The 10 Best Cartoon Villains – Part Two: The Evil Villains
1. Rattlesnake Jake, Rango. It would’ve been a tie between the Other Mother and Jake for the number one spot, except Mother starts out as a kindly figure while Jake is a scary, cruel s.o.b. from the moment he arrives. Slithering and coiling about with a mechanical, ratcheting clatter, Jake sports a Gatling gun for a tail and a harsh, gravelly voice. His lack of theatricality leaves no room for us to distance ourselves; like Heath Ledger as the Joker, we simply can’t look away. (And Jake returns the favor: his intimidating, slit-eyed stare is often aimed directly at the audience.) Jake is a totally self-aware creature without a shred of pretense; when his intended victim tells him “go to hell,” his response rings true: “where do you think I come from?”
In spite of his evilness, Rattlesnake Jake not only survives his encounter with the hero (an extremely rare fate for an animated villain), he comes to respect his opponent: “I tip my hat to you, one legend to another,” says Jake and Rango returns the gesture; talk about giving the devil his due…
* * *
Not an easy selection to make; I was constantly juggling the above order until I had one that felt right. (However Jake had dibs on the number one slot from day one.) The competition to get on this list was fierce to begin with; there is simply no shortage of villains in the feature cartoon world. All the folks below were on my short list; it grieved me greatly to send any of them back to the minors. I’m sure I’ve overlooked plenty, probably including your favorite meanie. (Speaking of which, how did I manage to leave Yellow Submarine’s Chief Blue Meanie off the funny villains list?)
THE RUNNERS-UP: Cinderella’s stepmother Lady Tremane…paranoid government agent Kent Mansley (The Iron Giant)…Tony Jay’s hot ‘n bothered Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)…the scheming Colonel Muska (Castle In the Sky)…narcissistic Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)… and a tough yet kind-hearted broad I wish I could’ve found a spot for: Castle in the Sky’s Captain Dola.
Joe Strike is a regular contributor to AWN. He has written about animation, sci-fi and fantasy entertainment for the New York Daily News, Newsday and the New York Press. Joe has scripted the Nick Jr. series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and taught Mass Communications at New York's St. John's University. He is currently hosting “Interview with an Animator” [animator.interviews.com], a series of audience-attended conversations with noted figures in the animation community at a variety of New York City venues, including the Paley Center for the Media, The Society of Illustrators and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. Joe can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.