‘Cruella:’ How the Film’s Music Shifts the Disney Tradition

When Disney‘s fashionable flick, Cruella, hit the screen, viewers walked in thinking they knew the classic–they thought wrong. The movie was so different from other Disney projects that some viewers compared it to Joker.

The live-action includes an array of crime, toxic work environments, homeless children, and death. All of these images are not part of the traditional family-friendly scope of classical Disney films. But Cruella includes something else that sets itself aside from the others: the music.

Emma Stone smiling at the premiere of Disney's "Cruella" at the El Capitan Theatre
Emma Stone smiling at the premiere of Disney’s “Cruella” at the El Capitan Theatre | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Other Disney live-actions have original or more upbeat songs

Disney has released multiple live-action movies in recent years, including Aladdin, Mulan, Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp, and Mary Poppins Returns for starters. While not all the movies are heartfelt and cheery, their soundtracks normally include more hopeful, action-based, or classical tunes.

For example, the Aladdin soundtrack is known for its romantic, action-filled, and friendly beats. The song “Prince Ali” is filled with a plethora of singers and instruments. It describes Aladdin’s, or rather Prince Ali’s, attractive personality. However, the new, emotional song, “Speechless,” that Naomi Scott’s Jasmine sings strikes a nerve in listeners. It was crafted with an orchestra of classical instruments and the lead singer’s strong voice.

Being that the original songs were composed for the 1992 film, the live-action kept to its roots and maintained the Disney tradition, even throughout the new songs.

The ‘Cruella’ soundtrack is filled with classic rock, pop and punk songs

Conversely, there are a ton of retro songs in the 2021 Cruella movie, and most viewers recognize the tunes. From Blondie’s “One Way or Another” to Florence + The Machine’s “Call Me Cruella,” every song establishes a different vibe for the London-based scenes.

Taking a look (and a listen) to the scene when Cruella, Jasper, and Horace set the stage for a hard rock-induced runway, the aura wouldn’t be complete without the addition of John McCrea’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The music slices through the scene and fills it with the irony of Cruella’s Dalmatian-inspired wardrobe (Note: the film does not portray any animal abuse, but rather uses the design of the Baroness’s Dalmatians).

Additionally, the ending wouldn’t be complete without The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Despite the obvious nod to Cruella’s last name “De Vil,” the song includes dark lyrics: “Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate” and “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.”

It’s clear how this modern film has a unique soundtrack for a Disney production.

How ‘Cruella’ is different from the other live-actions because of its soundtrack

Despite the obvious storyline differences, Cruella is particularly different from other Disney live-action films because of its use of music. The classic rock and pop songs nod to the daring image of the main character.

Through the music’s darker implications, the film scenes reinforce the lyrical meanings and images. Cruella’s moods and actions are not simply in-tune with each song; she is sometimes doing the opposite of what a song demonstrates. When Judy Garland’s “Smile” plays as Cruella is tied to a chair in the middle of a fire, the sadistic irony is conveyed. Clearly, nothing in this scene has a happy undertone, but “Smile” creates this dark humor for viewers as they now question whether Cruella will live through this.

Most of the movie executes this dark humor successfully and therefore casts itself aside from other Disney romantic and friendly live-actions.

Related: ‘Cruella’ Soundtrack: Director Picked 1 Song off His Phone