55 years ago today, audiences got to meet Pongo, Perdita, Patch, and 98 more spotted puppies when “101 Dalmatians” opened in theaters.
The film is often credited with saving Disney Animation – 1959″s “Sleeping Beauty” under-performed at the box office, leading to massive layoffs. Roy O. Disney, Walt”s brother, even tried to convince Walt to shut down their animation department and shift focus to TV production.
Fortunately for Baloo, Ariel, Simba, Elsa and all the animated Disney greats that were yet to come, “101 Dalmatians” was a box office hit – it was the 10th highest grossing film of 1961 in the U.S. and Canada.
And the characters of “101 Dalmatians” have made their mark on pop culture in the 55 years since. Cruella de Vil, the movie”s villain who wants to turn the puppies into a dog-skin fur coat, ranked at #39 on AFI”s list of the top 50 movie villains of all time.
Glenn Close played Cruella in the 1996 live-action “101 Dalmatians.” Emma Stone is in the mix for the lead role of an origin story about the villain currently being developed by Disney.
Other notable January 25 happenings in pop culture history:
• 1937: The original “Guiding Light” radio series started broadcasting on NBC Radio. During the end of the radio show”s run, there was a four-year overlap with the TV soap when the cast was working on both shows at the same time.
• 1964: The Beatles scored their first No. 1 hit in the U.S. when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” topped the Cash Box Magazine music chart.
• 1979: The game Penny Ante made its debut on “The Price Is Right.” After suffering recurring mechanical problems, Penny Ante was retired from the show in 2002.
• 1987: Neil Diamond sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XXI.
• 1992: U2″s “Mysterious Ways” reached its peak on the Billboard Hot 100, at spot No. 9.
• 1996: “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson died early in the morning of what was supposed to be the day of the first off-Broadway preview show of “Rent.” That preview show was canceled, and instead, friends and family gathered for a sing-through of the musical in Larson”s memory.
• 2002: “Les Misérables” became the second-longest-running show in Broadway history, as it passed “Cats” with its 6,138th show. “Les Mis” currently ranks as the fifth-longest-running Broadway show. It”s been surpassed by “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago,” and “The Lion King.”
• 2002: “A Walk to Remember” opened in theaters. It was the second film adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, after 1999″s “Message in a Bottle.”
• 2004: It was the closing day of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, when time travel brain teaser “Primer” picked up the Grand Jury Prize.
• 2010: KISS, in their full iconic makeup, rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.