By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Feb 10, 2015 at 12:18 AM

When Disney made "101 Dalmations" – out today on Blu-ray and DVD combo pack – in 1961, times were tough for the movie industry. The practice of heading out to a local theater was dying down, thanks to the affordability of television sets. Disney had just undertaken mass layoffs of personnel that it couldn’t convert to the live action projects that fueled ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney" broadcast.

There was talk about shutting down the animation studios completely, but Disney wanted to take one more shot at a feature-length project. "101 Dalmatians" didn’t just help keep the company alive, but can be credited with saving a dying industry. And it's notable how many times "101 Dalmations" has come out of the vault.

To save money and time, the animators used a Xerox process for the first time, eliminating the step of tracing the original animated frame to the cell that was painted and shot with a camera. If it wasn’t for the ability to make copies, there’s no way at that time for 101 dogs with more than 6 million spots could have made it to the big screen.

Lovers of animation, 3D graphics and Disney will call this Blu-ray release a "must have," just for the history told in the extras on the disc. It was the presentation of the short film and vintage original radio advertisements that clues the viewer in to how this short love tale is so important and a gateway to the wonderful animated movies of today. The vintage trailers and radio ads harken back to the original theater release in 1961, the first re-release in 1969, the anniversary release in 1979 and another theater run in 1985.

Younger viewers will like the inclusion of the all-new animated short "The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt," while those of us who remember Walt Disney on TV on Sunday nights can appreciate the classic "The Best Doggoned Dog in the World" as it was presented in 1961.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

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