Podzilla 1985

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Musical Monolog - The Disney Villain's Birthright


Not to toot my own horn, but if there is one thing I know it's Disney songs. There are very few songs that I don't know by heart and can identify after just a few notes. Then again I've also made it a point over the years to have copies of all the soundtracks, be it digital MP3 files and cd's or the classic vinyl albums and cassettes of old. One of my prized pieces is a vinyl copy of the "Sleeping Beauty" soundtrack that my college roommates gave me as a gift.

Of all the songs Disney has produced over the years I always find myself drawn to the Villains' songs. Their monologs to music, be it praising themselves or spouting out their master plans, have always been memorable moments. I've seen several best of lists out there, but this time it's my turn. My basis for this list is not only the quality of the song but the visuals that go along with it. That instant that the character starts singing and you know they are the force of evil at work. Music and color are the keys to emotional impact in animation and the following songs all demonstrate this.

With no further ado I give you my top ten Disney villain songs.....


10: "My Lullaby" - Lion King 2: Simba's Pride.

Ok, ok, hold your lashings until I have time to explain. Yes I usually ignore all of the direct to video sequels and most I refuse to accept they even exist. Lion King 2, however, I actually enjoyed. Zira's song "My Lullaby" brings across her desire to take revenge for Scar's death. Her dreams of conquest are what keep her going, despite having been exiled with the rest of Scar's followers. It has a feel of "Be Prepared" even if it is less epic. I love the line "Oh the battle my be bloody, but that kinda works for me." The end of the song has the biggest impact to me with the termites swarming around the hives as the sun sinks into the horizon.

9: "Mother Knows Best" - Tangled

When I first saw this I couldn't help but snicker at it's over the top Broadway imitation, and yet then leaving the theater it was the song I found myself humming. I love that they blacked out the back ground so it really has that live theater feel and makes you focus on Mother Gothel's manipulation of Rapunzel. All she can see is the world the witch provides her. Gothel's expressions really sell this number for me. My favorite is when she has the death look when she says "the Plague" and then flips a switch going into a Cheshire grin without a bat of the eye.

8: "The Mob Song" - Beauty and the Beast

I know most people would choose "Gaston" as the main villain song from Beauty and the Beast, but this one speaks more to me. You have Gaston using his manipulation of the people to form not so much an angry mob but one terrified for their safety and set on killing a creature they don't understand. Gaston judges the beast on his looks alone rather than his nature and works everyone into a frenzy. Your typical monster movie mob scene unfolds, as they trek through the woods to the castle.

7: "Pink Elephants on Parade" - Dumbo

I'm probbaly going to get crap for this choice too. It might not be a true villain song, but it's the moment in Dumbo that terrified millions of children. It probbaly freaked me out when I was little too, but at the same time it was the part of the movie that I remembered the most. This surreal segment of the movie is the drunken nightmare Dumbo is experiencing after his failure in the circus. Chaos is the purist form of evil after all. It does just kind of get silly after the creature made of elephant heads, but you can't help but watch the vibrant colors against the dark back drop.

6: "The Oogie Boogie Song" - The Nightmare Before Christmas

I love that this entire segment is lit with black light. It's such a pallet change from the muddy tones of Halloweentown. Though I think Santa looks more confused than scared through all of it. Oogie's song is really just all about him and letting his victim know he's in charge of all lives present. His gambling nature makes you feel like you have a chance, but you'll learn that this boogieman is a poor looser. So if you find yourself in his grasp you'd better say your farewells.

5: "Hellfire" - The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This song strikes a chord with adults, which is also part of why Hunchback had parents in an uproar when it it released. You can't touch on religion, sex and murder without pissing off the right wingers. Frollo admits that he's having thoughts of sin, but he still places blame else where. His reasoning being that if Esmeralda become his all will be forgiven, but if she refuses then she must die. She must burn for her sins to free him from his. Whole tone of this segment just weighs down on you. The animators did an amazing job on this, the range of emotion and the transition fro one to another is superb.

4: "Savages" - Pocahontas

I adore  the contrast of colors in this song. The crisp reds and blues push against each other and give off an energy the seems fueled by the characters hate for one another. Another great song out of misunderstanding and general human ignorance. Each group preparing for war get's etched into your mind as the play on colors switches between the two. One of the most powerful images I think is when the natives are marching John Smith off to his death, and the image of Ratcliff and his men is projected on the waterfall behind them. I recently re-watched this movie and this was the song that stayed stuck in my head for a few days.

3: "Poor Unfortunate Souls" - The Little Mermaid

This is my favorite villain song. So why isn't it at the top of the list? Ursula is an amazing villain with wonderful showmanship, but parts of this segment slow down a bit. I love her magic and manipulation to get Ariel to agree to the deal. I will belt this song out every time I play it, well when I'm by myself any ways..... It just has an amazing flare to it. I love all of the color changes with her magic and the green clawed fingers that capture Ariel's voice are to die for. Like any great pitchman Ursula get's her sale in the end.

2: "Friends on the Other Side" - The Princess and the Frog

Speaking of true showmanship Dr. Facilier is just that. True this number has a long build up but the story telling is all worth it for final shebang. I love all the crazy colors and showiness of the voodoo magic. It's so fast pace you get swept up in it with the prince and before you know it, you're in over your head. 

Finally we'll come full circle with number 1...

1: "Be Prepared" - The Lion King

This scene gave me chills in the theater. I wasn't old enough to get all of the Nazi references, but I knew without a doubt that Scar was evil and nothing more. The song is catchy and rather upbeat but  filled with darkness and a craving for power. I appreciate the lyricist for using big words even though kids wouldn't know what they meant. It gives you something to discover as you get older. Scar is a true master of manipulation. He hardly has to do any of his own dirty work. The changes in color tones are my favorite part of this. We start out with eerie greens as Scar lurks about plotting and changes to vibrant yellows as he promises conquest and rewards to his army of halfwits. Finally reds and oranges burst out with his anger and passion for his plan and slowly fade to the dark blues of night as the number fades out over the elephant graveyard. Love it. Scar isn't my favorite Disney villain but his song is visually the best. Thus he has the number one spot on this list. Though it's only a matter of time until a new villain comes waltzing in and shakes things up.
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