Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Cruella.
If you’re all caught up with Cruella, it’s natural to have a few questions, such as: Is Wink happy and healthy, at this very moment? Will the Academy have the courage to award Emma Thompson her third Oscar for this film? Did Disney simply write a check for $2 billion made out to “Music” and then assemble the soundtrack with whatever songs showed up in the mail? All valid, all worth thinking about. However, the biggest question mark comes courtesy of the film’s mid-credit stinger, which simultaneously provides a classic origin story explanation for something in One Hundred and One Dalmatians while also making the events of One Hundred and One Dalmatians roughly ten times more confusing. Here’s exactly what happens:
We interrupt Florence + The Machine‘s “Call Me Cruella” to catch up with Anita (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Roger (Kayvan Novak)—the two Cruella side-characters who become the dog-owning protagonists of One Hundred and One Dalmatians—in their respective homes. Both receive a package bearing an elegant card. Inside each box? One (1) dalmatian puppy.
The note to Roger: “Meet Pongo! Enjoy, Cruella.”
The note to Anita: “Meet Perdita! See you soon, Cruella.”
So, yes, the mid-credits scene of Cruella suggests that Cruella de Vil herself—in a lovely gesture of kindness??—gifted Roger and Anita with the very same dalmatians who will one day have 15 puppies together, all of whom Cruella kidnaps and attempts to turn into a fancy coat through shoddily-orchestrated dog murder. Connecting this Point A to the Point B of 101 Dalmatians is mind-boggling, leaving us with just three possible options for what the actual heck happened between these two films:
OPTION 1: This mid-credits scene confirms Cruella is an alternate timeline-ish, fan-fiction-adjacent version of Cruella de Vil’s origin story, one that leads to a version of One Hundred and One Dalmatians we’ve never seen before. Although Craig Gillespie‘s film establishes its Cruella as a “little bit mad,” it stops well short of painting a picture of a person who would gleefully skin a litter of dogs. She’s more Lady Gaga showman than Freddy Krueger of the puppy pound; her villainous public persona is presented as at least 60% part of an act. “Everyone needs a villain to believe in,” she tells Artie (John McCrea). Basically, if Cruella happens to maybe, one day, attempt some light dog-napping, it’s all part of the show, darling. A classic misunderstanding!
OPTION 2: Cruella 2 is going to be extremely traumatic. As of this writing, no Cruella sequel has been greenlit, but should Disney put Emma Stone in the black-and-white wig again, it’ll be tasked with explaining her transition from “here are some dalmatian puppies, as a gift!” to “I am going to slaughter those dog’s offspring in the name of fashion and feel nothing but joy while doing so.” Again, Cruella doesn’t even attempt to explain how Cruella ends up as the heartless hag we meet in One Hundred and One Dalmatians; at worst, we leave Stone’s Cruella at a misdemeanor trespassing level with some theft mixed in. Dog murder? Not even close. A sequel would need to thoroughly eff this woman’s psyche to pieces if you want us to believe Cruella still exists in the same timeline as One Hundred and One Dalmatians.*
(*Yes, I’m aware dalmatians technically killed Cruella’s mother. I will never forget the way this moment made me laugh for as long as I live. But she doesn’t swear vengeance! The movie lets the dalmatians off the hook! They are friends at the end!)
OPTION 3: Cruella just kicked off a comically elaborate long con that basically turns her into Disney’s Jigsaw Killer. The least-likely and objectively funniest scenario is one in which Cruella’s dalmatian gifts are Step #1 of an impossibly complex plan, one where she also orchestrates Anita and Roger falling in love years later, knowing their dogs would also become a couple, all to possibly make a fur coat almost a decade down the line. I deeply want this to be true.
No matter what, Cruella is currently playing in theaters and available to stream on Disney+ Premier, so feel free to send along any other theories. Together, we will solve the classic Disney mystery of when, how, and why Cruella de Vil got extremely into animal cruelty.
Please, for the love of God, no one say the word “break.”
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