In 1923, Walt Disney and his older brother founded a cartoon studio which is now known as The Walt Disney Company, or simply Disney, as it is more commonly referred to; and it is now a very successful multi-billion dollar company. As of today, Disney owns virtually everything related to Marvel comics, Lucasfilm, Pixar, most of ESPN, and the various ABC networks. And while they also have their own movie studio which produces many live-action movies, Disney will always be best known for their animated movies.
Since the late 1930s, Disney has released a long list of animated films, many of which are so iconic, that they are the main reason behind Disney’s immense financial success. Each one of those movies have introduced audiences to memorable characters, both good and evil.
The protagonists of these animated movies, are always pure and kind at heart, and they almost always have to face off against a main antagonist who is mean spirited and at times very cruel in nature. There are those who can argue that these Disney movies are simply cartoons for kids, but although that is technically the case, these movies contain some serious subject matter that many parents would usually not want their kids to know about until they were older. These acts include things such as kidnapping, forced imprisonment/servitude, and even murder; which is why the characters who have perpetrated these acts are forever known as Disney villains. Here is a list of the top 15 most heinous acts committed by Disney characters.
15. Yzma – Attempted Murder
In December of 2000, Disney released a movie titled The Emperor’s New Groove, which tells the story of an Incan teenage Emperor named Kuzco, who learns to overcome his selfish ways after being turned into a talking llama. Yzma served as the movie’s main antagonist, and at the beginning of the movie she served as Kuzco’s adviser and chemist, but after discovering that she was making decisions behind his back, he fires her. Shortly after being dismissed by him, Yzma comes up with a plan to become the Empire’s new Empress by killing Kuzco using poison; but things do not go as planned. She invites Kuzco to dinner, where he drinks the ‘poison’, but because of a mix up made by Yzma’s accomplice, the poison gets switched with a potion that turns people into llamas. Kuzco, now a llama, gets knocked out and disposed of, but he survives and manages to reclaim his throne with the help of his new found friend.
14. Captain Hook – Attempted Child Homicide
The story of Peter Pan has been told many times, with several live-action movie adaptations, animated television shows and spinoffs, but no matter the medium, all stories dealing with the character draw from the well of the original animated film which came out in 1953, based on J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play. Peter Pan is an adventurous and daring boy who can fly without wings, and who seemingly never grows up; and he spends his days as the leader of a group of young boys known as The Lost Boys, and battling against Captain Hook and his crew of pirates. Hook is the captain of the Jolly Roger, and the main antagonist of the movie, and prior to the film’s events, Peter Pan actually cut off Hook’s left hand and fed it to a crocodile, which sets Hook on a path towards revenge. Later on in the movie Hook both captures The Lost Boys along with a girl named Wendy, and places a bomb in Pan’s home. The bomb goes off with Peter Pan inside, but he survives, while Hook on his ship, is forcing the children he caught to walk the plank, which would have resulted in all of their deaths if it were not for Peter coming to their rescue.
13. Lady Tremaine – Forced Servitude
Many of us have either heard or experienced first hand what it is like to have a terrible step parent, either because they are abusive in some form or because they simply dislike their new stepchild for whatever the reason. This scenario is depicted within the iconic 1950 Disney film Cinderella, where Cinderella’s father marries the socialite otherwise known as Lady Tremaine in order to make sure his daughter has a mother in her life. When he dies though, Tremaine’s true colors appear, and because of her jealousy towards Cinderella for being more charming and beautiful than both of her own two daughters, she decides to make her life as miserable as possible by psychologically abusing her and basically turning Cinderella into a servant in her very own home while spending virtually all of her inheritance. Luckily though, we all know how the story ends, with Cinderella marrying Prince Charming and leaving her wicked stepmother to stew in her own senseless jealousy.
12. Shan-Yu – War Crimes & Murder
In its history, China has had to fend off invasions from various groups of people, including the Japanese, the Mongols, and the Huns, and it was their altercations with the Huns that inspired Disney’s 1998 film Mulan. The movie itself follows a female warrior named Mulan, who wishes to fight in the Chinese army in place of her father when the Huns begin their invasion; and in the movie, the Huns are led by the evil warrior Shan-Yu. Now, war has always been filled with violent and heinous acts, most of which are unfortunately and unfairly committed against civilians, and Shan-Yu does just that by having his men destroy an entire village filled with civilians. When they leave the village though, two Chinese spies are discovered, and he tells them to give their Emperor a message, but as they are leaving, Shan-Yu orders an archer to kill one of the spies.
