That reads “Disney Squared”  for all those not accustomed to writing math terminology on a QWERTY keyboard.  Ahem.

A while back, I was at a daycare center of some sort, and a child approached me with a book.  This is not uncommon.  I am often barraged by joyous children as I walk in the doorways of their classrooms.   As a sometimes-itinerant speech language pathologist, I have similar status to a grandmother. 

Wait, that came out wrong.  Hear me out. 

What I mean is, I am allowed to come into a classroom or home, stay for an hour, and leave behind whatever ruckus or mess happens while I’m there.  While I do support teachers and parents in ways to improve their children’s undesired behavior, I largely don’t have to deal with consequences of promises to have a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party, bribes for eating healthy lunches, and crashes of overly sugared children.  I also do not have to deal with classroom “housekeeping”, both literal and figurative.  While it may sound strange, I did actually see one perk of becoming an SLP as not having to change diapers for work.  Don’t get me wrong: I”ve mopped up pee puddles, iced split lips, been boogered, sneezed, and coughed on, and had paint lavishly applied to my clothing, face, and hair, but I have not yet changed a diaper on the clock.  In my itinerant work, I come in, pay attention to children, play with them, and then leave, as mysteriously (to the kids) as I came.  They always ask where I’m going. 

“To eat my lunch,” as I leave them to their meals and naps.

“To go home,” as they watch me get in my car at the end of the day.

“To go play with Jeremiah,” as I walk next door to see another child at the center.

“To wash off all the bodily secretions you’ve just lathered on my person in the hottest water available,” as I jet for the nearest sink.

One day, as I was saying, I was approached with a book, in a classroom which did not have many books to choose from.  I was pleased to find this Little Golden Book wasn’t missing any pages (a rarity in this classroom of 2-3 year-olds) and was only minorly torn.  “101 Dalmatians”. 

I’m frequently amused at book adaptations from familiar Disney movies.  They try to keep in the key “plot” elements, often condensing character development into an anecdote the children will remember from the movie. 

I read “101 Dalmatians”.  I remember this movie thrilling and scaring me.  Cruella DeVil was just the embodiment of evil in a “Crazy Lady Driver“, unceasing in her attempts to get the friggin’ dalmatian puppies.  For some reason, she needs 99 to make a dog-skin coat.  Dog-skin coat.  That’s a line I remember from the movie.  Because of course she’s fur-obsessed.  Anyone can see that in her sumptuous characteristic coat and matching hair-do.  Anyone can see her coat and know those puppies are destined to become her summer wardrobe.  So you can imagine how shocked I was to read that, according to this Disney-licensed (no NYC street-vendor knockoff beach towel) book, she wanted to sell them to the circus.

Let that sink in for a moment. 

Take a breath.  Ready to continue?   Because Dalmatians are so exotic and rare?  Because they’re so eminently trainable (which, as a breed, they’re actually not)?  Because in her heart, Cruella is just an enterpreneur and wants to jump in on the market for dog circuses?

No, because Disney, famous for woosifying such classics as the Little Mermaid (newsflash: Ariel dies at the end of the Grimm Bros. tale), Cinderella (the evil stepsisters cut off her toe & heel to try to fit into the slipper), Snow White (Evil Queen actually wants Snow White’s lungs and liver, to eat, as proof that SnowWhite  is dead), and Pocahontas (don’t even get me started), just bastardized their own story.  Usually, the Disneyfication (patent pending) is to make them have happy endings, to decrease bloodshed, to introduce more sidekicks and related best-selling songs, or to sell more merchandise.  This time it was to…?  Apologize for making an evil character have evil intentions?  Appeal to PETA?  Reneg on their own movie?  Make the character of Cruella have no villianous integrity whatsoever? 

Is animal cruety so taboo we can’t even have villians scheming and plotting, even if they’re thwarted at the end, as they always are? 

If the movie wasn’t too scary for children, then the book shouldn’t be either.  That’s my point.  And if they’re suddenly becoming PC, then Disney has a lot of work to do with Peter Pan.  The “what makes a red man red” song always rubbed me wrong, and I’ve since childhood preferred the Mary Martin live action version on Betamax.  You just can’t beat it. 

My point is this: if I’m going to indulge in a little Disney, give me dog-skinning, cigarette-smoking, peroxide-abusing Cruella DeVil over her regentrified dog-circus ringmaster iteration anyday .

The curl of her lips
The ice in her stare
All innocent children
Had better beware
She’s like a spider waiting
For the kill
Look out for Cruella De Vil

Cruella DeVil
Cruella DeVil
If she doesnt scare you
No evil thing will
to see her is to
take a sudden chill
Cruella,Cruella DeVil

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