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Things About 101 Dalmatians You Only Notice As An Adult

If it's been a while since you watched 101 Dalmatians, the 1961 Disney animated feature based on Dodie Smith's 1956 children's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, don't worry — it remains a classic from the golden age of animation as well as a perennial favorite on cable, VHS, and Disney+. With its dazzling London landscapes and warm, striking animation, there's a lot to like, and that doesn't even include the dozens of sassy and adorable dogs. 101 Dalmatians is the story of Dalmatian parents Pongo and Perdita (or Perdy) and their dozen-plus puppies and a bunch of other canines who join them along the way in their drive to stop the diabolical fashionista Cruella de Vil from converting those cute black-and-white-spotted dogs into a fur coat.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but 101 Dalmatians is also totally bonkers. Kids' movies that are made today are usually wild, but so is this six-decades-old, highbrow-seeming masterpiece. Plenty of bizarre, senseless shenanigans go on in the movie, including a lot of stuff you likely never noticed as a kid but will easily pick up on as an adult. With all that in mind, here's a look at some of the things that might cause adults to stop and wonder as they enjoy 101 Dalmatians.

The opening credits are a work of art

Generally speaking, kids likely don't pay as much attention to credit sequences as do adults. (Let's face it, most adults don't pay close attention to the credits either, but still.) Older viewers recognize that a film's opening salvo sets a tone for what's to come and puts the audience into a certain mood or frame of mind. Younger viewers, however, just want to get to the action, and particularly if it's a movie they've seen many times before, they might fast-forward and skip right through the opening credits, which on another level might be completely useless to them if they're not yet at reading age. Many kids, then, have likely never noticed or appreciated the very 1960s go-go opening sequence of 101 Dalmatians, which features an anthropomorphic spot off of a Dalmatian dancing to a jazzy number, bounding through the names of the animation crew. It's a bit of cool and classy sophistication in a cool and classy movie — albeit one that's aimed squarely at the adults in the audience.

Roger Radcliffe needs help

Before he and human companion Roger Radcliffe settle down into blissfully happy and parallel partnerships with Perdita and Anita, respectively, Pongo basks in and brags about his "bachelor" lifestyle. But Roger is more than just a single guy living a carefree life — he's also a lazy slob who might actually have an issue with hoarding. Why, just take a look at his apartment before he finds love and gets his act together: dirty dishes are everywhere, as are stacks of newspapers and an alarmingly smoldering pile of used matches overflowing out of a pile of things that viewers can hopefully presume includes an ashtray in there somewhere. The whole place likely also smells of Roger's roommate and best friend, who is a dog. It's not exactly the type of living environment that's generally conducive to the lifestyle of a cool, suave, and single man about town. Between the state of his apartment and his utter, inflexible adherence to routine (he's a freelance composer who never stops work until after five), it's actually a bit of a shock that Roger even manages to take care of Pongo's basic needs.

Roger and Anita's relationship is a whirlwind affair

Not only does 101 Dalmatians fast-forward through almost the entirety of Roger and Anita's early relationship and courtship — one second they're falling into a bog together; the next, they're getting married in a somber, romantic, tiny ceremony — but the two of them seem to have no connections in life but each other. Take a closer look at their wedding scene: They're getting married in front of absolutely nobody. The witnesses are apparently their dogs. It's noting that the kids in the audience are likely to notice, but this all may seem both strange and sad to viewers of a certain age who might be curious as to the whereabouts of the bride and groom's families and friends on this, one of the most important days of their lives. An older viewer may find their mind wandering, privately gossiping with itself as to why nobody came to the wedding, and why Roger and Anita don't seem to have any friends or professional contacts. Perhaps associates on both sides of the blessed union don't approve of what seems to be a quickie, rushed wedding?

Although we can probably safely assume she wasn't living in filth before they got engaged, Anita is even more mysterious than Roger. What did she do before she met him? The only other person in her life besides her new husband appears to be Cruella de Vil.

