What Happened to Great Disney Villains?

Disney villains these days don’t have the same evil presence as the classic ones. Why is that? Nostalgia Critic takes a look.

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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

136 comments

  1. “In my opinion, the last good one was Hades”.

    No it isn’t! You have even said in past videos how memorable you thought Dr. Facilier was!

    • Shadowman had a great song and personality, but try to remember much of his story/motive. It’s iffy. He’s setting up a get rich scheme to let his “otherside friends” control New Orleans. I don’t remember much besides his besides that,his song and he stepped on a bug. He didn’t have that menacing personality because everything he did was to try to fix a mistake and make the prince’s servant get hitched.

  2. You should watch a Korean drama, they follow a similar style to contemporary Disney movies, they are told from the perspective of the protagonist, who may not know who the villain is, but are sometimes hinted to who it might be, so as the character makes progress, they learn who the fiend is. It is also meant to teach a lesson, that villains are not always the cackling, cloaked bad guy, but the smart, subtle, smarmy opportunist, waiting to strike the protagonist at their weakest.

  3. Oddworld Inhabitant

    On the bright side, some of the Disney Channel’s villains are pretty great. Bill Cypher and Toffee spring to mind. Also, I gotta admit, I’m a pretty big Mother Gothel fan.

  4. thatchickwithlonghair

    ….wow, you know, he’s RIGHT. o_o

    “ASSHOLE DEER” XD whaaaaa you mean he’s not on your list as most diabolical baddie ever!?

    This editorial was a real eye-opener. I couldn’t figure out why all the modern baddies are either forgettable or feel shoe-horned in and this explained it perfectly. Kudos. =w=

  5. Great editorial! On my own personal Top 10 Villains list, there are two (three if we’re counting TV shows) Disney villains on my list (#3-Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls, #6-Hades from Hercules, and #8-Randall from Monster’s Inc.). I actually found Mother Gothel to be the last memorable Disney villain (or at least for the main Disney cinematic universe). Yzma, Dr. Facilier, and Mother Gothel are all very memorable villains and all of them came after Hades/Hercules. Yzma is probably just as quotable as Hades is (“Wrong lever!”) and she brings the same amount of spunk and pizzazz to her performance. Dr. Facilier is a great mixture of smooth and scary, even a little bit pitiful towards the end of his time in the film (that villain death though). Mother Gothel is more like a Maleficent or a Lady Tremaine in her portrayal, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She may not be as memorable as the first two ladies I mentioned, but her presence is still strong enough to stick around in people’s minds. Plus, Facilier and Gothel both have amazing villain songs with “Friends on the Other Side” and “Mother Knows Best”.

  6. What about Syndrome from the Incredibles, he was an amazing villain

  7. The villain whose voice and mannerisms CHANGE once they are uncovered as a villain has been a trope that genuinely hurts movies for me.

    It’s absurdly lazy while at the same time being awful storytelling. Its not quite enough to completely ruin a movie but it DOES immediately take me out of the experience.

    On top of everything I already said it treats both children and adults as morons while pushing negative stereotypes.

    This trope can’t go away fast enough.

  8. Maybe in the future, Disney movies could have “unknown” villains not know that they are pulling a façade. The villain would think that they have good intensions, but not in a “this person’s reckless actions have taken someone I love and needs to be punished in the worst way possible” way like Professor Callahan, or an “I must manipulate society in my favor so I can be in control for once in my life” way like Ms. Bellwether. In those cases, they know their actions are still wrong, or that the general public would not agree to them, so they know that they have to be sneaky to meet their goal.
    Instead, the other “unknown” villain could have no idea that what they are doing could be considered wrong. It would be up to the main character and the audience to figure out on their own that the villain is doing wrong because the villain wouldn’t reveal their villainous ways, as they don’t actually know it themselves.

    • I would argue that Inside Out already did this. Joy could be considered such a villain, because she was a total control freak that imposed her own order on all the other emotions, particularly Sadness, which ended up being a danger to Riley’s mental health.

      Joy believes she’s a good person, and the audience is led to buy into this fact in spite of her jerkish qualities. Her villainous nature is ultimately “revealed” in the second act’s climax, when she outright abandons Sadness in order to get back to home base and essentially “take over” Riley. But this villainous reveal isn’t just Joy suddenly deciding to “drop the act”, but rather because the circumstances forced her to make a decision between being expedient and being ethical; and she chose the easy path.

      It’s only when Joy falls into the abyss that she realizes that she’s been really shitty to everyone around her, and that her way of doing things was what caused trouble for everyone. She realizes, along with the audience, that she was never the hero of the story. Realizing this, she has a change of heart and helps Sadness — the true hero — fulfill her destiny.

