Nothing says evil like an animated Disney villain. Often painted in shades of the darkest shadows to combat the heroes’ virtuous blankness, these engines of evil always go big or go home. Some would qualify that as cartoonish, but those folk can’t see the dark forest for the possessed trees. These villains (and villainesses) are usually iconic and more memorable than the boring, old archetypal heroes for one reason: Everyone loves a bad guy.
For any perceived faults, this is one thing that Disney gets, and they have it in spades. Hence, all the recent live-action fairy tale movies—whether made by The Walt Disney Company or not—are about the villains. Snow White and The Huntsman should have been called “Charlize Theron Does Evil Queen,” and Alice in Wonderland is “Helena Bonham Carter Paints Wonderland Red…With Blood!”
Apparently, the House of Mouse is finally getting the message judging by today’s intriguing teaser for Maleficent. This is also acting as a follow-up to Frozen, which many including myself, are calling it a new instant classic for Disney. Seriously, for those waiting for the return of traditional Disney’s unabashed fairy tale brilliance, Frozen is it. Thus, with this potentially burgeoning new renaissance for the studio, we want to tip our hat to the intriguing casting of Angelina Jolie as Sleeping Beauty’s scene-stealing Maleficent with six MORE Disney villains who deserve their own live-action film to run amok in.
***SPECIAL NOTE: We are not including Scar from The Lion King, because while he’s awesome, doing talking lions in “live-action” is asinine. And yes, we’re aware of The Chronicles of Narnia.
The first and most obvious is the villain who was reportedly inspired to be the male version of Maleficent, Jafar. Everyone’s favorite evil sorcerer was so dastardly entertaining that not only was he able to seduce a Sultan into believing that he would be a better suitor for his daughter than the friendly neighborhood street rat, but he also convinced fans that he deserved to come back for his own sequel, The Return of Jafar (1994). Yes, this is the slimy fiend responsible for the 1990s Disney DTV craze!
Beyond that though is one of the most malicious forces in a Disney film. He had style, debonair charisma and the most killer deadpan this side of Joss Whedon. In fact, imagine such a voice bringing him to the big screen where he wields a spectral serpent staff in one hand and a sneering parrot in the other. Plus, he becomes an evil genie. Evil genies on big budgets are cool.
5. Captain Hook
Peter Pan (1953)
Okay, yes, there are already two very well received live-action Captain Hooks. I am a fan of both, but in one Jason Isaac’s evil is secondary to Pan’s fairy-flipping kidnapping and child endangerment, and in the other where Hook gets top-billing he is played by Dustin Hoffman with perhaps a tad too many crocodile tears. No, it is time that the world gets Captain Hook’s side of things!
Imagine a story about how Captain Hook came to Neverland in hopes of offering his beloved crew the chance to plunder and pillage Lost Boys, Indians and mermaids, until that no-good high-flying upstart began perpetrating acts of terror on the good Captain’s entrepreneurial spirit. There would be epic sword fights, the loss of the hand, and the redemption found in sending Tink to a (hopefully final) watery grave. Neverland needs the Captain’s return like a fairy needs a bottle of arsenic. After all, what would the world be like without Captain James T. Hook?
4. Cruella De Vil
101 Dalmatians (1961)
And as long as we’re talking about re-dos, let’s consider Cruella De Vil. Sure, Glenn Close was fine in the 1990s adaptations of this film, but this is a woman whose name literally means cruel devil. Surely, she can be a little nastier?
As the only villainess who was willing to commit dog-icide in the name of fashion, she is one of the most grotesque creatures to ever terrify children, but perhaps her tunnel vision could be admired in a modern world where such go-getting could ascertain her a fawning reality show of her own? I could see the celebrity press tripping over themselves with admiration while she chases the puppies like a two-toned demon on the road to Hell. Now, that would be truly evil.
