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Monday, June 26, 2017

MY 7TH FAVORITE DISNEY VILLAIN

URSULA



FROM "THE LITTLE MERMAID"

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

Much like Jafar, Ursula was a villain who I loved for how crazy and over the top evil she was, to the point where my Brother Jesse and I would quote her as kids and makes jokes about her. But as much as we loved how fun of a villain she is, she also scared me so much as a kid for her twisted personality, and ugly and demented looks that I was not only afraid to watch a few certain scenes of the movie, but during my trips to Disney I would refuse to go on any Disney attractions that was "Little Mermaid" related since I know that I would be seeing her. This was obviously before the ride "Ariel's Undersea Adventure", when the only attraction that was related to the film was the show "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" that would have a giant Ursula puppet on stage. But the funny thing about it is, I thought the Submarine ride "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was based on the film when I was a kid, because it had the title "Under the Sea" like the famous song from the movie, and it involved Mermaids, when in reality the ride had nothing to do with the film, which I still regret to this day for not riding it. And the irony of it is that the ride is now replaced with a “Little Mermaid" ride that has a huge animatronic of Ursula that would have scared me greatly as a kid. So what exactly do I love and fear about Ursula?




Well the first two scenes with Ursula definitely give us a big clue of what a wild and shady villain that she is. When she first enters the film, we see her sitting in the darkness of a giant shell that's used as a throne and (possibly) bed, watching a bubble above her cauldron of Ariel and Flounder swimming back home, and taunting them with such an eerie voice about hurrying home to King Triton's celebration (Oooohhhh BAAAHHHHH, one of the most priceless lines from Ursula). We then cut inside the shell of live shrimp cowering and trying to get away from Ursula's hand as she devours one of them and sits there reminiscing about the feasts that she used to have when she lived in King Triton's palace. We still don't see her fully yet, we're just focused on her hands holding the poor piece shrimp and see her lips talking and eating it up close, making her one of the very few Disney villains to eat something alive. Afterwards we cut to seeing Ursula coming into the light exposing how fat and ugly she is, talking about (in a not so sympathetic fashion for how comical it is) how her banishment caused her to be this way, and is "PRACTICALLY starving" because of it, despite being so huge and somehow gaining weight as opposed to losing it.

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And when she finally comes out of her shell, instead of being an overweight ugly mermaid, she has tentacles as opposed to fins, which is an awesome twist and design to make her stand out as an absolute baddie! I can't say that I've ever seen a half human and half fish character that was part Squid (according to her voice actress, since she has six tentacles instead of eight) that’s connected to a large and old hideous woman that looks like a drag Queen. And yeah her design is based on a drag queen, a drag queen that goes by the name Divine.

I mean look at Divine's picture and tell me that you don't see the similarities to Ursula.



Kind of scary isn't it?

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Now finally seeing her in full, she comes up with the idea that the King’s daughter Ariel “maybe the key to Triton's undoing" as her introduction fades out with her tentacles popping up behind her and curling around to make the scene look darker, where the only thing we see from her before the scene completely fades out and the grim music stops are her evil eyes, taking us back to practically the same image that we saw when she was in the shadows. I get Goosebumps just thinking about how eerie she is in that scene. In her second scene upon discovering that Ariel is in love with a Prince and wants to be with him and the human world, she giggles in disbelief for how easy her plan is going to be to overthrow Triton, especially when knowing that Triton despises all humans.

She then gloats about Ariel being “a charming addition" to her "little garden", where we soon look at this nightmare imagery while Ursula laughs, wondering what these horrifying creatures are.



Oh the chills that I get from this reveal!



