What separates a villain from a supervillain? It's simple: the scope, ambition and sheer, unbridled lunacy of their evil plans. A villain is practical and smart, and thinks ahead. A supervillain is dramatic and insane, and wants everyone in the world to acknowledge his or her demented genius.
With 'Despicable Me 2' already in theaters, it's time to pay a visit to a medium that has played host to countless supervillains and countless more ludicrous supervillain schemes. There are no limits in the world of animation, so there are no limits to the machinations of an animated supervillain. Here are 10 ridiculous plans made by cartoon villains.
On the surface, there's nothing necessarily silly about Scar's treasonous plot in 'The Lion King.' Military coups and assassinations are as old as recorded history, so the evil lion's scheme to murder his brother, frame his nephew and seize the throne of the animal kingdom is the kind of dirty business bad guys have been doing for centuries. The real problem is Scar's absolutely insane, lunkheaded execution.
The moment he takes the crown, his first act as the new king is to invite an army of Hyenas into the joint and give them free reign, letting them terrorize the people and destroy the land. No thoughtful integration, no temporary period of pretending to be a decent ruler to get everyone on his side -- just immediate and head-scratching tyranny. Scar would've gotten away with his whole plan and young Simba would've lived the bachelor's life forever in a distant land if he had been just a little smarter.
Cobra Commander, 'G.I. Joe'
Whether you're familiar with the character from the 'G.I. Joe' toy line, the animated series, the animated movie, the various comic books or the new live-action movies, Cobra Commander has remained fairly consistent over the years. The megalomaniacal leader of the terrorist organization Cobra, the masked, helmeted supervillain may be the reigning king of ludicrous cartoon plots.
PIcking just one of Cobra Commander's harebrained and silly schemes feels impossible (this is the guy who smuggled soldiers into people's homes via Christmas presents), but we can't talk about this guy and not mention the time he carved his own visage onto the moon with a giant laser because ... well, just because. With no real motivation beyond causing chaos anywhere and everywhere, Cobra Commander never really had to think this evil scheme through.
Syndrome, 'The Incredibles'
In many ways, it's easy to relate to Syndrome, the chief bad guy at the heart of 'The Incredibles.' Spurned by the superhero Mr. Incredible in his youth, he grew up with a chip on this shoulder, vowing revenge not only against his former idol, but against all super-powered people in general. He's a terrific villain with a terrifically bonkers plan: he'll build a killer robot, test it out on as many superheroes as possible (i.e., make the robot good enough to kill each and every one of them) and unleash it on a city, where he'll arrive, disable his creation and become the savior he's always wanted to be (and profit in the process, of course). It's a bizarre, labyrinthine plot, but 'The Incredibles' gets away with it because their villain not only knows that he's playing into the cliches, he's reveling in them.
Judge Doom, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'
One of the big twists in Robert Zemeckis' 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' is that the live-action villain Judge Doom (played by Christopher Lloyd) isn't live-action at all, but rather a cartoon character in disguise. Through a complicated scheme that feels like it was torn straight out of Roman Polanski's 'Chinatown,' Doom frames the title cartoon hero for murder and plots to buy up all of Toontown, which would allow him to destroy it and replace it with a freeway, so he could then dismantle the city's trolley system and force everyone to use said freeway, earning him a ton of money. That's the simple version -- it's actually far more complicated than that.
One of the film's greatest strengths is that it's a true mystery at its center, slowly revealing a massive conspiracy at the heart of this cartoon world. Like with any good noir, the machinations of the villains are ridiculous and require an unreasonable amount of planning, but also like any good noir, you don't really care.
Mr. Burns, 'The Simpsons'
In the decades since 'The Simpsons' first aired, the citizens of Springfield have been forced to endure dozens of evil plans spearheaded by the greedy and merciless C. Montgomery Burns. From his office at the nuclear power plant, Mr. Burns engages in plots both mundane and world-changing, and he does so without a decent or kind bone in his frail, withered body. His most ridiculous (and famous) scheme of all time came at the end of the show's fifth season, when he built a massive device that would blot out the sun over Springfield, forcing the use of his power plant for electric lighting 24/7.
