( I typed this off as a forum post. And wanted to share it. Feel free to discuss! I love talking about this! )
Actually one of the reasons I like Disney movies so much, is because they actually allow death and darkness in their movies. ( Not the non-happy-end kind of darkness, yes. Otherwise the little mermaid would have ended rather... disturbing ) Such as the many many many deaths of parental characters. Others would now put bambies mother as an exsample. But frankly, this one didn't affect me at all. ( I cried much more when littlefoots mother died. And that was NOT a disney movie... Don Bluth movies have many depressing scenes, now that I think about it... )
The death I was moved by most was Mufasas death. And I think this was both because of the reason why he really died ( murder ) and because it is shown how Simba actually finds the dead corpse of his father and doesnt understand it. This whole after-scene killed me as a kid. And it's the reason why I still love that movie so much ( Even though I admit that I see the many Kimba parallels. Hell. Disney may have copied , but they played it so damn well I can't be mad at them. ).
But let's pick the subject of darkness once more. Disney villains are dark, oh yes. Most of them you look at and immediately know you don't want to mess with them! Most of them either emit a sphere of danger, or of wickedness and I love disney because they play these roles so straight.
But when thinking about darkness and disney movies, I actually don't think of the villains first.
I think of scenes.
Best exsamples for this in my book are most of the castle scenes ( especially the finale ) of beauty and the beast, as well as the forest scenes. A castle is usually depicted in glory and richnesses of things and space. Here the space part is turned around. The castle is a very dark and creepy one. The rooms are gigantic, but seem to swallow you. They cause feelings of being alone in the dark without quite knowing what else is there. They also look kinda cold. Space of freedom and richness turned into space of empty lonelyness and darkness.
The forest is like what I as a child thought a forest at night would be. A dangerous and scarey place.
During that time Disney knew how to picture dark and creepy scenes. It's also seen in the short "Ichabot Crane".
This one is one of my favourites. It's the story of the headless horseman, performed by Disney. And for childrens eyes and ears it's actually creepy. The forest with its many noises, whose sounds you don't recognise, whose shadows you don't know. Actually the tension played in the scene before the actual horseman arrives is ( SADLY ) creepier than what I see in many "horror" movies today.
The fact that disney dares to play along those lines as well, when most children movies ( except for Bluth movies) try to emit an "everything is fine always" flair. Always made it special in my book.
I did notice, however that companies are beginning to step back down from the "everything is always fine" attitude by releasing movies with heroes who have real problems and don't just imagine to have problems.
So part one: death
Part two: darkness
Part three plays into them both. I am again talking about the villains.
Disney villains have stile. Some more, some less, of course. But all of them have it. And all of them play it very differently. Over the years Disney has played actually all villain types I can think off.
The one who is evil as a base and lives up to a theme: Maleficent ( and basically the huns from Mulan too.... ) , Madam Mim ( <3 )
The powerhungry: Jafar and Ratigan
The one who feels like hes a visionary and can do better and puts all his effords into getting the place and rank he wants but sadly plays it illegally and also ... isnt that good at all: Scar
The slink Manipulator who just tries to get what is best for himself: ( Basically the two above) , Hades and Facilier
The one who isnt per se evil at the start but turns clearly evil as things dont turn his way: gaston
The (idiot) shortsighted, uninformed, greedy one: Ratcliffe
The just plain greedy one: Prince John, Edgar from Aristocats, the couple from Mouse police and Yzma ( realise how all of them are rather comical characters? )
The ones prone to wrath: especially the queen of hearts, but also Frollo in a way (Frankly, I have trouble putting Frollo anywhere specific, since I just saw that movie once.)
The one who is good at heart, but doesn't know better: Amos Slade from "the fox and the hound" ( I come to that later )
The one prone to pride: Sir Kahn
The one out for revenge: Ursula ( yeah, her too ) and Captain Hook
And *Sigh* the one who just wants to kill things: that guy from tarzan... I didnt like that movie... ... the villain... so... stupid... he basically killed himself.....
But yeah. Point being, they have all the shades of villains in these Movies. Some wich are actually damn hard to play!
My exsample here would be Amos Slade. The type "good at heart but doesnt see it" is hard to play. He is a hunter. Usually movies tend to show hunters as bloodthirsty idiots who just like to kill things ( *CAUGH* tarzan *CAUGH* ), but he actually hunts for a living as far as we can tell. He lives in the forest, with his two dogs, a bunch of chicken and shoots deer and other animals to USE their meat and hide. This story was made in a time when you couldnt just drive your car to the next busstop to get beef jerky, you know. And whilst in several scenes ( the beginning scene with the foxmother and the scene where fox is shown the shed with all the animal furs ) it is shown that he does indeed KILL beings, beings who (as we are prooven by fox and hound and all the others ) are beings with a soul who live and love and feel, he isn't marked as the right about evil person. Especially when seen interacting with his dogs and also Widow Tweed, he is more like the grumpy old guy. He barks loudly, but wouldn't dare being evil towards any of them three. Even after the end of the movie, I never felt the slightest piece of hate towards him. Not even when I was a kid. And that's something to achieve.
Disney just knows how to play their villains. And usually when the villain is bad in a disneymovie, the movie itself isn't worth much either ( Sadly. My point here would be Atlantis. But i have several issues with that movie. ) There are cases, however when the villain actually saves the movie. This case would be Arielle in my book. I didn't like it.... and I love fish and merstuff and.... I didn't like it! There where just three things I liked in that movie. One: under the sea. Yeah. Two: The character development of Triton ( who is an interresting character ) and Three: Ursula ( and her "poor unfortunate souls" )
(Did you know she was based off of a drag queen?)
Disney gives their villains character and stile. Play it evil but play it with stile! And that's why I love disney villains.
And here I come to part four of why I love disney movies.
Not only the songs, but also the instrumentals. The songs where the things that caught us, small and big. My dad STILL sings "the bare nessecities" when he's feeling fine. And my aunt will always join me in singing "Be a man!" My best friend and I can still reinact "a friend like me" even though we didn't see the movie in years.
And I will never tremble as much as I tremble when I hear the very first few seconds of "to die for"
I used to think like that, but I've been feeling a but unmotivated to like Disney lately. Blame Disney Channel, the tendency to be overly political correct... and by not acknowledging the Gargoyles
dunno what else to add onto this since you pretty much summed it up here. I agree full-heartedly on everything you've written about Disney. ^^ Personally, I loved Tarzan, more for the music and the other characters rather than having a crappy villain but that's just me. But just the same, agreeing with you on everything here.
I think the other reason why I dont like Tarzan IS the music. Reason being that these phil colins songs simply didnt fit the disney mood in my opinion and where played over and over and over and over in stores and radios at that time.
Ahhh I see. Back when the movie came out, I was in Mexico where they didn't do that much where I was. I don't really remember hearing much of the music when we visited the states to shop either actually, but I was little back when so I more than likely wasn't paying attention. I totally understand though. It can get a bit annoying after a while if you hear the songs over and over again like that.
I didn't know that Ursala was based off a drag queen.