After the expensive financial flop that was Sleeping Beauty, Walt Disney seriously considered shutting down his studio’s animation division. Fewer than half of his animated films had been financial successes, after all, and although World War II could certainly be blamed for some of that, it could not be blamed for the financial failures of the post war Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty, or the only middling financial success of Lady and the Tramp, which for technical reasons had been issued in two versions, adding greatly to the film’s budget—and cutting into profits.
But Walt Disney had also picked up Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians and loved it. It had everything needed for a major Disney hit: a grandiose, over the top villain, a tight, simple plot, adorable puppies, and a happy ending. Oh, a few things would need changing – that almost but not quite doggie threesome between Pongo, Missus and Perdita would just not work for a children’s film aimed at an American audience, in his opinion, and some of the characters would have to go. And the final scenes needed something more. Maybe a car chase. An over the top car chase. That could work.
That left just one problem: how to animate 99 puppies. With spots. Without repeating the financial issues of Lady and the Tramp and the outright disaster that was the gloriously detailed work of Sleeping Beauty.