It’s almost too easy to single out Disney villains as examples of the darker side of traditional Disney animation. There’s a reason why Disney villains are among the most memorable in film history. Though some (like Cruella deVil) are designed for laughs, and others (such as Maleficent) have nothing funny about them, ALL of them have the uncanny ability to tap into the deepest, truest fears that most people carry from early childhood: the loss of a loved one; physical and emotional abuse; mockery and bullying; deliberate harm to a friend or pet; death; and the destruction of happiness in general.
Some people argue that the first Disney feature film villain was the best: the wicked queen from Show White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). In the film, the queen has no name. All audiences know is that she’s Snow White’s stepmother and that she’s insanely jealous of Snow White’s beauty. The extent of her jealousy is so great that, halfway through the movie, the queen voluntarily undergoes a startling transformation in order to destroy Snow White. Through a magical potion, the queen changes from a beautiful, regal (though severe) woman to a bug-eyed old hag. The transformation is still among the most effective in film history. It was helped by the voice actress, Lucille La Verne, who altered her voice to ensure that the queen and the hag sounded almost completely different from one another. (A popular legend states that, in order to sound more “hag-like," La Verne removed her dentures when voicing the hag.) Audiences are left with no doubt that in undergoing such a change, Snow White’s stepmother gets a perverse pleasure from persecuting her stepdaughter.