Thursday, June 8, 2017

MY 8TH FAVORITE DISNEY VILLAIN

JAFAR



FROM ALADDIN

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

It's funny that my next favorite villain after Gaston would be Jafar, and why you may ask? Well because Jafar was literally the next animated Disney villain during the Renascence to appear after Gaston, which I assure you is a complete coincidence and something that I just realized when I created this list. Sure Jafar is a much more traditional Disney villain when compared to Gaston, but there's just so much that I enjoy about him compared to Disney's previous villain, that I had to put him a bit higher on the list.



For starters when I saw this film for the first time during my pre-elementary school years, I was scared by Jafar's introduction so much that I couldn't even get to the hilarious musical number of Aladdin out running the Royal Guards. The image of Jafar standing in the shadows with a cold stare at first kept me unease, until we see the thief who doesn't look too friendly either (not to mention that we discover that he slid a few throats to get what Jafar was after). Jafar soon reveals that the item that the thief stole and killed for, is part of a Golden Scarab Beetle that flies off, and reveals the Cave of Wonders. And for something as enchanting as a magical Cave, and a bright golden beetle sounds, it's still treated just as dark as the atmosphere for the scene. The way Jafar puts both pieces of the beetle together to then chasing after it is intense, considering the fact that he has a "dark purpose" as the narrator described. And once the cave is revealed, it doesn't at all look whimsical, it's a spirit in the form of a giant tiger head with glowing white eyes, and the voice of Dr. Claw from "Inspector Gadget" (THE CARTOON of course). Furthermore, the Cave eats the thief when he enters since he's not the one person that is allowed to enter, and dies! After witnessing all that, and not really getting the chance to watch Jafar's parrot sidekick Iago express is comedic side after the thief's death, I was done with the movie, and didn't watch it again until the 2nd grade when the game "Kingdom Hearts" came out and made me want to give it another chance. And it doesn't help either that I began to have a nightmare or two of this scene. I can still remember going from a cutesy dream, to suddenly being trapped in a cave with red hot fires and smoke (similar to the fires in the opening credits) of Jafar and thief staring at me in the darkness. Looking back at the scene again, it doesn't scare me as much as it did when I was younger, but it's still one of the very few dark scenes in the movie, that perfectly introduces our main villain.



Jafar's design is one of thee best designs that Disney has ever come up with, that I found to be scary as a very little kid, and cool for how evil he looks when I started giving the film another try. Yes it looks like a rip-off of the villain Zigzag the Grand Vizier from "The Thief and The Cobbler", and the wizard from "The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland", but I still don't care for how awesome and scary he looks, with that tall pointy turban and red feather held by a ruby, that twisted goatee, that long face, those evil eyes, and having a tall and thin body as he wears a villainous outfit drenched with red, black, and a little bit of yellow, complete with him wearing a long cape, and carrying a golden ruby eyed snake staff. God is that design so cool! It's been said that Jafar's design was based on Maleficent, and yeah I can totally see that. It's almost as if Maleficent took Zigzag and the wizard and blended their designs together, and added a bit of her own looks to create Jafar. And in many respects Jafar is kind of a male version of Maleficent if she was Middle Eastern, since they both perform spells, can change their appearance into giant monsters, and having a faithful pet by their side; but I'm getting ahead of myself. Adding to Jafar's sinister presence is the voice that Jonathan Freeman provides for him, that sounds eerie and very "snake-like". It's just a cool and yet chilling voice that helps make him come across as a frightening and sophisticated villain. And yet as menacing as he sounds, he still is given scenes for him to be as colorful as the other characters are, and provide a few funny lines (which I'll point out later).

 

When we first met Jafar, we knew that he's seeking a lamp to help make him powerful, but we don't know if he's a sorcerer or a bandit, and when we see him again, we meet him at the most unlikely location for a villain of his type, and that's in the palace. And no he isn't the ruler of the city of Agrabah, or lives in a dark palace surrounded by henchmen who want to see him rise to power like other villains before him. No, he’s a royal vizier for the Sultan, who he has served loyally for years. And just like how we met him in the shadows, here, he casts a shadow over the Sultan, and stands there smiling villainously in a dimly lit environment that's consumed by the color red. Though having a design that screams out for you to beware because he's the bad guy, the Sultan being the kind but naive doofus that he is doesn't see that since Jafar is always seen to be kissing up to him to maintain his trust so he won't suspect him to be stabbed in the back, which you can tell that Jafar hates, especially when being threatened by Princess Jasmine when all he can do is laugh at her threats, than fight back. But that doesn't stop him from insulting them, or getting them to bust in subtle ways for him to still maintain his position in royalty. When he does interact with the Sultan, he does find ways to talk down to him and push him around as if he were a child (though in all fairness, he almost is) without him realizing it. And when Jasmine demands Aladdin to be free after Jafar imprisons him, he lies to her by telling her that he's dead so that she won't interfere with his plan, and to enjoy her cry in a pool of tears. But words aren't the only thing Jafar uses against the Sultan and Jasmine. Jafar is seeking power, but he does carry a few tricks since he practices sorcery in a hidden room in the palace. He has a machine that can create lightning to show him what he wants to see inside of a giant hour glass (instead of a crystal ball). And uses his golden snake staff to hypnotize the Sultan to do his bidding's.

