The Cruella movie was not my most anticipated of 2021, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had learning more about this particular Disney villain’s origin story.
The Disney classic 101 Dalmatians got a lot of play in my house when I was a kid. I was obsessed with the cuteness of the puppies and the incredibly memorable twilight bark, but I was absolutely terrified of Cruella.
I have always found that kind of hilarious since she’s the most human and the least supernaturally gifted of just about any of the Disney villains. Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar, Hades, and so many more are magical, powerful, and should be infinitely more terrifying than a woman with a fiery car and a wacky hairstyle. But none of them elicited the same fear that Cruella did in me.
So, I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to a Cruella movie. If it wasn’t for the tale of two Emmas, Stone and Thompson, I probably would have skipped it altogether. But, with such a fantastic cast, a flashy look, and the opportunity to dive deeper into the villain that scared me more than any other as a kid, I decided to give it a chance.
And boy am I glad I did.
Not only did we get to see how the woman turned into the villain, we got to see Cruella at every stage of her life. Including the time before ‘Cruella’ ever existed. And there is so much we learned about the woman behind the notorious villain. Here are just a few of our most favorite things.
What I learned about Disney’s most notorious puppy hater in the ‘Cruella’ movie
1) Her name wasn’t always Cruella
I remember thinking that Cruella is a kind of awful thing for a mother to name their child, so it actually warms my heart to know this little girl didn’t grow up with that name, but merely grew into it.
I truly loved meeting Estrella. Knowing that there was a time in her life where she had a loving mother figure and some sense of belonging was lovely. She definitely struggled to fit in, but it never felt like she let it define her. In fact, she managed to make a friend or two along the way, at least one that remained a loyal partner through Cruella‘s entire storyline.
Unfortunately, the end of our time with childhood Estrella ended in tragedy, but it informs much of what makes her who she ultimately ends up to be. If the events of that night had gone differently in one of many ways, Estrella may have grown up to be a very different person. And this would be a very different Cruella movie.
2) It was all in the name of fashion
Learning about Estrella/Cruella’s fascination with fashion and using design to put her absolutely unique stamp on world opens up so so many roads to understanding this openly villainous character. Not only was she bullied as a child for her looks and general demeanor, but her single-minded determination to reflect her style oftentimes landed her in situations where she was forced to fight to be heard. Literally in a lot of cases.
It’s more common for children to hop from dream to dream as their future unfolds, but Cruella’s single-minded devotion to all things fashion informs so much of what makes her character so bold and distinct from all the others.
3) All her most formative friendships were forged in her youth
We knew Anita was a friend, based on the original animated film. But she never felt like a friend. Anita definitely didn’t have the open-minded outlook she appears to have in the Cruella movie. So much more judgy as an animated character.
Horace and Jasper were just a pair of pickpockets before Cruella came along. Soon they were thieving right and left, with their hare-brained schemes just getting scheme-ier and scheme-ier as time went on. Until Cruella went full, well, Cruella and started treating them as her subordinates, rather than as equals.
I’m glad they stick by her, but I would totally understand if they rebelled after all those years of being equals, just to be turned into her lackeys when she finally finds her footing in the fashion world.
4) Her trademark hair color is totally, 100% natural
As Gaga would say, she was ‘born this way.’ While I’m not entirely sure about the scientific validity of someone being born with black and white hair, it definitely defines Emma Stone’s Cruella in the most illustrative ways.
5) Her hatred for Dalmatians is well-earned
I mean, if my birth mother sicced a pack of cruel creatures on the only mother I’d ever known, I’d probably take it personally, too. I don’t blame her for not being a fan. Although I find it interesting that when she had the offending pooches in her possession, she had no interest in doing them any real harm.
Also, while not exactly something I learned about Cruella, I think it most interesting that by the end of the Cruella movie, both Roger and Anita are proud Dalmatian parents, courtesy of Cruella de Vil. Intrigue doesn’t even begin to describe it. I have no idea if Disney has plans for Emma Stone’s Cruella from here on out, but if they do, there’s definitely an interesting alternate reality in play here.
Altogether, Cruella is a pretty great exploration into a villain’s psyche. Emma Stone’s Cruella is fascintaing to watch on screen, and I personally loved how well she leaned into the most obvious tropes of the character, especially the distinctive accent and that iconic, awful driving posture.
The new Cruella movie is available to watch now on Disney+!