I watched 101 Dalmatians (1961) again recently, and I have to say the animation while very artful seems kind of lesser in quality than say Dumbo (1941) or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Still, it must have been more expensive back then to produce animation in general with the less developed means of mass production of the time, that would later begin to appear in the '70s and on.

To that end I was kind of curious how many man-hours of animation went into 101 Dalmatians?

That way I might compare it to other animation efforts.

  • From the wikipedia description of the art direction - they did use a new process that was much cheaper to use, but I don't think that was the only reason for the change in style. They were aiming for a very specific stylized drawing style that was popular at the time. – iandotkelly Apr 3 '18 at 3:41

I can't find a definitive answer to the man-hours, but I would say that a lot less time was spent producing the animation for 101 Dalmatians (1961) when compared with the previous movie, Sleeping Beauty (1959).

Up until the end of the 1950s, artists would draw the the scenes and characters on paper, and then they would be traced by inkers onto animation cells before colouring and then photography. As you can imagine, inking could take quite some time - especially in complicated scenes.

By about 1959, Ub Iwerks (who had co-created Mickey Mouse, along with other Disney creations) had developed a Xerox camera that could print the animators' artwork directly onto the cels, removing the need for hand inking. However, the process produced a scratchy line effect, rather than replicating the more lavish ink lines from the manual process. This was first used in Sleeping Beauty for the thorny forest scene, where the scratchy lines probably enhanced the feeling of the scene.

101 Dalmatians almost didn't happen, as Sleeping Beauty cost $6 million and only made $5.3 million gross on its first theatrical run, and Disney almost closed the animation department following this. As you can imagine, inking scenes with 101 dalmatians would have been incredibly complex, laborious, and expensive.

So, Iwerks' xerographic process was brought in - and the film was produced for only $3.6 million with an extra 4 minutes runtime over Sleeping Beauty. There were probably other cost-cutting measures, but Chuck Jones estimates that the xerographic process was the biggest contributor to the saving.

The Advent of Xerography: Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians

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