3. Ursula the Sea Witch
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Other than in one of Disney’s lesser Pirates efforts, the underwater thrills and horrors of a mermaid world have never really been satisfactorily explored in live-action. That could change if this prima donna finally gets her stage. As the enchantress (or is it sister?) of the dastardly patriarchal King Trident, she was banished to the oceans’ nether regions where she was forced to waste away by a cruel and merciless tyrant! Indeed, her only means of survival are the pasty-faced desperate pleas of merfolk pariahs…at least until Trident’s pernicious daughter comes calling.
This is the chance to use Disney’s big budget bag of tricks on a world where they can trade a lot of sand for a half crustacean band, and make it better down where it’s wetter, under the sea. Also, they could cast as the malevolent sea witch an actor who has already played her inspiration once before: John Travolta. It’s true. Look up “Divine” and The Little Mermaid. Plus, it has easy four-quadrant appeal since they could still get the young boy demographic by casting any number of starlets to don Ariel’s (ahem) voice.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Truthfully, I don’t even like Disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The book is too heavy to be made into a Disney movie, and even when they simplify it by dumbing down Quasimodo’s tragedy, the undertones of institutional hypocrisy in the Catholic Church, and tacking on a happy ending, it is still far too heavy to mesh with the movie’s jovial supporting cast of talking gargoyles.
So why Frollo? Because for however lackluster this movie is, Frollo is the most malevolently evil monstrosity to ever dare appear in a film with the masthead of Disney, animated or otherwise. This is a man who simplifies to chilling clarity the mindset of the corrupt, evil and self-righteous. In short, he is the most realistic depiction of depravity in our world to appear in a Disney film, because the damned and demented always think that they are righteous in their actions. If he cannot have Esmeralda in his bed, he will have her in the flames of Hell, and he will be saved because he imagines himself devout. You know what, forget Disney: Victor Hugo’s Archdeacon Frollo deserves his own movie!
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
No one’s slick as Gaston; no one’s quick as Gaston; no one’s neck is as incredibly thick as Gaston’s. He’s everyone’s favorite guy. And that’s why he is so beautifully evil.
Perhaps Frollo, while the most terrifying, is not the most common villain, after all. Gaston is not only self-righteous, he is beloved by his friends and neighbors as a hero. That kind of worship makes for someone who can be both the fool and a woefully dangerous one. A man who is proud of his ignorance, as well as of his hateful carelessness for all that is different, Gaston is the ultimate kind of real-life monster who is all too ordinary. But he is still just so damn likeable, even when he’s the size of a barge.
A film from the point of view of the Disney Renaissance’s greatest villain as he seeks to slay the Beast could be both creepy (in PG Disney parameters) and rightfully hilarious when it cuts to him expectorating. This is a mean, defiantly dumb man, making him the biggest threat of all. Hell, they can even have a segue of him killing a young deer’s mother, making for a nice Avengers styled crossover with Bambi. Because no one really is quite THE man like Gaston.
SPECIAL MENTION: The Headless Horseman
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
I was not sure if this should be included with the regular list, as the Horseman technically appeared as a short in a compilation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind and the Willows, as opposed to being a solely feature-length animation. However, as the Horseman is getting so much screen time these days, first by Tim Burton and now on Fox, perhaps it is time we get a whole movie of him. Seriously, as charismatic as Johnny Depp and Tom Mison are, this guy’s the star of the show. What was the best part of Sleepy Hollow (1999)? Seeing Christopher Walken ham it up in pantomime evil as the Horseman in non-beheaded flashbacks, of course. What are the best episodes of Fox’s supernatural hit? Why, all ones involving the Horseman!
It is time that we get a film from his point of view, and also one that is preferably not about him in a love triangle with Katrina Van Tassel, please. No, we need to see the Hessian with a bloodlust coming back like a German zombie after he loses his head. He needs to corner Ichabod Crane, who is really a schoolteacher. and finally do what Disney Animation had the courage to do over 50 years ago, but most of Hollywood is still too afraid to admit: “Spirit away” schoolmaster Ichabod Crane from his body of work.
So there’s our list of six (or seven) Disney villains who need their own films to go side-by-side with Maleficent, the Evil Queen and a slew of other malicious upstarts. Agree? Disagree? Let us know your ideas for more below!