The 10 Best Cartoon Villains - Part One: The Funny Villains
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Let’s face it – the good guy wouldn’t be a good guy without a bad guy to battle. It’s the villain who sets the plot in motion; he’s not constrained by the laws of niceness the hero is obliged to obey.
In fact, the worse the villain the better the hero had better be at his job – he’s got more heavy lifting to attend to. Catching a bank robber is small change compared to defeating a guy who’s out to rule the world.
So, who’s the worst of the worst? Who can give the hero a serious run for his money, leave him teetering on the edge of defeat – and do it with class to spare?
Let’s list them in order of villainy, counting down to Heath-Ledger-as-the-Joker-level badguy-ness. But before we begin, a few ground rules:
Bad guy rule number one: S/he has to be unforgettable, someone who pops into your head the moment you remember their movie, or even after you’ve forgotten the film’s name;
Bad guy rule number two: S/he has to be the film’s only villain; it’s hard to shine when you’re lost in the crowd. Sorry if that rules out a classic like Pinocchio, but how does one choose between the Coachman’s grinning evil, the shady fox and feline combo of Honest John and Gideon or even the monstrous Monstro the whale?
Bad guy rule number three: S/he has to be one of the film’s main characters. Supporting players like Sid in Toy Story just don’t cut it; which brings us to –
Bad guy rule number four: There has to be a bad guy. There are plenty of great movies where the hero’s challenge is to survive his predicament, not outwit a nonexistent evildoer. How to Train Your Dragon is a perfect example: In order to protect his scaly friend Toothless, young Hiccup must overcome his village’s hatred of all winged reptiles. (There is an evil alpha dragon who doesn’t appear until late in the film and has no personality to speak of.)
That said, there’s no shortage of candidates. (Or in private eye parlance, likely suspects.) However, on closer examination this rogues’ gallery quickly splits into two categories: the truly evil vs. the buffoons. While the line-up in either category is capable of visiting doom upon the hero, the delineation is simple: the truly evil have you holding your breath, while the buffoons (and their buffoonish minions) provide plenty of laughs in the course of their dirty deeds.
This bifurcation of bad guys obliges me to provide twin lists of villains: “the elegantly scary” and “funny but dangerous.” Counting down Letterman-style, let’s start with the ha-ha crowd:
10. A tie between Igor’s Dr. Schadenfreude (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and Andy Dick’s Bongo Bunny in Hoodwinked. I’ve paired these films up because they’re both favorites of mine, both low-budget sleepers deserving of more attention. The sarcastic European-accented Schadenfreude enjoys insulting his girlfriend Jaclyn (Jennifer Coolidge – “she may seem like a shallow, conniving wretch… that’s all I got, that pretty much sums it up”), who gives as good as she gets (“you’re one to talk, Dr. Schaden-fraud”) – which turns out to be their version of foreplay (“is daddy still mad at me?”); rather kinky, no?
Hoodwinked is the better known film of the two, an extremely funny (if horribly animated) take on the Little Red Riding Hood story. The adorable (or so he’d have you believe) Bongo’s gleeful, I Love Being a Villain song (“You won’t be disrespecting this bunny anymore, I’m gonna be top of the woods”) is a total showstopper. (And that’s a countdown for another day: “The Ten Best I-Love-Being-a-Villain Songs.”)