Walt Disney’s legacy comes with a dark side: even his sweetest characters have a taste for crime. These seven animated stars are heroes and villains, but their penchant for breaking the law is just part of their charm.
1. AladdinThe boy from Agrabah inspired many an early ’90s childhood crush, but he also had a whole song about petty larceny (the catchy “One Jump”). Aladdin was a poor street urchin, but the law’s the law and he considered himself above it. Shortly after meeting the genie that would change his life (RIP Robin Williams), Aladdin won the heart of feisty Princess Jasmine by impersonating a royal. He’s lucky he has the pipes of an angel (“A Whole New World” singalong, anyone?).
2. Robin Hood
A fox in every sense of the word, this Disney hero had a way with Maid Marian and a sexy voice. He also shamelessly robbed the wealthy: dollar amounts that would constitute grand larceny even by Sherwood Forest standards. Of course, Robin Hood gave his spoils to the poverty-stricken and hungry, and Sherwood’s one-percenters don’t need the extra doubloons anyway. Besides, greedy Prince John and creepy Sir Hiss were just asking for trouble.
3. Ursula the Sea Witch
Can you say “fabulous”? Disney’s best villain had Divine inspiration (Ursula was modeled on John Waters’ superstar). “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is one epic earworm, making it easy to overlook that Ursula coerced underage Ariel into signing a binding contract, and then tried to murder King Triton in “The Little Mermaid,” 1989. While Ariel was all wistful warbling and age-appropriate rebellion, Ursula was the real star, a wizened broad who knew what she wanted and would get it at any cost.
4. Flynn Rider
Bad boys never go out of style, and the anti-prince of “Tangled,” 2010, is no exception. Flynn Rider is so popular because of his edge. A thief on the run before he butts heads with Rapunzel, he’s sweet enough to love, but his dark past keeps girls guessing. Flynn was drawn specifically to appeal to women: directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard polled female Disney employees when creating the character. Witty and charming as well as terrifically handsome, Flynn’s sticky fingers only add to his appeal.
“Mulan,” 1998, the story of Disney’s favorite warrior princess, is based on a Chinese folktale. In both, a young woman impersonates her own father in order to join the military. If you’ve ever watched anything on Oxygen, you know this is all kinds of illegal. But without this fraud, Mulan would never find the potential within herself. Considering her father was too weak to fight anyway, Mulan’s questionable ethics proved well worth it in the very happy end.
6. Cruela de Vil
Kidnapping is criminal. Kidnapping puppies? Especially heinous. But no one rocks the two-toned hair and blood-red accessories like Cruella de Vil of “101 Dalmatians”, 1961. Her delight in garish garb and snazzy old-school convertibles is strangely contagious. Cruella’s spectacular look has inspired countless Halloween costumes, which is more than we can say for Roger and Anita. As long as Ms. de Vil goes cruelty-free, she’ll be just fine.
She’s sassy, she’s adventurous, she doesn’t make the best decisions (who accepts a proposal from a guy she’s just met?). Anna of “Frozen,” 2013, is adorable and wonderfully flawed. So what if she abandoned Arendelle to chase her sister Elsa, who recklessly endangered everyone with eternal winter? Don’t forget that Anna, unable to “let it go,” also broke into Elsa’s ice castle. Thank goodness she likes chocolate and snowmen, and always coordinates her outfits to her enviable red hair!
(Header Photo: Still from Aladdin (1992), c/o of Walt Disney Studios)