Ursula From The Little Mermaid, And Other Disney Villains


Call me strange, but I much prefer the villain characters in Disney animated films over the sugary-sweet ones. And that's because I find the villains much more entertaining and multidimensional. Villains expose and reflect both the "dark and light" within us all.

When I was still acting, the roles I relished doing the most were the villains. However, playing a villain is not as easy as one thinks because you can't simply portray a villain as a single note: menacing, or cruel, or evil. The challenge is in uncovering the characters "humor and humanness" so that the audience finds themselves being charmed by the villain, instead of disliking them.

I just recently rewatched the Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid, and forgot how much I LOVED the character of Ursula. OMG...she's freaking HILARIOUS!

She reminds me of a faaaaabulous drag queen you'd see performing in a gay nightclub on a Saturday night - the hair, the makeup, the costume, and the whole bigger-than-life personality.

Now tell me, does Ursula resemble a first-rate octopus drag queen or what?....


Ironically enough, it wasn't until I started putting this post together and doing some research, I discovered that the real-life inspiration for the character of Ursula was the infamous New York City drag queen, Divine, (who, by the way, I actually saw in person performing in an Off-Broadway show in the late 70's, down in the Village).

Notice how closely they resemble one another...


I also discovered that Divine was originally supposed to be the "voice" for Ursula in the movie, but unfortunately died suddenly a year before the movie went into production.

The comedic actress, Pat Carroll, was eventually cast as the voice of Ursula, who I think did a stellar job because her voice had such a wonderful gravelly quality that suited the character of Ursula so well!

Here are a few more images of Ursula...





That is so totally a drag queen pose!



One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Ursula uses a sea flower to apply red lipstick.

Remember this?...


Bwhahahahahahahahaha!

Back in the 90's, I had the opportunity to be part of a musical stage production of Peter Pan. My favorite character is Captain Hook because he's both comical and devilish. I was cast as his sidekick, Mr. Smee, and had FUN, FUN, FUN with the character...


Captain Hook and Mr. Smee from the animated film


Below is a backstage photograph of me as Mr. Smee, and one of my good friends at the time (Jim) who was a very talented actor, as Captain Hook. He and I had a blast playing these two characters every evening and matinee performance...


Yet, out of all the villains I played throughout my career, portraying the Wicked Stepmother from the musical version, Cinderella, was my absolute favorite...


These two photographs (above and below) are from the Disney animated film.


These next photographs are of the staged musical production. Some of you who have been reading my blog for awhile may remember these photographs, which I posted many, many years ago..


*and yes, I did the makeup myself (which took a little over an hour to apply before each performance).


This extremely talented gentleman, Rick, was responsible for my costume design. He did such an AMAZING job because he made my costume (and my two daughter's) from scratch. His attention to detail was INCREDIBLE!  He also designed my wig, which he made two, so that I could alternate them throughout the five-week run of the show.

Yup, I find the Disney villains delightfully entertaining...


Have a super-duper weekend, everyone!
X

35 comments

  1. Oooh what a fabulous post, and insight into front and back stage. You must have had a wonderful time playing those parts and doing it so well. I enjoyed looking at your pictures, especially the one of you and Rick. Cartoon characters favourite with me, oh how I admired that talent. Thanks, Ron, you brightened my morning with this post and I appreciate the effort that went into producing it.
    Enjoy your weekend, dear friend.

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  2. What the heck, Ron??? I never knew you played any Disney characters! What unbelievable pictures! This reminds me of when my son was in high school marching band in a parade at Disney World and saw the performers backstage. He was shocked that so many of the sweet innocent characters were men in costume (like Minnie Mouse) and they were smoking and swearing up a storm.....LOL! I can see why you enjoyed playing villains!

    Thanks for sharing such great memories!

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  3. Ron, what a deliciously amusing and fabulous post! I remember seeing The Little Mermaid when it first opened and loving Ursula. You're right, she does resemble a drag queen LOL! Interesting to read about the creation of the character. Love the comparison photos of Ursula and Divine.

    I never knew you were an actor. What great pictures of you in costume. I bet you had so much fun. Do you still act?

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  4. Ron, I love this one! Your words are so instructional to me as a writer, you know. The part about creating a villain people can relate to (at least a little!), a villain that is more than just *mean* or *crazy* but in their mind is purposeful. Redeeming qualities, multi-dimensional character traits, are what make villains -- and heroes -- memorable.

