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101 and Counting: Dalmatians in Film and Advertising

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
Author:
Erica Sheen
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Abstract

In both academic and animal welfare circles, Disney's live action films 101 and 102 Dalmatians have been criticised as a commercial exploitation of the breed. From this perspective, it was widely held that the Dalmatian has been subject to over-breeding and abandonment as a direct result of these films, and that Disney should be held responsible for this abuse. I question these assumptions. I discuss the Hollywood animal image as a form of intellectual property and provide a detailed account of negotiations between Disney and Dalmatian breed associations in America and the UK. In response to critics who described the films as "an advertisement for the breed", I suggest that Disney's animal imagery should be seen as a more complex cultural and economic negotiation between filmmaker and audience, and conclude that our understanding of the commercial deployment of the Dalmatian image must be situated in a more nuanced account of the relationship between advertising and film.

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