Cruella is actually kind of awesome

Sure, she might be an openly unhinged, fur-obsessed demon lady who's more than willing to kill dogs and looks like an evil skeleton to boot, but it's undeniable that Cruella dresses fabulously. This is to say nothing of her excellent and exciting choices in hairstyle, makeup, and accessories. With that black-and-white mullet, the green eyeshadow, and the huge jade ring (worn over long red gloves) that matches her earrings and cigarette holder, Ms. de Vil would be right at home in the front row of a New York Fashion Week runway show, or in the pages or editorial offices of Vogue. Plus, she's evidently unmarried, fabulously wealthy, and tools around at will in the world's coolest luxury car, all while commanding a pair of utterly devoted henchmen to execute her every selfish and impulsive whim. Perhaps we all hate Cruella de Vil because we're all jealous of Cruella de Vil.

To a kid, Cruella is a one-dimensional caricature of evil, but as adults, we can't help noticing that she seems to have it all, including a really cool if menacing name — either her parents named her Cruella, or she adopted it. Plus, grown-ups will probably also much more readily realize that "de Vil" is a thinly-veiled adaptation of "devil."

Absolutely nothing about this movie's central plot makes sense

Once upon a time, we simply took at face value that a wealthy, eccentric woman would kidnap her old schoolmate's 15 puppies (on top of the 86 she'd already purchased from pet stores) for the specific purpose of killing them and turning them into coats. Why? Well, 'cause she's evil! Enough said! But in the cold, grownup light of day, the central premise of 101 Dalmatians is chock full of plot holes from the moment it kicks into gear. 

For one, it's all very heroic when Roger and Anita insist on keeping Perdy's pups, but it's frankly bizarre that they never discuss why Cruella wanted to buy them all to begin with. (And it's beyond unbelievable that nobody finds it weird when Cruella just appears in the doorway 60 seconds after the puppies are born, wearing the exact same clothes she had on the last time she visited. Has she been lurking outside a window this whole time?) 

And as anyone who's ever touched a short-haired dog knows, their fur isn't particularly luxurious — so why is Cruella in such a lather to own a wardrobe made out of Dalmatians? And even if Roger and Anita never suspected her of dog-napping, wouldn't they figure it out the next time they ran into her wearing a coat made out of spotted puppy skins? Did anyone think this through?

It's a highly unrealistic portrait of dog ownership

Even if we take at face value that our dogs speak to each other with regional accents, engage in twilight gossip sessions in doggie morse code, and are members of an elite, secret, interspecies military force (in what army, exactly, did Sergeant Tibbs and Colonel sheepdog serve together?), the fact remains that 101 Dalmatians is highly unrepresentative of the actual experience of owning a dog in a number of eyebrow-raising ways.

For one thing, the Londoners of the film barely walk their pups at all; every dog Pongo sees at the start of the film is just sitting politely in the park ten minutes later. For another, if they actually had that many dogs in the house, Roger and Anita and their housekeeper and everything they own would be covered tip-to-tip in dog hair, all the time. And unless the two of them start taking the responsibility of spaying and neutering much more seriously, then their Dalmatian plantation is going to spawn so many dogs that it brings on the Dalmatian apocalypse.

What kind of criminal is the "What's My Crime" guy?

The London depicted in 101 Dalmatians is a peculiar place. It's a city where a struggling musician and his non-employed spouse can afford a parcel of park-side real estate in a well-to-do neighborhood as well as a full-time housekeeper. It's also a place where hardcore criminals are occasionally sprung from prison for seemingly the sole purpose of participating in a TV quiz show called What's My Crime? The premise of this show is similar to What's My Line? or I've Got a Secret, in that a panel of so-called experts ask a slew of leading questions to try to guess the prison-worthy felony committed by the subject.

The most interesting (and infuriating) thing about this little bit of color from the Disney-verse is that we never find out what kind of bad act contestant Percival "Meathead" Fauncewater committed. And that's a shame, because based on the process of elimination and the tease from the show's host (who describes it as an "unusual crime"), it had to be something really super weird.

The humans of 101 Dalmatians have no clue where (dog) babies come from

If Roger looks downright shell-shocked while waiting outside for the birth of the puppies (and what's that about? Was it considered uncouth back then for a human man to see a dog's vagina?), it might be because he actually doesn't seem to have any concept of how the doggie reproduction process actually works. 

