Disney's 2021 'Cruella' May Shatter the Underwhelming Live-Action Trend
By: Domonique Cox-Salberg
There is no denying Disney’s prominent presence in all facets of entertainment. However, even Disney has its low periods. Most notably, the successful powerhouse we have come to know experienced a unique, dark phase in the 70s and 80s. Think the Black Cauldron (1985), also known as the film that almost killed Disney. Nevertheless, It seems the cycle is creeping back, in the form of classic remakes; even if they are financially successful, fans are catching on to the cash grab formula. Luckily, the Emma Stone led Cruella (2021) appears to be a genuine prequel to shatter the underwhelming live-action trend.
Quick jump to the following sections:
Origin Story in a Class of its Own
Like other Disney live-action remakes that took the origin’s route to tell their stories, such as Dumbo (2019) and Maleficent (2016), Cruella seems to have a more concrete, sensible, back story. In Dumbo, the titular character was noticeably cast aside for its contemporary retelling and unnecessary plots. Maleficent changed to the point that her true origins were almost completely forgotten. And in particular, in hopes of conveying a sympathetic persona stripping away what made her so iconic decades ago. However, both films can be appreciated by their efforts to make an old story anew and not shot by shot, ahem, The Lion King (2019). Still, there are ways in which a remake can become just as exalted as the original, and Cruella may be on the right track.
A Highly Stylized Look
In this Cruella prequel, the shots released so far are nothing far from perfect. Emma Stone looks fabulous in the teaser photos released last August and reveals an entirely different take on the character. In which the fresh new look can be partly attributed to its 1970s London setting. Moreover, the photo features explicitly a 70s punk-rock Cruella—an interesting period to choose considering the original novel came out in 1956 and the Disney animated classic in 1961. Distinct and rare for Disney animation, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) has a highly stylized look and feeling that matched the time in which it was released, different from the companies usual timeless animated look. In that regard, it makes sense why Stone’s Cruella is stylized as well.
Punk-rock Cruella In 70s London Setting
The 70s setting lends itself to be a smart choice, creative, and business-wise. For one, if this movie is a hit, it could back door a new 101 Dalmatians movie with an older actress taking Cruella’s role in modern times as a prequel. Alternatively, if they keep Emma Stone in the role, they could spotlight Cruella during different decades, similar to what Warner Bros. is doing with DC’s Wonder Woman 1984.
So why the 70s in London setting? Well, the 70s marks an iconic time, especially in the UK pop culture-wise. In the music scene, we had David Bowie, Elton John, and Freddy Mercury—odds are this movie will have a killer soundtrack. Her look also appears to reference another pop culture icon—Tim Curry, in his most famous role, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Stones look and body language, in particular, is uncanny of Curry’s performance. The comparisons do not stop there. Some people even think Stone looks like an emo version of Harley Quinn, a fascinating observation. It makes us wonder if Disney could be creating a family version of the DC character for themselves. That would be such a clever and strategic move if done right.
Promising Director & Writers
Furthermore, if we look in the background of the released photo, Cruella is joined by her henchmen from the animated movie, Horace and Jasper. Both were looking just as marvelous as Cruella for the period and more than bumbling fools. Overall, the central characters appear promising, and it is great to see that Emma Stone is back to the zany roles that made her famous despite her star rising.
Finally, Cruella is directed by Craig Gillespie, who also did Lars and the Real Girl, I, Tonya, and the pretty good remake Fright Night. While it is a little alarming the script has a long list of writers, Aline Brosh McKenna is the most promising screenwriter responsible for firecracker scripts like The Devil Wears Prada along with The Favourite writer Tony McNamara as well. Plus, those wondering why there is no mention of Cruella’s iconic fur coat, the creators may be excluding that from her character to convey an anti-hero instead of her traditional evil arc.
So, just knowing what we know now, I’m expecting great things from ‘Cruella’ and Emma Stone. How about you?