Image result for Iago and jafar

However, Jafar doesn't always need to manipulate, or hypnotize the Sultan to get what he wants, because he's assisted by his cynical talking pet parrot Iago. There were many different ideas and interesting casting choices for this angry sidekick. They were going to make him a classy but yet snobby character with a British accent; were considering Danny DeVito to voice him; and even getting the actor voicing Jafar to voice his sidekick as well.  But eventually Disney decided to hire comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who I swear was destined to voice this character. He fits this role so perfectly and naturally that it's hard for me to picture any of the original casting choices for the character because of that parrot like voice that Gottfried is known for, whether you love it or downright despise it. With Robin Williams as the Genie being the number 1 funniest character in the movie, Iago for my money is the second funniest character. He gets almost the same amount of laugh out lines as Williams does, mainly revolving around his sarcastic comments (his reaction towards the thief not being the one to enter the cave; and the Sultan's good judge of character). His struggles of pretending to act like an ordinary parrot (especially when the Sultan stuffs moldy crackers down his throat) are delivered and animated hysterically. The amount of abuse that he suffers from all the characters in the film (including his master) never fail to bring a laugh, for how sudden, painful, and exaggerated they are. The chemistry that he shares with his master is always fun to watch for how different their personalities are, and the funny reactions and dialogue that they share together (my favorite being their reaction to a possible beheading). And just like the visual gags that the Genie poofs-up, as well as Williams' ad-libbing, he too provides a some of those comedic aspects occasionally, most notably in the scene when Iago is getting ready to pack light by throwing all  the weapons that he has out of his cage (that could not possibly fit), and wondering if he should keep a picture of him standing on Jafar's shoulder because of the face he’s making (an ad-libbed line that couldn’t make Robin Williams stop laughing). Needless to say Iago is as hilarious as a Disney villain's sidekick can get, but with that said, there is more to the character than just being someone who just praises his master, and constantly suffers his abuse. But I'll dive more into that later.



And just when you think carrying some magical powers, blindly pushing around the Sultan, and having a talking a parrot isn't enough to help Jafar with his goals to seek the lamp to reach his position to power, the Royal Guards that patrol the streets of Agrabah take direct orders from him. We barely see Jafar interact with them in the film, mainly since they spend most of their screen-time trying to catch Aladdin for the food and items that he stole. But they are still loyal to Jafar, and have no problems carrying out his orders, no matter how unethical they are (especially the Captain). The guards have their share of funny moments in terms of slapstick, but the biggest laughs for me come from the scene when their dancing as Aladdin as a Prince arrives; and when their Captain reminds them they all got swords, after when the others freaked over Aladdin's pet monkey Abu having one.

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With powers and minions aside, Jafar also is a master of disguise. When he has the guards imprison Aladdin, he disguises himself as an old prisoner to persuade Aladdin to come with him to the Cave of Wonders. There are few things that stand out to me as pure awesome villainy during his scenes as the old prisoner. The first one being his design. It's the classic crazy old man in rags and long beard with a wooden cane design, that gives him a hunchback, a wild eye, hideous rotten teeth with a golden tooth, and an eccentric personality and voice that comes-off just as chilling as Jafar's regular speaking voice, with the same amount of dark imagery that Jafar's first seen had. It's just as cool as Jafar's regular design. The scene is also the only time when Jafar persuades one of his foes to do what he asks at their own free will, without using force of any kind. He successfully manages get Aladdin to enter the cave to fetch him the lamp by showing (with his own jewels undoubtedly) and telling him about the untold riches that the cave has that will make him rich and win the heart of the Princess, and helping him escape the dungeon by showing him a secret way out. He doesn't threaten him, or push him to get what he wants, he just uses his dreams and desires as a means to lure him to the cave. But as persuasive as Jafar is, he's not a man of his word. Right when Aladdin is dangling as the cave is collapsing, Jafar demands him to give him the lamp, instead of helping him first. And when he notices Abu rescuing him with his cane after cheering for his victory of finally possessing the lamp, he stops the monkey, and tries to kill Aladdin with a crooked dagger as his reward. One can only guess if Jafar was planning on doing the same thing to the thief at the beginning, not to mention that his death meant absolutely nothing to him. And to top off his design, successful use of persuasion, and being a careless violent backstabber, he gets his funniest moment in the film, which is when he discovers that the lamp is missing after taking off his mask. Just his look of excitement turning into utter disappoint that causes him to shout “NOOOOOO” just kills me every time. I just wonder what Iago was doing after he took off his disguise since he was underneath the rags all this time in pain.



