And our Top 10 Disney Hit and Misses continues!
In PART 1, we discussed 10 through 6 of Disney’s most disappointing to not-so disappointing villains. This time, we are going to look at our top 5, and who the most elaborate and complex disney villains are.
“Top 10 villains hits and misses from Disney movies”
# 5: Frozen – Hans.
Coming in place #5 we have Hans, Disney most recent prince-charming-turned-villain endeavor. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the development of this character as I was experiencing the Frozen phenomenon for the first time 2 years ago. Nowhere in the movie (including the cheesy love song between him and Anna) did I find any clue that this guy was going to be a villain, until it actually happened. At first, I thought Frozen was going to be a self-discovery movie for the girls with only a fill-in, inconsequential villainous character (Lord Weselton or whatever his name was) and no real good vs. evil drama (picture Mulan, Pocahontas and Brave). I was fine with that. For me, this guy Hans was going to be the prince that would be left behind when Anna discovered there was more to a girl’s life than marrying the first hunk she meets on the streets (literally!). Hans sneaked up on me instead. He is manipulative, intelligent and unscrupulous. He has a goal and a plan to achieve it. I have to say I felt a certain admiration for this character, because he developed quite well, he commandeered the entire story to his favor and managed to look like the good guy everybody could trust (even the viewers!). He had one basic flaw, though, that landed him in #5 and not any higher in this list: The villain’s monologue. He could’ve given Anna a precious farewell and remain on top until the very end (when he would of course reveal himself as a villain by trying to kill Elsa), but instead, arrogance got the better of him and he ruined it. From then on, all characterization went to hell and he just lost it.
# 4: The Little Mermaid – Ursula.
The sea witch Ursula is a very convenient villain. Unlike other Disney movies, in which villains are completely evil and heroes are completely good, The Little Mermaid presents us with a new and interesting twist: the hero (Ariel) is not so heroic.
In this case our hero has a selfish desire she wants to realize no matter the consequences. She is the one who contacts the villain directly, she is the one who sets the drama in motion. Compared to the other movies in which the heroines are almost always passive to their bad guys’ active advances, in the Little Mermaid, Ursula works as a necessary complement of the story rather than a detriment. She is not just “a villain,” she is the fundamental element that moves the story forward and it makes sense. Her and Ariel’s objective do not contradict but rather go hand in hand, they connect. Ursula needs Ariel’s desire in order to fulfill hers. Basically, without Ursula, there is no story. In a good plot, the villain should be as necessary to the plotline as the hero, and this is achieved in The Little Mermaid masterfully. Ursula, thus, is a character that makes a lot of sense, literarily speaking.
# 3: The Lion King – Scar.
Lion King’s Scar actually has the same rather boring motive than our villain #9, Hades. However, what in Hades looks like petty sibling rivalry, Scar takes to a whole new level. A machiavellian intelligence, astounding manipulation abilities and a gift for opportunity make of Scar a rather successful bad guy. He secures a kingdom for himself, the alliance of an entire army, and the disappearance of not one but two enemies all through mind games alone. Scar never gets his hands dirty, unless he positively wants to. He always has a plan B, he never gets caught with his hand (paw) in the cookie jar. His psychological manipulation of Simba gets the young cub to actually believe himself responsible for his father’s death, and even after Simba is an adult, Scar keeps on managing him successfully till the very end. However, there are some characterization inconsistencies to Scar that cannot be overlooked. For instance, as greedy and narcissistic as he is, he would’ve never let his hard-earned kingdom go to ruin. He would keep it flawless and perfect-looking, pretty on the outside as a symbol of his own magnificence. Corruption might be rotting his reign in the inside, but it would still be beautiful and awe-inspiring. Disney writers, sadly, don’t care much about those subtleties. Since their audience is young, they have to tread carefully with their topics. Inconsistencies and being too big a character for his role land Scar in #3 of our list.
# 2: Tangled – Mother Gothel.
Give it up for the Mommy Dearest. Mother Gothel is a great example of a villain. Like when we were discussing Hans, Gothel doesn’t seem like a villain at the beginning. I remember the first time I watched Tangled I missed the first narrative part and started it with the first song, I didn’t know of the flower or the kidnapping, all the while believing Gothel to be a loving, yet overprotective mother. While her moving force is supposedly the same as Snow White’s Queen (#7), Gothel is far smarter about her goal. Rapunzel is her tool basically, but a tool in good condition and cared for lasts longer. While she could be like Lady Tremaine (#6), treating Rapunzel badly, and still achieve the same results, she rather secures her position in Rapunzel’s heart and makes sure she would never think to leave her. Mother Gothel takes the Stockholm Syndrome to the category of art. She is subtle, she is intelligent, she understand that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and she never loses sight of her goal. She might do whatever is necessary, but she rather it be easy to handle.
In terms of Disney villains, Gothel is the most sophisticated one. She is not greedy, she doesn’t bite more than she can chew on, and she is wickedly intelligent. She is also one of the few Disney villains who is not actually evil. Her intention is not to hurt anyone, but rather to improve herself, and her vanity asks that she tries to do this in any available way. Gothel is probably the most humane Disney character that we have in history.
# 1: The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Claude Frollo.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is nobody’s favorite Disney movie, which is probably why the studio decided using actually good plotline and character development for their films was a bad idea. From the entire Disney catalog, THofND is probably the most masterful film, which brings us to our #1 best-crafted Disney villain: Minister Frollo. While every character of this particular movie is worth their praise, Frollo is, I believe, one of Disney’s greatest achievements. He is a villain who believes himself to be the hero, a crusader of Inquisition out to rid the world of the filth that corrupts it. In his mind there is no greed or arrogance, instead, he believes it’s his God-given mission and privilege. The fact that Frollo’s motives are far deeper and more complex than any other Disney villain’s ever is just part of it all. He also has a second layer to him. A desire that torments him and is the root of his downfall: he wants one of the same heretics he should hate and burn. He sees Esmeralda as a temptation from Hell, because were she a “righteous” woman, he wouldn’t want her so. He is torn between having her on his terms or not having her at all. And if he can’t have her, he’ll destroy her.
Frollo’s complexities steer just a little too close to home for many people’s comfort and are a little “too adult” and “too complex” in the opinion of many. The fact that religious fanaticism is the cause for his mental degradation it’s also a complicated topic to discuss. These undoubtedly controversial topics are what makes Frollo’s character so rich and multifaceted, but also the main reason THofND never went as far as its fellow Disney films.
A pity, a pity indeed.