Handsome Heroes & Vile Villains: Men in Disney's Feature Animation

Handsome Heroes & Vile Villains: Men in Disney's Feature Animation

Handsome Heroes & Vile Villains: Men in Disney's Feature Animation

Handsome Heroes & Vile Villains: Men in Disney's Feature Animation


From the iconic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to Tangled, the 2010 retelling of Rapunzel, Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains looks at the portrayal of male characters in Disney films from the perspective of masculinity studies and feminist film theory. This companion volume to Good Girls and Wicked Witches places these depictions within the context of Hollywood and American popular culture at the time of each film's release.


“Story-wise, we sharpen the decisive triumph of good over evil with
our valiant knights – the issues which represent our moral ideals. We
do it in a romantic fashion, easily comprehended by children. in this
respect, moving pictures are more potent than volumes of familiar
words in books.”

– Walt Disney.

When many people think of the Disney studio’s animated feature films, they think of princesses. and on the surface, it’s no wonder. the films which were key financial, critical, and popular successes for Disney – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella (1950), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Tangled (2010) – as well as turning points in the studio’s history, all feature young women who are either born or become princesses. the young women around whom these stories centre are charismatic, beautiful, interesting, and beset with monumental problems, and so they have what it takes to capture much of our interest. the problems they face, by and large, in most of the examples cited above, are caused by equally-compelling women: evil to the point of monstrous, their determination, jealousy, and dynamism nearly steal the show from the heroines who are the targets of their animosity.

But what about the men? the young boys who go on amazing adventures? the princes and heroes who win the hearts of the princesses and heroines and who, we just know by the ends of the films, will go on to live in love and romantic unity happily ever after? the friends and companions who assisted them along the way? Villains who bring danger – and in most cases excitement – to the story? Yes, they’re remembered by the public, to a degree. Being able to name all seven of the dwarfs is something of a trivia game in some quarters (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy,

1 Jeff Kurtti, The Art of Tangled (San Francisco: Chronicle Books llc, 2010), p. 104.

2 Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin are the exceptions, and in both of these cases, they are scenestealing men, villains who have both great comic timing and genuine auras of menace and danger.

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