Writing about Jafar? I’m ecstatic! He’s one of my favorite Disney villains and I have plenty to say about him. In case you’re kind of a bad animation fan, let me tell you about Jafar: he’s the Royal Grand Vizier at Agrabah, where he’s searching for the Magic Lamp with the goal of becoming Evil King of the World, basically. He’s constantly trying to kill Aladdin (“How many times do I have to kill you, boy?”) and undermining him by messing with Prince Ali’s name. He’s tall and so evil-looking you might wonder why the Sultan chose to trust him.
How Ssssnake-like He Can Be
Now that I think about it, Jafar probably used his snake-staff (General rule: don’t trust people with snake staffs) to hypnotize the Sultan into trusting him. Because that’s Jafar, using magic to get what he wants instead of doing it the Tiana way. He’s a fun antagonist because he has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and he almost gets rid of Aladdin more than once. In fact, without the Genie to 1) free Aladdin from the cave and 2) rescue him from the bottom of the sea Jafar would’ve won and a lot of sadness would have ensued. So Jafar is a genuine threat, which is something I value a lot.
In fact, when I saw a preview of the Aladdin musical, I thought one of the main problems was that they turned Jafar into a comic character. And although he’s hilarious in the movie and his banter with Iago constitutes one of the highlights of the whole thing, he’s also a threat. In the musical, he was just trying to be funny so there were no stakes. Never in a million years could that Jafar take on Aladdin. That said, what I saw was only a preview so hopefully they fixed it and it’s fun to watch in Broadway.
Love to Hate
Another great thing about the Grand Vizier is he enjoys being evil. While a mustache-twirling villain who is evil because evil is fun can pretty much kill a movie, Jafar works because he simply wants power and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get it. And it’s so much fun to see him maniacally cackling and throwing bad puns as he toys with our heroes at the climax of the story. Jafar is simply delightful to watch and this seems to be a staple of the Disney Renaissance Villains. They’re all giddy about manipulating, hurting and abusing others and it makes them so much fun to watch and get defeated.
On top of being a fantastic character, Jafar is proof that Aladdin is a fantastically written movie. His downfall is his biggest flaw. While Aladdin chooses to be himself at the end and overcomes his biggest hurdle, Jafar’s undoing comes because of his ambition and desire for power. After 90 minutes of seeing him seek power in every way possible, it makes perfect sense he wishes to become a genie without thinking those phenomenal cosmic powers come with a prince.
Finally, one of the best aspects of Jafar is the way he looks. There are villains like Lotso, who surprise you because they don’t look the villain-type. There are surprise villains like King Candy or Hans. And then there’s villains like Jafar who decide to commit to their evil-doing and look the part too. He’s tall, he carries a snake-staff, dresses in red and black and has facial hair that should’ve alerted the royal family about his intentions a long time ago. Jafar just screams villainy and that’s why we have to celebrate him as one of the finest animated villains there is.