Top 20 Disney Renaissance Characters
These Disney characters left a lasting impression on me and every Disney fan during one of their most important periods which is of course the nineties. All nine movies got their representatives here and this is mostly a very personal list so some fan favorites and famous characters are not going to be here if I don’t like them myself. So here are the twenty best Disney Renaissance characters with a couple of honorable mentions.
Pocahontas is a bit bland for sure, but still an important character for Disney and for Hollywood movies in general. Finally we see here a good, respectable presentation of Native Americans and Pocahontas herself is brave, selfless and ultimately a very positive and commendable protagonist. She’s certainly one of the strongest Disney princesses.
Now Iago is the definition of a fun henchman who even steals the show from Jafar at times. I like his Shakespearean name, the voice acting is great and his design is very interesting and memorable. He is evil for sure, but his frequently hilarious lines are what makes him such a strong and fun henchman character.
Like Pocahontas above, Esmeralda is another admirably strong female character and this time an admirable presentation of a gypsy woman. I liked her relationship with both Quasimodo and Phoebus and to me she is not just a pretty love interest, but a strong, brave character in her own right.
Simba is at times obnoxious during his kid age, that’s for sure. But he is much more likable when adult and I cannot deny how strong his character is not only in development, but in terms of storytelling as his story is a great rendition of Hamlet. He is your regular Disney hero, but done well nonetheless.
Tarzan’s story is so well told in Disney form. Watching him grow up, face romance, danger and ultimately his past was an emotionally rewarding experience. His interactions with everyone else in the movie are excellent and he is a well written, likable and ultimately very satisfactory titular hero in such a frustratingly underrated Disney flick.
I have to be honest and say that I find Jasmine to be overly cocky which is why she is not on my list. Aladdin himself is also a bit arrogant, but I like him much more than I like her as he can be surprisingly likable at times and I liked that he is a different and realistic hero and not all that good a person at times. But his buddy relationship with Genie is where he shines as the two are adorable together.
14. Jane Porter
I love Jane and she is one of Disney’s most underrated female characters unfortunately. Her transition from a regular love interest and British woman to a free and wild girl is portrayed not only through the change of wardrobe, but also through the change in personality. Her relationship with Tarzan is surprisingly romantic and she is not only very sympathetic, but also unexpectedly funny at times.
Gaston got a very typical Disney death, but regardless of that, he is a very good villain. He is interesting for being the first good looking villain and that provides us with many hilarious moments in the film. He is not only truly dangerous as a villain, but also frequently very funny with a couple of hysterical lines here and there.
12. Fa Mulan
Being probably the strongest Disney princess, Mulan is great for being a tough female character, but for using her brains to compensate for the lack of strength. Her story is powerful and especially timely now and she is not only strong and smart, but pretty and charming as well.
Scar made some truly awful choices and thus ended up being not as great as he could have been, but he is still a formidable villain in the movie. He straight-out killed his brother in an unforgettable tragic sequence, Jeremy Irons’ performance is excellent and he also received the best Disney villain song ever in delightfully evil and fun Be Prepared.
Jafar is a low-key villain and I liked that about him. He again got not such a great ending, but his menacing, cold and calculating personality is different than most Disney villains and thus he is much more realistic and certainly creepier. His voice and looks are great, but he got this tenth spot for being very smart and not making a single mistake until that ending.
Ursula is another villain who received a bad ending and surely her death where she got hit by a boat was ridiculously anti-climactic. But other than that, she is the second best Renaissance villain as she has such an interesting look to her – being based on a drag queen – she is very clever and she never made a single mistake and all her plans worked really well. She also has a solid song in Poor Unfortunate Souls and that whole scene is remarkable.
Quasimodo, like Pocahontas, did not get an entirely happy ending as he did not get the girl, but he did step out of the church at least. This is Disney’s only special needs character and they did a great job portraying him as he’s likable without being too perfect, selfless and ultimately a very moving central character in such a dark film.
Belle is one of the best Disney princesses and a great transition from classic to modern princess as she isn’t too strong, yet she’s certainly not a damsel in distress. She is memorable for having a very natural look to her which was great and refreshing for a Disney heroine at the time. Belle is smart and caring, but also a bit full of herself which makes her more realistic.
6. King Triton
Probably the most underrated character on this list is King Triton who gets the sixth place. When you think about it, he is actually the most important character in The Little Mermaid and his story is so well told. He had to learn to let her daughter go which was immensely difficult to do. His love for Ariel is touching and he is the best and most wonderful Disney dad ever.
Beast is a great, different kind of prince for Disney and definitely groundbreaking for his time. Gaston is good looking and he is not. He was conceited and spoiled and he had to overcome that and become a better person in order to regain his human form and get the girl. Beast and Belle are the great Disney couple and he is the more human and fascinating of the two.
And yes, Megara gets the fourth spot here as another very underrated character from an underrated movie. She is one of my favorite Disney female characters as she’s such a great, different Disney girl than all the rest. Her turn from bad to good is so well established, her romance with Herc is wonderful and she is modeled after all those classic screwball comedy characters from the thirties which is why I love her so much. She looks more realistic as well and her sassy one-liners are a lot of fun.
3. Judge Claude Frollo
Easily the best Disney Renaissance villain is Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He never made a single mistake in the movie, he was consistently dangerous and calculating and his lust for Esmeralda and his conflict with his faith are so well established in one of the best Disney villain songs Hellfire. A truly diabolical and yet realistic character as there were a lot of Frollos during this period, he is definitely one of the best Disney villains ever.
There are a lot of Little Mermaid characters on this list which was to be expected as that is my favorite Renaissance flick. Ariel is my favorite Disney princess and I know that I am in minority here as most find her to be a poor role model for going out of her length to get a prince. But I think differently. To me she did all of that as she not only wanted Eric, but to become human and experience their world which she thinks is better than the underwater world. Her story is the ultimate immigration story, but I love her for her personality which is quirky and charming, yet always sweet and caring. She is the most lovable and prettiest Disney princess and I love her so much.
And the first place goes to another Little Mermaid character and this time it is its sidekick Sebastian. His change in personality is done so well and smoothly; he went from being Ariel’s annoying parent of sorts to her friend and accomplice. His relationship with Ariel is sweet and touching and his interactions with King Triton are also superb. He got a great song in Under the Sea, his Jamaican voice is unforgettable and he is very funny yet having a distinct personality which is why he stands above most Disney sidekicks of the past and future too. Sebastian is such an endearing creation and not only the best Renaissance character, but also the very best Disney sidekick of all time.
Terk – This is another underrated character and I just love her so much. Terk is original as this butch female gorilla and her relationship with Tarzan is sweet and she’s very funny all the time.
Lumiere and Cogsworth – This comedic duo isn’t as great separately, but together they are very charming, lovable and quite funny.
The Genie – Yes, he did not get on my list as Robin Williams’ performance did not age well and is overrated, but Genie’s still a memorable character and he and Aladdin got a great bromance.
Scuttle – This hilariously stupid and yet caring bird is such a great sidekick and companion to Ariel and he got many great laughs in the film.
Grandmother Fa – She’s such a hilarious grandmother who stole every scene she got in Mulan and I wanted much more from her.