?Walt Disney, for all his presumed faults, was a great man. Creator of
the first sound cartoon, first color cartoon, first use of the
multiplane camera, first theme park — the man was a whirlwind of genius,
both creatively and in the world of business. Unabashedly, I am a huge
One thing that Disney knew for a fact was that a good
feature-length animated movie needed a suitably evil antagonist for the
stakes to be high enough to matter. And throughout Disney’s history,
villains have been used to scare the hell out of kids in nearly every
movie that they’ve released (and television shows, and stage shows, and
comic books, and park rides). While disagreements are sure to ensue,
here is Topless Robot’s list of the 15 greatest Disney villains
from the entirety of its cartoon works.
Bambi was one of the few Disney films to have two unnamed antagonists, both Man and Fire. I combined them because, well, neither one is much on its own, but combined turn cute and fun Bambi into a nonstop nightmare of “who’s going to die next?” Kids have to deal with the off-screen death of Bambi’s mom (“Your mother can’t be with you anymore”) then the impending doom of an all-consuming inferno. Sure, Thumper’s cute, but Bambi is an exercise in pure terror.
14) Dr. Facilier
I wanted to include nearly all of Dr. Facilier’s scenes in The Princess and the Frog in my Scariest Moments list, but the dude sadly didn’t make the cut. He’s pure evil, though, with plenty of voodoo dolls and grinning skulls to back him up. His scenes are some of the best in the whole film, especially the final scene in the graveyard where demons take his soul to Hell. Disney does not play nice.
13) Madame Medusa
It’s hard to choose between Rescuers villains. I planned to go with Percival McLeach from Rescuers Down Under just for killing endangered animals and putting kids in cages, but Medusa from the first film is much worse. For starters, she abducts children by luring them into her car. That’s just… ew. Then she forces little Penny to climb into a pirate ship that’s about to flood, just to get a big diamond. It’s one of the most tense scenes in any Disney film. Then she goes nuts and fires a gun at the girl. Evil, man, evil.
12) The Queen
Not the first Disney villain, but the first Disney movie villain, the Queen has absolutely no good in her at all, and she just happens to be a witch. She was a witch that married a king and got stuck with a hot stepdaughter. Because she was jealous she sent the hot stepdaughter away, then attempted to kill her again by making herself really ugly and giving her an apple, then falling off a cliff. It’s an odd plot. But anyone who’s been on Snow White’s Scary Adventures at the Disney parks knows that she’s absolutely frightening.
11) Ursula the Sea Witch
Name one other villain on this list to grow enormous and then get
impaled by a boat. Can’t do it, can you? People consider Ursula one of
the great Disney villains, which is why she’s high on the list
(remember, she grew enormous and was impaled by a boat), but I consider
her a pretty fair business person. Ariel wants to walk? Ursula gets her
voice. Can’t fault her for wanting to keep it for a while. She was
also a bitch to kill in Kingdom Hearts.
10) David Xanatos
You thought we forgot Gargoyles, huh? Not at all. Xanatos ruled supreme over both his own Xanatos Enterprises and the Illuminati, attempting to both destroy and replicate the Gargoyles through both magic and technology. While not resurrecting the dead or creating robot monsters, Xanatos strove to become immortal, something that evil people tend to do a lot of the time. He’s a crafty son-of-a-bitch, tied for evildoing with the Gargoyle Demona, whom he teamed up with occasionally during the series. See? Didn’t forget her either.
9) Cruella De Vil
Cruella’s gone through a kind of resurgence in popularity recently. While she was indisputably one of Disney’s best villains, 101 Dalmations was shrugged off by the studio after its release, and Miss De Vil languished in obscurity for years. When the current Disney trend of elevating villains took hold, Cruella was catapulted into the spotlight again, starring in both live-action versions of 101 Dalmations, the animated sequel, the animated series, and the staged musical. Now she’s one of the top dogs in the house of villains, and definitely someone you don’t want to meet.
