Disney villains are more popular now than they’ve ever been, and the Disney parks are full of them. We can spend all day honoring the cornerstone villains like Ursula, the Evil Queen, and Scar. But today, let’s specifically seek out those villains who make our park experience sweetly sinister. I’ve whittled the list of ne’er-do-wells down to the top ten. Enjoy… if you dare!
10 – Evil Emperor Zurg
“So we meet again Buzz Lightyear….. FOR THE LAST TIME!!”
Emperor Zurg may not be one of the most iconic Disney villains. But when it comes to the Disney parks, Zurg’s got a stranglehold on the shooting game attractions. Zurg is the primary antagonist in both Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Magic Kingdom, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Disneyland. Not only do you see him within the attraction, but you battle him (in a manner of speaking) throughout the experience. Plus, you can take a picture WITH him, in the queue line for Space Ranger Spin.
9 – Gravity
Ok, go with me here. Gravity – in and of itself – is nothing more than physics in action. But when you are thirteen stories high in a cursed elevator, gravity is the last thing you need! The Hollywood Tower of Terror in Disney Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Paris leaves guests stranded – momentarily – near the penthouse, until gravity kicks in. Hold onto your belongings!
The drop in Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout operates similarly to the Tower of Terror. However, the actual fright of the drop is cleverly concealed by the Zero-G party inside.
Fun Fact – The drops in these attractions are not simply left to gravity. Imagineers worked with an elevator company to actually PULL the guests down, faster than gravity alone could do! Read more about the Tower of Terror’s other engineering tricks here.
8 – Leota Toombs
“DEAR SWEET LEOTA,
BELOVED BY ALL
IN REGIONS BEYOND NOW,
BUT HAVING A BALL”
Madame Leota has been spooking guests in the Haunted Mansion since 1969. Would we call her a villain? Well, that’s debatable. She’s just trying to fit in with the rest of the 999 happy haunts. But she is the focal point of an attraction meant to spook us into silliness, so she gets a nod on this list.
Fun Fact – Madame Leota was modeled after a Disney Legend, artist Leota Toombs, whose likeness is prominently displayed within the crystal ball.
7 – Lady Tremaine and the Stepsisters
One of the most memorable villain downfalls in all of Disney animation comes not in death or destruction, but simply the horror present in the realization of defeat. Lady Tremaine’s treatment of Cinderella is quite possibly one of the saddest ongoing circumstances in all Disney films. Add in the immature antics of her two clumsy and selfish daughters Anastasia and Drizella and you’ve got quite a despicable family.
But these three schemers shine up the worst of their flaws, leaving only klutzy, goofy fun when greeting guests at the Grand Floridian’s 1900 Park Fare dinner. Anastasia and Drizella will fool around, play jokes, and maybe even take verbal jabs at each other across the table. Lady Tremaine humorously tolerates their behavior, while giving them (and guests) the raised eyebrow. Unfortunately, the Tremaines have not been able to greet guests with their usual gusto due to the ongoing pandemic. But we are hopeful that they will be back to their bungling ways soon.
6 – Oogie Boogie
“Well, well, well. What have we here?”
Halloween may only come once a year, but Disney parks ensure that Halloween lasts about two months. This gives guests plenty of opportunity to dance with the gamblin’ boogie man. No other villain knows how to party quite like Oogie Boogie, especially at Disney California Adventure, where he hosts his own gala – Oogie Boogie Bash.
Aside from the Bash, Oogie Boogie can be spotted inside the Haunted Mansion Holiday, Disneyland’s Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. Add it all up, and there are over three months of Oogie Boogie to scare you right out of your pants!
5 – Gaston
“No one’s strong like Gaston,
Struts along like Gaston,
Greets his fans with a catchy theme song like Gaston.”
This muscle-bound meathead may be the most entertaining character to meet in the Disney parks. He’s always ready for a sculpted showdown, and has the quick wits to match. He may also hold the title of the most YouTube-able Disney parks character. Gaston is definitely worth the wait.
4 – The First Order
Five years ago, Darth Vader would have easily been considered one of the top Disney parks villains. But since the opening of Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios, this time-stamped Star Wars land is firmly planted in the First Order’s reign. Batuu is crawling with stormtroopers, led by none other than the ultimate mood himself – Kylo Ren (or sometimes Captain Phasma).
Outside of Batuu, guests may occasionally witness a pair of stormtroopers patrolling Hollywood Studios. Captain Phasma previously led a legion of the First Order’s finest on a march down Hollywood Boulevard, and also through Tomorrowland in Disneyland. However, the troopers rarely stray from Batuu nowadays.
3 – The Headless Horseman
The moment when the Headless Horseman streaks around the Hub and down Main St. in Magic Kingdom is nothing short of cinematic brilliance. This ultimate spooky moment signals the beginning of the Boo-To-You parade. Unfortunately, with this popular Halloween parade still suspended while special event entertainment creeps back from the pandemic, the Horseman has not ridden in Magic Kingdom since 2019.
However, he’s back in all his spooky splendor in Disney California Adventure, appearing as part of the Frightfully Fun Parade at Oogie Boogie Bash.
Fun Fact: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – the animated Disney film featuring the Headless Horseman – was narrated by the legendary American singer Bing Crosby. It was the only project on which Bing and Walt collaborated.
2 – The Yeti
Can you even say you visited Disney Animal Kingdom if you didn’t court fate with the Yeti on Expedition Everest? The legend of the Yeti looms large over the Asia section of the park. The Yeti used to roam mount Everest freely, frightening guests almost out of their train cars. In more recent years, he can still be heard, and evidence of his temper sends guests rolling backwards, down the rail he completely wrecked.
This Abominable Snowman also haunts the Matterhorn Bobsleds in Disneyland, as guests on that attraction sled down and around the famous snowy peak, barely outpacing his grasp!
1 – Maleficent
The Mistress of Evil just might be the most popular Disney villain of all time, both on the screen and in the parks. The imposing powerhouse takes on Mickey Mouse himself in the climax of the fan favorite Fantasmic, which plays in both Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios.
Maleficent’s fire-breathing steampunk dragon has long been the highlight of the Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy parade. But in the days of COVID, the dragon was snuffed, until returning recently to reign supreme again in the Disney After Hours Boo Bash.
Across the pond in Disneyland Paris, something evil slumbers beneath Sleeping Beauty Castle. La Tanière du Dragon is visible to guests who dare travel beneath this castle. Most of the time the dragon sleeps, but if you’re there when she wakes…watch out! Most guests conclude that this dragon is indeed a version of Maleficent, though it is not officially confirmed by Disney as such.
Many other villains haunt the Disney parks, especially around Halloween. Between the different special ticket parties, fans can meet most of the big names in evil – all in one place. Who’s your favorite Disney parks villain? Did they make this list? Add to the conversation with a comment here, or as a message on social media.