Rating Classic Disney Clichés

Disney, Disney, Disney. We all know and love Disney. But let’s be honest: Disney movies use a LOT of clichés.  Their movies are very cut-and-paste at this point; so much so that you can walk into a theatre and practically predict the whole plot arc. I decided a fun way to check out these patterns would be to rate some of the most popular clichés!

Before I get into it, though, I want to give some insight into how I’m rating these tropes. The first thing I’ll consider is how overused they are. Of course, overuse is the very basis of clichés, so really, I’m going to be judging how cringy I find them and how outdated they are. I’ll also be taking into account the types of emotions I feel from each cliché. Keep in mind, all these ratings are my personal opinion and it’s all in good fun; perhaps it was different for others! That all being said, let’s get into the ratings!

Love at first sight - 4/10

I figured I’d start with this one because it’s not only one of the most classic Disney clichés, but also one of the most classic literary clichés in general! Still, in terms of Disney movies, it’s not a cliché I particularly love. When it comes to writing meet-cutes ⏤ which is the term for when a future couple meets in a funny or cute way ⏤ there has to be some degree of charm there. A method that not only makes the protagonist fall in love, but that will be endearing to the audience as well!

Disney just… doesn’t usually give me that vibe. The love at first sight shtick in Disney movies is usually pretty superficial. The characters are madly in love after one glance! Literally, first sight. In tons of the older Disney princess movies, the prince and princess rarely even spoke to each other before Happily Ever After. Lots of them don’t even know each other’s names, and some have never even met! What?!?!?

This brings me to the next one…

Really boring, one-dimensional “Prince Charming” - 2/10

Seriously, half of these guys are just called the Prince. What does that mean? Who named you?! There are so many nameless princes in the early princess films. Even if you Google “Prince Charming”, the result reads, and I quote: “Prince Charming is a fairy tale stock character who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress and must engage in a quest to liberate her from an evil spell.” A fairy tale stock character! Try harder!

Anyway, I get it, this cliché is probably so vague because everyone dreamed about being whisked away by a perfect guy, and they probably didn’t have a very concrete idea of what was perfect so they just made him lifeless. Okayyy. Still, the lack of personality is the opposite of charming.

Plus, I’ll be honest, if the character’s not even worth naming, what makes them good enough for my girls? We only really see a love interest as interesting once we start to see that they’re characters with character (see what I did there?). Personality is what makes characters like Flynn Rider, Aladdin and Kristoff so significant. Whether you like them or not, at least they have their own lives and opinions.

Charismatic villains (with a great musical number) - 8/10

Charismatic villains are soooo incredible. These multi-dimensional villains are the most interesting to watch on the big screens. If a villain’s only purpose is for us to hate them, where’s the drama, the spice? Truly scary villains are the ones with backstories, morales and things that show that they’re not so different from the heroes. These are the villains who want something, who are adored and revered, whose words are sweet like honey but tinged with darkness. A villain with a lot of power is one thing, but a villain who can cripple an army with one word is even better.

Charisma is not just effective, it’s entertaining! We love to look at a strong, cunning and intelligent form of evil. The effect is so much more dynamic than “ugly wicked witch curses the land” blah blah blah. Similar to the princes, give me villains who can think!! Charismatic villain is a great trope! Some great examples are Scar from The Lion King, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and Jafar from Aladdin.

Plus, most of the time these villains also come with a really amazing song; something to hype up the crowd and raise the tension right before our protagonist prepares to kick some butt (or, you know, just gets the prince to fight the bad guy or whatever). I’ll be real, I was so amazed the first time I heard “Be Prepared” in The Lion King. That song is just ⏤ mwah ⏤ perfect.

Animal sidekicks and animal friends - 7/10

This one’s a bit tricky because it really depends on the character. Some really funny and cool animal companions are Mushu from Mulan, Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, Timon and Pumba from The Lion King and Pascal from Tangled. Whether they talk or not, they’re all incredibly fun friends who have hilarious interactions with everyone around them. While it’s a huge cliché for the animal companion to be the spunky funny one, it still usually works well. It’s a great trope and I highly appreciate it!

Still, this only got a 7 out of 10 because of how often it’s used given the weird implication that Disney characters can almost always talk to or attract animals. That Snow White scene with all the forest animals? Cinderella’s mice helping her sew? I mean, I’ve fed chipmunks before. It’s cool. I just think it’d be a bit weird if they hopped inside and started helping me with my homework.

Dead/missing parents :( - 6/10

I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s such an easy trope to write because without parents, the main character is either given agency of their own to go adventuring or it is a problem that drives the story forward. The Lion King couldn’t happen without Mufasa’s death. Rapunzel wouldn’t be in a tower if she wasn’t taken from her parents at birth. Elsa wouldn’t need to be coronated so young if her parents had lived. This is sad, but the dead parents trope has a function, and as a writer, I’m inclined to agree with it.

I only gave it a 6, though, because it makes me sad. That, and it’s a bit overused. :(

Banished Protagonist - 8/10

Banishing the protagonist is such a fun plot device! Get that guy outta here! Banishing the protagonist isn’t just entertaining, though, it gives the protagonist a goal, and drives them to find a way back home. These days/months/years are usually used for adventure and self-discovery and are usually the part of the movie where we get the badass training arc. Banishment is a huge power-up moment, and I love to see it! Besides, once the protagonist is finally ready to face their problems, the return is so empowering! That’s the entertainment I want!

And those are all the cliché ratings I have for now! I far from covered them all, so perhaps I’ll do another rating later on, but what did you think? Did you agree with my ratings? Did any of them frustrate you? I hope you had fun with this! Thank you for reading this article, and I hope everyone has a terrific day!