Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dalmatian Plantation

101 Dalmatians (1961)
Director(s): Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S. Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman
Voice Talent: Rod Taylor, J. Pat O'Malley, Betty Lou Gerson, Marth Wentworth, Ben Wright, Lisa Davis
Released: January 25, 1961

101 Dalmatians (1996)
Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie, Mark Williams
Released: November 27, 1996

It seems lately that there has been an explosion of live action Disney remakes taken from their animated counterparts. There was Cinderella last year and Maleficent a couple years ago and The Jungle Book out this year and The Little Mermaid coming out soon. But 101 Dalmatians may have been the first to do it since its live action counterpart came out almost twenty years ago. I can't think of any others that were around that time. Let's get one thing straight though: the remake is really bad. Like, really, REALLY bad. There are a couple of good things (mainly Glenn Close), but for the most part it's really bad! The funny thing is, while I remembered there was a live actin remake in the '90s and Glenn Close played Cruella DeVil, I had no recollection of what happened in the movie. I'm pretty sure I saw it (whether in the theaters or on video, I couldn't tell you), but I just couldn't remember anything about it. I couldn't tell you who was in it besides Glenn Close, I couldn't remember what they kept the same or changed from the animated movies, I couldn't remember if the animals talked. It was like I had totally blocked everything about it out of my head! Or maybe I just never saw it...I really have no idea! 

It's been awhile since I've seen the original animated movie, but I still remembered quite a lot. I did have the VHS as a kid and watched it a few times. I had no idea until just recently that it was based on a book by a Dodie Smith that Walt Disney wanted to buy the rights to. (I also didn't know Mary Poppins was based on a book until I saw Saving Mr. Banks.) 

Pongo, the dalmatian patriarch is narrating the story and calls his owner, Roger, his pet. With the remake, you don't get this clever narration since the animals don't talk. (Not saying that would have made the movie any better...it may have made it a lot worse!) Pongo doesn't want Roger, an aspiring musician, to be a bachelor all his life so he decides to set him up with a fine breed of woman. There's a humorous scene where he's checking out women walking their dogs and all the women look like their canine pets. He spots Perdita, who will be the dalmatian matriarch and she is being walked by an attractive woman named Anita who is around Roger's age. Roger and Anita are played by Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson in the '96 remake. In the original, Pongo has a red collar and Perdita has a blue one, but for some reason, they couldn't remember that in the remake and Perdita has a red collar while Pongo sometimes wears a black collar and sometimes wear a blue one. So unnecessarily confusing! 

Both dalmatians and humans meet in the park in both movies. I will say it is a little more realistic in the live action one when Anita plays fetch with Perdita rather than sit on a bench with her dog sitting next to her, which is what the animated Anita and Perdita do. The dogs take a liking to each other, as do the humans, but it is just so awkward and unrealistic in the remake. I think we can believe the animated character getting together so quickly because they're, you know ANIMATED! But '96 Roger and Anita decide they should get married since their dogs like each other and they're getting married in the next scene! It's the most ridiculous thing ever! They could have at least had a little montage of them dating and then six months later they get married. Sheesh. But one thing I do like about the '96 version is that they tell us how Anita and Cruella know each other. In the animated movie, Cruella is an "old classmate" of Anita's. Maybe a former teacher I would believe because Cruella has to be at least a decade or two older than Anita. We have no idea why these two are friends. In the movie, Cruella is a fashion designer. She's not the Devil Wears Prada, but rather the DeVil Wears Dalmatians! Anita works for her so that's how they know each other. Anita has had some inspiration from Perdita for some new outfits and Cruella sees a picture of her and asks her if her dog has short or long hair; if it's soft or coarse. In both movies she lives for fur and is very excited about the prospect of having a coat made out of dalmatian fur. To me, this is what makes Cruella DeVil the most evil of all the Disney villains. She wants to kill and skin puppies, for God's sake!

After Perdita has a litter of fifteen puppies (at first they only think it's fourteen, but manage to save the 15th), Cruella comes over to buy the puppies but is dismayed when she discovers they don't have their spots. If I were Roger and Anita, I would have told her that this batch would never get their spots. But they don't know her cruel intentions and tell her that the puppies will get their spots in a few weeks and that they need to be with their mother. They also tell her that the puppies aren't for sale when she offers them a huge sum of money which makes Cruella irate. A few weeks later she has her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, who are like the animated versions of Harry and Marv, kidnap the puppies when Roger and Anita are taking Pongo and Perdita for a walk. (I didn't quite understand why they didn't take the puppies too...wouldn't they need a walk as much as, if not more than the older dogs? But I'm not a dog owner, so what do I know?) Jasper and Horace are played by Hugh Laurie (yes, Dr. House!) and Mark Williams (best known as Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter films) in the '96 version. This is when we find out that Cruella has kidnapped a total of 99 puppies from pet stores. Now I realize that London is a big city, but I find it hard to believe that there would be 99 dalmatian puppies at one time. I say this because I've always found the dalmatian to be a rare breed! I have no idea if it is or not, but I've only seen one dalmatian in real life in my entire life, so to me they're rare! But maybe they're not that rare.

