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Good drama has always depended on a bad villain, especially in the movies. The antagonist can be anyone or anything, depending on the skill of the screenwriter; in some cases, even the "good guy" can actually be the "bad guy." While Disney's scant competition over the years lies forgotten in the dust bins of cinematic history, the studio's animators and storymen have become the modern equivalent of the Brothers Grimm to generations of filmgoers – in no small part because of their ability to provide memorably frightening antagonists. For, while title characters get name recognition and star billing, it is often the "unsung villains" (as Disney refers to its stable of animated bad guys) who are recalled years later. (On the other hand, when a voiceover in Don Bluth's ROCK-A-DOODLE terms a villain "more annoying than frightening," truer words were never spoken.)

Disney's villains come in two types: darkly evil ones and comic buffoons. Several of the former have the powers of darkness on their side. The most memorable of all Disney villains is still the wicked queen in SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, animated by Norm Ferguson. Totally devoid of humor from her hideous transformation to her diabolical poison plot, she is one of the screen's most frightening images – so despicable is this creature that she hires a lackey to cut out the heart of the innocent Princess.

A close relative, also rising from the well spring of fairy tails, is Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty's vitriolic nemesis in Disney's 1961 feature. Marc Davis did extensive animation work on both Maleficent and Cruella De ViL. Enraged by a perceived slight from good King Stefan on the birth of his daughter, the sorceress plants a spell that sends everyone in the kingdom into a deep, deathlike sleep. Her powers even surpass those of the Wicked Queen: she has an army of troll-like creatures at her disposal, as well as the ability to transform herself into a towering dragon.

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