    I can imagine how difficult it must be to portray a character like that on film or live. I love how you've included old photos of your roles as villains. I don't recall seeing them before -- probably because I hadn't discovered your talented posts that early. Now, just try to run me off!!

    Happy week to you, my friend. Understand we're sending y'all some rainy weather and humidity; sorry about that! xx

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  5. When I was little, my mother had a friend who looked and sounded exactly like Ursula. Except, you know, she wasn't purple or half-octopus.

    I never liked the sugary-sweet characters either. Honestly my favourite Disney movies were all the non-princess ones. The Sword in the Stone is one of my fav films of all time. And Robin Hood was brilliant as well.

    You look fabulous in all your costumes!!!

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  6. Hello there Valerie!

    Yes, I did. I had a WONDERFUL time playing these parts because not only was it fun, but I learned so much as an actor. I was primarily a "character actor" from the time I started (which was when I was in my late teens until my 40's), but then gradually started playing other roles (when I got into my late 40's). I was a challenging type to cast because I didn't look young enough to play someone young, yet I didn't look mature enough to play someone older. I didn't have a certain "age look" for myself. So I ended up getting cast in character roles because I could hide my age behind the makeup, costumes, etc. Which ironically ended up being much more interesting and fun.

    Thanks so much for stopping, dear friend. Have a lovely weekend!!!
    X

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  7. Yes, I played several Disney characters/villains, and also villains in other plays and musicals.

    "his reminds me of when my son was in high school marching band in a parade at Disney World and saw the performers backstage. He was shocked that so many of the sweet innocent characters were men in costume (like Minnie Mouse) and they were smoking and swearing up a storm.....LOL! "

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, that it so true because a very close Florida friend of mine worked at Disney World, Orlando, so he and would often go into the Magic Kingdom (for FREE) and witnessed the same things! It's a peek into the "world" behind "the world!"

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a grrrrrrrrrrrrreat weekend!
    X

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  8. Greetings Candice!

    I saw The Little Mermaid with a Florida friend of mine (who worked for Disney World) when it was released, and the two of us laughed our asses off at Ursula!

    I started acting professionally when I was in my late teens until my late-40's. Then I took a long break to do some other things. Perhaps some day I will go back to acting/theater; even if it's just for my own enjoyment. Acting one of those things that you (no matter what age) can go back to.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a fantastic weekend!
    X

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  9. Helloooooooooooo there Mich!

    "When I was little, my mother had a friend who looked and sounded exactly like Ursula. Except, you know, she wasn't purple or half-octopus."

    Bwhahahahahaha! OMG, how funny! One of my aunts (on my father's side of the family) kind of sounded like Ursula as well. She was a heavy chain smoker, so she had that rough, gravelly voice.

    "Honestly my favourite Disney movies were all the non-princess ones. The Sword in the Stone is one of my fav films of all time. And Robin Hood was brilliant as well."

    Yes!!!! I couldn't agree with you more! I'm also a big fan of the Universal Pictures animated film series of "Despicable Me"! I love the character of Gru. Steve Carell is freakin' brilliant!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a fantastic weekend!!!!
    X

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  10. Helloooooo there Debbie!

    "The part about creating a villain people can relate to (at least a little!), a villain that is more than just *mean* or *crazy* but in their mind is purposeful. Redeeming qualities, multi-dimensional character traits, are what make villains -- and heroes -- memorable."

    Yes, and I LOVE the way you said that so brilliantly! I learned so much about acting from playing the villains. And not only about acting, but about human nature as well. Acting is such a great lesson in "art imitating life."

    "I can imagine how difficult it must be to portray a character like that on film or live."

    I acted primarily in live theater. I did one or two film projects, but never felt like film was my medium. I enjoy performing live much, much more because it's not only scarier, but I like having a live audience because it's more of an immediate and close interaction with them. Theater is a magical exchange of energy between you and the audience.

    "Understand we're sending y'all some rainy weather and humidity; sorry about that! "

    OMG, yes...it's been INSANELY hot and humid these past few weeks. Today it's raining, so it cooled things off a bit. As you know, I am so not a summer fan. I can't wait for FALL!!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a fabuloso weekend!