Assisting Ursula with her evil schemes are her two eels Flotsam (yellow right eye) and Jetsam (yellow left eye). Now the majority of villainous henchmen from Disney are usually idiotic, played for comedy, clumsy, and barley succeeds with at least one of their important tasks. And while these two have like one or two funny moments, like how one hits their head when Ursula shouts out their name, or how they mimics Ariel being with her Prince for example; on the whole, they're actually one of the few darkest and efficient henchmen to work for any of Disney's main villains! Their designs are just hideous as their master; how they slither like snakes when they swim around is creepy; and their voices are provided by the voice of Gozer in "Ghostbusters" and one of the fates in "Hercules" Paddi Edwards, who gives them an evil old hag like voice that echoes and sounds as snake-like as Jafar's voice. On top of how wicked looking they are, they for the majority of the film get the job done! They use each of their magic white eyes to spy on Ariel as what they see transports back to Ursula's Lair, where she can watch it on a bubble above her cauldron. Can sneak-up on Ariel when she least expects it. Are fast enough to catch and silence their prey with their tails, and even preventing Ariel from kissing the Prince. And above all, they’re just as persuasive as Ursula is, by using Ariel's desires to lure her to see the Sea Witch to help Ursula carry out her deed. But when Ariel refuses since she knows who she is, instead of forcing her to Ursula's lair, they just knock the face of the statue of Eric that King Triton destroyed as they swim away so that she would be tempted to go with them once she gazes at the likeness of her man. Now how often do you see Disney henchmen as smart and cunning as these two are, it's very rare!



What I find to be fascinating about Ursula's character is that we know very little about her back-story. We know that she was banished by Triton. We understand that Sebastian and Ariel know that she's no good. But we never know exactly why she was banished, and why she was feared to begin with. We can only guess that her witchcraft may have something to do with it, and that Triton may have feared that she might use it against him to gain power, given the evidence of what she can do, and what her motivation is. As a matter of fact, there were some deleted scenes that go into detail of why she was banished. In the extended version of the film's opening song "Fathoms Below", the sailors explain that Ursula was Triton's sister, which makes it clear why she would live in the palace in the first place, and making her revenge seem more personal. And in the extended version of Ursula's song "Poor Unfortunate Souls" before she starts singing, Ursula mentions to Ariel that she was banished by her Father because of her spells, causing Ariel to deny that fact since she was told that she was trying to overthrow him, which causes Ursula to lie like a politician by telling Ariel that those claims were completely blown out of proportion. These scenes do give us more depth to the character's back-story and motivations, but from what we got I'd say less is more. We still get an understanding of why she would be banish based on what she does, and how the others feel about her, so I say that keeping it a mystery makes her character a lot more interesting than directly telling us all these details.


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The woman voicing her is Pat Carroll who has made countless television appearances before taking up a role that would mark her career, and make her realize that her life-long ambition was voicing this nasty old sea witch. It's been reported that she modeled her voice on Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans, stage and screen actress Tallulah Bankhead (who I know her best as Black Widow during the Second Season of the 60s Batman), and even a bit from the film's songwriter Howard Ashman (when she asked him to perform the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls" for her to get an get idea of how she should perform it). Like many of the great Disney villains, Carroll is one of the many actresses to be having a blast playing up the sadistic, vengeful, sassy, and flamboyant nature of the character, that's fun to listen too, and yet very unsettling as well. And her best scene in the movie of exploiting all of it is without a doubt her musical number "Poor Unfortunate Souls".



After discovering that Ursula's lair is located inside an undersea stegosaurus skeleton (instead of say a Castle, or sunken ship) as Ariel thinks that she's being attacked by the polyps in her garden, she hears Ursula's voice echo from her shell telling her to come in, to mocking about Ariel's her upbringings from lurking on doorways, breaking the tension from the dramatic music and terrifying imagery that we saw when Ariel was entering her lair. Ursula tells Ariel that she knows why she's here, and doesn't blame her for falling in love with the handsome "prince fellow" who's "quite a catch", as she applies make-up on herself to look beautiful, and yet still remain hideous. She proposes the idea to make Ariel human so that she can be with him, which has Ariel question if she can do that. This leads to her smiling evilly, to suddenly acting nice and humble again claiming to Ariel that she lives to "help unfortunate merfolk; poor souls with no one else to turn to.”; thus beginning her song as we hear the first few notes.



