Ok, everybody, this is it. The last list, and the last Disney Canon-related article I’ll be writing for a long time. Well, at least until the release of Big Hero 6 later this year. As for this final list, it was inspired by a rather fantastic article in the New York Times about a couple of parents reaching out to their autistic son through Disney movies. If you haven’t read the article, you can click here. It’s a little long, but worth the read. Anyway, one of the important “plot points” in the article involves Disney sidekicks, so I decided to pay tribute to them with a list. After all, they are more often than not the characters we end up loving the most, and definitely the ones I liked best as a kid. Without further ado, the ten best Disney Sidekicks…
10. The Genie
Sidekick to: Aladdin, young, handsome vagabond, and diamond in the rough.
So many people have retroactively hated on the Genie for a) being voiced by Robin Williams, whose career and comedy, granted, hasn’t aged as well as one would’ve hoped, and b) because it opened the door to hundreds of horrible celebrity voice work. I would answer both points by saying that 1) Robin Williams was at the absolute top of his comedic game when he voiced the Genie and 2) all those celebrity voices can be annoying, but they can also turn out gems such as Ellen DeGeneres’s work in Finding Nemo. Anyway, the Genie is hilarious, and not only thanks to Williams’s performance, but to the fantastic work the animators (led by Eric Goldberg) did translating his comedy into the character’s visual language.
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Sidekick to: Snow White, but also to the dwarfs, who are sidekicks themselves. Pretty meta, huh?
Dopey is the most noticeable and memorable of the seven dwarfs because how different he is to the rest. For starters, he doesn’t have beard, and second, he doesn’t talk (something that is often a virtue in Disney characters). He also seems to have been designed to be the silliest and funniest of the dwarfs, and he does deliver some of the film’s most charming laughs. And as fantastic as he is, his inclusion in the list must have an asterisk next to it, for he was chosen for his awesomeness, but also as a representative of the seven dwarfs, who with their particular and silly personalities, remain the rosetta stone for all Disney Sidekicks. Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy, Sleepy, and especially Grumpy, all have their great moments and their honorary places on this list.
Sidekick to: naive Princess Anna as she tries to save her sister and learns what true love is.
Olaf will probably go down in history as one of the most delightful surprises of my history of watching movies. If there was something that was keeping me from being too excited about Frozen before it came out (and I was pretty excited), was the ubiquitous presence of this snowman character in all the marketing material. He seemed like one of those annoying talking sidekicks, the kind that is usually voiced by Eddie Murphy, that always threaten to ruin a perfeclty good movie. The surprise, then, was how endearing and lovable a character was created thanks to actor Josh Gad and the rest of the creative team.
Sidekick to: Bambi, young deer and future king of the forest.
I understand that Bambi is beloved and regarded as a classic and a Disney masterpiece, and while it is an absolutely beautiful film to look at, there is something that doesn’t quite click with me. That being said, if there is something that Bambi excels at, it’s cuteness, and none of the characters in the film (or possibly in any film ever made) are nearly as cute as Thumper, Bambi’s mischievous rabbit sidekick.
From The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Winnie the Pooh
Sidekick to: Mostly Pooh, but also Tigger, or any character that needs a sidekick, really.
This is where the difference between a sidekick and a supporting character comes in. Eeyore definitely strands the line between the two. He isn’t either tagging along on a hero’s quest, or constantly hanging out and orbiting a specific character, which are the two main characteristics of a Disney Sidekick. He is, however, undoubtedly a supporting character. We only get small doses of his sad resignation, but they are pure gold, and work even better when standing in contrast to the much more lively residents of the hundred acre woods, as when he is paired up with his spiritual opposite, Tigger, in Winnie the Pooh.
5. Sir Hiss
From Robin Hood
Sidekick to: Prince John, ridiculously unqualified British Monarch.
Even though I recognize the movies’s many weaknesses, I have a huge soft-spot for Robin Hood. There are, however, things that are unquestionably great about it, and one such thing is Sir Hiss. In appearance, he is basically a rehash of Kaa from The Jungle Book, but in personality, he is fantastic comic relief. Terry-Thomas’s performance is perfect at capturing how terrible it must be to be as intelligent as Hiss, and yet, not being listened by anyone and being constantly bullied by Prince John. Sir Hiss is such a kiss-ass that he definitely deserves what’s coming to him. I’m just grateful he exists.
From The Emperor’s New Groove
Sidekick to: Yzma, evil and decrepit sorceress
How does Kronk get so high on the list? Well, he is the funniest character in what is probably Disney’s funniest movie. And he is awesome. I think we can all agree that actor Patrick Warburton was born to voice animated characters, and he has never been better. What is so perfect about Kronk is that despite being incredibly dim-witted, and working for the movie’s villain, he is a good-natured guy. Somehow he is conflicted about doing bad stuff, but not about working for an ageless, evil, sorceress. Anyway, he is funny, and that always wins you points as far as I’m concerned.
From The Little Mermaid
Sidekick to: Ariel, mermaid princess and human enthusiastic
I hear some people have problems with the Jamaican accent, but they’re idiots. Sebastian has an accent, but he isn’t a caricature of anything that I can think so. Unless you think making a character with a Jamaican accent a good musician is insensitive. Hell, not even a good musician, but a great one! I can’t think of any character in the Disney Canon who has a better musical record than Sebastian. He is the main voice in The Little Mermaid’s most memorable numbers: the show-stopping “Under the Sea”, and the utterly fantastic “Kiss the Girl”. He is also part of “Les Poissons”, which while not a great song, is a pretty funny sequence.
2. Tinker Bell
From Peter Pan
Sidekick to: the boy who wouldn’t grow up
In terms of personality, Tinker Bell is far from a feminist hero. The whole thing about fairies only being able to feel one emotion at the time, and her murderous infatuation with Peter raise a few eyebrows. However, as animated by master Marc Davis, Tinker Bell is one of the most graceful characters in all of the Disney Canon. And I still find her to be the best realized, most memorable, and definitely the most fun character in Peter Pan.
1. Jiminy Cricket
Sidekick to: The title puppet-turned-animated-puppet-turned-real-boy
Jiminy Cricket tops the list because his whole existence is a point of genius. In the original Pinocchio stories, the cricket is quickly smashed by the wooden boy moments after being appointed as his conscience. Disney, however, decided to expand his role, turning him into one of the most memorable characters in the whole Canon. He is supposed to be the moral center, and the voice of reason for the little puppet who wishes to be a real boy, but his trully appealing quality is that he is really not fit for the task. He is fantastic because he is not a wise-ass constantly telling the main character what he should and shouldn’t be doing. His being responsible for this little boy provides him with a journey of his own, and something to fight for.