Set on a farm, the show focuses primarily on three particular puppies: Lucky, TV expert, leader, and unconventional hero; Rolly, his loyal, scholarly, and always-hungry brother; and Cadpig, their sister, runt of the family. The three siblings are often joined by Spot, a chicken who wants to be a dog and a member of the "Bark Brigade." Early promotional material had listed "dictatorial Penny and mischievous Patch" as two other puppy cast members, but the highlighted puppies were whittled down to three.
Other puppies appearing in the show have included the brave, three-legged Tripod; the well-meaning but clueless Dipstick; the constantly urinating Whizzer; the indecisive, fashion-conscious Two-Tone; and the Sheepdog mix, Mooch, who serves as the farm's bully. Penny and Patch also make occasional appearances, though with different personalities than originally promoted. The show seems to be a blending of both the original animated film and the live-action feature, so the potential exists for other puppies from the films to appear, especially Freckles, Pepper, Jewel, and Fidget.
101 Dalmatians: The Series debuted in syndication on December 10, 1996 running new episodes five days a week. Less than two weeks later, the show came to ABC's One Saturday Morning lineup, airing original episodes that could only be seen on the network. Sixty-five episodes were produced: Twelve shows with 21 episodes on ABC and 53 shows containing 84 episodes in syndication. By March 2000 the show played its last episode in syndication.
Reruns continued to play on ABC until 2002, when the show was moved to the Disney Channel and then later to Toon Disney. On January 30, 2006, Toon Disney aired the show for the final time regularly, while four episodes were shown in March 2007 for the final time. As of that day, 101 Dalmatians: The Series is off the air in most countries with a Disney Channel franchise. It is currently being aired on the United Kingdom channel Sky Movies Disney and was also aired on the Latin American version of Disney Channel during 2008, then on January 2, 2010, Season 2 moved to RTE Two in Ireland. The series aired on Disney Junior in 2012, however, only several select episodes are shown and some episodes are also abruptly edited for possible time or censor reasons. The show went off the channel in 2013.
- Lucky (voiced by Pamela Adlon and Debi Mae West): The most adventurous of the puppies and is unique in having his only spots in the shape of a horseshoe on his back.
- Cadpig (voiced by Kath Soucie): Cadpig is the runt of the litter and the smallest of the puppies but quite possibly the most intelligent, if not deluded. She is unique in having long floppy ears, a big head, a kind personality, and she's also quite strong for her size.
- Rolly (voiced by Kath Soucie): Rolly is the very hungry one. Almost all his decisions are based on food and this, at times, gets him and the pups into trouble. He is, however, a loyal and helpful sibling, especially when it comes to his incredible sense of smell.
- Spot (voiced by Tara Strong): Spot is a chicken who wants to become a Dalmatian. She is a voice of reason for the foursome but, more often than not, is ignored. She is easily frightened and is prone to literally bouncing off the walls. She is, however, a good dancer (which has to count for something, according to her) and appears to be good at math. She is also able to fly.
- Roger and Anita Dearly (voiced by Jeff Bennett and Kath Soucie, respectively): Owners of the 101 Dalmatians and Dearly Farm.
- Cruella De Vil (voiced by April Winchell): Now a corporate criminal and most of her plans revolve around getting richer, tormenting the Dalmatians, and plotting to steal the Dearly Farm.
- Horace and Jasper (voiced by David L. Lander and Michael McKean): Cruella's henchmen. They are usually hired to perform her plans, usually failing.
- Nanny (voiced by Charlotte Rae): The Dearlys' caretaker who always helps Roger and Anita around the Dearly Farm; also helps with feeding the Dalmatians as well.
- Pongo (voiced by Kevin Schon): The father of the Dalmatians, and the husband and mate of Perdita.
- Perdita (voiced by Pam Dawber): The mother of the Dalmatians, and the wife and mate of Pongo.
- Mooch: (voiced by Danny Cooksey): A Sheepdog mix who can be annoying at times, but has a heart of gold.
- Two-Tone (voiced by Tara Strong): One of the Dalmatian puppies and Mooch's on-again, off-again girlfriend. She is depicted as half black with white spots, and half white with black spots.
- Dipstick (voiced by Thom Adcox-Hernandez): A male Dalmatian puppy who can be considered dim-witted; also part of Mooch's gang.
- Whizzer (voiced by Pamela Adlon): A male Dalmatian puppy with bladder control issues; also part of Mooch's gang.
