Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thursentary: My Top 5 Disney Villain Deaths

If you’ve never heard Morticia Addam’s song, “Death Is Just Around the Corner,” I encourage you to listen to it while you read this. It has the opposite message of what I’m trying to say, but it is nonetheless a very enjoyable song.

Morticia describes death in simple terms: it’s always coming for you. Especially in the case of the real world, anything could kill you. However, it is my firm belief that this shouldn’t be the case in works of fiction—I’m not saying there isn’t a time for senseless violence, but it should always be in relationship to the story, never to the author.

I think many Disney movies have mastered this perfectly. In some ways, the really, really good deaths characterize the villains just as much as their actions did while alive. For that reason, I have decided to share my top five Disney villain deaths. I’d say they’re fabulous, but it’s death, so never mind.

via Dorkly

5. Clayton (Tarzan)

If you know Clayton’s character, he’s abrasive, self-serving, impatient, and a pirate, which ultimately says that it’s all about him, he is the one you should care about, and by the way—he’s the important one. Ironically, it his impatience, arrogance, and abrasiveness that discourage Tarzan from helping him. He hacks away at the vines alone, and is hanged by his own hand.

via queen-elinor-brave

4. Mor’du (Brave)

Okay, he was sort-of already dead. BUT when Elinor’s bear kills Mor’du’s bear, it shows that her devotion to her family trumps the abandonment he showed to his. Also, even though nobody is totally sure about menhirs, I bet being crushed by one indicates that history is catching up with him. The story doesn’t end there. When we see Mor’du has joined the will-o’-the-wisps, it reminds us that, just like in Elinor and Merida’s relationship, there’s always hope for redemption.

via Buzzfeed

3. Judge Claude Frollo

Some other time I must explain in full detail the artfulness of his villain song, but for now I shall summarize. He sings “Hellfire” to demand Esmerelda’s body from God, again bringing up the question: who is the monster, who is the man? Now, at the end, with the countenance of a bona fide demon, clasping the eyes of Notre Dame, Frollo falls into the (hell) fire below, bringing to a close all the ideas opened at the beginning. He is a monster. Esmerelda does not belong to him. And he will burn.

(Victor Hugo would probably murder me for loving that movie, but I do.)

via College Humor

2. Mother Gothel

As I’ve mentioned, Mother Gothel is obsessed with youth and beauty. Not only is she the only Disney villain who dies of old age, but it suits her best—in payment for the murder, kidnapping, and injustice she bred to stay young, those stolen years finally catch up with her. Also, as she dies, she falls out of the tower, which is just interesting because at least from the Christian perspective, we tend to associate the “fall of Man” with sin. (Although, now that I think about it, a lot of Disney villains have a fall. Gaston, Maleficent, Hades, Clayton, so on.)

via gifsoup

1. Dr. Facilier 

Throughout the movie, Dr. Facilier relies upon his “friends on the other side” to accomplish his means. He’s the Shadow Man. It’s kind of what he does. However, when his plans fall apart, it is his “friends” who take from him their due: his soul. The entire movie makes deals to avoid fulfilling his. In the end, he gets exactly what’s coming to him—a balanced ledger. Also, they sing. It is a very cheerful death. Are you ready?


Will I ever get tired of irony? NEVER! Do you need to have an ironic death for it to be a good one? Nah. I mean, Scar had a pretty good death and that was plain old vengeance. Ursula was stabbed in the stomach with a mast and that’s clear-cut good beating evil.

However, what my examples do illustrate is that even in kid’s movies, death is a significant matter. Dr. Facilier, Mother Gothel, Frollo, and Clayton have very ironic deaths. Mor’du’s death is symbolic. And the reason many of these deaths are satisfying is not just because these villains finally get what’s coming to them—they’re satisfying because that’s what they were trying to avoid in the first place.

Ah, death. It’s so much fun.

What is one of your favorite Disney villain deaths? Why do you like it?

