Disney villain twists seem to have become commonplace; Disney surprise villains are something audiences either roll their eyes at (*cough* The Lion King’s Scar *cough*), or express genuine shock towards. The latter has proven increasingly rare, not just in animated Pixar/Disney features, but in cinema as a whole. The best examples of this trope serve their respective characters' roles in the story without the reveal feeling like it came out of the blue.
The best villain reveals are less worried about the “surprise” factor and more concerned with the quality of the villain. Much like an iceberg, where 90% of it is underwater, only a small portion of the obstruction is visible until it’s too late.
In Monsters, Inc., a factory of skilled monsters venture into the human world to scare children and harvest their screams. However, energy production is falling because children just aren’t as fearful as they used to be. The CEO of the film’s eponymous company, Henry J. Waternoose III, seems like a perfectly good boss at first; Randall Boggs is presented as James P. "Sulley" Sullivan and Michael "Mike" Wazowski’s chief rival. Randall plans to use the “Scream Extractor” to extract screams from kidnapped children, thus solving the monster world’s energy crisis.
Halfway through the film, Sulley and Mike discover Randall’s plan and report him to Waternoose. It’s ultimately revealed that Waternoose is in on the scheme when, instead of sending Boo (Mike and Sulley’s human friend) home, he banishes our heroes to the Himalayas.Great reveal?
At first, Prince Hans appears to be Frozen’s stereotypical “Prince Charming.” However, motivated by his inability to ascend to his family’s throne and desperate for power, Hans takes advantage of Anna’s willingness to fall in love and marry him.
Later in the film, when Anna is weakening and only “true love’s kiss” can save her, he mocks her and explains his plot to use her imminent demise as a reason to execute Elsa and become king of Arendelle.Great reveal?
Coco follows aspiring young musician, Miguel, as he accidentally ends up in the Land of the Dead. To get back to the Land of the Living, Miguel must get the blessing of a family member. However, Miguel’s deceased Mama Imelda has banned music from his family after his great-great-grandfather abandoned his wife and daughter to pursue a career as a musician. Imelda won’t give Miguel her blessing unless he gives up music when he returns to the Land of the Living.
Therefore, Miguel sets off to find the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz, who he believes to be his great-great-grandfather due to a misinterpreted photograph. When Miguel sneaks into Ernesto’s mansion, it’s revealed that Ernesto’s former partner, Hector, is Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, Coco’s father, and was poisoned by Ernesto, who stole his music and guitar.Great reveal?
Dawn Bellwether is the assistant mayor of Zootopia. She’s sweet, cute, and good to everyone... or so we think. When Nick and Judy investigate predators going “savage” and reverting to a feral state, it’s revealed Bellwether has been dosing them to create panic, gain power, and essentially cause a "race" war. Her goal is to exact revenge on predators for walking all over prey and to prove that predators are inherently bad. This reveal happens near the end of the film when Nick and Judy encounter Bellwether at the Zootopia Natural History Museum. Judy questions how Bellwether knew of their whereabouts, prompting Bellwether to sic rams on them while the latter tries to convince Judy of the cause.
While we do see Bellwether being mistreated early on by Mayor Lionheart, her personality does a complete 180. Bellwether’s appearance as a seemingly meek sheep conceals her role as a “wolf” until the plot calls for it.Great reveal?