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“Cruella de Vil” is one of those memorable Disney songs that tends to stick in the brain long after you’ve seen the movie it belongs to. It is also a villain song that is not actually performed by the villain. (The song was composed by Mel Leven and is the major song moment of the film).
To set up some context, 101 Dalmatians centers on two Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita and their human “pets”, Roger and Anita Radcliffe (Pongo belonged to Roger and Perdita belonged to Anita before the two married). Some time after their pets marry, Perdita is expecting puppies when an unexpected visitor drops by; Cruella de Vil was Anita’s school mate and she has apparently dropped by on occasion in the past (considering Roger recognizes the car when it pulls up).
Roger has spent the last several days working on a new song, but he’s struggled to come up with appropriate lyrics. Suddenly, while mulling over Cruella’s name, he realizes its the perfect inspiration for the song! (Cruella de Vil is an obvious play on the words “Cruel Devil”)
“Cruella de Vil” mockingly paints Cruella as this devilish figure that inspires fear and terror wherever she goes. Roger takes great delight in performing this number while a slightly anxious Anita tries to hush him up (as Cruella is moments away from stepping through the door). Roger eventually retreats to his music room to continue (literally) banging the song out while Cruella comes through like a fur-lined whirlwind. Cruella SEEMS nice enough at first, if a little eccentric (she has an unhealthy obsession with furs) but noticeably, Pongo and Perdita react negatively to her presence. While Cruella has a very one-sided conversation with Anita, Roger plays variations on his song with the piano, a trumpet and a slightly obnoxious trombone (to Cruella’s annoyance; she has no idea what Anita sees in Roger).
For some reason, Cruella is fixated on knowing when Perdita’s puppies will arrive (she initially thinks they’ve already been born). After promising to return when the puppies are born (in approximately three weeks), Cruella leaves as abruptly as she arrived and a teasing Roger returns to continue his song. As mocking as the song is, it’s all meant in good fun (for now anyways).
This is a song I’ve always loved to dance around to, it’s short, fun and a classic example from the early post-Golden Age of Disney films.
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