Failing to get the lamp for him to rule, he decides to marry the Princess instead, and then kill her and her Father after he's wed and has power over Agrabah as Sultan. Since Jasmine turned down all her suitors, he goes to the Sultan and takes out a scroll about the law of who the Princess is allowed to marry, until he pauses and makes up that she has to marry the Royal Vizier instead (which I love how he smiles and pretends to look shocked by it). He prevents the Sultan from reading the scroll to see if what he's saying is true, by taking it away and hypnotizing him to marry his daughter, which almost works, if not only for two things. The first being the Sultan resisting the power when he realizes how old Jafar is, which pisses Jafar off and forces him to start the process again, that has me roaring with laughter. And the second is the arrival of Aladdin disguised as a Prince. I love that all throughout the scene of Aladdin posing himself as a Prince, Jafar is desperately trying to find ways to keep the Sultan away from him, by keeping the palace doors closed to only have him crushed (an image that had me scared as a kid, instead of laughing); pushing all of Aladdin's singing and dancing servants out; and pins the magic carpet down to keep the Sultan from riding it. What ticks Jafar off the most isn't just the fact that there's another suitor that stands in his way, and that he can't convince the Sultan otherwise, but suspects something fishy about him, since he's never heard of him, asks him questions that he seems uncomfortable with answering, and looks familiar, all as he's insulting him by mispronouncing his last name Ababwa, with Abooboo.



Since the Sultan and eventually Jasmine take a liking to him, Jafar has the guards tie up the magic carpet to a tree, capture Abu (in his elephant form) in a net, and orders Aladdin to be killed and never be found. And the guards figure what better place to do it, then by going to the ends of the land, and dropping him off a cliff into the ocean, as he's tied to a ball and chain for him to drown to death. OK, seriously, how do these guards still have their job?! I know I'm not counting the sequels as I placed Jafar as my 8th favorite Disney villain, but REALLY, say if we were, HOW DO THESE GUYS STILL WORK AT THE PALACE!? Jafar didn't hypnotize them (their eyes clearly aren't red), and I doubt that they would believe that a Prince with so many servants and gold is a phony (he is, but Jafar doesn't have the evidence to prove it, yet). And on top of it, their victim is alive and knows that they helped aid Jafar to his doom. Sure we never see them again after when they commit this crime, where it seems likely that they are being banished, or beheaded at this point. But yet in the continuity of the sequels they weren't. The Sultan is not the brightest, but by god, he can't be this stupid, nor would Aladdin let them get away with what they did to him. But since I'm not counting the sequels, it doesn't matter, but man does my brain hurt just thinking about it. After when Aladdin is saved by the Genie, and as Jafar is nearly about to marry Jasmine with the use of his snake staff on his Father, Aladdin destroys the staff, tells the Sultan what he's been doing, but Jafar being the smart villain that he is (though for some reason can't see Aladdin under those fancy clothes, when his face is clearly exposed) has a bottle that can make him disappear, and tells him that he's not through with him yet, after discovering the lamp in Aladdin's turban.



OK, now remember when I said that I will later dive into what makes Iago such an important henchmen who isn't just there to be Jafar's comical sidekick, well Jafar's plan of marrying the Princess was all his idea. Even downright to what he should do with "papa in law, and the little lady" once he gains power, and how he should kill them! He presents the idea in a comedic fashion (as well as hurting himself when acting out their death), but it's still a logical and diabolic idea for Jafar's next plan of seizing absolute power, which Jafar happily comments on his idea, rather than stealing credit from him (unlike most villains). But so what, he helps Jafar come out with a scheme that doesn't work, which is probably the only important thing that he does. NOPE! Iago is given the important task to steal the lamp by perfectly mimicking Jasmine's voice as he's disguised as a Flamingo (that attracts another one, by the way) to lure him away, that gives him so much joy for accomplishing this task that he impersonates his master thinking of what he'll say when he gives him the lamp. So keep in mind, Jafar's success of gaining powers is all because of Iago. And that's not the first time Iago has stolen something important, the first thing he ever does in the film is steal part of the golden beetle from the thief to help Jafar find the Cave of Wonders. Iago maybe funny in terms of personality, and in many ways gets abused like any other henchmen, but he's one of the few who can be funny and still do so many important tasks for a villain. And before Disney would just market Iago as a likable jerk in the franchise, he originally was a sadistic little monster that loved seeing the good fall, and watching others suffer through pain or death that gives this comical character the same kind of edge as minions like the Hyenas, Pain and Panic, and Lock, Shock, and Barrel have.



