Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tonight's Movie: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) at the Walt Disney Studios

A Golden Anniversary screening of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961) was actually "this afternoon's movie," another wonderful event sponsored by D23.

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS was shown as part of D23's "50 and Fabulous" series of anniversary screenings, which take place on the studio lot. The other films to be shown this year are THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR, THE PARENT TRAP, and BABES IN TOYLAND, all of which were released in 1961.

The screenings are often accompanied by special gifts -- today all D23 members received a patch celebrating the film's anniversary -- and surprise guest appearances. For instance, last year's screening of THE SIGN OF ZORRO included a chat with the widow and son of star Guy Williams. This was my first opportunity to attend a film in the 50 and Fabulous series, but I definitely hope it won't be the last.

Inside the gorgeous Studio Theatre before the movie:

When we attended TANGLED two months ago, it was a high-security event with cameras strictly prohibited, as the movie had not yet been released. Today cameras were welcome, and I was able to take a number of photos to share.

Part of the long line of cars waiting to enter the studio gate on Riverside Drive at our designated 1:00 p.m. arrival time:

A glimpse of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building across the street from the main studio:

The studio's iconic water tower:

Even the Zorro parking lot is decorated with Disney artwork:

The Studio Theatre:

The lobby features some marvelous FANTASIA memorabilia.

There was a surprise for the audience, as Lisa Davis (the voice of Anita) and David Frankham (the voice of Sgt. Tibbs, the cat) were in attendance. They were interviewed after the film; Frankham is on the left in the photo below, with Davis on the right.

They shared some anecdotes about how much they enjoyed working on the film. Davis spoke with emotion of what an important experience the film had been in her life and how special it was to be part of something that had been loved by people all over the world for so many years.

With typical Disney attention to detail, D23 also arranged for audience members to meet Davis and Frankham and receive autographs in the lobby of the Studio Store.

They were both absolutely lovely, and they seemed so pleased to know how much the movie meant to our family and to the other audience members. It was a treat to have the opportunity to chat with them briefly.

The famous intersection at Pluto's Corner:

Much of the lot looks more like a college campus than a studio; in fact, the lot has doubled as a school campus in everything from the ANNETTE serial on the MICKEY MOUSE CLUB to the current program NO ORDINARY FAMILY. My oldest daughter has done background extra work as a "high school student" on NO ORDINARY FAMILY numerous times and has enjoyed following in the footsteps of so many who have pretended to "go to school" on the Disney lot.

The original Hyperion bungalow:

As for the movie itself, I imagine that most people reading this have seen it. I first saw it in a theater when it was reissued in the late '60s, and then we took our oldest daughter to see it when she was two or three. Our younger children grew up watching it on videotape and later DVD.

This was the first time I'd watched the film since becoming interested in the career of Rod Taylor, and I especially enjoyed hearing him voice Pongo. I also loved hearing Tom Conway as the Collie; he also voices the TV quiz show host. It's amazing how much Conway sounds like his brother, George Sanders. A few year later Sanders played an important role in another Disney movie, appearing as Shere Khan in THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967).

I've always thought that the voices of Anita and Perdita (Cate Bauer) were a bit alike, and according to Lisa Davis, that's because the movie took so long to make that eventually Bauer married and moved to Australia. (Davis herself married and had a baby during the production process.) Davis actually does voice Perdita in a couple of scenes; she said she noticed, while watching the movie today, that it's her voicing Perdita in the barn scene near the end of the movie.

I was impressed by the film's fast pacing; it clocks in at just 79 minutes. I think the film's pace helps keep the storyline light; if you think about it much, the plotline, with the kidnapping and imminent massacre of dozens of cute puppies, is really rather disturbing (grin), but that never overwhelms the film.

Instead, the movie highlights themes of determination and community, with animals all over England passing the word and helping to save the puppies. In fact, the key hero rescuing the puppies is not a dog, but a cat! It's really a rather warm and wonderful story, based on the book THE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS by Dodie Smith. There was also a sequel, STARLIGHT BARKING.

The movie was directed by Disney's Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton Luske, and Clyde Geronimi. The voice cast also included Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Bill Lee, Queenie Leonard, J. Pat O'Malley, Martha Wentworth, Thurl Ravenscroft, Mary Wickes, Paul Frees, and Basil Ruysdael.

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS is available on DVD in a Platinum Edition. I'll be revisiting some of the DVD extras later this evening.


Blogger DKoren said...

So neat!! I love reading the write up and looking at the pics.

Oddly, I've never seen this movie. This is one my mom didn't like -- dogs and the newer style of animation scuppered it in her book -- so my sister and I still have never seen it, despite the fact that we've both had dogs for years and years. I think she owns it on DVD now, for her son, so we can remedy that at some point here!

9:50 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad to know you enjoyed the post!

There is really interesting info on the Xerox process used and the "new" style of animation in a 30-minute documentary on the Platinum DVD, which I watched last night. Several Disney artists past and present discuss the pros and cons of the "new look" -- and the fact that Walt wasn't very happy with it for a long time.

It's a wonderful story and I think it would especially appeal to owners of dogs and cats. :)

Best wishes,

12:18 PM  

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