Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ten on Tuesdays: Best Musical Numbers by Disney Villains

After watching The Lion King in 3-D this weekend, I was suddenly in a Disney state of mind. For better or worse, the studio has provided family entertainment for several generations and shaped many a childhood. Despite any gripes I might have with some of the racism and sexism they've included in their films over the years, I can't deny that they've always enlisted the best storytellers and songwriters. Traditionally in an animated Disney musical, songs of triumph, joy and love are usually the most beloved, but while watching Scar sing "Be Prepared," I started thinking of all the great songs from Disney that promoted evil and were as equally worthy of admiration as their morally superior counterparts. This edition of Ten On Tuesdays will count down what I feel are the best musical numbers by Disney villains.

10. Gaston and mob from Beauty and The Beast - "Kill The Beast"

The best songs in this movie all belong to Belle and the inhabitants of the castle, but when Gaston finally gets a chance to let his mean streak shine, it turns into one of the most intense numbers of the movie and elevates him from more than just an egotistical punchline, but a legitimate threat.

9. Jafar from Aladdin - "Prince Ali (Reprise)"

Part of the reason why I think the reprise to "Prince Ali" is so overlooked is not only because it's in a movie filled with some of Disney's most memorable songs, but it comes nearly at the end and at a point where the musical numbers take a backseat to the climax. While not as flamboyant as some of the other songs from villains, it remains equally dastardly and that little slap he gives Aladdin is just the icing.

8. Si and Am from Lady and The Tramp - "The Siamese Cat Song"

Aside from the painfully offensive Asian stereotypes, the song sets up the two cats as someone you can easily dislike, with nearly every line dedicated to the mischief they cause. They're quite possibly some of the best assholes that Disney ever produced.

7. Dr. Facilier from The Princess and The Frog - "Friends On The Other Side"

This is probably one of the catchiest songs ever given to a Disney villain, with much more of a swing than the usual dramatic swirl that is common for them. Visually, it also stands up with the extravagance of some of the studio's best work, nearly in the same league as "Be Our Guest" and "I Just Can't Wait To Be King."

6. Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas - "Savages"

While Ratcliffe does share singing duties with Pocahontas' tribe, the brief moment that he does sing lead here is still very effective, much more so than "Mine, Mine, Mine," which is also enjoyable but lacks the power of lines like "What can you expect from filthy little heathens?"

5. Scar from The Lion King - "Be Prepared"

Jeremy Irons' portrayal of Scar is one of my favorite voiceover performances of all-time. His croaky voice lent a sarcastic, sinister tone that made the character feel as realistic as any Disney villain to date. Those attributes help make "Be Prepared" one of the most wry call-to-arms performed in a Disney musical.

4. Gothel from Tangled - "Mother Knows Best"

The music here is lighter than the usual foreboding villain fare, but that only adds to the underlying manipulation at play here. By singing in a playful yet lecturing way, Gothel still maintains a motherly presence that uses fear and familiarity to achieve her goal. It's not the kind of evil that's blunt, but still dangerous because it preaches only one road to comfort.

3. Ursula from The Little Mermaid - "Poor Unfortunate Souls"

The power of persuasion is a trait shared among many classic antagonists, so it says a lot that "Poor Unfortunate Souls" probably does the best cajoling out of anyone in Disney's rogue gallery. This is another selection that often gets overshadowed due to the popularity of the other songs in the film, but Ursula's devilish grin and the grim visual details are hard to forget for fans of this movie.

2. Kaa from The Jungle Book - "Trust In Me"

The lyrics and melody are the most simple out of all the songs here, but the vocal performance by Sterling Holloway (who also voiced Winnie The Pooh) takes the creepiness factor to another level with the way his words are slickly drawn out. With each note that's held longer, the tension rises as you can feel Mowgli's demise is all but certain. The fact that it's sung in the way that you would sing a lullaby makes it sound even more devious.

1. Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame -"Hellfire"

There have been terrifying moments in the catalog of Disney movies, but nothing quite as disturbing as the inner turmoil Frollo displays in "Hellfire." As a man of the cloth, he wrestles with his lust for Esmeralda and sees her death as the only possible solution for his soul to remain intact. It's very heavy material for a film targeted at families, which is probably why Hunchback is one of the forgotten films of the Disney Renaissance. The realistic themes of "Hellfire" was a bold move for the Disney creative team, but despite not having the accolades of other classics, it stands on its own merit as one of the studio's most distinct animated moments.


  1. I DIG THIS LIST! Then again, I love Disney movies. Buuuuuuuuuuuut....I can't believe you thought "Trust In Me" was better then "Be Prepared." Ahhhhh. It's like a Disney sin or something. *wipes away tear* Lol

    I think "Be Prepared" wins hand's down vocally, visually and lyrically. "Trust In Me" was a lil creepy with Kaa trying to mesmerize him, but other then that it was just slow...

    Keep up the great posts!

  2. "Be Prepared" is indeed all kinds of badass and I was shocked at myself that it didn't make it higher since it felt like a top 3 song, but every time I hear Kaa sing, I start to recoil. It's that slow tension that teases you and makes everything uneasy. Glad you enjoyed the post though!