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The Story Behind Flora & Ulysses – The Birth of Ulysses!

Flora & Ulysses fans rejoice! The live-action film is coming to Disney+ on February 19, 2021, and is based off of Kate DiCamillo’s award-winning book, Flora & Ulysses. How and why did DiCamillo decide to turn a squirrel into a superhero? It all started with a vacuum cleaner. But even DiCamillo admits the movie is better than the book.

Flora and Ulysses Story

Flora & Ulysses is about a comic-book reading girl, Flora, who saves a squirrel (Ulysses) from vacuum cleaner with a mind of its own. She soon realizes he has superpowers, but not everybody believes Flora. Her family is broken, and hopefully Ulysses can use his powers to bring her family back together.

During a Flora & Ulysses Press Conference with the cast, Director Lena Khan, and Author Kate DiCamillo, I found out quite a bit of the backstory behind Flora & Ulysses. DiCamillo shared the funny and heartwarming story about the inspiration for Ulysses.

Author Kate DiCamillo says Flora & Ulysses is better than the book

Author Kate DiCamillo

“My mom had a vacuum cleaner that she loved and she passed away in 2009. And in the last year of her life, she kept on saying, “What’s gonna happen to the vacuum cleaner when I’m gone?”

DiCamillo thought it was odd that she was so concerned with the vacuum cleaner. But when her mother passed away, DiCamillo kept her promise and took the vacuum cleaner to give it a good home…”except that my mom had a cat the world’s most evil cat named Mildew,” she added. 

Don’t worry, you’ll get an evil cat in the film, too! She had to keep the vacuum in the garage, because of Mildew’s hair. Well every time she pulled into the garage and saw the vacuum, it made her miss her mother. One day, in the spring after her mother passed away, she saw a squirrel dramatically draped across the front steps of her home, and she didn’t know how to help him, so she called a friend. The friend asked if she had a shovel and a t-shirt. She then proceeded to say she would come over and whack the squirrel over the head!! Whaaaaat?

“And all of this made me think about E.B. White’s essay, ‘Death of a Pig’ – how he’s going out to feed a pig and thought about ways to save a pig’s life. I thought about ways to save the squirrel’s life and I combined it with the vacuum cleaner in the garage, and that’s the story.”

And don’t worry, as soon as the squirrel heard “whack him over the head,” he was out of there. Smart squirrel – just like Ulysses!

Flora and Ulysses Press Conference


When discussing the differences between the book and the film of Flora & Ulysses, DiCamillo commented on Phyllis. I had just spoken to both  Alyson Hannigan and DiCamillo in a roundtable and asked about Lena Khan’s decision to humanize Phyllis more and not make her such a villain as in the book. 

DiCamillo was thrilled with the change and said, The movie, in a very rare instance of this happening, is better than the book. That is one of the places where it is better. It is humanizes Phyllis more. It amplifies everything that is good about the book – the hope, the love, the humor – but it also takes some of the harsher edges off.” 

Flora Ulysses Phyllis Different Than Book

She’s right. It is rare when the movie is better than the book. Watch this charming story on Disney+ and prepare to hope again. Also, there’s so many Flora & Ulysses Easter Eggs to look for!

If you want to watch the complete interview, watch my friend, Tessa’s video below. Ben Schwartz and Matilda Lawler do an incredible trick where they read each other’s mind. I’ve seen it in person, too, and it’s unreal.

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