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101 Dalmatians – Diamond Edition (Blu-ray Review)

101-DalmationsOne of Walt Disney’s most popular animated films of all time, 101 Dalmatians is finally making its way to Blu-ray.  The film is one that saved the animation studio, changed the way they did things and gave them a future.  It also gave them one of their most classic villains of all time, the haunting, skreechy, evil Cruella De Ville.  She also has her own theme song that’ll creep up into your conscious too.  The film took in some huge box off and was a massive success.  The film has seen itself reissued four times (1969, 1979, 1985, 1991).  It also spawned a broadway musical and a feature film that many remember had Glenn Close playing Cruella De Ville.  Disney is bringing the original film to us once again, in this VERY loaded Diamond Edition Blu-ray .

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Film 

Songwriter Roger Radcliffe and his dog Pongo have a chance meeting one day with a woman named Anita and her dog (also a dalmatian) named Perdita.  Sparks fly, which leads to marriage and dalmatian puppies.  Anita’s schoolmate drops by one day and eyes the dalmatians for her own vile means.  She orchestrates the kidnapping of the puppies to use in the making of a new coat for herself.  Pongo and Perdita, with help from other animals, go on the hunt to find and rescue the baby puppies before they become Cruella’s attire.

101 Dalmatians is a really brisk film that has a nice patient setup and then really busts its way through the second act and finale.  What is impressive is how well these characters work and what depth they have in such a short, quickly paced film.  We really get a sense of who each main player is and a nice sense of family before the main crux of the story’s conflict comes into play.

This film was a major turning point for Disney.  Not only was the animation style and process much different from what came previously, but the film itself is a step in a different direction too.  This is the first time a film has taken place in the modern setting.  Well, modern meaning that it was when the film was released.  Everything up til then had been period films or fantasy.  And this movie is truly 1960s.  It doesn’t get more stereotypical 60s British for when this movie takes place than this movie and its looks.

Cruella is one of the nastiest of nasties in a Disney film.  As a kid, she was one scary woman.  One of the things I think this film should get credit for is how suspenseful it is.  I remember as a kid watching this movie, my heart would race during the escape sequences.  Especially during the final one where all the puppies are trying to get loaded up into the truck while Cruella and her stooges are looking for them.  The setup and execution for that sequence is one of the best you’ll ever see, live action or not and I’ll stand by that fully.  And this time around, it held up quite well.

Its not very hard to see why 101 Dalmatians is one of Disney’s most popular animated films ever.  The film has a hook, great characters, animation, song, villain, suspense…it runs the whole gamut.  Because the film revolves around dogs, not humans, it helps it to be the timeless adventure its known as.   I have fond memories of watching this back on VHS and seeing it in the theater as well.  Now I have this perfect Blu-ray to return to it for.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Clarity/Detail:  This transfer looks friggin’ marvelous.  Its sharp, clean, and as if you were looking at and holding a painting of the images in your hand.  The only thing dated about this is the artistic style.

Black Levels:  In this animation, black is just solid ‘ol black really.  Looks inky and groovy.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are accurate to the intention.  Nice, strong, solid colors.  Not a whole variety of tints and the like but it looks rich and bold.

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts:  Maybe some grain and a spec or two got through.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English Original Theatrical Mix (Dolby Digitals), French 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The 7.1 is really overkill for this movie.  However, when comparing it to the original theatrical mix, this 7.1 sounds much louder, cleaner and clear as a modern movie.  Its an impressive, open and free sounding track.

Low Frequency Extension: No real huge moments, but a terrific complimentary approach to the film.  Dog barks, doors closing, things crashing and engines get a nice natural boost.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Like I said before, the 7.1 is really overkill for this movie.  But, the side and rear speakers do provide some ambiance, music and sounds from them.  The front speakers handle most of the work.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clear, crisp, loud and clean.  Really impressive

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Extras 

101 Dalmatians – Diamond Edition comes with a DVD Copy and Digital Copy of the film.  Bonus features from the previous DVD edition are also ported over.

Play Movie With DisneyView – “DisneyView” allows the user to expand their viewing experience beyond the original aspect ratio of the film by filling the otherwise dark edges of the screen with beautiful custom paintings by Mike Humphries.”

The Further Adventures Of Thunderbolt (HD, 1:46) – The full cartoon of what the dogs are watching in the movie.

Lucky Dogs (HD, 9:08) – Artists from 101 Dalmatians recall the transition of inking to xeroxing, a big step in keeping Disney animation costs down and in business.

Dalmatians 101: Hosted By Cameron Boyce (HD, 5:20) – I’m guessing this kid is on some Disney show or whatever, but he gives his 5 reasons why 101 Dalmatians is the best Disney dog movie ever.

Walt Disney Presents “The Best Doggoned Dog In The World” 1961 Version (HD, 51:05) – An episode of Walt Disney Presents that artwork and scenes from 101 Dalmatians as well as being very dog-centric.

Classic Bonus Features

Redefining The Line: The Making Of One Hundred And One Dalmatians (HD, 33:55) – The entire story of the making of this classic, where Disney was at the time, the new animation style and the groundbreaking nature of this classic.  Features interviews from historians and modern Disney animating staff (including Brad Bird).

Cruella De Vil: Drawn To Be Bad (HD, 7:10) – Artists discuss the villain’s vile nature, her look, impact and legacy in the pantheon of animated villains.

“Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney” (HD, 12:48) – Letter correspondence between Walt Disney and the author of 101 Dalmatians’ author.  Narrated with context and then read and somewhat dramatically reenacted.

Trailers & TV Spots (HD)

  • 1961 Original Release – Teaser Trailer Adapted For Cinemascope (:42), Theatrical Trailer (1:53),  TV Spot (:31)
  • 1969 Reissue – Theatrical Trailer (1:08), TV Spot #1 (:32), TV Spot #2 (:32), Combined TV Spot With Swiss Family Robinson (:32)
  • 1979 Reissue – Theatrical Trailer (1:34), TV Spot #1 (:31), TV Spot #2 (:31), French Canadian TV Spot (:31)
  • 1985 Reissue – Theatrical Trailer (1:23)

Promotional Radio Spots (HD)

  • 1961 Original Release – 60 second, 30 second, 10 second
  • 1969 Reissue – 60 second, 60 second R&B Version, 30 second #1, 30 second #2, 20 second, 10 second
  • 1979 Reissue – 30 second adult version #1, 30 second adult version #2 “Detective”, 10 second kids’ version

Music & More

  • “Cruella de Vil” Music Video By Selena Gomez (HD, 3:25)
  • “March Of The One Hundred And One – Deleted Song Sequence (HD, 2:29)
  • Abandoned Songs (HD, 5:18) – “Cheerio, Goodbye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!” & “Don’t Buy A Parrot From a Sailer” 

Demo Recordings And Alternate Versions (HD, 29:50)

  • “Dalmatian Plantation” – Extended & Temp Versions
  • “Cruella De Vil” – Spooky, Blues Ballad Version, Roger Composing #1 By Ben Wright, Roger Composing #2 By Bill Lee, Honky-Tonk Piano Version, Alternate #1-3
  • “Kanine Krunchies”  – British, Very Young, Young, Little Boy, Flubbed Take, False Start, Older English Incomplete, Younger British, Eton Boy

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Summary 

Without question, Disney has taken this timeless classic and put out the perfect release for it.  The film looks and sounds better than it ever has.  It ported over a TON of special features from previous editions and added some great stuff to put on top of those.  This release will have you busy for countless hours.  The film itself still holds up and is one of Disney’s strongest and best.  A must have, and a perfect release top to bottom.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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