The 8 Most Underrated Disney Sidekicks and Sub-Villains
A look at some of the side characters and villainous underlings
Sidekicks. Without them, the hero or villain has to do their own dirty work, warn (or burn) the village themselves, and build up their own self-esteem. A good sidekick brings out the best or worst in a hero or villain. Without Robin, Batman is a grumpy rich guy in a cool suit. With Robin, he takes on a dimension of (arguably lacking) fatherly/mentor-ly concern.
In Disney, the sidekicks can be human, animal (with various degrees of anthropomorphism), and even inanimate objects (Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends.) Of all of the Disney movies, I think that Aladdin has the most interesting array of sidekicks – Iago has the intellect of a human and only pretends to be a “dumb animal” when others are around, while Abu and Rajah seem to just be very smart regular animals. Carpet is an inanimate object, but it hardly seems fair to say that when they have so much personality without saying a single word, and Genie – aw, Genie. Genie is giving me sad Robin Williams feels. Too soon, dammit.
How does one fall in to sidekicking and sub-villainry as a career? Did LeFou just wake up one morning with a huge mancrush on Gaston and have a good convo with himself in the mirror? If that’s the case, I think it may have gone down kind of like this:
LeFou: Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking …
Reflection LeFou: A dangerous pastime –
LeFou(snaps): I know!
LeFou: But Gaston’s so unspeakably handsome, and I don’t want him ever to go.
Reflection LeFou: But you know that he’ll someday get married and go off to live with his wife …
LeFou: So I’ll be his best friend and I’ll do what I can
Both together: And we’ll be his bro-henchmen for life!
Yes, I think that’s exactly how that went down.
Without further ado (totally kidding – there will be ado!), here are my picks for best underrated Disney sidekicks and sub-villains!
The Straight and Narrow (The Good Guys, The White Hats):
4.) Jiminy Cricket
Jiminy Cricket literally had to act as a conscience for Pinocchio, which, given the kid’s ability to get himself kidnapped by Actor Foxes, imprisoned by terrible ethnic stereotypes (holy shit, Stromboli?!), nearly turned into an actual jackass, and swallowed by a whale… was no small job. Jiminy was up to the task, and was rewarded for his bravery and hard work by the Blue Fairy with a shiny gold badge, declaring him an official conscience. Although Jiminy seemed happy with this arrangement, I think a vacation might have been more in order!
3.) The Church Mice and Friar Tuck from Robin Hood
The Church Mice gave up their last farthing to help the poor people of Nottingham, who had been imprisoned by the Sheriff for not paying enough in taxes. They’re literally as poor as church mice – they’re ACTUAL CHURCH MICE – and they’re still helping others less fortunate. And Gentleman Mouse sure can play the organ! Friar Tuck is kind of a badass. I absolutely love the part where the Sheriff is stealing the Church Mice’s last farthing out of the poor box, and Friar Tuck loses his shit. And then Gentleman Mouse is all into the fight. “Give it to him, Friar!” Friar Tuck would have wiped the floor with the Sheriff if the Sheriff’s sidekicks, Nutsy and Trigger, hadn’t been there to make the fight an unfair one.
2.) Sebastian the Crab from The Little Mermaid
Sebastian is under no real obligation to help Ariel. Technically, he’s just her choir teacher, and King Triton wanted him to keep an eye on his wayward youngest. Ariel is a pain-in-the-shell infatuated princess-teenager, but Sebastian manages to hold his cool where King Triton loses his temper and actually get through to Ariel. Sebastian looks out for Ariel out of real affection and even bravely follows her into the lion’s den of Humans Who Eat Crab and Fish.
On top of all of that, once Sebastian realizes that Ariel’s feelings are real and that she’s in actual danger if she doesn’t get the kiss in three days, he becomes The Best Matchmaker Ever by inspiring all of the birds and the fishes to, “Sing with me now …” to get Eric to just Kiss the Girl already. And he would have succeeded too, if it hadn’t been for Ursula’s eel-babies. Her poopsies. Yeah. Flotsam and Jetsam.
1.) Ray the Firefly from The Princess and the Frog
Ray’s steadfast love for Evangeline was as sad as it was sweet. And, if you overthink it they way I do with pretty much everything … there might be a deeper story. First of all, watch this video. Ray puts on a show no less impressive than Sebastian’s Kiss the Girl for Naveen and Tiana to dance and start to fall for each other.
