101 Dalmatians: The Series

An article on one of the most overlooked cartoons "101 Dalmatians: The Series".
May 22, 2006
I'm sure most everybody remembers "The Disney Afternoon", and all those great cartoons that Disney has been making in the 80's and 90's. I remember them just as much, and they were all great. There is however, just one show that stands out to me more than any of the rest, and that is "101 Dalmatians".

I've seen a lot of movie-based TV shows in the past...pretty boring. But this one is different. I've been a fan of "101 Dalmatians" since 1991 when I saw the movie for the first time. When I saw the live-action remake in 1996, I was pretty disappointed, as it didn't really give that same feeling the animated movie gave me, but Glen Close did a really good job playing Cruella De Vil.

I started watching the series when it premiered in September of 1997. The series outdoes both of the movies taking the story to a whole new level. When people first hear about this series, some might think it's going to be about Pongo and Perdita with their 99 pups as they grow, learn and play. In some ways, it is, but the main cast of the show was narrowed down to four major characters, which are the ones seen in the picture above. As said in one of the episodes, the original plan was to have Pongo and Perdy be the stars of the show since they were the stars of the movie, but since the company was planning to make this a children's show, they wanted to have a younger perspective.

Each episode of "101 Dalmatians" is very original and mostly contains a lesson to learn in life. There are even enough cartoon antics thrown in to amuse young children. I guess I'll talk more about this stuff later, so now let's take a look at the characters.

Let's start off with Lucky. As I've said before, the show focuses on four main pups; Lucky is their fearless leader. He's always been my favorite character on the show. Lucky is basically the Tom Sawyer of dalmatian puppies: adventurous, thrill-seeking, action-loving, and very enthusiastic. He's never afraid to be himself. There are a few flaws in his character to make him a little dislikable. For one thing, his obsession with the action he watches on TV (namely, Thunderbolt) makes him a little too adventurous. Whenever the main pups get into trouble or miss out on something, Lucky's usually the one at fault. Lucky also comes up with a lot of crazy ideas. He tried to drive a car once! Nonetheless, he's still a great character and a model for people who believe in heroism.

Cadpig is a character new to the screening universe of 101 Dalmatians. She's based on the character from the Dodie Smith novel the movie was based on. As her name suggests, Cadpig is the runt of the litter, and she's also the youngest of Perdita's 15 pups. Cadpig has a very unique personality. She's the little hippie of the four main pups. Some refer to her as the modern Gandhi. She has a calm demeanor, a total commitment to world peace, and a way of talking others into putting on a happy face. Cadpig also has incredible strength; several times in the series, she managed to support Lucky on her head without consequence (for a little pup, she sure can lift a lot). Overall, Cadpig is a great character, and most of the people who watch this series find her to be the main reason they watch the series. She's the most common favorite character on the show. I agree with those people who love her so much, for she has every right to be on this show, but my favorite is still Lucky.

Rolly is a pretty good supporting character. I'm sure most of you remember him from the original movie as the puppy that’s always hungry. Well, he's come to the series. His personality is a little different, but his appetite hasn't changed much. His character is in some ways weak, for he talks about food more often than anything else. He thinks with his stomach more often than he thinks with his brain. He is also very lazy. Rolly does have some strong points. When it comes to food, he has a lot of knowledge. He also has an incredible sense of smell, which often comes in handy for the other main pups. Rolly's probably most known for his memorable catch phrases such as, "Are you calling me fat?" and then of course, there's the ever so lovable and memorable, "Oh, papa!" He seems to be Lucky's best friend.

Now for the fourth main pup, Spot. Yes, I know, she's a chicken. Spot is a puppy-wannabe. I don't know how she got put into the cast, but I think it was just one day, she got acquainted with Lucky, Rolly and Cadpig, and before they knew it, they all became best friends. Spot is most likely the brain of the group; I believe this because she seems to have the most common sense of the four, and there were a couple of episodes where she calculated some things. I never liked Spot from the beginning. The show is supposed to be about dalmatian pups, but she's a chicken who doesn't even look like a chicken, she has an annoying voice, and she's always ends up stealing the show with her multiple talents. I think the series would have been okay without Spot. She's not my least favorite character on the show, but I love the other three main pups a lot better than her.

The show also had some supporting characters as well as guest characters. Some appeared regularly in about half of the episodes, and some only appeared in a couple. One character, for example, is Two-Tone. She's one of the other dalmatian puppies who had a really cool voice and a unique personality. She is supposedly in a romantic relationship with Lucky, and I think she deserved to have larger roles in some more episodes (she's mostly seen in the background in a lot of the episodes).
Then of course, there are characters like Lieutenant Pug. Pug is my least favorite character on the series. He's a tough character who's always giving orders to the pups in a mean and strict manner. I never liked him because he always ruined the pups' fun. I think he's a disgrace to the series!

In addition to the main characters being so lovable and having such great personalities, a lot of the stuff on this series is very entertaining to watch. I really love most of the episodes, but some have pretty weak plots and not a lot of puppy action. I never liked any of the episodes where the main pups got separated, because those were just too painful and heartbreaking. There are also some episodes that are really not worth watching at all, for example, "Horace and Jasper's Big Career Move", which is, hands down, at the bottom of the barrel for the series.

What disappoints me about this series is the fact that it had a very short run and it never really became popular. The world of entertainment kept trying to interest me with real popular shows like "The Simpsons" and "Spongebob", which I have no interest in and wish to stick with old school stuff like this. Only 65 episodes were made for this series. Some were full-length episodes while the rest contained two short episodes in one. Combined, they made 105 episodes. It was in March of 1998 when the supposed final episode, "Dalmatian Vacation", aired. I really think they could have kept this series running a little longer. Besides, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to see happen in the series that never did happen!
There is one major thing that they were forgetting about. Merchandising! The real money is made from merchandising! To my best knowledge, very little was made for "101 Dalmatians", and that's why it never became so popular. In January 1998, the McDonald's Happy Meal had those little flip-cars. If you're a fan of the series and want to see what those were like, there's always the chance of finding them on eBay. There were also a couple of children's activity books, which were released quietly; they didn't sell too great. It also disappoints me the fact that none of the episodes were released on video. The only episode that ever came out on video was the Christmas special, and I think that video sold pretty well. I'm personally not a fan of the Christmas special since I found it to be not as original as the other episodes.

The series was active in 1997 and early 1998 in production. During this time, it was being shown Saturday mornings on ABC and weekday afternoons in syndication. Back in this time, it was actually worth it to get up at 7 A.M. on Saturday mornings! At the end of summer of 1998, the show was taken off of syndication, but it continued to show on ABC (but at a more pleasing time). As the 90's came to a close, it moved to the Disney Channel in some countries and Toon Disney in other countries. Sadly, the show was taken off the air for good on January 31, 2006, just one day after my 21st birthday! Thankfully, I managed to save a lot of the episodes on a tape when I had the chance to just incase such happened. I only saved the episodes I liked the most, including my all-time favorite episode, "Leisure Lawsuit."

In conclusion, I just want to say that "101 Dalmatians" is overall a wonderful series. If you haven't seen the series and know someone who is a fan of it, they will very likely have a lot of the episodes on tape. Otherwise, the best you can do is just pray that in time, the series will come out on DVD.
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