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Disney’s Cruella originally featured a drag queen according to star John McCrea

There’s more than a touch of camp about Disney’s Femme Fatales. From Cruella to Ursula in The Little Mermaid, it’s not hard to imagine these exuberant, excessive characters being played by drag queens.

Speaking ahead of the launch of Disney’s Cruella origin story, the film’s star John McCrea revealed that his Artie character was at one point actually intended to be a drag queen.

“Interestingly, in one of the first scripts, he was a drag queen,” said the star, who played a schoolboy who dressed in drag in the West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Commenting further on the role in the interview with Gay Times, he added: “But then, that idea changed because everyone realised it was more important, like I said, that it’s a lifestyle choice for him – it’s not a performance.”

The story of the drag queen in Disney’s Cruella, as star John McCrea announces his character is LGBTQ

John McCrea will make history in Cruella, playing the first gay character in a live-action Disney film.

Critics from the LGBTQ community may not be quite so impressed with this claim though. Disney has flirted with the idea of having LGBTQ characters, but has failed to identify them as LGBTQ overtly or feature them on screen for very long.

Notable instances include LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, Bonnie’s two mums in Toy Story 4 and Joe Russo’s character in Avengers: Endgame.

John McCrea plays an LGBTQ character in Cruella
John McCrea plays an LGBTQ character in Cruella

However, actor John McCrea told Attitude that his character is gay, and sends a positive message about identifying as LGBTQ. “For me, yes, it’s official: he’s queer,” the 29-year-old actor said.

“But we don’t see him falling in love; there’s no social aspect to the character. It’s not beating you on the head with a stick. But his lifestyle is fabulous, he loves his life and it was so fun to play him.”

Drag queen who inspired The Little Mermaid

Ursula in The Little Mermaid was inspired by an iconic drag queen called Divine.

The American actor, singer and drag queen passed away in the 1980s but was prolific, and was named Drag Queen of the Century by People magazine. Divine was performing from the 1960s and often worked with LGBTQ writer and filmmaker John Waters, who wrote and directed Hairspray.

Ursula in The Little Mermaid was inspired by a drag queen called Divine
Ursula in The Little Mermaid was inspired by a drag queen called Divine

“Even though it’s sort of disguised, it’s based on the character,” Disney director John Musker told SBS in an interview in 2016.

“Her origins were with Divine,” continued Musker. Director Ron Clements added: “It just fit the character… She was outrageous, theatrical…”

There has been a severe lack of LGBTQ representation in mainstream films up until this point. That said, the industry is slowly changing to include more LGBTQ representation.

American actor and drag queen Divine in 1983
American actor and drag queen Divine in 1983

Coming-of-age film Love, Simon became the first film by a major Hollywood studio to celebrate a gay teenage romance, and follow-up TV show Love, Victor about another gay teen at Simon’s old high school, followed on Hulu and Disney Plus UK.

And Channel 4’s It’s A Sin, a show about the lives of a group of young gay men in the 1980s, has become 2021’s most-steamed show on All4, proving there’s an appetite for more LGBTQ storytelling.

One of Cruella’s entourage

John McCrea’s character Artie works with Cruella as one of her entourage in the film, which aims to uncover the human story behind the Disney villain by throwing back to the years of the London heiress’ youth.

The character of Artie has been newly developed for the film and didn’t appear in the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians, released in 1961.

Disney's Cruella originally featured a drag queen according to star John McCrea

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Disney haven’t confirmed whether the character was intended to be LGBTQ despite John’s comments. The Mirror has approached representatives from the film for comment.

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