The first half of the song reveals what Ursula has done for merpeople by granting them their desires after changing her ways. But if they can't pay her price after she grants them their wishes, they turn into a hideous polyp for her garden. There are so many things that I admire about this first half of her song. I love how the first half starts out as smooth as a waltz as she dances around to the rhythm of the song with her Eels whirling around her, when the tables suddenly turn when we get to the final verse of the song. But for me, the madness that we're about to get during the song begins when she puts a hanging pink sea plant over her face to make herself look like a saint, to out of nowhere using it to dance suggestively like a flapper, revealing that she's more of a sinner that gets her polyps spooked (and I don't blame them). The imagery for the first half is also cool since we see her demonstrate of what she can do by showing images of the merpeople that she helped through her cauldron. And the most amusing part about this portion of her song is that Ursula is more than likely only telling part of the truth, as in, she's helped merfolk, and has turned them into polyps for not paying the price. But what she doesn't address is that she intentionally screwed them all over with a loop hole on the contract, or had Flotsam and Jetsam sabotage their chances of going scout free after fulfilling their side of the bargain, where it seems more than likely that all of those (pathetic) "Poor Unfortunate Souls" that came to her for help are all part of her garden, as opposed to a large amount of them. Originally there was going to be a scene with a geeky Merman named Harold that was tricked by Ursula when she doesn't tell him that the fresh sea illy that he was supposed to pay her in exchange for muscle to impress the girls is out of season, but got cut for time, which I'm happy that they cut it because it gives away too much of Ursula villainous elements before Ariel makes the deal with her. But the character of Harold is definitely not pulled from the film all together.  You can find him as a polyp with glasses and a mustache (though he didn't facial hair on the storyboards) when Ursula does her little dance in front of them.



The song comes to a halt when Ursula drags Ariel to her cauldron to propose her deal to her, by making her a human for three days and must get a true love's kiss from the Prince to make her become human permanently (of course), or else she'll be turned back into a mermaid and be placed in her garden forever and ever. And as payment, she has to exchange her voice for legs. Just like the first few verses of "Poor Unfortunate Souls", we get some nice and colorful imagery of Ursula proposing her to deal to her through her cauldron, as well as one of Ursula's creepy moments when she tells Ariel that she will belong to her after the images on the cauldron disappears, where we immediately cut to Ursula poking her face in front of the screen with such an unpleasant grin and tone of voice. Also when we see her lips revealing that she wants Ariel's voice is just as equally frightening. But despite coming off as someone who you know that you shouldn't do any kind of business with, she does come across as persuasive. She makes the deal sound easy, plays on to Ariel's dream of meeting her man, and makes the idea of trading her voice to be not such a bad thing which is true since 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. Her sassy, friendly, and comical personality even plays a big role of making you feel less intimidated by her. Truthfully, some of her funniest lines come from this whole scene such as "Life's full tough choices IDN'T IT?", "You got it sweetcakes. No more talking, singing, ZIP-PAH", and my personal favorite "And don't underestimate the importance of BODY LANGUAGE, HA"! The delivery and expressions drawn to the character are just simply hysterical.



Ursula begins the final verse of the song that now sounds more chaotic unlike before. She begins to throw a few potions out of her cabinet (a few being trapped sea creatures) as she sings to Ariel at such a fast pace (that's more than likely for kids to overlook what she's talking about) of how men prefer women to be silent and not talkative that is undoubtedly sexist, but considering that it's coming out of a villain that's trying to persuade Ariel to give up her voice, it's fitting. Things get even crazier when she violently throws her potions in the cauldron causing it to explode and smoke, and singing loudly than she's ever sung before, telling Ariel to make her choice which leads to a funny and yet disturbing image of Eric appearing over the cauldron that looks charming until he yells in Ursula's voice, that's soon replaced with Ursula's face leaning towards Ariel's. It is then time for Ariel to make her choice of signing a bright gold contract that appears before her eyes just as the song is ending which causes a lot of tension. You see the wheels in Ariel's head turning wondering if she should or not, her friends are nervous if she's going to trade her life away for a new one, and we get closer and closer to Ursula's face as she's singing the final lyrics of the song. The music and Carroll's singing helps support the tension by making it feel like that Ariel's time of signing it is growing short, and that she may not get this chance again if she doesn't give in now, causing her to close her eyes to sign it, that has the contract floating to Ursula's hands and disappearing in her grip, bringing a sinister smile that says "YES, SHE'S MINE"!

