The cutest villains from cartoon films

From a planktonic copepod to a giant crab, we look back at some of the most amusing villains in animated films

By Mayur Lookhar

Plankton (top left), Tamatoa (top right), The Toad (bottom left), Charlie Anna

Ah, the world of cartoons. There are problems but seldom does one die in them.  Having begun as a child’s play, cartoon films now cut across people of all generation.  They take you to a world of fantasy, ecstasy. A world filled with colours, innocence, magic and humour.

If you are stressed, simply switch on to a cartoon film and forget all your worries. The global pandemic has seen the world in a lockdown, where thankfully video streaming platforms are the prime source of entertainment. A good cartoon film is the ideal stress buster in depressive times.

Everyone loves a hero/protagonist but the beauty of the cartoon world is how often does an antagonist leaves you in splits.  They come in different shapes, sizes, colour. Often, they tend to possess more traits than a protagonist.  Cute is not a word that you’d associate with a villain. But in the world of cartoons, each character is adorable. Seldom will you find a sinister, cold blooded murderer here. We give you ten of the cutest villains in cartoon films.

Plankton – The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water [2015]

Marine biologist-turned-animator Stephen Hillenburg’s SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the most popular cartoon series.  Hillenburg’s unique aqua world threw up some fascinating creatures, none more exciting, more marvelous than Plankton – a tiny intellectual planktonic copepod. Think of villains, they usually are big, intimidating but this tiny tot is an exception. A washed up restaurateur, Plankton has only one aim in life i.e. to steal the secret formula of the hot selling ‘krabby patty’ of his arch rival Mr. Krabs. With a restaurant named Chum Bucket, who would really line up at Plankton’s eatery? Plankton’s only mate is a talking computer Karen.

He may be of the size of a lady finger, but Plankton uses his intelligence to come up with daring plans. Show writer Doug Lawrence is the voice of Plankton. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water [2015] saw Plankton at his best.  His size, colour, wit, intelligence makes Plankton arguably the cutest villain in the cartoon world.

King Candy – Wreck It Ralph [2012]

 Ruler of Sugar Rush, a candy themed kingdom, how could King Candy be an antagonist? The goofy looking Candy also has a lisp. The cops in his kingdom are a Doughnut and a Long John with a special troop of Oreo guards. King Candy and his Sugar Rush is overloaded with sweetness.  It’s hard to believe that King Candy could be the main antagonist in this out-of-the-box animation film. Beneath all that sweetness, hides a conman, an intruder who jumped over from his game to hijack Sugar Rush. King Candy messed with the game’s code and erased everyone’s memory, installing himself as the ruler of Sugar Rush. Alan Tudyk didn’t let go of the lisp throughout the film.   King Candy has a sinister side to him, but his jovial looks, lisp make him one of the most adorable villains.

Humpty Dumpty – Puss in Boots [2011]

For centuries, Humpty Dumpty was part of James William Elliot’s classic nursery rhymes. In 2011, screenwriters Brian Lynch and Tom Wheeler used the famous anthropomorphic egg as the scheming antagonist in Puss in Boots [2011]. Though hard to believe, but how could the legendary, cute, innocent egg be turned into a conniving villain. For the best part of the film, you wish to hug and play with the egg but once his evil designs are revealed, you are taken aback by his demeanor. Funnyman Zach Galifianakis made you both fall in love and then despise this adorable looking egg.

Gallaxhar – Monsters vs. Aliens [2009]

Gallaxhar

Think of aliens and they are generally shown as ugly, colourful, out of shape creatures.  The gross ones come with six-eight legs and are blood sucking monsters. Screenwriter Rob Letterman and director Conrad Vernon’s alien (squid) has four eyes, a large head, six tentacles, but Gallaxhar also has a dark sense of humour. He destroyed his own planet, and now wants to create a planet of clones. He seeks the powerful element quantonium, which is what has transformed human Susan Murphy into a Monster. Vernon found the perfect tone in Rainn Wilson – both classy, funny and arrogant.

The Toad – Flushed Away [2006]

It’s very human to adore children, pets when they are young. The cycle of life is such that when they grow, not humans, but pets are replaced easily. Writer co-director Sam Fell’s toad was no ordinary pet. He was once a young Prince Charles most loved pet, before he was replaced by a tiny mouse, and flushed away from Buckingham Palace’s royal loo.  The tiny toad has grown into a large toad and hatches a master plan to drain the menace of mouse from Ratropolis – underground city.  He’s often grumpy, narcissist, has a typical English sense of humour. He flashes his big lips wide while gloating or interacting with his little tadpoles. Sir Ian McKellen brought the Toad to life with his classy tone.  While you condemn his destructive plan, but you ought to feel a certain empathy for him, especially if you know what its like to be dumped.

