While it set out to be completely different from its predecessor, 101 Dalmatians, Cruella didn’t stray too far. The devil was truly in the details with these winks and nods to the classic Disney animated flick.
Before she was “brilliant, bad, and a little bit mad,” the vampy and vile villain that is Cruella was Estella. A terribly misunderstood girl with strikingly odd black and white hair, she stood in more ways than the obvious, stomping on school grounds with her unique take on the dress code and a resolve to fight back. Naturally, she was a regular at the headmaster’s office, where her previously pristine record would be dotted with consequences for her actions. Cruella wasn’t quite the scary thing than any evil thing was, where seeing her was to take a sudden chill, nor was she like a spider waiting for the kill we’ve been told to beware of in 101 Dalmatians. Before she took a liking for spots (woof, woof), all she wanted was to live her dream of being a designer and make her mother proud.
Just as she saw the world differently, the re-imagining of Cruella was hell-bent on making sure everyone else saw it in the way she did. Already made clear from its dark and eerie first act, the origin story not only traced her trajectory from misinterpreted to madwoman, but it most certainly celebrated the unique in all its unapologetic, unhinged, and unbridled punk rock glory. “We just wanted to do a very original version of this and I didn’t want to have anything contaminating my vision,” asserts director Craig Gillespie, in an interview with Cinemablend. “It’s so uniquely specific, this is such an origin story, it’s set in 70s London punk that I didn’t think there would be too many things in terms of comparison. So, we really worked on trying to figure out what Emma Stone’s version of Cruella would be.”
Resolute in steering the Coupe de Ville away from the iconic 1961 animated classic, 101 Dalmatians, and the legendary turn of Glenn Close in the riotous romp of a retelling in the 1996 and 2000 live-action film, Cruella was compelled to completely its own canon. After all, this is where it technically begins for the campy antagonist. By delving into who she was, what her context and circumstances were, and why she made certain choices, the caricature of the wispy woman drowning in a fur coat, colored only with red lining, red lips, and a pat of green on her sunken lids, would become more fleshed out with motives and emotions that make her more human and not just a textbook definition of extreme hubris.
In no way does the film condone what is inherently and morally wrong, but it does make you see things from a different point-of-view to understand the intentions of Cruella, and give credence to a little poetic justice. You know, before she completely loses it, eventually. However, even if this well-received film was meant to be of its own, it couldn’t quite separate itself from its literary origins. If you happen to look closely, several winks and nods were placed throughout the movie to allude to 101 Dalmatians. Without missing a chance to pay respect to the genesis itself, the devil is really in the details.
Make no mistake about it, this is not the cackling and crazed Cruella you once knew. But even if she isn’t quite the despot of Dalmatians just yet, she is every bit brilliant, bad, and a whole lot mad as promised. And guess what, she’s just getting started.
Just in case you missed the references made to the classic cartoon, 101 Dalmatians, we’ve spotted them for you.
In the 1961 animated original, 101 Dalmatians, Regent Park at the heart of London was the serendipitous spot where Roger and Anita would meet, or well, get entangled by their dogs, Pongo and Perdita. However, this wasn’t just a landmark for the good guys, because in Cruella, this would hold such a sentimental value for Estella, who was once promised by her mother that they would have tea by the fountain as they dreamed of their new life together. When in need of a moment, this was where she would be found, and yes, she had teacups in hand.
You See, We’re More Alike Than Different
One of the more memorable scenes at the beginning of 101 Dalmatians was when Roger and Pongo were people and dog watching by the park. As mundane as it sounds, it would prove to be enlightening once you do realize how the humans curiously resembled their pets. This was given a nod in Cruella where Horace and Jasper where preying on the pet Dalmatians of The Baroness in front of the groomers. “You notice how some dog owners look like their dogs?” asks Horace. Well, he wasn’t wrong.
Television Then, Television Now
In a particularly tense scene in Cruella, when she was sewing garments and Horace and Jasper are watching television with a bunch of dogs, Dalmatians included, it reminded us of the pivotal scene in 101 Dalmatians when the puppies plotted their escape through a hole in the wall. No one gets left behind, not even Rolly.
Honk, Honk, The De Ville Chariot Is Coming
The homage wouldn’t be complete without the creepy chariot of Cruella de Vil. With its harrowing honk to the hearse-like chassis, the infamous Coupe de Ville, makes a scene in the origin story in more ways than one. From sparking the idea behind her devilish last name to exact deranged expression while violently zigzagging her way across London in 101 Dalmatians, the iconic car was not to be missed, much to the delight of eagle-eyed fans.
Cruella, Cruella…de Vil
If the film that ran approximately an hour too long didn’t wear down your patience, then you obviously sat through the end with a surprise treat. A pay off for pushing through, a mid-credits scene dropped, showing how Anita and Roger got Perdi and Pongo for the first time. An apparent gift from Cruella herself, this was obviously a well-placed fan service and well-executed set-up for a potential sequel. Before it completely trailed off, we see Roger (complete with pencils in his ear and lips) struggling to string bits and pieces of lyrics to what would become the eponymous earworm of a jingle, Cruella de Vil. And just like in 101 Dalmatians, the scene would cut to a scene of the sky, imminent with danger lurking behind the gray clouds.
Clearly, we haven’t seen the last of Cruella, Cruella…de Vil.