Cruella: Disney’s favourite villain | Sunday Observer

Cruella: Disney’s favourite villain

5 September, 2021

Maybe you haven’t come towards a very significant villain from Disney rather than Maleficent from Princess Aurora’s story, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’.

However, Disney too has its “Villain corner” other than its princess. And I must emphasize the fact that villains too are very delightful and cool to watch. Although they are known as villains they never were forced into being ‘Bad’, the external forces and pressure created them to be so.

The same goes with the character of ‘Cruella De Vil’. Introduced through author Dodie Smith’s novel ‘Dalmatians’, but reaching a wider audience through the character’s solo spin-off, live-action film ‘Cruella’. It has garnered several topics together.

The specific character has both positive and negative points. Critics say that being a villain doesn’t mean he or she has no emotions for themselves, it’s just the fact they have already been conquered by one whole emotion, mostly hatred or jealousy eventually resulting in anger and revenge.

The character’s journey as a devil is quite inspirational. Starting her life on a rough edge, being born as Estella von Hellman to the evil Baroness and later being adopted by Catherine Miller, a maid of the Baroness, as Estella Miller.

It’s later that her name becomes ‘Cruella’, used as a nickname from her adoptive mother because her fashion sense included a cruel streak. However, the name is a play with words of ‘Cruel’ and ‘Devil’. The inspiration of her surname ‘De vil’ seems to have been derived through the new Rolls-Royce 25/30 ‘Sedanca de Ville’ in which Dodie used to travel accompanied with her pet Dalmatian ‘Pongo’.

The significance of the protagonist’s name can be seen by many languages, for example in the French version of the animated movie ‘Cruella de vil’ is translated as ‘Cruella d’Enfer’ meaning Cruella ‘From hell’.

Due to the character’s extraordinary storyline several appearances of it can be seen besides the Disney’s animated movies and the live-action films. Her special performance in the TV series ‘Once Upon a Time’ alongside other Disney based villains like Maleficent and Ursula is highlighted in the present.

However, the plot of this 2021’s Cruella, is head turning plus interesting. Estella Miller, a gifted child but socially isolated by her peers because of ‘polosis’ from which half of her hair is black while the other half is white. Yet convinced by her mother; Catherine Miller, that she too is like all the others.

‘Cruel’ streak

At an early age she shows a different fashion interest with a ‘cruel’ streak leading her mother to nickname her as the titular name. Rebellious and bold in her young age she gets pulled out from school by her mother, before the school authorities expel her. With this Estella and Catherine plan to move to London.

Having a small amount of money, Catherine halts at a party organized by a wealthy mistress, in order to obtain the needed financial support. Having to go inside the party she orders Estella to stay in the car with her pet puppy ‘Buddy’.

However, overtaken by curiosity, Estella she gets inside the house, witnessing a fashion show for the first time, she forgets that she sneaked inside until she is noticed by the Dalmatians of the host. Creating chaos yet getting out, she sees a shocking scene of her mother being pushed off a cliff by the Dalmatians that chased her.

She is traumatized, and blames herself for Catherine’s death. Nevertheless, she finds two urchins of London named Jasper and Horace. Befriending them she decides to live with them. As a disguise she dyes her hair red.

Her life continues this way for ten years. She works different jobs and makes money besides Jasper and Horace as thieves. Jasper and Horace find her a job as a janitor in the Liberty Department Store. Being drunk, she remakes a whole window resulting in her having to work for a baroness.


The Baroness, a wealthy fashion designer, bossy and not humble makes Estella work for her. However soon enough Estella notices the Baroness wearing the necklace of her deceased mother. When inquired regarding the necklace the Mistress claims the fact that it was one of her previous employees. Making Estella go back to her dark past. She finds out that Catherine was killed by the Baroness, to take revenge for her mother’s death Estella asks her friends Jasper and Horace to retrieve the necklace from the Baroness.

As a part of her plan Estella creates a different self - named ‘Cruella’, bringing back her natural bi-colour hair and attends the party hosted by the Baroness wearing one of the lady’s old design’s borrowed form Artie, a vintage dress shop owner. During this party she attempts to steal the necklace once again, to be unfortunately chased by the pet Dalmatians of the Baroness. She soon realises that it is the same set of dogs that killed her mother.