11. Maleficent – Cursing The Princess
In 2014, Angelina Jolie brought the character Maleficent to life in a live-action movie which was not all that bad, and which put a spin on the character’s story by making her a sympathetic and misunderstood protagonist. No matter what the live-action movie tried to do for the character, the truth is that nothing can absolve her of the fact that in the original 1959 film, Sleeping Beauty, she placed a terrible curse on a newborn baby girl for an extremely petty reason. As the original story goes, Maleficent was responsible for all the misfortune that befell the kingdom, as she was herself evil incarnate. Upon the birth of his daughter Aurora, the king invites multiple individuals to attend the princess’ christening, with Maleficent obviously not receiving an invitation. When she learns of the christening, she takes the non-invite as an insult and crashes the party, where she then places a death curse on the princess, one which luckily gets reduced to a sleeping curse.
10. Cruella De Vil – Animal Cruelty
For a long time, humans mistreated and abused animals with little to no repercussions, and even though such things do still occur today, there are now at least laws in place in various countries that punish individuals who perform any kind of animal cruelty. Disney introduced audiences to the concept of animal cruelty with the 1961 film One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and its main antagonist, Cruella De Vil. The actual movie deals with the two dalmatians of a newly married couple having a litter of puppies, and when Cruella hears about the litter, she visits the couple and asks to buy all of their puppies, to which the owners refuse. As it turns out, Cruella, who is very rich and obsessed with fashion, wishes to use the puppies to make herself a new fur coat, so she hires some guys to steal the puppies. The young dogs are rescued before they can be made into clothing though, along with the other 84 puppies that Cruella had already acquired. As bad as it is to kill an animal for the purpose of making a coat, it is an even worse act to steal an animal from a loving home in order turn them into a fashion accessory.
9. The Evil Queen – Conspiracy & Attempted Murder
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was first released in 1937, making it both the first fully animated film in movie history, and the very first animated film that Disney ever made, and to this day, it is still considered to be an iconic story. The movie’s villain is known as The Evil Queen, and as Disney’s first official villain. She is so iconic that she has appeared in several live-action adaptations including Once Upon A Time and The Huntsman movie series; and she is guilty of attempted murder. The queen wishes to be known throughout the land as the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, but one day her stepdaughter Snow White, is named the most beautiful, which makes the queen so jealous that she orders a huntsman to kill her. When the huntsman fails, the queen takes it upon herself to kill Snow White, by transforming herself into a witch and creating a poison apple that puts its victim into a deadly slumber; but fortunately for Snow White, true love’s kiss freed her from the apple’s effects.
8. Clayton – Poaching & Attempted Murder
Two entries ago, it was mentioned that there were once no laws to prevent cruelty against animals, but the same is true in regards to animal poaching, as there was a time when people would capture and kill animals just to sell them or some of their specific body parts. Poaching is now an illegal act, and it was the driving motivation behind Clayton’s action in the 1999 film Tarzan, which was based off of the 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes. We have heard the story of Tarzan numerous times, including this past summer, so we know he was raised in the jungle by a family of gorillas. In the 1999 film, his love interest Jane, is guided through the jungle by Clayton, whose ulterior motive is to find and poach gorillas in order to sell them, a motive that almost comes to pass until Tarzan stops him in the middle of the poaching process. Since Tarzan interferes with his plan, Clayton seeks to kill Tarzan out of revenge; and although he kills Tarzan’s gorilla father-figure, he ultimately fails at getting his vengeance.
7. Mother Gothel – Kidnapping & False Imprisonment
The story of Rapunzel was first published in 1812 by The Brothers Grim, and tells the story of a young girl trapped at the top of a tall tower, whose hair becomes so long and strong that it is capable of both reaching the ground outside and supporting the weight of a full sized man climbing said tower. In 2010, Disney released an animated film based on this story which was called Tangled, and featured an infant, Rapunzel (now a princess), being kidnapped by Mother Gothel, who needed the baby girl’s hair in order to remain young and prolong her own life. She raises Rapunzel as her own, but keeps her locked away in a tower by telling her lies about how dangerous the outside world is. She may have acted like a mother, making Rapunzel heavily dependent on her, but she did not really care about the princess or her happiness, seeing as she went into a murderous rage when Rapunzel did in fact leave the tower; and no child deserves to be kidnapped and raised by such a selfish person who only cares about maintaining their own youth.
