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Film / Cruella

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"There's lots more bad things coming... I promise."
Baroness: You can't care about anyone else. Everyone else is an obstacle. You care what an obstacle wants or feels, you're dead. If I cared about anyone or anything, I might have died like so many brilliant women with a drawer full of unseen genius and a heart full of sad bitterness. You have the talent for your own label. Whether you have the killer instinct is the big question.
Estella: I hope I do.

Cruella is a 2021 live-action film from Walt Disney Pictures directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya), which is part of the 101 Dalmatians franchise and one of the Disney Live-Action Remakes. Glenn Close, who portrayed the title character in 1996's 101 Dalmatians, is an executive producer on this film.

It chronicles the origin story of its Dalmatian-hating villain, Cruella de Vil (played by Emma Stone), against the backdrop of 1970s London, following her transformation from a young grifter named Estella into the infamous fur-coat obsessed madwoman.

The film also stars Emma Thompson as the Baroness von Hellman, Joel Fry as Jasper Badun, Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun, Emily Beecham as Catherine, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita Darling, and Mark Strong as John. It was released simultaneously in theaters and through Disney+ Premier Access on May 28, 2021. The film became available to all Disney+ subscribers on August 27. A sequel to the film was announced to be development a week after its theatrical debut. Stone is set to return as Cruella, as are Gillespie and co-writer Tony McNamara.

Previews: Trailer 1, Sneak Peek, Trailer 2, "Meet the Villain" Teaser. You can also watch the first nine minutes online here.

Cruella contains examples of:

  • The '70s: The time period of the film is 1970s London. The film is set against the backdrop of the UK's Punk Rock scene in particular.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The animated film mentions Cruella being Anita's old schoolmate. In this film's prologue, we actually get to see the two of them meet as young schoolgirls.
    • Roger Radcliffe appears as the Baroness's lawyer. After she unceremoniously fires him, he decides to take up a music career like his animated counterpart.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection:
    • Jasper and Horace in this version were orphans that grew up with Cruella on the streets rather than just goons she hired.
    • In this continuity, Cruella herself is the one who gives Pongo and Perdita to their respective owners, setting up the events of 101 Dalmatians.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Cruella has a much more familial relationship with Jasper and Horace here, since they were the ones who took her in after she ran away from home. In previous versions of the story, she was just a Bad Boss who only saw them as Mooks.
    • Meanwhile, the Cruella manga, which acts as an Interquel of the film taking place in the belwo mentioned Age Cut makes the warm relationship between Cruella and Jasper and Hoarce a bit more strained then it was implied to be for that time in the film.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: In 101 Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil is an insane, evil fashionista who simply wants to skin dalmatian puppies to make fur coats and she is an outright Hate Sink. In the film, Cruella has a legitimate Freudian Excuse for why she hates the Dalmatians: her birth mother Baroness von Hellman ordered them to kill her real mother. Furthermore, she doesn't skin the Dalmatians or even hate them at all and eventually adopts them while giving two of their pups to Roger and Anita.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Since Disney forbids the depiction of tobacco in their properties, Cruella's smoking habits are written out here.
    • Nanny is the only major human character from the original film to not make an appearance.
    • If this is based on the 1996 version, the absence of Mr. Skinner is also notable.
  • Age Cut: The 12-year old Estella decides to dye her distinctive black and white hair to make herself less identifiable. She applies the dye to her hair and then drops her head out of sight as she bends over the basin. Then the 22-year old (and now redheaded) Estella lifts her head back into shot, indicating the 10 year time jump.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: The trio's dogs Buddy and Wink are much more intelligent than the average dog and play pivotal roles in their heists.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!:
    • Cruella delivers almost the literal Trope Namer line to the Baroness: "I'm going to kill you. And your dogs." Justified in that here the character has a legitimate reason to hold a grudge against the dogs too, since they were the ones who executed the Baroness's plan of killing her mother. However, Cruella doesn't actually fulfill the threat.
    • In an earlier scene, Cruella sets up a fashion show in front of the Baroness wearing a coat with Dalmatian color scheme, leading the Baroness to initially believe that she'd skinned her pets and wore them, but it is later revealed that this never happened. (Bonus points: Arte is singing a punk cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" while this is happening.) This trope ends up being subverted as a few scenes later, we see that the Dalmatians are fine in Cruella's apartment — the entire thing was just an exercise in trolling the Baroness.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Baroness keeps Dalmatians as guard dogs.
  • Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: To escape from the Baroness' Black and white Ball, Cruella hot-wires a sports car and pulls Horace and Jasper in before speeding off. Alarmed by her dangerously erratic driving, Jasper comments:
    Jasper: I didn't know you knew how to drive.
    Cruella: I don't.
  • Artistic License – Biology: As one of her pranks, Cruella sews a beautiful dress covered in sparkly trinkets that turn out to be moth cocoons, and when they hatch, they destroy the dress and all the other dresses stored with it. Full-grown moths don't eat fabric (in fact they can't even use their mouths!); moth caterpillars do (in the wild they eat the fur of dead animals). These moths were explicitly past the larval stage.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Estella willed all her assets to her good friend, Cruella, then got the Baroness to "kill" her in front of several witnesses. Cruella holds a funeral for Estella where only she, the boys and John the Valet attend.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: The dog Wink is disguised as a huge rat for the theft of the necklace.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Cruella's relationship with Horace and Jasper fractures when she starts treating them more like underlings than her partners and they start to resent her for it. However, after she apologizes for her behavior and tells them they're her family, they choose to stick by her.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Cruella's boss at the Liberty clothing store. While it's understandable to be annoyed with a worker trying to advance their position, he's rude and casually towards her, at one point crushing her hand while she scrubs the floor without warning. He also regularly burdens her with extra cleaning assignments.
    • The Baroness is one, which comes with being The Sociopath. She routinely dismisses her workers, making demands of them, and even casually hurts them more than once. To the point of even killing them, with Cruella's mother being an unfortunate victim.
    • Zigzagged with Cruella. Before she saw Horace and Jasper as partners, but once Cruella starts her rampage, she forces them to participate in her self-serving schemes. The two gets tired of her mistreating them and refused to talk to her. She does get better and apologizes, but they continue to serve as goons. Cruella still treats her other accomplices affably.
  • Bait-and-Switch: On Estella's first day at school, the camera lingers on a shiny Panther De Ville, Cruella's iconic car from the franchise's other installments. The car then drives away, revealing a much poorer Estella and her mother standing on the sidewalk.
  • Bathroom Search Excuse:
    • While trying to scope out the Baroness's offices, Cruella pretends to be a French woman looking for the toilet.
    • During the final plan, Horace pretends to be a lost party guest looking for the loo.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Cruella's plans often make use of the Baroness' cruelty and arrogance, but the crowning jewel is in the climax, when she tricks her into shoving her off a cliff in front of hundreds of witnesses, simply because she knew that the Baroness would never let her live.
      Cruella: The good thing about evil people is that you can rely on them to be, well, evil.
    • Another notable one is having Jasper and Horace stage a break-in to trick the Baroness into locking the new dress Estella designed in a vault for safekeeping — and thus not notice when the moths inside the dress hatch, causing a panic when the vault is opened and driving the guests straight to Cruella’s event.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Cruella is, at the time, a pickpocket and a ruthless fashioner. The Baroness meanwhile is an outright murderer who tried to have her own infant daughter killed.
  • Blatant Lies: Upon realizing several witnesses saw her pushing Estella off a cliff, the Baroness tells them "she jumped". When they make it clear they don't believe her, the Baroness accuses Estella of trying to take her down with her.
  • Bound and Gagged: Cruella arrives back at the hideout to find Horace and Jasper bound and gagged by the Baroness' goons. The Baroness then has Cruella gagged and bound to a chair before torching the warehouse in an attempt to kill her.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Young Estella was rebellious, snide, and hot-tempered, leading her mother to exasperatedly dub her meaner side "Cruella." Despite this, she did love her mother a great deal and mostly reserved her meaner side for the school bullies.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: When Cruella calls the Baroness out for killing Catherine, she tells her to be more specific, revealing that Catherine is far from the only person she's had killed. The novelization states Cruella is rocked to realize the Baroness is such a monster.
  • The Cameo: Pongo and Perdita appear as gifts from Cruella to Roger and Anita in a mid-credits scene.
  • Cane Fu: When she crashes the Baroness' Black & White Ball, Cruella uses her walking stick to disable several of the Baroness' guards when they try to eject her.
