By Joel Ayala
Over the last 15 years, Dreamworks has released some pretty incredible villains in their animated movies. However I feel that they don’t receive the love and appreciation that they deserve since most of the Dreamworks movies get overshadowed by the more popular Disney and Pixar animated movies. I personally feel that the construction of Dreamworks villains and the stories that they tell are far superior to the animated villains that were released by Disney and Pixar in the same year.
In 2008, for example, the “Kung Fu Panda” trilogy introduced a set of stunning villains that were all completely well thought out and executed to perfection. In the first “Kung Fu Panda” movie Tai Lung (Ian McShane) was the main antagonist with a rich backstory. The film illustrates him being abandoned by his own parents. Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) found Tai Lung at his doorstep and decided to raise him to be the Dragon Warrior. After being abandoned by his parents Tai Lung was given a purpose in life to strive to be the one to protect the valley. However once his heart was judged by Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), Tai Lung was rejected from being trusted with the power of the Dragon Warrior. He was thrown in prison by the only person who loved him as a son. Tai Lung fights with his fists and uses the Kung Fu that was taught to him by Shifu.
Let’s compare this complex and relatable villain to Pixar’s “Wall-E” that was released in the same year. AUTO was the main villain of this movie, as in autopilot, not even a true character. Compared to Tai Lung, AUTO has no backstory and doesn’t really even have any weapons besides the steering wheel handles. None of AUTO battle scenes can compare to Tai Lung’s iconic prison breaks scene where he displays his battle IQ and his brute strength.
In 2011, Dreamworks shows that it even does sequels better than Disney and Pixar. They released the second installment of the “Kung Fu Panda” series where they introduced Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) to the cinematic world. Lord Shen was the son of the King Peacock who ruled with the Queen in Gongmen city. Lord Shen was banished from Gongmen city for his dream of ruling all of China. It was foretold that Lord Shen would be defeated by a warrior of black and white. Lord Shen then proceeded to go and kill every panda in existence to try and change his fate. Lord Shen isn’t a master of Kung Fu so he fights with Guan Dao which is a curved blade that he hides in his feathers.
Pixar’s “Cars 2” came out this same year and was also a sequel. There the comparisons stop, however. The main antagonist of this movie was Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard) whose motive was to bring power back to oil as a fuel. I do have to respect Axlerod’s clever plan. However I feel that the strong connection between Po (Jack Black) and Shen is hard to beat. Both of them saw each other as an obstacle in their way, Shen wanting to destroy Kung Fu with his weapons of mass destruction and saw Po as the only thing is his way of achieving his rightful destiny. That relationship is missing from “Cars 2” where Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) has literally no connection to anyone else in the film.
Dreamworks is not a one-trick-pony, however, with just “Kung Fu Panda.” In 2014 Dreamworks released the second installment of the “How to Train your Dragon” trilogy. With this new movie came the most menacing villain that Dreamworks has ever made. Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) is a madman who was killed without mercy or thought. As a boy Drago had his whole family taken from him by dragons and lost his arm during the attack. Filled with hatred about the world he was born into he seeks out to control the dragons and to kill anyone who tries to make amends with them.
Drago also used Hiccup’s (Jay Baruchel) own dragon and best friend to kill his father. Pixar loves killing off family members, but they cannot beat this intensity.
In the same year, Disney released “Big Hero 6” and with it introduced a well thought-out villain in Doctor Callaghan (James Cromwell). Disney’s villain here does give Dreamworks a run for their money. He is a man who is haunted by losing his daughter, seeking revenge. Dreamworks’ villain is just so much more haunting.
Lastly Dreamworks latest hit “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” has received the same ratings as “Avatar: The Way of Water” on Rotten Tomatoes. For an animated film to be on par with an “Avatar” film, this shows how impressive its characterization is. The villain in this film is literally Death and it’s not meant metaphorically or poetically or in any other fancy way. He wishes to take away Puss’ last life since he took his previous eight lives for granted.Death fights with two razor sharp sickles that he can put together to create a staff to fight in battle. Death’s entrances are sure to leave you with goosebumps as he always enters a scene with his iconic whistle that is like a soothing melody to your ears. You can’t even kill this guy, you can only escape Death in your life.
Over the course of a decade and a half, Dreamworks has released some amazing villains that steal the spotlight in their movies. I feel that these characters are underappreciated and the construction of these characters gets overlooked. Moral of the story is you can always count on DreamWorks to deliver with the villains in any animated movie that they make.