The 10 Best Disney Animation Sidekicks
Disney has a long and storied history of creating animated movies, filling them with adorable characters and watching the cash roll in. However, the cash cows are never the main characters who, by their very nature, tend to be a little dull. No, the most memorable Disney characters are always the sidekicks, the comic relief that hang out on the edge of the movie and effortlessly steal the show from everyone else.
In the new film ‘Frozen,’ Disney is adding two new sidekicks to their line-up of lovable characters. You’ve got Olaf, the talking snowman, and Sven, the reindeer (who doesn’t talk). There’s a reason these two are front and center in all of the film’s marketing: if anyone is going to explode from the success of ‘Frozen,’ it’s going to be these two.
However, they’re being plunged into a world that has a lot of great company. Narrowing down the world of Disney sidekicks to 10 is a difficult task, but we did it so you didn’t have to. Here are the 10 greatest Disney sidekicks.
When it comes to actual character writing, there are better Disney sidekicks than Thumper, the rabbit who hangs around and offers the title deer life advice in 'Bambi.' But Thumper has one thing going for him: he's cute. Like, unbearably cute. There is no creature with a more adorable design and no one comes close to being as adorably animated. We're not sure Thumper adds much to the Disney universe through his actions or dialogue, but he makes our hearts melt just by looking at him.
There are a number of things that immediately work against Iago's favor, but chief among them is the fact that he's voiced by the endlessly shrill Gilbert Gottfried. However, this is a case where a character's general irritability ends up working for the story. Although the sequels to 'Aladdin' would give the character a second chance and transform him into a hero, Iago is the rare animal sidekick who is intentionally weird, loud, grotesque and incompetent. There's something risky about taking what could have been a cute character and making him ugly and the result is a minor villain who's far more memorable than he would have been otherwise.
Disney's history of casting big celebrity names for their animated movies has led to some mixed results. Some, like Robin Williams' Genie, haven't aged well at all and feel like awkward products of their time. However, Eddie Murphy's performance as the tiny dragon Mushu in 'Mulan' remains surprisingly effective, making terrific use of the actor's familiar voice without letting him run too wild with the character. Murphy's presence in family friendly movies has since gotten stale, but his fast-talking cadence in this still feels fresh, giving the movie some much-needed comic energy.
The Seven Dwarfs
Walt Disney and his animators already had the whole sidekick thing down with their first feature film. 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' is one of the most important and influential movies ever made and it's filled with characters that still loom over the company's history. Chief among them are those seven dwarfs, each of the named after their main attribute. Although others would eventually top Doc, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy and Bashful when it comes to truly great Disney sidekicks, these guys were first and they're downright iconic. That's got to count for something on its own, right?
Baloo is certainly an above average Disney sidekick in most respects. Laid back and lovable, he's the bear that temporarily teaches children that bears are fun-loving, slightly lazy animals that you should seek and befriend. But there's one big reason he's on this list: he sang "The Bare Necessities" and that song is awesome. Like many Disney sidekicks, he ultimately has to take a backseat to Mowgli (the far less interesting human lead of 'The Jungle Book'), but his big musical number instantly makes him immortal.
Like Baloo, Sebastian from 'The Little Mermaid' is defined by his big musical number. However, his big musical number is "Under the Sea," which just so happens to be one of the greatest Disney songs ever recorded, and rightfully places him in the pantheon of the company's greatest characters. Outside of his big musical number, Sebastian's major role in the story involves dispensing life advice to Ariel in his memorable (and easy to imitate) accent, and he's an excellent sidekick. Would he be on this list if he didn't have "Under the Sea"? Probably not. But this is "Under the Sea" we're talking about here.
Gaston from 'Beauty and the Beast' is the greatest Disney villain of them all (that's a fact) and Lefou, his dimwitted henchman, has to match his general awesomeness in every scene. Like Iago, there is nothing remotely cute or redemptive about this sycophantic stooge, which only makes him all the more memorable. Most Disney sidekicks bend over backwards to win your heart, but Lefou is downright repellent, a sidekick to the villain who actually looks, talks and acts like a villain. He doesn't even get a single sympathetic moment, even going so far as trying to burn that anthropomorphic mop to death in the climax. Such awful behavior by such a grotesque sidekick in one of the best Disney movies of all time is the kind of thing that deserves our accolades.
Timon and Pumbaa
Timon and Pumbaa are the complete package when it comes to being Disney sidekicks. They're adorable. They're quotable. They're hilarious. They sing a defining song that's still being used by their parent corporation today. They show up awfully late in 'The Lion King,' but it's hard to think about the film without thinking about them. These two supporting characters, this meerkat and warthog duo, have somehow stolen the legacy of 'The Lion King' away from the actual lions. By the '90s, Disney had this whole sidekick thing down to a science and these two must have been the result of some kind of perfect mathematical equation to create the most marketable but impossible-to-not-love characters. They're just wonderful.
Tinkerbell's impact on Disney and popular culture as a whole cannot be oversold. Like Timon and Pumbaa, she immediately overshadowed the main characters of her own movie. However, 'The Lion King' is still a movie people talk about and love. 'Peter Pan,' as a film, seems to have all-but-vanished ... except for Tinkerbell. It's actually kind of crazy: people who have forgotten every frame of Disney's (lackluster) 'Peter Pan' still remember everything about Tinkerbell. Heck, Tinkerbell has become one of the Disney company's biggest mascots, appearing in countless direct-to-DVD efforts and acting as a mascot on the same level as Mickey Mouse for Disney theme parks. That's how strong she is as a sidekick -- she's become the superstar.
Jiminy Cricket is the gold standard of Disney sidekicks. Adorable animal? Check. Iconic song? Check. More memorable than the actual main character in 'Pinocchio'? Check. A staple of Disney's larger brand across various media platforms? Check. Although the seven dwarfs were the first Disney sidekicks, Jiminy set the template that every other character to date has followed. He may not be your personal favorite, but there's no denying that he's probably the most influential and important character in Disney history. So much of what people love about these movies and these characters is built upon this little guy's back.