Retelling and rebooting beloved fairy tales has always been a go-to strategy for studios when they’re looking to make easy money from families and adults alike. But, as the various versions of these all-too-familiar stories have started to stack up, producers have gone looking to put a new and fresh spin on tired and well-trod yarns. Maleficent was a perfect way to create a star vehicle for Angelina Jolie while revitalizing Sleeping Beauty for a modern audience — and the box office proved that the model works.
Whether it’s a live-action rendition or an animation update, Disney films are rife with spinoff potential exploring storylines and characters that may not have gotten their time in the spotlight originally. Many over-simplified and ignored Disney villains are ready for their own Maleficent treatment giving the traditionally cruel characters the complex histories and heart wrenching personal traumas that can turn them into more than just caricatures. Here are 12 Disney Villains That Deserve Their Own Movie.
The fairy tale mash up series Once Upon a Time can be thanked for resuscitating many a neglected character’s career in the eyes of the public. While Cruella De Vil is still generally known as a baddie in the series, her back-story establishes that she wasn’t always that way. And, apparently, the OUAT creators are not the only ones who think that Ms. De Vil deserves a second shot. Earlier this year, there were reports of Emma Stone tackling a live-action Cruella film that would no doubt attempt to uncover whatever transformation led to Cruella’s obsession with skinning puppies.
If Glenn Close’s portrayal of Cruella in 101 Dalmatians is anything to go off of, there’s a lot of material to be delved into for Ms. De Vil. In addition to her sadistic fur needs, Close’s Cruella is also the head of an important fashion house. Her dramatic rise to the top of the couture world and the development of her hatred of animals seem like plentiful fodder for a prequel for Cruella De Vil.
The recent success of The Jungle Book has proven that there are almost limitless ways to blend special effect characters and live-action performers in film now. CGI co-stars have been on the rise for years, but The Jungle Book’s use of only one main human actor astounded critics and audiences. It’s only a matter of time until someone tries to use the incredible technology that generated Baloo and Bagheera on screen in The Jungle Book to tackle other animal-heavy remakes.
As one of the most beloved Disney films of all time, there might be rioting at the idea of remaking The Lion King. But, spinning the semi-Shakespearean tale to center around Scar, the scheming cynic with no qualms about killing his brother and nephew, would respect the source material and draw in nostalgic now-parents and their children ready to be immersed in another CGI feast for the eyes.
The buzz for the forthcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast has already reached a fever pitch, and a full trailer hasn’t even premiered yet. If this early excitement is any indication, Disney looks like it’s going to have another hit on its hands. And, depending on Luke Evan’s performance and his reception from the audience, Gaston could find himself in a prime position for his very own film. However, if the new Beauty and the Beast ends anything like the 1991 animated hit, it would probably need to be a prequel.
Gaston’s single-mindedness and total disregard for morality is intriguing to say the least. A man who appears to have everything is somehow constantly disappointed with his lot in life and eager to take what he can from others by whatever means necessary. It seems hard to imagine pitying such a ruthless misogynist, but if anyone can weave a sob story to change your mind, it’s Disney.
Pan’s epic flop at the box office may have cooled Hollywood’s interest in the boy who never grows up for a while. So, perhaps it’s time to give his arch-rival a shot at blockbuster glory. Once again, Once Upon a Time may be working as early polling of the audiences’ sentiment towards certain characters and therefore those characters’ bankability in the world of feature films. Captain Hook, also known as Killian Jones on the show, is a big hit among the fans, rising to be a crux of the series in quick order.
With this popularity in mind and the lack of any prior film showcasing solely Hook’s story (although named for the dastardly pirate, even the 1991 Robin William’s film Hook didn’t truly center around the captain), it may be the perfect time to see how Hook wound up in his own personal hell, Neverland.
There may not have been many fresh revelations in the newest take on Cinderella, but Cate Blanchett’s evil stepmother certainly breathed new life into what could be a single-dimensional character. Even with very little clarity on her previous circumstances, Blanchett managed to convey intricate emotions as well as the expected cackling. Blanchett isn’t the first great actress to give the stepmother role a bit more gravitas. Angelica Huston’s chilly portrayal in Ever After and Bernadette Peters’ spot on work in ABC’s Cinderella have shown that there’s a lot more to Lady Tremaine than being Cinderella’s guardian.
How Lady Tremaine came to marry Cinderella’s father following what appears to be a long stint in more lavish circumstances, and the way she would use Cinderella’s rise to power when she marries the prince could be much more fascinating than the same old shoe-losing pushover story that’s been told too many times.
