HENCHMEN, MINIONS, & THUGS:
DISNEY'S SECOND CLASS VILLAINS
by Whatsits Galore
Much attention has been paid to Disney villains. They've had their own songs, TV specials, coffee table book, even a shop in Walt Disney World. But villains can't go it alone. They require some evil assistance. Enter the villain's sidekick, otherwise known as the henchman. When considering these villainous minions, one burning question arises: why become a villain's henchman in the first place? At first glance, it seems to be a role with no perqs whatsoever. One runs the same risks as the main villain, but without the prestige or noteriety. It remains for us to find the reasoning behind the secondary villain position.
Some minions are pets, and, of course, a pet has no choice in masters. As such, Joanna endures threats and kicks galore while slavishly trying to please McLeach. Most pets/henchmen are treated better than that poor lizard, including Lucifer, or Flotsam and Jetsam, whose mistress Ursula, while sometimes losing her temper a bit, still loves her "poopsies." Medusa likewise adores her pet alligators, though in a tense moment she unwisely beats them with a rope, thus losing whatever loyalty she at first commanded.
One of the obvious disadvantages of the role of thug, besides the constant threat posed by the forces of good, comes from the head villain himself. Many minions find themselves at the wrong end of their boss' temper. Creeper is continually throttled by the Horned king, while Maleficent's goons spend a good deal of time dodging lightning bolts; Horace and Jasper endure both insults and slaps, and Pain and Panic expect every moment to suffer some fresh torment from Hades.
In the face of all this abuse, what prompts the hapless henchman to serve the villain at all? Some are, it must be said, just plain stupid, with Kronk leading the pack. He follows Yzma rather like a puppy until an insult to his precious spinach puffs finally breaks through the fog in his brain, and he turns against her, albeit, ineffectually. Other low-IQ thugs like Fidget and Lefou never come to the point of rebellion. One wonders if it would be quite safe, once in the villain's employ, to defy his orders. Perhaps the surest sign of stupidity is joining the bad guy's organization in the first place. But you can't just walk out on a mistress of evil, so the average secondary villain is pretty much stuck. Creeper has to wait for the cauldron to finish off his boss before he finds his freedom, but his escape is a rare example of a henchman set free.
A few villain henchmen seem to be only honest soldiers doing their jobs. The vultures in Robin Hood or Humbert the huntsman fall into this category. Nuttsy and Trigger will arrest any lawbreaker, whether Merry Man or deposed prince, with no hard feelings, while the huntsman can't even bring himself to carry out the Queen's evil order to murder Snow White. Mr. Smee, while clearly enjoying the life of a pirate, doesn't strike one as truly evil. He even seems genuinely fond of Capt. Hook.
Some minions are clearly in it for the money. The Baduns are nothing but hoodlums for hire. Snoops could never have recovered the Devil's Eye on his own. These junior-grade villains need a major baddie to help them with the big scores; they just can't make it solo.
Many henchmen, however, desire one thing more than money: glory. Puny, wimpy fellows on their own, they attach themselves to a villain to bask in his reflected greatness, hoping that something will rub off on them. Small fish like Sir Hiss or Lefou feel more significant by connecting themselves to important, though evil, persons. Thus they sing the praises of Prince John and Gaston respectively, even while suffering assaults, insults, and boundless humiliation.
Then there is that rarest of all creatures, the competent henchman. Although a secondary villain, he is neither stupid nor funny, but an evil presense in his own right. Roscoe and DeSoto, Rico, the elite Huns, and my personal favorite, Helga, are all dangerous foes, and could almost handle the villain chores for their respective films on their own. Although they don't suffer the abuse that the comical minion recieves, they would be wise not to trust their bosses too far; when push comes to shove, even the most valuable henchman will find himself expendable, as Helga learned too late.
She couldn't save her own life, but Helga did manage to take out her killer Rourke's balloon, thus not only exacting some revenge, but also bringing a little dignity to a downtrodden and disrespected class of character. Future generations of goons and thugs will always look to the late Helga Sinclair as a shining example of what's best in the Disney villain sidekick.
Follow the links to see vivid examples of henchman abuse:
|Playing Cards||Creeper||Pain and Panic||Mr. Smee||Fidget||Kronk|
|Maleficent's goons||Joanna||Helga Sinclair|
|The Baduns||Lefou||Mr. Scroop|
|Sir Hiss||Iago||The Willie Brothers|
|Mr. Snoops||Shenzi, Banzai and Ed||Lawrence|
All Disney characters & images © Disney and are used for fan purposes only
All other content © 2003-2020 Whatsits Galore
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