10 Fun (?) Facts About Cruella De Vil
As the new live-action film Cruella (starring the wickedly talented Emma Stone in the title role) arrives in theaters and on Disney+, we thought it would be fun to look back on Disney’s original version of the iconic characters that appeared in the 1961 animated classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians. If you remember the words to her chilling theme song, now’s the time to sing along:
This vampire bat
This inhuman beast
She ‘outta be locked up and never released
The world was such a wholesome place until
Cruella, Cruella De Vil
Here we go!
1. For the 1961 animated classic, Cruella was animated by the legendary Marc Davis. As iconic as she may seem today, Davis was actually worried that the character was too “cartoonish.” Fellow animator Milt Kahl even joked that her feet were too big (at least we think he was joking!). Kahl ended up being so impressed however, that when he was tasked with animating Madame Medusa for The Rescuers, he told Marc Davis that he would “blow your Cruella off the screen.”
2. Curiously, at one point early on Cruella was intended to the villain in The Rescuers, though the decision was eventually made to create a brand-new villain.
3. Actress Mary Wickes provided the live-action reference for Cruella. Wickes’ Disney career would eventually come full-circle, as she provided the voice of Laverne in 1996’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
4. Speaking of reference, animator Bruce W. Smith used Cruella as a reference when creating Dr. Facilier for The Princess and the Frog.5. Cruella was voiced by Betty Lou Gerson, who had also narrated the opening scenes of Cinderella. She also made on a small on-screen appearance in Mary Poppins, though her role was uncredited. To prepare for her role as Cruella, Gerson looked to actress Tallulah Bankhead for inspiration. Bankhead (best known for her award-winning performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat), was also the supposed inspiration for author Dodie Smith when she was creating the character for her book, “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1956). Gerson took her role to heart, so much so that the actors in the film found her quite intimidating!
6. We all know that Cruella has a maniacal love for fur, but what about jewelry? While she doesn’t profess to have a love for sparkly things in the film, in Dodie Smith’s original book Cruella loved both fur and diamonds.
7. Did you ever notice that the inside of Cruella’s giant mink coat is red? That was done intentionally to symbolize her demonic nature. Speaking of coats, did you ever wonder why Cruella was so intent on turning the puppies into a coat (as opposed to full-grown, larger dogs)? Although not addressed in the original animated film, the 1996 live-action remake starring Glenn Close revealed that she wanted to make the puppies into coats at a young age because their fur wouldn’t be as soft when they fully grow up. Yep, she’s pure evil!
8. So just how rich was Cruella? Plenty rich! According to Forbes, Cruella is worth a cool $875 million…that’s a lot of fur coats! That was good enough to place 13th on Forbes’ list, though well short of Scrooge McDuck’s fortune!
9. Just how did Cruella get her iconic name? Obviously, the name is a pun on the words “cruel” and “devil,” but it also a nod to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” In the 1897 Gothic horror novel, the realty firm Mitchell, Sons & Candy writes a letter to Lord Godalming, informing him that the purchaser of a house in London is “a foreign nobleman, Count De Ville.” (Spoiler alert, that’s actually Count Dracula!)
10. While Cruella is portrayed as single in the Disney movie, in Dodie Smith’s book she was married to a furrier. She also had a cat in the book.