  • Car Fu: After Horace and Jasper are arrested, Cruella drives a garbage truck through the front of the police station as part of her rescue effort.
  • Cassandra Truth: As she's led away by the police for Estella's murder, the Baroness howls out to anyone around that Cruella is Estella but nobody believes her.
  • Casting Gag: A very curious one happens in the Latin American Spanish dub: The titular character is voiced by Karla Falcón, which is the granddaughter of Carmen Donna-Dío, the voice actress who voiced Cruella in the Latin American Spanish dub of 101 Dalmatians animated film.
  • Character Title: The film is titled Cruella after the eponymous villainess.
  • Combat Haircomb: Cruella uses a long hairpin to jab the Baroness to distract her while she steals the dog whistle. Notably, Jasper thinks she is planning to murder the Baroness with it.
  • Costume Porn: The film is set in the fashion world of 1970s London and takes full advantage of it.
  • Cool Car: Cruella is seen driving a hot rod during a chase. It resembles the car the character drove in 101 Dalmatians, both the animated film and the 1996 live-action remake.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Knowing that the Baroness would likely want her dead in the climax, she fashions a parachute in her dress that she deploys after she is pushed. Horace is waiting in the water with a boat at the bottom of the cliff.
  • Dark Reprise: The "Meet the Villain" teaser has a dark reprise of the melody of Roger's "Cruella DeVil" song from the 1961 animated film.
  • Darker and Edgier: This film carries a PG-13 rating after the G ratings of all the other 101 Dalmatians films; understandable, given whom the film focuses on.
  • Dead End Job: Estella once took a job as a cleaning woman, stating that she was "meant for more in this life."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • At one point, the Baroness responds "Gratitude is for losers" after Estella says thank you. Also, Cruella shows no gratitude to Horace and Jasper for helping her. Although the super rich are free to practise their eccentricities and arrogance, in the present day a lack of gratitude will not last a good impression on other employees and managers.
    • Artie mentions that his flamboyance has attracted unwanted attention, implying he's had to deal with the homophobia that was still very present in the 1970s.
  • Disappeared Dad: Estella's mother was single and raising her alone. It turns out her birth mother was married to a very kind man who was ecstatic to become a parent; when he was told his daughter was stillborn, he "wasted away."
  • Disney Villain Death: Happens to Estella's mother when the Baroness signals her dalmatians to knock her over a cliff; a non-villainous variant. Later averted by Cruella, who goads the Baroness into pushing her over the same cliff in public view; she survives with a hidden glider.
  • Drives Like Crazy: In keeping with her animated incarnation, Cruella seems unable to drive at a safe speed or without crashing into things any time she gets behind the wheel. Possibly because she never learned how to drive.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Cruella successfully exposes the Baroness for the horrible person she is and gets her arrested for seemingly murdering Estella. And because Estella named Cruella as her heir in the event of her death, she gets the von Hellman fortune, leaving her with the Hellman Hall estate for her, Jasper, Horace, and the dogs to live in and all the resources she needs for her fashion designing ambitions.
  • Evil Matriarch: Cruella learns in the second half of the film that her rival and target, the Baroness, is actually her biological mother.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Horace's dog Wink wears one.
  • Faux Shadow: The Dalmatians knocking Cruella's mother off a cliff is set up as a sort of Freudian Excuse for her to explain why she wants to kill them in future. However, once she figures out the Baroness deliberately murdered her, she shifts all the blame to her and shows no ill will towards them, even adopting the three Dalmatians towards the end.
  • Fighting Back Is Wrong: Ridiculously, Estella gets punished and sent to the principal's office during the prologue for defending herself from a bully. Even more absurdly, the bully doesn't get punished.
  • Filching Food for Fun: When confronted by the slumbering guard in the Baroness' workshop, Horace walks up to him, takes his packet of crisps, and starts eating them.
  • Femme Fatale: Cruella is a fashionable, striking woman who is adept at manipulation.
  • Fingore: Estella gets a job at the Liberty clothing store as a cleaning woman. Desperately trying for an opportunity to create her designs, she constantly tries to start a conversation with her boss about them. At one point, while scrubbing the floor, he crushes her hand's fingers under his shoe without even paying attention to her.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • The Baroness's estate, Hellman Hall, is easily recognizable as the future Hell Hall, so it's pretty obvious that Cruella will take up ownership of the house one way or another.
