The Champion of Waltz Madness 2015: Little John!
I think we underestimated just how cool and charismatic Little John is. As we’ve stated before, Robin Hood is our favourite Disney movie but even we didn’t realize how much we loved Little John until we saw him pitted against otherwise more popular and revered characters. If we or anyone else were to make a list of “Disney’s Top 10 Sidekicks,” I’m not even sure Little John gets mentioned while Timon and Pumbaa would be in everyone’s Top 3.
Little John may not be as marketable or cute and funny as Timon and Pumbaa but he’s indubitably the better sidekick. At times, you could even say T&P were detrimental to Simba’s journey. Albeit, their loyalty and friendship was strong enough that they did finally manage to provide suitable support but it didn’t come naturally to them. Little John is Robin Hood’s rock from before the movie even starts until, as we can only assume, their dying days. Can you count all the ways Little John supports Robin? He’s his muscle, his love guru, his cook, his coachman, his impromptu surprise party planner, etc. Little John even tries reigning Robin in when he fears he’s biting off more than he can chew with his dating deeds. He’s the friend and sidekick we all wish we had. And, like I said before, he’s really REALLY cool… almost like Disney’s own version of the Fonz without all the promiscuity and leather.
The Greatest Sidekick of Them All
Of course, had we opened the competition to the entire Disney universe and not just limited it to characters from the animated features, there’s no question who would have been the runaway winner, right? The greatest sidekick in Disney history is *drum roll* LAUNCHPAD MCQUACK! Duh… The cleft beaked, square shouldered pelican has been the sidekick to two different characters from two different franchises: first, to Scrooge “Mr. McD” McDuck from DuckTales (1987-1990) and then to Darkwing “D.W.” Duck from the eponymously titled Darkwing Duck (1991-1992). Not counting any straight-to-video sequels (which we don’t), all of the sidekicks in our bracket were limited to their lone 90-minute-ish movie appearances. Meanwhile, Launchpad was an after-school staple for kids across the country every day for well over five years (counting syndication) and continues to live on today through DVD anthology sets from both of his series (all of which we own!).
Launchpad may have been a bit on the dim side but he more than made up for it by being kind, brave, strong and loyal – not to mention, he is a GREAT pilot (sure, he never met a landing he couldn’t crash but whatevs…). I feel like he’s best known as Uncle Scrooge’s personal pilot and DW’s sidekick but he’s much more than just that. He’s been a 007 spy, spent a day as Gizmo Duck and even got to switch places with Darkwing Duck for one episode. But my own personal favourite Launchpad is his role as scoutmaster for Hewey, Dewey, Louie and Doofus’ Junior Woodchuck troop. His patience and leadership, particularly with the socially challenged and morbidly obese Doofus, is especially admirable.
I mean, sure… great for Little John (yay!) but let’s just say he was lucky not to have seen Launchpad, with his scarf dramatically flapping in the wind, staring back across the bracket at him.
More Than a Sidekick
When we started the tournament, I briefly mentioned a few characters who would not be competing due to their uncommon stature and importance. They’re kind of stuck in this no-man’s land between a main character and a sidekick – the best description would be “co-lead” but that’s also a bit of a misnomer too because no one would mistake a few of the characters listed as the lead either. I’ve also excluded all love interests which was tough because Disney’s done them well in the modern era (Meg, Kristoff, etc.) Here are my Top-7 “Whatever-the-Heck-They-Ares.”
7. Koda – Brother Bear, (2003): Although very different, it reminds me a lot of The Lion King (1994) but set in Alaska. Koda is a precocious little bear cub who loses his mother and, as a result, starts palling around with an older “bear” named Kenai. As Kenai’s the main character, it’s through Koda that he learns about friendship, family and brotherhood which helps him complete his spiritual journey of which the movie revolves around.
6. Vanellope von Schweetz – Wreck-It Ralph (2012): Ralph is tired of being “the bad guy” and wants to be the hero and Vanellope is the literal and figurative vehicle by which he achieves his goal. Vanellope, a wisecracking and quirky nine-year-old, is the misfit glitch of her arcade game, “Sugar Rush,” but longs to be included with all of the other racers. Ralph helps Vanellope reach her destiny as a racer thus, making him a hero.
5. Genie - Aladdin (1992): I know he’s extremely popular and I respect that but I’ve just never been a big Robin Williams guy. He and the Genie are just too manic and stream-of-consciencey for my refined sensibilities. Despite all that though, Genie is an extremely important and well-done character. When he’s not granting wishes, he actually becomes a best pal to his “master” and helps instill Aladdin with the confidence he needs to overcome his “Street Rat” rep, (truthfully) woo Jasmine and defeat Jafar.
4. Merlin – The Sword in the Stone (1963): Merlin is probably Disney’s best mentor (with apologies to Hercules’ Phil). The all-knowing wizard spends the near entirety of the movie molding an awkward, knobby-kneed squire into the future king of England. But, even more than that, we are also treated to a semi-climactic Wizarding Duel where Merlin teaches us that germ warfare is the most powerful weapon wizarding has to offer.
3. Tigger – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977): T-i-double guh-err doesn’t do a darn thing for Pooh except for blow him off the screen. As a kid, I just related to his relentless energy and enthusiasm while milquetoasty Pooh Bear just bored me to tears. Sometimes, these “Whatever-the-Heck-They-Ares” are nothing more than scene stealers whose charisma just overpowers the rest of the cast.
2. Baymax – Big Hero Six (2014): As the world’s greatest health care provider, Baymax moves on from physical maladies and tackles emotional pain. He heals the grieving Hiro’s broken heart with a loyalty and determination that goes beyond his programming. But it’s his unique brand of physical comedy and gentle innocence that truly make him one of Disney’s most indelible characters.
1. Baloo – The Jungle Book (1967): What a day for Phil Harris! Baloo is not Little John. Little John is not Baloo. They are different species of bears with completely different personalities who just happen to share the same voice. I love Baloo because he changes: he starts out as irresponsible, shiftless and lazy but because of Mowgli, he learns responsibility in taking the bear cub to the man village and develops courage when he squares off against Shere Kahn. Plus, Baloo contributes to one of Disney’s greatest song and dance numbers with “I Wanna be Like You.”
So what Madness would you like to see at the Waltz next year? Best Disney Movie? Best Disney Song? Tell us and maybe it will happen!
Thank You, Voters!
As a special thank you to all voters, we are offering a one-time thank you gift for participating! You will receive one surprise 4x6 art print, featuring the Disney-inspired artwork by our Art Director, Amy Melissa. Be sure to fill out the form completely to receive your gift. Prizes must be redeemed by Friday, 4/10/2015. Only voters during the 2015 Waltz Madness will be eligible to receive this gift (and we know who voted so no sneaky business!).
UPDATE 4/11/2015: ALL THANK YOU GIFTS HAVE BEEN MAILED.
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