Growing up with Walt Disney’s films, I was never all that interested in who the main protagonist was or who they were allegedly in love with. Can you really blame a 5 year-old for spacing out during “love’s first kiss?” No, what had me hooked on Disney movies, particularly those with such a strong focus on romance (e.g. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), was the comedy. More specifically, the characters that served as comic relief. In order, here are my top 10 funniest and most underrated characters from classic* Disney films.
*“Classic” in this context refers to Walt Disney’s own creations, which would span his career up until his death in 1966.
10. The Minstrel
This man needs no dialogue to be considered a medieval legend. The Minstrel serves as a castle musician who is ordered to play during a toast between King Hubert and King Stefan as they celebrate the betrothal of their children, Prince Philip and Princess Aurora. While Hubert and Stefan sing “Skumps,” the Minstrel eyes-up their glasses of wine and helps himself to one. What follows is a hilarious sequence where the Minstrel plays and pilfers more drinks, even going so far as to fill the hull of his mandolin with wine. The scene ends when Hubert and Stefan notice garbled snoring coming from under the table, belonging to a very drunk Minstrel with a broken mandolin over his head. Hopefully he’ll keep his job, or at least be kept as a court jester.
Favorite quote: *garbled snoring*
9. The Doorknob
While everyone remembers the White Rabbit as the trigger that sets Alice off on her adventures in Wonderland, the Doorknob is really the first “Wonderlander” that she engages with. At first, the Doorknob claims that Alice is too big to enter through his door, but he tries to help her shrink down by advising she drink from a mysterious bottle. Once Alice is small enough to fit through, he chuckles and recalls that he’s in fact locked, prompting Alice to eat something in order to grow taller and reach a key. Once she does, Alice grows to such a massive size that the Doorknob can’t help but laugh at her expense. Alice begins to cry and literally floods the room with her tears. She finds the bottle floating by and drinks once more from it, shrinking to the perfect size to fit through the doorknob’s mouth – er, keyhole – as he swallows gallons of tears and practically drowns in the process. Karma’s a bandersnatch, isn’t it?
Favorite quote: “No, impassable. Nothing’s impossible!”
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as innocent and loyal as Moley in your lifetime. Being a mole of very few words, Moley dedicates himself to his friends Ratty, MacBadger, and of course, J. Thaddeus Toad himself. Moley is as pure as it gets, as his worst crime to date is being a minute late for teatime. Despite his best intentions in helping Toad clear his name, Moley is too easily coerced into doing the most for the group, like retrieving the stolen deed to Toad Hall from a sleeping Mr. Winky. On behalf of his friend, poor Moley is chased about the estate on his short legs, pinned to a wall by knives and daggers, and nearly beheaded. Yes, you read that correctly. We truly don’t deserve you, Moley.
Favorite quote: “And may he get time off for good behavior.”
7. Sergeant Tibbs
On the topic of underappreciated characters that are made to do the dirty work, Sergeant Tibbs would claim that it’s all in the line of duty. Tibbs serves the Colonel and is easily his most loyal officer. Did I mention that Tibbs is a tabby cat and the Colonel is an Old English Sheepdog? You’d hardly know, considering that Tibbs is fluent in bark and even has to translate to the hard-of-hearing Colonel. When word reaches the Colonel that 15 Dalmatian puppies have been stolen, Tibbs immediately journeys to the old de Vil place to investigate the matter. He finds not just 15, but 99 Dalmatian puppies within the rundown building. Tibbs leads the puppies away from their prison until he’s confronted with and engaged by two goons, Horace and Jasper. The Colonel arrives just in time to spectate as Tibbs and the puppies engage in a Scooby-Doo-esque chase sequence away from the crooks. “Sorry sir, no time to explain. Busy, sir!” says a frantic Tibbs, in desperate need of a vacation.
Favorite quote: “Righto, sir. Right away, sir!”
6. Friend Owl
This character is probably the most adorable hermit you’ll ever meet. Friend Owl is an old, somewhat antisocial curmudgeon who sleeps during the day and really only associates with the royal family; that being Bambi, his mother, and the Great Prince of the Forest. While his overall demeanor is mostly pleasant, Friend Owl detests springtime, as this is the time when the forest animals emerge from their hibernation with a force of pent-up hormones so great that they instantly become “twitterpated,” or fall in love. The mushiness of the whole affair, combined with the incessant singing of the birds in the trees around him, is enough to make the elderly owl a real grouch. Don’t worry, Friend Owl. We’ll let you get back to sleep now.
