Disney’s new live action movie based on an animated movie Maleficent opened in all theaters in the US last Friday (May 30, 2014), and by all accounts it had a great weekend. It did nearly $70,000,000 in the United States with an additional $100,000,000 worldwide. Also, based on all accounts I have seen on Facebook, it was a good movie, though apparently not suitable for young children. I will admit, I have not seen it, and I probably won’t see it unless it ends up on Amazon Prime for free. What can I say, I am cheap and I would rather spend my $20 on a different movie, or put that money towards race fees.
But the actual movie is not what this blog is about. It is about a radio ad I heard for the movie on opening day. It was not an advertisement put out by the production studio, it was a script read out by the radio DJ for their “Movie Mob” to give away free tickets to see the movie. She said, “…Maleficent. The iconic Disney villain…”
I actually yelled at the radio because I didn’t believe Maleficent was Disney’s iconic villain. Now, I will agree that she is one of the main villains within Disney’s cadre of bad guys. She is on quite a few T-shirts in Disney stores, but so are the other villains.
I decided to conduct a poll on my Facebook page, plus a couple other groups I am in. I asked who people think is “the iconic Disney villain” I had over 160 responses, and Maleficent was a very distant second to Cruella DeVille.
The top five “iconic” Disney Villains, according to my poll, was:
- Cruella Deville – 101 Dalmations (65%)
- Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty (15%)
- Evil Queen – Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (13%)
- Ursula – Little Mermaid (8%)
- Jafar – Aladdin (5%)
Some honorable mentions include Darth Vader, who is technically a Disney villain, and he certainly is an iconic villain (but he does end up good); Walt Disney himself; Disney lawyers; Michael Eisner; and my personal favorite is Pete. While only a couple people mentioned Pete, he is the original Disney villain. Pete was always trying to kidnap Minnie, he tormented Mickey, and in later movies he is a major antagonist to Goofy. But back to Maleficent and the rest of the Disney villains.
I think that Maleficent came in second only because of the Maleficent movie and all the publicity about it. I am willing to bet that if I had asked this question a month earlier, or even a month later, Maleficent would have been lower in the list. She was fresh on people’s minds.
Let’s look at how she compares to the rest of the villains. Maleficent is an evil fairy who felt slighted because she wasn’t invited to the birth party of Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). But how does that compare to a rich, maniacal socialite who wants to wear a coat made from puppy skins? We all understand jealousy and revenge, but killing puppies is the epitome of evil.
The Evil Queen from Snow White was also a jealous hag, but she was willing to kill her step daughter because of her surpassing beauty. While Maleficent felt slighted by somebody else’s actions, Snow White had done nothing to the Evil Queen other than being beautiful, plus the whole “evil stepmother” has a more villainous connotation to most people. I would also like to point out that the Evil Queen is the original Disney (movie) villain. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was Disney’s first animated movie in 1938, more than 20 years before Sleepy Beauty. Also, Snow White was one of the first full color movies, released before Wizard of Oz (1939).
I don’t necessarily think that Ursula is much better or worse than Maleficent, but Ursula I think is more engrained in modern day culture. The movie was released in 1989, when most of us were kids and we saw it in the theater. The Little Mermaid had a clear villain, where many of the animated Disney movies in the 70s and 80s did not.
Really, if you look at the list of animated Disney movies , Ursula was the first true villain since 1961 and Cruella Deville. You could argue that Khan from Jungle Book (1967) was a villain, but he really wasn’t all that dominant of a character in the movie. Now, Khan from Star Trek is a much greater villain, but that is a different blog.
So, Disney, you need to work on you advertising and don’t say things that aren’t true. Maleficent is not THE iconic Disney villain. While she is an iconic Disney villain, not THE iconic villain. Personally, I think that the iconic Disney villain is the Evil Queen from Snow White. She is the original villain, she isn’t maniacally crazy like Cruella, and that image of her as the old hag with the apple is just freaky. Almost as freaky as her talking to that mirror.
Who do you think is Disney’s Iconic Villain?