My Disney Top 5 - Disney Animated Villainsby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
Despite me being a big movie fan and an even bigger Disney movie fan, life just never seems to leave me enough time to keep up with the latest cinematic releases. A perfect example happened last week. It took me almost a year before I got around to watching Maleficent; Disney’s live action retelling of Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of its villain. I’ve always had sort of a soft spot for Maleficent. She’s probably one of the coolest looking villains ever created for the silver screen. For some reason, despite my Disney fandom and my curiosity, I missed this film in the theaters. It’s been sitting on my Blu-ray shelf for a while and it took me getting sick to crack the wrapper and put it in the player. Without getting too in depth, I actually really enjoyed this film.
Watching Angelina Jolie bring Maleficent to life, however, got me thinking about Disney villains and which other ones could be portrayed on the silver screen and by which actors. This happened to coincide with me jotting down ideas for this weeks Top 5 list and I realized that I’ve never given the Disney villains any attention on my lists.
To me one of the weird and wonderful things about Disney animated films is that the general public perceives them all to be so sweet and innocent, yet most of them have a truly evil villain at the center of their story. It’s a good thing they do because to me, and I’m sure to many of you out there, they’re absolutely essential elements to each story. There is definitely a dark side to Disney that I think a lot of people forget about. Some of the villains are comic relief. However quite a few of them are downright sick and depraved, as I’ll uncover in some more detail as I count down my Top 5 Disney Animated Villains. Just to be clear, I’m going for sheer badness factor here. The more evil they are, the higher up on the list they go.
5 – Lady Tremaine – Cinderella
The Wicked Stepmother is quite unique in a Disney film. She has no special abilities, no magic, nor powers of hell at her disposal. She is just mean, despicable and manipulative. Her motivation seems to be inherent cruelty. She is jealous of Cinderella’s natural beauty and therefore treats her like a slave in her own home. It’s really quite awful and the worst thing is, it’s long-term abuse. Disney legend Frank Thomas was quoted as saying that, “Lady Tremaine was the only villain to live beside her victim day by day. “ This gives her an unnerving sense of reality. There aren’t really sorceresses, sea witches or horned kings out there, but there are probably way too many Lady Tremaines out there in society and that makes her all the more frightening.
4 – The Evil Queen – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The one that started it all is most deserving of a spot on any list of villains. Walt Disney came right out of the gate in his first full-length animated feature with a villain for the ages. Queen Grimhilde is driven by her own insatiable vanity. She needs to be known as the fairest one of all and will stop at nothing to destroy anyone that stands in her way. It’s her overwhelming sense of jealousy towards Snow White that drives her to the point of sinister insanity. Let’s not forget, she demands the heart of Snow White in a box from the Hunstman and all because of vanity. That’s pretty harsh. Her raging jealousy is very, very human, which really makes her a believable and truly menacing villain.
3 – Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
Maleficent is just classic evil. Those yellow eyes. That green skin. Those wicked looking horns. To me, when I think of an animated villain, I think of Maleficent. If I could rearrange this list and have it called the Top 5 Most Wicked Looking Villains, Maleficent would certainly hold the top slot. She’s just perfectly evil looking. She’s completely vindictive. She’s the self-declared “mistress of all evil.” Let’s not forget when she transforms into a dragon to fight Prince Philip, she summons’ “all the powers of hell!” That said she would also get the nod for the most powerful of all the Disney villains. Maleficent’s evil powers seem to be limitless and this will always put her high up on any list of the most evil characters in motion picture history.
2 – Scar – The Lion King
This one can be rather simply stated. Scar murders his brother Mufasa, and then blames it on Mufasa’s young son. He then lies to his own nephew, the young, adorable Simba and convinces him that it was his fault. He scares the bejeezus out of poor little Simba, who just lost his dad mind you, and tells him to flee his home alone, and then sends the hyenas out to kill him. Just say those few sentences over and over again if you have any doubts on Scars evilness.
1 – Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This may surprise some of you, as Frollo is not one of the most well known of the Disney villains. That certainly doesn’t take away from him being the most evil thing to ever grace an animated film. Consider the history; he kills Quasimodo’s mother and then desperately wants to kill her deformed infant son. He then raises Quasimodo, not out of guilt, but to try and save his own soul after he is stopped and warned by the Archdeacon. Not to be outdone for actually ending the mother’s life, he then goes on to spend the next 20 years making sure he treats Quasimodo as horribly as he can. He forces him to live in the bell tower reminding him constantly what an abomination he is all the while making him believe that his mother abandoned him because of the fact that he’s such an abomination. The cruelty level is pretty astounding. I could stop there, but the fact of the matter is…I can’t. I have to include his genocidal hatred of the gypsies and ultimately his overwhelming lust for Esmeralda, one of those gypsies that he wants to eradicate from existence so badly. Does the fact that he obsessively desires her make him have a change of heart and try to win her over or protect her? No, of course not. It makes him want to kill her even more. This is a Disney character isn’t it? He is a shockingly warped Disney character and he’s about as twisted and evil as they come. To top it all off, he has such a self-righteous air about him. He thinks he’s right. He thinks he’s superior to all around him and to me, hands down; he’s the baddest of the bad.
This was a very tough list to generate. There are so many others that I struggled with. Where’s Jafar you might ask? What about Ursula? Cruella De Vil wanted to kill and skin puppies for goodness sake! How could I leave her off this list? Disney has so many remarkably evil villains in their canon of animated films that it’s hard to draw lines and make choices. I think the ones that I chose were the ones that really affected me when I saw them on film.
It’s hard to choose more classic symbols of cinematic evil than Maleficent or the Wicked Queen. Scar and Lady Tremaine are antagonists against members of their own family. That kind of evil just sticks with you. And Frollo? Claude Frollo is just downright sinister every second he is drawn on the screen. I think he’s completely evil and completely unforgettable.
I could have gone the more buffoonish route as well with Captain Hook, or the more sarcastically comic Hades or perhaps the funniest Disney villain of all, the highly underrated Yzma from one of my true favorites, The Emperor’s New Groove.
The list goes on and on, but these are my biggest and baddest of them all.
As always, I’d like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below; let me hear your thoughts on Disney’s most evil villains and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.