The Mice and Men of Disney: 5 Heroes Who Never Get Their Due

Categories: Animation

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Like most adult people, we didn't really pay attention to the world of Disney. Whenever a new film came out, we briefly acknowledged whatever story they'd chosen to animate and then moved on with our day. Now we have a daughter, and like most parents you start getting into Disney culture...a culture that has some serious problems, in our opinion.

The Disney princess movement is really beginning to annoy us. We understand that the point of the whole thing, aside from making huge amounts of money, of course, is to give little girls a bevy of female protagonists to identify with. The problem is, we feel that they've become so dedicated to this narrative that they have actively begun sacrificing any male roles in the stories. That's too bad because there have been some truly badass boys in the films, and each one is dying the sad death of undermarketing. Such as..


Basil

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Basil is the lead in The Great Mouse Detective, which is basically just Sherlock Holmes with mice. The film is ripe for rediscovery, what with the steampunk craze continuing to build and Holmes himself getting not one but two highly successful reboots. Yet, because the film focuses almost exclusively on a male protagonist and doesn't fit in the princess scheme at all, it sits forgotten.

Which is a shame because not only did Basil save the Queen of England in his own film, he saved every single princess from Ariel to Mulan. Basically, Disney was seriously thinking about ditching its animation department in the '80s. Don Bluth had left the company and proceeded to drink Mickey's milkshake with The Secret of NIMH. Meanwhile, Disney suffered a serious flop with The Black Cauldron.

Disney gave it one more go with Great Mouse Detective in 1986. Unfortunately it came out the same year as a similar film, Bluth's An American Tale (Another reason it's been forgotten), but it did do well enough financially and critically to convince management that there was still money in animation. Two years later they broke all the rules with Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and the year after that released The Little Mermaid, which sealed Disney at the top of the game until Shrek came along.

So yeah, half of those princesses you see on every damned lunch box? They owe it to Basil.

Thomas

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Pocahontas isn't a terribly great film aside from the fact that it's got a particularly excellent soundtrack. Mostly it exists so that Disney can fill out its ethnicity card more fully. Our two leads, Pocahontas and John Smith, really deserve no accolades, as both of them are denser than frozen bison poo, and the respective leaders they answer to are generally even worse.

Thomas is Smith's sidekick, and at first it looks like he exacerbates the situation into conflict when he kills a jealous suitor of Pocahontas who rushes at Smith in a rage. This leads to Smith's capture and all of the final act. Oh, if only he hadn't killed that pissed-off, murderous...wait.

Exactly. If Thomas hadn't stepped in and saved Smith, then Smith would've died. If you think that anything would've saved the Native Americans after that, then you didn't read your history very deeply. Thomas started out as sort of a nincompoop, but in the end he was the only one thinking even half clearly throughout the film.



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13 comments
A.L.A.
A.L.A.

I enjoyed the list (The Great Mouse Detective is one of my all-time fav Disney films, and I hadn't even considered Thomas....mostly because Pocahontas is suuuuch a stupid, insulting film, but you're actually kind of right about him. Plus he's played by baby Christian Bale! Awwww) but I'm gonna have to disagree with you on a couple of choices.

The lesser offender is Prince Phillip. I do agree with you about Prince Eric, but the difference between him and Phillip is that, well, Eric actually talks. Seriously, I think Phillip talks MAYBE two times throughout the whole movie. Yes, he kills Maleficent in a truly epic fight scene, but neither he nor Aurora have much dialogue throughout the movie. They're incredibly boring characters, and only the awesome of Maleficent, maybe the fairy godmothers, and the sort of unique art style of the film saves it from being one of the worst Disney films, at least in my opinion.

