Disney's Five Best Animal Supporting Characters

1. Sebastian, The Little Mermaid (1989)

For me, the most interesting Disney sidekicks are the ones who have their own story instead of just being around as the protagonist's receiver. Sebastian, for instance, is not even on Ariel's side until halfway through the movie. He just wants to do his job and to avoid Triton's rather horrid temper. It’s only when Ariel gets herself into a risky situation that he steps forward to help her. He’s got a big heart that doesn’t show itself right away, plus he’s a master at organizing musical numbers on the fly.

2. Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio (1940)

Like Sebastian, Jiminy starts the film looking out for himself instead of anyone else. Even when he becomes Pinocchio’s conscience, he’s ineffectual and quick to give up. Nevertheless, he sticks with Pinocchio and helps him escape the repercussions of temptation. Jiminy is a rover who learns about responsibility, not to mention he’s the figure that keeps Pinocchio bright despite its dark morality.

3. Tigger, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

The jovially impulsive Tigger (along with Owl and Eeyore) keeps the movie, and even the whole Winnie the Pooh franchise, from being too quaint. He’s a very lovable fool, always bragging that he can do anything that pops into his head. Paul Winchell’s boisterous performance defined Tigger’s foolhardiness in a way that could not be replaced, not even by the great Jim Cummings.

4. Iago, Aladdin (1992)

It’s hard to admit it, but Jafar is not that funny by himself. Most of his laughs come when he plays off his treacherous chatterbox of a parrot, played by Gilbert Gottfried. Iago is a nasty little bugger, but his cacophonous voice and his ability to mimic people’s voices and physicality make him an enduring bundle of laughs and surprises.

5. The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Some, including animator Ward Kimball, consider the Cheshire Cat to be the only truly mad character in Walt's version of Alice, and I’m inclined to agree with that. While the other characters are so rambunctious they look like they’re trying to be insane, the Cheshire Cat acts coolly and nonchalantly as he confounds Alice. His unnerving voice and his power to disappear keep you anxious about what he will do next, especially since his idea of fun can be life-threatening.

Just Missed the Cut: Archimedes, Thumper, Timothy Q. Mouse

Disney's Five Best Human or Humanoid Supporting Sharacters

1. The Seven Dwarfs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Even with the Queen's lethal ruthlessness, Snow White would feel twee and girly without the Seven Dwarfs. Each dwarf’s personality contrasts with the other one hilariously, with the possibilities for comic exchanges being mathematically extensive. The expert timing from both the actors and the animators set a great example for all animated supporting characters to follow.

2. Flora, Fauna & Merryweather, Sleeping Beauty (1959)

It’s arguable that the fairies are the real heroes of this movie. (Aurora's function is a stone's throw away from being a MacGuffin.) Still, I suppose calling these ladies the leads instead of the title character is a little unfair. (You wouldn't call the mice in Cinderella the protagonists, would you?) These doddering old ladies are adorable in their protective nature and in how they use their magic while bickering. They make a few fatal mistakes throughout the film, but they are just too sweet to hold much against them.

3. The Genie, Aladdin (1992)

Along with the music and the underdog story, the Genie was a big reason for Aladdin's enormous financial success. Arriving in the film right when the plot needed some energy, Robin Williams’ jokey yet honest performance is visualized splendidly by Eric Goldberg’s manic, Hirschfeld-style animation. The skeptic in me wonders how the Genie knows about these futuristic references if he's been trapped in his lamp for 10,000 years, but I usually toss that aside in favor of a barrel full of chuckles.

4. Horace and Jasper, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

These Cockney idiots are my favorite example of inept henchmen. What makes them especially amusing is how they try to appear competent. (I love Jasper’s snooty face when he makes up that rambling reference to Parliament.) This, of course, makes it even funnier when they make utter fools of themselves. Their comical bungling is enough to keep us from asking, “Why the heck did Cruella hire these dolts?”

5. The King & The Grand Duke, Cinderella (1950)

These two are the other great result of the padding in Cinderella. It was hard to choose between them and King Stefan & King Hubert from Sleeping Beauty, but the Cinderella pair made it with their extended screen time. The pairing of an impatiently loving king and a nervous yes-man of a duke is comic gold. Their exchanges are some of my favorite Disney lines to quote.

Just Missed the Cut: King Triton, Kronk, Mr. Smee

All screencaps are from Magical Screencaps.


KMM said...

I have fewer complaints about this list than the previous two. Sebastian, of course takes the crown here and Tigger was a suprise but by no means an unwelcome one. The only difference I may have made is to switch the Cheshire Cat for Archemides. Although I have learned to appreciate the Cat's wispy voice and manic smile more as I've grown older and read Lewis Carroll's original story a few times.

The only thing I would change in the second list is to put the Genie at the top. Robin Williams is a genius comedian and his vocal timing, flexability and intonation is not to be matched anywhere ever.

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