Towards the middle of the film the viewer can see Cruella meet her childhood friend ‘Anita’, now a gossip columnist which expands her popularity much more. But she starts turning haughtier and ignorant day by day making Jasper and Horace angry.

Cruella soon sabotages the Spring Collection of the Mistress, making her deduce that Cruella and Estella are the same. The Baroness captures Jasper and Horace, later also Cruella leaving them to die in fire. Nevertheless, the Evil’s valet John rescues her along with the other two.

Birth records

John reveals the plot twist in the story, he informs that the necklace is the key to a box which contains Cruella’s birth records. The box reveals that Cruella’s real mother is the Baroness, At the birth of Estella she had ordered the infant to be killed so she can have the inheritance and solely focus on her career.

However, John had given the baby to Catherine Miller, a maid of Baroness who raised Estella in secret. Cruella becomes angered by the fact that she was cheated by Catherine, plus also the dirty work of her real mother. Finally, she understands the attempt Catherine had made to look after her, and care for her. She takes up the name ‘Cruella’ recruits Jasper, Horace who are rescued from jail and Artie for her last scheme.

At the charity Gala, Cruella dressed as Estella tells the Baroness that she’s her real daughter, for which she pretends to repent and be remorseful before pushing her off the cliff while being watched by the guests at the Gala. Due to Cruella’s clever fashion techniques, she escapes by a parachute built in the dress. Soon she discards the names Cruella and Estella. At the very moment the Baroness is arrested.

Finally, she adopts the ‘De Vil’ name derived from her stolen car ‘Panther De Ville’. She inherits the Hellman Hall after the evil lady, often called ‘Hell Hall’ as the rightful heir. She presents two Dalmatians, one for Anita and the other for Roger, who is a songwriter who previously worked for the Baroness.


The portrayal of Cruella in the film was surreal, Emma Thompson was highly praised for her acting and chemistry with the fellow cast members.

Not only her, the whole cast had a grand reception from the critics. Cruella’s character isn’t truly evil when considered to the rest of the villains, instead she was made a villain by her life and emotions. As understood, her mother or rather foster mother was taken away without notice, which had an effect on her from the beginning.

Although Catherine was her adopted mother as she later learned, Cruella felt the lost love she missed from her real mother.

Cruella’s Evil Fashion is eventually a highlight that everyone looks forward to in the film.

She tries to emphasize that Black and White too need fair play. In this era of London, Black was often used by widows, whereas white was mostly for church or even funerals. Cruella wanted to make a different streak in fashion, not only in colors but also in gender, only men could be seen wearing trousers, but she used this for herself.

‘Cruel’ may be her fashion style but it was innovative at the same time unique and different. A certain highlight of her fashion was her white cape that she puts on fire and emerges in a bright red gorgeous dress. Also her ‘Garbage Dress’ was a huge blow.

Putting her fashion to rest her iconic lines are also certainly Good Cruel. From “I’m just getting started, darling” to “The thing is, I was born brilliant, born bad and a little bit mad. I’m Cruella” her quotes are self-confident, for example “I’m Cruella, born brilliant, born bad and a little bit mad.”

Also Cruella’s sayings are women empowering at most, especially at the time she says “How does the saying go? I am woman, hear me roar”. Nevertheless, sometimes it can be positive as well “but every day brings new opportunities.”

Not only the titular character but also the others have specific roles that have resulted in the movie to be great. Emma Thompson as the evil Baroness was a huge success. Jasper, Horace and Anita show great friendship.

Artie too has a special position in the Disney world. He is the first original character in a live-action Disney film to be openly gay. Not Forgetting Catherine’s character which is one of the most touching out of all, raising Cruella alone - in fear, she did a great job. Overall the whole movie is regarded as a Crime Comedy, although it has a lot of hidden messages, It’s hard to understand why a person changes because of money and inheritance. The baroness leading to abandoning her child because of wealth seems to show the cruelty hidden in beauty. Throughout the piece it’s easy to spot several life lessons under topics like self confidence, self encouragement etc.

Lastly ‘Cruella’ has already taken it’s needed place in the film industry this year, leading to many paths. Even though more than half of the year is over, it can be realized that Cruella indeed is at finest yet.

To those who have watched Cruella, I hope that the quote “Judging a book by the cover was given meaning by this Amazing movie.” While to the people who haven’t enjoyed it till now, it’s time you watch it. It is for sure that you will absolutely love it!