See the Faces Behind Disney’s Greatest Villains
As children we were all terrified by Disney‘s villains. Their evil cackles rattled our still-developing brains, and haunted our nightmares along with their songs, which gleefully reveled in their bad intentions and malevolent plots. Yet looking back, these vicious villains are a beloved part of our childhood, from their cruelly pointed toes to their audacious hairdos.
Reminisce about the thrills these monsters and madmen invoked as you take a look at the talented actors and actresses who brought them to life.
Pat Carroll, Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’
Then: By 1989 when ‘The Little Mermaid’ premiered, Carroll was already 41 years into her screen acting and voicework career. A gifted comedienne, she moved from nightclub acts to Broadway, film and television. She had appeared on a wide range of shows including ‘The Red Skelton Hour’ and ‘Too Close for Comfort,’ and lent her voice to the ‘Pound Puppies’ cartoon series as well as the English-dubbed version of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro.’
Now: Carroll has gone on to reprise the role of Ursula in various Disney video games as well as its spin-off television series. Plus, she voiced Ursula’s equally evil sister Morgana in the straight-to-video sequel ‘The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.’ Nearly 86-years-old, Carroll is still going strong with a recent cameo in ‘Bridesmaids’ and a role in the upcoming indie comedy ‘BFFs.’
Keith David, Dr. Facilier from ‘The Princess and the Frog’
Then: After breaking into movies in 1982 with a memorable supporting role in John Carpenter’s creature feature ‘The Thing,’ David soon established himself as a solid and engaging character actor. By 2009, he had appeared in such noteworthy films as ‘Platoon,’ ;Armageddon,’ and ‘ There’s Something About Mary.’ He had also lent his voice to a long list of animated characters, including Goliath from TV’s ‘Gargoyles,’ the title character of HBO’s ‘Spawn’ cartoon series and the dimension-traipsing Cat of ‘Coraline.’
Now: Busy as ever, David continues to balance roles in television and film, in live-action and animation. Recently he’s voiced Flame King on the quirky cartoon series ‘Adventure Time,’ and co-starred in the ambitious movie adaptation of David Mitchell’s science-fiction adventure ‘Cloud Atlas.’
Eartha Kitt, Yzma from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’
Then: Best-known for playing Catwoman on the 1960s ‘Batman’ TV series, Kitt was already an icon with a long and illustrious career as a singer and actress when she signed on to play the purring and duplicitous advisor to Emperor Kuzco. This colorful animated comedy even alludes to her role as the sultry ‘Batman’ villain by turning Yzma into a cat in its magic-packed finale.
Now: Kitt went on to reprise the role of Yzma in the straight-to-video sequel ‘The Emperor’s New Groove 2: Kronk’s New Groove’ as well as on the spin-off prequel series ‘The Emperor’s New School.’ Sadly, she passed away in 2008 at 81. However, between her various film and television roles and her beautiful catalogue of songs—including her signature rendition of ‘C’est Si Bon,’ she will be adored by fans old and new for many years to come.
James Woods, Hades from ‘Hercules’
Then: With challenging dramas like Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ and the civil rights docudrama ‘Ghosts of Mississippi,’ Woods was well-acquainted with villainous roles. However, ‘Hercules’ offered an enticing challenge, as it was not only his first foray into voicing an animated character, but also his first family-friendly feature.
Now: While Woods continues to snag roles in dark dramas like Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and Rod Lurie’s ‘Straw Dogs’ remake, he has also continued branching out into lighter material. Beyond reprising the role of Hades for a string of Disney TV shows and video games, he also lent his voice to villainous characters in the children’s movies ‘Stuart Little 2′ and ‘Surf’s Up.’ Later this year, he will appear opposite Channing Tatum in Roland Emmerich’s action-thriller ‘White House Down.’
Eleanor Audley, Maleficent from ‘Sleeping Beauty’
Then: An established Broadway performer who had taken to the stage in plays like ‘Susan and God’ and ‘Kill That Story,’ Audley made her breakthrough in film in Disney’s ‘Cinderella’ in 1950, playing the wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine. From there she went on to snag scads of television and film roles before returning to voice work for 1959’s ‘Sleeping Beauty.’
