Disney’s 14-Year Ban Prevented Emma Stone From Pulling Off Cruella’s Classic Bad Habit
Disney’s reputation as a family-friendly media company can cause some complications when it has to deal with changing cultural standards. Some of these clashes between the current company and its past are quite notorious, like the infamous racism in Song of the South, while others are a bit more subtle. One of these changing standards of what’s acceptable in family media led to a significant change in a character that appeared in a recent Disney reboot. While it’s a relatively minor detail, fans of the original film might be caught off guard by how it changes one iconic character. What did Disney ban? And how have films adapted to the ban?
Disney decided recently not to depict smoking in any of its films
Whereas in the mid 20th century tobacco companies spent exorbitant amounts of money to downplay the negative health effects of smoking, by the 21st century, the public was well aware that smoking is quite dangerous. Therefore, increased scrutiny came to media franchises that depicted smoking, with fears that viewers would come away from a movie or show with a favorable view of smoking.
In 2007, Disney decided that it would not allow any depiction of smoking in new films it released with youth ratings, following studies suggesting a causal link between smoking in media and youth smoking. Then, in 2015, Disney extended this ban, meaning smoking wouldn’t appear in any Pixar, Lucasfilm, or Marvel films — which had the last two Disney movies to feature smoking: Ant-Man, and Iron Man 3.
Emma Stone had complex feelings about this ban in ‘Cruella’
In 2021, Disney released Cruella — yet another reboot based on a classic film, starring Emma Stone as the eponymous Cruella de Vil. One of the most prominent traits Cruella had was a cigarette in a long holder, spewing green smoke. Though the original movie has Cruella framed clearly as a villain, and the smoke is portrayed as noxious to those around Cruella, Disney decided that they would eliminate this cigarette holder from the new Cruella.
There is a small exception for the smoking ban in the case of historical accuracy, however, the director chose not to use this exception. Stone was reportedly somewhat disappointed, understanding the reason for the exclusion while also expressing some confusion. After all, even though the 2021 film is a sympathetic look at the character, Cruella de Vil is a villain, who ends up doing some pretty heinous things that kids probably won’t want to imitate. According to Yahoo! News, Stone is quoted as saying:
I was so excited to have that green plume of smoke in there, but it was not possible. I don’t want to promote smoking, but I’m also not trying to promote skinning puppies.
Smoking isn’t the only thing Disney won’t allow in its films
Disney’s ban on depictions of smoking does follow guidance from health professionals, but other things Disney won’t allow in its properties are more based their disturbing nature. There are two forms of death that, according to Insider, Disney contractually bans its directors from depicting: beheading and impalement. The closest Disney has come to depicting beheading is in Alice in Wonderland, with the Queen of Hearts continually demanding “Off with their heads!”
There has been an explicit impalement in one Disney film, however: 1989’s The Little Mermaid features its main villain, Ursula, dying by being impaled by an entire ship, then struck by lightning. This is pretty hardcore, though unlike with smoking, there’s no significant evidence suggesting a causal link between seeing impalement in a movie and reenacting it at home! However, Disney’s power in the industry means that directors who want a show with them do have to follow these rules, or risk serious consequences.