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Review: 101 Dalmatian Street

101 Dalmatian Street is an upcoming animated series based upon the beloved Disney canine franchise. At the Annecy film festival we got a sneak-peak, as well some very interesting information from the creative team.

The new show doesn’t follow the characters we know from the movies. In fact, the creators claim they purposely didn’t watch any of the direct-to DVD sequels, live-action movies or spin-off TV show from the 90’s. The new show takes place in modern London and follows a completely new family of Dalmatians, with Delilah, the mother, being a direct descendant of Pongo and Perdita. Her husband Douglas is an American firefighter dog and one thing they have in common is lots of kids from their previous marriages… 99 in total.

The stars of the show are not the mom and dad but their two oldest children – Dylan and Dolly. He’s a pedantic control freak who dreams of being the first dog on Mars, and she’s a rebellious tomboy full of zany ideas who loves nothing more than causing trouble. As one can imagine, the duo doesn’t always get along, and to make things harder when their parents are at work they are in charge of their 97 younger siblings…

You may be asking yourself, “Dogs go to work?” Oh, did I forget to mention? In the show, The Dalmatians own their house! However, this isn’t some Zootopia-like universe where animals are just human analogues. The dogs are owned by an eccentric billionaire (named after Dodie Smith, the author of the original novel the movie was based one) who left them his house and went to live on an island. The home is full of wacky inventions to make the dogs lives easier and somehow they can order whatever they need. As one can imagine this house is a mailman’s worst nightmare, which is a running gag on the show.

In comedic fashion all the dogs have D-names and colorful personalities – There’s Disel the silly puppy who’s obsessed with playing in the dirt, there’s DJ the music lover, there’s DaVinci the artist, Dawkins the science nerd who is Dylan’s underappreciated sidekick, a trio of over the top triplets (with the last one being named Deja Vu), Dante the gloomy goth who has black fur with white spots and the cute baby named Dorothy. There was even one sibling in a doggy wheelchair but with a very charismatic personality, which is a very nice touch for all the handicapped viewers. The creators mention that to keep up with 99 dogs they often had to cheat a little, and more nitpicky viewers will manage to spot some shots of where the number of the puppies goes way beyond 101… but seriously who is insane enough to count?

The cast of characters doesn’t end with the Dalmatians. The recurring villains consist of a group of upper class snob-dogs who look down on our heroes for living without a owner, a feisty small white dog named Snowball, an mystical Asian cat guru who teaches one of the Dalmatians ancient philosophies, and a fox, a Squirrel and a rat who live in the forest and befriend Dylan, showing him how to appreciate the wild side of life. There’s also a Husky that Dolly has a crush on, but the creator joked he may be interested in her brother – a hint of an LGBT character? Much like in the original movie, all recurring dogs have owners who resemble them, often being exaggerated for a comedic effect: it’s not the dogs who look like their humans, but it’s the other way around.

But the character everyone is interested in is, of course, Cruella De Vil, one of Disney’s most iconic villains. She is so obsessed with trying to get the puppies for her fur coat, ready to do all the “poisoning, drowning and bashing them on their heads”, that’s necessary… Well, sorry to tell you but in the ‘Dalmatians mythology timeline’ she would have to be over 100 years old, seeing how the original movie is set in the 50’s and this is meant to be present day London. In fact, the show tries to make the city look as current as possible. Even the iconic “Twilight Bark” is now replaced by the “World Wide Woof”, which turns the doggy way of communicating into an Internet parody.

While the creators didn’t want to spoil what they’re planning for Cruella, they hinted that “there’s something afoot on the De Vil front” although we won’t get our beloved villain (or possible descendent) until the two-part season finale. However, they were very excited to let us sneak a glimpse of a story-board showing Dolly looking terrified in front of a picture of Cruella-like character.

As to the quality of the animation, it looks simply gorgeous! It is stylized, yet cartoonish, being not only influenced by the style of the original movie but by Disney Golden Books, with all the backgrounds and characters having very distinguished shapes and colors. Things even get a tad artistic; one chase had all the characters in black and white silhouettes, looking like a shadow show.

The humor also largely works that comes from slapstick, dog-puns and over the top doggy expressions, but the scenarios themselves are amusingly clever commentaries. In one episode, London is having a celebration which involves fireworks, an annual event that the dogs consider the scariest night of the year. Confused as to why humans do this, they barricade themselves in the house trying get through the night, which leads to a parody of The Purge among other things. Another episode has Disel winning the election for Top Dog by promising other puppies that they can play in the mud as much as they want if they vote for him, turning into a parody of Scar’s “Be Prepared” from The Lion King.

There is an overall feel of fun to the entire thing and the stepsiblings Dolly and Dylan are very likeable protagonists. The creators mention that they put a lot of work in to make sure the boys will like Dolly as much as the girls (which begs the question, did they try do the same with Dylan and the female audience?) With dozens of cute characters, the show had plenty of potential and while its hard to say if it will be the next My Little Pony, I think all cartoon fans should be looking forward to 101 Dalmatian Street.

-Written by Maciek Kur.