    • Though they never cross paths in this film, Roger and Anita are destined to meet each other and eventually get married.
    • Sidestepped and possibly averted in regard to Cruella's descent into villainy. She ends the film as a righteous criminal who did go through a genuinely cruel patch but has made up with her friends. She also alludes to the character's famous villainous motivation of skinning Dalmatians for coats, but the spotted coat she wears isn't made of the Baroness' Dalmatians, which she keeps as pets with no hatred or grudge against them. By the end of the film, it's left ambiguous if this incarnation of Cruella will actually become the irredeemable villain she was established as by the previous canon.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Right before Catherine walked out for the Baroness Party, she gave her necklace to Estella, despite the latter objecting and saying it looks good on her, claiming it's a family heirloom and it will one day belong to her. Later, it reveals Estella is actually the Baroness' daughter, and the necklace is a key to a birth certificate stating her place in the Hellman fortune. Catherine didn't want the Baroness to recognize the necklace, and Estella as hers.
    • When the younger Estella infiltrates the Baroness' party, John quickly spots her and tries to remove her. At first it seems he noticed that a child shouldn't have been there, but it's later revealed that her distinct black-and-white hair allowed him to recognise her as the Baroness' daughter.
    • When the Dalmatians chase Estella onto the terrace, we hear a faint whistling sound just before the dogs jump over her and knock her mother off the edge. We later learn that the Baroness was using a dog whistle to make her Dalmatians push Catherine off, intentionally murdering her while making it look like an accident.
    • After Cruella makes her first appearance at one of the Baroness's parties, the Baroness asks her valet John if he noticed her black-and-white hairdo, to which John hastily assures her it must be a coincidence. At this point, the audience is likely assuming she's remembering the child who crashed her party on the night of Catherine's death... except the Baroness never actually saw Estella there. What she's actually referring to, as revealed later, is the baby she gave birth to and ordered to be killed, who was born with black-and-white hair and indeed grew up to be Estella after John covertly gave her to Catherine to raise instead.
    • At the black-and-white-ball, Cruella breaks the rules by wearing red to the party. As it turns out, so does the Baroness by wearing Cruella's mother's necklace. The fact they are the only two wearing color, and specifically, red at the party draws a meaningful line between the two, and the fact that Cruella's birth mother wears her adoptive mother's necklace seems to be another hint at their relation.
  • Frame-Up: The Baroness's initial plan to kill Cruella was to have her die in a House Fire and frame it on Jasper and Horace, who she had Bound and Gagged at the scene to submit to the police for arrest. Unfortunately she didn't count on her butler John saving her at the last second.
  • Girlboss Feminist: The Baroness Von Hellman is a world-renowned fashion mogul who won't let anyone tell her how to run her business (including men who try to put her down for being a female CEO) and at first acts as a role model/mentor to the newly-hired fashion prodigy Estella. It's quickly revealed, however, that she's a true Narcissist who can and will get rid of anyone who she believes is in her way, even to the extent of killing Estella like she did her mother.
  • Girl Friday: Gender-Inverted. The Baroness has a dutiful male assistant (Jeffrey) and a male valet (John) who handle most of her affairs.
  • Girls with Moustaches: After she is believed dead, Cruella wears a fake bushy moustache as disguise when she drives a garbage truck through the front of the police station, and again when she visits Artie's shop.
  • Happily Adopted: Despite finding out that Catherine wasn't her birth mother, Cruella still loves her all the same and wants to avenge her death at the hands of the Baroness, her actual biological mother.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Anti-heroes Cruella, Jasper, and Horace keep two dogs, Wink and Buddy, who help them with their schemes. In a bit of meta-irony, Cruella genuinely loves them, especially Buddy. They also adopt the Baroness' dalmatians at the end.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: It's debatable how heroic she is, but Cruella is the main character and she steals several vehicles throughout the film.
  • I Am One of Those, Too: Cruella covers for sneaking around the security office by pretending to be a lost tourist and asks directions to the bathroom in French. Unfortunately, the security guard is also French and starts a long conversation with her that's well past her knowledge of the language, so she can only nod "Oui" in response.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think:
    • The Baroness says a variant of this at one point.
