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OCTOBER 2004
THE TOP DISNEY VILLAIN COUNTDOWN

Having already run countdowns of the best of Disney's animated classics, live action films, and songs, what would be next? The results of a quick poll last summer of some potential future countdowns pointed to one clear winner: Disney villains.

The saying goes that the hero of your story is only as great as your villain. By that, a weak nemesis equals a weak protagonist, and you wind up with a weak film.
With the general consensus around UltimateDisney.com being that Disney films are anything but weak, some credit must go towards the villainous characters who inspire fear and create havoc with their malicious deeds.

And so, site visitors were asked to think of the strongest villains from Disney's animated and live action films. Seventy-five UltimateDisney.com visitors came up with their ranked lists of 10 to 50 best Disney villains. From these votes, we bring you these results of the 30 villains who received the most points. While animated antagonists dominate the list, the canon includes characters spanning over seventy years of cinema, from Walt's earliest villain to personalities who didn't exist just a few years ago. Brought to life with pencils, pixels, and (gasp) human performance, these thirty villains have made quite the impression on the moviegoing public all over the world.

Stick with us over the next three weeks, as we count down to the #1 Disney villain of all time. Each weekday, we'll profile two villains, offering insightful comments from site visitors on why these characters work so well in their respective films.

30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1 >>

30. Commodore Barbossa
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Actor: Geoffrey Rush

The only live action villain to make this Top 30, Barbossa inspires fear as the not-quite-living antagonist of last year's wildly popular adaptation of the famous Disneyland attraction. All of the

elements of Pirates somehow fit into a comfortable place between fresh and formula, and that certainly includes this memorable character, who makes a compelling counterweight to Johnny Depp's fun lead role.

Barbossa sound clip: WAV (29 k)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Links:
#2 in the Live Action Countdown | DVD Review
3-Disc DVD Collector's Gift Set - Review | Buy

 

29. Governor Ratcliffe
Pocahontas (1995)
Voice: David Ogden Stiers
Animator: Duncan Majoribanks

Take David Ogden Stiers (no stranger to voicing Disney characters) and put him behind a brash governor in colonial times and you get John Ratcliffe. Faced with the "New World", the

unpleasant brute only sees personal riches and his distrust of Native Americans (whose gold he wants) and destruction of the land are not traits that many would find desirable.

Pocahontas Links:
DVD Review / Interview with Irene Bedard / 10th Anniversary Edition DVD (coming May 2005)

 

28. Kaa
The Jungle Book (1967)
Voice: Sterling Holloway

Not the most fear-inspiring villain, Kaa definitely makes an impression as the cunning type. The tool of this snake's choice: hypnotism. The unmistakble Sterling Holloway voiced many a Disney character, but this is his one unequivocal baddie.

Kaa is a likable villain, namely because his own pride gets in the way of him actually doing anything truly evil. The warm reception of test audiences had Disney adding another Kaa sequence to the final film, which was the last animated work that Walt personally oversaw. Particularly memorable is Kaa's simple little song "Trust in Me."

The Jungle Book Links:
#13 in Animated Clasics Countdown | DVD Review | Platinum Edition DVD (out of print) | Soundtrack CD

 

27. Randall Boggs
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Voice: Steve Buscemi

Generally, villains need power to make their punch effective. Often, they'll be physically imposing (i.e. "large and in charge"). But Randall Boggs, the second most successful scarer in Monstropolis, more the slight and sleazy type, which seems

entirely appropriate since he's voiced by Steve Buscemi, a master of slight and sleazy characters in film. But this weasel does have a power and a very cool one at that. He can become invisible at any time, as he rapidly adapts to his surroundings to make him a presence felt, not seen. This proves useful in his shady efforts to reinvent Monsters, Inc, and makes him a threatening nemesis to our likable heroes Sulley, Mike, and Boo.

Randall sound clip: WAV (22 k)

Monsters, Inc. Links:
Other Animation including Pixar's films | Blu-ray & DVD Review | Blu-ray + DVD Combo

 

26. Sid Phillips
Toy Story (1995)
Voice: Erik von Detten

The villain of Toy Story, Pixar's first feature and the first wholly computer-animated film, is Sid, the boy next door. This boy spends his days destroying and disfiguring toys, even his sister's most treasured dolls.

The toys only have to worry about their creative/destructive neighbor until Andy's family makes their upcoming move to a different part of town. But these last few days are particularly dangerous for Buzz and Woody when they find themselves in the terror zone that is Sid's room.

Sid sound clip: WAV (80 k)

Toy Story Links:
Blu-ray & DVD Review | Other Animation including Pixar's films

 

 

25. Madame Mim
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Voice: Martha Wentworth

Aaron Wallace, of the University of North Carolina, states, "Madame Mim’s wickedness really lies in her lunacy. She’s just mad enough to do someone harm and break all the rules. She does both with much hilarity."

The Sword in the Stone may have been forgotten or ignored by some, but the wizard's duel between the backhanded Mim and the wise Merlin remains a memorable highlight from the film.

Madame Mim sound clip: WAV (38 k)

The Sword in the Stone Links:
45th Anniversary Edition DVD Review | 45th Anniversary Edition DVD

 

24. Clayton
Tarzan (1999)
Voice: Brian Blessed
Animator: Randy Haycock

On Tarzan's brawny villain, Jake Lipson says, "Clayton is, like any classic Disney villain, hungry for money and power, and intensely voiced (this time by Brian Blessed). But what makes him stand

out from the crowd is his harshness. Like Cruella De Vil before him, Clayton's cruel treatment of animals (in this case, the apes), and Tarzan himself, makes him a chillingly cold villain so different from the run-of-the-mill animated bad guy. His character is also a home-hitting statement on poachers and why we need to make sure animals and the world are safe."

