The Real Life Origin Story Of Flora & Ulysses Explained By Kate DiCamillo

Flora & Ulysses

Every superhero needs an origin story right? This weekend the world will finally get to meet the live-action/animated version of Ulysses in Disney’s Flora & Ulysses. You may already recognize the names as the film is based on the Newbery Award-winning book Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Written by Kate DiCamillo.

But while we will witness the fictional origin of our new favorite squirrel superhero, where did he really come from? What inspired DiCamillo to bring to life Ulysses in the pages of her book? A book that as mentioned above not only won awards but also now is a Disney feature film?

Ahead of the release of Flora & Ulysses this week. LRM Online had the privilege of being part of a press conference that featured the cast, director, and author of the book. It was then that DiCamillo shared her story of how the mighty and poetic Ulysses came to be. Check it out below in her own words.

The Origins of Ulysses

“My mom had a vacuum cleaner that she loved. In the last year of her life, she kept on saying, ‘What’s gonna happen to the vacuum cleaner when I’m gone?’ I was like, ‘Why are we worried about the vacuum cleaner? There are bigger things to worry about.’ But when she did [passeda away], I did as I promised her I would do. I took the vacuum cleaner so that it would have a good home”

“Except that my mom had a cat. The world’s most evil cat named Mildew, and I’m allergic. I couldn’t bring the vacuum cleaner into the house because of all the Mildew hair in it. So I had to leave it out in the garage. Every time I pulled into the garage, I would see the vacuum cleaner, and it would make my heart hurt. It would make me miss my mother.”

“Then the spring after my mother died, there was this squirrel on the front steps of my house. Draped dramatically across the steps, clearly in distress. He wouldn’t move when I got close to him and I didn’t know what to do for him. I called one of my best friends who lives a block away.”

Flora & Ulysses
Matilda Lawler as Flora and Ulysses the squirrel in FLORA & ULYSSES, exclusively on Disney+.


“I said, ‘Help me. There’s a squirrel dying on my front steps.’ She said, ‘Do you have a T-shirt and a shovel?’ I said, ‘I do.’ She said, ‘Get the T-shirt, get the shovel. I will come over there and whack him over the head.’ All of this made me think about, um, 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.”

So what happened to the actual squirrel? She gave us the answer! “The squirrel left when he heard my friend saying, ‘Whack him over the head with a shovel,’ you know?”

While it’s very thrilling, it’s still a fun story! As it is proof that inspiration can come from anywhere! Including a strange mix between a vacuum cleaner, an ailing squirrel, and an evil cat. From this, she was able to create an award-winning story that is now a feature film!

Tomorrow, February 19th,  the wait is finally over as Disney’s Flora & Ulysses will be making its debut exclusively on Disney+.

Flora & Ulysses


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