(This article contains loads of spoilers for Disney’s “Cruella,” the live-action prequel to “101 Dalmatians”)
Disney had since begun a tradition of releasing live-action movies of classic villains, casting them as antiheroes and exploring their stories.
Whatever the motive might be, one can’t deny the project has so far been a success.
It began with Maleficent, the story of Sleeping Beauty’s villain. After that and the sequel gained waves, Disney worked on another villain-themed project.
This time, the focus was on Cruella, the eccentric fashion designer and dognapper in 101 Dalmatians.
With actress Emma Stone starring as Cruella, the movie takes us back to the childhood of the Disney villain, where she went by the name Estella and was hinted to have a more sinister personality.
While the movie succeeded in giving Cruella humanity, it was also purported to be a prequel to 101 Dalmatians.
That does lead to a lot of questions. How can a crime comedy with a dark edge be the prequel to a doggy adventure movie?
Turns out there are a lot of 101 Dalmatian references that suggest this to be true. Let’s take a look into the ways Cruella and 101 Dalmatians are related.
1. The Character Anita “Darling”
This happened a few minutes after the movie began. When Estella starts at her school with her unusual hair color, other kids tease her for it and call her a “skunk.” At that point, Anita walks up to introduce herself.
Anita was the main human character in both the animated movie and the live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians.
What’s perhaps very significant is the surname Anita bears here. In 101 Dalmatians, Anita was married and bore Roger’s surname, Radcliffe.
Cruella often referred to her as “Darling,” and in the movie, that happens to be her surname: Anita Darling.
2. The Character Roger Radcliff
While Roger doesn’t get as much screen time as Anita, he also appears in Cruella. Here, Roger is the lawyer of the Baroness and a fashion sensation of the time.
The Baroness eventually fires him for “incompetency” because he couldn’t bring up a good reason to sue Cruella.
Of course, he indirectly blames Cruella for his job loss, and that might explain the contempt between him and Cruella in 101 Dalmatian.
In the Dalmatian world, Roger was cast as a songwriter, and the movie hints at this when we see him at the end of the movie writing a song.
What’s more, his apartment in live-action prequel is a reproduction of the one in the animated movie.
3. The Characters Horace and Jasper are Loyal Henchmen
In 101 Dalmatians, Cruella had two sidekicks that helped her in her mission of abducting the Dalmatians.
Their names were Horace and Jasper, and while they were one-dimensional characters in the Dalmatian world, here, they were given more importance.
Horace and Jasper were friends of Cruella as children. Then, she was still Estella and had run away after a tragic incident.
Horace and Jasper take her in, and she joins them in surviving on the streets.
They develop a strong friendship, one that gets fractured when Estella lets her “Cruella” personality out.
Also, the van Horace and Jasper use to abduct the Baroness Dalmatians is similar to the one used in the animated movie.
4. The Dalmatians
The first Dalmatians in Cruella were vicious dogs that belonged to the movie’s villain, the Baroness.
These dogs chase Estella as a child and are responsible for killing Catherine, the character who is portrayed as Estella’s mother.
When Estella becomes Cruella, she abducts the Dalmatians. A glance at them and she states that they could make a fine coat, much to Jasper’s horror.
While Cruella claims that it is a joke that sets a precedent for the villainous woman in 101 Dalmatians.
We also see in the post-credit scene that she gifts Anita and Roger with two pups, Perdita and Pongo. Any fan will recognize those names.
5. Estella’s Driving Skills
When Estella takes the wheels and tries to drive, it becomes apparent that she has no idea how to.
That’s quite similar to the driving skills of Cruella in the animated movie as she went after the Dalmatian pups. In both driving scenes, she also wears a red hand glove.
The driving scenes don’t just point to Estella/Cruella’s inexperience in driving, but to how eccentric she is. Who gets into a car not knowing how to drive?