Now with the lamp in his possession he can now make wishes to help him rule the land. When the Genie sees his new master and comically calls him "a tall, dark and sinister ugly man" (best way to describe Jafar's appearance), Jafar not taking any of his comedy crap, nor showing any signs of fear of the Genie's powers, throws him to the ground, stomps his foot over his face, and makes his first wish. Alright now before I talk about his first his wish, let me point this out again. Jafar who is nowhere near as powerful as the Genie, abuses him the same way that he would abuse Iago, with no fear or intimidation of him what-so-ever! That takes major guts! The Genie could easily squish him like a bug if he really wants too, or turn him into something hideous, but since Jafar knows that he serves him now, he doesn't feel the need to treat him with respect, or not violently force him to obey his commands or shut him up if he feels likes it. And doesn't care what the Genie will do to him once he uses all his three wishes, since he's so confident that he's going to make the right wishes. So whether having no powers, or powers that aren't up to par with the Genie's, he'll still show no hesitation of treating the Genie so cruelly, which is part of what make him such an awesome baddie from Disney!



The first wish he makes is to rule high up on the mountains above Agrabah as Sultan. The result of his wish gives him the power to rule Agrabah, with a reluctant Genie looking god-like to move the palace up to the top of the mountains as he spreads fear to the citizens of the city, and Jafar wearing the Sultan's clothes (that I guess the Genie's powers somehow made the clothes adjust to Jafar's size since the Sultan was so small and plump). Iago himself even gets a royal turban for him to wear, while showing joy for Jafar's rise to power as he finally reveals himself to the others who they thought was just a harmless parrot. Jafar finally gaining what he's always wanted acts more cocky and flamboyant than he's ever behaved earlier in the film (my favorite is when he taunts Aladdin with the phrase "finders, keepers" when he realizes his careless mistake), that's over the top enough to make it fun, but still keeping true to his evil nature that makes him threatening for how mad he is with power, that just grows and grows every time he seeks for more. Fun fact about this wish he makes by the way. In the original draft everything you see here happened, but one thing the writers completely left out was that Jafar was going to alter history by having him being the Sultan all along, where Aladdin, Abu, and the Magic Carpet would somehow be immune to this alteration in time, that was cut for being too confusing. It would make his wish to be Sultan not feel that wasted of a wish when he could have easily claimed that right to power in the next form that he takes, but yeah I don't see this plot fitting within the context of the film.



After discovering that Jasmine won't bow to him, and that he could be over-thrown as Sultan with no physical power, he makes his second wish to become "the most powerful sorcerer IN THE WORLD", so that he can use his power to control others and spread fear. Jafar's sorcerer form does look similar to his regular form, but there are indeed a few alterations. His turban is now in the form of horns as the ruby in the center remain, but the feather attached to it is completely absent. And his new snake staff has its mouth opened instead of being closed, that looks as vicious as Jafar is with his new power, which I believe it to symbolize him finally striking his true colors on the Sultan and the city, as his old staff symbolizes him being intimidating but silent, since the snake's mouth was shut. As sorcerer Jafar becomes more powerful, threatening, ruthless, and cooler of a villain than he has ever been in the last two acts now that he is completely mad with power, he can forcefully control people with his beam; make objects and weapons (like swords and fire) appear in a snap; can instantly turn his enemies into either life-less objects, make them less dangerous, or flat out killing them (as he makes one pun after another); and is practically invincible. The best part about him becoming a sorcerer is that he finally gets a song to sing as he changes Aladdin back to a street-rat and sends him off to his supposed doom, and as short as it is, and is probably nowhere near Disney's top five best when it comes to villain songs, it's still fully enjoyable. The song is about Jafar simply taunting Aladdin for what he truly is in front of Jasmine, and Freeman seems to be having a good time singing this song, and selling every second of it with his vocals and personality that he gives to the character. But just when you think Jafar seems demented enough with the powers that now he possesses, just as the song is ending, he out of nowhere turns into this...