    • Huh… like in Moana? Te Kā was the angry aspect of Te Fiti who… awakened by Maui’s greed, misguided as a good intention.

  9. Isn’t Sadness (Phyllis Smith) kinda like a villain in Inside Out?

    • Absolutely not. If anything, Sadness was the hero of the story, because only she could provide Riley with the catharsis she needed to adjust to her new life in San Fransisco.

      If anything, it’s Joy that’s the villain, as she’s the one that selfishly tries to control all the other emotions and repeatedly tries to get rid of Sadness when she becomes inconvenient to have around. (Although in Joy’s case, she doesn’t realize she’s a villain until the third act, and when she realizes this, she decides to change her ways and help Sadness achieve her destiny.)

  10. I personally didn’t see Te Ka as the real enemy in Moana, I think Tamatoa was the true villain of the film.

    • Actually, you could argue that Moana is a story about the redemption of a villain. After all Te Ka is only the way she is because of what Maui did and it’s only when Maui stops being selfish and acts truly heroic that she is able to be cured.

    • EmoTheWonderGirl

      I didn’t think Moana has a straight up villain. Tamatoa and Te Ka were obstacles, they did act against Moana and Maui, but their action is not what causes the conflict. Maui is almost the antagonist because it is his actions that set the story and our hero in motion, but even that does not fit perfectly because his motivation was not villainous.

      The real villain, the thing that both works against our heroes and keeps the plot moving forward, is insecurity. Maui wants to be loved. He feels he can only be loved by doing great things. He stole fire for us. He holds up the sky for us. He fished up all the islands and captured the sun for us. He wanted to give us the power of creation so we would love him. If he was as confident as he pretends, he would not have stolen the heart.

      Then there is Moana, who feels guilty and abnormal for wanting to leave her island. Everybody on her island has a role, but she can’t roll with hers. She doesn’t understand why the Ocean chose her. She doesn’t think she can save the day by herself, it has to be Maui that rights his wrong. It’s not until she realizes that the thing she was insecure about, her desire to voyage, is normal and that it connects her to her people (her family), that she is able to end the plague.

  11. Creamcheesealchemist

    Two factors not mentioned in the video: how Frozen subverts character tropes with a not-really-evil queen and an evil prince. And then there’s the Descendants franchise where the children of villains and heroes attend school together.

  12. I really wish you could make these tutorials more natural and more openmindedly without acting like you know 100% what is right and wrong with things.
    The way you try to talk in an inspiring tone here has always been really cheesy to me – and combining that with the “inspirational” music you play in the background just makes me cringe personally.

    You act as if there’s an objective way to view how villains are used, and how others percieve it. Some people’s favorite Disney villains DO include the newer ones. And Sykes is on my own personal top 10 list of favorite Disney villains, so you’re wrong there on that point.

    Also, I get seriously tired of you praising Frozen over and over again. I’d gladly debate you about that I think literally the only good thing about that movie is the CGI snow.

  13. Umm… I do find Hans a cool villain, and I do enjoy watching his facade in the first half of the movie. D:

  14. Cinnamon Scudworth

    I don’t think being a surprise villain took anything away from Stinky Pete. That was brilliant, I thought, because he played the audience as well as Woody. You learned to trust him and then you realized he was manipulating you. You’re just as angry at him as Woody is! He works in such a unique way.

  15. “What Happened to Great Disney Villains?” – a video by Doug Walker 2017.02.28
    “Are Disney Villains Going Extinct?” – a video by Lindsay Ellis 2017.02.28

    What the hell are you guys doing?

  16. I always liked the villain from The Rescuers Down Under, it’s George C. Scott you know.

    “Who stole my eggs!!”

  17. Call me weird, but I’ve almost never gravitated toward the villain character in any animated movie that I’ve ever seen. Sure, antagonist characters are necessary to create conflict and to further the story (sometimes), but often times it seems as though film producers just stick a bad guy in there simply because all the other films are doing it. I’m among those who’d like too more films that don’t feature any clear cut villain. Case in point: why did Ice Age 5 need to have villain characters? There was a freaking meteor coming to destroy the entire planet. *There’s* your movie’s villain! Weird, right?

    Also, while I enjoyed Wreck It Ralph, I knew right off the bat that King Candy would turn out to be the bad guy. No surprise there.

  18. Good riddance. Villains don’t exist in real life. Think about who you consider a “villain” in real life. That person also has qualities that are considered good, too. We live in a morally gray world.

    • Devil's Advocate

      hwhat about H. H. Homes who literally said. “I was born with the devil inside me”?

