There are generally four types of evil Disney characters, and despite their lack of official labels or names, each of these have become archetypes in popular culture. There’s the Disguised Evil, whose evil is masked by a superficial layer of beauty and charm; they are usually depicted as brave, beautiful or handsome, and with a potential for heroism that is squandered and twisted until it becomes outright villainy (think Brom Bones or Gaston).
Then there’s the Disguised Evil’s polar opposite, the Blatant Evil Disney characters, whose evil is visually advertised through grotesque physical features (think of the harsh facial features of Jafar or Scar, the extreme filthiness of the redneck family in Pete’s Dragon, or the outright physical deformities of Captain Hook and the Headless Horseman).
There’s also the Minor Evil – a bumbling sidekick often used for comic relief, and sometimes even cute. Such evil Disney characters (think Iago the Parrot, or Gurgi from The Black Cauldron) are rarely direct threats to the sympathetic characters, and are more often either mere annoyances, or even completely ineffectual.
Perhaps most terrifying of all to younger kids is the Inhuman Evil – demons (Fantasia), dragons (Sleeping Beauty), and other monstrous creatures whose physical resemblance to humanity is passing at best, and often absent entirely.
Ever since the Queen transformed herself into an old witch in Disney’s very first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney Pictures has made a habit of presenting one type of evil, and transforming it into another. (The beautiful Maleficent becomes an inhuman dragon in Sleeping Beauty, the inhuman Ursula becomes the beautiful Vanessa in The Little Mermaid, etc.)
Enchanted, which simultaneously pokes fun at traditional Disney evil film while also using them as sincere story aids in telling a romantic comedy, utilizes all of these traditional Disney depictions of evil.
The movie starts out as a traditional Disney evil film, featuring beautiful princess Giselle and dashing, handsome Prince Edward. Both characters fit into their now standardized roles comfortably.
Their homeland of Andalasia is ruled by Edward’s wicked stepmother, Queen Narissa, whose reign is due to end if Edward ever marries. To keep Edward and Giselle apart, the queen (an example of Disguised Evil Disney characters, as she is beautiful, polite, treacherous, and, for much of the film, unknown by the other characters to be evil) transforms herself into a more Blatant Evil, a grotesque hag. Significantly, both versions of the Queen’s appearance are nearly identical to first feature-length Disney villain, the Queen from Snow White, who also disguised herself as an ugly old woman; to the viewer’s trained eye, both old women resemble what we think of as a witch.
Before Edward and Giselle can wed, the witch shoves Giselle into a magical well, which transports her into the modern-day (and no longer animated) New York City. Interestingly, this plot twist forces an alteration of genre onto the film: what had begun as a potential standard story of good vs. evil in the classic Disney evil tradition now shifts gears, and becomes both a “fish out of water” story (as Giselle, and later, other characters who follow her from Andalasia to NYC, adjust to life in a modern-day city) and a formulaic romantic comedy (as Giselle, ostensibly in love with Edward, falls into a more honest kind of love with divorce attorney Robert).
When Edward also goes to New York, in search of his intended bride, the Queen sends her bumbling sidekick Nathaniel to keep Edward and Giselle apart, and eventually to even kill Giselle through the Snow White witch’s favorite device, poison apples.
Throughout the other characters’ adventures in New York, the Queen keeps an eye on it all through crystal balls and witches’ pots. Ever since the original Queen’s infamous Magic Mirror in Snow White, such objects of clairvoyance have become a sort of Disney short-hand for evil symbols; in addition to the queens of Snow White and Enchanted, the Horned King, Ursula, and Jafar have also used objects of clairvoyance to spy on the heroes and even their own underlings. (The Queen of Enchanted does both.)
Of the two Disney villains in Enchanted, the sidekick gets considerably more screen time than the Queen. Although he manages to be a recurring thorn in the side of the sidekick chipmunk Pip, Nathaniel, true to form of the Minor Evil Disney characters, repeatedly fails in his primary task, to kill Giselle with the Queen’s poison apples. Despite his repeated attempts to kill Giselle, Nathaniel turns out to be a very Minor Evil indeed, when he eventually realizes that he doesn’t like himself, that his distaste is due to his wicked ways, and that he’s better off turning against the Queen and standing up for the heroes of the Disney evil film.
In the climax of the film, which returns to its “good vs. evil” roots, Nathaniel’s betrayal – as well as her own failure to kill Giselle and thwart Edward – motivates the Queen to transform herself into a dragon, reminiscent of Melficient’s nearly identical transformation in Sleeping Beauty. (The dragons even look similar.) Through the witch’s transformation into a dragon, Enchanted completes its task of depicting all four major subtypes of traditional Disney villains: the Disguised Evil (the Queen in her original form), the Blatant Evil (the Queen disguised as the ugly witch), the Minor Evil (Timothy Spall as the bumbling, ineffectual Nathaniel), and now the most physical threat, the Inhuman Evil (the Queen transformed into the dragon).
The ending of the good vs. evil movie depicts the only two possible outcomes for Disney villains, each depending entirely on their own moral choices. Minor Evil Nathaniel abandons evil, betrays the Queen, and is thus rewarded with a happy ending. The Queen, on the other hand, finally abandons all pretense of normality, tries to kill the heroes, and is herself killed as a result (in a typically
Cast Autographed 11×17 Framed Post
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