Hear the name Disney, and your first thoughts are likely about Mickey Mouse ears, Mary Poppins or the song Let it Go. Uplifting notions born from a company that brags it owns the Happiest Place on Earth.
But for all the cheery feelings the Mouse House has given us over the years, Disney villains have also inspired a nightmare or two.
This weekend, Maleficent creeps into theatres. Starring Angelina Jolie, it is the story of how the Sleeping Beauty villainess became evil after being betrayed by a child. With plumped up cheekbones and headgear with demonic horns, Jolie looks like something from a hellish Hieronymus Bosch painting.
“She isn’t the pretty princess,” says the actress. “She isn’t a beautiful queen. She’s a very awkward, pointy, slightly scary-looking horned creature who goes through a lot in her life.”
Maleficent joins a long list of dastardly Disney villains to inspire sleepless nights.
In The Lion King, Scar (voice of Jeremy Irons) is the brother of the king, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). In a Shakespearean twist, Scar murders his brother and banishes his nephew to gain control of Pride Rock.
Most evil line? “Long live the King.” — Scar to Mufasa before killing him.
Cruella De Vil
In the 1961 animated film and the 1996 live-action film, 101 Dalmatians, Cruella De Vil (voice of Betty Lou Gerson in the cartoon, Glenn Close in the flesh) is a diabolical fashionista who wants to incorporate puppy pelts into her wardrobe.
Most evil line? “Darling, I live for fur. I worship fur!”
Vanity pushes Queen Grimhilde (Lucille La Verne in the 1937 animated version) to try and destroy the life of her stepdaughter (Adriana Caselotti) in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The evil queen can’t bear the thought that there is someone more beautiful than she, so she first orders her huntsman to kill Snow White and cut her heart out and when that doesn’t work, she feeds the pretty girl a poisoned apple.
Most evil line? “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
Hands down, the scariest vision in any Disney film has to be Chernabog, the winged demon who briefly appears in the Night on Bald Mountain sequence of Fantasia. He is the essence of evil and according to Villians Wiki, his hobby is bringing the dead back to life so he can kill them again. Discussing the character in an interview, Walt Disney referred to him as Satan.
Most evil line? Chernabog doesn’t have any lines. When you’re this bad, you don’t need any lines.
Synopsis: After enjoying big Easter and Passover meals, the Reel Guys like to treat the family to a good movie. Because there are as many different kinds of family movies as there are colours on the most psychedelic Ukrainian Easter egg, this week the guys have a look at their favourites. From the big screen to rentals for the small screen they choose movies that will put an extra hop in your step this weekend.
Richard: Mark, if you’re planning to take the kids out to the movies this weekend, there are two recent family flicks that deserve to be seen on the big screen. The Lego Movie is possibly the weirdest, most psychedelic kid’s entertainment since H.R. Pufnstuf, but it is also one of the best films of the year so far, kid’s movie or not. Then there is Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a big animated film inspired by a time travelling segment from the TV show Rocky and His Friends. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and the kind of children’s movie that I think parents and kids will enjoy, but probably for completely different reasons.
Mark: Richard, so far The Lego Movie is the most exciting movie of the year, family or otherwise, but it should be noted that it, too, has a strong Oedipal theme in it. As a father of a three-year-old, I’m never quite sure what family entertainment means; what’s appropriate for my little boy is different than what might entertain an eight-year-old. Pretty much anything animated works for all ages, but then it gets complicated. And gender plays a role in choosing the right flick, too. Young girls love The Wizard of Oz, but young boys, not so much. But you never know. My little one loves Frozen, just out on DVD, even though it might seem “girly” to some.
RC: People love Frozen. I’m not one of them, but there is no arguing with the success of that movie. I’m more on side with Despicable Me II, which I thought was great fun despite its predictable plot. The story of chrome-domed former bad guy Gru’s (Steve Carell) working with the Anti-Villain League could have written itself, but the inventive gags contained within are the reason the whole family will enjoy the movie. There are lots of fun characters, but it’s really all about the Minions — Gru’s yellow, jelly-bean-shaped helpers — who spice things up with their own special kind of anarchy. Speaking in gibberish, they’re fun and more than worth the rental.
MB: Despicable Me II is a treat but my little guy deemed it “too scawy”. But I look forward to a family viewing of E.T. — the greatest family movie ever. Young or old, boys or girls, who doesn’t love the tale of that lovable little alien? Also on my eventual DVD queue would be Gremlins and even Home Alone. Kids love movies with kid heroes.
RC: Speaking of kid heroes, the adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book Where the Wild Things Are isn’t a movie for kids as much as it is a movie about being a kid. Max is the hero, a lonely kid who goes to where the wild things are. It’s a slow moving, simple film about deep feelings. It’s not a slick, brightly coloured kid’s film with a connect-the-dots plot and an easily digested moral, but it is a magical movie.
MB: I never got the appeal of the movie or the book, but maybe I’ve been missing something. But here’s an idea: Sit down with the family and watch A Hard Day’s Night. Everyone loves The Beatles, and this is the pop group in full cheeky-cute mode. Their rock songs from 1964 sound a lot like kids music today, with their melodic hooks and innocent lyrics.
Don’t have time to see “Frozen,” the new animated Disney film, at the movies? Not to worry. The beautifully animated film takes Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and turns it into a blueprint for a Broadway show or maybe even an all-skating Ice Capades extravaganza that will soon be playing at a theatre or rink near you soon!
Frozen is the story of two royal sisters, the Princesses of Arendelle, Anna, a spirited adventurer (Kristen Bell) and Elsa, a cryokinetic queen (Idina Menzel) with the awesome power to manifest ice and snow. Like Carrie, but colder.
On the night of her coronation an emotional Elsa accidentally unveils her icy power, plunging her kingdom into an endless winter. Shunned by her people and called a “monster” by the haughty Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) Elsa turns a cold shoulder and goes into hiding on the remote North Mountain.
To save the realm from the eternal cold snap Anna sets off with mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer and a sun-worshipping snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad). On the way the Elsa’s ice palace Anna discovers why her sister is cold-hearted, some magical trolls and the true meaning of love.
“Frozen” has all the elements of classic Disney. There are handsome princes, amusing animals, catchy songs and not one, but two princesses. All the fundamentals are in place and perhaps that’s part of the problem with the film. It feels like all these elements banged together to create one whole.
The music, by husband and wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who also wrote “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q”), are plentiful with Broadway style tunes popping up every couple of minutes. But the songs don’t feel like they fit together as a whole, almost as if they are from different shows. The Celine Dion style show-stopping pop of “Let It Go” is at odds with the goofy fun of “In Summer.”
The songs themselves are top notch, as is the animation and the most of the voice work—luckily Josh Gad spices things up with his unhinged Olaf voice—but the film as a whole doesn’t have the wit or the invention of “Get a Horse,” the short that is scheduled to precede “Frozen” in theatres. In this case the opening act freezes out the lukewarm main attraction.