    • Oh, don’t be absurd. Hitler was a villain. Osama Bin Laden was a villain. All of those terrorists still murdering, torturing, and bombing are villains. The whole concept of, “Nobody is really a villain. Everyone has good in them,” is idiotic. Yes, everybody has something about them that’s good, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be absolutely abysmal and vile scum. Just because he loved Eva Braun doesn’t mean Hitler wasn’t a complete monster.

  19. Seeing Jafar and Capt. Hook made me realize something; we don’t see good henchmen, either, at least none that had the same chemistry as Jafar and Iago, or Hook and Smee. Seeing the characters interact with each other was arguably what made them all the more memorable.

  20. “That asshole deer” – Oh, you mean Ronno The Cockblocking douchebag deer from Bambi. XD

  21. I appreciate the sentiment, but at the risk of sounding like a massive prick, I don’t agree. I think having having shallow villains is an incredibly toxic way of writing a story, and having villains when they’re not needed is equally as bad.

    Here’s the thing: villains are a cheap way of writing conflicts. Why? Because they assume that problems can be resolved by fighting the big baddie at the end. Sometimes this is effective, I doubt Star Wars would be anywhere near as effective a franchise without some antagonists, but for the most part it cheapens conflicts that could just as easily have been resolved through real skills like compromise, communication and co-operation. Three tools that kids and people need to know in real-life.

    Besides, sometimes having more interesting and/or human villains is better. Think back to Star Wars, and how Darth Vader’s regarded as one of the best. He wasn’t always. For a long time, he’s was just “the bad guy”. It took 6 films, and two shows, to really flesh him out, and that’s because the franchise took its time to humanize him. In contrast, Kylo Ren was made interesting in one film because he was instantly humanized, where as Grand Admiral Thrawn made a much bigger impact in my mind because he was already more humanized than Darth Vader ever could be.

    It doesn’t stop there either. Think about the villains in the MCU that people remember: Loki, Kilgrave, The Kingpin, Cottonmouth, Zemo (kinda). What do they have in-common? They’re all awful, yes, but you can sympathize with them in spite of that. They feel real, which is more than I can say about the villain in the second Thor movie.

    But honestly, villains don’t need to be in everything. It’s like Hayao Miyazaki once said: it’s toxic. Everyone has a bit of good and bad in them, and it’s all about finding a healthy balance. And remember, this is a guy who made Colonel Muska a stereotypical villain in Castle in the Sky just so he could prove that he knows how it works and then move on to antagonists like Lady Eboshi (whom, by the way, is far more interesting than Muska because, again, she’s more human and real.)

  22. The Real Silverstar

    To be honest, I’ve never really cared that much for or about villains. The whole “good VS evil” shtick has frankly always kind of bored me. That’s probably why I’ve always preferred shorts over features; in the shorts the conflict more often than not stems from character interactions and the situations rather than everything just falling into “We’ve got to stop this Big Evil from ruining/destroying everything”. Good VS Evil is just too black-and-white for my tastes; the world is actually full of grays, and I find that more interesting.

  23. I would think the Shadow Man from The Princess and the Frog would be the latest villain that people love to quote. Mostly his song, but still.

  24. Thanks for all the spoilers.
    He could have at least put a warning at the beginning.

  25. For the record, the Horned King is probably at the top of my favorite villains list simply because he’s so goddamned terrifying.

  26. radioactiveChris

    The short answer is artistic shifts post 2000’s.

  27. GabrielPrichard

    Yokai from big hero six was the most impactful villain in recent years. He was driven to revenge by the loss of his daughter and became a very cold and ruthless individual. He showed what can happen when a good person is pushed too far by a huge loss.

  28. I think that it is just a natural consequence of the plots of the films becoming less whimsical and abstract over the years. Characters have more realistic and rounded-out traits, which naturally makes them less vivid. But at the same time it helps to gain them depth and not caricaturical (When it is not the “just give them tragic past to justify their dickness” trope, anyway).
    On the other hand, there’s explosion of memorable villains in the TV shows in the late years. Maybe it is because in the TV shows, ALL characters have more screen time than they know what to do with, which results in an intricate and complex developments that just simply cannot be done in a feature film due to time restrictions.

  29. >The last great villain was Hades
    BOOOOOOO! STOP SHORT SELLING DR. LEVELLIER AND PRINCESS AND THE FROG IN GENERAL! BOOOOOOOO!

  30. Hades? I’d say Syndrome definitely qualifies–he’s still discussed and quoted now, so reasonable to say he proved memorable.

    “You caught me monologuing! You sly dog!”

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