      Baroness: Do I pay you for your opinions or for your obedience?
    • She also says another variant much later.
      Comissioner: We have a problem.
      Baroness: I don’t pay you for problems.
  • In the Blood: Cruella and the Baroness share a genius for fashion and a penchant for evil. After learning she's the Baroness' daughter, Estella concludes that Catherine was trying to keep her from becoming like her, but that she failed and she must be Cruella.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the past, The Baroness killed Estella's adoptive mother by having her dalmatians push Catherine off a wall overlooking a cliff. In the climax of the film, Estella choose the exact location banking on the Baroness being evil enough to do it again, albeit pushing Estella off herself this time, and having her crew manipulate The Baroness's guests into going outside and coming into the area just as she does the deed, getting her framed for “murder” (Though Estella survives via a makeshift parachute from her dress and a boat waiting for her).
  • Laser Hallway: The Baroness has one to protect her safe.
  • Loophole Abuse: Realizing Estella is about to be expelled from school, Catherine says she'll withdraw Estella from school before the Headmaster has a chance to make the expulsion official.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Cruella is this to Baroness Hellman, who does things that even Cruella later in life and at her worst would balk at. The novelization outright states that Cruella is at one point shocked by how much of a monster she is.
  • Logo Joke: Under a stormy sky, the colorful Disney castle is Deliberately Monochrome, while the Disney logo beneath it is bright red. This fits with Cruella's traditionally black, red, and white color scheme.
  • Macguffin: Cruella's main motivation in the middle of the movie is to steal back her mother's necklace from the Baroness, as she was told it was a family heirloom. It ends up eaten by one of the Baroness' dalmatians and, since she can't tell which one, leads to her having to dognap them all and wait for it to pass through their system. It's later revealed that it was given to her birthmother, the Baroness, as a gift from her husband as an heirloom celebrating her pregnancy. It holds a key to the lockbox it was presented in, which in the present holds Cruella's birth certificate proving she's the Baroness' sole living heiress.
  • Made of Incendium: In one scene while Cruella is planning to crash the Baroness' gala, Horace is playing with flash paper as she and Jasper discuss the plan. Cruella later shows up at the gala, seemingly following the black and white dress code with a white cloak, only to burn it up with a match and reveal a vivid red dress underneath.
  • Masquerade Ball: The Baroness has a fondness for hosting masked balls. Cruella first announces her presence on the fashion scene by crashing the Baroness' Black & White Ball wearing a gown of vivid red.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens by introducing Estella as a child, showing her being expelled from school, her mother's death, and running away to London and meeting Jasper and Horace.
  • Mister Muffykins: Invoked, In one of the cons Estella, Jasper, and Horace pull early in the film, Estella plays the part of a rich woman with a small, yappy dog.
  • Mood Whiplash: The scene where Von Hellman's party comically devolves into chaos (to the music of Electric Light Orchestra, no less) takes a complete 180 once Cruella realizes that the Baroness killed her mother. Once the flashback ends, the scene goes back to being comedic.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • At one point, Cruella wears a coat that resembles Dalmatian fur to make the Baroness think she's killed and skinned her dogs.
    • Horace comments on how some dog owners resemble their pets. This hearkens back to the opening scene from the original film, where Pongo observes some dogs and their identical-looking owners.
    • Jasper wears a fedora here while Horace sports a brown cap, as they did in the previous live action film.
    • Cruella is still an insanely reckless driver here, only this time there's an actual reason behind it.
      Jasper: Whoa! Didn't know you knew how to drive.
      Cruella: I don't.
    • The Baroness' speech about not letting anything stand in her way, lest she die like so many other brilliant women have — unfulfilled, unappreciated and bitter — hearkens back to Cruella's opinions about marriage in the previous live action film: "More good women have been lost to marriage than war, famine, disease or disaster. You have talent, darling; don't squander it."
    • In the original novel Roger was a 'financial wizard' who, in exchange for helping the government wipe out its debt, was granted lifelong tax exemption. In this film he starts out as a lawyer working for the Baroness — until she fires him; then he decides to take up songwriting, his job in the animated film.
