This post is a follow up to my previous two posts, “Cool heroines in children’s animated movies” and “Cool female side characters in children’s animated movies” Being the third part of the series, it will also be the last.
The Importance of a good, entertaining villain in movies is pointless to explain. Villains provide a challenge for the main characters to overcome and excitement to the evolving conflicts. Naturally, not all films need villains, but it is expected in animations. There are many widely famous villainesses, some so famous they have become icons for evil. For instance the Wicked Witch of the West, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and (of course) the Wicked Queen from Snow White.
I’m going to mention some villainesses that I love. Some which are very well known and some that are not.
Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) – A classic villain and perhaps one of the most adored one by cartoon lovers, Maleficent was based on the character of the evil fairy godmother in the original Grimm’s fairytale with the same title. Frankly, having her in this post is a bit of a cliché. However, there are some interesting aspects of Maleficent character I think are worthy of pointing out here.
Maleficents main motivation in the film “Sleeping Beauty” is to get revenge on the Kingdom for not inviting her to the crown princesses name-giving party. It all starts with that she shows up to the party, expressing distress for not getting an invitation. When one of the good fairies says to her: “You were not invited”, Maleficent pretends that she has just misunderstood the situation and prepares to leave. But not before cursing the new born baby with a curse which will lead to her death at sixteen. One of the good fairies, Merrywhether, has to then weaken the curse with her own magic. This scene is interesting in that it shows how Maleficent gives the King and Queen a chance to change their minds and tell her she is welcome to stay at the party, an opportunity which is neglected. It is never really explained why Maleficent didn’t get invited to the party. My guess was always that the King and Queen had made this tremendously vengeful person angry because they were stupid and bored. Later in the movie, as the princess falls into an eternal slumber due to the weakened curse and a handsome prince comes to the rescue, Maleficent captures him. Instead of killing him, she chains him up in a dungeon and explains that she will not let him go until he has grown old. He will only then be able to go to the princess and wake her from her sleep. Maleficent has laid out a spectacular and cruel revenge that relies mostly on psychological torture. Few villains in cinema today are written with this much wit. Maleficent is truly smart, sadistic and powerful. Besides her fascinating personality, Maleficent has a great look with green skin, horns as hair and stunning clothing.
Maleficent is one of the main reasons “Sleeping Beauty” has become so famous and talked about. However, the good fairy godmothers are interesting characters as well, though not as interesting as Maleficent. “Sleeping Beauty” is an interesting film in that the main conflicts and battles are between Maleficent, the evil fairy, and Flora, Fauna and Merrywhether, the good fairies. All four of these women are ladies with major powers. They fight over the fate of the Kingdom, where most humans are passive, including the prince. For it is only with the help of the good fairy godmothers he is able to do anything. “Sleeping Beauty” is a masterpiece in animated film history. The only downside to the movie is the so-called love scene between the princess and prince which is tedious and boring. Otherwise a true classic piece of animation.
The Other Mother from “Coraline” (2009) – Even if the film version does not match the book version, the design of Other Mother looked great. Teri Hatcher, the voice talent, was also able to create a creepy touch to her character whenever she spoke. It is hard to not actually be afraid of this obsessive woman who lures children into her world by first offering them treats before killing them. The Other Mother is a kid’s ultimate worst nightmare, capturing in animation the horrors of a bad parent.
“Coraline” is a gothic, exciting film which tells the tale of a young girl who finds a secret passage to new world. She is first enchanted by the world, only to later realize staying there may cost her life.
Mad Madam Mim from “Sword in the Stone” (1963) – Some villains are just supposed to be funny and silly. Mad Madam Mim is one of those kinds of villains. Mim is also not the main villain of the film; actually, her screen time is about a quarter of the film. Her role is to play the crazy lady who’s incredibly immature and mean. The prototype of an old cranky lady who’s mean to kids.
Mad Madam Mim appears in the film after Arthur, a young apprentice of Merlin’s, has been turned into a bird. Arthur had longed to know what it was like to fly, and after being turned into a bird was flying about, got lost in the woods and stumbled into Mim’s house through her chimney. Arthur explains the situation to Mim, who after hearing from him that Merlin is the most powerful wizard in the world, starts showing of her dark magic to prove she’s better. She then decides to kill Arthur since Merlin “sees something good in him”. Merlin shows up to stop her, only to get lured into a duel where Mim first makes the rules, only to immediately break them. The whole ten minutes Mad Madam Mim gets are hilarious, right from the beginning to the end.
“Sword in the Stone” centers on Arthur, who Merlin, through prophecy, decides to take as a pupil. As the lessons create many adventurous, both of the main protagonists are unaware that Arthur will soon become king of England. An underrated fun movie which features memorable characters.
Zira from “The Lion King 2: Simba’s pride” (1998) – One of my all time favorite female psychos, Zira is the supposed former mate of Scar, the antagonist of the previous film. Zira is hysterically obsessed with Scar and avenging his death. She is fanatically loyal to the dead lion as she trains her son, Kovu, to kill Simba, who in her eyes is responsible for Scar’s death. Zira let’s her hate eat her from inside and never forgives anyone for anything. Her facial expressions are always scary, showing her insanity. She also has one of the best villain songs ever, “My Lullaby” where she explains her motives and plans. This song was based on “Be Prepared” from the first “Lion King” film, but stands strongly by itself in beat, lyrics and melody. Suzanne Pleshette does amazing voice acting as Zira, and her brilliant voice shines through in “My Lullaby”.
Another interesting aspect in Zira is her relationships with her two sons, Kovu and Nuka. Kovu is her favorite, since Scar chose him to be king after him, and therefore is overbearing to Kovu, forcing him to become her assassin, even if Kovu is unsure if he wants to go along his mothers plans or not. Her other son, Nuka, is neglected and somewhat abused by his mother. So Nuka is always striving for Zira’s acceptance. It is only after an unfortunate accident happens to Nuka that Zira realizes she loved and cared for him, but it is too late, and in her rage she projects her guilt and anger onto Kovu, driving her to even more madness than before. Zira is a frightening, yet pitiful lion. She blinds herself even from her own emotions to her sons. Portraying her relationship to her sons in this way made Zira’s character complex and interesting. She is evil, but part of her meanness might actually be caused by mental instability, which makes the viewer feel sorry for Zira a little.
“The Lion King 2” centers Simba’s daughter, Kiara, who is destined to become queen after Simba even if she does not want to. She befriends Kovu, another Lion cub who lives in forbidden outlands. Since their parents are bitter rivals, their friendship as cubs is short. Years later, when Kiara and Kovu have grown up, Kovu has been brainwashed by his mum to befriend Simba and Kiara, only to betray them and kill them. Kiara at the other hand is struggling to deal with Simbas overprotective parenting. As Kovu strikes up a friendship with Kiara, the two start to fall in love, making Kovu question his mission as Kiara finally finds courage to stand up to her father. Even if this film is by no means better than the first film, it is still an entertaining and stunning film. One of the few sequels made where actual effort was put into the storyline!
So this concludes my series of cool female characters in children’s animated films. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as well as the other posts! If any of you come to think of a villainesses that you like, or if you have something to say about the ones I mentioned here, don’t feel shy to comment!