“And of course there’s the mending and the sewing and the laundry… Oh yes, and one more thing. See that Lucifer gets his bath.”
Lady Tremaine is an often overlooked addition to the Disney Villain lineup. She comes from one of Disney’s older, but still popular animated films, Cinderella (1950). Lady Tremaine is the “evil stepmother” figure of the story, and joining her are her daughters Drizella and Anastasia. Essentially, her sole purpose in the film is to make Cinderella’s life miserable. Much like many Disney Villains, Lady Tremaine’s motives stem from her jealousy of the protagonist. When she discovers the Prince is looking for a wife, Lady Tremaine knows immediately that her only shot at joining the royal family is if one of her daughters marries the prince–this could only be possible with Cinderella out of the way.
Elegance is how Lady Tremaine shows herself but at the same time there is the feeling that she could ruin a life with the snap of her finger. Lady Tremaine never uses physical force, wanting to maintain her elegance and grace. She is poised and well-dressed, with a deep red dress and her gray hair up in a pompadour. She also wears a green ring on her on her right hand that matches her brooch and earrings.
On Lady Tremaine’s importance to the film, Disney animator Frank Thomas commented that they wanted to make the relationship between Cinderella and Lady Tremaine believable, while also highlighting Tremaine’s cruel and wicked behavior. Frank Thomas added that it was “one of the best villain-victim relationships we had on any feature,” with the villain living beside the protagonist day after day. Thomas notes that although Lady Tremaine did not possess any magical powers or physical strength, she had to be a driving force and constant threat in the story.
This Disney villain was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who also lends her voice to another fellow villain, Maleficent. Audley’s voice gives Lady Tremaine a high-class, luxurious tone, while also being menacing and insidious. Audley also served as the live-action reference model for Lady Tremaine. Frank Thomas was the leading animator for Lady Tremaine, recounting that Eleanor Audley would dress up like the character, acting out every move that was required. Then, he would take each frame from the reference footage and use them as guidelines. Thomas would sometimes animate too realistically, saying that they would lose the “illusion of life.” Instead of copying each frame, he would use Audley’s mannerisms and gestures as inspiration for movements that he may not have thought of. Eleanor Audley was the primary influence on Lady Tremaine’s cold and elegant behavior.
Lady Tremaine is usually forgotten about when it comes to merchandise, and anything else involving the Disney Villains. For example, merchandise featuring female villains will often only include Maleficent, The Evil Queen, Cruella de Vil, Ursula, and the Queen of Hearts. Why she is left out is beyond me, because Lady Tremaine makes for a pretty awesome antagonist. While she doesn’t have the super cool powers and witchcraft that some of the other villains do, it’s mostly her personality that makes for a great villain. Lady Tremaine doesn’t physically abuse Cinderella or try to harm her, but she keeps her grace and uses her slyness in an attempt to keep Cinderella out of her way. Ultimately, she fails at her task, but in the end she deserves a spot high up in the ranks of the Disney Villains.
Is Lady Tremaine one of your favorite villains?