April 22, 2021
Disney Villains Who Should Never Receive "Origin" Stories
Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the eccentric fur-loving villain from 101 Dalmatians, doesn’t hit theaters until May 28. But this film has caused backlash even before its release, with some fans and critics saying it normalizes animal cruelty. This response came after Disney dropped its first trailer of the upcoming film, where Cruella receives an origin story.
In the trailer, it appears Disney strayed far from the sinister villain many fans remember from the 101 Dalmatians films. Instead, the new film promises to humanize the evil character. The soon-to-be released movie marks the third live-action appearance for Cruella. Her first was in 101 Dalmatians (1996), followed by the sequel 102 Dalmatians.
The choice to humanize Cruella de Vil has drawn comparisons to last year’s villain movie, The Joker, which also attempted the same feat. Unlike the Joker though, Cruella’s character has always been depicted as pure evil. She’s been the personification of greed and cruelty. So this depiction is both intriguing and puzzling to fans.
Cruella’s name is a play on the words “cruel” and “evil,” which aptly describes her character. In all her incarnations, Cruella schemes to kidnap Dalmatian puppies in order to make lavish fur coats.
In the original 1956 novel Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, Cruella is a pampered London heiress who is married to a wealthy furrier. While out strolling one day, she encounters her old schoolmate Mrs. Dearly walking her two dalmatians, Pongo and Missis. Cruella admires the dogs’ beautiful spotted fur and remarks that they’d make a fine fur coat.
Later on, Missis gives birth to a litter of 15 adorable puppies. By chance, Cruella happens to be at the house when the puppies arrive. She offers to buy the puppies but is rejected. After visiting a second time and getting rebuffed, Cruella hires a pair of thieves to steal them for her. Mrs. and Mr. Dearly are unable to track down the lost dogs, so Pongo and Missis take matters into their own paws.
The two dogs set out across the English countryside to find their lost puppies, visiting several towns before ultimately ending up at Cruella’s mansion, “Hell Hall.” Once inside, the dogs find out that not only are their 15 puppies being held inside, but 82 other Dalmatian puppies are trapped as well. Cruella orders her minions to slay the puppies to avoid a police investigation, but thankfully they’re unsuccessful. The dogs narrowly escape but are slowed down by a runt who cannot yet walk. To avoid being captured, the puppies roll around in soot to disguise themselves.
The dogs then arrive at Cruella’s coat factory and destroy her stock of unsold fur coats, causing her to be financially ruined. The Hell Hall mansion is later sold to the Dearlys, who need more room to care for their new brood of 101 Dalmatians.
The controversy surrounding Cruella’s possible redemption arch got us thinking about other evil Disney characters. Could they too be redeemed at some point? These are the characters that we feel have committed crimes so wicked that they should never receive the “origin” treatment.
Gaston believes he’s every woman’s dream. In reality, he’s a narcissistic, misogynic character that will do anything to win Belle’s affection, including inciting a riot, breaking-and-entering, and attempting to murder the Beast. Gaston even arranges a wedding for himself and Belle without her consent. While his song is arguably one of the catchiest in all of Disney, we feel that his crimes, along with his horrible personality, make him unredeemable. Truly, no one is like Gaston!
Randall is a ruthless lizard who tries to revolutionize the “scaring industry” using controversial means, including kidnapping children. If that wasn’t enough to make him irredeemable, in one scary scene, Randall tries to extract screams of terror from the child “Boo,” using a machine called the “Scream Extractor.” Randall commits all of these heinous crimes just to become “Top Scarer” and one-up his archrival, James P. Sullivan.
Scar’s lust for power drives him to commit regicide against his own brother and destroy the Pride Rock kingdom. Scar has a cunning, sarcastic, and petty attitude, and cares very little about his allies, the hyenas. He views them only as tools for his own gain. Scar is also a coward, choosing not to fight Mufasa in a fair fight but instead choosing to get rid of his nemesis by putting him and Scar’s own nephew in a perilous situation. After becoming King of Pride Rock, Scar’s laziness leads to food shortages and the habitat becoming a wasteland.
With all eight of her evil legs, Ursula gives Ariel a set of her own, only by deceiving her into giving up her most prized possession — her voice. Her plan, which at first seems to be in the best interest of Ariel, is her only way of achieving her personal gain. There’s no denying that Ursula’s jealousy got the best of her, or that she used another woman’s dreams to selfishly fulfill her own, making her a rather irredeemable sea creature and villain.
The God of the Underworld, Hades, develops a nefarious scheme to rule over Mount Olympus. However, a prophecy of his defeat stands in his way. To prevent this from occurring, Hades orders his minions, Pain and Panic, to take infant Hercules and give him a potion to make him mortal in order to ensure Hades’ defeat of the young god. However, Pain and Panic mistakenly fail to give Hercules the full potion amount, leaving Hercules just as strong as before. To cover their mistakes, Pain and Panic choose to keep this a secret from Hades. Years later, Hades controls the soul of Megara in an effort to manipulate Hercules into giving up his powers. Hades is also renowned for his short temper, often bursting into literal flames when upset.
Thanos is perhaps the most complex and nuanced villain on our list. His goal to wipe out half of all life in the universe is utterly unforgivable. The Mad Titan himself acknowledges that fact. However, Thanos doesn’t take pleasure in his task of annihilation, but rather sees it as his duty.
The evil leader of the Hun Army, Shan Yu is responsible for attacking villages across mainland China. After the emperor erects the Great Wall as a response, Shan Yu sees the act as a challenge and declares war on entire nation of China.
Easily the most hated character in the Toy Story series, Sid Phillips is a disturbed kid who enjoys blowing up toys. Worst of all, Sid exhibits no remorse for his actions. He relishes in torturing his little sister, taking apart her toys, and creating Frankenstein abominations. Sid even straps Buzz Lightyear to a homemade rocket and throws Woody on an outdoor grill to “have a cookout later.” His lack of empathy and desire for destruction make him truly irredeemable.
There’s no denying that a strong villain can make a film more enjoyable to watch. Sometimes, it makes sense to understand why they’re “bad” in the first place. But, for Cruella and many other Disney villains, that task seems nearly impossible. In any case, it seems we may need to wait for Cruella’s release so we can see exactly how her origin story pans out.