It’s always interesting when you can pick out the influences that shaped an artist’s work, and then consider the influences and what they inspired as pieces of culture in conversation with one another. Consider then Craig Gillespie’s Cruella, a 101 Dalmatians prequel of sorts that’s also humming with a surprising amount of Birds of Prey energy.
Cruella—played here by Emma Stone—being framed as semi-sympathetic anti-villain jibes fairly well with Disney’s previous forays into redemptive villain movies like Maleficent and its sequel. But what really stands out about the new trailer is how much more it leans into a very Gotham-like take on the world, while also establishing that audiences are in store for a story clearly pulling from Dave Frankel’s 2006 adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada.
Though we know Cruella’s destined to become a baddie, the new trailer introduces us to Emma Thompson as the subtly named Baroness von Hellman, Cruella’s answer to Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly who hires a young, timid Estella (Cruella’s actual name) to work for her at a fashion house. In a very The Devil Wears Prada-like fashion, Hellman’s apparent disdain for her new employee is both a thinly-veiled recognition of Cruella’s innate talents and a crucial part of her transformation into a dog-murdering style icon.
The brief shots of Cruella hanging off the back of a truck while grinning into the open air also reads a lot like some of the shots from Birds of Prey, which makes a fair amount of sense given the Harley vibes running all throughout what Disney’s shown so far of the movie. What’s also rather interesting about the new trailer is its suggestion of Cruella actually being Estella’s secret identity that she assumes while terrorizing Hellman and the rest of London when she isn’t on the clock.
While you can all tell that Cruella knows how to nod to the things that have come before it, what remains to be seen is how the movie manages to find a voice of its own. And perhaps more importantly, whether or not, beneath all those layers of cinematic visual references Cruella’s got something novel to bring to the world that’ll make it one of Disney’s great villain origins.
Cruella hits theaters and Disney+ on May 28.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.