Henchmen, minions, goons, flunkies… whatever you call them; these are some of Disney’s most overlooked yet, colourful characters. While often overshadowed by the stories’ main villains, those doing their bidding are afforded the opportunity to turn in a more varied and nuanced performance – they can be sillier, smarter, creepier, more ruthless and they even have the freedom to turn on their bosses and completely redeem themselves! These are fully-developed characters (sometimes); not just mere baddies hell-bent on evil. And, here are lists of our ten favourite.
Read on as both P.W. and Amy discuss their lists. Who do you agree with? Who did they leave out?
P.W.'s Top 10 List
10. Fidget (Ratigan), The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The raspy voiced Fidget is among the creepiest, scariest and strangest of all the Disney henchmen. He’s a crippled bat with a peg leg and gimpy wing; the latter which leaves him flightless. These injuries, along with his notched ear, suggest he’s led a rough and violent life. But that doesn’t excuse the ruthlessness Fidget employs in executing Ratigan’s more dastardly tasks. And, the methods in which Fidget kidnaps both Mr. Flaversham and his young daughter, Olivia, are as terrifying and despicable as any act carried out by a Disney henchman.
9. The Weasels (Mr. Winkie), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Having first appeared in The Wind and the Willows segment and henceforth playing roles in other Disney vehicles such as How to be a Detective (a Goofy short) (1952), Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), Ducktales (1989) and The Prince and the Pauper (1990), the Weasels are Disney’s go-to, plug-them-in-anywhere gang of henchmen. They even heavily inspired the famed Toon Patrol in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). But it’s in Mr. Toad where they leave their most indelible mark as the wise-talking, beer swilling, small-time crooks who, along with Mr. Winkie, hoodwink the motorcar obsessed Toad into trading the deed to Toad Hall for a stolen vehicle.
8. Iago (Jafar), Aladdin (1992)
Much like Robin Williams’ Genie, Iago is a case where Disney built a character around a voice actor’s personality. And, as Gilbert Gottfried, he embodies his loud mouthed, wise cracking essence. Cut from a similar mold as Sir Hiss, Iago rarely leaves Jafar’s side and acts as his most trusted advisor – often even hatching some of the more devious schemes. Along with Mr. Smee, I’d say Iago is probably one of the more well-known and popular of the Disney henchmen.
7. Gideon and Honest John aka J. Worthington Foulfellow (The Coachman), Pinocchio (1940)
There are many henchman duos in Disney lore (Anastasia and Drizella, Cinderella, Horace and Jasper, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Flotsam and Jetsam, The Little Mermaid, Pain and Panic, Hercules, etc.) but the original team of Gideon and Foulfellow are my favourites. I respect the fact that these two are conmen/grifters who offer their services as businessman rather than being a couple of mere goons or minions who are forever indebted and/or linked to one villain. But, it’s in a business deal with the Coachman where the two agree to round up little boys and dupe them into traveling to Pleasure Island where they will be transformed into donkeys so they can work the Coachmans’ mines. Gideon and Foulfellow succeed at their task, are paid handsomely and get off scot-free with nary a consequence (like all Pinocchio villains). In short: they win!
6. Big Baby (Lotso), Toy Story 3 (2010)
In Lotso’s formidable stable of henchman, Big Baby definitely stands out. He is your prototypical muscle/heavy – he’s big, dumb and a physical force of nature. Plus, when you juxtapose his brutishness with the constant cooing, goo-goo-ga-ga’ing and wonky eye, his presence is downright creepy and unsettling. Although, he does get to redeem himself as he’s the one who physically picks up Lotso and throws him into the trash bin.
5. Sheriff of Nottingham (Prince John), Robin Hood (1937)
The Sheriff of Nottingham is just your stereotypical, jackbooted government thug. He’s a mean-spirited, loud mouthed bully who not only practices the art of physical intimidation but is just as skilled in the ways of emotionally defeating someone as well. And, he has zero qualms in carrying out his particular brand of evil towards women, children, the clergy and even the handicapped. However, with his southern drawl and unparalleled swagger, he does all this with a certain panache and, dare I say, charm. That’s what charisma does – it makes even the biggest jerks likable.
4. Megara (Hades), Hercules (1997)
Meg’s situation and arc are especially unique in that she serves as both a reluctant henchwoman-turned-pawn (indebted to Hades after selling her soul to save her then boyfriend) as well as the main character’s love interest. But, most importantly, I find that Meg’s angular figure and sarcastically sassy personality make her among the most fetching of all Disney females.
3. Humbert aka The Huntsman (The Evil Queen), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
I just get a kick out of this guy for his pure buffoonery and incompetence. The Queen employs the Huntsman to kill Snow and bring back her heart but he’s so taken by her purity that he can’t bring himself to do it and even goes so far as to drop to his knees, begging for forgiveness all while wiping his tears on Snow’s skirt (Ohhh, Humbert…). Plus, after all, he is Disney’s very first henchman and that’s gotta count for something!
2. Mr. Smee (Captian Hook), Peter Pan (1953)
As the loveable first mate, Mr. Smee (perhaps the most famous of all the Disney flunkies) is by far the cuddliest and most benign of the henchmen. Even when he captures Tinker Bell he does so with genuine politeness while sweetly apologizing. And, the way he dotes on Captain Hook is downright motherly. However, even Smee’s loyalty has its limits and proves he’s still a pirate to the core as he’s seen attempting to sneak off into the dinghy with a treasure chest and a bag of loot as he senses Hook’s impending defeat at the hands of Pan.
