After Sleeping Beauty (1959) and up until Disney’s second “Golden Age” beginning with The Little Mermaid (1989), there was a significant movie-to-park dry spell. This 40-year-drought also marked a very different era for Disney animation too. From One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) through The Rescuers (1977) Disney abandoned their clean and refined animation style for a more “sketchy,” less smooth look. With this, they also eschewed their more dramatic and sweeping stories for zany comedies with jazzy soundtracks. Not that these films were worse, per se, just… different. Then, during the 80s, the movies were, for the most part, decidedly drab and flat out forgettable. It’s no coincidence that Disneyland mirrored this period of movie-to-park ennui. Ironically, it was Walt’s interest in the park itself that resulted in his and the company’s neglect of the animated film division – classic rides such as The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain were all added during this time. So, what I’m trying to say is that it’s gonna be tough sledding for the next 10-or-so Disneyland blog posts.
But we must sally forth! And, in doing so, we get the rare opportunity to pay tribute to one of Disneyland’s great face characters in Cruella de Vil. Although she doesn’t really fit thematically, it’s always a treat to see de Vil cavorting up and down Main Street, USA like the manic hellcat she is. If you are lucky enough to pin her down for a photo-op or an autograph, she’s quick with an insult and is always pleasantly unpleasant. Seeing her in action serves as a reminder that these “characters” at Disneyland aren’t merely cast members in costumes and makeup but legitimate performers. Even the characters who wear masks and don’t speak, like a Goofy or Donald, do a fantastic job capturing their mannerisms and personalities. And, with that, de Vil clearly stands out as one of the best. I just wish there was a way to throw her iconic car into the mix. It doesn’t really fit anywhere but would work great as a piece in a parade or as a backdrop for a simple meet-and-greet.
And then we have the world famous (not really) Toontown Fire Station with its address of 101 and a Dalmatian puppy periodically poking his head out a second story window. Since there was never any fire station in the film, this is merely a non-movie reference to Dalmatian’s real life connections to Fire Fighting. It is better than having a non-Disney themed Toontown Firehouse I guess. I don’t really have ideas for anything else other than a Cruela de Vil owned fur haberdashery specializing in furs of a certain ilk but that’s kinda morbid and inappropriate. I’m rambling…
There was once a Cruella de Vil Star Trailer in the Hollywood Studios area of Disney California Adventure. I gather she was trying for a career in Hollywood – fun and a fact!