“A villain can be stylish, and his actions don’t have to be explained. Heroes are boring in comparison, even anti-heroes, as there’s always a justification for their bad actions.”—Dhanush
No one does villains better than Disney. Who else can claim so many bad guys to have given kids (and adults) nightmares the world over? And, quite simply put, their songs are so much catchier than anyone else’s. Disney villains are so popular, there are whole spin-offs, official squads and merchandising lines dedicated to these evil-doers.
It can be easy to forget, but behind every Disney villain is a team of vigilant screenwriters, animators, and actors who are all doing their best to transform these literal two-dimensional figures into full-fledged baddies. Learn more about the best of the worst with these 43 frightening facts about Disney villains.
Disney Villains Facts
44. First Word
The first character to actually speak in a full-length Disney cartoon was the Evil Queen in Snow White. Not first villain, or first female character: first voice ever. Her first wicked words were “Slave in the magic mirror, come from the farthest space, through wind and darkness I summon thee. Speak! Let me see thy face.”
43. A Dentally Damned Performance
How did Lucille LaVerne achieve her vocal transformation from Evil Queen to Evil Witch in Snow White? She simply removed her teeth.
42. Secret Songs
The shrill and desiccated Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove had her own villain song titled “Snuff Out the Light.” Not familiar? That’s probably because it was cut from the final version of the film, but you Kuzco super-fans out there may have heard it on the official soundtrack for the movie.
41. What’s a Good Henchman For?
In The Lion King, Scar’s iconic number “Be Prepared” is actually sung by… Ed the Hyena. Or rather, Ed’s voice actor (Jim Cummings) stepped in to do the singing voice for Jeremy Irons for part of the song. Irons had blown out his vocal chords while trying his best, so that’s Cummings doing his best Irons impression for the song’s final third.
40. Going Solo
All the animation for Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians was done by a single person. That’s a lot of straight lines for one poor sketch artist.
39. Silent Partner
101 Dalmatians was based on Dodie Smith’s novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians. In this written version, Cruella de Vil is not living the sweet single life, as in the movie, but has a henpecked husband. His clearly didn’t matter that much though, because the novel doesn’t even give him a name—he’s never referred to as anything but “Mr. De Vil.” We can guess who wore the pants in that relationship.
38. That’s Subtle
Maleficent means “evil-doing” in Latin.
37. Blood is Thicker Than Water
King Triton and Ursula from The Little Mermaid are supposed to be brother and sister, which makes Ariel the tentacled witch’s niece. These familial connections did not make the final cut, but it just goes the show it’s a small world under the sea.
36. Godfather, Who?
The Queen from Snow White was ranked #10 on the “villains” portion of the AFI’s 100 Greatest Heroes & Villains list. To give you a sense of how wicked that is, she beat Michael Corleone from The Godfather by one spot.
35. Boys First
Gaston is the first male Disney villain in any Disney Princess feature—it had been all evil queens, sea witches and stepmothers before that. We can’t believe it took until 1995 for Disney to admit guys can Be Like That.
34. Ain’t Got No Aunt
Gaston was not originally supposed to be the lead villain in Beauty and the Beast. Instead, Belle’s evil Aunt Marguerite was meant to have occupied that dastardly role. Unfortunately for her, Maggie did not have what it takes to make the film’s final cut, and so it’s Gaston that we all remember hating so much.
33. Little King Trashmouth
As per The Lion King canon, Scar’s birth name was “Taka.” He changed it to “Scar” after a Buffalo attack left him with the signature mark on his eye. And to give you some perspective on the piece of work that is the Lion King family, “taka” can mean “want” in Swahili, but it is also commonly used to mean “garbage” or “dirt.” To sum up, Scar and Mufasa’s parents named their older kid after the Swahili word for “King” and then turned around called the other kid “trash.”