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But the chaos doesn't stop there, that was just a mere sample of Ursula's insanity before she starts casting her spells! When Ursula starts chanting, her voice sounds very devil-like for how crazy and unworldly it is. And unlike her previous scenes where she just has a sinister grin, in this sequence she not only smiles bigger than before, but looks demonic for when her eyes start swirling and how the green glow in her cauldron reflects on her, which I love the use of colors for the scenes when we see her casting her spells as she laughs manically to make he  appear more insane than when we see her just swimming around scheming. For me though, the most haunting image regarding this sequence is how she has smoke in the form of old and ugly hands (that resembles the hands that the Evil Queen in "Snow White" has for when she changed into an old hag) that penetrates down Ariel's throat as she sings under Ursula's command and steals her voice right in front of her. Just hearing Ariel's beautiful singing voice being set to such surreal nightmare imagery with Ursula shouting for her to keep singing like a scarier version of "The Phantom of the Opera" musical never fails to send chills, especially the face that she makes when she sees Ariel's voice (that's still singing) enter her shell locket that exposes more of her lust for power. And once she is paid, she laughs wildly, puts Ariel inside a bubble, her hair becomes messy, the scene is now infested with the colors yellow and orange, the music is back to being loud and tense, and Ariel nearly drowns now that she is human (as god would only know what would have happened if her friends weren't there to bring her up to the surface). This whole musical number used to haunt me so much as a kid for its scary imagery and how chaotic it gets, and yet I would still sit there being stunned by it all as if I was hypnotized by Ursula's evil instead running out of the room. Even when I heard the song in the living room of my Uncle's house after my cousin sang "Part of Your World", I had the same reaction just by listening to it. It's still scary to watch and listen too now, but not as much as it did when I was a kid. In fact, when I would hit 4th Grade, when my girl friends and I had indoor recess, we would play the song, and sing and mimic the scene on one of my Disney CDS. So it became a song that I had feared, to loving it fully, and it is definitely one of the best Disney Villain songs and sequences of all time!



On the night of the second day, Ursula discovers that Ariel will be kissing the Prince by sunset, and decides "to take matters into her own tentacles” by turning herself human. During this scene and the scene that follows, we hardly ever see Ursula in her human disguise. We see her slowly transform into one as she's laughing, but we don't get a good glance at it for how dim the lightning is. And even if you can, we still don't see her change fully yet, since she still looks a little like herself, only she is skinny and a lot less old and frail. The way we dissolve into the next scene is both a cool and clever foreshadow for what we are about to see. The only clear image we get for Ursula's transformation is her glowing shell locket that dissolves in the same spot where the moon is over Eric's Castle. We get a nice little moment with Eric deciding to be with Ariel, and is about to go to her until he hears Ariel's singing voice. Eric takes a look to see if it's really the dream-girl who saved him, but can't get a good look at her, and neither do we since the darkness and fog consumes the scene, which again we only see the shell locket glowing as she slowly walks the beach singing as if she were a ghost. This scene is just as chilling as when Ursula captured Ariel's voice as it sang, only it's a little more atmospheric as opposed to being colorful and having things jumping out at you, which is what makes it so spooky. But the moment that got me just as scared and yet stunned as a kid like Ursula's musical number is when we see Eric being hypnotized by the mist coming out of the shell, making him appear to be a lifeless zombie with glowing yellow eyes when the scene begins to darken. You know...after watching this movie again, there's a lot more scary scenes that frightened me as a kid than I remember.