6. The Coachman – Kidnapping & Trafficking
In 1940, Disney released their second animated film in the form of Pinocchio, a story that focuses on a wooden marionette that is brought to life thanks to a wish made upon a shooting star by the man who built him. Pinocchio, as we all know, has a nose which grows every time he tells a lie, but one thing he does not lie about, is his wish to become a real boy, a wish that comes true by the end of the movie; but before audiences can get to the happy ending, they are introduced to The Coachman. After more than seventy years, The Coachman is still considered to be one of Disney’s most sinister characters, based solely on his greedy motivations and the enjoyment he gets from other people’s pain. In the movie, The Coachman essentially kidnaps misbehaving little boys (Pinocchio included), and brings them to an amusement park called Pleasure Island, and while at this park, the boys get transformed into donkeys who The Coachman then basically sells into slavery.
5. Gaston – Attempted Murder
In 2017, Disney will be releasing a live-action adaptation of their 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast, with Harry Potter alum Emma Watson playing Belle, the lead female character who falls in love with the Beast. The Beast is actually a young prince who was cursed due to his unkind heart, a curse that would keep him a beast forever unless he found true love by his 21st birthday; which he finds at the end with Belle. In the movie though, the Beast is not the only person who wants Belle, as the story’s main antagonist, and local hero, Gaston wants to marry her for himself. Belle does not want to marry Gaston, and when he learns of the Beast’s existence, he gathers a mob to go and kill him due to the threat he poses (even though he posed no real threat). Gaston does nearly succeed in killing the Beast when he stabs him from behind, but fortunately Belle saves his life by breaking the curse in time.
4. Governor Ratcliffe – Attempted Genocide
From the time European settlers began coming to North America in the 16th century, there were numerous conflicts between them and the Native Americans whose lands they chose to take, and these conflicts helped to set the story of Disney’s 1995 film Pocahontas. Governor Ratcliffe was the movie’s main antagonist, and even though he is considered to be one of the calmest villains in Disney’s library, he still wanted to go to war and wipe out an entire tribe of Native Americans just so he could claim the gold and other materials that could be found in the Virginia colony. He wanted the gold and materials just so he could make an even bigger name for himself back in England, which in the scheme of things is a truly heinous reason to order the entire annihilation of a group of people.
3. Claude Frollo – Murder & Attempted Murder
For a long time, people with physical disabilities and deformities were treated as if they were either diseased or freaks, even though they were ordinary people with feelings just like everyone else; and luckily, in 2016, people who deal with these issues are in general treated with much more respect. In 1996, Disney’s film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, had a lead male protagonist named Quasimodo who had a physical deformity, and who was for the most part treated horribly by the movie’s villain Claude Frollo. Frollo was a very religious man who committed violent acts to serve his own self interests, and then claimed that the acts were the will of God, and it is later discovered that he murdered Quasimodo’s mother on the steps of the Notre Dame Cathedral when the hunchback was a baby. If that were not enough, Frollo also hates the Gypsies of Paris, considering them to be against God, and tries to have them all eradicated; and he also tries to kill a woman named Esmerelda out of lust and jealousy because of the fact that she does not want to be romantically involved with him.
2. Scar – Assassination
Of all the movies to appear on this list, The Lion King is widely considered by many to be Disney’s best and most beloved animated movie of all time, and for good reason, because it is a very good movie. Scar is a lion and the main villain of this Hamlet inspired tale, and he was the uncle of the main protagonist Simba. Now, Scar wanted to rule over the Pride Lands, a position that was held by his brother Mufasa, which is why he planned to have both Mufasa and Simba killed during an orchestrated wildebeest stampede. Mufasa ends up saving Simba, and tries to then climb a cliff to save himself; and during this climb, he asks Scar for help, but instead of helping his brother, Scar mocks him right before throwing him off the cliff to his death. Mufasa’s death was a truly powerful moment, but at least Simba avenges his father by the end of the movie.
1. The Hunter – Murder
In 1942, Disney released a movie which shared its name with the main character, a cute baby deer named Bambi, and even though the movie’s villain is never really seen or named, man is still one of Disney’s most heinous villains as he killed Bambi’s mother. This character is known simply as The Hunter, and even though he was hunting, an act that people have been doing forever for food, it is still a heartbreaking scene to watch, especially when Bambi learns of her death. The movie hits people with the idea that animals are in fact individuals who love and care for one another on the same level that humans do, and when the hunter returns near the end of the movie with friends, it is a striking image to see the terrified looks on all the animals’ faces as they are running for their lives and watching as some of their loved ones are killed in front of their eyes.