Why Cruella Needs To Use The Cartoon’s Secret Tragic Backstory


It’s hard to imagine Cruella de Vil ever being sympathetic, but her origin movie could use obscure animated backstory to accomplish that feat.

It’s hard to imagine Cruella de Vil ever being sympathetic, but her origin movie could use obscure animated backstory to accomplish that feat. For Disney, turning their classic animated movies and characters into live-action remakes has been a regular thing for at least a decade now. It’s hard to blame them for that either as, despite the number of fans who complain about stories being retold or unnecessarily expanded, The Lion King, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast remakes have all made mountains of cash.

Even in light of that factor though, Cruella de Vil does seem an odd choice to lead a film, at least one where she’s meant to be the character audiences root for. After all, her defining traits in 101 Dalmatians are being a cruel, callous jerk to her “friends,” and kidnapping dogs with plans to skin them to make coats. On the list of horrifying Disney villain motives, Cruella’s desire to skin innocent puppies is near the top.

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Related: Cruella Theory: Disney’s Movie Is A Prequel To The 1990s 101 Dalmatians

Of course, it’s far from impossible for a movie starring a villainous protagonist to be successful. One needs only look at 2019’s Joker, or even as far back as classics like The Godfather, to realize how well such a proposition can work out. Still, considering how fond of dogs most people are, it’ll be hard to get audiences to love Cruella, but delving into her tragic backstory from 101 Dalmatians: The Animated Series could certainly help that cause.

Cruella de Vil’s 101 Dalmatians Cartoon Backstory Is Tragic

101 Dalmatians and Cruella De Vil

In both the prior animated and live-action versions of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, (the latter with her played by Glenn Close), no real reason is given as to why Cruella de Vil is the way she is. She’s seemingly just a naturally bad person, which likely wasn’t helped along by her immense wealth and ability to usually make people do what she pleases. However, the 1990s cartoon 101 Dalmatians: The Series provides Cruella with added backstory in the 1997 episode “A Christmas Cruella.” It turns out that she was raised by absentee parents who couldn’t really be bothered to show her any love or affection. To fill that void, Cruella badly wanted a Dalmatian puppy, but not to skin, to be her friend.

After years of wanting, a teenage Cruella thought she finally got her wish but was instead greeted by cardboard cutouts of her parents and a toy Dalmatian puppy, as her parents have gone on vacation without her. Incensed at this cruelty, Cruella snaps mentally, beginning her descent into the rotten person she would become. While it doesn’t redeem her for wanting to skin the Darlings’ puppies – or the other prior puppies she presumably did kill – it adds a layer of pathos to Cruella, one that could go a long way in making Emma Stone’s live-action Cruella easier to root for, and a more sympathetic protagonist. She’ll never be perfectly good, and she shouldn’t be, but going this route could help her at least become an antihero.

More: Cruella Is Repeating Disney’s Biggest Live-Action Villain Mistake

  • Cruella (2021)Release date: May 28, 2021

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