    • At one point on the movie, Estella is seen watching Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, starring Tallulah Bankhead. Cruella's mannerisms in 101 Dalmatians were inspired by Bankhead.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Cruella manages to sneak into the Baroness' charity gala by arranging for all of the female guests to be dressed as her, in identical black and white wigs and black gowns, thereby making her impossible to spot.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • The Baroness is told by the police commissioner that Cruella's body wasn't found inside the smoldering building, causing the Baroness to realize she survived the arson attempt.
    • Also played straight at the end when Estella is pronounced dead after the Baroness tosses her off the cliff and a presumably empty casket is buried at her gravesite, since there would've been no body to find at the bottom of the cliff.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Despite being billed as an origin story for Cruella, there is no explanation for how she will transition from an Anti-Hero to an animal killer, if she will at all.
  • Not the First Victim: Cruella initially assumes that, aside from killing Catherine, Baroness von Hellman is more or less a cruel but otherwise fairly typical businesswoman. However, when Cruella tells the Baroness she killed her mother, the Baroness responds that she's going to have to be more specific. Combined with the later reveal that she tried to have her own infant daughter killed, it's heavily implied that Catherine was far from her first victim.
  • Not His Sled: Cruella's journey to villainy doesn't quite happen. She's a con artist and thief, edgy and arrogant, and she mistreats her friends, but ultimately finds a healthier way to maintain her fabulous confident rebel persona that doesn't hurt the wrong people. Most notably, she jokes about skinning one of the Baroness' kidnapped Dalmatians and then wears a spotted white coat in her street show for the Baroness to see...but it's revealed to have not been Dalmatian fur, and just done to psych out the Baroness, keeping this Cruella from crossing the hard moral line that defined the character as an irredeemable villain in previous works.
  • Offing the Offspring: John reveals to Cruella that Baroness is her mother and she ordered her to be left to die. But he didn't have the heart to do so and asked Catherine, who was a maid, to sneak away and raise her. She later tries to kill her daughter again by pushing her off of the same cliff she had her adoptive mother knocked off of...right after asking for a second chance as her mother and giving her a hearty hug. Thankfully, Cruella anticipated this, and had her gang bring most of the party guests outside to witness this, exposing the Baroness for what she truly is.
  • Oh, and X Dies: Estella states at the start that a necklace is the reason she's dead. Her alternate identity as Cruella is revealed to be very much alive at the end.
  • The Oner: After learning the Baroness is her birth mother, there is a 2:56 minute take of Estalla speaking to her dead mother Catherine. Cruella gives a long emotional speech, speaking to her mother about the realization of why she didn't want Cruella to become like her birth mother. She apologizes to Catherine for not being able to be the sweet "Estella", but reassuring Catherine that she will always be her real mother.
  • Origins Episode: For Cruella de Vil, albeit one that takes the character in a very different direction.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: The Baroness orders Estella to get her a ridiculously complicated lunch. Surprisingly, Estella manages to get everything she asked for.
    Baroness: Grubby girl, get me lunch. Soy salmon, lemon-zest risotto, cucumber sliced into two-inch diagonals at an eighth of an inch width sprinkled with seven leaves of parsley, shredded, not torn.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: In-Universe. The Baroness gripes to Estella that the death of her mother is far more remembered than the fashion show that was going on that night.
  • Parachute Petticoat: A variation: Cruella designs a dress where the skirt unfolds into a small parachute to save herself when the Baroness pushes her off a cliff.
  • Pet Gets the Keys: While staging a break-in Horace, Jasper and Estella send Horace's dog Wink in through an opening too small for them to fetch the key from the door. Later, Estella sends Wink into the jail with a set of lock picks so Horace and Jasper can unlock their cell.
  • Pet the Dog: In this version, Cruella doesn't harm the Dalmatians and even ends up adopting them, realizing it's not their fault their owner was horrible. In The Stinger, she sends both Anita and Roger a puppy each, as a "thanks for your help" gift and a "sorry I indirectly got you fired" gift respectively. Even better, if this continuity's Pongo and Perdita are anything like the originals, this'll lead to Anita and Roger meeting and eventually being very Happily Married, meaning Cruella did them a bigger favor than even she realized.
