What does it take to make a story unforgettable? An interesting protagonist, an exciting plot, a well-written script, and a great villain, of course!
It’s undeniable that villains have always been fascinating to us: if they have great taste in clothes, too, and a definitely over-the-top look, they become really irresistible! In honor of the release of Disney’s live-action “Cruella,” dedicated to the one and only Cruella de Mon and her life before becoming a Dalmatian-puppy kidnapper, here are the Disney villains who have made their way into our hearts also thanks to the way their style is portrayed in the live-action adaptations of some timeless animation classics!
“Maleficent” and “Sleeping Beauty”
(1959, 2014, 2019)
Angelina Jolie takes to the big screen a new version of Maleficent, fascinating and mysterious: not as evil as in the Disney cartoon, but in the role of a fairy who, little by little, makes the viewer discover, or better, rediscover her true nature. The story is set in medieval times and the look that Angelina Jolie shows off on the big screen is strongly inspired by that of the original cartoon: the slender silhouette of the figure of Maleficent is further exalted in the film by her sinuous black dress; her characteristic features, such as the horns and wings that wrap her like a cloak, complete the look.
Jolie’s character is also strongly linked to the moors, and her costumes recall Nature, the only one who remained faithful to her when humans turned their backs on her. The elements of the woods can be found both in the materials and in the colors: the dark, warm tones gradually evolve towards black in parallel with the character’s growth, while the red lipstick gives her a touch of passion, emphasizing the angular features of her face.
Beautiful, sophisticated, and elegant: these are the characteristics of Lady Tremaine played by a masterful Cate Blanchett in the film “Cinderella.” One of the most beloved Disney classics introducing us to a much more “realistic” villain who, in the live-action, is reinterpreted in a modern key, while remaining faithful to the original version in terms of actions and character. Lady Tremaine is a mature woman with a sophisticated bearing, but her clothes immediately reveal the insidious nature she initially hides.
The colors that represent her are, in fact, the red of her hair, a symbol of passion, and the green that is almost always present in her clothes, a symbol of envy, which she vents towards her stepdaughter. The gap between the protagonist’s natural mother and Lady Tremaine is emphasized by the naturalness of the first, dressed simply, with her hair down and adorned with flowers, which contrasts with the gaudy jewelry and elaborate headdresses that adorn the face of the second, which are certainly splendid but worn with the specific intention of showing off and, as a result, appearing almost exaggerated. There are also references to the world of animals and their meanings: the leopard print recalls violence and aggression, while the peacock often recurs (like in the ball scene) as a symbol of pride.
THE QUEEN OF HEARTS
“Alice in Wonderland”
(1951, 2010, 2016)
Perhaps the most peculiar of this list, in line with the novel from which this cartoon first, and live-action later is inspired. The Queen of Hearts played by Helena Bonham Carter in the live-action directed by Tim Burton is very faithful to the original character, as she features an explosive and angry character, a clear criticism by Lewis Carroll (the author of the novels) towards the impetuous explosions of anger that often characterizes adults. The clothes are clearly inspired by the 1800s, the Victorian era, where large, elaborate dresses ruled.
Even in live-action, therefore, the fabrics are heavy and voluminous, and there is an obvious reference to the ruff, a lace collar that was intended to frame and highlight the face of the wearer, making the huge head of the Queen of Hearts even more emphasized. The colors of her gowns are red and gold, which have always been associated with power and considered regal, while the hearts, the symbol of the queen, are shown and flaunted in several parts of the dress in an attempt to conceal the queen’s intrinsic insecurity. This search for stability is also clear in the extensive use of blue in her make-up, a shade that symbolizes dissatisfaction with what surrounds us and intended to give confidence to the wearer.
“Beauty and the Beast”
In this story that makes being and appearing the foundations of its morality, we find a particularly ambiguous character, Gaston: at first, he almost seems like a good character compared to the Beast, but that is just a devious set-up to hide his real nature because, in fact, as the story progresses, he reveals himself for what he truly is, the villain of the story.
