Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Evil is their Middle Name

Hey Folks-

Welcome to another Wednesday with Walt.

What makes a great villain? I'd argue that there are several characteristics that define villainy, and today I'm going to determine in my own pseudo-scientific way the greatest of the Disney Villains...

First, the criteria:

1) Evilness. Clearly the most important characteristic in a villain's repertoire is their level of Evilness. If they aren't evil, it's arguable that they aren't even a villain at all.

2) Motive. Depending on the circumstance, a villain's motive for being the way they are may make them more or less villainous. Still... Motive, either way, is important.

3) Comic Relief. Normally, this isn't an important factor in a villain at all, but we're talking about Disney here, not Saw. These movies are satisfying for everyone, because they are designed for everyone.

4) Ability. A bumbling villain isn't an effective villain. The more capable they are, the more dangerous they are.

5) Evil Acts. A villain is ultimately judged by their most heinous acts. It's up to me to decide if 101 pretty evil acts is more or less heinous than 1 truly terrible act. So... here we go.

Now? The candidates...

Over the past week and a half, I've conducted an informal little Villains tournament. I'll be using the winner of each category (known as Fan's Choice) plus the 2nd place nominees in the 2 closest races.

Here we go...

Syndrome (The Incredibles)
Winner of the Pixar Villain Division.
Short Synopsis:
Syndrome was a fan of Mr Incredible as a youngster, and was rebuffed by Mr. Incredible one to many times.
Evilness: Syndrome hated the notion of anyone being "Special" so he worked hard to kill any of the "Supers". Killing humans is a good way to earn points on the Evilness Scale. He also is guilty of kidnapping on several counts. Robbery too. He's pretty evil.
Motive: Syndrome is motivated by a childhood embarassment. He was humiliated by Mr. Incredible and decided that the best way to get even was to prove that his human-made gadgets could replace the powers of the Supers. He even plans to sell his inventions, because "When everyone's super, no one will be."
Comic Relief: Syndrome is funny, mostly in appearance. He's got clever dialogue that will appear to the adults in the audience, and his demise with Jack Jack is definitely hilarious, but for the most part, he's not particularly funny.
Ability: Syndrome has a ton of aptitude for villainy. He's been successful enough to get himself a giant private evil island. He was inventing rocket packs when he was a kid. He invented the Omnidroid, a veritable killing machine.
Evil Act: Syndrome unleashed the Omnidroid on Metroville in order to stop it himself, thus becoming the hero he'd always dreamed of being. Not really that evil. He killed some supers. Very evil. I'd give him a 6.5 out of 10.
Fan Factor:
SKULLS: 3 out of 5. He's all over it in Ability, Motive, and Evil, but he's not funny and his evil act is pretty weak overall.

Hopper (A Bug's Life)
Runner Up Pixar Villain Division
Short Synopsis: Hopper, the grasshopper, is the leader of a grasshopper hive... er...clan...or whatever. He's basically made the ant colony into his indentured servants. He requires them to gather grain and seeds to feed his group, most importantly at the expense of the ants, whom he terrorizes.
Evilness: Well... on an evil scale, terrorizing innocents is high on the list. Having slaves is also high. Enjoying having slaves is even higher. Hopper is not a nice dude in any way. He's cruel to his brother. He's cruel to the ants. He's cruel. Very evil.
Motive: His motive is a little weak, I'd say. He's basically evil just because he's bigger than the ants, and because he's lazy. He doesn't want to gather the grain himself (not that he would even if the grasshoppers were), so he's used his imposing strength and stature to enslave a whole colony. Not cool, but not some sort of higher evil purpose either.
Comic Relief: Hopper is NOT funny. Not at all. In fact, Annie (Who will hopefully be providing a Guest WWW column in 2 weeks) thinks he's too scary. I know for a fact his animatronic doppleganger at Disney World is absolutely terrifying to children. (which IS hilarious, but not the kind of comic relief I'm talking about.)
Ability: Also kinda low, to be honest. He's duped a couple of times by a rag-tag group of circus bugs. He's not brave. He's a bully, and that's pretty much it. An effective one, but just a bully.
Evil Acts: Again... Slavery is pretty evil. If you have to pick one especially bad thing, he does try to strangle Flik at the end of the film before he's snatched up by a bird.
SKULLS: 3 out of 5. He's really mean and scary, but lacks a lot in the Motive and Comedy departments..

Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Winner of the Hand-drawn Animated Female Villain Division
Short Synopsis: She's a creature known as a cecealia, or Sea Witch, who lives under the sea (har har) and basically acts as a "Devil" of sorts. She magically gives mer-people their desires in exchange for their souls.
Evil: Well, first off, she steals people's souls in sucker deals. Not cool. She's deceptive. She really, and I mean really hates King Triton (and by extension his offspring). She's got no qualms about killing, lying, cheating or doing whatever she needs to do in order to get her way.
Motive: Her motive is very similar to Malificent's (who came in last in the poll). She was once part of the kingdom, but was banished by King Triton (For unspecified reasons). Her entire purpose in life is to get revenge on King Triton and the Mer-world. Her biggest catch would be the soul of Ariel, Triton's daughter (and the title character).
Comic Relief: Ursula is truly an awesome character, and one of her strengths is the balance Disney found between her being pretty mean and evil and her being funny. She IS funny. Her song "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is full of puns and humor. Great stuff. Also her appearance was modeled after the famous Drag Queen, Divine. How could it not be funny?
Ability: She's a pretty adept witch. Over the course of the movie, she makes Ariel a human. She makes herself a human. She steals Ariels voice. She makes herself a giant. She creates a huge storm. Basically, she's got skillz.
Evil Act: Hard to pick just one, so I'm actually gonna go with her general enjoyment in setting the mer-people up to fail in order to get their souls.
SKULLS: Ursula gets a solid 4.5 out of 5. She's evil, funny, able, and has performed the deeds to back them up. The one downfall is that I think she's maybe her mark (Ariel) is a little too easy. A gullible teen, essentially.

Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations)
Runner up Hand-drawn Animated Female Villain Division
Short Synopsis: A rich old woman who wants to turn dalmation puppies into a fur coat. That's...about it.
Evilness: Well... She wants to kill puppies for her own fashion-forwardness. That's pretty bad. Also not entirely different than your average dog-eating person in real life. It's only evil because we westerners have made dogs into something more than cows. I dunno.. obviously, I'd prefer for her to not kill puppies.
Motives: Fashion? Eh... I dunno. It's lame.
Comic Relief: Well, she's not particularly funny either. She has Horace and Jasper as her sidekicks, and they are pretty funny, but she's probably the most...absentee of all the villains in this poll. Not there much= not funny much.
Ability: Well... Um... She drives like a maniac, but she also wrecks them. She's fairly intelligent, I suppose, but more manipulative than anything.
Evil Acts: Again... she PLANS to kill some puppies for coat-making purposes. That's about it.
SKULLS: 1 out of 5. I honestly think Cruella wouldn't even be this beloved if not for the animation itself. She's mostly along for the ride.

Scar (The Lion King)
Winner Hand Drawn Animated Animal Villain Division
Short Synopsis: A character modeled after Claudius from Hamlet. He's the brother of the king, he plots to kill the king and succeeds. He takes over the kingdom.
Evil: Gotta say... Killing your benevolent brother who cares about you more than you deserve is pretty evil. Pinning it on your innocent nephew? Really evil. Making an unholy alliance with Hyenas? Just plain evil.
Motives: Weak, I'd say. He wants to be king. It wasn't good enough being the well fed brother of the king. That's pretty much it. Simple jealousy. Kinda boring.
Comic Relief: Some would say that Scar isn't funny, but his lines and Jeremy Irons' delivery are both so perfect. I think he's hilarious. I especially love his dry dealings with Simba and Zazu both.
Ability: Well, he's a great strategist (in the short term) but he's severely lacking in foresight, knowledge of the ecosystem (I in the hell did the Pridelands get so barren so fast? C'mon Scar!), and he's definitely not an adept fighter. Damn he's smart though.
Evil Act: The aforementioned murder/frame-up plan. Pretty much as evil as it gets.
SKULLS: 4 out of 5. Very evil. Very funny, but sort of lacking in the Motive department, I'd say.

Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Winner of the Hand Drawn Animated Male Villain Division
Short Synopsis: A pirate captain, stranded in Neverland, who really hates him some non-growing up Peter Pan.
Evilness: Who hates kids? I mean... c'mon man! Actually... he's mostly just bored, and he just wants Peter to leave him the hell alone. Not that evil really... more crotchety. He does, on many occasions seriously try to kill a bunch of kids which is pretty evil, I'd say.
Motive: Again... boredom and the want to be left alone. Also, he's got himself this whole notion that as a pirate, he's obligated to act like a pirate. In this case, killing and pillaging.
Comic Relief: Here's where Hook takes it over them all. He's funny because he's got that dual quality of being both mean and a pretty big coward. He's hilariously terrified of Tic Tock Croc (not that you can blame him). He's a dandy. He's a fop. He's the archetype of several different comic antagonists
Ability: He's obviously got some pirating skills, as he's been the captain of a pirate ship (without mutiny) for what can only be many, many years. He is a manipulator, and he's educated, and he's not a bad swordsman...especially for having just the one hand.
Evil Acts: Probably his worst act was either trying to bomb Peter (and at the same time loop-holing Tinkerbelle in the process) or the many, many times he tries in earnest to kill Peter, the Lost Boys, Wendy, Smee...Everyone.
SKULLS: Well.. He gets a 4 out of 5. The Motive is weak, at best. The comedy is as high as it gets, though, and really I think he's got a lot of evil in him. It takes someone evil to choose piracy to begin with.

