A Tail-wagging Good Time

New at video stores today is the long-awaited animated sequel to Disney’s 1961 classic 101 Dalmatians. While lacking the nail-biting sense of peril and some of the subtleties of the original, 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure is a funny, lighthearted romp that should appeal to children and adults alike. A great voice cast, good pacing and clever writing make it a stand-out among the Disney direct-to-video sequels.

Picking up where the first film left off, Patch’s London Adventure begins with the canine clan and their human “pets,” Roger and Anita, preparing for their move to the Dalmatian Plantation. Puppy Patch (Bobby Lockwood), who longs to be one in a million rather than one in 101, gets left behind and decides to go out in search of his TV hero, Thunderbolt (Barry Bostwick). Meanwhile, the ever-plotting Cruella de Vil (Susanne Blakeslee) hooks up with an eccentric artist named Lars (Martin Short), who rekindles her obsession with spotted pelts.

Bostwick gets to really ham it up as Thunderbolt, the quintessential action star who turns out to be anything but dashing off camera. Jason Alexander is also fun as the voice of Lil’ Lightning, Thunderbolt’s conniving Corgie sidekick who will stop at nothing to win the starring role.

The animation and artwork in Dalmatians II comes fairly close to matching the style of the original, which was the first feature made entirely using the Xerox process of transferring drawings to cells. The sequel’s art director, Bill Perkins, and his team carried on the tradition by painting backgrounds in watercolor and overlaying Xeroxed cels to provide the outlines.

Directed by Jim Kammerund and Brian Smith, 101 Dalmations II doesn’t aspire to top or even match the magic of its predecessor, but it does a fine job of continuing the story for both long-time admirers and new fans.

101 Dalmations II: Patch’s London Adventure is available today on DVD and VHS.