)? See the Actors Behind These 10 Iconic Disney Villains (Did You Guess Them All

Be prepared to be surprised

Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 14:31:05 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 14:31:05

Be prepared to be surprised.

Over the years there's been lots of love for Disney princesses, but the actors who've had the job of voicing Disney villains deserve their moments in the spotlight, too.

In a conversation with BAFTA years ago, The Lion King's resident bad guy, Scar actor Jeremy Irons, recalled watching a whole theater of people stand to cheer when his character was seemingly killed off toward the end of the film.

"I thought, 'He wasn't that bad,' " Irons joked. "I was the only person sitting there watching them all roaring and clapping — so hurtful!"

From Irons' badly behaved big cat to the woman who voiced not one but two early Disney divas, see the actors behind some of the most iconic animated villains.

Born in 1927, Pat Carroll had dozens of credits to her name —including time on The Danny Thomas Show and Getting Together — before giving voice to evil sea witch Ursula in 1989's The Little Mermaid, one of her many voice roles.

"She’s perfection," Melissa McCarthy, who played Ursula in Disney's 2023 remake of the film, told Today. "You just admire and bow."

Prior to her death in 2022, Emmy winner Carroll voiced characters on Pound Puppies and Garfield specials, among other '80s and '90s favorites, playing Ursula again in several video games and shorts.

Funny enough, she also had an uncredited cameo in McCarthy's Bridesmaids in 2011.

"Gaston is iconic," opera singer and stage veteran Richard White told reporters at a 25th anniversary celebration of 1991's Beauty and the Beast. "It's astonishing to me just how big of an impression that makes on people. I can't help but be extremely proud of what we made and how people react to it."

Since his time as Gaston — the egotistical suitor of Belle who ultimately tries to kill the Beast — he's stuck mainly to voice work and theater, and joined original Belle Paige O'Hara in 2022 for a 30th anniversary event celebrating the film.

As Tangled's Mother Gothel, who kidnaps a baby Rapunzel and uses her magical hair to stay young in the 2010 film, Tony nominee and TV star Donna Murphy worked to stay "lighter" and "sweeter" in her vocals to keep the growing princess from leaving her.

"I have all kinds of theories about her backstory," Murphy shared in a roundtable with other Disney voice actors in 2019. "There was a narcissism about her."

"Part of being a villain," she added, "is there's no rules that you need to stay within to accomplish what you need to get. For this woman, with the child who'd she been with since she was a baby ... she's trying to squash her into staying, and there's a million ways to do that."

In an interview for BAFTA, Jeremy Irons called acting as scheming lion Scar in 1994's The Lion King "extraordinary." But he did have one bone to pick with animators.

After describing the recording process — which includes having artists in the room to sketch an actor's every move — he was "devastated" to see that Scar was ultimately a "scrawny bloody lion."

"I look at James Earl Jones' Mufasa and he's golden, big mane. James Earl Jones is bald! I thought, 'What's the matter with me? Why I've got to look like that?' The tail looks like people have been pulling hair out of it for 100 years!"

Despite the qualms, Irons was revered for the work, earning an MTV Movie Award nomination for best villain and an Annie Award win for best achievement in voice acting.

Betty Lou Gerson worked steadily on TV and radio before landing what was arguably her biggest role: that of -

the terrifying, dog-obsessed Cruella De Vil in 1961's 101 Dalmatians.

“Cruella was such an exaggerated character, and that’s exactly how I played her," Gerson, who died in 1999, once said. "She was a lot of fun, but I never expected her to become the cult figure that she became.”

In a lighter turn, she also acted as the opening narrator in 1950's Cinderella.

Keith David has had a prolific career that includes three Emmy wins for his voiceover work alone. But his part as the evil Dr. Facilier, who turns Tiana and Prince Naveen into frogs in 2009's The Princess and the Frog, allowed him to showcase his singing skills, too, with the smarmy solo "Friends on the Other Side."

You've seen and heard him in everything from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Rick and Morty to The Thing and Community, in addition to endless documentaries and commercials, with more on the way.

Not only did theater star Jonathan Freeman voice the evil Jafar in 1993's Aladdin, but he originated the role in the Broadway adaptation of the film in 2014, stepping down in early 2022.

When asked to list five words that describe the character in an interview with the New York Times that same year, he said, "Mercurial; malevolent; jealous (not to be confused with envious); vain; and self-important."

Freeman also acknowledged that his own heritage didn't necessarily match the hypothetical one of Jafar.

"I never thought of him, to be honest, as anything but a Disney villain," Freeman said. "I never thought of him as being North African, Middle Eastern, Asiatic, South Asian. I never thought of any of those things. I always thought of him as being a villain. The makeup that I put on was never meant to be race. It was always villain’s makeup. It had to do with the arch of the eyebrow, it had to do with the sneer."

"It’s not that no one thought about it," he added. "I think everybody thought about it, and everyone thought about it carefully."

Freeman now offers Jafar videos via Cameo.

Oscar nominee James Woods tried his hand at voice work as the king of the underworld in 1997's Hercules. Despite his character Hades' goal to take down Zeus, Hercules and the rest of the good guys, Woods played the part with a conversational tone that brought more humor than the typical Disney villain has.

Continuing his work in movies and TV in the years since, he's also continued with voice work, including in a short-lived TV adaptation of Hercules.

Another Disney star who got her start in theater and radio, Eleanor Audley went on to voice not one but two iconic early baddies: Sleeping Beauty's shape-shifting sorceress Maleficent in 1959 and evil stepmother Lady Tremaine in 1950's Cinderella. Prior to her death in 1991, she appeared on a host of popular television shows, including Green Acres, I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Fun fact: She also voiced Madame Leota, the body-less fortune teller in a crystal ball, on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion ride.

It was none other than the legendary Eartha Kitt who gave voice to another evil mother figure, The Emperor's New Groove's Yzma, in 2000.

Also a Broadway veteran — in addition to a successful singer and movie actress — she had dabbled in voice work before landing the part of Yzma, ultimately winning back-to-back Daytime Emmy Awards in 2007 and 2008 for outstanding performer in an animated program for the spinoff series, The Emperor's New School.

Kitt died at 81 years old in 2008.

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