Post #5: A Complex Disney Villain

6 Mar

Disney movies tend to be fairly simple. There’s always the clear cut good guy, and always the clear cut bad guy. Maleficent, Jafar, Scar, Lady Tremaine, they all had very clear intentions and all were clearly evil.

This is why I was so impressed by Treasure Planet. The reimagining of Treasure Island featured all of the characters that we knew from the classic novel, including the villainous pirate, Long John Silver.

In most Disney movies and in the usual Disney formula, Long John Silver could have been a prototypical bad guy. He could have been shown to be pure evil, manipulative, and made to truly be hated by the audience. And yet, Disney actually took a different path with him.

Personally, I liked Long John Silver. He was a fun character to watch and within the story, had a lot of redeeming qualities. I thought this was interesting coming from Disney, as it was the first time that they gave us a villain that wasn’t truly evil.

On the contrary, you could argue that Long John Silver isn’t evil at all, just opportunistic. Just watch the scenes of him with Jim in the clips below. Not exactly actions you expect from the villain. We’re actually given true emotions from the villain, and actual dilemmas over what they should do and what they want to do. Instead of just blindly being evil, like some of the great villains in the past, Silver was actually incredibly complex.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good old fashioned maniacal bad guy, but that being said, it was a welcome breath of fresh air to finally have a bad guy who made me think and who made me have to judge what I thought of him by the end of the movie.

It’s one of Disney’s lesser known movies, but take a look at Treasure Planet and at the end of it, you tell me, if Long John Silver truly evil, or was he just a good guy with some bad intentions every once in a while?

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7 Responses to “Post #5: A Complex Disney Villain”

  1. andrewmclarty91 March 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    It is really interesting to see a villain be more of a fallen hero rather than some psychopath or murderous monster. I was trying to think of other examples of Disney or other cartoon and the only thing that comes to mind is the evil kid from The Incredibles. All he wanted was to be a sidekick and it ended up driving him mad. I really like the flawed or fallen hero sort of villain because it leaves you feeling bad for them and leaves me conflicted over how I feel about them. I wish Disney would use more of that kind of character type rather than the standard black and white “Bad Guy.”

  2. animusintolife March 25, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who enjoyed this Disney film. This is actually one of my all time favorite animation films. I love the hero with a troubled beginning but shows throughout the film what he’s made of and turns out a good future with great friends and family around him. As well as your point about an “opportunist” bad guy, Long John Silver having a heart and helping Jim really helped this movie along as well, it wouldn’t be half as interesting without the two bantering or struggling together. Since I had seen plenty of movies before this I hadn’t thought of it as a refresh to a gray area villian but I did enjoy all the big and little details that quickly told you he’s not easy to figure out. Long John Silver coddles Morph, his alien “parrot”, is harsh on his crew, sweet talks the captain, and is hurt when Jim refuses his offer to join his crew. He has a pained expression on his face when he has the chance to shoot Jim running away with the map, when Jim tells him off and when they have to part at the end of the film.
    They really show the humanity in Long John Silver, “if you prick us do we not bleed?”, also reminded me of other characters such as the villain in Kung-Fu Panda 2 who talks to the mystic and we see a bit of human emotion and sadness in him. Or in most Miyazaki films such as Princess Mononoke and Naussica, where there is no real “bad guy”, everyone has something to fight for and in one direction they will look “evil” but to another they are justified. I’d like to say that we’re out of the campy and good-or-evil era of film but that seems to fluctuate but I’m glad to see “deeper” villains, who make you question what’s really good or evil.

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