Now: Despite playing Disney villains, Audley went on to work in comedy after comedy, from sitcoms like ‘The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis’ and ‘Mister Ed,’ to ‘Green Acres’ and ‘My Three Sons.’ She retired in 1970, drawing the curtains on a career that lasted more than 40 years. Audley died in 1991, leaving behind an incredible legacy full of laughs and thrills.
Vincent Price, Professor Ratigan from ‘The Great Mouse Detective’
Then: Price was nearly 50 years into his prolific acting career when this 1986 animated adventure hit theaters. He forged his reputation in the 1950s and ’60s, performing in a string of horror features—from ‘House of Wax’ and ‘House of Usher’ to ‘Pit and the Pendulum’—with a wry and macabre sense of humor.
Now: Price worked until his death in 1993. Fittingly, his last film appearance was in Tim Burton’s ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ The role of the inventor of the movie’s misunderstood monster was not only a cameo that reflected Burton’s own admiration for Price’s incredible filmography, but also a great tribute to a performer who entertained and inspired countless audience members.
Verna Felton, Queen of Hearts in ‘Alice in Wonderland’
Then: With a reputable career in radio, Felton made a natural transition to voicing animated characters. Before playing the beheading-demanding monarch in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ she lent her trademark husky tone to Dumbo’s mother in ‘Dumbo’ and the Fairy Godmother in ‘Cinderella.’
Now: Felton continued performing until her death in 1966. Not only did she go on to play the bossy red fairy Flora in Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ but also she lent her voice to the relentlessly judgmental Pearl Slaghoople, Fred’s troublesome mother-in-law on ‘The Flintstones.’
Jeremy Irons, Scar from ‘The Lion King’
Then: By the time of ‘The Lion King’s debut in 1994, Irons was already an acclaimed actor of stage and screen in the U.S. and in his native U.K. He won the Tony Award for his performance in the 1984 Tom Stoppard play ‘The Real Thing,’ and an Academy Award for his lead role in the 1990 crime drama ‘Reversal of Fortune.’
Now: Irons followed one villainous brother role with another, moving from Scar to Simon Gruber, the revenge-seeking brother of ‘Die Hard’ villain Hans Gruber, in ‘Die Hard With a Vengeance.’ These two are arguably Irons’ most popular characters to date. Coming in 2013, Irons will star in the third season of the historical drama ‘The Borgias’ as well as ‘Beautiful Creatures,’ the much-anticipated movie adaptation of the popular YA novel of the same name.
Donna Murphy, Mother Gothel from ‘Tangled’
Then: Before she was tapped to give voice to Rapunzel’s conniving foster mom, Murphy was already a Broadway star seven times over, leading musicals like ‘The King and I’ and ‘Passion,’ both of which won her Tony Awards. However, in film she was often relegated to supporting roles in movies like ‘The Nanny Diaries,’ and ‘The Fountain.’
Now: She returned to Broadway in 2011 for ‘The People in the Picture,’ which scored her another Tony nomination. Since then, Murphy has appeared in the action-thriller ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ and was a series regular on the short-lived law drama ‘Made in Jersey.’
David Ogden Stiers, Governor Ratcliffe from ‘Pocahontas’
Then: After making his film debut as an announcer in George Lucas’s directorial debut ‘THX 1138,’ Stiers established a storied career in film and television, most notably playing Major Charles Winchester on the Korean War-set sitcom ‘M*A*S*H.’ Then in 1991, he gave voice to the first in a growing line of Disney characters, playing the narrator and Cogsworth the uptight clock in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’
Now: Since 1995 when ‘Pocahontas’ hit theaters, Stiers has gone on to voice characters in such Disney animated adventures as ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire,’ and ‘Lilo & Stich.’ The most memorable of these latter characters is ‘Lilo & Stich’s mad scientist Dr. Jumba, who goes from antagonist to ally as the movie spun into a straight-to-video sequel and spin-off series. Stiers continues to balance work in film and television, sometimes as an actor, other times as a voice artist.