Disney has found success after success when it comes to creating live-action versions of its popular animated properties, and evidently the studio has decided that the recent live-action prequel story Cruella was another hit. While the normal metric of box office success simply doesn't work to determine winners anymore, Disney has already given the greenlight to Cruella 2, and Emma Stone will be back to play the iconic fashionista once again. But what sort of story is Cruella 2 going to tell?
Considering the way that Cruella ended, mid-credits scene and all, it would seem that the first movie was setting up the events of 101 Dalmatians, with Pongo and Perdita finding their way to Roger and Anita. So seeing this sequel turn into a straight remake is the obvious conclusion. But at the same time, Cruella de Vil herself at the end of Cruella doesn't seem to be the same character that we know from the animated classic. So while it may seem that Cruella 2 should really just be another live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, the sequel should take its cues from another live-action remake, Maleficent, and reimagine the movie we know into something fresh.
Cruella 2 Needs To Follow Maleficent Lead
Maleficent wasn't Disney's first live-action adaptation of an animated classic, and it wasn't even the first one that was a massive success, but it was a movie that tried something entirely new with the concept. It told a story using all the characters from Sleeping Beauty, but it did so with the understanding that the story we knew from the classic Disney movie was wrong. Things didn't happen that way.
Maleficent was not a remake, a sequel or a prequel; it was a complete reimagining. It suggested that the Disney villain wasn't as bad as she had appeared to be, that her anger was understandable (if not justified) and that she didn't do everything that the stories have claimed. It's all done with an eye toward making one of Disney's most popular characters a hero, allowing fans to cheer her, but the result is one of the more unique entries in the "live-action remake" genre from Disney.
If Cruella 2 does ultimately tell a version of 101 Dalmatians, it needs to take this same idea to heart. The Emma Stone version of Cruella is not one audiences want to root against, and it honestly wouldn't make sense for her to be the villain in the next movie anyway.
Cruella Doesn't Really Set Up 101 Dalmatians As We Know It
Cruella gives us not only the origin story of Cruella de Vil, but also the origin story of Roger, Anita and their Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita. The Disney animated classic opens with Roger and Anita meeting, and since the two never cross paths in Cruella, that checks out. Cruella is in charge of Hell Hall by the end, and she has a thing for black and white-spotted clothing, but beyond that, Cruella doesn't actually feel like the 101 Dalmatians prequel we might think it is.
Emma Stone's Cruella just isn't the villain that she is in the animated Disney movie. While she makes clothes that might imply the skinning of Dalmatians, she only ever jokes that she might do such a thing and it doesn't actually appear that such things are on her agenda. Cruella already seemingly has the Dalmatians that were the parents of Pongo and Perdita, so if she wanted to raise puppies to skin them, she could just do it herself.
If Emma Stone's Cruella showed up offering to buy puppies so she could use them for her fashion designs, it would be out of character for her. Cruella is more than a little wild, to be sure, but she's just not the puppy-murdering type. That doesn't mean she's a hero necessarily. There are plenty of people who don't love Cruella by the end of the movie, and for entirely valid reasons. So while Cruella 2 could certainly take inspiration from 101 Dalmatians, it should take that inspiration in a fresh direction.
Cruella 2 Can Be Much More Interesting Than A Straight Remake
Disney's live-action adaptations that have been, more or less, straight remakes of the original film, and those have tended to be big hits. Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aladdin are all among the biggest successes Disney has seen in this entertainment area. However, those original movies are also all fairly recent. The generation that saw them in theaters the first time around is the one bringing their kids to see the remakes.
It might feel like going with a straight remake is the safe bet, but 101 Dalmatians just doesn't have the same sort of dedicated audience that Aladdin had, for example. The people who made Cruella a hit aren't looking for another live-action 101 Dalmatians adaptation. We already have one of those and it's not that old and it's actually pretty good.
There's an opportunity to reimagine the concept into something a bit more interesting. We can still have a movie where 99 Dalmatian puppies get kidnapped, but it doesn't have to be Cruella who does the kidnapping. Perhaps she's framed for the crime and has to discover who really did it herself. Considering the characters' past and the fact that Roger already doesn't like her, there's every reason to believe that people would accept Cruella as a puppy killer even if she didn't actually do it. A story like that would, at the very least, allow for some creativity to enter into the formula, and that's what made both Cruella and Maleficent interesting in the first place.
When it comes to Disney's live-action remakes, we've seen a lot of prequels and straight remakes. We've even seen sequels, as Dumbo was mostly that. But Maleficent is really the only other real reimagining of the source material that we've seen from Disney, and the movie was a success. So that formula worked once, and it can again. Cruella is a popular Disney villain, just like Maleficent, and even more so now that that the first Cruella was a hit.
Even more people are about to see Cruella on Disney+ as it's going free to all subscribers very soon, and based on the response on the first batch of viewers, they're going to enjoy it too. While the movie may have felt like a prequel, it was maybe a prequel to a different sort of movie, and that's the one that I want to see when Cruella 2 comes out.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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