Tag Archives: halloween

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, readers!  I am once again returning to the world of Disney villains for this year’s Halloween blog.

One of the nice things about Disney animated movies is that we know who to route for.  Protagonists are good.  Antagonists are bad.  We know that no matter what happens, good will triumph over evil.  We are well conditioned to align with the heroes & heroines in their journey.  Here’s the thing about that: not all of the villains are wrong.  Some actually have real and valid reasons for their nefarious deeds.  So today we are going to look at three ‘villains’ who aren’t wrong.

EdgarEDGAR BALTHAZAR

First is the villainous butler in “The Aristocats”, Edgar Balthazar.  Edgar, motivated by greed (and unfortunate math) decides to get rid of the family of cats standing between him and a fortune.  He drugs and ‘catnaps’ Duchess and her kittens which starts the main plot of the film and places him firmly in the role of villain.  Here’s the thing.  He’s not really wrong.

I have always thought that people who leave vast fortunes to pets are a little misguided.  There are plenty of ways to ensure the well being of a beloved pet besides leaving them money.  If Madame had left the money to Edgar with the stipulation that he care for the cats, he would have been quite devoted to them.  Also, Edgar never tries to kill them outright.  He tries to lose them.  He could have saved himself a great deal of time and effort by simply throwing them into the river.  Instead he takes them out of the city where there is a reasonable expectation that they could find a home at one of the nearby farmhouses.  Not a kindness, but a practice people still use today.  So, while Edgar is labeled a villain, he’s just not that bad.

 

JafarJAFAR

Second, we have Jafar.  The evil vizier from “Aladdin” fits much more comfortably into the villain description.  He is cruel, manipulative, and ruthless.  He uses his power to further his own ambitions no matter what.  His goal is to take over the kingdom and rule either behind the scenes or as sultan himself.  And while his methods are unethical, he has a point.

The Sultan is unquestionably terrible.  He pays no attention to his kingdom.  He sits in his palace playing with toys, while the city outside his gates is falling apart.  The guards are out of control.  Nobles are abusing the citizens with no consequences.  Regular citizens are taking the law into their own hands.  Children are literally starving in the streets.  The Sultan’s biggest concern?  Finding a prince his daughter is willing to marry.  One could very easily see how removing this man from power was a heroic choice rather than a villainous one.

 

YzmaYZMA

Finally, we have Yzma.  Like Jafar, she is an adviser to the ruler.  Unlike Jafar she seems content with her role until she is unceremoniously fired by Emperor Kuzco.  While she has a secret lab and appears to be a gifted mad scientist, there is no evidence that Yzma has any designs on the throne at the beginning of the movie.  Her plan to kill the Emperor is a direct result of his behavior.  In fact her plan is so haphazardly conceived that it goes through several different iterations for reasons as varied as wrong potions, misplaced bags, and postage.  While she is motivated by personal gain, she is not wrong that the kingdom needs a change in leadership.

Kuzco is an even worse ruler than the Sultan.  While the Sultan is an apathetic ruler seemingly unaware of the realities outside his door, Emperor Kuzco is not only aware of the problem but the cause of many of them.  He is self-centered and cruel.  He takes what he wants when he wants it.  He is rude to his people, expecting each person he meets to indulge his every whim.  He takes people’s homes for his own uses without a thought of the impact on their lives.  He casually has an elderly man thrown to his death for interrupting the rhythm of his life.  It is implied this is not the first time that has happened.  Kuzco is a despot and tyrant.  It is little wonder that Yzma moves easily onto the throne after Kuzco’s apparent death.  People are glad to be rid of him.  Yzma has done them all a favor.

 

Methodologies aside, all three of these villains were right in their goals; trying to right a wrong or change an imbalance of power.  With a slight shift in focus and a little less murderous intent, these stories could have been quite different.  Do you agree?  Is there a misunderstood villain I missed?  Let me know in the comments.

*Cover image from Wickedpedia: The Disney Villains Wiki       http://disneyvillains.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Villains

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The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown #1 — Frollo

When it comes to Disney villains Claude Frollo is about as evil as it gets.  Self-righteous, xenophobic, and manipulative with no regard for human life; Frollo has no redeeming qualities.  He has all the worst qualities of all the villains on this list with the added awfulness af being totally convinced he is completely in the right.  He has no magic powers and no powerful objects.  He is completely human and I find this character truly terrifying.