With a Little Mermaid movie starring Chloë Grace Moretz already in the works at a different studio, one would think that Disney would want to avoid coming late to the party. But, there have been rumblings lately that Disney is considering their own adaptation of the underwater adventure. Perhaps, if they’re looking to mix it up, they could refocus the story away from the mermaid who doesn’t mind a man falling for her sans communication and settle on the impressive and, yes, insane sea witch Ursula who has some greater ambitions than true love.
Ursula is a power-hungry, intelligent, and magical being who seems to have a strong hatred for the mer-people. Since her business model focuses mainly on selling rigged deals meant to tip in her favor, it’s within the realm of possibility that she was once on the wrong end of such a transaction, which led her to her current outcast position.
Even though Disney made the direct-to-video sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Jafar’s journey to becoming such a dark and twisted tyrant is still a relative mystery. Before he was dealing with the pesky Aladdin or trying to hypnotize his way into wedding Jasmine, he was a powerful sorcerer who had risen to the role of grand vizier to the Sultan of Agrabah.
His sinister world-conquering plans were obviously long gestating as he’d been seeking the lamp of the Cave of Wonders for some time. A look into Jafar’s shadowy past that inspired his domination aspirations could make for an exciting movie full of magic and more fantastic banter with Iago.
One of the more bloodthirsty and ruthless villains in the Disney canon, Mulan's Shan Yu gleefully lays waste to villages and army battalions on his quest to rule China. Although all of the scenes of carnage are Disney-fied to not include too many bodies or too much blood, logically, if an entire town is on fire and there are no survivors in sight, one can assume that Shan Yu isn’t a fan of mercy.
A Shan Yu solo picture could pull from similarly deadly leaders like Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan to paint Shan Yu’s gory road to invading China and becoming commander of the Huns. Although, considering the amount of violence such a movie would include, perhaps it wouldn’t be Disney itself that produced it.
Having a baby kidnapped from her crib is pretty dark for Disney. Such a deed shows just how deranged Mother Gothel is when it comes to her desire for eternal life and beauty. The fact that she takes on raising a child despite clearly not having a maternal bone in her body also demonstrates just what she’s willing to put up with to maintain her youth. But, perhaps, given her history, Gothel's actions are not as extreme as they first appear.
The beginning of Tangled specifies that Mother Gothel discovers the magic golden flower’s healing powers literally centuries before Rapunzel is ever born— that’s centuries’ worth of life to explore for this character. And, it also makes it a little more understandable why she would be so upset when one day something that has seemingly belonged to her for hundreds of years is taken away.
The highly underrated Treasure Planet brings a galactic spin to the classic Treasure Island tale. John Silver trades in the peg leg and parrot for a mechanical cyborg arm, leg, and eye and a shape shifting pet named Morph. Even with the futuristic makeover though, Silver maintains his dangerous air and charismatic wit that the character is known for.
Silver’s determination to find his fortune defines him, something that becomes very apparent when he tells Jim Hawkins that he’s given up a few things (his limbs) while chasing his dream. The opposition of this desperation that borders on insanity and Silver’s strange desire to do right by Jim forms an complicated character who is at once both morally reprehensible and downright likable. As one of the few “villains” to get away relatively unscathed, and in fact, sails away better loved than at the film’s start, a prequel or sequel could be good fun for John Silver.
One of the most outrageous and entertaining villains in Disney history, Yzma’s flair for drama coupled with her witless assistant Kronk’s antics always lead to comedic gold in The Emperor's New Groove. And while she is technically trying to murder Kuzco for the entire movie, Yzma definitely provides some of the best laughs from any Disney bad guy. Her reliance on and begrudged friendship with Kronk makes them a hapless and delightful duo, somehow always one step behind despite Yzma’s genius scheming skills. Even before her plan to eliminate Kuzco, Yzma slyly runs the empire and the castle while mastering a variety of magic potions in her secret lab, so one would think she would be able to defeat a llama.
Yzma is another character with an undefined age, which presents a lot of options for creating her back-story. Perhaps in her past there was someone even more charming than Kronk as her henchman, although that seems difficult to imagine.
When you make a film starring the devil, you have literally an eternity of material. And Hades’ fiery, blue-haired sarcasm in Hercules makes for some of the best material out there. From toying with mortals to planning the downfall of the gods and goddesses of Olympus, Hades has got a big chunk of mythology to play with for his debut leading man role.
Considering that the whole Titans angle has been done, maintaining the original Disney film’s snarky version of Hades would be the best way to differentiate the new movie from the slew of hero stories that have been done before. Hades’ droll humor may lead to one of the few times that the audience is rooting for the end of the world.
Are there other Disney villains who deserve their own movie? Tell us in the comments!