Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ten Best Animated Disney Movie Monster Designs

Disney is an expert in character, setting and film design, but one thing you don't hear about is their monster design. Oh we talk about villains until the guards transformed into cows come home, but since Disney's animated department are focused on the family friendly faire, actual monsters are few and far between. Which is why, for Halloween, I figured we'd celebrate the top 10 best monster designs from Disney animated films. 

Plus I never pass up a chance to talk about monsters. 

Or Disney. 

Note: I will be excluding straight up humans from the list because while I get that some of the villains are far worse monsters than any of the creatures on this list, we're going for straight up monster designs. 

Stuff that transforms though is perfectly fine. 

10: Monstro from Pinocchio

The infamous whale is almost as famous as the puppet's wooden nose from this film, and for good reason. Monstro's name says it all: He's a monster whale capable of swallowing entire ships whole. Geppetto and his pets are swallwoed by the whale when they go to look for Pinocchio, who joins them in the belly where they escape by making Monstro caugh. His design is everything we think of when we think about a giant man-eating whale, a massive sea creature with an insatable hunger. He also has an entire psychadelic (and annoying) level inside of him in Kingdom Hearts. 

9. Dean Hardscrabble from Monsters University

The monster designs in general from the Monsters franchise are all fun, but the dean of the monster scaring college takes the cake. Her centapede body with massive dragon wings could be anyone's nightmare. No wonder she's an expert in scaring. 

She scares me. 

8. Angler Fish from Finding Nimo

This thing doesn't need any embelishments to be scary, they're scary just the way they are in real life. Seeing Dory chasing after the light while we're on edge knowing what that light is connected to is probably my favorite part of the movie. 

That and squishy. 

7. Curse Dragon from Onward

Again, movie is flooded with cool monsters, but our final antagonist takes the cake. It's a curse that takes the form of a dragon using pieces of the nearby high school to form it's body. The use of the dragon mascot as the monsters face is brilliant, giving it expression without giving it too many facial features. Ian has to bust out all the magic he's learned on this final boss, made harder to fight by the fact that it's not flesh and bones but is cement and rebar. 

Then the movie got right back to tugging at all my heart strings. 

6. Jafar Snake Form from Aladdin

Jafar’s genie form almost took this one but I had to go with the snake. His snake staff hinted at some snake iconography since we first saw him, and here we get the full treatment with a large wicked snake fighting Aladdin. The fangs, the hood and the coloring all give us the same concept as Jafar so we don't lose any of his iconic villany in his transformation. 

He's also an annoying boss in Kingdom Hearts

5. Hydra from Hercules

This list is just becoming a who's who of boss monsters from Kingdom Hearts isn't it? 

The Titans almost went on here, as did the Centaur, but the Hydra got the most screen time and the best fight sequence in the movie so it takes the cake. It takes Hercules a while to figure out how to kill it (Someone doesn't play Dungeons and Dragons) and by the time Phil tells him the thing has a tangle of heads and anger. 

4. Te Ka from Moana

A demon of smoke and fire, Te Ka tries to get the heart of Te Fiti for her own unkown gain... Until we find out that she actually is Te Fiti and she just wants her heart back. There's some deeply rooted metaphor in losing one's heart and becoming a monster with the intent of getting it back that I would love to explore in another post, but for now let's just look at Te Ka's design. She's a massive terrifying lava monster that has no obvious weakness. 

Except water. 

And recognizing her true form and then making the audience tearbend. 

3. Dragon Malificent from Sleeping Beauty

Going back to one of the OG's Malificent is a scary monster pre transformation, but post she's the best dragon till Game of Thrones. I love the idea that at the opening party she had the option to turn into a dragon and just toast everyone present, but instead she went with the curse the infant option. 

Gotta love a woman who knows when it's best to turn into a dragon. 

2. Stitch from Lilo and Stitch

Stitch has become the new Tinkerbell, put on stuff to make it look cutesy without remembering how big of a terror he actually is. Remember Stitch is designed to cause damage on a wide scale, only failing to do so because he's trapped on an island. If Stitch landed anywhere on the mainland we would all be in a lot of trouble and no amount of ohana could save us. His cute demeanor is to make him easier to sneak across borders and infiltrate enemy territories, and it works because even at his worst he isn't scary, but he is dangerous. 

1. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast

Okay I've gotta end on the mother of all Disney monsters, the Beast. This design had to be initially terrifying but something that someone could fall in love with, which is an extremely hard balance but one that was achieved perfectly. The animators even stated that in designing the Beast's human form in the end that no matter what they did everyone would hate it because they fell in love with the Beast and not some long haired French aristocrat. The fact that you don't see anything with the prince's face on it but with the Beast instead is a testament to his design and how incredible this Disney monster really is. 


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