Origin: Pocahontas (1995)
Captain Hook’s personality in Alameda Slim’s body. Ratcliffe is one of the weakest antagonists I’ve ever seen. The movie doesn’t even need him — it’s West Wide Story. He’s merely a symbol for Mother England. You know, the whole REASON their trip was funded and provided in the first place? The name even has the word “Rat” in it, and it’s not a clever pun. That kind of move telegraphs the weakness of your character.
But you know what, fuck Disney for screwing with this guy. They propagandized him into a greedy, capitalistic slob who will destroy everything to get what he wants. Guess what — that’s what he was paid to do. That’s what John Smith was supposed to do, but he was busy rolling in the grass with a fourteen-year-old. You might as well say Scrooge McDuck is a villain (and don’t tell me he found his entire fortune by treasure hunting). And I can’t even talk about the historical inaccuracies — I gotta stick to the plot. So here you go.
Motivation: Greed. Pure, simple, and heavy-handed. They try and throw in some back story for him like this is his “last chance” to become successful for “those backstabbers in court”. Couldn’t be more meaningless. A tossed in bit of dialogue does not a motivation make.
Character Strengths: I like how they call him “Governor Ratcliffe” when he does no governing whatsoever. How can you call yourself a political leader of a piece of land with no buildings on it? In fact, he’s one of the few Disney villains that loses the loyalty of his troops before the end (Scar being another ignoble example).
His time-filling song does some good to motivate the men on the search for gold. But after a few digs, they’re already discussing mutiny (side note: who exactly is the captain on this voyage?) After that, his only recourse is to redirect their anger to the Indians.
Evilness: See above, regarding scapegoating the Indians for his own shortcomings. He takes the prejudices already held against them and exploits it. Of course, when Pocahontas and John Smith’s love “conquers all”, Ratcliffe shoots anyway, wounding his golden boy. Here’s a guy who doesn’t know when he’s licked. Lust for greed and power turns into petty vengeance, grasping for any victory. What did he expect to happen after he pulled that trigger?
Tools: Okay, do I have to talk about Wiggins and the dog? No? Good. How about the ship full of strong, hearty men ready to serve… that show immediate progressive thought and begin plans to overthrow him? Geez, it’s like the American Revolution extremely condensed.
Complement to the Hero: The movie makes a point to feature exported characters on both sides. Chief Powhatan is just as bad as Ratcliffe, but he gets a free pass because he’s an Indian. His motivation isn’t sinful, he’s just afraid and angry. It doesn’t matter that they’re in a constant state of war, and have no interest in expanding their horizons. They’re a noble people.
And then you’ve got John Smith — the fit, blond all-American Englishman voiced by Australian Mel Gibson. Remember how I said Disney likes to make poncey and foppish villains? This one turned it up to eleven, enough for people to start taking notice. His villain song even includes the words “hey nonny nonny”.
Fatal Flaw: I don’t know how Ratcliffe got into his position, but he sure doesn’t know how to keep it. His poor leadership skills are only a contributing factor. The greed and wrath keep him blind to anything happening around him. He’s a worse listener than Hiccup’s father. When you have to keep saying “This is my land and I make the rules here”, it is clear that you are not.
Method of Defeat/Death: Ratcliffe leads his men to the Powhatan village, just in time to see Pocahontas save John Smith’s life. The chief listens to the colors of the wind while Ratcliffe yanks a gun and fires. John Smith does his best Kevin Costner and jumps in front of the bullet musket ball (that somehow traveled hundreds of yards up and still hit its mark), and the men realize he’s crossed a moral event horizon. They tie him up and thrown him in the boat back to England while “I Will Always Love You” plays for John Smith and Pocahontas.
Final Rating: One star
Pinocchio’s Villains (Pinocchio)
Sykes (Oliver and Company)
Alameda Slim (Home on the Range)
Rourke (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Willie the Giant (Mickey and the Beanstalk)
The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
The Horned King (The Black Cauldron)
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Cobra Bubbles (Lilo and Stitch)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Amos Slade (The Fox and the Hound)
Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Scar (The Lion King)
Prince John (Robin Hood)
Edgar (The Aristocats)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)