Disney
Cruella De Vil in the 1961 Disney classic "101 Dalmatians," which has been digitally restored.
"101 Dalmatians" (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, $29.99).

Did you know that in Disney's "101 Dalmatians":

• if you could count the dogs' spots throughout the movie, it would total 6,469,952;

• if you watch closely you can see characters from Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" in the "twilight bark" scene and;

• if you could ask the movie's artists you would find that 1,218,750 pencils were used in creating the artwork.

These are among the 202 pop-up trivia facts contained in the bonus features of the DVD release this week of the Disney classic, "101 Dalmatians."

It's been nearly a decade since the 1961 animated feature, one of the last personally supervised by Walt Disney, was available. The new two-disc set, digitally restored in vibrant color with enhanced sound, is doggone great.

Besides the well-known tale of Pongo, Perdita and their 99 puppies — and that cruel villainess with her lust for a spotted coat — the set contains a bonus CD filled with interesting and entertaining featurettes, interviews, activities and facts that will delight both adults and children.

Among them:

At first Disney wasn't as enamored with "101 Dalmatians" as his previous lush, romantic interpretations of fairy tales such as " Sleeping Beauty." "Dalmatians" marked the beginning of a new era where technology met art. The Xerox innovation came to animation. It replaced the expensive, painstaking ink re-tracing of the artists' pencil drawings by scores of employees. The DVD gives the viewer a behind-the-scenes look at animation more than 40 years ago.

Flamboyant actress Tallulah Bankhead, who starred in films starting in the 1920s, was the "inspiration" for the evil Cruella De Vil. However, a young Mary Wickes, the talented character actress (Sister Mary Lazarus in "Sister Act" among scores of films) was the live-action model for the animators.

Also, the familiar Cruella De Vil song was not the original. Songwriter Mel Leven's first version was supposed to sound spooky. While driving to work he decided a bluesy feel would work better. The DVD contains both versions, as well as other deleted songs.

In obtaining the rights to the children's book, "The Hundred and One Dalmatians." Disney carried on a long-distance correspondence, via letter and cable, with British author Dodie Smith. The literary friendship spanned a number of years, even after the movie opened. Smith, by the way, was miffed that animator/storyteller Bill Peet received a larger credit in the film than she did.

Children will enjoy the games and activities such as adopting a virtual puppy, profiling a puppy to find which dog resembles them and using the puppies to learn words and numbers.

As usual, the DVD is available for a limited time. It will go back into the Disney "vault," likely to re-appear in another decade to be sold to a new generation of parents and children.

Other family-friendly features now available are:

"Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" (Warner Home Video, not rated, $19.97). The remastered deluxe edition of the TV classic tells of Horton the elephant who hears a faint cry for help coming from a tiny speck while he takes a bath in the Jungle of Nool.

The speck is inhabited by microscopic Whos in the teensy Whoville. Horton decides to help them because "after all, a person is a person, no matter how small."

Bonus features: three episodes from the Best of Dr. Seuss, a singalong music video and an Emmy-nominated documentary on Dr. Seuss.

"It's the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown" (Warner Home Video, not rated, $19.97). Starring Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang, the "Easter Beagle" made its TV debut in 1974.

Peppermint Patty and Marcie make several attempts to dye Easter eggs but fail. In this "plot," which resembles the premise of the better-known, earlier "It's a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown," Linus says their efforts are a waste of time because the "Easter Beagle" will come and fill their baskets with eggs.

Bonus material: the TV special "It's Arbor Day Charlie Brown" and the new featurette "In Full Bloom: Peanuts at Easter."

"The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town" (Warner Home Video, not rated, $14.98). Using stop-motion animation, "Easter Bunny" features Fred Astaire as the narrator mailman who teaches children about the origins of Easter traditions such as egg hunts and bonnets.

Bonus material: Three stop-motion animated shorts.


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