The Disney Renaissance is an era of animation that ran from 1989 to 1999. It is the most financially lucrative timeframe for the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Featuring ten films, most of them ranged from fairly successful to massively successful at the box office. While the musical nature of most of the films worked as selling points, the villains of the films also went a long way to developing the strengths of the film. Let’s take a look at the villains of the Disney Renaissance.
10. GOV. RATCLIFFE
While definitely evil and motivated by greed, Governor Ratcliffe, from “Pocahontas,” is one of the weaker villains of the entire Disney canon. He is seeking to colonize the Americas, but he isn’t even willing to do that work. He doesn’t do anything but commands others to do his bidding. He’s just kinda there.
The main villain of “Tarzan,” Clayton is assisting Jane and her father on their research, but his true intentions are revealed as they are leaving. He kidnaps them and tries to hunt down the gorillas before being defeated by Tarzan. If he’s one of the weaker villains of the era, this is a strong era for Disney villains.
8. PERCIVAL MCLEACH
The Australian poacher is hunting for a rare eagle that will fetch him a lot of money in “The Rescuers Down Under.” He’s very similar to Clayton, except his motivations are even more evil. He is driven by sadism and greed. Much like Clayton, he may be the strongest villain of other animation eras, but he’s a weaker villain during the Renaissance.
He may be the evil god of the underworld and trying to overthrow Mount Olympus, but Hades is one of the most lovable villains. Played expertly by James Woods, the villain of “Hercules” can be funny and menacing at the same time. He just doesn’t feel like as much of a threat as some other villains, though.
Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast” is a perfect example of toxic masculinity. He thinks anything he wants should be his because of who he is. Clearly, that’s not a way to think, and that’s why he’s one of the most relatable villains, because he’s one of the villains we see in everyday life. It’s a clear battle between Gaston and the Beast but only one of them is attempting redemption, and it’s not Gaston.
5. SHAN YU
He’s trying to overthrow a sovereign nation. That’s certainly evil, especially from Mulan’s perspective. He has no regard for the lives of others whether they be Chinese or Hun. He’s another villain we’ve seen several times over the years.
He is seeking to rule a kingdom by hook or by crook in “Aladdin.” He doesn’t care about anyone or anything but power. He is driven by lust and greed. The only reason he isn’t higher is because the others on this list took more drastic action than he did.
A sea witch with a penchant for stealing souls, Ursula is the very definition of rotten to the core in “The Little Mermaid.” She offers Ariel legs in exchange for her voice and puts conditions that are almost impossible to meet. Then, she transforms herself in an attempt to ensure Ariel doesn’t meet those conditions. She’s evil, no doubt about it.
Much like Shan Yu and Jafar, Scar is trying to take over a throne in “The Lion King.” He’s more like Jafar in that he is trying to usurp the throne rather than overthrow a foreign leader like Shan Yu. Still, he kills his own brother and tries to have his hyenas kill his nephew so that he can rule the Pride Lands.
The villain of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is almost an amalgamation of all of the other villains of the animation era. He’s vain, narcissistic, driven by his beliefs and downright evil all in what he believes to be righteousness. He’s someone we see in everyday life who is unafraid to murder in the name of God. He experiences lust for Esmarelda and then blames her for his feelings. He is the ultimate villain in that we have seen, and continue to see him in the world today.
That’s my ranking. How would you rank the villains of the Disney Renaissance?