    X to you and Dallas

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  11. Ron, this post ROCKS! My girlfriend and I have been looking through these photographs for the past minutes and enjoying the hell out of them! Love you as the Wicked Stepmother. Your makeup is incredible! How did you learn to do that? You make a great Mr. Smee too! When you look through your pictures and see yourself in these roles, do you ever miss it or have a desire to go back to the stage?

    Being someone who is Goth, I love the villains too. I like what you said about the dark and light within us all because it's true. Great comparison pictures of Ursula and Divine. They do resemble each other.

    Great post, dude! You never fail to entertain.

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  12. Hiya Matt!

    Thank you :) I first learned the art of makeup while attending an acting school in New York and learned stage makeup. Years later, I also attended cosmetology school and studying makeup artistry even more. I still do makeup where I work as part of my job.

    Yes, I do sometimes miss acting. However, I have a feeling that one day I'll go back; even if it's just to do community theater for the joy of it. Once an actor, always an actor - HA!

    I love Goth too, so that's probably another reason why I love the villains!!

    Until I started researching things for this post, I never knew that Divine was the prototype for Ursula, but after seeing those pictures...I can see WHY.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a most excellent weekend!
    X

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  13. Rob LenihanJuly 15, 2017

    Wow, Ron, Mr Smee And the Wicked Stepmother?!?!? You sure gave those Disney villains a run for their money!

    I'm so sorry I didn't get the opportunity to see you perform. I know you were freaking awesome! You're so right about the challenges in playing a villain. If you do the character as a one-note nogoodnik, you're going to lose your audience.

    The really great villains have something attractive or alluring about them--and then you feel guilty for being attracted to them! Gosh, how many times have you remembered the villain in a play, movie or TV show, long after you've forgotten the hero!

    Great post, buddy, and thanks so much for sharing the fantastic photos of yourself. But I won't rest until you take on the role of a lifetime...URSULA!!!!

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  14. Ron, I LOVE this post!!! Oh my god, I LOVE this post! You look so adorable as Mr Smee and your Wicked Stepmother is unbelievable! Not only your costume, but your makeup is spectacular! Those are some wicked eyebrows! I bet you had so much fun playing these parts. "Now tell me, does Ursula resemble a first-rate octopus drag queen or what?...." Yes she does, totally! Love her red nails. It's been so long since I've seen The Little Mermaid, but now you make me want to watch it again. I forgot about the lipstick part LOL!

    Fantastice post, Ron! Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. You've done so many interesting things. You could write a book!

    Have a great weekend! X

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  15. Hey there Rob!

    Ever since I started my involvement in acting, I always had this secret desire to portray a woman onstage, which I NEVER thought would happen. So when I was cast in as the Wicked Stepmothr in Cinderella, I was overwhelmed with joy. The director took a big change in casting a male in the role of the stepmother, but he wanted to do something different with Cinderella, and did, so I REALLY admired his courage.

    "If you do the character as a one-note nogoodnik, you're going to lose your audience. The really great villains have something attractive or alluring about them--and then you feel guilty for being attracted to them! "

    Whenever I played a character that was written as a villain, I always played "against" their wickedness by playing the humor.

    " Gosh, how many times have you remembered the villain in a play, movie or TV show, long after you've forgotten the hero!"

    Yes, exactly!!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have faaaaabulous weekend!
    X

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  16. Hola Denise!

    Aw...thanks, girl :)

    After doing the show for five weeks, I think my brows just got bigger and bigger. Almost like Joan Crawford - HA!

    I had so much fun creating the makeup for the Wicked Stepmother. I wanted her face to look as if the animated character came to live, so I made my features over exaggerated. Kind of like a mosaic!

    I forgot about the scene when Ursula puts on the lipstick, until I saw the movie again. OMG...I laughed my ass off.

    I was telling someone at work today that I don't think I was born to do only one thing with my life, I was meant to try MANY things; acting being one of them. I really enjoy my life by taking different paths.

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a wonderful weekend too!

    X

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  17. Ron, I'm sorry that I'm a little late to the party and this sensational post! My husband and I read it a few hours after we got back from being out of town for 5 days and LOVED it! We laughed though the whole thing! You look fantastic as Mr Smee and the Wicked Stepmother. How in the world did you do that makeup everyday? You are so talented. I bet you had so much fun playing these parts. What other villains did you play?

