Some Disney characters choose to fade into the background. They could be surrendering the stage to an undisputed champion, just happy to be doing their job, or wary of yet more slings and arrows. They don’t end up on the backbench because they’re dull or unexciting, but because they have a stronger sense of tact, survival instinct or a larger dollop of nobility than some of the main characters. What do you think?
#5. Charlotte La Bouff
Film: The Princess and the Frog
Do you have a celebrity crush? Imagine they, as in they, were coming to your town. And, thanks to your family connections, you were able to meet them face to face. If that wasn’t amazing enough, you then find that your crush is everything you hoped for, and you unexpectedly click and fall in love. Pretty soon you hear the sound of wedding bells, and can look forward to spending the rest of your life with the partner of your dreams.
Or not. Because it turns out that they’re actually an evil impersonator. And as a final kick in the teeth, when you do finally get to meet the real one, they want to kiss you…so they can run off and marry your best friend.
Despite the myriad of dreams being shattered, it doesn’t bother Charlotte for too long. In fact, she’s only too eager to help her friend find love (and turn back into a human), even though it means she’s spent days believing a lie and having all her hopes dashed. The fact that she’s grown up in the lap of luxury and is most probably spoilt actually makes her sacrifice more meaningful, because she’s been used to getting what she wants all her life. Her reward for being so noble? She gets brushed aside and is left to dance with a child at her friend’s wedding.
Here’s another lady who can shake anything off.
#4. Widow Tweedy
Film: The Fox and the Hound
Don’t let that image fool you – this is one old lady you don’t want to mess with.
She stands her ground in front of a speeding vehicle (well, as fast as it can go on a dirt track); barely flinches at an angry armed hunter banging on her door in the middle of the night; and when faced with an angry armed hunter in the cold light of day, faces him down and unloads his gun into his car radiator to teach him a lesson. All because he took a few shots at her pet.
Actually that’s not quite true – Amos the hunter starts a campaign of terror against Tweedy’s orphaned fox, Tod, who is a source of endless trouble for the widow and the other animals on her tiny farm. After some heartbreaking deliberation, Tweedy realises she has to release him into the wild rather than keep him cooped up for his own safety, and gives up the one and only thing she holds dear because of the hunter’s rage.
On the other hand, when Amos is injured in a bear attack, all is forgiven and Tweedy helpfully bandages his foot and looks after him. There’s more to this woman than meets the eye, but all you see is her twinkle.
At least she was treated to adorable fox cuddles once in a while. These next characters face even worse situations and never ask for anything in return.Well, maybe carrots.
#3. Every Disney Mount Ever
Film: Various; Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Hercules, Frozen to name but a few
Everyone has a bad day at work once in a while, but for these steeds it’s pretty much every day.
They may be friends with their “boss”, but these characters have to literally jump when they say jump, and are honour-bound not to go on strike or seek alternative employment. If they’re really unlucky, their enemies will get bored of attacking their rider and take a few pot-shots at them too, and maybe even their love-life.
And that’s just Pegasus, who has the easiest ride because he can fly, seems just as adventurous as Hercules, and, probably thanks to his bird brain, is crazy enough not to care. Samson has to endure being chained up in an evil castle, pelted with arrows and leaping over crumbling battlements. Khan has to charge headlong into battle with an army that’s only just correctly identified its elbows, and suffers the indignity of being called a “cow” most of the time. As for Sven, when Kristoff isn’t giving him a ridiculous proxy voice, he has to plough through magical and non-magical snow storms, dodge wolves, and ends up having to lug blocks of ice all the way to Arendelle and back, even though Queen Elsa could conjure some up with a snap of her fingers. As well as death-defying leaps, these steeds also have to take an unhealthy interest in their riders’ love lives, so you can add relationship counselling to their to-do list too.
Being among the rank and file can be bad enough, but what about the ones who rise to the top?
Film: The Rescuers
Evinrude is the fastest dragonfly in Devil’s Bayou, which elevates him to the position of “living boat motor”. This means that in an emergency he’s woken up at all hours, worked to exhaustion, attacked by a flock of bats and left cornered in a drainpipe while his customers – and presumably his legal responsibility – dice with death and eagerly await his distress signal. Instead of a chance to rest, he’s force-fed a mouthful of moonshine and carries on purely thanks to alcohol.
This was only one occasion, and a 100m or so flight across his swampland home. Later on in the film, to spread the word about a missing child, he braves a trip that took an albatross two whole days. An albatross. And not only is his destination a snowy New York, but he has to stop said albatross from plummeting to his death while also playing awkward gooseberry between two amorous mice. All without a word or angry buzz of complaint.
So who could possibly top these entries? How about a character who’s lived a lie most of their life, fought a totalitarian regime, undertaken a dangerous journey with little hope of success, and been unflinchingly loyal to their people?
Film: The Lion King
Life sucks if you’re a lioness, as Nala knows only too well.
When she’s a cub, her father either takes a long walk off a very short cliff, or becomes an evil king who brings drought, famine and disaster to the kingdom. She also loses her best (and only) friend at a very young age, and grows up in a brutal dictatorship surrounded by vicious and hungry hyenas.
As an adult she’s forced to hunt night and day, and according to the stage version suffers a bout of sexual harassment from King Scar – still without knowing if he’s her father or not. Due to this wonderful set-up and lack of food, she’s forced to flee her family and seek help, fully aware that she may never return or that when she does, everyone might have already starved to death.
Luckily she finds a miracle in the jungle. Her beloved best friend Simba is alive and well, and he’s the rightful heir to the throne to boot. Too bad he’s nothing like the lion she used to know, shrugs off his responsibility, and is completely uninterested in helping.
Somehow Nala overcomes her disappointment and the urge to stay in this lush tropical paradise that’s teeming with food. Even though Rafiki steals her thunder by convincing Simba to return, Nala is the one who shows Simba how seriously the kingdom needs him, and never flinches from her duty no matter what gets dangled in front of her. On top of that, she helps fight a legion of hyenas away from a flaming Pride Rock.
So Nala suffers loss, heartbreak, has lived a life of constant peril and fought off enemies while being vastly outnumbered, only to be upstaged by Timon, Pumbaa and even Zazu on many a Lion King poster.
Mind you, her ride wasn’t completely unenjoyable.
Are there any Disney characters you think deserve an extra shout-out? Let me know in the comments below.