Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Disney Villains Who Got Off Easy

by tryanmax

“And they lived happily ever after.” That’s how every Disney cartoon ends for the heroes. For the villains, it’s another story. Heck, most of them aren’t even alive by the end. While Disney stories aren’t really about vengeance—they’re more about overcoming, self discovery, bursting into song and the antics of marketable furry sidekicks—there’s something reassuring about the bad guys getting their comeuppance. But wait! It seems not everyone gets what he deserves. Here are a handful of Disney villains who got off easier than they probably should have.

Cinderella’s Step-Mother and Ugly Step-Sisters
Cinderella was the beloved daughter of an aristocratic widower who decided his child needed a mother’s affection. So naturally, he went and married a gold-digging, social-climbing bitch with two daughters to match. Then he promptly died. Cinderella spends her formative years waiting hand-and-foot on the very women who stole her inheritance. Maybe it was a different time when an orphan was lucky to have a roof over her head, but the constant berating was simply uncalled for.

Fortunately for Cindy, she had a Fairy Godmother to help her bibbity-bobbity-boo her way into Prince Charming’s heart. (I’m not sure if that’s more or less sexy than it sounds.) There’s a little mix-up when Cindy leaves the prince her shoe instead of her name. Her step-mother and step-sisters do everything they can to exploit the situation, not because they have a chance with the prince, but just to keep from losing their punching bag.

Still, everything comes up Cindy in the end and she and Charming ride off to his palace while her cruel step-family gets… well, they get to keep everything. Granted, keeping up that mansion without slave labor is not easy or cheap. And good luck finding one person to do all the work Cindy did alone. Yeah, she got mice and birds to help, but that falls under Cindy’s skill set and is very hard to replace.

Hades (Hercules)
Hades is just not a nice guy. Being the ruler of the Underworld will tend to do that to anyone. I hear the social scene is totally dead. (These are the jokes, people.) So it’s somewhat understandable that he might hatch a plot to unleash prehistoric Titans to destroy the earth and everyone on it to gain a throne on Olympus. Still, nastiness reaches a whole new level when your lust for power leads you to kill a newborn infant. Very, very bad things should therefore happen to you.

Gladly, the minions Hades put to the job of dispatching baby Hercules—who did you think I was talking about?—failed their mission and we have a full-length feature to show for it. Hercules grows up to be the world’s strongest man, yada, yada, yada, and gets the chance to take on Hades in something closer to, but still not approaching, a fair fight.

Hercules saves the world from the Titans, saves his lady love, and wins his godhood. And Hades gets plunged into the deadly River Styx. Wait a minute. The Styx is the river to the Underworld. So, basically, Herc punched Hades in the face and sent him home. Yeah, the guy lives in a bad zip code, but for trying to destroy civilization, he basically got off scot-free.

Mad Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
It takes a special kind of crazy to take it personally when a sparrow flies down your chimney. But then, it takes a special kind of crazy to turn the future King Arthur into a sparrow and send him on flying lessons with a talking owl. These are things Merlin understands, not me.

It seems that Madam Mim’s way of dealing with intruders is to eat them. I’m a fan of the castle doctrine myself, but I draw the line at consuming trespassers. Just so we’re clear, we’ve got a bona fide nutcase on our hands. Still, regular nutzo and wizard nutzo are two different things. Merlin decides to defuse the situation, not by walking away, but by challenging Mim to a Wizards’ Duel.

Based on the only one I’ve seen, Wizard’s Duels are hilariously dangerous and only to be entered into for comedic purposes. In this particular duel, the participants agree to change only into various animals in an effort to destroy one another. Sounds fair since this all sprang from an attempted homicide to begin with. The duelists transform themselves into all sorts of animals, from rabbits to rhinos, until Mim turns herself into a giant purple dragon. This is a violation of the rules, since dragons aren’t real but wizards apparently are.

Merlin thinks fast and turns himself into a germ. (We could quibble over whether a germ is an animal, but we’ve already gone to dragons, so screw it.) Mim becomes infected, breaks out in spots and is put on bed rest with the assurance from Merlin that she will recover in a few weeks. So instead of being dead, Mim will only spend the next month wishing she was.

Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)
Attempting to assassinate a totalitarian king could make one a hero, if one weren’t doing so for the sake of taking over the gig. So we’re not really rooting for Yzma when she tries to poison Kuzco, Emperor of the Inca Empire for that very reason. In any case, she makes the classic mistake of sending her witless henchman Kronk to do the job who only manages to turn Kuzco into a llama. This is what happens when you keep your animal transformation potions next to your poisons, but some people never learn.

Yzma finds out that Kuzco is still alive—as a llama—and sets out to find and kill him yet. Apparently being turned into a llama isn’t technically grounds to remove the emperor in ancient MezoAmerica. At least, not as far as we know. There isn’t a lot of archeological evidence one way or the other.

In the end Kuzco, now a better despot/llama for his ordeal, finds the antidote potion he needs and reclaims his throne. Yzma, on the other hand, accidentally transforms herself into a kitten with another of her potions. I don’t know about you, but I think being turned permanently into a housecat is less a punishment and more an upgrade. For someone wanting to become an unchallenged despot, it’s pretty much exactly what she wanted.

