Out, damned spot! That’s surely what animators were thinking as they drew the last of the 6,469,952 doggy inkblots seen in 101 Dalmatians. (Our fact-checkers were unable to complete their own spot check by press time, so we’ll trust this edition’s “101 Pop-Up Trivia Facts,” just this once.) Also unbesotted by spots: Walt Disney, who is reported — on this very two-disc set — to have hated the movie’s modernist visual style, favoring the fairy-tale lushness of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. If only we could cryogenically unfreeze Uncle Walt and let him reconsider a now-obvious classic.
Dalmatians is the one certifiable Disney masterwork (besides 1946’s eternally locked away Song of the South) that’s never gotten the deluxe treatment, even in laserdisc days. So nearly all the extras here, from design sketches to radio ads, will be new to collectors. The niftiest treasure trove is a set of song demos and outtakes — ironic, since as a bonus documentary points out, Dalmatians didn’t end up being a musical. At one point, the kidnapped pups were slated to sing something titled “Cheerio, Good-Bye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!” It’s a measure of the filmmakers’ wisdom that the critters never do croon, allowing for a nearly spiritual sweetness to their homeward trek through snowy rural England, even as the pursuing dognappers set a template for the bumbling crooks of countless Home Alone-style comedies to come. Here, it’s the humans who provide most of the slapstick, and the dogs who provide the grace. A