Ariel wakes up the next morning and discovers that Eric is marrying a girl who he thinks is his dream-girl, not knowing that it's Ursula in disguise or that he is under her spell, where we finally get a full glimpse at her...AND MAN DID URSULA OUT DID HERSELF! I mean WOW, she actually made herself look hot along with having Ariel’s enchanting voice! Not to mention that the shell locket helps add to her beauty. I really don't see the need to hypnotize Eric because with looks and a voice like that, as well as the help of "BODY LANGUAGE", she can probably persuade him to do anything! I mean after all that's one of Ursula's best skills. But as gorgeous as she looks, she still looks sinister with her evil smiling, and how she kicks Eric's poor dog Max when he knows that it's the Sea Witch in disguise (hey dogs can spot Terminators, why not Sea Witches). The most amusing part of Ursula's human form is that we get to hear Ariel's voice actress Jodi Benson ham it up as a villain just as much as Pat Carroll does. Her best moment is when she sings in her dressing about how her plan is working, as she throws a pin at a carved wooden face of a woman on top of her mirror, steps on a bottle while prancing around, and looks in the mirror laughing as the mirror reveals who she truly is underneath her beauty. Whenever I hear Ariel's voice come out of that form, I still believe that I'm listening to Ursula underneath that disguise for how perfectly Benson's acting mirrors Carroll's. She doesn't say much, but she owns every single moment when she does. And if you haven't noticed, the times when she doesn't talk is when she's with Eric, mainly cause she using her power of hypnosis to make Eric say what she's thinking as she's standing there looking pretty.

 

Much like how Disney would make one of their later Disney villains Gaston go from good-looking to looking monstrous as he would get more and more evil, Ursula in her hot disguise would slowly lose her hotness during the wedding scene. At first she looks nice in her wedding dress, but as soon as the Sea Creatures sabotage the wedding, that's when she loses all of her good looks and charm. They ruin her dress and mess up her hair; attack her to the point where she would start yelling and screaming like she would in her real form; and gains her normal voice back after Max and the goofy seagle Scuttle break her locket causing Ariel's voice to be restored back to her. When Eric snaps out of his trance and realizes that it was Ariel that he was looking for all along, an angry Ursula tries to stop him, and the two almost kiss until the sunsets turning Ariel back into a mermaid that makes Ursula smile wickedly (that looks just as wicked as her normal form) as she taunts Ariel for being "too late", changes back. and crawls after Ariel like some kind of monster, before bidding Eric a sassy farewell with Ariel in her grasp.



Ursula starts dragging Ariel to her lair taunting her with such joy of what a "poor princess" she is, but reveals to her that she's not after her to not make it feel personal, and is stopped by Triton before she can tell her that she's after her father. After first Ursula greets King Triton with a patronizing tone, and shows him the contract that Ariel signed that can't be destroyed by his powers; the contract then casts a spell on Ariel to turn her into a polyp as Triton watches with horror, but Ursula offers him the option to switch places with Ariel, and Triton loving her daughter so much regrettably signs a new contract with his Triton and becomes a polyp, which makes me feel just as depressed as Ariel and Sebastian are when they see him in such a miserable and helpless state considering that I admire the character for how badass and intimidating, and yet soft and caring he is. Ursula puts on the crown and picks up the Trident with excitement for finally getting the power that she has always envied, but her gloating doesn't last long when Ariel tries to beat her, that pisses off Ursula so much that she doesn't mind killing her, even if it means breaking her own contract, but is stopped for when she hit by a harpoon that Eric throws at her. Fun fact involving her wound by the way. In the film she gets a black scratch that smokes after being stabbed, but in one of the children's books that I read as a kid, I saw a little bit of blood splatter out and being disgusted by it. I just find it interesting that Disney would show a graphic image in one of their books that wasn't even in the movie. Anyway, Ursula gets angry and has her Eels capture Eric, but are stopped by Sebastian and Flounder. However, that doesn't stop Ursula from trying to blast him with the Trident, and nearly does so until Ariel pulls her back and causes her to accidentally kill her Eels resulting with her to pick up their ashes in despair for what she's done, and says my second funniest line from her that my Brother Jesse and I would love to quote "My poor little poopsies".

