My kids are right at that age where Disney movies are the best. They have their favorites, and want to watch them over and over again. The result of this is that I think about Disney movies a lot. Not because I have a particular interest in them, but because I’m exposed to them so often that they have permeated my subconscious.
As I was letting my mind wander one day, I found myself thinking about Disney villains. I started wondering what each villain was really about. I started connecting the villains to the seven deadly sins. Some of the connections were so obvious that I figured the character traits were intentional, while others I really had to stretch my rationale. Some of the sins had a blatantly obvious villain. For others there were two good examples.
Anyway, here’s what I came up with:
Pride: Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
This was, by far, the easiest villain to come up with. Gaston has an entire song dedicated to how wonderful he is. He expects everyone to agree with him about everything, and people do. When confronted with someone who doesn’t fawn over him, Belle, it seems to push him into madness. Not only that, but Gaston is a personification of the Proverb “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” often misquoted as “Pride goeth before the fall.” Gaston’s end is literally falling to his destruction. I have to believe that all this was intentional and the writers purposefully made Gaston the embodiment of pride.
Wrath: Gantu (Lilo and Stitch) or Clayton (Tarzan)
It was a little more difficult to find a villain that was really motivated by wrath more than anything else. Gantu seemed to fit the best. He pursued Stitch out of professional obligation, but the anger he displayed during that pursuit was his own. His wrath compromised his judgement and he ultimately violated the laws he was supposed to uphold.
Clayton was the other possibility for wrath. He’s another villain who gets so angry at the protagonist without any real cause. Once Tarzan leads the humans to his gorilla family, Clayton has won. He has his prize, and he isn’t romantically interested in Jane, so there’s no jealousy. If Clayton’s anger didn’t get the better of him, it’s likely he would have gotten everything he wanted. Instead, he spitefully imprisons Tarzan and then seeks vengeance when Tarzan frees the gorillas. His death comes at his own hands when he rages at Tarzan and becomes ensnared by vines, finally cutting off his own support.
Sloth: Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
I had to think about this one for a while. The primary motivation for sloth is the lack of motivation, and there aren’t many Disney villains that don’t want anything. Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, is one of the few villains that fits that category. Her whole existence is centered around doing as little as possible. Cinderella does the cooking and cleaning because Lady Tremaine is too lazy to even go out and hire help. She pushes her daughters to do whatever they can to attract the prince because it would ensure her a life of luxury without any real effort on her part. The only work she does throughout the entire movie is walking up the stairs to lock Cinderella in her room.
Envy: Evil Queen (Snow White)
There are quite a few villains who could fall into this category. Scar from The Lion King, Edgar from The Aristocats, Jafar from Aladdin, and so on. Mostly these villains are in some position of power, but see the protagonist getting something more, and they want it for themselves. The Evil Queen is different, though. She has all the power. Snow White is just a girl, and doesn’t have any power or authority. The Queen is just envious that Snow White is the fairest. She doesn’t attempt to better herself, so she simply tries to take away the gift Snow White has. She even knows that she can’t keep it for herself. The Queen sees that Snow White has something she can’t have, so she tries to destroy it rather than let another person have more than she does.
Lust: Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Lust is a sin about possession. Specifically, it’s about controlling another person’s body. Choosing Claude Frollo as the exemplary villain was about as easy as choosing Gaston to represent pride. Frollo does not love Esmeralda, he lusts after her. His desire for her is purely selfish. It’s about taking her and having her satisfy his needs. He has no desire to care for her, meet her needs, or see her happy. All he wants is to satiate himself by using her. Part of what makes Judge Frollo the perfect representation of lust is that he’s fully aware of the consequences of his actions, but let’s his passions supersede his reason and convictions.
Greed: Madame Medusa (The Rescuers) or Prince John (Robin Hood)
This sin is connected with the next one since they’re both about accumulation or possessions. I’m going to be pretty specific here and say that greed is specifically about wealth. Using that definition, Madame Medusa is possibly the greediest Disney villain. Her fixation on the Devil’s Eye, the largest diamond in the world, is enough to drive her to kidnapping an orphan girl and psychologically torturing her into retrieving it.
Prince John is the other option here. I considered adding Prince John in the envy section since he does focus a lot on living up to his brother Richard, but his greed is so much more apparent in the movie. John impoverishes the entire town of Nottingham, just to increase his own wealth. He sleeps with money bags, he counts his money to cheer himself up, and he recklessly burn down his castle when he tries to prevent Robin from taking the last of his gold. I’m not convinced that greed is his primary motivation for his villainy, but it’s easily the most visible.
Gluttony: Cruella DeVil (101 Dalmations)
This was by far the hardest character to find. Gluttony, like greed, is about obtaining possessions. Usually, gluttony is about food, which could make Winnie the Pooh the most gluttonous Disney character, but I didn’t see any villains that fit that definition. So for my purposes, I’m saying that gluttony is the embodiment of excess. By broadening the definition, then Cruella DeVil becomes a glutton. She always desires more. There’s no specific mention of her being primarily fond of wealth, just things. She legitimately purchases many of the puppies she has hidden away, but steals the rest. The acquisition is the goal, regardless of the method. I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but I think she fits.