Here is a list of my top 5 most evil Disney villains (taken from animation, only). Do you agree?

Stromboli – Pinocchio (1940)Image of Stromboli from Disney film

Stromboli is fat, angry, evil, and horrid. His manipulation of small boys in order to perform on stage, before burning them for firewood when they are no longer fit for his purpose, is particularly heart-rending for viewers of this well-known tale. He is loud and large and his booming laughs shock Pinocchio and children watching at home. I can remember watching the scenes in his caravan and getting very scared when he would frequently throw his weight around in such a compact space. When he observes Pinocchio’s ability as a talking, moving puppet who doesn’t require strings for his movements, he seizes him and uses him for personal monetary gain. He keeps Pinocchio in a wooden cage from which he cannot escape, and the juxtaposition between this corpulent bully and Pinocchio’s wiry frame accentuates his evil nature. The large earring and great big bushy beard (source: Hot Fuzz) do nothing to alter this perception.

Jafar – Aladdin (1992)

Jafar is the antithesis to the brave and honourable (at least in the end) Aladdin, and his constant desire for power and his anxious striving for authority make his actions cruel. His attire remains constant – that of a sorcerer in black and red – and his staff is shaped like a serpent. The cobra is a symbol commonly associated with wickedness and deceit, two qualities which are evidently practiced by this pretend adviser throughout the story. Visually his pointy beard and defined features contrast with the soft, handsome appearance of Aladdin. His ability to transform (into a Cobra and into a poor old cripple, to name but two) build up a sense of his evil characteristics, and he pretends to be faithful and lawful only in order that one day he might rule over Agrabah. The music that comes in when he is in the scenes suddenly changes to a darker and more sinister key, which confounds this view. He shows his true colours after finally usurping the Sultan, but his third wish, to become an omnipotent genie, leaves him locked inside the lamp for many, many years to come whilst the blue genie (befriended by Aladdin) gains his freedom.

Percival C. McLeach – The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Percival stars in a much less famous Disney film than the others I have mentioned in this list. ‘The Rescuers’ is a really top Disney movie that hasn’t received the attention it deserves, but there is absolutely no question that McLeach is an scary and evil character. His first appearance is on a Wanted poster in the Australian outback, which suggests that he has poached so often and with such devastating results that the authorities are out to catch him. At one point, he even sings to himself a chilling version of ‘Home on the Range’ about killing animals for enjoyment ( I’ll rip through their sides, and I’ll cut off their hides, and the next day I’ll do it again”). At times his face is not particularly ugly or freaky, but his intentions are clear as he tries to capture the giant golden eagle Marahute to sell her for money. Like so many Disney villains, his final flaw is his ambition for power and money. He meets his end when arrogantly believing that he has fought off some crocodiles at Croc Falls, only to disregard the massive waterfall behind him that is looming ever closer and from which the crocodiles have wisely attempted to flee.

Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmations (1961)

Surely no list of evil Disney characters would be complete without a mention of Cruella. Her very name is a pun on the word ‘cruel’ and ‘devil’, and her elaborate coats made out of real fur are pretty disgusting (especially in our modern era that is even more against this practice than at the time when the film was made). She kills cute puppies, turning their coats into garments as a fashion statement. ‘I live for fur. I worship fur.’ Urgh – makes you cringe. She is evil! ‘Poison them, drown them, bash them on the head. Got any chloroform? I don’t care how you kill the little beasts. Just do it, and do it NOW!’ For Disney, which usually refrains from having absolutely malevolent characters, these are very harsh words! Although Horace and Jasper provide comic relief as her incompetent duo of workers, Cruella is one of the most evil of them all.

Scar – The Lion King (1994)Image of Scar the lion from The Lion King

Everything about this lion screams malfeasance. His desire to become King of the Pride engulfs him to such an extent that he sets up a rampage to kill his own brother. A real baddie, this one. Disney designed his face in such a way that he seemed slimy and suspicious from his very first entrance in the film. However, although he thinks he has broken any chance of Mufasa or his offspring ever regaining rule of the pride, Simba survives. His famous quote ‘Run far away, Simba, and never come back.’ His mocking tone and his employment of Zazu as his second in command makes him one of the most evil Disney characters ever to have been created. When, at a climactic moment in the film, he finds Simba and ridicules his helpless position (‘Simba, you’re in trouble again – but this time, Daddy isn’t here to save you’, he encourages spectators to loathe him with bitter hatred. The dramatic irony built up throughout the film, as we know he is evil from very near the beginning, sets him up as one of the most maleficent characters in animation history.