6. The Car Estella Steals
Drawing from the point above, the car Estella steals and crazily drives turns out to be iconic. In a scene, Horace states that the car is called a “devil.”
When Jasper corrects him and states that the car is a “Deville,” Estella decides to tweak it for her alter ego, Cruella de Vil. That’s how her name appears in 101 Dalmatians.
Fun Fact: the car used in Cruella was developed specifically for the movie. It was created by UK’s Dream Cars based on the 1980s Panther Deville.
While observing people walk by in a particular scene, Horace points out the similarities between dog owners and their dogs.
We then see a woman passing by with her Afghan Hound, and yes, they did look similar.
What many viewers possibly didn’t know was the significance of the woman and her Afghan Hound.
She didn’t play any role besides affirming Horace’s point, but she was modeled after a woman and an Afghan Hound at the start of the animated movie.
8. The Dalmatians Watching TV with Horace
In the animated movie, when Horace and Jasper kidnap the Baroness Dalmatians, Horace has a hard time controlling the Dalmatians’ high energy till they got fixated on a soccer match.
The Dalmatians in the animated movie had the same interest in television.
The pups watched it with their parents at the start of the show and also with the sidekicks Horace and Jasper when they got dognapped.
9. The Regent Park
Regent Park happens to be a real place in London, and in the movie, Estella visits there occasionally to talk to Catherine, her dead mother.
Even after she discovers that the Baroness is her real birth mother, she comes back to Regent Park to talk to Catherine.
For Estella/Cruella, Regent Park was a dream that turned into a nightmare. The only good thing that came out of Regent Park was meeting Horace and Jasper.
Regent Park is significant to the overall 101 Dalmatians project because it was a setting in the animated movie and the place where Roger and Anita met.
10. The Hell Hall
Our last point is one of the most important connections between Cruella vs 101 Dalmatians.
Baroness Hall was called the Hellman Hall, and when Cruella takes possession of it, she renames it Hell Hall.
In the animated movie, her home was named Hell Hall. The connection can’t be missed by any fan.
With all the above points connecting Cruella to 101 Dalmatians, there’s no doubt that both movies are related.
However, many viewers and critics have wondered whether Cruella served as a perfect prequel to the original animated movies.
For starters, while Cruella in the Dalmatians world was a manic dognapper with nothing but black in her character, Estella/Cruella made the villain “grey.”
We see that she secretly trained the Baroness Dalmatians to obey her, and she was the one who gifted Pongo and Perdita to Roger and Anita. (This also brings up another question. Are Pongo and Perdita, siblings?)
She seemed more like a dog lover, and we’re left wondering how she went from a badass fashion designer to a maniac dognapper.
With Cruella 2 in the works, we can only make assumptions. As Cruella was shown to have fully embraced her sinister side, perhaps that triggered the journey downhill to the original villain.
A second theory is that Disney might turn the Cruella sequel into another 101 Dalmatians remake, but this time from the villain’s perspective.
That would be similar to what they achieved with Maleficent. Whatever is the case, we haven’t heard the last of this character.
Frequently Asked Questions
What illness did Cruella suffer from?
Cruella and Estella are often referred to in the movie as two different people right from the start.
But of course, we know that it is one individual. This suggests that she has a dissociative personality disorder.
In the movie, Estella first starts as an employee of the Baroness. When she discovers that the Baroness is responsible for the death of Catherine (who raised Estella as a daughter), Estella takes on her Cruella personality and is determined to get revenge. Eventually, she discovers that the Baroness is her birth mom.
Who is Cruella’s father?
Not much is said about the Baron, Cruella’s father, except that he was both kind and gentle. He believed he lost his daughter and was heartbroken as a result.
Cruella is not a movie about dogs, but it has an undeniable connection with the original animated movie 101 Dalmatians, which remains a Disney classic.
With Disney still having fun with remakes and spin-offs, the Dalmatians of old will remain on our screen for quite some time, albeit with different twists and turns.
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