Flora & Ulysses Author Shares The Hilarious Inspiration For The Story

Flora & Ulysses author Kate DiCamillo revealed the inspiration behind her award winning children’s novel and now Disney Plus original movie.
Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses follows Flora Buckman, a comic book and superhero fan, when she adopts a squirrel, Ulysses, who to her surprise, and delight, has superpowers. Ulysses’ origin story is unique and involves a run in with a vacuum cleaner. At a recent press conference for Flora & Ulysses, author Kate DiCamillo shared the story that inspired her children’s novel and now the Disney Plus original movie.

“My mom had a vacuum cleaner that she loved and, uh, she passed away in 2009, my mom did. And in the last year of her life, she kept on saying, “What’s gonna happen to the vacuum cleaner when I’m gone?” And I was like, “Why are we worried about the vacuum cleaner? There are bigger things to worry about.” But when she did, I did as I promised her I would do. I-I took the vacuum cleaner, so that it would have a good home.”

Flora & Ulysses
Kate Micucci as Rita, Ben Schwartz as George, and Ulysses the squirrel in FLORA & ULYSSES, exclusively on Disney+.

DiCamillo continued, “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. And 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. I said, “Help me. There’s a squirrel dying on my front steps.” She said, “Do you have a T-shirt and a shovel?” And I said, “I do.” And she said, “Get the T- shirt, get the shovel. I will come over there and whack him over the head.” That’s what she said.

And 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.”

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

After Alyson Hannigan’s prompting, Kate DiCamillo revealed that the story of the squirrel on her front steps did in fact have a happy ending.

“the squirrel left when he heard my friend saying, “Whack him over the head with a shovel,” you know? The squirrel was like, “I’m no dummy.””


Ulysses is not the usual superhero being a squirrel. However, he does make the famed three-point superhero landing in the film. Director Lena Khan revealed this is something that actually happens,

“You know, squirrels do that. If you look up “squirrel superhero landing”, you will find that squirrels- because our CGI people were very particular. They’re like, “Ah, we don’t wanna do things that don’t feel like what a squirrel would do.” I’m like, “Oh, no, no. A squirrel does that.””

Lena Khan also talked about some of the other crazy aspects of Flora & Ulysses that came from Kate DiCamillo’s children’s novel and the screenplay written by Brad Copeland,

“The blueprint for most of the stuff that happened is in the book, so we were kinda lucky there…we got to play with all kinds of things and we got to play with, you know, stunts off of buildings and car crashes and then, like-it’s just kind of written in Kate’s brain and our writer Brad Copeland’s brain, who wrote for Arrested Development. So, he put all that kind of weirdness and fun into the movie, and then it was just kind of making it all weird, which, you know, our lovely cast did. So, it was a lotta fun just kinda making things a little crazier.”


Disney’s “Flora & Ulysses” is a delightful comedy-adventure based on the Newbery Award-winning book about 10-year old Flora, an avid comic book fan and a self-avowed cynic, whose parents have recently separated. After rescuing a squirrel she names Ulysses, Flora is amazed to discover he possesses unique superhero powers which take them on an adventure of humorous complications that ultimately change Flora’s life–and her outlook–forever.

Flora & Ulysses Poster

Flora & Ulysses is written by Brad Copeland based on the children’s novel written by Kate DiCamillo and directed by Lena Khan. Flora & Ulysses stars Matilda Lawler, John Kassir, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Danny Pudi, Anna Deveare Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Micucci, and Bobby Moynihan. Flora & Ulysses will premiere on Disney Plus February 19, 2021

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Caitlin Tyrrell

Caitlin Tyrrell

Features Manager & Producer with The Illuminerdi. Caitlin has a deep love for storytelling of every kind. She is a huge fan of television, animation, and film, but Star Wars, the MCU, and Critical Role hold a special place in her heart.