  • Politically Correct History: A Downplayed example. The film does occasionally nod to 1960s and 70s attitudes with Artie noting his flamboyance had attracted unwelcome attention on the street and Estella facing some old fashioned snobbery in her job as a cleaner. Added points for the wealthier people acting pretentious and easily disgusted by simple things. But it also presents a London that's far more diverse than it was in the real period, with Estella's apparently expensive school and the Baroness' elite fashion industry balls having numerous people of color. The film also never shows anyone smoking, even though during the real 1970s nearly half the adult population of the UK smoked (and that's because Disney doesn't allow smoking tobacco to be portrayed in their properties).
  • Put on a Prison Bus: The Baroness is last seen being hauled away by cops after seemingly murdering Estella.
  • Race Lift:
    • Jasper is white in all previous media but is played by visibly mixed-race actors here.
    • Anita is white in all previous media but black here.
    • Roger is white British/American in all previous media but played by an actor of Iranian descent here.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Pongo and Perdita are implied to be part of the same Dalmatian litter and are gifted by Cruella to Roger and Anita in The Stinger.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Baroness von Hellman keeping Dalmatians as guard dogs and setting them on Catherine, leading to her being chased off a cliff looks unusual since these days they're not typically used for such a purpose; but in past centuries Dalmatians were bred to travel with fire wagons and guard them and the horses from being stolen while the firefighters were busy, so it isn't too much of a stretch.
  • Remake Cameo: Played with. While the actress Betty Lou Gerson was not alive to film an actual cameo, the actress whose personality inspired Cruella in the original One Hundred And One Dalmatians film appears in a minor capacity. At one point, while Estella is infiltrating a hotel room, a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film Lifeboat, which stars Bankhead, is seen playing on a television set. The scene shown even has Bankhead performing what will later become Cruella's iconic Evil Laugh.
  • The Reveal:
    • Baroness Von Hellman was responsible for Catherine's death, not Estella. She also admits later in the film that Catherine wasn't the only person she's killed.
    • The Baroness is revealed to be Estella's birth mother. She ordered John to dispose of the child shortly after her birth, but he instead entrusted Catherine (the Baroness's maid at the time) to raise her in secret.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: The Baroness is often accompanied by three Dalmatians which she has trained as attack dogs. She sics them on to Estella/Cruella at multiple points during the movie. And she uses them to murder Estella's adoptive mother Catherine.
  • Rip Tailoring: When the Baroness sees Estella's first design for her, she pulls out a straight razor and slices off what she considers to be extraneous fabric: giving the gown a sleeker profile, but also nicking Estella in the process. Despite the injury, Estella is secretly overjoyed as hers was the only design the Baroness considered worth modifying.
  • Setting Update: Whereas The Hundred and One Dalmatians was set contemporary to its 1956 publication, with the 1961 animated film following suit, this prequel pushes the setting forward to The '70s. Cruella is also a younger character throughout the film, meaning that, taking the time periods of the various films into consideration, the 1996 film could plausibly line up with Cruella in continuity, while the original, which featured her as an older character in the 1960s, could not.
  • Ship Tease: Between Estella/Cruella and Jasper. Already her childhood friend and surrogate family instead of her hired goon, there are a couple of scenes that imply deeper feelings between them that Estella does not share with Horace.
    Cruella: Thanks for helping me.
    Jasper: Yeah, well, I find it very difficult saying no to you sometimes.
    Cruella: It’s one of the things I love about you.
    Jasper: Thanks?
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: When a young Estella is chased down by Dalmatians at the start of the film, the music playing in the background is "Inside Looking Out", a 60's rock number by The Animals. It's a much more upbeat song than what you expect to hear in a scene where a little girl is nearly mauled by dogs, and her mother gets killed off.
  • Spiritual Successor: Aline Brosh McKenna, best known for writing The Devil Wears Prada, is executive producer and one of the first screenwriters, and the midsection of Cruella mirrors the film's arc extremely closely, with the Baroness and Estella as counterparts to Miranda Priestly and Andy.
  • Spotting the Thread: The Baroness was able to deduce Cruella and Estella were one and the same due to recognising Horace from being the emcee for Cruella's concert/fashion show as the same person who delivered Estella's moth cocoon "beads" that ruined her own fashion gala. Her thoughts are eventually confirmed when she has him tailed home, with her henchmen having tied him and Jasper up just as Cruella returns and pointing out the Estella wig she found there.