Then, notice the part where Frog Naveen shushes Louis the Alligator for starting to say that Evangeline isn’t a firefly. I like that Naveen. Now, when Ray dies after fearlessly battling Facilier’s shadow demon-things and getting squished *sob*, HE TURNS INTO A STAR AND JOINS EVANGELINE! I feel like this means that Ray’s lady used to be a firefly and died. So, when he’s singing about his love for Evangeline, he’s not deluded into thinking a star is a firefly… he KNOWS that star is his girl. And he’s extra fearless and brave in battle because he knows when he dies he will get to join her. Why do I think of these things? And, like most random animated characters I love, Ray is voiced by the wonderful Jim Cummings.
I feel like Sokka would understand:
The Sub-Villains and Henchfolk:
4.) Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove
Kronk is interesting because he’s not actually particularly bad. He’s kind of oblivious and derptastic, which is uncommon in a tall, square-jawed hero-looking type. He’s nice to kids, didn’t really want to kill Bad Llama Kuzco, and even got his own Groove in a sequel. Kronk is conflicted – he literally has a little Angel Kronk and Devil Kronk that appear and give him terrible indecision. What finally tips him over to the side of what passes for “good” in this strange, gray area of a movie, is when Yzma criticizes his spinach puffs.
3.) Iago from Aladdin
Disney’s Aladdin is unique to me in that it’s the only one where the sequels don’t suck. I actually like the main trilogy with the cartoon show thrown into the mix. They did a great job with continuity for the most part, and it also serves to showcase how Iago went from villainous sidekick to kind-of good guy. In the first movie, Iago is the funny to Jafar’s straight-man, but there is no mistake that he is NOT a nice bird. In the sequels, he escapes the lamp and sincerely desires to be free of Jafar. Throughout the TV show, he stays with Aladdin and Jasmine, but eventually goes off with Cassim, Aladdin’s King of Thieves father in the third movie, an end that is befitting of his less-villainous but non-heroic nature. I think this character arc is important – it shows that the life of the henchman is not a one-stop shop. People grow and change their minds. Heck, Henchman 21 in The Venture Brothers sure did.
2.) Mr. Smee from Peter Pan
Mr. Smee is what LeFou has to look forward to if he continues his henching ways for Gaston. Mr. Smee basically takes care of Captain Hook, who, for all of his posturing and pontificating, actually suffers from some crocodile-induced PTSD regarding the loss of his hand. You might say that Smee is Captain Hook’s actual right-hand man. Sorry/notsorry for that horrible pun. Mr. Smee is simultaneously valued and treated badly by Hook, much like LeFou is yo-yo’d back and forth from friend and confidante to expendable bully-bait by Gaston. Seriously… Smee and LeFou are both short. Did LeFou leave France and hench for another as an older man?
(sings to the tune of ‘Gaston’)
Whoooo’s theeee best – Captain Hook!
Debonair? Captain Hook!
Who’s never as good as Gaston? Captain Hook!
Oh, crap. I think I made some kind of Once Upon a Time Crossover Weirdness.
1.) Yeah, you guessed it. LeFou, from Beauty and the Beast
As far as henchmen go, LeFou is a pro. He seems to have been born to hench. He’s that friend who eggs (four dozen of them!) the bully on, helping them to make even worse choices than they would on their own. You wanna commit that eccentric but not insane man to force his daughter to marry you? Great idea, Gaston! How can I help with that? That is the true danger of a character like LeFou. His desire to be accepted by and useful to who he perceives to be the most powerful makes him ruthless, stupid, and totally a follower, but also insidious, sneaky, and dangerous. In many ways, LeFou is a lot creepier to me than Gaston, and that’s how he earned himself seat number one on the Hench List.
(sings to the tune of ‘LeFou I’m Afraid I’ve Been Thinking’)
When I returned to the village,
I realized Gaston was no more.
But there’s no one in town half as manly,
So I guess I’ll go off to explore
I need to find a new villain
To Hench for with much loyalty
But I’ll never forget that swell cleft in his chin …
I guess I’ll try sailing the sea!
I don’t think that most sidekicks and sub-villains get into the gig by making a conscious decision to play second fiddle to someone else indefinitely. If anything, I think we can learn from a lot of the sidekicks that bravery doesn’t have to come from a strong, muscular human, and it doesn’t have to take place in center stage to matter. Many of the sub-villains offer cautionary tales of the dangers of low self-esteem and blindly following another. In other words, stay in school and don’t be a LeFou.
My most heartfelt thanks to Disney for making such fun characters to think about and dissect. My most heartfelt apologies to Disney for butchering their songs for the sake of comedy.
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.