Frollo creates his own personal ethical code independent of any outside source.  In fact, he repeatedly ignores the Bishop of Notre Dame who should be his moral guide.  He has his own personal army that he uses to create his vision of a perfect world and doesn’t care if there is collateral damage along the way.  He is a religious zealot and a racist who allows no other viewpoint.  He not only emotionally manipulates Quasimodo into believing himself less than human, he turns the entire city of Paris against the gypsies.  All while believing himself to be the only truly righteous man in Paris.  People like that have led Crusades, started wars, and murdered countless people.

He is, to me, the most frightening Disney villain.  He is entirely devoid of compassion and has both the power and resources to carry out his destructive whims.  He could wipe out every gypsy in France and simply consider it a job well done.  There is no compelling back story.  There are no redeemable qualities.  He is wholly evil and believes himself to be wholly right.  This is the scariest villain.  To him, he is the hero of the story and will do anything he can to ensure his own happy ending.

 

 

Happy Halloween, readers!  Don’t get too scared.

With faith, trust & pixie dust — Pastor Mouse

The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown #2 — Dr. Facilier

Dr. Facilier has got to be the scariest Disney villain so far this century.  He is a classic bad guy complete with crooked deals, dark magic, and scary shadow henchmen.  Unlike other classic characters, he has a grand and sweeping plan.  This plan involves killing key people, taking over New Orleans, and feeding the souls of its inhabitants to the evil spirits of the underworld.  Facilier has no delusions that he is working for the greater good, upholding a correct world view, or doing something a little wrong for a better purpose.  He is evil.  He knows it.  He revels in it.

There is something truly frightening about a character that is this overtly evil.  His name suggests the French ‘facile’ which means easy.  We all know that someone offering the ‘easy’ way to do something big and important doesn’t necessarily have our best interests at heart.  And someone named “Dr. Easy” with voodoo connections should raise at least a few questions.  However, there are always people (in narrative and in real life) that are willing to believe that there is an easy way to get what they want.  Facilier preys on those people, steals their souls, and feeds them to his ‘friends’:  Happily and with great enthusiasm.  While Facilier is not set on world domination, it doesn’t seem like a big leap to imagine it.  Neither he nor his friends would be easily satisfied with only one city full of souls to consume.

Like many villains, Facilier is an object lesson for the viewer.  He is what can happen when we turn our back on hard work and try to find an easy out.  While we may not lose our souls to evil shadows, we can be lost and wandering.  Facilier is frightening because he offers hope, while delivering something else entirely.

The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown #3 — Governor Ratcliffe

Greed and racism all wrapped up in one colonizing package.  Meet Governor John Ratcliffe, the third worst villain of the Disney animated features.  He rates the number three spot in volume if nothing else.  He is not content to target just the protagonists, Pocahontas & John Smith, he has to go after an entire race of people.  As an added bonus he has the manpower to make it work as well as the support of the English crown.

Ratcliffe wants money and power in that order and doesn’t care what he has to do in order to get it.  Keep a farming settlement from farming?  Easy.  Sow discontent between groups of people.  No problem.  Genocide?  All in a day’s work.  Convinced that Virginia is full of gold that is his for the taking, Ratcliffe will stop at nothing.  Eventually is it only the wisdom and good sense of the people around him that stops his evil.  While he is imprisoned and sent back to England, it is implied in the sequel that he received no punishment for his crimes.

Ratcliffe is a conglomeration of historical characters that represent the hatred and violence of European settlers to the native Peoples not only on this continent, but on every continent they claimed.  He is everything I hate about my own history.  He is entitled, empowered, and completely convinced he is right.  The sad thing is, in the world he lived in he was right.  It great that Disney can spin this story for us to give it a happy-ish ending, but we know in the long-term that Ratcliffe and those like him won.  The natives were robbed, pushed out, and slaughtered in the name of greed, racism, and ‘progress’ and no award-winning soundtracks can change that fact.  Once again one of Disney’s most frightening villains scares us, because he is real.  His motivations and power are around us every day and we must live with the consequences.