  • The Stinger: Roger and Anita, who have yet to meet and fall in love, each receive a Dalmatian puppy (named Pongo and Perdita, respectively) as a gift from Cruella. Roger then sits back at his piano and ends the film writing and singing the "Cruella De Vil" song.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Baroness keeps calling everyone who works for her idiots, incompetents and other insults throughout the movie.
    Baroness: Why am I the only one who’s competent?
    John: Must be very tiring.
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: Jasper and Horace have to break into the Baroness' workshop and get spotted by the guard before escaping as part of The Caper. However, when they drop in from the skylight, the find the guard is fast asleep. Horace then topples a row of mannequins, which fails to wake the guard. He then walks up to the guard and takes his packet of crisps. The guard keeps snoring. He doesn't wake until Jasper yanks out one of his nose hairs, at which point Jasper and Horace scarper.
  • Time for Plan B: When things go wrong during the theft of the necklace, Horace asks if there's a plan C. There isn't, but fortunately, Cruella manages to improvise something.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Child actors play Estella, Anita, Jasper, and Horace as preteens.
  • Truer to the Text: There are some ways this movie is actually more similar to the original book than the animated film.
    • Unlike her animated counterpart, but like her literary self, Cruella is a beautiful woman rather than a gaunt harridan.
    • Roger works as a lawyer, like in the book, rather than a songwriter, like in the animated movie. However, he ends up becoming a songwriter after the Baroness von Hellman fires him.
  • Ultimate Universe: This film borrows elements from the canon of both the 1961 animated film and the 1996 live-action remake. However, it's not entirely consistent with either one and is clearly set in its own universe.
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Harkening back to the animated film's opening, Horace discusses how some pets tend to look like their owners, and proceeds to claim he looks just like Wink. Jasper is unimpressed.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • Estella spends the film thinking the Baroness is a cruel human being but otherwise a fairly typical businesswoman. It takes learning that the Baroness has killed so many people she doesn't remember Estella's mother offhand to realize the woman is a sociopathic monster.
    • This likewise applies to the Baroness towards Cruella, at first thinking she's a nobody and just another competitor to crush underfoot as she has done with others. Only to slowly be humiliated through the course of the film thanks to Cruella's fashion designs and stunts. Coming to a head with Cruella making a beautiful dress under her Estella persona and making the Baroness think Cruella was attempting to steal it, prompting her to put in a secure vault. Only to find out later it was made from moth eggs which hatch on the night of the Baroness's big fashion line reveal and destroy her other premiere dresses as well. Topped off with Cruella showing her up with an impromptu concert/fashion show. After surviving the Barnoness's attempt on her life, Cruella eventually pulls off a scheme that reveals the Baroness's murderous nature by having her “push” Estelle off the wall where she did Catherine in front of her guests. Getting her arrested and free to take the Baroness's estate that was “willed” to her by Cruella.
  • Unpleasant Parent Reveal: After the Baroness nearly kills her via burning her alive. Estella is rescued by John, the Baroness's personal butler, who later explains to her that the Baroness is her real mother and her initial one, Catherine, was one of the Baroness's former maids who agreed to look after her when it was clear the Baroness would likely have Estella killed then be bothered to raise her (and likewise to prevent her getting a inheritance). Estella unsurprisingly doesn't take this well.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Poor Jasper had no idea that by putting Estella on the path to her dream job, he would be starting a chain of events that would lead to his best friend being so traumatized that she disposes of her kinder Estella persona and become Cruella, seemingly for good.
  • Weaponized Headgear: Cruella uses a long hairpin to jab the Baroness to distract her while she steals the dog whistle. Notably, Jasper thinks she is planning to murder the Baroness with it and is relieved when she doesn't.
  • We Can Rule Together: In their final confrontation on the terrace balcony, the Baroness offers to guide and mentor Cruella, both as her daughter and her successor. This is actually a ploy so she can push Cruella off the edge, which Cruella is fully prepared for.
  • Wham Line:
    • The moment Estella, and the audience, realize just how evil the Baroness truly is.
      Estella: You killed my mother.
      Baroness: You'll have to be more specific.
    • John revealing to Estella "the Baroness' daughter... you".
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: The Baroness' male-named Dalmatian Genghis is revealed at the end to be female. And "gaining weight". It's implied that Pongo and Perdita are two of her puppies.