Favorite quote: “And before you know it, you’re walking on air.”
5. The Grand Duke
Yet another servant to a higher power (I’m sensing a theme here). A dignified and practical man, the Grand Duke sees to the King’s every request, no matter how much he may disagree with it, and serves as the perfect foil to the King’s generally brash and romantic behavior. Despite his poised and elegant nature, the Grand Duke often settles for carrying out the most demeaning tasks out of fear of the King’s temper. The movie’s finest moment is when the Grand Duke admits that he was unable to stop the mystery girl (Cinderella) from leaving the ball. This infuriates the King, as all he wants is for his son, the Prince, to marry and give him grandchildren. Somehow, the King and the Grand Duke end up jumping up and down on the King’s king-sized bed, the King slashing at the Duke with a sword while the Duke dodges and reassures him that the girl likes the Prince. As consolation, the Duke stays up all night to try the glass slipper on every maiden in the kingdom, appearing as dead on the outside as he is on the inside when he finally makes it to Cinderella’s residence.
Favorite quote: “Now, Sire, remember… your blood pressure!”
4. Uncle Albert
Living proof that sometimes laughter isn’t the best medicine, Uncle Albert suffers from an unnamed condition where a fit of laughter will send him floating upwards. The trouble is, laughter can be quite contagious, especially in the company of Bert. Even Mary Poppins has difficulty resisting the silliness and charisma of her uncle, indulging him with a tea party on the ceiling. While his screen time may be brief, I always find his laughing fits irresistible. And if you get serious Mad Hatter vibes from dear old Uncle Albert, you’re not crazy. He’s portrayed by Ed Wynn, the same actor who voices the Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.
Favorite quote: “And that was nothing like a good joke!”
3. Honest John and Gideon
I know I’m including two characters in one slot here, but these two are a slapstick comedy duo at its finest. Con-artist J. Worthington Foulfellow (Honest John) and Gideon serve as recurring villains in what is my personal favorite Disney movie of all time. From the moment he appears onscreen, Honest John’s visage as an enlarged anthropomorphic fox creates a certain uneasiness in viewers. However, his happy-go-lucky feline companion, Gideon, is not quite so cunning or sinister. His antics with Honest John actually round the pair out to serve as more of comic relief than film antagonists. This is best demonstrated when Gideon attempts to smash Jiminy Cricket with a hammer – one that he so cartoonishly pulls out from his trousers – and ends up accidentally whacking Honest John in the head so hard that it practically takes a crowbar to remove Honest John’s hat from his snout.
Favorite quote: “Remember, Giddy, the time I tied strings on you and passed you off as a puppet?” *Gideon nods vigorously*
2. Mr. Smee
“You are Bad Guy, but this does not mean you are bad guy.” Zangief may have been speaking directly to Wreck-It Ralph when he said this, but he was actually referring to Mr. Smee. It’s a wonder why someone as hard-working, selfless, and gentle as Smee caters to the likes of the crooked and borderline abusive Captain Hook – and yet, I couldn’t see him complement anyone else better. Who else would respond to his superior literally murdering a singing crew member as nonchalantly as this: “Oh, dear, dear, dear, Captain Hook. Shooting a man in the middle of his cadenza? It ain’t good form, you know.” That isn’t to say that Smee is perfect, as he demonstrates his inner Minstrel by how hard he hits the rum during Captain Hook’s supposed “surrender.” Regardless, we all need a little more Smee in our lives.
Favorite quote: “Captain... no splash.”
My pick for the most underrated classic Disney character really is a no-brainer, considering he lives in the shadow of two of the most iconic and popular Disney characters of all time. Look, I have nothing against Dopey or Grumpy, and I definitely find myself relating to each of them here and there. The fact is that Doc, the leader of the seven dwarfs, is undeniably more charming and hilarious than anybody gives him credit for. Not only does Doc have a legendary speech impediment that causes him to flub every other line when he finally gets the spotlight (“Careful, men. Search every cook and nanny - uh - hook and granny - er - crooked fanny - SEARCH EVERYWHERE.”) but he also teaches the dwarfs and all of us at home how to wash up with the catchy “Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum” or “The Dwarf’s Washing Song.” It’s honestly a crime that Doc goes so unrecognized among even the most dedicated Disney fanatics. Here, though, he lives as a king.
Favorite quote: “Yes! What are you and who are you doing? Uh – who are you, my dear?”