    And speaking of Divine, did you ever see the non-musical version of Hairspray? I saw it many years ago when I was still living in New York. That was the first time I saw Divine. He was so funny! I didn't know he also did theater. What show did you see him in? I really enjoyed the musical version (with John Travolta) too. It was fascinating to read that Divine was the inspiration for Ursula. I can so see that!

    You always post such enjoyable posts, Ron. Love this one too! Hope you had a great weekend X

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  18. Helloooooooo there Elaine!

    Hope you and your husband had a great time while you were out of town.

    I used to get to the theater about two hours before curtain so that I could relax in the dressing room and do my makeup without having to rush. I enjoyed taking my time while listening to music I used to play on the CD player in our dressing room.

    Other villains I played was the character of the MC in the musical, Cabaret. And character of Bob Ewell in the play, To Kill a Mockingbird. And the villainous character of Barnaby in, Babes In Toyland.

    "And speaking of Divine, did you ever see the non-musical version of Hairspray? "

    OMG...yes I did!! It was the movie by John Waters! I saw it in the late 80's. Ricki Lake was also in that film. I loved the musical version with Travolta as well. I am a huge fan of Travolta.

    Yes, I just discovered the whole thing about Divine being the inspiration for Ursula, but it makes perfect sense as to why!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, neighbor. Have a grrrrrreat week!
    X

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  19. Hi Ron, I'm baaaaack! ;) And what a FUN post to find here. I do remember you as Wicked SM! Looks like a great job on Mr. Smee as well. Those must have been some grand times. Only in a few high school productions myself, and just part of the chorus, but I remember how neat it was to dress up and be involved with the shows.
    Many Disney movies we watched when our kids were young...and now having grands we can enjoy some of the old ones again and see new ones, too. While I don't really remember actually being there, I do think my cousin took me to the movies to see Snow White when I was very little. That wicked queen probably was more interesting to me than any other character.
    Interesting post, as usual! I have missed you and thought of you often over the many months of my latest hiatus. ~M

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  20. Wow Ron, you played the MC in Cabaret? I've never seen in the stage version, only the movie, and I loved it. Liz was so great in that role. So was Joel Grey! I wish I could have seen you perform that role.

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  21. That was my "dream role" ever since seeing the movie. I was so excited, happy and scared when I got the part because I had waited so long (16 years) to actually do it. It was a great experience!

    Yes, both Liz and Joel were incredible!

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  22. Helloooooooooooooooo Mary!

    OMG, this is too funny because last night I took a long walk down to the Delaware River (Penn's Landing) because the weather was so beautiful yesterday (not too hot) and I thought of YOU when I looked across the river and say NEW JERSEY. I wondered how you were.

    Yes, I know you must remember me sharing the pic of The Wicked Stepmother because that was EONS ago, within the first couple of years I started this blog.

    "Many Disney movies we watched when our kids were young...and now having grands we can enjoy some of the old ones again and see new ones, too."

    To be honest, I don't usually watch a lot of Disney movies now (every now and then), but used to when I was a kid. I also had a friend in Orlando, Florida who worked at Disneyworld and was obsessed with all-things-Disney, so that was a time when I more Disneyish. He would take me into the Magic Kingdom (for FREE) throughout the year. I was so lucky!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, neighbor! Hope all is well and that you're enjoying the summer! Great to see ya!

    X

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  23. "The challenge is in uncovering the characters "humor and humanness" so that the audience finds themselves being charmed by the villain, instead of disliking them."

    I totally agree! Though not even remotely a Disney film, I think a great example of this would be Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs." Anthony Hopkins found just the right notes to allow the audience to sympathize with, and even root for, a cannibal - no small feat there.

    Fun post, Ron!

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  24. Yes! Yes! Yes! That's a PERFECT example of what I mean, Mark!

    And it's so ironic you mentioned Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter because I swear to god, I was going to make reference to that in this blog post, but decided not to just stick to Disney villains.

    Anthony Hopkins was freaking BRILLIANT in that role because even though he was a psychopathic killer, I found myself charmed by his charm, and actually ROOTING for him at the end!