Leonard – The Angry Birds Movie [2016]

Messy in the real, but in the reel, pigs have often been shown as cute, innocent creatures.  Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly turned the Angry Birds game into a movie creating some lovable characters.  It’s not often that in a film we find the protagonist grumpy while the antagonist is a positive, vibrant, jovial being. Leonard, the King of Piggy Island leads by example. He sails along with his dozens of pigs looking for food [bird egg] in Bird island.  Leonard uses his wit and charm to trick the innocent, happy birds of Bird Island and steals their eggs.  The green pigment adding to the cuteness of Leonard and his ilk.   And without the delightful tone of Bill Hader, Leonard would have been just another ordinary character.

Professor Abraham Van Helsing – Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation [2018]

Mavis arranges for a much-needed vacation for her stressed father, but little did she know that the cruise is a ploy by old foe Professor Abraham Van Helsing to kill Count Dracula.  Director Genndy Tartakovsky and screenwriter Michael McCullers gave a hilarious spin to the classic rivalry.  Having lost countless times, and long perceived to be dead, the ripe old Van Helsing is clinging to life – courtesy the machines. Never before had we seen a Van Helsing in this avatar.  Jim Gaffigan emoted Helsing’s apathy and vengeful attitude to the T.

Tamatoa – Moana [2016]

How often do cartoon films produce an adorable character that has a little appearance. Disney’s musical animation Moana stood out for its unique story and some interesting characters. For us, it was the shiny, singing crab Tamatoa that enthralled us. The treasures of the sea are garlanded on his hard-as-rock shell. The glitter has got him boasting about himself. And the giant crab likes blabbering in song form. Moana and Maui dig deep into the sea to retrieve the former’s hook, which is now a jewel of Tamatoa.  He barely has a ten-minute appearance but Tamatoa steals the thunder from Moana and Maui in those few minutes.  This giant crab comes to life in the supercilious tone of Jemaine Clement.

Fairy Godmother -Shrek 2 [2004]

How times has flown so quickly. In 2001, DreamWorks Animation introduced us to an ugly but good-hearted ogre Shrek.  The second film in 2004 saw Shrek and Fiona’s fairy-tale marriage run into trouble, all perpetuated by a sweet-talking Fairy Godmother [Jennifer Saunders]. The old woman is the mother of Prince Charming, the very man who Fiona was supposed to get married until she fell in love with the Ogre.  Fairy Godmother is here to avenge that insult.  She uses her potions to create divide in the family.  She has evil intentions, but Fairy Godmother’s sweet tone has a charming effect on all.  One look at the character, and Indian fans will see shades of veteran actress Bindu, who often played the scheming, conniving aunt. 

Charlie Anna – Roadside Romeo [2008]

Animation is still an untapped genre in the Indian film industry. That can be gauged from the fact that the first Indian 3D animation feature film came in 2008 when Yash Raj Studios was backed by Walt Disney Pictures to produce Roadside Romeo for desi audiences.  The principal characters were pooches. Honestly, neither Saif Ali Khan as Romeo nor Kareena Kapoor as Laila were charismatic, but it was the supporting voice cast that drove this film. Though a little cliched, but Jaaved Jaaferi’s Tamil-accented bull dog Charlie Anna (antagonist) was the toast of this film.

Kalia – Chhota Bheem franchise

Animation has had a tough time in Bollywood, but on television, Indian animators have been able to create a market by churning cartoon series, often derived from mythology. Mahabharat’s strongman Bheem, his childhood became the catalyst for animator Rajiv Chilaka to launch the Chhota Bheem franchise. Starting off with cartoon, Chhota Bheem’s popularity transcended to the silver screen too with four films.  While everyone loves Chhota Bheem, but we’ve always been amused by the theatrics of Kalia, the village bully. The 12-year-old portly boy’s countless attempts to bully Bheem and the other kids only boomerang on his face.  Kalia’s no evil but he simply reminds you of the big bully from your childhood.  Though mischievous, a rotund kid always evokes a smile on your face. Interestingly, it is a female dubbing artiste Mausam who is the voice of Kalia.

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