- Tripod (voiced by Toran Caudell): A male Dalmatian puppy who serves as Lucky's constant rival. He wears a green sweatband and is missing his front left leg.
- Scorch (voiced by Frank Welker): Cruella's pet ferret who has an appetite for Spot.
- The Colonel (voiced by Jim Cummings): An Old English Sheepdog and commanding officer of the "Bark Brigade".
- Sergeant Tibbs (voiced by Jeff Bennett): A tabby cat and close ally to the Colonel.
- Captain (voiced by Frank Welker): A horse on the Dearly Farm who is usually seen helping Nanny.
- Lieutenant Pug (voiced by Jeff Bennett): One of the training officers of the "Bark Brigade". He has a paranoia of a feline invasion.
- Thunderbolt (voiced by Frank Welker): Lucky's favorite superhero.
- Cornelia (voiced by Tress MacNeille): Spot's overbearing mother who wants her to behave like a chicken.
- Lucy (voiced by Paddi Edwards): A female goose who gets annoyed when the Dalmatians play in her pond at Hiccup Hole.
- Swamp Rat (voiced by Jeff Bennett): A rat salesman who lives in the swamp.
- Steven the alligatior (voiced by Frank Welker): Swamp Rat's associate who is also fixated on eating Spot.
- Cydne (voiced by Frank Welker): A water snake who lives in the swamp and Swamp Rat's other associate.
- Mayor Ed Pig (voiced by Jim Cummings): A pig who is also the mayor of the animals on the Dearly Farm.
- Dumpling: (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh): Mayor Ed's daughter who fancies Lucky.
- Main article: 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode list
Not much merchandise has been made of this series unlike other Disney series, the only ones being:
- "A Christmas Cruella" VHS (also part of "Disney's Christmas Favorites" album)
- "Dalmatian Vacation" Video CD
- "Dalmatian Vacation" VHS and LaserDisc (Japan only)
- "Surf Puppies" CD
- "The Big Dig" (book)
- "Cruella Returns" (book)
- "Springtime Fun" (book)
- "Hide-and-Go-Seek at the Farm" (book)
- Rare episode cels
- Car toys for McDonald's Happy Meals (sold in January 1998)
- Curly straws from McDonald's restaurants located in Wal-Mart stores
- Beanbag toys included with Sweethearts candy (Caldor exclusive)
The series does not take place in the same continuity as the movies; an example of which being the fact that everyone in the series (except Cruella) has American accents while the movie is set in London and its surroundings. The original animated movie is set in the early 1960s, while the live-action films and the series are set in a modern day world (1996 at the time). It is also notable that the movie is more realistic, while the series is very cartoon-like. The series comes closer to the essence of Dodie Smith's book than the movies and is based on everything 101 Dalmatians-related (Cadpig is one character that is not characterized in the movies). Therefore, all three media can be considered canon, even though they are not in the same continuity. Also, Roger and Anita the dog owners' last name is to "Dearly", just like in the original novel and 1996 film.
- Episodes "My Fair Chicken" and "My Fair Moochie" were based on My Fair Lady, a movie based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.
- As mentioned above, there were originally supposed to be five main characters: Lucky, Cadpig, Rolly, Patch, and Penny. Patch was relegated to the role of a minor character, and Penny does not appear in the series at all, as it was feared that there would be too many main characters. Spot was added in later.
- Most episode titles are based on dog-related puns.
- Kath Soucie's voices of Rolly and Cadpig are the same as Phil and Lil in Rugrats.
- Tara Strong (Spot and Two-Tone) and Christine Cavanaugh (Whizzer) also appeared in Rugrats as Dil Pickles and Chuckie Finster (at first), respectively.
- Kath Soucie would also voice Annie Redfeather and Aurora, with Pamela Adlon as Zach Nichols, in the TV show Adventures for the Book of Virtues.
- In the episode "Virtual Lucky", Lucky's name in Roger's video game is known as "Barkio", which is an obvious reference to Nintendo's Mario. The opening of Roger's game featuring Barkio's floating head is also a reference to Nintendo 64's launch title, Super Mario 64.
- In "Valentine Daze", Roger says that he's working on a video game called "The Hunchbox of Notre Dame". This is a reference to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is a 1996 Disney movie.
- The episode "Twelve Angry Pups" is a courtroom drama named after the Reginald Rose drama, Twelve Angry Men. The episode contains allusions to the O. J. Simpson murder trial, including Mooch escaping on a "white bronco", which in this case is a horse, not a Ford 2-door SUV.
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