I gotta say though, your opinion of Gaston is what kind of got to me - and to others, looking at the other comments. Yes, both Beast and Gaston are self-centered, and Beast does his share of cruel, abusive, and evil things things. But Beast changes and grows as a character, becoming kind and eventually coming to truly love Belle. Gaston on the other hand, gets worse! You say that he's "just an oaf" and "too much of a meathead" to express his emotions "in any way other than fratboy speak." Sorry, but he is not some idiotically naive oaf; on the contrary, he's a brute, self absorbed, and immediately jumps to violence in the face of the unknown. I don't think he ever has true feelings for Belle. It's more like a "You're the prettiest girl in town, I'm the handsomest man, let's hook up" sort of ordeal. Somebody mentioned Gaston wanting to turn Belle into his illiterate housewife, which I think is pretty much spot on, since the first time we see them in conversation together he immediately talks about her birthing his children and denouncing her love of books. And if he really cared for Belle that much, why do we see him flirting with and showing off for his fangirls in the tavern (no, don't say that this is a "guy thing," of he was supposed to be this "true love" in a Disney movie he wouldn't act like that!)?He immediately jumps to violence at the sight of Beast, and doesn't listen at all to Belle when she pleads Gaston not to harm him. Plus to whole "threatening to imprison Belle's father" thing was blackmail to force her to marry him, right? Ah, truly Gaston's love is true and pure. Yuck. Regardless, he's a fun character with a couple of great songs, so I can temporarily overlook his chauvinism since he does get what's coming to him in the end. 

Sorry for the long spiel, your list just got me thinking a bit. If I may toss a few names into the ring, I would say Bernard and Bianca from The Rescuers (specifically, Down Under), and Robin from Robin Hood :)

Guest
Guest

So, the fact that "Gaston only THREATENED her father!!" to blackmail her into marriage makes it okay? And his wanting to turn her into an illiterate housewife = truly loving her? No.

Gaston didn't love her as a person at all, he only wanted her as a trophy. A violent chauvinistic narcissist who abused his only friend is not an unsung hero -_-

and Beast imprisoned her dad for trespassing and breaking into his house, not "for no reason", although I agree with plenty of the other things said about him.

Guest
Guest

So, the fact that "Gaston only THREATENED her father!!" to blackmail her into marriage makes it okay? Or how turning wanting to turn her into an illiterate housewife = truly loving her.

Gaston didn't love her as a person at all, he only wanted her as a trophy. A violent chauvinistic narcissist who abused his only friend is not an unsung hero -_-

and Beast imprisoned her dad for trespassing and breaking into his house, not "for no reason", although ia w/plenty of the other things said about him.

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

Great list. I would humbly add: The Rescuers.

They were just two mice, a seagull, and a dragonfly, but they got shit DONE, son.

Sarah
Sarah

Maybe the moral of the story is the Belle shouldn't have ended up with either one...  You probably wouldn't want your daughter with a complete meathead like Gaston, either.  He doesn't like Belle except for the added status he thinks she might be able to add to his "Gaston - THE BEST!" brand.  He goes over to her house with an entire wedding before he even has a real conversation with her.  YICK and more YICK.  

Of course, he's just a commoner.  A popular commoner, but a commoner, nonetheless, and Beast is a REAL PRINCE (TM).  I wonder how this would have played out if Disney had actually made Gaston a rival prince.  

skot
skot

Great article, Jef.  Very insightful and fun, and I particularly think this is now the King of humorous run-on sentences:

"Then there's Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid. For sure, he is slower in the uptake than a one-legged man hopping back into a minefield, but in his defense the war between Ursula and Ariel over his affections is more mind-bogglingly silly than all three seasons of Rock of Love combined, so maybe we can forgive him for not understanding what the hell was going on since thanks to Ariel he didn't suffer enough brain damage from almost drowning to recognize all the stupid trying to grab his junk."

Love it!

Keep 'em comin'.

Hbeard85
Hbeard85

I love this article, Jef. I never looked at Gaston that way before, and probably never will look at him the same way ever again. Well done, sir, you know your Disney men.

MadMac
MadMac

"So, the fact that "Gaston only THREATENED her father!!" to blackmail her into marriage makes it okay? Or how turning wanting to turn her into an illiterate housewife = truly loving her."

See, that's what I told my 3rd girlfriend. Can you believe she STILL took out that restraining order? Some chicks just don't get it.

Jef With One F
Jef With One F

King of the run-on sentences. Suck it, Harlan Ellison!

MadMac
MadMac

Don't mess with Mr. Ellison. True, he's 307 and has more cardiac proceedures than Dick Chaney but he'll still kick your a55. Oh, and good article BTW.

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