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Oh god did this image scare me when I was a kid! His laugh was already scary for how mischievous it was (aside from the time when he realizes that Aladdin has the lamp), but here he's laughing like a lunatic, where his eyes start swirling, lightning strikes, and he casts a shadow over a helpless Jasmine and her Father. And I thought the opening scene with Jafar when I only saw part of the film when I was a kid was the scariest scene in the film.



Much like how later Disney villain Yzma made the Palace her own when she took control, Jafar does the same thing. This once gorgeous looking palace is now drenched with hellish red, as Jafar sits on a throne that's been changed to Cobra to fit his personality instead of an Elephant, as he's surrounded by treasure, watches Iago stuff moldy crackers down the former Sultans throat as his Jester (my favorite scene with Iago), and has Jasmine in a slave outfit serve him. I don't know what took him until this very moment to discover how hot Jasmine is considering that he was originally planning to kill her (maybe it's the outfit, or that he has the power to do whatever he wants) but for a guy as old and evil looking as Jafar is, to try to hit on an underage and innocent beautiful princess like Jasmine is pretty disturbing. The age gap is part of it, but the real reason is how little he thinks of her as a person. All he cares about is her good looks and nothing more, and has no trouble abusing her, acting like a slob in front of her, and wishing to brainwash her to make her a mindless love slave for him. Gaston was pretty similar to that, but the biggest differences compared to him and Jafar are, Jafar was old and devilsh, while Gaston was around Belle's age and handsome. Jafar had magical powers to abuse the girl he wished to have, while Gaston didn't. And above all, Jafar got a little action from Jasmine when she pretend to be in love with him, as Gaston got nothing from Belle! Though they are equally sexist. I mean who could forget Jafar's cruel sexist line to Jasmine "You're speechless, I see. A fine quality in a wife."

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Out of all the forms that Jafar takes, my personal favorite is when he turns himself into a giant snake. When I first saw him slowly transform into one, I was so amazed for how cool it looked, that I had to rewind it once or twice to see it again (which I should note that this is the last time that we ever see Jafar in his sorcerer form). And when I finally saw how big, monstrous, and deadly the snake looked as Aladdin fought against him, I was in absolute awe! The way that this monster is animated and designed is incredible, and is by far the most dangerous obstacle that Aladdin had to fight for how quick, gigantic, and scary he is. And just when you think Jafar dies after being stabbed, he comes back and nearly strangles Aladdin to death in his coils. Above all the great things to come out this form, Jafar was destined to become a snake from the very start, from his snake staff, to how sneaky he is, to how much his voice resembles one. And yes, he does get a hissing voice when he finally changes into one, that's just as terrifying as his normal voice.



Aladdin tells Jafar that the Genie is more powerful than he is, and that he'll always be "second best" as long as the Genie is around. Upon realizing this, Jafar makes his third and final wish to become an "all powerful Genie". When he transforms into one, he turns into a Genie that looks similar to the devil Satan with his black goatee, hell red body, and bright yellow sharp teeth and lifeless eyes, speaking in a godly voice. What makes matters worse is, now that he has the powers of a Genie, he can now rule the universe.

At this point, I would say that this his Jafar's best and most powerful form that upstages all his other forms if not for one important detail. He's a Genie.



He maybe as powerful as a god, but just like all other Genies, he's a prisoner of the lamp that he's attached too, and will remain in there until wished to be freed (along with Iago). Some would find his downfall to be anti-climactic, but I think it's perfect. Jafar motivation is power, and he will go through all the ranks of power until the world is trembling at his feet. And just when he has all the powers known to man, he fails to realize that he's wishing for imprisonment for the rest of his life, instantly regretting his wish after discovering this important fact, when he could have simply ruled Agrabah with the powers that he already possessed from his second wish. It's his lust for power that contributes to his downfall, that I find to be a more poetic way for this villain to go, rather than killing him like most of the other Disney villains, making him one of the few to still live. Oh and if this design reminds you of someone else, well that's because the Genie took that form earlier in the film to describe his powers (in a cosmic background) before showing his imprisonment in the lamp, which Aladdin uses the Genie's exact words when he imprisons Jafar. So the film has a little foreshadowing to Jafar's defeat as well.

What is there not to praise about Jafar as Disney villain, he practically has all the qualities of a perfect Disney villain. He’s scary, ruthless, funny, and sophisticated. His design is intimidating. His hunger for power never seizes until he rules everything. Every different form he takes are cool and threatening in every way.  The powers and skills that he possesses help make him such a challenge for our hero to defeat. And his comical henchman is just as slimy as he is. He is just truly an awesome villain from an awesome movie!

"I think it's time to say goodbye to Prince Abooboo"
-Jafar