Of course, this storyline was part of the famous "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" two-parter, where it seemed like a certain citizen had finally struck back against the city's personal tyrant. Turns out, he was shot by Maggie by accident. What? The statue of limitations on that spoiler ran out at least a decade ago.
The Joker, 'Batman: The Animated Series'
You don't become one of the most iconic bad guys in all of popular culture without a crazy plan every so often, and there have been few villains as good at crazy plans as Batman's nemesis, the Joker. The "Clown Prince of Crime" has tormented Gotham City with hundreds of evil plots over the years, but none have ever been as ridiculous as the events seen in the 'Batman: The Animated Series' episode "The Laughing Fish."
After fishermen discover that all of the fish in the waters around Gotham have taken on the pallid color and horrible smile of the Joker, Batman runs a test and discovers that while the fish have been altered, they aren't toxic or poisonous in any way. In fact, the Joker's real plan is way out of left field. With all of the fish in the area now bearing his signature look, he files a copyright on the fish, claiming that they are his creation and that all fishing operations in Gotham harbor now owe him a cut from here on out. Only a villain as insane as the Joker would build his evil plans around something as ludicrous as copyrighting fish.
Honest John and Gideon, 'Pinocchio'
Walt Disney's 'Pinocchio' is an undisputed classic, but that doesn't mean it's free of some pretty bizarre and ridiculous villainy. Although the titular living puppet encounters his fair share of nasty types on his quest to become a real boy, none seem to have such insane machinations as the conmen Honest John and Gideon, who lead our young hero astray not once, but twice.
The first time, he's sent to Stromboli's puppet show, where he manages an escape. The second time, the duo convinces him to journey to Pleasure Island, where young boys are encouraged to misbehave, vandalize, smoke, drink and generally behave like young criminals. Thanks to a bizarre curse, behaving like a jackass on Pleasure Island turns you into a literal jackass, so all of the misbehaving young boys transform into donkeys and get sold off to salt mines and circuses.
Let's recap this racket, shall we? A cat and a fox convince young boys to go to a crazy, fun-time island where they are magically transformed into livestock so they can be sold to the highest bidder. Now that's ridiculous, even for Disney.
Unicron, 'Transformers: The Movie'
Unicron earns his place not because his plot is overly complicated, but because it's waaay too simple. In 1986's 'Transformers: The Movie,' the evil Decepticons encounter the planet-sized, world-devouring Transformer known as Unicron (voiced by an on-his-deathbed Orson Welles). It seems that this titanic beast of a 'bot can only be killed by the Autobot artifact known as "The Matrix of Leadership," and that he needs the Decepticons to track it down and destroy.
Wait. Wait just a second. This is a robot that can eat entire planets. We see him do it in the opening moments of the film. Why can't he sneak attack the Earth and kill everyone on the surface, and destroy the Matrix of Leadership in the process? Instead, he trusts this mission to the most bumbling team of evil robots in cartoon history. Great thinking, Unicron!
One of the delightful things about Steve Carell's Gru in 'Despicable Me' is that his motivation for shrinking and stealing the moon is ... that he just wants to. Simple as that. Sure, there's some talk of ransoming it back for a tidy profit, but the surprisingly cuddly supervillain is far more interested in simply being known as the greatest criminal of all time than being wealthy.
So when Gru has to steal a shrink ray, re-steal it from a rival with the help of robotic cookies and three adorable little girls, and work against a rough timetable to build a rocket to take him to space, he's doing all of it for the sheer joy of being a bad guy. That's kind of awesome, but also patently ludicrous.
No individual plan of Gargamel, the chief antagonist to the Smurfs, earns him entry onto this list. But the fact that he's dedicated his life to capturing and/or killing creatures as inane and irritating as the Smurfs earns him an instant spot because that's the definition of ridiculous. Who wants to look at one of those horrible blue creatures, let alone eat one?
To be fair, Gargamel is either attempting to consume the Smurfs or use them to turn raw matter into gold, but in either case, he's still spending every waking hour thinking about the Smurfs. That's unacceptable. That's insane. That's awful and terrible and unfathomable. Gargamel, you're the worst.
Next: The Strangest Villains Ever