(Warning, this column contains a few small spoilers about Ratatouille, so if you haven't seen that movie, you might want to stop reading now) Sometimes, when you watch movies, the weirdest questions pop up. You might wonder why Donald Duck is wearing a shirt and a hat, but not pants, but sometimes the questions go a little deeper. Like this new one that struck me: Does every animated movie really need a Bad Guy/Woman/Creature? Of course, they are more or less common practice in animated movies, ever since Disney put that horrible witch in their debut animated feature Snow White, and many kids have been scared witless by the many baddies in later Disney movies. It's almost a rite of passage, it seems. The first time you go see a movie in theaters, which is mostly an animated movie, there is a bad guy that gives you nightmares. I guess I was lucky that my first animated movie in the cinema was The Aristocats, which had a baddy that was more clumsy than scary, but I can remember plenty of little girls and boys clinging to their mothers, and becoming really silent, during the final battle between Ariel and Ursula in the showing of The Little Mermaid where I first saw that picture.
Evil bad guys are more or less Disney's trademark, and most of the other animation studios have been more than happy to follow this model and come up with their own evil wizards/dragons/goblins and whatnot. And of course, these bad guys give the movie an extra edge, an extra reason to root for the good guy, and a satisfying climax at the end of a movie, when the bad guy is disposed of, never to be seen again (or at least not until the Direct to DVD sequel).