So... based on this, Ursula The Sea Witch comes out on top. I'm a little surprised. I expected Hook to coast to a victory. I was tempted to add criteria to make it end up that way, but that would be an empty victory. I can say that Hook won his poll by the largest margin, so I can have that little victory.

In any case, he may not be the best on paper, but to me he's second to none.

Until next time.


djphob said...

Motive, eh. If you ask me, the best villains have no motive (unless you count 'wanted to do something evil' as a motive)! Personally, I think Hopper's motive of laziness and not wanting to get grain himself is awesomely evil! That is an evil we can all relate to. I mean, we all slave away just so that someone can be rich and do nothing. You've just gotta wait for some giant bird to come along, I suppose.

I like Ursula as the winner. She's a great villain.

Also, comparing Cruella wanting a coat to people that eat dogs? I don't know, I think killing 101 puppies for a coat is a little different than 101 people eating 101 dogs for sustenance. Maybe I'm old-fashioned.

P.S. You should make my name a link hee

Beefy Muchacho said...

Re: Motive... I totally agree with you. In fact, I was going to go into this whole thing about how sociopaths who don't have motive being the most terrifying villains of all. I couldn't really find any good examples of that in Disneyana though. I mean... Sid from Toy Story is mean because it's fun. Captain Hook is evil because he's a pirate, and that's how pirates are. Still... you are right...

There's a difference between eating dogs for sustenance and eating dogs for taste. I was more refering to the folks who choose to eat dogs as opposed to other protiens available to them. We're not talking about an "ALIVE" situation.

Consider yourself linked.

djphob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
djphob said...

Well, I just mean... I don't know, I'd really like to know PETA's stance on this age old debate of eating vs. wearing dogs. I just think wearing a dog coat is way sicker than eating one. Killing something to eat it just doesn't seem as villainous. "He's stolen ALL of our animals! And he's... he's... gonna EAT them ALL!" Sounds like a villain bbq! But parading around wearing a coat of puppy pelts? I don't know about all that.

Personally, I'd make them perform in shows and charge admission. Like, a puppy circus! Why, I'd be a billionaire. Yesss. Puppy circus. How adorable. With quite a selection of circus cuisine...


(I am a way better villain than Cruella.)

(Why doesn't it let you edit your comments?? How f'ustrating.)

Beefy Muchacho said...

I believe the point I made in my original post was that the notion of eating a dog of any kind is only evil to us here in the West.

If we all were raised in Korea, we'd probably not blink an eye when someone served us Dog Pie while wearing a Dog Sweater.

djphob said...

So, Cruella is Korean. I always wondered what ethnicity "de Vil" was. She's not a villain at all, she's just doing what's normal for her. Maybe if they'd all just sat down together and discussed their differences none of this would've even happened.

Beefy Muchacho said...

You're funny, but you're also missing my point (intentionally, I'd guess).

It's not that SHE is korean, I'm just saying that there's a difference in cultures that dictates what's acceptable and what isn't. Some cultures don't find dogs cute and fun at all, and thus wouldn't find Cruella to be evil at all. It's safe to say that other things the other villains do are more universally reviled.


Dre said...

Done. Haha. Sooo it's pretty clear to me that Ursula was banished by King Triton because she is a SEA WITCH. Hello! It's like Salem Witch Trails: the H2O version.

Kasmira said...

re Ursula - aren't her eel minions comic relief just like Cruella's sidekicks?

re Cruella - I think she deserves at least an extra 1/2 skull for having a most excellent theme song - even though she doesn't sing it herself.

Beefy Muchacho said...

Flotsam and Jetsam would probably fall into that category, technically, but they aren't really played up for laughs. If you compare them to Pain and Panic from Hercules or Horace and Jasper from 101 Dalmations, they are far less humorous and more evil.

I shall consider your request for a Cruella "Evil Upgrade". I really hadn't considered the theme songs at all... It's an interesting point you make. I'm trying to think of other villains that have theme songs...there aren't too many. Almost worth a couple of points just on uniqueness alone.