Tarzan Links:
#19 in Animated Classics Countdown | Collector's Edition DVD Review
On DVD (out of print): Standard | Collector's Edition

 

23. Pete
Countless shorts, TV programs, and films, from "Alice Solves the Puzzle" (1925) to The Three Musketeers (2004)
Voice: Billy Bletcher/Will Ryan/Arthur Burghardt/Jim Cummings

Walt has remarked on many occasions that Mickey Mouse was the "everyman", and it was Mickey's

"can-do attitude" and "eternal optimism" that not only gave him his appeal, but ensured that he triumphed over every obstacle placed in his way.

So, if you have a character who represents the every man, who do you choose as his opponent? Why, nothing more than a simple bully I would suggest. And that's all Pete is in most of his shorts. From cruel authority figures such as dog catchers to army sergeants; from the nightmare neighbour to the boss from Hell; from a complaining customer to a salesperson with no scruples…

It's when Pete works best, a low-key loudmouthed bully with a short temper and even shorter long-term ambitions. In such a role Pete, with or without his "Peg Leg" was an ideal foil for not only Mickey, but also Donald and Goofy too. There's something that clicks when such a detestable and corrupt individual confronts such likeable and innocent characters.

But just as Mickey is a character to have worn many hats over his long and varied career, so has Pete. And sometimes his ambitions have been somewhat grander. He's been a notorious Wild West outlaw several times, an Arab sultan on the lookout for new conquests for his harem and a scheming captain of the guard plotting to overthrow his royal masters on a couple of occasions. Personally, I don't think these appearances work so well - Pete should never be a manipulative plotter or successful criminal, it dilutes his appeal. While I'm no big fan of his "Goof Troop" persona, he's still better when giving bad parenting advice to Goofy or repressing his son's creativity than robbing a bank or kidnapping royalty.

However, as the exception to the rule, Pete's finest hour was his appearance as The Ghost of Christmas Future in "Mickey's Christmas Carol", still a scene I consider to be one of the most atmospheric animated sequences of all time.

Pete's been causing difficulties for Mickey since "Steamboat Willie". Let's hope he continues to do so as long as Mickey Mouse exists, whether on screen or in print. - James Reader

My earliest memories in life, not surprisingly, are watching Mickey Mouse cartoons. I vaguely remember watching various cartoons starring Mickey and oft times Pluto too. While the memories seem to fade as I grow older, the one thing about those cartoons that is still as clear as ever was the character Pete. I clearly remember him laughing at Mickey whenever something unfortunate would happen to the star. As a child I had a great dislike, almost a hate…a bitter hate towards him. Unlike the other villains, Pete had no special powers. He wasn’t a wizard or a sorcerer and he doesn’t work for anyone…Pete was just mean. Pete has no vendetta or reason for revenge. He wasn't jealous or envious of Mickey. It seems all villains have something that drives them to be evil, callous or cruel…after 22 years of watching Mickey Mouse cartoons, I have yet to find Pete’s reason. It seems like he just enjoys being mean to Mickey and Pluto. - DisneyGirl

Links on selected works featuring "Pete":
Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2: DVD Review
Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers: DVD Review
Walt Disney on the Front Lines: DVD Review
The Chronological Donald Volume 1: DVD Review

 

22. Stromboli
Pinocchio (1940)
Voice: Charles Judels
Animator: Bill Tytla

Five characters from Pinocchio received votes for this countdown, and Stromboli was at the top. Big, loud, overweight, and evil, Stromboli pretty much fits the stereotypical villain, but he makes an

undeniable impression in Walt Disney's second animated film.

This thick-accented Italian is a businessman first and foremost, and he sees Pinocchio as an amazing little wooden sideshow. When the star attraction bombs on stage, Stromboli is infuriated, until he realizes the act has the crowd giddy with laughter. The money pours in, but Stromboli lets his newfound actor know his place: locked in a cage. Until he gets too old. Then, he becomes firewood.

Over sixty years later, Pinocchio may seem both surprisingly dark and surprisingly resonant to folks who have gotten the impression that "Disney" means squeaky clean, happy fun. Amidst towering whales, sly animal con men roaming the streets, horrendous coachmen, and this powerful showman, Pinocchio's road to becoming a real boy is fraught with danger.

Pinocchio Links:
Platinum Edition DVD Review | #10 in Animated Classics Countdown | Platinum Edition DVD (out of print) | Platinum Edition Blu-ray + DVD (out of print)

 

21. The Horned King
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Voice: John Hurt
Animator: Phil Nibbelink

The Horned King does not feature largely in The Chronicles of Prydain, the basis for this decidely dark '80s fantasy. The Black Cauldron has never widely resounded with audiences. In theaters,

its PG-rated intensity frightened children and upset parents expecting wholesome entertainment from the "Disney" name. But those who have not avoided it often sing the film's praises, rather than singling it out as one of the weakest animated features in the studio's canon. The Horned King's increased role in the film renders him an affecting and spooky villain. His efforts to gain possession of the magical titular cauldron are drastic, as he calls forth an army of dead soldiers to find this key to ruling the world.

The Horned King sound clip: WAV (88 k)

The Black Cauldron Links:
25th Anniversary Edition DVD Review | 25th Anniversary DVD | The Black Cauldron Appreciation Thread

Continue >>

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The Villains Countdown was first published October 11, 2004.