We have had our humorous villains. We have had our baddies. But there are some villains that are so downright cruel and pure evil, that you can barely believe that they were allowed into a G-rated movie…
May I present, the brutish, despicable Shan Yu:
Shan Yu goes beyond all forms of evil, and ranks in my own personal list of top 5 worst Disney villains.
Never afraid of getting his hands dirty, you see him in the very first scene of Mulan.
After the beautiful opening credits, you suddenly see a much darker side of China, and this sets the tone for the rest of the film. Shan Yu kicks off the movie with attacking the Great Wall itself. Rather than being concerned with people knowing his whereabouts, he simply smirks, ready to take on all of China because that is who he is. Ruthless and confident, he does not fear anybody.
Shan Yu’s humor is unlike most other typical Disney villains. Rather than relying on slapstick humor or songs, he is simply cruel, and smirks at other people’s pain. His jokes were not ones that made the audience laugh- they were downright terrifying. When he captures two guards, he asks one of his archers- “How many men does it take to deliver a message?” The archer responded by drawing his bow and saying, “One.” Then the screen cuts to black. There is no humor. Even without explicitly seeing the archer shoot the messenger, everyone can understand what has happened, and it is terrifying.
He does this again, later in the film, when he comes across a doll, and suggests to his army that they return it to the little girl that would be missing it. The next time you see the doll, Mulan has come across it in a burning village with no survivors. Shan Yu has wiped out an entire army, and had no qualms about slaughtering a village of innocents.
Shan Yu’s strength is also intimidating. He got buried by an avalanche. He should have been dead. But nope, he blasts out of the snow, angrier than ever, and ready for revenge. Later in the film, he even breaks right through a roof. He is determined, that’s for sure.
Maybe one of the most frightening things about Shan Yu is his personality as Mulan’s antagonist. You spend the whole film rooting for her to be seen as an equal by her fellows, but she is constantly rebuffed by her father, society, and her fellow soldiers. Shan Yu however doesn’t see her as a woman. He sees her for the threat she is, to himself and his plans. He doesn’t laugh at the girl fighting him, he simply fights her. The respect that you want Mulan to get is suddenly coming from the worst possible person, and it is extremely frightening. Shan Yu doesn’t underestimate anyone, and his cunning brings him extremely close to killing the Emperor (thank God for a little dragon and a building full of fireworks that finished Shan Yu off first!)
Shan Yu isn’t the most well known of most Disney villains. He isn’t usually ranked as being the worst (that crown normally goes to Maleficent.) In the end, he didn’t succeed (whoops, spoilers.) But he killed so many innocent people, and was so malicious while carrying out these deeds. Even if he isn’t ranked as the number one baddie by most, he is definitely one of the worst Disney villains to date.