All the Bad Guys in Pinocchio
In the pursuit of becoming a real boy, little Pinocchio finds himself kidnapped, locked in a cage, sold into slavery twice, turned partway into a donkey, and finally swallowed by a giant whale. While the theme of the story pushes the idea that Pinocchio brought all of this upon himself, the fact is that Honest John, Gideon, Stromboli, and the Coachman all took incredible advantage of a little boy who was literally born yesterday. (Okay, maybe not so literally. Carved is more accurate.)

The only “villain” who didn’t try to put one over on ol’ Pinoc’ was Monstro, the whale. But he’s the only one who gets any sort of punishment. And for what? Just for doing what comes naturally to a giant whale—swallowing stuff. Fortunately for Monstro, he inhabits a fairy tale where having a fire stoked in one’s belly results merely in a sneezing fit.

But what of all the other cads and scoundrels who make a practice of luring naïve children into unsavory lifestyles? As far as we know, nothing! They all get to go on their merry ways, presumably to continue snatching up innocent little boys for the foreseeable future.


AndrewPrice said...

trynamax, Excellent list! And thank you for the article. I have always felt that Cinderella's family got off too light. They were truly nasty and cruel and they did their best to deny her and the Prince something they had no business being involved in, and the punishment is just that they don't get the prize. Hmm. Not satisfying.

Backthrow said...

I say we nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Sorry... I was watching ALIENS this weekend, so the above has temporarily become my catch-all solution to any potential problem, LOL. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I think just as the villains are settling into their "Curses! Foiled again!" mode there should be a dynamite explosion. The bad guys look up. The smoke clears and there's a stranger wearing a serape. He rasps "Heard you wanted to see me" and then - Oh,wait... I was watching something else too. :) Nevermind
Merry Christmas as well.

tryanmax said...

Thanks, Andrew. I know there are some versions where Cindy's step-family is stripped of their titles, etc. but not in Disney. I think the direct-to-DVD sequels even have the sisters living with Cindy in the castle. But I'm just going by the promos.

tryanmax said...

Backthrow, excellent solution! I don't think Disney has ever properly addressed the subject of collateral damage.

tryanmax said...

GypsyTiger, wow! Maybe Disney should experiment with the revenge story. I'm thinking of a Rescuers/Taken crossover with Liam Neeson voicing Bernard.

Kit said...

I think that was probably my main complaint with Pinocchio.

tryanmax said...

Kit, you might have guessed that Pinocchio is what inspired this article. I'm not sure which is more irritating: that the villains get off, or that Pinoc' ostensibly carries the blame. "Shame on you for being duped, little boy!"

Kit said...


i think Pinocchio is the closest to the old fables and fairy tales. "Don't go out and drink and smoke and be a bad boy or you will turn into a donkey and be sold into the salt mines."

A lot of German Fairy Tales carried that theme.

Outlaw13 said...

The villains in all those Disney live actions films (Son of Flubber, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, World's Greatest Athlete, That Darn Cat, The Love Bug) always got off easy. It's those lawyers from that darn Medfield College, it's infested with liberals I tell ya. :)

tryanmax said...

Outlaw, I confess, I'm not as familiar with the live-action stuff. I know I've seen each of those films once, but only The Love Bug have I seen more. So I'll have to take your word on Medfield. :)

Tennessee Jed said...

Tryanmax, there is an interesting period when I missed some of these Disney villains. It may have had something to do with a 12 year gap in age between the ages of my two sons (born in 1970 and 1982 respectively.) A shame. Good article.

tryanmax said...

T. Jed, actually, if I had to guess, I bet you missed the two most recent ones (Hercules, 1997 and Emperor, 2000). Am I right? It'd be a shame if you hadn't seen any of the others, though I wouldn't be surprised if you missed Sword in the Stone. Despite coming out in what was considered a low period for Disney, it's a quality film, but it still gets overlooked.

AndrewPrice said...

Sorry I didn't get a chance to say more today, but my phone keeps freezing up when I try to post.

tryanmax, I wonder if the reason isn't that Disney wasn't really interested the bad guys because they aren't ultimately relevant to the happiness of the protagonist?

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I'm not saying these relative slaps on the wrist weren't organic to their stories. In the case of the worst offender, Pinocchio, it's how the original was written. However, like I said in the intro, most of the time the villains either die or are left for dead. (My favorite is Captain Hook trying to outswim the crocodile.) But, again, in most every case, it's organic to the story. I think they just deal with the villains in whatever way feels right.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, True. There is usually some sense of cosmic justice. But a lot of times, I get the sense that we're just supposed to accept that what ultimately happens to the villain doesn't matter. That's actually not a bad message to tell kids that their happiness doesn't derive from vengeance.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, exactly. As I said, Disney's features are all about overcoming, self discovery, bursting into song and the antics of marketable furry sidekicks.

AndrewPrice said...

Totally agree. :)

Post a Comment