The following contains major spoilers for Cruella. If you haven't seen the film, be warned we're giving it all away below.
Cruella is the newest entry in Disney's highly successful franchise turning its previous animated classics into live-action features. However, rather than being a straight remake, like The Lion King or Aladdin, a sequel like Dumbo, or even a complete reimagining like Maleficent, Cruella is the first in the series to tell a complete origin story. Just who was Cruella de Vil and how did she become the kidnapper of spotted dogs that we all know? The new Emma Stone movie attempts to answer those questions, sort of. To see how this all leads into 101 Dalmatians, if it does at all, we need to take a look at the Cruella ending.
Cruella is set in the 1970s and sees a young woman named Estella transition from a life of petty crime to a life in the fashion industry, and also crime. As an origin story, one would expect that Cruella is about explaining how the character became the one we know from 101 Dalmatians, but for all that to make sense, you have to understand how Cruella wraps up, so here's what happens.
What Happened At The End Of Cruella?
When Estella (Emma Stone) discovers that The Baroness (Emma Thompson) isn't simply the woman who killed her mother, but is actually her biological mother, who killed the woman who had raised her, she plots a little vengeance. The plan involves infiltrating The Baroness' charity ball with her friends Jasper, Horace, and Artie, and setting herself up to be murdered.Of course, "Cruella" herself is already believed to be dead by everybody. She was trapped in a fire started by the Baroness. It's why Estella/Cruella knows her plan will work. The Baroness has no problem committing murder.
Artie produces a collection of gowns and wigs and sends them to everybody attending the charity gala, which results in everybody in attendance looking like Cruella, and in fact most of them look like Glenn Close's version of Cruella de Vil from the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians from 1996. This allows Cruella to infiltrate the ball unnoticed. After disposing of the security, Cruella, now dressed as Estella, lures The Baroness outside, to the same cliff edge where The Baroness had previously killed the woman Estella believed was her mother.
Jasper, Horace, and Artie also get everybody at the ball to go outside, so that when Estella reveals that she knows everything The Baroness has done, and who The Baroness really is to her, it pushes Baroness to repeat the performance and push Estella off a cliff, with hundreds of witnesses. While it appears to all that Estella has died, she had designed her clothing to include a parachute, allowing her to survive the fall that otherwise would have killed her.
At this point Estella is dead and Cruella returns from the dead. Cruella has Estella's birth certificate, proving she was the Baroness' daughter, and with some new paperwork willing all of Estella's worldly possessions to Cruella, now Cruella becomes the beneficiary of everything that Baroness once owned. Helman Hall, rechristened Hell Hall, now belongs to Cruella. John, the Baroness' former valet, who had been the one to save Cruella as an infant, now works for her, and even The Baroness' three somewhat vicious Dalmatians, belong to her.
How The Cruella Mid-Credits Scene Fits In
However, once Cruella de Vil has taken her place at the top of the fashion world, and has everything she ever wanted, and quite a bit she never dreamed of, the story isn't quite over yet. In a mid-credits sequence we see two other characters from the film. Anita Darling, a former school friend of Estella/Cruella who, as a professional journalist had helped promote Cruella's rise in the fashion industry, and Roger, the Baroness' fired lawyer, who we learn earlier is a better than average piano player, both receive packages sent by Cruella.
Both packages are basically the same, each one receives a dalmatian puppy from Cruella. Anita gets a female named Perdita, and Roger is given a male named Pongo. Even if you have't seen the animated 101 Dalmatians in a long time, you can probably guess that these puppies will grow up and Roger and Anita, who never cross paths in Cruella, are destined to meet and get married and Pongo and Perdita are going to become the parents of 15 puppies, and eventually meet a great deal more.
As the mid-credits scene ends we see Roger, sitting down at his piano, and considering the woman that just gave him a puppy, he beings to sing a song, all about Cruella de Vil.
Is Cruella Really A 101 Dalmatians Prequel?
From the earliest days of the announcement that Cruella de Vil was going to get an origin story movie, right through to the tease in the mid-credits sequence, there's a strong indication that Cruella is designed not only as an origin story for the 101 Dalmatians villain, but as a prequel to that film. While it's far too early to guess if Cruella could get a sequel, if such a thing were to happen, it would basically just be another live-action 101 Dalmatians, right? Not so fast.
There's a sequence earlier in Cruella where Emma Stone's character takes to a fashion runway in an outfit that looks like it was made from dalmatian fur. The news media considers the question of whether or not Cruella may have skinned dogs and the Baroness, knowing that Cruella has dognapped her three dalmatians, believes she's done exactly that.
However, we know that it's not the case. Cruella says she would never do such a thing to the dogs, though she is more than happy to let people believe that it's something she would do, as the main goal here is to get people talking about Cruella as a designer. What they're actually talking about is far less important.
While Cruella does give us a backstory to the character and puts many of the pieces in place for a potential 101 Dalmatians movie, it's hard to argue that the character we know at the end of Cruella is the same person from 101 Dalmatians. Cruella is a bit wild and unorthodox, but she doesn't seem the sort of person who would dognap and skin 101 puppies.
Perhaps, if there is another Cruella movie, it will be another prequel, which will fill in the gaps and change Cruella de Vii in a drastic way to put her more in line with her animated counterpart. Alternatively, we could see a live-action 101 Dalmatians/Cruella 2 that might go more the Maleficent route, claiming that the story we were told before isn't the whole story, and that much of it isn't even true.
Cruella is the latest film from Disney to get a release in theaters and on Disney+ at the same time. Find out what else is happening with 2021 new movie releases so you'll know just where to find your next favorite movie.