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From "Snow White" to "Tangled," Disney's tradition of villains you love to hate lives on

From "Snow White" to "Tangled," Disney's tradition of villains you love to hate lives on

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Walt Disney once said "For every laugh, there should be a tear." But there's another unsaid rule when it comes to the animated features & shorts that Disney Studios produces. Which is that -- for every smile -- there should be a shriek.

I mean, think about it. Is there another studio in the history of Hollywood that has served up more nightmare fuel than Disney?

Okay. I know. Given that "Saw 3D" and "Paranormal Activity 2" are about to bow at theaters nationwide, this may seem like an extremely odd claim. But just ask the guys who had regularly had to replace seats at Radio City Musical Hall back in 1937. Due to the huge number of little kids who peed their pants as they watched the Evil Queen ...


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 ... transform into the Hag in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."


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And those folks will tell you about how truly frightening many people find Disney films to be.

I mean, seriously. How many of us grew up fearing step-mothers because of what scheming Lady Tremaine did to poor Cinderella?


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Oh, sure. Over the past 80+ years, Disney Studios has created a few clearly comic villains. Characters like the Big Bad Wolf ...


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... who were meant to be more amusing than menacing. But then there were those characters like Stromboli from "Pinocchio" ...


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... which would start out almost stereotypically silly and then turn sinister.

Think about it. The artists and animators at Walt Disney Studios managed to slip scares in virtually every animated feature that they ever worked on. Even "Fantasia" - Walt's celebration of classical music - had that fearsome T-Rex ...


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... while "Bambi" had its terrifying forest fire sequence.


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Now where this gets interesting is ... Well, how many times have you been in at a Disney theme park and seen people excitedly line up to have their picture taken with Captain Hook ...


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... or to get Maleficent's autograph?


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That's because - in a twisted sort of way -- Disney fans just love these characters. Whether it's Shere Khan's understated threats ...


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... or the joy that Si and Am take in laying waste to Lady's world.


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... or Madam Medusa's over-the-top craziness ...


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... film fans think that it's great fun to watch characters being bad. I mean, think about how enjoyable it was to see Ratigan chewing the scenery in "The Great Mouse Detective."


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Of course, what was truly impressive about Glen Keane's work with this Disney Villain is how - over the course of this 74-minute long animated feature - Ratigan went from being comical to genuinely terrifying. Which is the same sort of stellar performance that Andreas Deja got out of Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast" ...


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... and Scar in "The Lion King."


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Speaking of sophisticated work with villains, wait 'til you see Mother Gothel in "Tangled." Disney's next baddy goes from being mirthfully emotionally manipulative to devious & deadly without even skipping a beat.


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So - in short - the tradition of truly terrific Disney Villains is something that isn't coming to an end  ...


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... anytime soon. It lives on.  And aren't those of you who were scared by the Hag in "Snow White," terrified by the forest fire in "Bambi" or just spooked by the Horse in Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" ...


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... as kids glad to hear it?

FYI: Much of the artwork featured in today's article came from the Fall 2010 catalog for S/R Laboratories' animation art auction. Which will be held next Monday & Tuesday. If you'd like to learn more about this auction and/or are looking to purchase your own copy of this 52 page full-color catalog, please click on this link.

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  • Most of the pictures in your otherwise-excellent article won't open, Jim. At least not on my computer.

  • I can't see the pictures.  Strange...

  • Many years ago, heard Chuck Jones make the claim that the Radio City seats were being wet on the first appearance of the beloved dwarves, not during any scary parts. Something about electrical wiring. Anyway, it was part of his response to a question about cartoons being too scary or other inappropriate for kids.

  • im gest go to school

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