When you call something a "Disney movie" it conjures up a certain image in the mind. Disney films are made for a very wide audience. They tend to be family-friendly and while that certainly doesn't mean that everything is G-rated, you can be fairly certain that there won't be anything that's going to be too much for younger audiences to handle. Which makes the announcement that Disney's next live action movie Cruella as rated PG-13 something of a surprise.
The vast majority of Disney's live-action adaptations have been rated PG, and most of those have been based on animated films that were rated G. So it would seem that Cruella is going to have a little something more to the story that might make this prequel to 101 Dalmatians a little too grown up for the youngest viewers. The MPAA's official description explains why the PG-13 rating was appropriate, saying:
Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements.
Cruella wasn't the first Disney animated adaptation to get a PG-13 rating. Mulan previously got the same designation for "sequences of violence" and that's probably not too shocking considering that the movie itself was about a war. But with Cruella now joining the PG-13 club, one wonders if this is a new trend since the last two of these movies have received the same rating. For what it's worth, not only was the original 1961 101 Dalmatians animated movie rated-G, but the live-action remake from 1996 and its sequel that came out in 2000 were as well.
Of course, a description like "thematic elements" is pretty vague and it's difficult to know what that even means without actually seeing the movie. But it's hard to argue based on the trailer that this movie isn't going to have some darkness to it. Many have already compared the movie to R-rated movies like Birds of Prey or Joker, with an anti-hero lead character who is certainly willing to commit violent acts. And even if Cruella is the "Disney version" of that idea, with everything toned down somewhat, it's maybe not too shocking that such a concept couldn't be toned down to a PG rating.
But for those fans who might be looking for a somewhat more grown-up version of the Cruella de Vil origin story than a PG rating would provide, this rating is probably good news. It's still technically available for wide audiences, nobody is restricted from seeing Cruella based on age. The PG-13 rating will allow the production to push things a little harder than they otherwise would. I wouldn't expect all future animated adaptations to be PG-13 movies. There's no real reason that The Little Mermaid or Pinocchio need to be more mature, but it seems that in the cases where that can help, like Mulan or Cruella, Disney is willing to take that extra step.