32. All Roads Lead to Hell
Before James Woods was cast as Hades, the creators of Hercules imagined the role for John Lithgow or even Jack Nicholson—two distinct voices, but not exactly fast-talkers, as Woods’s Hades came to be known. This is another moment where I’d have been happy with any of the options, but at least Lithgow got to play the villain in Shrek. But this is a Disney list, not Dreamworks, so moving on…
31. The Stars Just Didn’t Line Up
Patrick Stewart had to turn down the role of Jafar in Aladdin because he was too busy filming Star Trek: The Next Generation.
30. It’s Vintage
Tangled takes place in the 1780s, but Mother Gothel’s dress is from the Renaissance. Some people might think this was just a design mistake, but her costume was actually deliberate—it signifies how old she actually is.
29. An Unprecedented Expiration
Technically speaking, Mother Gothel is the first Disney villain to die on-screen of old age.
28. A Scare Too Far
Tim Curry auditioned to play Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but the former Dr. Frankenfurter was considered just too terrifying for Disney. This was just two years before he played Pennywise the Clown on It, so clearly it was a frightening time for Curry.
27. Wunderkind Baddie
Hans from Frozen is canonically 23 years old. This makes him the youngest ever Disney villain (If you don’t count Sid from Toy Story. I personally don’t; he was just a kid, and no one told him that toys were alive…).
26. Keep Hook on the Hooks
Walt Disney himself specifically ordered that Captain Hook not die at the end of Peter Pan. The iconic animator had an eye for hot intellectual property; he predicted fans would like this bumbling buccaneer, and that means Hook’s here to stay.
25. Quarter-Life Crisis
Gaston is meant to be only 25 years old. Honestly? That makes a lot of sense now that I think of it.
24. Evil Interior
In The Lion King, Zazu snips that Scar would make an excellent throw rug. Technically, this actually comes true, as Scar can be seen as a throw rug in a scene from Hercules. How many of you noticed that?
23. Realistically Wretched
Lady Tremaine, AKA Cinderella’s stepmother, was deliberately drawn to be more realistic than the film’s other antagonists. Filmmakers wanted her to embody a more chilling and “out of this world” demeanor by drawing, ironically, from our world.
22. The Chorus Line
Among the all-stars who lined up to voice Ursula the Sea Witch were Bea Arthur, Roseanne Bar, and Elaine Stritch. The role ultimately went to Pat Carroll.
21. Gaston 2.0
Gaston was based on Beauty and the Beast co-screenwriter Linda Wollverton’s ex-boyfriends. However, he was also based on the character of Avenant, a very similar bro-type from Jean Cocteau’s 1946 adaptation of the same fairy tale. Of course, Disney transformed him from Cocteau’s more foppish aristocrat suitor to the jock we know and hate.
20. Let’s Leave the Church Out of This
In Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo is a Catholic priest. For the Disney adaptation, screenwriters made him into “Judge Claude Frollo” the Minister of Peace, as not to offend any religious sensibilities.
19. From Big Boss to Bad Bad
Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective was modeled after the CEO of Disney, Ron Miller. You can’t blame them: Miller was 6’6” and happed to be former player for the Los Angeles Rams football team, so he cut a pretty imposing figure.
18. The Price We Pay
The original design for Ratigan was originally more “thin, weasely, and ratlike.” However, the casting of Vincent Price as the voice actor inspired the animators to rework the character to better fit the famously sleek, expressive actor.
17. Gotta Draw Fast
James Woods ad-libbed much of Hades’ dialogue in Hercules. He was “based on a Hollywood agent, a car salesman type”—and he was hard to keep up with. The most difficult part of bringing the God of Death to life was getting the speed of his animation to match Wood’s fast-talking performance.
16. Just ‘Cuz
In Disney’s 1999 adaptation of Tarzan, we know little of Clayton beyond that he really wants to hunt those gorillas. In the original Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, however, Clayton is revealed to be Tarzan’s paternal cousin. The Disney version of Clayton doesn’t resemble much of the literary Clayton beyond sharing the same name, but it’s good to know that after all these years, Disney still doesn’t shy from kinslaying.