1. Sir Hiss (Prince John), Robin Hood (1973)
When it comes down to it, Hiss just makes me laugh (a lot!) – it’s as simple as that. His antics are just so silly and his comedic timing/chemistry with Prince John is second to none; making up one-half of the best comedy duo Disney has to offer (with apologies to Hook and Smee who are the archetypes to what Hiss and Prince John perfected). Even then, with all his goofiness aside, Hiss’ role in hypnotizing King Richard into leaving England for the Crusades can’t be overlooked and proves both his worth and competence as Prince John’s coconspirator and his official title as Keeper of the Royal Treasure.
Amy's Top 10 List
10. Anastasia & Drizella (Evil Step-Mother), Cinderella (1950)
Disney's first official mean girls. All that jealousy and pettiness leaves very little room for anything else in those little airheads. Spoiled rotten, these two follow their mother's lead by being absolutely cruel to our beautiful protagonist. The worst scene is when mommy dearest instigates the tearing of Cinderella's handmade dress; it's just heart-wrenching. These two are too dumb to realize how awful they actually are.
9. Alpha (Charles F. Muntz), Up (2009)
There isn’t anyone more loyal than a dog. Alpha is dedicated to his master’s quest of finding Kevin and will stop at nothing to complete his mission. He certainly lives up to his name, keeping all the other dogs in line, even when his voice box makes him sound like a rodent. Being the most intimidating breed in the pack and I don’t blame anyone for fearing him.
8. Ken Carson (Lotso), Toy Story 3 (2010)
One of the few that changed. I’m a big sucker for redemption, especially with a character as charmingly funny as Ken. Even though he’s sitting pretty with the elite toys of the day care, he decides to change that, not just for Barbie, but for the good of all toys. After seeing the error in Lotso’s ways, this henchman became an even better leader.
7. Iago (Jafar), Aladdin (1992)
Omg, so annoying. I think that's mainly why I had to have him on the list. He doesn't really do much for Jafar, besides being by his side at all times. If anything, Iago is Jafar's crude inner monologue. Still, the bird is quite loyal to his master, and every evil master mind needs at least one person/animal stroking their ego.
6. Flotsam & Jetsam (Ursula), The Little Mermaid (1989)
So so so so creepy! Just being the slithery eels they are puts them on the list. Being Ursula’s loyal pets, they do her bidding without question. The ultimate spies with those witchy eyes, they are the ones that convince Ariel to see Ursula, as well as the ones that screw up Ariel’s first kiss. If you think about it, Ursula would not have gotten so far in her plan without these two. They do their job and they do it well.
5. Mr. Smee (Captian Hook), Peter Pan (1953)
If he weren't so darn adorable, he probably would have landed higher on my list. To be quite honest, he's only on the list because he is such a classic character. Being a pirate and Captain Hook's first mate already lands him in the "bad guy" category. He is incredibly loyal to his captain, even though he is treated poorly. However, even while following orders, he has a bit of a soft spot. He even apologizes to Tinkerbell when he kidnaps her! You have got to have a meaner streak if you want a spot in the Henchman hall of fame.
4. Horace & Jasper (Cruella DeVil), 101 Dalmatians (1961)
I’m a big fan of the henchmen duo. It’s almost as if they can gossip about their big bad boss when they aren’t around. That’s only natural when your boss kicks you around! You should have someone to vent to that completely understands what you are going through. Horace and Jasper are just that. These poor fools are only helping Cruella de Vil for the money. It’s not the undying loyalty that keeps them around, which is characteristic of many of these sidekicks. No, it’s all for selfish reasons. In the real world, that is usually why people commit crimes, so when they fail miserably, they have no problem telling Cruella to just “shut up”. Horace & Jasper may plan on killing puppies, but thankfully, they are so bad at the job that it adds one of the most memorable comedic performances in Disney animation history.
3. Le Fou (Gaston), Beauty & the Beast (1991)
Though he is very reminiscent of Mr. Smee, Le Fou has a darker side to him. He is very much aware of what Gaston wants and will stop at nothing to help him. When Gaston is feeling discouraged, Le Fou is the one to give him back his confidence (not that it takes much). Still, Le Fou knows Gaston’s villainous intentions and does not question him once. What’s in it for him? Nothing but Gaston’s friendship, I guess. Doesn’t seem like enough when it entails committing fraud, kidnapping, and accessory to murder. Buy hey, that’s what makes the perfect henchman, right?
2. Sir Hiss (Prince John), Robin Hood (1973)
Snobby and slithery, the right had to Prince John is incredibly dedicated to him. In fact, Prince John wouldn’t have all his new found power if it weren’t for Sir Hiss hypnotizing King Richard to leave. However, that doesn’t stop him from trying to warn the prince when he might be making a mistake. Unfortunately, Prince John tends to dismiss him, treating Sir Hiss more like a pet rather than a member of his royal court.
1. Banzai, Shenzi, and Ed (Scar), The Lion King (1994)
These henchmen were out for themselves from the very beginning. They followed Scar out of sheer greed for the possibility of power over the food chain. Scar needed them and they knew it, which is probably why they ended up on top of Scar (literally). These hyenas were going to get what they worked for no matter what - and what they want is food.