The Mt. Rushmore of Disney Villains
There are villains, and then there are VILLAINS, those dastardly characters who ooze so much menace and malevolence that they earn a spot in our collective nightmares. Over its 100-year history, Disney has created some of the most iconic villains in all of popular culture, but who among them deserves to be immortalized on the Mt. Rushmore of fiends?
It’s a question we’re just cocky enough to try and answer. As a point of order, we’re throwing the doors wide open. That means franchises like Star Wars and Marvel are in the mix, despite the fact that they were not originally Disney properties.
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
In the world of Disney, there is one villain who rises above the rest, casting her long dark shadow over the landscape of the company’s most memorable characters. Her name is Maleficent.
The antagonist of 1959’s feature film Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent has become THE icon of villainy in the world of Disney. She is easily the most memorable character in the film, and went on to become the principal antagonist of the popular show Fantasmic! in the Disney parks, and even became the star of her own series of live-action movies (Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil). In addition, she has been featured as an antagonist in video games such as Kingdom Hearts and books like Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers series. In 2014, she became the most eye-popping portion of Disney’s Festival of Fantasy parade, when she appeared as a steampunk-inspired version of her dragon form.
Voiced by Eleanor Audley (who also provided the voice of the villainous Lady Tremaine in Cinderella), her very name is a Latin word that means “doing evil or harm.” In addition, some of her likeness was inspired by the legendary Maila Nurmi, best known as Vampira, star of the cult classic The Vampira Show, and Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Darth Vader (Star Wars Franchise)
In 2003, the American Film Institute released “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains,” compiling a list of the 100 greatest film heroes and 100 greatest film villains of all time. Sitting all the way at number three on the list? Darth Vader. Specifically, Vader in the film The Empire Strikes Back.
Voiced by James Earl Jones and portrayed by David Prowse, Vader is an icon and menace in every sense of the word. From his jet-black attire to his mechanical breathing, everything about him is intimidating. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his theme song, the Imperial March by John Williams, is one of the greatest pieces of cinematic music ever composed.
On the subject of his peculiar breathing, the effect was created by Ben Burtt, the sound designer on the original Star Wars film. To achieve the sound, Burtt modified recordings of a person breathing with a scuba regulator. And don’t think about using the sound in your own film. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has it listed as Non-Visual Trademark #77419252.
Oh, and that iconic voice provided by James Earl Jones? It might have been very different. Early in the development of Star Wars, director George Lucas was strongly considering Orson Welles for the part.
Thanos (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Making his first MCU appearance in the 2012 film The Avengers, Thanos is the supreme villain of the Infinity Saga. Though he only appeared in the credits of that first movie, his presence sent shockwaves through Marvel fandom, who were fully aware of The Mad Titan’s destructive capabilities.
For the next seven years, Thanos would be the driving force behind every story in the MCU, even when he wasn’t officially the principal antagonist in the films. His quest for the Infinity Stones is all a part of his plan to curb overpopulation throughout the universe. When he eventually gains all of the stones, he wipes out half of all the lifeforms in the universe. In the movie Thor: Dark World, the character of Heimdall states that he can see “10 trillion” souls in the universe. Taking that number, Thanos is generally credited with causing 5 trillion deaths with his snap. By comparison, Darth Vader is estimated to have killed around 153,000 people (and that’s spread between the movies, comics, books, and other forms of media in the Star Wars universe).
Though most fans likely associate actor Josh Brolin with the role, he was not the first. In his brief appearance in The Avengers, Thanos was portrayed by Damian Poitier. Brolin first appeared as the character in Guardians of the Galaxy and in all subsequent MCU depictions.
Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
I can already hear the howls of outrage. What about Scar? What about The Evil Queen? What about Ursula or Captain Hook? All excellent choices, but hear me out.
Oogie Boogie, voiced by the incredibly talented Ken Page, debuted in the 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas directed by Henry Selick. He is the principal antagonist of the movie. Not only does he do battle with Jack Skellington, but he IMPRISONS Santa Claus and attempts to turn him into a meal. Santa Claus, the ultimate symbol of cheer, goodwill, and kindness. And Oogie Boogie tried to cook him.
The Nightmare Before Christmas became such a popular film that its characters, including Oogie Boogie, invade and transform Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion for three months every year. Outside of Mickey Mouse, Disney’s greatest icon, Oogie is also the only Disney character to have a Halloween event named after him in the form of Disney California Adventure’s Oogie Boogie Bash. He also plays a prominent role in Walt Disney World’s Halloween festivities as part of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular Show.
And he managed all of this despite having less than 10 minutes of total screen time in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Still not convinced? Fair enough. Sound off and tell us who you’d place on your Mt. Rushmore of Disney Villains.