While Pocahontas did not uphold after additional viewings, ‘Savages’ is a scary song that transcends time; the lyrics “their whole disgusting race is like a curse, their skin’s a hellish read, they’re only good when dead” will make any sane person’s skin crawl. It is the closest Disney has come to approaching the theme of racism and the idea that the settlers absorb this propaganda is a loud comment about everyday society. But showing the Native American’s reaction is just as striking; the idea that both sides
‘The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind (Ratigan)’ The Great Mouse Detective
Some of the greatest Disney Villain songs have an upbeat tempo that hide the sinister point. By the end of ‘The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind (Ratigan),’ most will be like his henchmen, dancing with the menacing mastermind. The upbeat tempo blends perfectly with Ratigan’s control over his supporters; the drunken mice hang off of every word delivered by their leader.
Yet, when the drunken mouse calls Ratigan a ‘rat,’ the audience gets a true indication of the villain’s capabilities. This is certainly a fun song but I chose another upbeat tune for my top five.
Top Five Disney Villain Songs
5) ‘Mother Knows Best’ Tangled
This song rues in the fact that a child is impressionable; Rapunzel believes that Mother Gothel has the best intentions, but obviously, the evil witch is using the princess for her own gains. And because this tune uses Rapunzel’s impressionable nature to manipulate her, the seemingly overprotective song has an extremely dark undertone. The audience knows what Gothel wants with Rapunzel, but the fact that we are unable to protect the naïve princess results in further hatred for the witch.
If I were to hear this song, I would think the mother is crazy, but not evil. But the back-story and visuals show that Gothel will do anything to keep her youth. And her sinister reprise at the end of Tangled allows for these horrifying undertones to emerge, which makes ‘Mother Knows Best’ one of the most sinister villain songs in the Disney library.
4) ‘Be Prepared’ The Lion King
In many respects, Scar was my first incarnation of evil; The Lion King was the first movie I saw in theaters and it also happens to be my first Disney animated feature. So many may be wondering, why is it so low on my list? Disney has some of the greatest villains in movie history, which made it extremely hard to narrow this list to my top five. But I always knew that ‘Be Prepared’ would be in the conversation.
At this point in The Lion King, we know how evil Scar is, but the audience does not know his capabilities. That soon changes with this wonderful song; the lyrics and Nazi imagery match together to form a hellish nightmare. I remember feeling uneasy while watching this as a kid, but it was not until re-watching this as an adult that I realized the ‘goose-stepping army,’ the darkly colored shadows and the horrifying lyrics equate to the Shakespearean play it copies. If one did not know the intention of Scar before, then this three minute song does more for the villain in terms of explanation than most movies do in their entire runtime.
3) ‘Hellfire’ The Hunchback of Notre Dame
As a child, I liked The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it never eclipsed any of my animated favorites. I just remember it being an effective eighty minute movie, however, upon recently re-watching it, I finally realized how dark this damn picture is. And this tone bleeds into the tune ‘Hellfire;’ the lyrics and visuals make this the darkest tune in Disney’s storied history. Clearly this portion of the film was meant for adults because ‘Hellfire’ deals with lust, murder, sin, and even the implication of rape. In the song, Judge Frollo does not understand his attraction to Esmeralda and equates his lust to burning in hell: something that has more to do with his skewed ‘fire and brimstone’ approach than the beautiful gypsy.
Furthermore, I wonder how children are able to watch ‘Hellfire’ without being petrified. The visuals are equally as intense as the lyrics, which call for Esmeralda to burn because of Frollo’s inability to explain his lust: in response, the hellish robed figures fill the room with despair and create a frightening presence. The finale’s blend of fiery imagery with the ghoulish figures cause apprehension that will linger with anyone, even well after the credits. I do not know how this got put in a kids movie, but bravo to Disney for attempting something as bold as ‘Hellfire.’
2) ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ The Little Mermaid
Probably my favorite song in The Little Mermaid, Ursula’s tune shows that she is manipulative, smooth talking, and pure evil. But at the same time, it is so damn catchy and visually eye grabbing. One of my favorite parts of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ is the banter between Ursula and Ariel; while not always in song form, Ursula’s ability to quickly respond to Ariel’s objections shows that words can be just as scary as physical prowess. The villain knows what her victims want and then completely plays their desires against them: and a small part of me is envious of her ability. But the song also perfectly shows her weakness, which eventually leads to her defeat in the finale: her ego. Ursula has no problem boasting about the deal, while Ariel is still in the room and that is because she is too confident in her abilities.
Now, many wonder why Disney has reigned supreme in the animated department and it is because they set up so much with so little; again, like Scar in The Lion King Ursula’s character is fully explained in a short song. Most films cannot explain a villain in two hours, yet Disney does it in five minutes, and from then on, the audience only has to worry about the story. With that said, ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ is also aided by a fantastic voice in Pat Carroll and the cool visual style, which imply some dark themes; all of this blends together to form the second greatest Disney villain song of all time.
1) ‘Gaston’ Beauty and the Beast
For those who know me, this choice is not surprising. Besides The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast is the animated feature that I watched the most as a child. And I always found the character of Gaston interesting: especially since, he is one of the most sympathetic Disney villains. And this song shows what makes Gaston as equally lovable as he is hated; he is an arrogant brute with a pig headed temper. But his song is just so damn fun to listen and dance to; so much so, if it was not for his horribly displayed narcissism, it would be easy to forget that he is Beauty and the Beast’s villain.
Everything about the song ‘Gaston’ encapsulates the character, which is equally represented by Richard White’s intimidating voice. But at the same time, one can understand why Gaston is so airheaded; the whole town loves him and Lefou’s lyrics mixed with the bar patrons actions feed into Gaston’s ego, which further drives the villain and the upbeat tempo of the song. Perhaps, this is one of the lighter Disney villain songs, but the lyrics, the tune, and the visuals blend together to display what possibly could be the catchiest song ever. Gaston may be a jerk, but he is an interesting jerk to watch.