a chance to win something after he serves his time away from society, a cute dog treat commercial, and a western TV show with a lot of action.

Not-so great aspects

Some elements aren’t suitable for kids

The film included content too mature for a G-rated movie, such as smoking, drinking, talk on animal cruelty, and the gun uses in the western program on TV. Yes, this film came out in 1961, and standards differed in the 1960’s compared to those in the 21st century. Still.

There is even a disclaimer about tobacco usage, despite the G-rating. I do not think this movie would be released today with a clean rating as it is.

Constant repetition of phrases

I noticed this in “Alice in Wonderland” as well, which had come out in 1951. I can’t imagine that redundancy was a trend in the mid-20th century. Maybe the screenwriters did that without intention, particularly since they had tight deadlines, lots of work in terms of producing the movie, and no computer processing software.

The most repetitive phrases I spotted include:

“I’m calling the police.”


“No time to explain.”

Oh, well.

Lack of believability at times

What were pet-breeding laws like in 1960’s Britain? How were Roger and Anita okay with having so many puppies and keeping them all? They didn’t worry one bit that it would be a lot of work. An extremely overwhelming and tiring amount.

Not enough female presence

This happened a lot in 20th century Disney films, including those live-action singalong videos (i.e. Mickey’s Fun Songs, Disneyland Fun, etc.). I don’t know if it was unintentional or standard before the 2000’s hit. However, I find it a little inconsiderate as a female myself. 

Overall impression

While “101 Dalmatians” had some imperfections and didn’t engage me to high levels, I still enjoyed it, even with the “Cruella de Vil” song stuck in my head for a while. I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars, and would recommend it.

Published by Sunayna Prasad

I enjoy writing stories, creating artwork, watching movies and TV shows, cooking, and traveling. These are the topics of my posts. I also publish books, where you can learn about them on my website, Be sure to copy and paste the link and subscribe to my newsletter on the email list button on the homepage.

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