As much I have grown disillusioned with Disney, they sometimes convince me to watch their recent films and give them another chance. A few days ago, the first trailer for a new live-action Disney film has been released called Cruella. It tells the origin story of Cruella as a young, upcoming fashion designer turned criminal madwoman. Cruella De Vil is one of Disney's best villainesses. I was fascinated by her as a child. I knew how evil she was. She wasn't evil for complicated reasons or changed to become a better person. No, she was a female hellion who didn't care about what other people thought of her. It's true that she is guilty of almost murdering puppies, but no other villainess has stayed evil as long as Cruella. So, what do we know about her so far?
Cruella first appeared in Dodie Smith's 1956 book, 101 Dalmatians. Smith is ultimately responsible for making the Cruella that we all know. She's also responsible for making the character have black and white hair. Originally, Smith drew inspiration from actress Tallulah Bankhead with her wicked laugh, raspy smoker's voice, and calling others "darling" for lack of remembering names. It wasn't until Disney Animation adapted Smith's book into an animated feature that Cruella's popularity grew. At her core, Cruella is an English-born socialite with a connection to the rich and wealthy. She is a collector of lavish clothing and animal furs, particularly those of Dalmatian furs. She really likes their spots.
One of Cruella's biggest crimes is kidnapping 84 puppies to make her Dalmatian fur coat. When her childhood friend, Anita, gained 15 more Dalmatian puppies, Cruella offered to buy them. Anita's husband, Roger, refused and Cruella swore revenge. She decided to kidnap them with help of her two minions, Jasper and Horace. Her plan gets ruined, of course, and she doesn't get her Dalmatian fur coat. From all we know of the film adaptation, Cruella is a passionate and fierce woman willing to do anything to get what she wants. If she doesn't, Cruella will act out in fits of rage. She's arrogant, persistent, impulsive, and reckless. Cruella is different from other Disney villains for not being based on a fairy tale villain and not flowing a master plan.
Cruella's appearance in the film is close to that of a devilish character. I mean, her last name is a separation of word devil. Cruella even lives in a mansion called Hell Hall. She is skinny but likes to wear fur coats to give the impression that she's bigger than she actually is. Cruella also smokes from green fowl-smelling cigarettes. Her home's interior is decorated with black and red furniture and items that closely resemble a hellish environment. Her car license plate is either spelled De Vil or Dev Il. Many characters in the animated feature are aware of the fact that Cruella is a demonic character and comment on it.
Disney has found other ways to feature Cruella in other projects. In one animated show based on 101 Dalmatians, she gets to run a fashion company called House of De Vil. This gives her a job inclined with her love for high fashion. It fit the character well like a black velvet glove. When 101 Dalmatian was remade into live-action, Cruella was played by Glenn Close (and yes, Disney was doing live-action remakes for a while now). But audiences liked Glenn Close as Cruella. She bought everything we know about the character and turned it up to an 11. 101 Dalmatians was so successful that it got a sequel where Cruella was almost cured of her madness, but she relapsed back into her obsessive and impulsive nature. Oh, Cruella!
Besides animated features and live-action films, Cruella has made other appearances in television shows. She appeared in ABC's Once Upon a Time with other Disney and fairy tale characters. She also appeared in the first Descendant film where Cruella is the mother of Carlos De Vil. One of the twisted things she did to her son was made him scared of dogs. Eventually, he overcomes this fear and learns how to become better than his mother. Good for Carlos!
So, what else is new for Cruella? Well, she currently is rated 39th of American Film Institute's Greatest Movie Villains of All Time. She has inspired musical artists, particularly Melanie Martinez who based her hair off of Cruella's. The upcoming Cruella film will be released in May with Emma Stone starring as Cruella. Based on the trailer, Stone seems to display Cruella's charm and suave while hiding her wicked side. It would be an interesting take for audiences to see. Disney rarely goes dark with their films. I can't say for certain that Cruella will succeed in their dark tone as the trailer does. If it does deliver on telling a true villain origin story, then I think audiences would be very pleased.