15. Out of the History Books and Into Your Nightmares
To date, John Ratcliffe from Pocahontas is the only animated Disney villain to be based directly on a real historical person. That it, unless Ursula really is hiding beneath the waves and we’ve just never managed to find her.
14. Evil Lineage
Doctor Facilier of The Princess and the Frog was imagined by his supervisor animator, Bruce W. Smith, as the “lovechild” between Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook. I ship it!
13. Got to Get Gottfried
Iago was originally to be a serious, dignified British parrot. But then Aladdin animators got seduced by the smooth and sultry sounds of Gilbert Gottfried in Beverly Hills Cop II. Gottfried was promptly cast, and animation even changed the parrot’s design to give him a semblance of his actor’s half-lidded eyes and omnipresent teeth.
12. Dastardly Daycare
In the live-action Maleficent movie, three of Angelina Jolie’s children (Pax, Zahara, and Vivienne) make cameo appearances.
11. Scale the Heights of Friendship
Poor snake can’t catch a break: Kaa in The Jungle Book was supposed to be Mowgli’s ally. In the Disney movie, he was demoted to side-antagonist.
10. Good Point
A Bug’s Life was inspired by Aesop’s fable, The Ant and The Grasshopper. In this story, a grasshopper spends the harvest months having fun instead of collecting food. Come winter, the grasshopper is starving and begs the ants for food but is turned away. Andrew Stanton and Joe Ranft wondered why the grasshopper doesn’t just take the ants’ food. Thus, the antagonist Hopper and A Bug’s Life were born.
9. You Talking to Me?
Robert De Niro was John Lasseter’s first choice to play Hopper in A Bug’s Life. Unfortunately, De Niro repeatedly turned the part down. At the 1995 Oscars, Lasseter met Kevin Spacey, who enthusiastically signed on to the animated flick.
8. Grim Name
The Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves actually has a name: She goes by “Grimhilde.”
7. Repeat Offender
Eleanor Audley did the voices for Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and even Madame Leota in the famous Disneyland ride, The Haunted Mansion. That’s a pretty good resume!
6. Under the Horns
The horns on Angelina Jolie’s costume in Maleficent were designed by professional fetishware makers. Seems obvious now that I know.
5. Rated “R” For Arrrgh
If you’re “lucky,” you might come across the grittier ending of Beauty of the Beast, in which Gaston’s death is much less ambiguous and a little more graphic. Some cuts of the ending feature a shot of skulls in Gaston’s baby blue eyes as he plummets to his end at the film’s climax. In the script, the playboy also screams “Time to die!” at the Beast, instead of “Belle is mine!” but this was also cut for being too intense.
4. A King of a Meal
Gaston was supposed to die like Scar from The Lion King. In the original drafts for Beauty and the Beast, Gaston was meant to initially survive his fall off the cliff, only to be devoured by wolves. Disney deemed this death too gruesome for a human being. For fratricidal lions, though? Bon appetit.
3. What a Drag
Ursula from The Little Mermaid was inspired by the iconic drag queen, and John Waters’ muse, Divine. Unfortunately, Divine did not live to bring Ursula to life himself, as she passed away in 1988.
2. Bambi Killer
The hunter who kills Bambi’s mother was originally credited simply as “Man,” but an early draft of Who Framed Roger Rabbit was going to reveal that her killer was in fact none other than Judge Doom!
1. I Don’t Ship This
“The Madness of King Scar” was a deleted song in The Lion King. With Nala singing, it was centered around a creepy deleted encounter between her and Scar. According to leftover storyboards, Scar was thinking about his need for a mate and cubs to continue his line. He comes across Nala, who spurns his advances. At her rejection, Scar sends his hyenas to chase Nala off. Although it was eventually reworked and included in Lion King: The Musical with Scar, Zazu, the hyenas and Nala all singing, let’s be thankful, for our childhoods’ sakes, that this cinematic courtship was left on the cutting room floor.