Disney’s first and most critically acclaimed version of this character appeared in 101 Dalmatians. This version of the character inherited several visual traits from the original Dodie Smith version: her hair, which was black on one side and white on the other; her black dress; and her enormous mink coat, which swings about her like a cloak. This version of the character, designed by Bill Peet and Marc Davis, was also completely skeletal, and smoked constantly, leaving a trail of green, foul-smelling cigarette smoke wherever she went. Her physical appearance and general manner was evocative of some sort of hellish beast or demon, a fact referenced in her name and in a song about her.
Cruella, an old school friend of Anita's, claims that she cannot live without furs. She hires Jasper and Horace Badun, 2 incompetent crooks, to steal Pongo and Perdita's 15 Dalmatian puppies, and buys eighty-four more through legitimate means. She intends to have all ninety nine puppies skinned and made into clothing. The Colonel, Sergeant Tibbs and Captain are among the animals of the countryside to help Pongo, Perdita and the puppies return home, while Cruella and the Baduns pursue them.
Unlike previous Disney villainesses such as The Queen, Lady Tremaine, and Maleficent, Cruella is not a schemer. Instead, she acts purely on impulse and is thus prone to reckless behavior, particularly tearing through the snowy landscape in her car. Unlike future versions of the character, this version of Cruella was seemingly invincible in the eyes of the Dalmatians, who, though they could just about able to keep Jasper and Horace Badun at bay, were unable to face "that devil woman". Their only hope was therefore to flee; Cruella's defeat in the film is brought about not through the deeds of the animals but her own stubborn relentlessness (which, by the end of the film, has seemingly degenerated into a mad fury), and the incompetence of her henchmen.
A while after Roger and Anita have married and settled down together, Perdita, Anita's dalmatian, hears the screech of Cruella's car outside, and runs to the kitchen to hide from 'that devil woman'. Looking out of the window, Roger sees that Cruella, whom he refers to as Anita's old schoolmate, is coming towards the house. As she approaches the front door, Roger sings less-than-flattering song about Cruella; Anita attempts to stop Roger for fear that Cruella might hear. Roger goes upstairs and uses various musical instruments to play the tune to the song when Cruella bursts in, demanding to see Pongo and Perdita's puppies, and leaving a trail of smoke from her cigarette. Anita informs her that the dalmatian puppies will not arrive for a few weeks. After commenting on Pongo and Perdita's 'beautiful coats', Cruella leaves, saying that she will return in 3 weeks. A previously excited Perdita grows anxious at Cruella's interest in the puppies.
Cruella returns to the Radcliffe's house just after the fifteen puppies are born. At first she is furious that the 'mongrels' have no spots, but, when Anita tells her that the spots will appear in a few weeks, Cruella offers to buy all fifteen immediately. Roger refuses any price, and Cruella, after realising he is not joking, storms out, vowing revenge. Later, Horace and Jasper Badun succeed in stealing the puppies while the Radciffe's are out. At home, Cruella laughs to herself as she reads of the theft in the newspaper; she is the orchestrator of the crime. The Baduns phone her to demand payment, but are told that they will receive nothing until the job is done. Slamming the phone down, Cruella then decides to phone Anita, and feigns surprise at the theft (though Roger is convinced that she is involved).
The Baduns succeed in stealing another eighty-four puppies, and take them to the Old De Vil Place. Cruella arrives one evening, demanding that 'the job' be done immediately, and leaves furiously, threatening to call the police otherwise. Sergeant Tibbs succeeds in helping all ninety nine dalmatians escape the old mansion. Cruella and the Baduns search for the puppies in a small village, and Cruella is initially fooled when the dogs cover themselves in soot to disguise as labradors and board a lorry heading for London (Horace although was convinced about the Puppies disguising themselves with soot, but Jasper said sarcastically that they were and then angrily yelled "You Idiot!!"). When she sees snowflakes removing the soot, however, she follows in her car, and the Baduns follow in their truck. Pursuing the puppies, Cruella almost succeeds in ramming the lorry, driver, dalmatians and all, off a cliff, but the top of her car is ripped off during the chase, which comes to an end when the Baduns, trying to hit the lorry, succeed in ramming their truck into her car, sending Cruella, Horace, and Jasper over the cliff; all 3 survive, but Cruella is furious and subjects Jasper and Horace to a tongue-lashing at which point Jasper finally plucks up the courage to tell her to shut up. Consumed by anger and humiliation, Cruella collapses into manic sobs and was arrested after the police recognizing her as the thief.
The incarnation of Cruella that appears in 101 Dalmatians: The Animated Series (which relocated the events of the films in America), voiced by April Winchell, shares traits with both the 1961 version and the live-action version. In design, she resembles the Cruella of the original animated version. However, the series’ slightly different design style, as well as lower budgets, resulted in a simpler design; most notably, the black dress and fur coat were dropped in favour of a simple black and white dress. This version of the character also lost previous incarnations’ excessive smoking habits (in the first episode, she lampshades this by stating "I picked the wrong week to quit smoking") and, notably, obsession with fur; instead, her goal throughout the series was to own the land currently owned by Roger and Anita Dearly. Like the live-action version, this Cruella was the head of the House of De Vil, and was often defeated in comedic fashion. Her minions included Jasper and Horace, as well as her pet ferret, Scorch.
This series does not take place in the same continuity as the movies; an example of which being the fact that this show is set in the United States (as evidenced in many episodes) while the movie is obviously set in London, England and its surroundings. The original animated movie is set in the 1960s (evidenced by a newspaper that Cruella is seen reading, the year is 1961), while the live-action films and this series are set in a modern day world (1996 at the time). It is also notable that the movie is quite realistic, while the series is very cartoony. This series comes closer to the essence of Dodie Smith's book than the movies and is based on everything 101 Dalmatians related (Cadpig is one character that is not characterized in the movies). Therefore, all three mediums can be considered canon, even though they're not in the same continuity. Also, Roger and Anita the dog owners' last name has been changed to Dearly instead of Radcliffe, as it is in the other movies and novels.
Cruella appears in the sequel to the film. In the film, Cruella bails out Jasper and Horace to recapture the puppies and attempt to make another coat. In the end, Cruella is defeated by Patch and arrested.
Role in the series
Cruella is one of the Villain League's Inner Circle members and is the most vain out of all of them.