When Pongo and Perdy arrive home at the end of the film with ninety-nine puppies in tow, Anita asks, "Where ever did they come from?" and Roger, looking at his own dog, says, "Pongo, you old rascal!"—in a tone which pretty clearly implies that he thinks Pongo is the father of all these puppies. But even if Pongo did somehow find a dozen female Dalmatian baby mamas with whom to mate while he was away (and in front of his wife, no less!), the movie's timeline simply doesn't allow for it. 

Assuming the puppies were kidnapped six weeks after their birth in October (a fair bet considering their size and level of spotting), and considering that Pongo and Perdy arrive back home on Christmas Eve, the two of them were away from home for two weeks at most... and Roger Radcliffe clearly needs a refresher on basic biology.

The Cruella de Vil song is clearly illegal

Cruella de Vil, Cruella de Vil! If she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will! 

Yes, it's a very clever song that professional songwriter Roger creates, following the old dictum to write what one knows. It's playing on the Radcliffes' radio just before the 101 Dalmatian dogs make their appearance. Anita identifies the song as Roger's first big hit, and it's obviously a huge moneymaker for the cash-strapped couple.

This begs the question: What kind of ridiculously loose libel laws were on the books in England when the events in 101 Dalmatians take place that someone can write a blatantly defamatory song about a random private citizen — and use her full, real name — and it passes through every possible level of oversight and becomes a hit single? Keep in mind that at this moment in the film, Cruella has not been identified as the puppy kidnapper by any of the movie's human characters; as far as they're concerned, she's just an eccentric and wealthy weirdo. Clever or not, it's generally not allowed to take down someone so thoroughly and for no reason in song. Even modern-day rap beefs aren't that blatant.

Where do all those dalmatians relieve themselves?

We've mentioned already that this movie doesn't exactly represent a true-life dog ownership experience, but this part is so blatant that it needs to be called out specifically. The thing about dogs is that they need to heed the call of nature — and often. And puppies? They're essentially babies, which means limited bladder capacity, which means they pee even more, and they're still learning to control their bodily functions.

So while it's nice that 101 Dalmatians made a perfunctory nod to basic doggie biology by showing a few sheets of newspaper on the floor in the area where the Pongos' pups are watching television, that wouldn't be enough to soak up the excretions of one puppy, let alone fifteen. And that room in Cruella de Vil's house where she was keeping more than eight dozen non-housetrained dogs? Let's just think for a minute about what it must have smelled like in there... on second thought, actually, let's not. Here's hoping Cruella has a good steam cleaning service on call.

Not all the puppies have names

Well before the canine character population of 101 Dalmatians balloons to the out-of-control, tough-to-count numbers hinted at by the title of the film, the home of Roger and Anita is already pushed to its dog occupancy limits. Pongo and Perdita are the parents to a litter of astounding size: 15 puppies in all are born early in the movie. However, viewers paying close attention may notice that only six seem to have names: Patch, Penny, Pepper, Freckles, Dolly, and Lucky. This implies that Pongo and Perdita (or Roger and Anita) couldn't be bothered to come up with names for more than 60 percent of their offspring. Perhaps Perdita was, understandably, too exhausted from giving birth to or having to constantly nurse all those puppies to name them all. That, or they're so tired and frazzled from chasing around 15 rambunctious puppies that they just can't remember the names of those otherwise nameless nine.

Other dogs from another Disney movie make cameo appearances

Adults have obviously been watching movies a lot longer than children, and so they're more media-savvy, and they've been conditioned to consume movies in a different way. Older viewers are much more likely to notice but also understand references to other movies buried by filmmakers, even if they only appear on screen for a few seconds. In the case of 101 Dalmatians, animators included some brief and amusing cameos of some characters from Disney's other, earlier movie centered on the secret life of pets: 1955's Lady and the Tramp.

During the "Twilight Bark" sequence, in which Pongo puts out an "all dog alert" for help, one of the first to take action is a Scottish terrier — that's Jock from Lady and the Tramp. Among a group of dogs in a pet shop window are Peg and Bull, last seen in that other movie helping Lady escape the pound. And after Coco barks from the roof of a moving car, two dogs in the street take notice: both Lady and the Tramp. Unless they're quick on the uptake, big-time Lady and the Tramp fans who have every part of that movie committed to memory, these special dogs may just look like regular non-Dalmatians to kids watching 101 Dalmatians.