101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure
There is a natural order to the world we live in. Dogs have puppies, and Disney animated movies about puppies have sequels. Maybe there wasn't a long line of people demanding such a sequel, but Disney would get about making it anyway. A case in point is the 1961 classic animated feature 'One Hundred and One Dalmatians.' It has been a beloved favorite for the forty plus years it has existed. It was one of my favorite Disney flicks when I was a child and I would set for many hours with my daughter when she was kid enjoying it again with her. To date the original animated movie has been the source of several other flicks. In 1996 there was the live-action remake, which itself gave rise to a live-action sequel of its own. Then forty-two years after the original, an animated sequel was released; '101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure'. Over the years, there have been a lot of sequels made from the canon of Disney animation. It is no surprise that most fail to come up to the wonder and sheer imagination of the original. This one is really not that bad. It has voice actors that will be very recognizable to the grown-ups watching, and the story will pull the children back into this world of spotted dogs on the loose. While most of these afterthought sequels are pretty bad, this one makes a valiant attempt to keep with the spirit of the original. This dedication of the cast and crew shows how the film is presented. It is something that the kids will certainly enjoy, and at the same time, the parents will not want to go running out of the room. There are also several excellent themes explored in the movie that will provide a little positive lesson to the kids, but they will be too busy being entertained to notice. This movie is released to DVD along with the live-action version of the original and its sequel, so if you want, you can have a Dalmatian marathon with the kids in your home. The whole set would be perfect for a puppy themed sleepover.
The story was written by several authors, and it was much better than I had anticipated. The basic story is credited to Garrett K. Schiff, who previously did the teleplay for 'Angels in the Outfield.' The story looks at the need to feel special in life. This is something that is universal and transcends age. Children have to feel that they are not the same as every other kid in the class. When they grow to adulthood there is still the drive in us to stand out in one way or another. Handling the script to bring this to the screen is Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith who also co-directed. Kammerud is a first-time scriptwriter, but like many in the Disney, the organization worked his way up through the art department. The same holds true for Smith who also worked in art before moving over to writing and direction. The difficulty that the pair faced here is typical to any sequel, keeping the elements that made the original movie popular while changing things just enough to make the new flick fresh and original. For the most part this was achieved here. They took one of the most popular of the puppies in the original and built a story around him of trying to stand out. The thought of being just like all the other puppies around was something that didn't sit well with Patch, so he sets off to his own personal adventure. There is a little element of 'Home Alone' here since Patch is inadvertently left behind on moving day, which plays well into the biggest fear of a child, abandonment combined with the adventure of being away from parental control. The story has some intense (for children) moments but never gets so scary that parents will have to worry about nightmares later on. This is a good, solid story that will suit all members of the family.
As directors, Kammerud and Smith are fairly new. They have worked as co-directors in another Disney animated sequel 'The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea' so they have the advantage of knowing how to split the tasks in a film like this. Directing an animated feature has to be a difficult job. It is not like you have the advantage of having your actors in front of you. Instead, they have to work closely with the animators and accepting the time lag with creating new footage for any and all changes they feel are necessary. The pair does very well in pacing the movie. You always have to do something to connect with the audience as soon as possible, but with a flick targeted primarily to kids, this has to be done in minutes of the start. They grab the audience and then pull us directly into the story and the adventure. The original animated film was the first to use the process of Xerography to save time and money. This is where the backgrounds are photocopies. Thanks to the major advancements in animation, this feature looks and feels better than the first. The movements are more natural than ever, and the backgrounds are less static than before.
The film starts off soon after the conclusion of the original animated movie. Roger (voiced by Tim Bentinck) and Anita (Jodi Benson) is feeling a little cramped in the London flat they share with Pongo, Perdita, and their 99 puppies. They are about to move to the country to a place they refer to as the Dalmatian Plantation, where there will be more than enough room for everyone. Patch (voiced by Bobby Lockwood) is feeling left out as always. He was one of the smallest in the litter, very sensitive, and feels that all of his siblings get more attention than he does. He loves television, and his favorite show is about Thunderbolt (Barry Bostwick), who stars in an action-adventure series. Patch wants to be a hero just like him. While watching an episode, Patch finds out that the series will be filming nearby, and he wants to meet his hero, but the family is too busy with the move. Dejected, Patch crawls off to the pantry and falls asleep. When he awakens, he discovers that the family has already moved. He decides to make the best of it and go off to meet Thunderbolt. When he gets to the set, he finds out that his hero is a diva and that his sidekick, Lil' Lightning (Jason Alexander), is plotting to replace him as the star of the series. Meanwhile, their old foe Cruella De Vil (Susan Blakeslee) has become obsessed with a painting of a single black dot on a white canvas. She talks the artist Lars (Martin Short) into painting something just for her, but this sends her back into her passion for capturing Dalmatians.
There is one thing that Disney knows how to do, and that is creating a great DVD release. This one has Dolby 5.1 audio and an anamorphic 1.66:1 video. Both are near reference quality. There are also plenty of extras to keep the family busy long after you finish the movie. This is up there as one of the better of the direct to DVD sequels. It is not quite up to the original, but it is entertaining.
Posted 09/10/08 Posted 02/28/2020