Unlike the neo-Gothic animated feature, the film recalls the original story set in the 1700s, the Baroque era. The suit worn by Gaston, played by Luke Evans, is based on the male style of the time, and is inspired by the uniforms with which men used to go to war; it is no coincidence that the character is presented to us as a soldier who has just returned from combat, so to give him a powerful and virile appearance from the start. In the first scenes, his iconic red color is only present in a few details, such as his cuffs, but then it slowly takes over the entire jacket and becomes much more garish. The suit he wears for most of the film is very similar to the one Gaston wears in the cartoon when he proposes to Belle. Gaston looks very handsome, showing us how someone beautiful on the outside can be the exact opposite on the inside.
We are now looking forward to the six-episode spin-off series “Little Town,” which will focus on Gaston and his trusty sidekick LeTont, again played by Luke Evans and Josh Gad.
Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar in the live-action is different in appearance from the lanky one of the 1992 animated version; however, as far as the costumes are concerned, they are effective reinterpretations of their animated counterparts. Jafar is introduced as the Sultan’s Grand Vizier, a very important figure in the kingdom of Agrabah; but, as both film and reality teach us, once a human being gains power, he tends to always want more, and so, sneakily, Jafar will do anything to get it.
Set during the period of the Ottoman Empire, when textiles, fabrics, and workmanship reached their peak, the live-action directed by Guy Ritchie offers us a modernization of the costumes: the colors that distinguish Jafar are still black and red, associated with power by definition. His suit is reminiscent of a suit of armor, while his pointed shoulders recall those of the cartoon, giving him a haughty appearance and expressing his thirst for power. Many clothing details are gold: gold symbolizes the nobility of the wearer’s rank but was also used for its cauterizing properties in Islamic medicine. The Grand Vizier’s headdress is decorated with feathers that recall his parrot, Yago, but they also refer to his final transformation into the evil red genie, during the seizure of power he has always aimed at and that will inexorably turn against him.
CRUELLA DE MON
“Cruella,” “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” and “101 Dalmatians”
The film will be released on Disney+ on 28 May 2021 and will tell the story of the origins of the iconic Cruella De Mon, born Estella, played by Emma Stone. In a 1970s punk-rock London, our protagonist aspires to become a fashion designer in the fashion world. Already from the images and trailers, we can see how Estella shows two identities: there is the girl who’s trying to make it in the fashion world, mistreated by the director of the fashion house where she works, and there is Cruella, the “real her,” the vindictive and crazy one she will later become, with an undeniable and extravagant taste in fashion (except for animal furs of course!). In the trailer, we see her wearing mainly black clothes, with numerous rock touches such as leather jackets, combined with lace gloves and a stick, symbols of the innovation of those years. But the dress that’s getting the most attention is the one we see in the ballroom scene, where Cruella arrives as a new Cinderella with black and white hair revealing herself “through the fire,” abandoning her white cloak to be admired in a splendid red dress, as if to emphasize the fact that the old Estella is gone, making way for the unique and inimitable Cruella.
In honor of Disney’s most cantankerous character ever, we cannot fail to mention Glenn Close‘s iconic performance in the film, “101 Dalmatians:” the actress, dressed by Anthony Powell, displays all her “cruelty” in half white and half black outfits, a reminder of those Dalmatians she wants to take possession of. In this film, Cruella, the director of a fashion house and obsessed with furs, takes from the animated feature the iconic red lipstick, gloves, and the inevitable long cigarette: simply and cruelly perfect!
And in the future?
The next Disney live actions with unforgettable villains that have already been announced are: “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan” (renamed “Peter Pan and Wendy”), “Hercules” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
What do we know? As for “The Little Mermaid,” which will be filmed in Sardinia this summer, Melissa McCarthy will be playing the evil Sea Witch, Ursula, readapted in a more “humanized” version.
In 2022 instead, it is Jude Law‘s turn as the cruel Captain Hook: who knows if we will see him wearing the clothes of a 17th-century pirate, with jackets embellished with collars and lace, or if he will be wearing some brand-new costumes? The filming of the movie has just started and we can’t wait to find out more!
Finally, as far as “Hercules” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” are concerned, we still know nothing about the cast or the type of story that will be presented: what we can do right now is imagine who will play who but, above all, who will plat the iconic villains, Hades and Frollo, in this case!