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10 Valuable Life Lessons We've Learned From Disney Villains

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Sure, the heroes in Disney movies are supposed to embody desirable traits: bravery, kindness, a sense of adventure. But sometimes, it’s the villains who have the most to teach us about the world — in their successes and their failures, too.

1. Scar, The Lion King: It’s not enough to want power; you have to be a good manager, too.

Scar won, at least for a while. He killed his brother, the king, drove off his princely nephew, and used his hyena army to secure power. After that…everything kind of went to hell. Scar was clearly asleep during all those “Circle of Life” songs, because he allowed his kingdom to become over hunted and let the lions go hungry — and treated his hyena allies as his scapegoats when it was convenient.


Sure, maybe the monarchical lion pride would have welcomed Simba back even if Scar hadn’t earned their resentment. But getting torn apart by your own army in the end? That’s the sign of a poor leader.

2. Frollo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame: If that person is not into you, let them go.

Claude Frollo was never a nice guy, but he held sway over Paris as a minister of justice for years before his obsession with Esmeralda drove him to madness. After all, it was his single-minded pursuit of the Gypsy dancer that led him to tear through the homes of Paris and encouraged his own captain of the guard to turn on him. If “Hellfire” is starting to sound like your theme song, maybe it’s time to forget the object of your affection and give online dating a go.

3. Yzma, The Emperor’s New Groove: If you’re going to delegate a task to someone, make sure that they’re up to it.

This is a lesson that Snow White’s stepmother learned well — after the Huntsman failed to bring her Snow White’s heart, she decided to poison the girl herself. But Yzma, the wanna-be empress of The Emperor’s New Groove, relies on her lackey Kronk again and again, even though he clearly doesn’t have a taste for Kuzco killing. Maybe she should have done it herself, or found someone more ruthless. Then again, maybe she just should have been more appreciative of Kronk’s cooking.

4. Jafar, Aladdin: Weigh those big life decisions carefully.

Oh yeah, getting that big promotion sounds great on paper — but have you considered the limitations? Where Scar forgot that power comes with responsibility, Jafar forgot that power sometimes comes with new boundaries. Maybe if he had taken a moment to weigh the pros and cons of turning into an evil genie, he might have gotten to rule of Agrabah for more than five seconds.

5. Ursula, The Little Mermaid: It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you just give people what they want.

Ursula may be a tad ironic when she sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” but the truth is, Ursula does give people what they want. There’s just usually a Mephistophelean deal that goes with the whole dreams-coming-true business. She gives Ariel what she wants by making her human. She gives Prince Eric what he wants by posing as his rescuer. She even gives Triton what he wants by allowing him to take Ariel’s place in Ursula’s polyp garden. Sure, she gets herself stabbed in the end, but Ursula managed to become queen of the ocean by being a very wicked woman of her word. And hey, some people even take the Sea Witch’s side.


6. Bowler Hat Guy, Meet the Robinsons: If your revenge has gone cold, it’s probably not worth serving.

“Keep moving forward” is the motto of Disney’s underrated early CG effort Meet the Robinsons, and the Bowler Hat Guy is an extreme example of what happens when you don’t move forward. Poor Goob was so devastated that he lost that Little League game that he talked himself right out of several potential adoptions and refused to even moved on from the orphanage after it closed. The Bowler Hat Guy became so obsessed with the idea of revenge for revenge’s sake that it left him susceptible to the manipulations of DOR-15, who decided world bowler hat domination was way cooler than revenge.

7. Gantu, Lilo & Stitch: Don’t let your personal dislike of someone destroy your career.

Captain Gantu isn’t looking for world domination or reacting to a personal slight. At first, he’s just trying to do his job, recovering the dangerous Experiment 626. But his obsession with the “abomination” makes the usually ruthless Gantu even more reckless than usual. Okay, sure, Stitch egged him on a bit with that whole wiping-his-butt-against-the-windshield maneuver, but Gantu was a professional, and the Galactic Federation expected him to act like one.

8. Gaston, Beauty and the Beast: If you live in the limelight, sometimes you’re going to embarrass yourself.

Yes, Gaston is vain and presumptuous, but he might have been a tolerable human being if he could just accept his lumps from time to time. Look, proposing to a girl who won’t give you the time of day in front of the whole village is a high-risk venture; you have to be willing to deal with it if it goes wrong. You might be even more popular if you can just laugh at yourself. (Although, I think if Gaston laughed at himself, he might then have to beat himself up.)


In the same vein, if you accept every arm wrestling challenge, sometimes this happens:

9. Mother Gothel, Tangled: No matter how much you try to shelter kids, they’re going to learn and do things you don’t want them to.

While hopefully most parents aren’t out to steal their children’s life force, there are probably many parents who can understand the desire to lock your kid away in a tower. In Tangled, Mother Gothel fails to keep Rapunzel from learning her true identity, but in other iterations of the Rapunzel story, the witch has an experience familiar to too many parents who want to keep their kids from learning about the sex: she realizes that Rapunzel is pregnant. What happens to her next is not very nice.


10. Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty: Seriously, stop obsessing about those people who stopped hanging out with you once they had kids.

We’re not talking about the live-action version of Maleficent, who has very different reasons for cursing Aurora. This is the Maleficent from the 1959 Sleeping Beauty, who is kicked out of a christening party after being told she wasn’t invited in the first place. Now maybe Aurora’s parents could have avoided the whole issue with a better sense of etiquette, but look at all the trouble Maleficent goes to to get back at them. Maybe the parents are stressed out and need some time. Maybe they think you don’t like kids and don’t want to be bothered. Maybe they weren’t great friends to begin with. Whatever the situation, stop staring at their photos on Facebook as if their baby slighted you personally.