Jasper and Horace lock Nanny (played by Joan Plowright in the remake) in the closet as they take the the puppies. It's a little Fargo-esque in the live action one and seems a bit rough for a movie with a G-rating! This is around the point in that version where the movie really goes downhill (not that it was that great, but wow, it gets really bad starting here!), so I'll talk mostly about the '61 version for now.

When they discover their puppies are missing, Pongo and Perdita send out the "Twilight Bark" which is a way to signal all the other dogs in the city. I guess it's like morse code. This is kind of a funny scene because you hear a bunch of dogs barking and howling and we see an overview of London and hear a human voice shout, "Shuddup, would ya?" The message is relayed to a barn with a sheepdog named Colonel, a horse named Captain, and a cat named Sergeant Tibbs. Colonel mistakenly hears the message as "fifteen spotted puddles are missing", ha! Sergeant Tibbs is the one who rescues the puppies and gets them out of Hell Hall, the name of the DeVil place where they're being held. Jasper and Horace are in the same room, but are distracted by a TV program. How you can't hear 99 puppies leaving one room is an incredible feat!

After Tibbs pushes Rolly, the adorable pudgy dalmatian who's always hungry through the small hole, Jasper and Horace notice all the dogs are gone and know that Cruella will have THEIR hide if they don't find them. By this time Pongo and Perdita have caught up with them and take them to a barn where the cows give all the puppies milk. No surprise to see Rolly is happy about that! They get a good night's sleep in the hay and the next day, after getting help from a labrador and seeing one of his pups gets dirty from soot, Pongo gets the idea for all of them to roll in the soot so they look like labradors. Cruella and her minions are in the same area driving around because they've spotted dog prints. Cruella is suspicious when she sees a  bunch of labrador puppies walking towards a truck and getting on the back of it. When water starts dripping on them and revealing their spots she gets in her fancy-pants car and chases the truck only to get in a horrific car wreck with Jasper and Horace and their truck. I couldn't remember if she died or not, but she is fine. She doesn't even go to jail from what we see.

The reason the live action movie gets really bad at this point is because literally nothing happens and it's so boring! Well, things happen, but very stupid things. It's like an animal-esque Home Alone where animals try to stop Horace and Jasper with stupid hi jinx. A squirrel crosses the wires in their car so that it will start on fire! A woodpecker keeps knocking on the door only to confuse them when they open it to find nobody there! A raccoon puts a rock in the exhaust pipe of their car! A dalmatian puppy pees on a magazine with Cruella on the cover! It's all just very stupid. And it gets really boring fast since the only humans are Jasper and Horace and you're just watching a bunch of animals. Sure, the puppies are cute but watching a bunch of puppies isn't very exciting. At least in the animated version they have personalities and can talk! I got so bored during this time that I started playing with my phone. It felt like it was twenty minutes before we see Cruella again. Glenn Close obviously did her homework because she has the great maniacal laugh; the cool, stiff Cruella posture with the back arched when she laughs; she has her mannerisms down, she calls everyone "You fools, you idiots!" You could tell she was getting into the character and was having fun with it. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical Comedy (she lost to MADONNA for Evita?? Are you kidding me? Granted, I have never seen Evita but I know that Glenn Close is a better actress than freakin' Madonna! Now if she had lost to Frances McDormand for Fargo, THAT I would understand!) The movie sucks, but Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil is great and I can see why she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Cruella gets apprehended by the police (after falling into a vat of molasses...which did not happen in the animated movie) along with Jasper, Horace, and Mr. Skinner who she has hired to skin the puppies. (Haha, get it, he skins animals and his name is Mr. Skinner? Yeah...) I did laugh when she tells them that they won the gold, silver, and bronze in the awards for biggest idiots and Horace asks, "Which one of us won the gold?" and she just goes off on them. That was pretty funny. She does go to jail and all the puppies are okay (as they are in the animated version, but we all knew that).
99 puppies = 99 problems!

In both movies, Roger and Anita take all the puppies in because apparently nobody is claiming any of the other 84 puppies. With Pongo and Perdita, they have 101 dalmatians! They decide to move to a bigger place so they have enough room. Roger tells Anita that they'll have a Dalmatian Plantation! Don't get me wrong, puppies are very cute, but I would NOT want 99 puppies. God no! That seems like a nightmare! I don't think I'd even want fifteen! In the '61 version, they are able to buy their Dalmatian Plantation with the money Roger made from his hit song about Cruella DeVil and in the '96 version Roger is a video game designer and used Cruella as his villain and it made lots of money for them to buy a huge mansion in the country.

101 Dalmatians was the highest-grossing movie of 1961!

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