WARNING: This article will contain spoilers for both the animated and live action films.
I had not seen Cruella until I had to for this assignment and truth be told, I felt like the film itself was overhyped.
I thought the acting was good and I did love the costuming but the writing felt weak and though I hadn’t watch 101 Dalmatians in a while, I felt like Cruella wasn’t true to Cruella De Vil’s character. After watching 101 Dalmatians, I realized that my initial instinct was absolutely right.
Unlike all of the other films in this series, I watched the live action film first. Why? Well, Cruella is supposed to be a prequel to 101 Dalmatians and it only seemed right to watch it first. Obviously, the live action film kept some of Cruella De Vil’s iconic elements, such as the bi-colored hair and the darker clothing choices but the new film also took a spin on things: they made Cruella an aspiring fashion designer, as well as gave her a tragic backstory (but all villains have tragic backstories, so this aspect was to be expected).
Cruella and Dogs
Here’s my biggest quip with the live action film: Cruella actually really likes dogs. She has a little mutt and she even ends up adopting three dalmatians. Yes, she leads everyone to believe that she makes a coat of dalmatian fur but she doesn’t actually do so. And yes, she does blame dalmatians for her mothers death (until she realizes that it wasn’t their fault at all).
Is Cruella Actually a Prequel?
It is broadly assumed that Cruella is a prequel for 101 Dalmatians, but here’s the issue: Cruella takes place in the late 1970s, the original 101 Dalmatians takes place in 1958, and the live-action 101 Dalmatians take place in 1996. Regardless of which film we want to assume Cruella is prequelling, none of the timelines make sense, which is just further evidence that the Cruella film was not thought through.
For the sake of this article, we are going to ignore the timeline issues and assume that Cruella is prequelling for the original animated 101 Dalmatians.
There are some characters in the animated film who get a bit more of a backstory in Cruella, including Jasper, Horace, and Anita. While there were some physical changes to the characters – Jasper and Anita are POC – they also make some backstory changes that really make you pity them.
First off, Jasper and Horace take Cruella in and help her to get her dream job and to have things to eat. After Cruella “finds” herself, she becomes incredibly abusive and manipulative to Jasper and Horace, going so far as to manipulate them into staying with her when they want out of Cruella’s life.
Now, I do see that Cruella is in an incredibly dark mindset due to grief and she does promise to do better, and I think that if Cruella ends up being true to her word then she can be redeemed as a friend. However, the issue lies with how Cruella treats Horace and Jasper in the animated film: she’s 100 times worse! Cruella seems to have learned nothing from the boys wanting to leave her life and treats them like a poop emoji.
Anita has some changes, as well. She is made much more ambitious in Cruella: She is a journalist who works with Cruella to ensure her career goes well. This is the only character change that actually makes sense, from my view. Anita likely knows that Cruella allowed her to build her career so she thinks better of her, which explains her blind trust of Cruella in the 101 Dalmatians animated film.
Other Continuity Errors
There’s just a lot of really strange continuity errors between the two films: at the end of Cruella, Cruella and her crew are wealthy. In 101 Dalmatians, they seem to be dirt poor. I don’t see Cruella as someone who is that irresponsible with money and even if she was, Cruella, Jasper, and Horace are street thieves: they would figure something out!
Not only do I not see Cruella ever being willing to skin 99 puppies, I know for a fact that Jasper and Horace would flat-out refuse to help her even dognap the puppies in the first place, much less kill them for their skin.
Seriously, it feels like the writers for Cruella never actually watched 101 Dalmatians. They could have easily shifted Cruella’s character just a little to allow for her role in 101 Dalmatians but it seems they sacrificed any logic in order to create an empathetic villain story.