This results with her making this angry face which I would find myself laughing more than fearing, mainly from the grunt that she makes.



But as priceless as the scene is, it doesn't take long for it to take a grim turn. Ursula absorbs the energy of the Trident with the Ink Clouds that she makes as she growls as we then cuts to Sebastian and Flounder looking at her with horror. And within seconds she turns into this...



Alright now as a kid, despite that I found Ursula's presence to be horrifying, I still sat through them. But the moment when I saw her grow gigantic and possessing the power of the Trident, that's when I had enough and found myself storming out of the room until it was over! Out of the all the cruel things that she's done, and out of all the scary moments that she has, this sequence is by far the most intimidating and threatening she gets! She is no longer just a Sea Witch; she is now practically A GOD of the sea! She makes storms appear; makes the waves become just as gigantic and deadly as she is; can create whirl pools; tries to zap poor Ariel with her Trident; and can crush people from her giant size. Her design is even scarier than she's ever been, just put her deranged looks when she starts casting her spells on Ariel and attach it to a body that's larger than life, and having her speak in a deep godly voice, and you get one of the scariest images that Disney has ever created. Like scarier than Jafar becoming a Genie, or the Queen as an old hag.

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And it gets even worse when we have to witness one of the harshest (if not thee harshest) gruesome demise for a Disney villain. Despite having all that power, she is not immortal and quickly figures that out when she gets impaled by the bow of a sunken ship that's been brought up to the surface because of her, that's driven by Eric! We don't see blood, but looking at how sharp the broken bow is, hearing the sound effect of it impaling right through her, and watching Ursula gasp and die as she rolls her eyes backwards is more than enough for it to still be disturbing.



But she dosen't just get impaled, she also gets brutally electrocuted since the bow (somehow) absorbs lightning like a lightning rod and penetrates into Ursula's skin after she gets stabbed, which exposes her skull as she sinks to the bottom of the ocean and puffs up in smoke, where her ashes fall on the polyps (including King Triton) and restore them back into merpeople that are finally free of Ursula. Originally the climax was going to have Ursula be normal sized where Eric would impale her with the Trident, but what we got was more exciting and disturbing than what we could've gotten being one of the darkest final forms and death for a villain that Disney has ever brought us.

Ursula is the only female villain from the Disney Renaissance, which does make her a special villain. But in my opinion the reason why I find her special is because we wouldn't get an animated female Disney villain as fun, scary, wicked, and crazy as she is until Mother Gothel in "Tangled. Yzma from "The Emperors New Groove" and the Queen from "Enchanted" are fun (she was animated in a few scenes), but they're played more on comedy as opposed to being played out as intimidating and threatening foes. Ursula truly has all of the qualities of an iconic Disney villain, such as a unique and villainous design; a hunger for power; having plenty moments that are played out for scares, but still maintaining a good balance of humor in so many other scenes; loyal henchmen that never fail; having powers; being skilled at manipulating people; altering her appearances; being nearly unstoppable in the climax; and dying in cruel Disney fashion. She is just simply one of Disney's strongest and deserves to be 7th place on my list.

"SO MUCH FOR TRUE LOVE!!!"
-Ursula

Thursday, June 8, 2017

MY 8TH FAVORITE DISNEY VILLAIN

JAFAR

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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. It also 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 the 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, twisted goatee, long face,  evil sunken 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.

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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.

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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 supposed 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 really 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, but 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 is 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,which I find to be a more poetic way for this villain to go, rather than killing him like most of the other Disney villains, thus 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