The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown #4 — Mother Gothel

Vanity and emotional manipulation are the key traits of Mother Gothel, the primary villain in “Tangled”.  She shares some of the initial characteristics with our #5, Cruella de Vil, but takes them even further.  She is obsessively focused on her looks.  And while Cruella steals puppies, Mother Gothel steals a child to use for her own ends.  As that isn’t bad enough, she raises that child to be afraid of the outside world, unsure of herself, and convinced that Gothel is the only person who cares about her safety and well-being.  As evil goes this is up there.

Gothel never sees herself as a villain and she doesn’t really see Rapunzel as a person, referring to the girl as ‘my flower’.  The chaos and destruction that is created by the theft of a child doesn’t bother Gothel at all.  As long as she has what she wants, everything is fine.  When Rapunzel starts to question the life that she has led, Gothel goes to more and more elaborate measures to convince the girl that no one else truly wants her or could ever want her.  After Rapunzel realizes the truth, Gothel steps up to physical violence to control her.

Why is she on my list?  She is not the scariest or most powerful of the villains.  She is, however, one of the most realistic.  Disney spin notwithstanding, Gothel is a child abuser in no uncertain terms.  One might even make an argument for human trafficking.  She is an ultimate villain to me because she reflects many real life stories.  There are Mother Gothels in real life.  There are children being imprisoned, manipulated, and used.  They don’t all get rescued and returned to loving parents.  I see Mother Gothel and I remember those faceless children living horrendous lives and I am afraid.

The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown #5 — Cruella de Vil

Fashion and fur are the two guiding principles for Cruella.  So much so that she is willing to first steal and then slaughter her ‘old school chum’s’ puppies.  This is pretty shocking for a children’s movie.  I find it interesting that Cruella is never portrayed in a favorable light.  In 1961, when “One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ was released, fur was not only acceptable in fashion every woman needed to have at least one fur piece in her closest.  Mama Mouse had her very own mink coast in the late 60s that lived in her closet most of my life.  In this days and age, fur loving (like smoking which Cruella also does) is a tool used to establish a villain.  We don’t approve of killing animals simply for their fur, but in the 60s that would have been a hard sell.

What makes Cruella so villainous?  One might argue that with a name that combines the words cruel and devil she never had a chance.  The American Film Institute listed her at #39 in their list of 100 Villains for the first 100 years of American film.  (Ironically, she is listed across from Lassie, #39 on the hero list).  Ultimate Disney ranked her #6 in their list of villains.  It is implied in the song “Cruella de Vil” that her list of cruelties is long, but they are never stated.  People are afraid of her, but we never get to know why.

What we do know is that Cruella is willing to kill puppies, beloved family pets, simply for a whim.  We know that friendship is meaningless to her.  We know that she is obsessive, thoughtless, and disrespectful.  We know that the only person who matters to Cruella is Cruella and the loss of 99 lives is meaningless as long as she gets what she wants.  We know that no matter what else she has done that disregard for life is villainous.

The (not quite) Ultimate Disney Villain Countdown

To celebrate Halloween week I am going to do something a little different.  Every day I am going to present a villain from a Disney animated feature and talk about (what I think) makes them so villainous counting down to the MOST villainous of all Disney villains.  I am aware that this is subjective.  I am also aware that some villains are actually quite engaging.  Personally I quite like Yzma and Kronk.  If you take out the whole kill-the-emperor thing, they aren’t that wrong about Kuzco.

Villains are a complex character group.  Some are simply glorified comic relief.  Some are simply misunderstood.  Some are merely doing their job.  The question becomes what make a truly evil villain?  The villain in ‘Bambi’ is an anonymous poacher.  He is breaking the law, but I would assert that he is not evil.  He has no personal animosity towards Bambi or his mother but his actions have consequences for the characters.  I would submit that he is not a ‘good’ villain.  Therefore, I submit for my purposes a villain must:

  1. Want to intentionally wish to harm the protagonist(s) in some way.
  2. Be aware that his/her actions go against the accepted moral norm.
  3. Be committed to her/his goal in spite of any outside warnings or unintentional harm to others.

Feel free to disagree or offer your own suggestions.  The countdown starts tomorrow!

*** Awesome art by disneyfreak19 on DeviantArt.com ***