Disney In Depth: Book Review: Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil
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Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil
By Jen Darcy
Publisher: Disney Editions
Release date: July 12, 2016

A compendium of Disney’s deliciously devilish baddies, Jen Darcy‘s latest book is a display of animated tyranny from both Disney and Pixar animation.

Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil is a who’s who look-through of wickedness with a plethora of imagery and behind-the-scenes details for those who want to know the ins and outs of antagonists.

Each villain featured displayed includes basic details, such as the release date of the film he or she starred in, directors, the voice talent(s) of the individual, and the animators primarily responsible for the character. Reference footage that animators used for depicting the villain are shown, too, as in the case of Hans Conried acting as both Captain Hook’s voice actor and physical performer. One of my favorite set of pages reveal some of Disney’s best vocal talent who provided roles for multiple characters, both good and bad. Yes, Verna Felton is responsible for both the kindly Fairy Godmother and less than heartwarming Queen of Hearts.

What constitutes a villain, though? This question emerges when identifying some relatively minor characters that Darcy and the Disney Editions team decided to incorporate. Who would have ever thought of Aunt Sarah (the owner of the disastrous cats Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp)? Apparently this counts. Even some cartoon short baddies from decades’ past are not forgotten. Remember Butch the bulldog from Pluto shorts from the 1940s? He gets a page, too. Even the sidekicks, both core ones like Flotsam and Jetsam from The Little Mermaid, as well as the forgettable Acer and Grem from Cars 2 – seriously, who were these guys? – get a page. Henchmen get a page as well, though some of them, including Mr. Smee and Kronk, could have easily taken over a page from the villains who snatched many pages each. Sorry, Ursula. Robotic Disney villains come in all shape and forms, such as Auto, the ship’s nefarious computer from WALL-E, and horrible headwear Doris from Meet the Robinsons.

The beauty of Disney Villains is that it not only remains limited to Disney depictions of the villain within a classic animated feature, but rather extends to showing photographs of other studios’ takes on the character. Concept art, such as drawings of initial thoughts of what the villain should resemble, come plentiful, too. Side features that provide context on villains’ songs and their animators, among others, add to the wealth of information already within a compact 192 pages. Darcy’s written style is flavorful and focused. The chapter intros are just as compelling. For instance, Chapter 4 (“Worst of the Worst”) includes the line, “But like an adolescent girl in a 1950s film, audiences cannot help but become seriously smitten with the bad boy – or lady, or even demon, as the case may be.”

What I enjoy most about this title is the attention to detail within Disney’s history of villains and identifying trends. “Villains on Horses” notates the selection of bad guys who used horses, whereas a section on the homes of Disney villains unveil the lairs… and Al’s Toy Barn, of course. Even entire groups of individuals have awful intentions, as indicated on the “Teams of Mean” page that point fingers at everyone from the Festival of Fools crowd from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the Sunnyside Daycare gang from Toy Story 3. Indeed, nobody is immune from being pointed the blame for doing something off color. Even the mistaken individuals obtain a section in the “I’m Not Bad – I’m Just Drawn that Way” chapter. Think of Beast and Quasimodo. Absolutely, appearances are deceptive. Might I suggest a section on protagonists who made a singular stupid decision once in their lives (like Simba, for abandoning his family out of fear of being viewed as responsible for his father’s death)? That could be in the second edition. All kidding aside, the extent to which Darcy ventured to make this a most comprehensive catalogue is admirable.

Perhaps my main complaint of Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil arises from the fact that the text on each villain’s bio is both brief and yet encompasses more space than necessary. Along those lines, a trivial, yet necessary point is that the text is practically double-spaced. Essentially, this means nearly twice as much content could have been inserted – through reducing a smudge of the size of the imagery, had the text been tighter. The editorial choices made to include a bunch of pictures and such large imagery are fine, but then again, this is not an art book per se. Other sections that are not centered on individual villains, such as a full five pages for villains within the Disney theme parks, have more crunched text. The book would have overall benefited from following the same structure.

Villains are categorized according to a mix of themes, including motives, animals, and even those who came as surprises as being notorious. My favorite title: “All in the Family.” Basically, what it comes to show is that evil sometimes descends from within (one’s family, that is). An index of all of the characters in alphabetical order serves as an easy reference for the reader who wants to quickly find everyone from the Army of Cards in Alice in Wonderland to Zurg from Toy Story 2.

Disney Villains has character and flair for all the right reasons. It enhances our adoration for the Disney bad guys and gals through offering a pretty thorough overview. No way is there enough room here to dive into the villains’ backstories, the slew of challenges to create them, or even to depict all stages of the design process. But what Disney Villains does in its compilation is a wickedly good exercise in familiarizing the unacquainted with the antagonists, as well exciting those who know all of Maleficent’s lines by heart.

Grade: A-

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.

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