This whole last week has been nothing but princess this, princess that. Princess, princess, princess.
Enough! I don’t care that Disney’s new The Princess and the Frog was number one at the box office this weekend. I’m indifferent to the fact that it’s the first film to feature a black heroine. (I’d be a lot more receptive to the breakthrough were it not some five or six decades too late to really count as a major feat.)
In spite of all the think pieces that have been published about what Tiana means in terms of racial identity, one can’t deny that she doesn’t exactly break the mold when it comes to other physical specifications. They’ve all cut a pretty slender silhouette.
Disney’s hazy commitment to diversity has always been more generous when it comes to their villains. That goes for physicality as well as personality. Sleazy, slinky, spindly, oily, glammy, octopussy. They come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s a list of my favorite Disney villains through the years.
10. Si & Am, Lady and the Tramp (1955)
They are Siamese if you don’t please. The fractured English of their ditty is pretty excruciating nowadays, but they still wreak major havoc on domiciles.
09. Tinkerbell, Peter Pan (1953)
Say what? OK, Captain Hook and his merry band of ragtags are the “official” villains of this ‘toon. But if you ask me, it’s the jealous, pouty Tinkerbell who emerges as the most surprisingly contemptible figure in Never Never Land. After all, she does try to have Wendy killed at one point.
08. Jafar, Aladdin (1992)
His transformation as a snake is both redundant and a wan retread of Ursula’s jumbo-fication at the end of The Little Mermaid, but up to that point, he is definitively oily. Also, according to my deskmate, a little bit of a perv.
07. The gossipy elephants, Dumbo (1940)
They are the first and, in many ways, most trenchant in their criticism of Dumbo’s physical malady. They call him a little “F-R-E-A-K.” How rude.
06. Anastasia & Drizella, Cinderella (1950)
Their mother is the headliner, and is certainly the most dubious, but it’s the shallow, entitled, shrill stepsisters that grate on my nerves. Maybe it’s just their ear-splitting rendition of “Sing Sweet Nightingale.”
05. The Coachman, Pinocchio (1953)
Stromboli is a monster, but he’s also just an animal doing what an animal will do. (Of course, that animal wouldn’t typically be a whale, but fairy tales don’t have to make total sense.) The Coachman, on the other hand, consciously turns naughty boys into donkeys and sells them to the salt mine. That’s pretty evil.
04. “Pete”, Steamboat Willie (1928)
Pete is the captain of the Steamboat Willie. If you’ve ever cut yourself peeling a potato, you’ll agree with me that this “Turkey in the Straw”-hating cat is a pain in the brig.
03. The Queen of Hearts, Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Disney’s version of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts is half good manners, half bad temper. The violence with which she switches gears (she’s Disney’s all-time bipolar villain) makes her a uniquely terrifying, albeit hilarious villain.
02. Ursula, The Little Mermaid (1989)
If Little Mermaid heralded a return to form for the (at the time) nascent Disney studios’ animation wing isn’t necessarily because it’s all that well-made. It’s because Ursula is simply one of the most enjoyably, corpulently malevolent villains in Disney history. She’s certainly the only one to be modeled after someone as larger-than-life as John Waters’ regular Divine.
01. Cruella De Vil, 101 Dalmatians (1961)
Start with the hair and work your way down. No one else in Disney history comes close to matching Cruella’s pungent, death-tinged, hinge-shouldered, dragster-revving evil.
Eric Henderson is a web producer and film blogger for WCCO.COM.