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Color in 101 Dalmatians

101 Dalmatians

To this day, Walt Peregoy’s color styling in 101 Dalmatians remains a fine example of how color can be used creatively in animation while serving more than a merely decorative function. On his blog Colorful Animation Expressions, artist Oswald Iten is exploring the use of color as a storytelling device in that film. So far he has written two thoughtful and in-depth posts about the topic with more to come–Color in 101 Dalmatians: An Introduction and Color in 101 Dalmatians: 1. Home Sweet Home.

  • Brilliant… I’ve always been in awe of all aspects of that film’s design.

  • Chuck R.

    This is awesome, and a welcome treat. After the multiple Peter Pan postings, I was surprised that the 101 Dalmatians DVD release came and went with no postings on Cartoon Brew. Thanks Oswald, for spotlighting one of my all-time favs!
    I will disagree with a few persistent myths about Disney design:

    Mary Blair’s work actually did influence several films quite a bit. In the package films, her “look” is right up there on screen.

    101 Dalmations is one of Disney’s best-looking films, but it isn’t as modernistic or stylized as a lot of people seem to think. The animals are as realistic as anything in Bambi, (compare Pongo’s design to the croc in Peter Pan or Lucifer in Cinderella.) The backgrounds are very fresh and very sophisticated, but there are graphic qualities in Alice that actually push the boundaries further. Ward Kimball’s experiments with the music and space films make 101 Dalmatians look like modernism-lite.

    IMHO, it’s the contemporary story and the Xerox technique that really separates Dalmatians from it’s predecessor, Sleeping Beauty.

  • Thanks for posting this. It’s one of my favorite Disney films. The use of color in the big mansion where the pups are being held by Horace and Jasper are great.

  • Amid – thanks a lot for putting me on Cartoon Brew!

    Chuck R – I agree with you about the “modernism” aspect of Dalmatians. In fact, the architectural layouts (and Xerox line overlays) are among the straightest examples in any Disney feature. It’s only the flat painting style that really departs from what we have seen in features before. I think Al Dempster once said, that the features had to be “straight” so the audience could identify with the characters and wasn’t put off by graphics. Fortunately, shorts and featurettes were always treated differently.

  • Kyle

    To be honest Ive always found the color pallet in 101 dalmations to be the most depressing thing in the world. especially as a kid. it looked like its artists hated their jobs.

  • acetate

    I agree all round. I loved this film as a kid, teen, and adult. I would love to get a nice art print of some of the backgrounds in the film. Really nice stuff in there. Even the human characters are designed great. I love Roger and Anita. The scene where Roger is rubbing the apparently
    still born puppy during the thunderstorm and the ticking clock is priceless. Like they say….They don’t make’em like that any more.

  • Chuck R.

    “They don’t make’em like that any more.”

    I’d venture to say Triplettes of Belleville comes close. It isn’t as elegant or cute as Dalmatians —in fact, it sort-of revels in grotesquery, which may turn casual Disneyphiles off. But Triplettes celebrates the draughtsmanship of the animators in the same way, using design to flatter the artists’ linework, and color to support the mood of a given scene.

    I agree with Oswald, that the Disney artists were smart in tailoring the design to fit the needs of the story, which meant using restraint in some of their choices. Chomet seems to have worked from their model, although his palette is more saturated and dark (the effect of streetlights on rainy nights) and he allows for more depth of space. His “spotlighting” tends to radiate from it’s source rather than governing a crisp flat area. (This is off the top of my head —Oswald, if you need a follow-up project, contrasting these two films would make a great analytical exercise)

    It’s surprising that Disney disliked the modern look of 101 Dalmatians. (He seemed to like Mary Blair’s and Ward Kimball’s modern experimentations) What’s even more surprising is that despite his misgivings, the dalmatian style became the template for Disney design for over twenty years! (until Bluth’s “Secret of Nimh” initiated a revival of the more classic look.) I could never understand why Walt would give a pass to subsequent films (Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book) that appropriated the same heavy black line even in stories that were way less-suited for it (19th century India vs. 20th century London). Could he really have hated Xerography that much? Were the cost savings so great that it was xerox or no film?

  • Dustin

    It’s a shame that it was ruined on DVD.

  • It was tough to second guess Walt. True, he hated the look of “101 Dalmatians,” yet when the artists came up with a softer look for “Mary Poppins,” Disney elected to return to the black lined Xerox for the animation.

    It would appear Disney knew what would work for a particular film. While we may not always agree with him, Walt continued to influence the art direction on his movies until his untimely passing.

  • Katella Gate

    Does anybody know why Walt Peregoy left Disney just a few years later? Did he go directly to Hanna Barbera Productions? Is there a mini-biography available for him anywhere?


    I purchased the ‘101 DALMATIANS’ DVD early last week, and it’s a fantastic achievement, in my view the only truly successful xerox-derived feature from DISNEY that fully suited that particular technique.

    The backgrounds are now available to savor through the wonder of DVD technology [much quality was lost on the videotape version] and the dimensional quality embued into the character animation set this production well apart from being an ‘animated comic strip’.

    Further innovative animation technique was involved in the use of small, ‘live action’ lorries and cars [notably CRUELLA’S] which were filmed traditionally, then transferred to xerox, giving a more precise, smooth motion to the VEHICLE animation.

    Overall, 1967’s ‘JUNGLE BOOK’ had more crowd-pleasing appeal and winning songs, but the total look of the animation would have been improved if the movie had been rendered with traditional hand-painted cels: and in this respect, ‘101’ remains the definitive example of big-budget ‘xerox’ character animation: FANTASTIC FILM.

  • Chuck R.

    Rab Smith, I completely agree. I’m wondering why Dustin say it was “ruined on DVD”.
    and Floyd, Thanks for your comment. I never knew that about Mary Poppins.