''101 Dalmatians,'' first released in 1961, has proved to be one of the more popular Disney cartoon features -- so popular that it has never been released as a videocassette and so popular that the studio re-releases it to theaters every now and then.
With ''Snow White,'' the re-release was every seven years. With ''Dalmatians,'' it is every five years or so; it was last seen in these parts in 1986.
''101 Dalmatians'' is vintage Disney, and small children always take to it. Of course, they have to be very small. The cartoon feature is pre-'60s sweet. The puppies are playful, adorable and obedient. If you were to do the film today, half of them would be running off to the big city, causing their parents no end of anguish.
''101 Dalmatians'' has Cruela De Vil, a cigarette-smoking villainess, plotting to steal all the Dalmatian pups she can. She has managed, by the time the film is half through, to get her hands on 99 pups, animals she would kill and skin to make herself a fur coat, maybe several.
Yes, that's surprisingly cruel, considering the film was done 30 years ago, but rest assured it is never in the same league with ''Silence of the Lambs.''
Fifteen of the Dalmatian pups belong to a struggling songwriter who, when the pups are finally rescued, writes the title song that sounds very much like a song from the ''Annie'' score, one that came along 16 years later.
''101 Dalmatians'' is excellent cartooning. It has fluidity that most cartoon features do not have. It opens here today. Take the kids -- the very young ones.