17 comments :

  1. I love the points you make here! I've never noticed, but you're right. The deaths of the villains always keep in character with who they are. They always bring it down on to themselves. It's a different look on "poetic justice."

    I'm only familiar with Clayton and Mother Gothel. What you said about Clayton was so spot on! To add to Mother Gothel, she climbed the tower to keep her life and beauty, but she fell from this same tower of her own making to her death.

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    1. Yes! Villains have very interesting and artful styles of death, and these are my favorites for that reason. I didn't think to use the words poetic justice, but I think that fits.

      They're both good villains, eh? And, that's very true! I didn't notice that, but it did happen exactly as you said. Thanks for your insight, Ashley!

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  2. Huh. I've never really noticed it before, but a lot of Disney movies have mastered the death of the villain.

    I read Tarzan of the Apes this year, and it took me a while to figure this out, but Clayton is actually Tarzan's cousin(or some other relation). Kind of made me scratch my head a bit.

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    1. *nods* They have. And they're fantastic at it. Unless it's Frozen.

      Huh, that's weird. The movie took some liberties from the book, though, so maybe that's not the case in the movie? I dunno. Just as long as Jane isn't his cousin.

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  3. I loved Mor'du's death! Actually, when I put it that way, it sounds a little creepy. I never noticed that connection between Mor'du and Elinor, how Epit was Elinor who triumphed because she fought for her love of her family, while Mor'du abandoned his. I liked how a spirit rose out of him and thanked Elinor, it felt like he was finally free from this awful, furry burden. And Mother Gothel's death I found hilarious (because all it took was a chameleon). :')

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    1. *how it was Elinor
      (my iPad doesn't let me backspace)

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    2. Mor'du does have a good death, doesn't he? I also liked that even though Elinor triumped in battle, he was still freed and released from his debt, too. It was a nice wrap-up! And yeah, Mother Gothel's death was kind of silly, and also kind of serious, too. :)

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  4. I love your point about how the manner of a villain's death defines them as much as their actions. Actually, I believe there's a trope called Disney Villain Death that literally means falling to your death, so this is absolutely true! And interesting allegorical point about Mother Gothel -- I never did notice that!

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    1. :D It does, though! And it's so much fun to study! That's actually funny, I'd never heard of that trope before... But it certainly suits Mother Gothel, with all the rest.

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  5. YES TO DISNEY. AND VILLAINS. And Disney villains. I like Mother Gothel's character from the newer Tangled better, because cliche as it may be, villains that the MC cares about are cool. She's amazing. HER DEATH WAS EVEN MORE AMAZINg. Mainly because: chameleons. OH, and the "Mother knows best," song too :P

    And I loved Mor'd'u death too (gah, is that how you write it?)

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    1. YES TO BOTH OF THEM. Mother Gothel does add that interesting aspect, because in some ways, I think she cared about Rapunzel, too. But yes, her death was great, Pascal was great, and her villain song was also great.

      It's spelled Mor'du, but it's always hard because it sounds French, not Scottish.

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  6. what i like about disney is that they don't try to do something like "villains change instantly and become good." the idea that villains get their end is one that's good and i like that it's put in a way that won't scare children but also teach them "don't do bad things or you will get dragged to hell by your friends on the other side." not that literally but you know what i mean.

    i really like frollo's because he's all about "heaven and god" and such but it's him who ends up going to hell.

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    1. I agree; it's nice that there's a clear demonstration of good versus evil, and the consequences that appear due to those actions. But, it does demonstrate the value of ethical behavior and the problems with doing wrong.

      And yes, Frollo's death is religious and ironic. It is great. :D

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  7. Disney has some of the best villain deaths. They're all so meaningful within their story arc, like they bring things full circle. Often I find that the one thing they're trying to run away from is the one thing that kills them in the end, like Mother Gothel and old age, or Hades and the spirits in the underworld.

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    1. They do bring things full circle, don't they? You're exactly right, though—the irony is that they are killed by the things they tried to avoid so much in the first place. Thanks for reading, Imogen!

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