john silver main cyborg arm

Analyzing the Disney Villains: John Silver (Treasure Planet)

Origin: Treasure Planet (2002)

Motivation: A long time ago a pirate named Flint stole treasure from “a thousand planets” (side note: gold and gems are apparently still valuable when you have access to every planet in the galaxy). Somehow Silver found out about this and a map leading to the location. Young boy Jim Hawkins got that map, leading to a commissioned mission to find the treasure. Silver and a band of his unruly scalawags integrated into the mission to steal the treasure for themselves. Gotta admit, the “loot of a thousand worlds” does sound appealing.

Character Strengths: Silver is a charismatic bloke. A fun guy. Quick with a joke. He’s designed after the other affable Disney bears (Baloo, Little John, Humphrey, Winnie-the-Pooh). Silver has no ego that gets in the way of his desires. He can be a lowly ship’s chef as long as that gets him closer to his goal. He knows how to butter people up. Captain Amelia is generally impenetrable, but Jim falls for Silver telling him he was always meant for greatness. The problem is that Silver starts to believe this himself, as he’s sympathetic to those with a hard life.

Evilness: Silver is ultimately only out for himself, like any pirate. Offers to join his crew notwithstanding, Silver wouldn’t hesitate to abandon one of his men to the spacewolves if it served his own needs. He’s a pirate through and through–greedy, ruthless, a liar, a mutineer, a bully, a thief, and a murderer.

Tools: Lots! He’s a cyborg so he’s got a robotic arm that can swiss army knife into just about anything, including an arm cannon, scissors, a blender, a spatula, a meat cleaver, and a crutch. The leg is a little less useful, as it apparently operates like a bellows(?) and is vulnerable to stabbing. Plus he’s got a targeting eye that changes colors with his mood and a mechanical ear. As far as henchmen goes, he’s got a band of cut-throat pirates. But their loyalties are questionable and he has a problem keeping them in line. (Though that spider-crab alien is pretty nightmarish.) And there’s Morph who acts as the parrot on his shoulder who comes in handy now and again.

Complement to the Hero: Silver and Jim have a father-son dynamic that comes about by a montage where he tries to exhaust Jim with work. Otherwise, the curious and impressionable boy might find out about Silver’s band of bloodthirsty mutinous pirates (which he does). This is the most fascinating part of the movie, not only because it diverges from the source material, but Disney does not have a great track record with father figures. For every Gepetto there’s a bumbling oaf like King Fergus or moron like Buck Cluck (or they’re just dead). Silver has no compunction about stabbing a guy but has genuine love for the boy. He even gives up the treasure to save Jim when the planet is self-destructing. He can’t even lie to himself about liking the boy. It’s a bold authorial decision to change Silver from an irredeemable antagonist into an anti-hero.

Fatal Flaw: Silver actually gets over his, which is a lifelong sense of greed. He realizes the friendships he made along the way are more valuable and fulfilling than riches. The funny part is Silver foreshadows this when he tells his band not to let their desire for treasure get the best of them. But there’s an element of Silver’s scoundrel self-preservation that never goes away when he escapes from the ship rather than go to jail.

Method of Defeat/Death: After escaping the exploding planet (and enough treasure to disrupt the galactic economy), Silver retreats below deck to snatch a longboat. Jim confronts him and there’s a tense stand-off, but Jim decides to let him go. Silver offers to take him with, but Jim decides to “chart his own course” (one that’s a little more legit and has less backstabbing). Silver admits his admiration for the boy, they hug, and Silver leaves for greener stars.

Final Rating: Five stars

Previous Analyses
Yokai (Big Hero 6)
The Agent (Bolt)
The Spirits (Frozen II)
King Candy (Wreck-It Ralph)
Abuela (Encanto)
Prince Hans (Frozen)
Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
Aunt Sarah (Lady and the Tramp)
Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)
Percival C. McLeach (The Rescuers Down Under)
Ichabod Crane (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)
Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
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)
Hades (Hercules)
The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
Man (Bambi)
Clayton (Tarzan)
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)

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.