There’s a moment in the first trailer for Disney’s live-action Cruella movie when Emma Stone utters in a terrible faux British accent, “I am woman, hear me roar.” It feels less like something Disney fans will remember from the iconic 101 Dalmatians villain, Cruella de Vil, and more like Jared Leto’s Joker telling Batman, “We live in a society.”
All of which is to say that Disney may have found its own Joker-type character in Stone’s Cruella de Vil... but not necessarily in a good way.
Cruella is set in 1970s London. Stone plays the soon-to-be-villain in an origin story of sorts. She’s an aspiring punk designer — and a grifter — who is trying to get society’s wealthiest people to take notice of her and her designs. Throughout the process, she becomes the infamous Cruella de Vil. (If that story sounds somewhat familiar, it may be because it’s seemingly very similar to Jenny Humphrey’s arc in Gossip Girl’s second season.) The way Stone is playing the villain also has hints of Joker and Harley Quinn, leaning into the “madness” of the character and upping the dramatics of it all.
Now, of course, this is just a trailer, and we’re all aware that movies aren’t always best represented by their trailers. Cruella could turn out to be an amazing film; we’ll just have to wait and see. Disney’s track record with live-action films is relatively hit or miss, though. The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast soared to more than $1 billion at the box office, but Dumbo lost Disney a sizable chunk of change, and Mulan premiered to lackluster reviews. While Cruella is inspired by 101 Dalmatians, it’s not a direct adaptation. Disney tried the same formula with Maleficent: while the first film performed well, the follow-up, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, underperformed.
Cruella is set to be released on May 28th. Currently, it’s due out in theaters, but as Disney CEO Bob Chapek noted on the company’s recent earnings call, things could change with its theatrical slate depending on where the world is at with the current pandemic. That means there’s a chance Cruella could wind up on Disney Plus either instead of in theaters or alongside a theatrical release. If that does happen, expect more information in the coming weeks.