8) Magica DeSpell
As soon as you saw that the Ducktales episode you were watching was a Magica episode, you knew it was going to be good. Although her #1 goal was only to steal Uncle Scrooge’s #1 dime, her methods of doing so were stuff of legend. She, like many other Ducktales (and Disney in general) villains, was originally a comic character, a creation of comic legend Carl Barks. While other Disney witches were old crones, Barks made Magica out to be a young, sexy Italian, which I’m sure confused a lot of almost-pubescent kids throughout the years.
James Woods’s voice acting is really the best thing about the character, and the best part about Hercules in general. Every sentence he utters is perfect, especially the outburst of “Hades RULES!” Granted, his plans don’t often succeed (the new Disney cruise stage show is about how ineffective he is), but there’s an undeniable evil style to each of them. CGI Hydras, manipulating women, poisonings, whatever he got up to in that animated series I never watched… all of them had this undercurrent of “I’m doing this just to be bad” behind them.
While Maleficent had us cowering in our seats during Sleeping Beauty,
the gamers who read Topless Robot probably recognize her best
from the Kingdom Hearts series. In a universe where summoning’s
all the rage, what better villain than one who can turn into a dragon?
She repeats this trick in Disney’s Fantasmic! show as the final
baddie who Mickey has to face. Absolutely stunning special effects, by
the way, to compliment the original film’s incredible art styling.
Personally, I think her taunting of the Prince from Sleeping Beauty
is one of the best-written scenes in Disneydom.
5) The Fearsome Five
Another great opportunity to lump multiple Disney villains into one entry! All of Darkwing Duck‘s biggest adversaries on one ass-kicking team! Negaduck could take over the world by himself, but when you add Megavolt, Quackerjack, Bushroot, and the Liquidator to the mix, it’s a supervillain fan’s dream come true. Thankfully, they’ve gotten the band back together in the new Darkwing Duck series from Boom! Studios! Darkwing Duck: Too much is never enough.
Everything about this guy simply drips evil. From kidnapping the princess in Aladdin ust so he can bang her to hypnotizing her dad, to becoming an evil genie hell-bent on world domination, Jafar was as sleazy and sinister as any Disney villain could hope to be. He’s like Disney’s version of Snidely Whiplash, just in a turban. How did he get his job in the first place? Anyone can look at him and say, “That dude is hella evil.” He must have had some amazing references and work experience for him to even get in the door.
There are some incredibly powerful scenes in Disney movies (the last 15 minutes of Toy Story 3, anyone?), and The Lion King has its share. The most disturbing, by far, isn’t the death of Mufasa or the climactic fight at the end. It’s Scar’s song “Be Prepared.” Amidst the backdrop of a sea of skeletons, Scar details his maniacal plan to depose the king with the help of the hyenas. The parallels to Nazi rallies and book burnings are immediately clear to anyone over the age of 10, and it still gives me chills.
2) Judge Claude Frollo
No other Disney villain is as evil as Frollo is. There, I said it. He’s not #1 on the list, but as far as evil goes, he’s the absolute epitome of earth-scorching badass. Hiding behind the guise of both a benevolent churchman and adoptive father to Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo gave us gypsy persecution, pervy leerings, religious hypocrisy, and possibly the most demented Disney song ever, “Hellfire.” His ultimate goal? Burn gypsies at the stake, in the name of Catholicism.
I gave him the #1 spot because I don’t think anyone else will. But no Disney villain has proven to be more resilient than ol’ Pete, and a recent perusal of some old Mickey Mouse comic reprints has cemented that in my mind. He is, in fact, Disney’s longest-lasting creation, having first appeared as the bad guy in the Alice shorts of the 1920’s, then moving on to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts, and finally to Mickey’s first outing in “Steamboat Willie” in 1928. He’s a kidnapper, an extortionist, a greedy landlord, a thief, a spy, a Dr. Octopus-like supervillain, and an all-around bad guy, although he softened up a bit in Goof Troop.