This summer sees the release of Disney’s live-action film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the titular villain from Sleeping Beauty.
In line with Wicked, there’s clearly much potential in revisiting classic stories for new perspectives on the villains contained therein. Since Disney has some of the most popular and iconic villains in its rogues gallery, this offers them the chance to revitalize their most famous franchises, drawing on established fan bases still passionate about films they grew up with.
We at Pop Mythology feel there are other Disney villains who, like Maleficent, are capable of carrying films of their own. The following list represents some of the strongest candidates.
Jafar was the power-hungry, megalomanical villain of Aladdin. With sidekick Iago, Jafar pursued the throne of Agrabah with fierce cunning, eventually taking charge of Genie and reaching his goal of “most powerful sorcerer in the world.”
What a backstory he must have. Imagine his rise to prominence alongside the Sultan. What backstabbings led to power? How did he meet Iago? Aladdin opens with Jafar in close pursuit of the Genie, finally finding the Cave of Wonders. It doesn’t take too creative a writer to see the potential in that adventure.
And how fun would it be to visit Agrabah again? Those fine desert landscapes and that looping, curving architecture.
Scar was the jaded and jealous villain of The Lion King. He murdered his own brother to steal the throne of Pride Rock, ousting his nephew Simba, the rightful heir, along the way.
His motivations derive from some very complex emotions – no surprise, as The Lion King is a direct adaptation of Hamlet. There’s jealousy, disappointment and resentment. A backstory of two brothers with hopes of one day ruling could be Shakespearean enough on its own. There’s a whole relationship there between Scar and Musfasa, one that could be explored to powerful effect.
It could be heart-warming. It could be fun. It could be heart-breaking.
4. CAPTAIN HOOK
Captain James Hook had it out for Peter Pan. Pan was responsible for Hook losing his hand to the crocodile, prompting Hook’s adoption of a sharp prosthetic and a fearsome moniker.
According to JM Barrie, the creator of the character, Hook was educated in England at Eton College. How neat, huh? He was obviously born in the “real world,” so how did he come to Neverland? Did he think happy thoughts and fly there? Maybe. Work with it, Disney. That’s great material for a screenwriter to work with. What if he started out as a Lost Boy, even? There could be a terrific fall from grace.
Disney’s animated film had Hook as an oaf, a whiny child meant more for comedic relief than fear. And though he’s been brought to life before through Dustin Hoffman and Jason Isaacs, Hook deserves something more than all of the above. A powerful pirate bent on destroying the life of a forever-youth offers significant opportunities for character development. His attack on youth has powerful thematic potential.
3. CRUELLA DE VIL
Perhaps the only villain here to match Maleficent’s sinister charisma is Ms. de Vil, who wanted to skin a bunch of puppies (101 of them) to make a coat. Though we’ve seen her in the flesh already (played by the glorious Glenn Close), the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians was a film made for children, and Cruella de Vil was as an appropriately shallow character.
Think about it though. Few things are more awful and villainous than the idea of skinning puppies. That’s quite the mind to explore for a brave screenwriter.
Neither the animated nor the live-action film delved too deeply into her motivations. It might seem shallow that all she wanted was a coat, but much more could be made of this (and her). Perhaps that coat could be the cherry on top of a greater, darker aim, symbolic of something deeper. Perhaps she never felt the warmth of puppy love. What happened to her that made her so dark? Audiences would love to learn and be terrified along the way.
Is there any villain in Disney’s rogue gallery whose very physical presence is so gargantuan, so diabolical, so… evil? No, there isn’t.
Chernabog, from Disney’s 1940 animated musical Fantasia, was created at a time when the company was a bit more daring and willing to be experiment. Today, a character like this would be hard-pressed to play a major role in an actual Disney movie because he’s just so, well, scary and evil. Nowhere else in the Disney canon is there a villain as Satanic as Chernabog who was very closely based on Chernobog (spelled with an “o”), the Slavic god of evil, who exists for no other reason than to wreck disaster and ill fortune on all human life – like the Joker, a true nihilist. Now, this is some heavy s**t and I don’t think the Disney of today would know what to do with a villain like this who is not only as evil as can be but who also has the power to realize hell on earth.
Sure would make for some fun cinema, though.
1. BOBA FETT
Yes, he’s a Disney villain now, and no, we’re not the first to say he deserves his own movie. But since Disney loves a bankable franchise, this is now a feasible idea for the first time.
Behind Darth Vader himself, Fett is probably the most famous villain from the entire Star Wars universe. Despite having less than thirty minutes of screen time in the entire original trilogy, he managed to win the favor of fanboys everywhere with that badass mask and that f-ing jetpack.
We saw his youth, sure, but man, what if we could watch his bounty hunting career come to life? From his first kill, to catching word of Darth Vader’s warrant for a certain troublesome ship. There could be training sequences like the ones in Batman Begins. There’s that rivalry with Bossk. His maiden voyage on the Slave I. Glorious!
So which Disney villains do you think deserve their own movie?