101 Dalmatians turns 55 years old today. Grab a bag of Kanine Krunchies and celebrate more than a half-century of spots with 12 facts about Disney's classic canine caper.
1. ROGER AND ANITA'S LAST NAME WAS "DEARLY."
In the original novel by Dodie Smith (also famous for I Capture the Castle), Roger and Anita’s last name was Dearly, not Radcliffe. Presumably, Disney changed it since they already had two similarly named couples: Jim Dear and Darling from Lady and the Tramp, and George and Mary Darling from Peter Pan. Also, in the book, Roger is a “financial wizard”—not a struggling musician.
2. DODIE SMITH HAD A DALMATIAN NAMED PONGO.
Dodie Smith named her main male canine after a Dalmatian puppy her husband bought her as a gift in 1934: Pongo.
3. THERE ARE MORE THAN SIX MILLION SPOTS IN THE MOVIE.
Of course you’re seeing spots—there are a lot of them in this movie: 6,469,952 over 113,760 frames, to be exact. Pongo has 72 spots, while Perdita has just 68. The rest belong to the puppies.
4. IT WAS THE FIRST FILM TO USE XEROX TECHNOLOGY.
You don’t have to worry that the animators all developed carpal tunnel after the movie was inked:101 Dalmatians was the first feature to use Xerox technology to transfer drawings to cels, saving a lot of time, money, and hands.
5. WALT DISNEY DIDN'T LIKE THE VISUAL EFFECT OF THAT XEROX TECHNOLOGY.
The Xerox style is what gives the film that sketched look as opposed to the crisp lines seen in earlier Disney features. Walt Disney reportedly disliked the scratchy aesthetic.
6. CRUELLA DE VIL NARRATED CINDERELLA.
Although she’s known as one of the most evil villains in Disney history, Cruella De Vil shares her voice with a much more benign character: the narrator of Cinderella. Radio star Betty Lou Gerson was the actress behind both.
7. THE DOGS ARE GREY, NOT WHITE.
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.
8. LADY AND THE TRAMP MAKE A CAMEO.
If you look closely during the Twilight Bark scene, you’ll spot a few canines from Lady and the Tramp: Jock, Peg, Bull, Lady, and the Tramp (in silhouette).
9. "THE TWILIGHT BARK" BECAME THE COMPANY'S NEWSLETTER.
Disney Feature Animation later adopted “The Twilight Bark” as the name of their internal newsletter.
10. THE MOVIE WAS INTENDED TO BE MORE MUSICAL.
There are only three songs in the entire movie—but more were written, including a cockney chant called “Don’t Buy a Parrot from a Sailor,” set to be performed by Horace and Jasper. You can check the words out here.
11. ZSA ZSA GABOR INSPIRED CRUELLA DE VIL'S LOOK.
According to voice actress Lisa Davis, Walt Disney took Cruella’s look from a certain famous Hungarian. “Zsa Zsa Gabor was very popular at the time and famous for loving fur coats and wearing fur, he thought that maybe he might give her a Zsa Zsa Gabor touch,” Davis said. 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.
12. THERE'S A NOD TO DISNEY'S "SILLY SYMPHONIES."
There’s a little nod to an early “Silly Symphony” cartoon called “Springtime.” You’ll find it on the TV when Jasper and Horace are pupysitting.