I was out on Rob’s balcony this morning and my stream of consciousness was something like this: I shouldn’t stand so close to the edge, I might fall, no I won’t, that’s silly, where did this irrational fear of falling come from, maybe it’s all those Disney villains I grew up on, all the villains always fall to their doom, hmm, you know, in Frozen the villain doesn’t die at the end, that seems pretty unusual to me, but is it?
So I decided to do some research and determine just how often Disney villains die. Below are my results, and some other conclusions.
(Notes about the data set: this only includes the animated features created by Walt Disney Animation Studios, not a subsidiary. This list also does not include any film that is not one continuous story – this leaves us with 43 films total. I also has to make some decisions between focusing on villains and antagonists. Some characters are villainous, like Mad Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone, but she’s hardly a major antagonist in the film. Other characters, like Aunt Sarah in The Lady and the Tramp, are antagonistic but hardly evil. I’ve decided to focus just on antagonists.)
I categorized the fates in four ways – death, imprisonment (not always in an actual prison), banishment (or being driven off in some way), and thwarted (where the hero wins but nothing really bad happens to the villain, such as in Cinderella).
8 of the films have no real antagonist (as opposed to man vs man, their conflict would be classified as man vs society or man vs self. [And man vs nature in the case of Bambi.]) But in a majority of the remaining films that do have antagonists, the antagonist dies by the end. (Often by falling – 7 villains fall to their deaths.)
Another question then arose – has Disney always been this swift with the death penalty, or has that changed over time? So I made some box plots of the years for the different fates.
Though the very first Disney movie, Snow White, has the villain die, it’s a clear outlier – as is Sleeping Beauty. Most of the villain death occur during what is known as the Disney Renaissance, aka my childhood. The time of villains being defeated but without really changing their status quo harks back to an earlier time, whereas banishment and imprisonment as more universal. Interestingly, the films without villains all come from either the 40s or the 2000s. Neither is thought of as a big time for Disney films.
Below is my data set (spoilers). Perhaps more analysis will come in the future.