    I own that movie and will watch several times a year; never tiring of it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a faaaaabulous week!

    X to you and Tara

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  25. Yes! Yes! Yes! That's a PERFECT example of what I mean, Mark!

    And it's so ironic you mentioned Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter because I swear to god, I was going to make reference to that in this blog post, but decided not to just stick to Disney villains.

    Anthony Hopkins was freaking BRILLIANT in that role because even though he was a psychopathic killer, I found myself charmed by his charm, and actually ROOTING for him at the end!

    I own that movie and will watch several times a year; never tiring of it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a faaaaabulous week!

    X to you and Tara

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  26. I
    AM
    DYING!!!!

    I honestly felt this was going to be just about disney villians... and then you made this shift:

    "I just recently rewatched the Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid, and forgot how much I LOVED the character of Ursula. OMG...she's freaking HILARIOUS!

    She reminds me of a faaaaabulous drag queen you'd see performing in a gay nightclub on a Saturday night - the hair, the makeup, the costume, and the whole bigger-than-life personality."

    That is HYSTERICAL. And then when you found out Ursula was actually based on a drag queen... how crazy cool is THAT! I was already planning to comment on how I love Mr. Smee and then BAM... THERE YOU ARE!!!! FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!

    The stepmother always scared me and still does. There is never any sign of her being good deep inside. She is pure evil.... and BOY do you look great in that photo!!!! I kind of remember it. I wish I could have seen you on stage!!!!

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  27. Helloooooooooo there Katherine!

    GREAT to see ya, my friend!

    It's funny, because I totally got my inspiration for this post after I rewatched, The Little Mermaid, and saw Ursula again. Afterwards, I got the idea of including a few of the villain roles I portrayed when I was still acting. And it was then that I found out about Divine being the inspiration for the character of Ursula! This whole post sorta came to me in a series of discoveries!

    I loved playing Mr. Smee. I also played him in the musical I did when I went to Japan for two months.

    "The stepmother always scared me and still does. There is never any sign of her being good deep inside. She is pure evil..."

    Yes, she certainly CAN be portrayed as pure evil, however, I found a lot of comedy in the way I portrayed her. Also, the staged musical version is a bit different than the animated Disney movie.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Hope you're having a FABULOUS summer at the beach; enjoying the ocean!

    X

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  28. http://ladyfi.wordpress.comJuly 21, 2017

    Ooo - I loved seeing you in your villain roles! Great shots. What would a Disney film be without its villains? I do love Ursula - she makes a good villain!

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  29. Thanks, Fiona :) I had so much fun doing these roles; especially the Wicked Stepmother. Oh what FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don't ya just love Ursula? And I agree....what would Disney films be without their villains?

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. And welcome back from your trip!
    X

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  30. Really enjoyed this post, Ron. The pictures of you as Mr. Smee and the Wicked Stepmother are stellar! You look great! I got bit by the "theater bug" in high school. I did several plays. I don't sing, so I never did musicals. Funny, but I still miss it at times. There is nothing quite as thrilling than live theater, is there?

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  31. Greetings Daniel!

    Thanks :) Hey, you were a theater bug too?

    " There is nothing quite as thrilling than live theater, is there?"

    Yes, you said it!

    I remember being in my first high school play and feeling the thrill of being onstage, LIVE, in front of all those people! It was both thrilling and scary. But oh, how much I loved it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a great weekend!
    X

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  32. I loved this post! I agree that villains can be such interesting characters. I had no idea that Ursula was modeled on Divine. Great pictures of you in costume - that was so much fun to see!

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  33. " I had no idea that Ursula was modeled on Divine."

    Yes, can you believe that? I had no idea either, until I started doing some research for this post. But it totally makes sense as to WHY Divine was the perfect prototype for Ursula!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a fantastic week!
    X

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  34. I can totally see why you gravitate towards the Disney villains! Villains are necessary because without them, there wouldn't be anything for the heroes to do! And, after all, there is a little bit of villain in every one of us, right?

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  35. "Villains are necessary because without them, there wouldn't be anything for the heroes to do! And, after all, there is a little bit of villain in every one of us, right?"

    LOVE...LOVE...LOVE how you said that, Lisa! And you are soooooooooooo right!!!

    Have a great week, my friend. And thanks so much for stopping by!
    X

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