Inspired by the release of Maleficent, a live action movie based on the wicked fairy from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie, Maleficent signals a wider trend in live action fairytales that offer a twist on the villains.
In 2012, Charlize Theron took on the role of Ravenna, the evil Queen from the Snow White story in Snow White And The Huntsmen.
This got us thinking. What other Disney baddies deserve their own film? Chad film critic Natalie Stendall discusses what these films may look like:
Captain Hook (Peter Pan): Full of vengeance after the loss of his hand, Captain Hook is also gripped by fear. Hook is now stalked by the crocodile nemesis who unceremoniously consumed his hand and awaits an opportunity to take another bite. It’s a nightmarish idea and Hook’s evil, motivated by his terror, gives this villain all the psychological complexity he needs to dominate his own movie. Back in 1991 Steven Spielberg saw the potential in this wicked personality and the live action sequel to Peter Pan was born, Hook. Although Hook met with popular approval, it didn’t land so well with critics. What’s missing from Captain Hook’s filmography is a thrilling origin story that immerses us in his terror and decline.
Ideal treatment: An unflinching dramatic take on Captain Hook directed by master of anti-heroes, Martin Scorsese. I know what you’re thinking: Scorsese direct a fairytale? With 2011’s Hugo, Scorsese proved he can take on the family market and succeed, but could this be the Taxi Driver of the seas?
Jafar (Aladdin): Cunning and intelligent, a master of disguise with a talent for mind control, Sultan’s aide Jafar is one of Disney’s most captivating villains. Power hungry and lusting after an innocent woman he does not deserve, this is archetypal baddie territory that needs atmospheric treatment if it’s to succeed. Think hot desert climes and amplified suspense that keeps audiences guessing about the extent of Jafar’s mystical powers and the lengths he will go to in order to make Jasmine his.
Ideal treatment: A dry comedy-drama written and directed by the Coen brothers. The Coens have a track record of moody films with stunning cinematography and intriguing yet often immoral characters. Their talents extend to channeling time periods with precision and penning comedy from the dark and disturbing through to downright oddball (Fargo and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? anyone). Between them they could conjure the nostalgic and exotic desert spirit of George Lucas’ Indian Jones trilogy with a twist of evil.
The Evil Step-Mother and The Ugly Sisters (Cinderella): Cinderella is essentially a family story about deep-seated jealousy. While Disney’s animated classic famously bypassed the more gruesome aspects of this tale - the ugly sisters actually cut off their own toes to make that shoe fit - the original story could easily tread the path between gritty realism and the horror genres. Cinderella has already inspired the sentimental romance Ever After (1998) starring Drew Barrymore and modern rom-com A Cinderella Story (2004) but a retelling that focuses on the motives and psychology of this disturbed family has so far been overlooked.
Ideal treatment: A psychological horror directed by Roman Polanski. With two outstanding contributions to this genre already in the bag - Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion - Polanski also has a flare for strong characters, eliciting intricate performances from his casts, ideal for an intense character study.
Honest John the Fox, Gideon the Cat and the Coachman (Pinocchio): These three symbolic villains represent the temptation of society’s evils, luring Pinocchio from his moral path. Gambling, smoking, drinking and criminal damage - you name it, these villains encourage it. Honest John the Fox’s attempted kidnap and the Coachman’s vile desire to turn his young victims into donkeys are some of the most sinister crimes in Disney history. That their actions are underpinned by greed has as much relevance today as it did in 1940.
Ideal treatment: A musical black comedy from Tim Burton. Combining his stop-motion talents in a puppet Pinocchio with dark and eerie settings for a live action cast, we could expect incredible visuals from Burton. The director’s knack for exploring characters who have rejected society’s norms would make for an interesting take on these ardent rule breakers.
Ursula (The Little Mermaid): Is there anyone scarier than an octopus woman who wants to steal your voice? Ursula’s desire for the perfect vocals is an understandable one in our modern age where the profusion of talent shows from The X-Factor to The Voice offer a seemingly easy route to success. But Ursula’s ambitions don’t stop there. Using innocent mermaid Ariel in a power play to rule the oceans, Ursula’s inferiority complex lies at the heart of her story.
Ideal director: A whimsical Wes Anderson drama that satirises the cult of beauty, power, popularity and fame. Think the fantastically inventive underwater visuals of Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou meets the crushed dreams of The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson’s knack for creating central heroes who are sympathetic in spite of their flaws puts all other contenders in the shade.