×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Things about 101 Dalmatians you only notice as an adult

If it's been a while since you watched Disney's original story about dogs Pongo and Perdita (nicknamed Perdy), their puppies—along with a few, ahem, additional puppies—their owners, and a villainous crazy lady dressed in fur, let us be the first to tell you that it's definitely time for a rewatch of 101 Dalmatians. With its dreamy London landscapes and fun mid-century flourishes, the 1961 film is a classic from the golden age of animation.

It is also, not to put too fine a point on it, full of crazy-makes-no-sense shenanigans that you never noticed as a kid. Here are a few observations and questions we had while watching the movie through more experienced eyes.

The opening credits are a work of art

 

As children, we totally fast-forwarded through this part to get to the doggie action, which means we totally missed out on the joys of watching an anthropomorphic dalmatian spot dancing through the names of the production and animation crew to a hot jazz soundtrack. Is this what it's like to have synesthesia?

It was also the first time character animation appeared in a Disney movie opening credits scene, a standard that would continue as the most common opening credits style for Disney films for the next 20 years. 

Roger Radcliffe might be mentally ill

Pongo talks a big game about their "bachelor" lifestyle, but Roger Radcliffe is more than a bachelor; he's a hoarder. Look at his apartment. Dishes, newspapers, a smoldering pile of used matches overflowing from what we can only presume is a buried ashtray? He needs professional help... or at least a dedicated housekeeper. Between the state of his apartment and his utter inflexible adherence to routine (a freelance composer who never stops work until after five?), it's actually a bit of a shock that Roger even owns a dog.

Roger and Anita's relationship is a weird, whirlwind affair

Not only does 101 Dalmatians fast-forward past literally the entirety of Roger and Anita's courtship—one second they're falling into a bog together, and the next, they're getting married—but the two of them seem to have no connections but each other. Take a closer look at their wedding scene: they're getting married in front of nobody with only their dogs as witnesses, which seems kind of sad and weird. Where are their families? Their friends? Anita is particularly mysterious; what did she do before she met Roger? The only other person in her life appears to be Cruella de Vil. And speaking of that villainess...

Cruella is actually kind of awesome

She might be a psychotic, dog-murdering, fur-obsessed demon lady, but you can't deny that Cruella looks fabulous. The woman would be right at home at New York Fashion Week: that insane black-and-white mullet, the runway model physique, the jade ring that matches her cigarette holder? Get it, girl. Plus, she's evidently unmarried, fabulously wealthy, and tools around at will in the world's coolest luxury car while commanding a pair of utterly devoted henchmen to do her bidding—all in all, it's very hashtag #lifegoals. 

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 name. (Did her parents christen her Cruella? Or did she change it herself, to fit her brand?)

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 fifteen 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 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 sixty 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. 

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, 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 of 101 Dalmatians is a peculiar place, where a struggling musician and his non-working wife can afford park side real estate and a full-time housekeeper—and where hardcore criminals are occasionally sprung from prison in order to participate in an old-school game show called "What's My Crime," in which a panel of experts play 20 questions to guess what kind of felon you are. 

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—and it's playing on the Radcliffes' radio just before the 101 Dalmatian doggos make their appearance. Anita identifies the song as Roger's first big hit, and a huge moneymaker for the struggling couple. 

So, here's a question: what kind of ridiculously lax libel laws does England have that you can write the world's most defamatory song about a random private citizen and have it become a hit single? (Keeping in mind that Cruella is never actually identified as the puppy kidnapper by any of the movie's human characters; as far as they're concerned, she's just an eccentric wealthy weirdo.) Clever or not, that's generally not allowed. Even modern-day rap beefs aren't that blatant.

Where do all those dalmatians go pee?

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. So, dogs? They pee. And puppies? They're babies, which means limited bladder capacity, which means they pee all the time. 

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.