Every great Disney movie is arguably made by its villain – the kind of grandiose, theatrical presence who revels in being as evil as possible. And one surefire way for a Disney antagonist to cement their immortality is via the medium of song.
With Aladdin currently proving a box office success and The Lion King roaring into life on 19th July, we've got Disney on the brain. So we've decided to champion the seven greatest baddie numbers from Disney's canon. After all, who wants to be a hero when you can have fun like these guys?
7. 'Snuff Out the Light' – The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Here's a relatively unusual scenario: a completed and recorded Disney song that ultimately wasn't used in the final edit of the movie. Such was the troubled production of this Aztec mythology-based comedy-adventure, in which many musical concepts fell by the wayside. The end result is a far more lighthearted and flimsy offering than was originally intended, but the film still has its pleasures.
The primary joy is legendary jazz singer Eartha Kitt tearing into the role of sorceress Yzma. Kitt's distinctive voice is heard in the aforementioned Disney villain number 'Snuff Out the Light', which although it was ditched from the movie, remains an entertaining curio.
6. 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' – The Little Mermaid (1989)
This adaptation of the enduring Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale is widely credited with igniting the Disney renaissance period of the 1980s and 1990s, pulling Disney back from the animated doldrums. And it's not hard to see why: the animation is vibrant and colourful, the storytelling plays out on clear, relatable lines and the songs are infectiously entertaining.
In fact, it was the first Disney movie tackled by the duo of composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, whose full-blooded musical numbers were immediately catapulted into the collective consciousness. The Little Mermaid won the two men their first batch of Oscars (they would later win for both Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin), and the archetypal 'I've got a plan song' for evil sea witch Ursula sums up their skill in this arena. It's the kind of thunderous extravaganza that makes us realise Disney villains have all the fun.
5. 'Gaston' – Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Beauty and the Beast may hinge on one of Disney's most tender love stories, the unlikely union between a bookish girl and the animalistic monster who bears a compassionate heart. But the show is stolen from right under their noses, in both the 1991 animation and the 2017 live-action remake, by the villain of the piece known as Gaston.
The absurdly puffed-up Gaston fancies himself as heroine Belle's would-be suitor – if only he had brains to go with his impressive muscles. But Gaston is no mere joke – towards the end of the movie he reveals his nasty side when he leads an attack on the beast's castle, eventually engaging him in a fight to the death. And his ruthless, narcissistic nature is reinforced during his own self-titled tune, one benefiting from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's typically sly lyrics: "When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs/Every morning to help me get large/And now that I'm grown I eat five dozen eggs/So I'm roughly the size of a barge!"
4. 'The World's Greatest Criminal Mind' – The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Legendary horror actor Vincent Price once claimed that the role of Disney villain Ratigan was the most fun he'd had in his career. A high compliment indeed when you consider his extraordinary career, including genre classics like Roger Corman's The Masque of the Red Death and Matthew Hopkins's disturbing Witchfinder General.
Price's signature theatrical presence is put to excellent use in this underrated Disney movie, an anthropomorphic take on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Ratigan is, as his name suggests, a rat variation on classic Holmes nemesis Moriarty – one in constant denial about his true rodent identity. The Conan Doyle references come thick and fast in the movie, including a Big Ben showdown that riffs on Holmes and Moriarty's showdown at the Reichenbach Fall, and Price's wickedly entertaining 'The World's Greatest Criminal Mind' cements Ratigan's status as a classic baddie.
3. 'Friends on the Other Side' – The Princess and the Frog (2009)
A Disney song dealing with voodoo? Never underestimate the studio's often audacious way of dealing with creepy subjects that are decidedly not appropriate for children. Yet the genius of this Randy Newman-penned tune, performed with great verve by voice actor Keith David, is how it operates on the surface level as a creepy yet entertaining show tune for the kiddies, while the grown-ups grasp its truly sinister implications.
The piece arises when the seductive Dr Facilier lures Prince Naveen and his manservant Lawrence into his schemes, showing them each a prosperous vision of their future. Upon shaking Facilier's hand, they find themselves bound to an evil pact, the imagery of skulls and assorted voodoo imagery offering a startling twist on the usual Disney villain showstopper. And David's energetic vocal performance means that Facilier, for all his evil schemes, is one of those baddies you can't help but love.
2. 'Hellfire' – The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
This adaptation of Victor Hugo's seminal novel remains a bravely adult and dark entry from the tail-end of Disney's renaissance period. Unashamedly embracing ideas of infanticide, isolation, religious mania and sexuality within the confines of a family animation, Hunchback's reputation has grown in stature over the years.
The grown-up nature of the story allows for a richer soundscape in terms of Alan Menken's score and original songs. This becomes especially apparent in the song for Frollo (Tony Jay), the ruthless keeper of eponymous hunchback Quasimodo (Tom Hulce). The song's fire and brimestone meaning, teasing Frollo's own anxieties and self-doubts, make it arguably the most thoughtful Disney number of the period.
1. 'Be Prepared' – The Lion King (1994)
Although the recent live-action Aladdin remake denied Marwan Kenzari's Jafar the chance to belt out 'Prince Ali', we still have hope for this July's The Lion King. Composer Hans Zimmer and songwriters Elton John and Tim Rice all return for Jon Favreau's CGI-laden remake, and with them several classic songs, including 'Circle of Life'.
It's still unclear whether the remake will include evil Scar's signature tune 'Be Prepared'. For all the original movie's showier numbers, the witty and deliciously sophisticated lyrics of this calypso-infused number help cement Jeremy Irons' scheming uncle character as possibly the greatest Disney villain of all. In fact, Irons got so into the line "You won't get a sniff without me" that he ruptured his voice before completing the song, meaning Disney regular Jim Cummings had to step in and finish it.
Will Chiwetel Ejiofor's revised take on the character allow for such an opportunity?
What are your favourite Disney villain songs? Let us know @Cineworld.