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101 Dalmatians is a 1996 American live-action family comedy film written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Stephen Herek. It is the second adaptation of Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians produced by Walt Disney Pictures following the 1961 animated film of the same name. It stars Glenn Close as the iconic villainess Cruella de Vil who tries to capture dalmatian puppies and use their pelts for her latest fashion, and Jeff Daniels as Roger and Joely Richardson as Anita, the owners of the 101 dalmatians, though none of the animals talk in this version. In 2000, a theatrical sequel was released titled 102 Dalmatians with Glenn Close and Tim McInnerny reprising their roles.
American video game designer Roger Dearly (Jeff Daniels) lives with his pet dalmatian, Pongo, in London. One day, he takes Pongo for a walk in St. James's Park, and he sets his eyes on a beautiful female dalmatian named Perdita. After a frantic chase through the streets of London, Roger and Pongo discover that Perdita likes Pongo; and her owner, Anita Campbell-Green (Joely Richardson), falls in love with Roger when they meet. After they both end up falling into the lake as a result of their dogs, they return to Roger's home, and Anita accepts his proposal to wed. They get married along with Perdita and Pongo.
Anita works as a fashion designer at the House of de Vil. Her boss, the pampered and very glamorous Cruella de Vil (Glenn Close) has a deep passion for fur, going so far as to have a taxidermist, Mr. Skinner, skin a white tiger at the London Zoo to make into a rug for her. Anita, inspired by her dalmatian, designs a coat made with spotted fur. Cruella is intrigued by the idea of making garments out of actual dalmatians and finds it amusing that it would seem as if she was wearing Anita's dog.
Anita soon discovers that Perdita is pregnant, and is then informed that she is too, much to her shock. Some time later, Cruella visits their home, and expresses contempt upon meeting Roger. Her initial disgust at them having a baby turns to excitement when she finds out Perdita is expecting too. Several weeks later, she returns when a litter of 15 puppies are born and offers Roger and Anita £7,500 for them, but they refuse. She dismisses Anita and vows revenge against her and Roger. She has her henchmen, Jasper and Horace (Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams) break into their home and steal the puppies while Roger and Anita are gone for a walk at the park taking Pongo and Perdita with them. Along with 84 others that were previously stolen, they deliver them to her ancient country estate, De Vil Mansion. She also hires Mr. Skinner to kill and skin them to create her coat.
With the family devastated at the loss of their puppies, Pongo uses the Twilight bark to carry the message via the dogs and animals of London. A dog who had witnessed the stolen puppies follow Jasper and Horace to the mansion, and finds all of them inside before helping them escape under the duo's noses. They make their way to a nearby farm, where they are later joined by Pongo and Perdita. Cruella arrives at the mansion and soon discovers what has happened. Furious, she decides to carry out the job herself, whilst Jasper and Horace attempt to search for them also.
After several mishaps, Jasper and Horace discover nearby police on the hunt for Cruella and her henchmen and hand themselves in, joining Mr. Skinner who was beaten earlier while trying to kill one of the puppies being left behind. Meanwhile, Cruella tracks the puppies to the farm where they are hiding and tries to retrieve them. However, they outwit her and cause her to fall into a vat of molasses and get thrown through a window into a pigpen. Shortly after, the fleeing dalmatians are found and sent home via the Suffolk Constabulary, while those looking for Cruella arrive at the farm to arrest her. In the police van, she belittles Jasper, Horace, and Skinner for their incompetence before they are sprayed by a skunk which she had mistaken for her bag. Pongo, Perdita, and their puppies are reunited with Roger and Anita. After being informed that the remaining 84 puppies have no home to go to, they decide to adopt them, bringing the total to 101. Roger designs a successful video game featuring dalmatian puppies as the protagonists and Cruella as the villain, and they move to the English countryside with their millions.
- Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil
- Jeff Daniels as Roger Dearly
- Joely Richardson as Anita Campbell-Green Dearly
- Joan Plowright as Nanny
- Hugh Laurie as Jasper
- Mark Williams as Horace
- John Shrapnel as Mr. Skinner
- Tim McInnerny as Alonzo
- Hugh Fraser as Frederick
- Frank Welker as Pongo and Perdy (uncredited)
- Dee Bradley Baker and Tress MacNeille as Pongo and Perdy's puppies (uncredited)
The role of Cruella had been previously offered to Sigourney Weaver (Close took it after finishing her run in the musical Sunset Boulevard). Cathy Moriarty was briefly considered for the role, but was later deemed too frightening for a children's film after doing a screen test. The animatronic creatures used in the film are provided by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
Release and reception
The UK première of the film was held on 4 December at the Royal Albert Hall, London and the exterior of the Hall was lit with dalmatian spots. It performed very well at the box office, earning $136,189,294 in the United States and $314,159,265 worldwide.
The film received generally mixed reviews : on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, it has a "rotten" rating of 39%, with an average rating of 5.4 out of 10 from 33 reviews, with a lot of criticisms devoted towards its plot and use of slapstick humour (akin to Hughes' Home Alone films and his later Disney remake, Flubber, a year later). However, along the essential faithfulness of the original classic, Close's performance as Cruella De Vil was universally praised.
Animal rights organizations protested the films release, noting that after the films premiere, Dalmatian sales shot up, due to children asking for one after seeing the film with their parents. Dalmatians, however, are difficult dogs to take care of, and many were eventually dropped off at pounds and put down.
Home Media releases
The film was released on VHS on April 15, 1997, and on DVD on December 12, 2000. Due to the high sales of the One Hundred and One Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD, Disney re-released it on September 16, 2008, in the U.S., along with its sequel, 102 Dalmatians, and that to the original 1961 animated version, 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure.
A live action Cruella de Vil film is in development by Disney. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna most known for writing The Devil Wears Prada is set to write it for Disney, with Andrew Gunn as the producer.