Posts in 101 Dalmatians
Documenting the Recycling of Scenes in Disney Animated Films

What I love in here is the argument presented that the films were never really meant to be watched the way that we watch them now, where we can take the time to slow down and really analyze them, and create books, podcasts, youtube documentaries, essays, and more around them. I like that ecosystem of art: where once it’s in the world, it can support whole other endeavors that weren’t in the mind or even the imagination of the creator; all these Odes to Grecian Urns that we undertake. Yet the films can withstand it.

I was surprised to learn that this copying of previous work was happening prior to the use of xerography, although the xerography certainly seems to have provided an uptick in how much the technique was used; however there were several other factors involved there as well.

This video does the side by side comparisons, but also gives another overview of the history of Disney Animation Studios.

The Eras Of The Disney Canon
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As we converse through the Disney Animated Canon in chronological order sometimes we refer to the Silver Age, or the Dark Age (in the image above more charitably called the Bronze Age). Other than the wartime/package films era being a pretty clear line between the Golden Age and the Silver age, the rest of the eras are more debatable. For example Michial said during our 101 Dalmatians episode that he thought we were entering the First Dark Age, although many people put the start of the Dark Age after Jungle Book and Walt Disney’s death. Although honestly, Walt had definitely lost interest in the animation for several years before his death, and it may be a better delineator to call this the xerography era. Those debates are all part of the fun of looking at these movies. Either way, this graphic from Network 1901 is a pretty good one, and the video I grabbed it out of ain’t bad either if you’re looking for a nice overview of the entire canon. I disagree with a few of the narratives presented in the video, but it’s an overview so there’s not a ton of room for nuance.

And, if you’re just looking for a list of the films in the canon - Wikipedia is your friend : )




The Adjacent Possible and Xerography

On the show Michial and I spent a fair amount of time discussing the new technology, xerography, that both allowed animation to be cost effective at Disney, and ushered in a new aesthetic that perfectly matched the Dalmatians.

Steven Johnson is the popularizer of an idea called the adjacent possible. As he puts it:

The phrase captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation.
— Steven Johnson

It’s a particularly apt idea to describe what happened with 101 Dalmatians because of the convergence of so many limits and potentials. The combinations of technologies that makes xerography as an animation tool an adjacent possible. (I’d love to know more of that story - Ub Iwerks, the guy who first animated Mickey Mouse, is a key player.) The xerography itself that makes animating 99 puppies an adjacent possible. Choosing to adapt that story makes the other modern art style decisions adjacently possible. And of course all these ideas are smashing into one another at the same time, which is another big idea in Johnson’s book: Where Good Ideas Come From. Very nicely illustrated in the trailer for the book below.

Matt Draper has a nice video that further explores some of those smashing together limits and potentials. If you listened to our episode you already know them: Walt Disney’s losing interest in animation, the financial struggles after Sleeping Beauty, etc. If you’re only interested in the actual technology of Xerography, skip to about 3:40 for a nice visual explainer.

Back to Johnson:

The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.
— Steven Johnson

There’s no doubt that Disney already had a palace by the time 101 Dalmatians was released in 1961. However a whole new wing was opened through the use of the Xerography, not only to allow animation to continue at the studio, and to expand the types of stories that were told.

If you read all of Johnson’s Wall Street Journal article adapted from his book he gives one more example of the adjacent possible from the Apollo 13 movie. And as this has to be one of my favorite scenes in cinema, I couldn’t resist sticking it in here as well.

The space gear on the table defines the adjacent possible for the problem of building a working carbon scrubber on a lunar module...They are the building blocks that create—and limit—the space of possibility for a specific problem.
— Steven Johnson



Pink Is A Boys Color
For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
— Jeanne Maglaty

It seems gender neutral was becoming the fashion at the time of 101 Dalmatians in ‘61, and remained so until 1985!

When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?

A Christian Humanist Review of Treasure Island
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During the 101 Dalmatians I was bumbling around trying to remember the live action movie that was reviewed on the flagship website. I swung twice and missed before giving up. And to add insult to injury Treasure Island wasn't even released in the 60’s which was the decade we were speaking of.

Over on the flagship's website, Coyle Neal (of The City of Man fame) gives us an overly kind shoutout in his review of Treasure Island (The rare Disney movie that was live first and animated later, but we'll get to that when we get to Treasure planet)

I thought I'd return the favor and direct readers here over to his review. Here's a quick taste, but do go read the whole thing.

The plot is surprisingly involved for a movie only about ninety minutes long, and numerous themes run through the film. One of the most interesting of these is the idea that a part of coming of age is growing to understand the complexities of character. An aspect of transitioning from childhood into adulthood is realizing that human character is often a mix of good and evil. We are all of us both made in the Image of God andtainted in every part of ourselves by original sin.