I've been re-watching Disney animated and live action movies over the last few weeks and have come to realize that there are some exceptional characters that go unnoticed. They're either sidekicks to the protagonist, or have minimal screen time. What I have noticed is how these characters are the ones that add to the story during the lowest points in the protagonists' quest, or they add dimensions to the protagonist that we wouldn't see otherwise.
I appreciate the thought that goes into the storylines for the main character, but the side characters and unappreciated sidekicks need a little bit of that limelight. (Not literally, though, since lime in Disney usually signals evil.) More than anything, these characters reflect some of the best values taught by Disney movies and help pass those along to our favorite heroes.
1. Nani from "Lilo and Stitch".Giphy
I can't say enough about how amazing Nani is as a character in Lilo and Stitch, and how she's seriously underrated. Frankly, she's the reason why I wanted to create this list of characters and place her at the very top.
At the start of the movie, Nani is just 19 years old and finds herself taking care of her younger sister, Lilo, as her legal guardian after the sisters' parents passed away. The choices that she makes throughout the movie reflect her maturity and responsibility as Lilo's guardian. She makes the choice to work full-time to support her family, prioritizes her sister over her potential love life, and still finds room in her home and heart for Lilo's new "dog." She deals with all of Lilo and Stitch's adventuring and the constant threat of losing her last family member and still holds herself high.
2. The Muses of the vase from "Hercules".Giphy
The Muses are reinterpreted in Hercules and they are some of the most memorable, and yet under appreciated characters in Disney movies. Everyone knows the songs they sing, but they also keep track of Hercules's quests throughout the movie. They also bring it when it comes to singing and are the leads in some of my favorite songs from one of the best movie sound tracks.
3. Nigel from "Finding Nemo".Giphy
Although Marlin and Dory (really, mostly Marlin) originally distrust Nigel logically because he is a pelican, they end up getting closer to the goal of rescuing Nemo because of Nigel's efforts to rescue and deliver them to the dentist's office. Not only is he hilarious and provides comic relief in some of the saddest moments in the movie, he takes Marlin one step closer towards his son.
4. Zazu from "The Lion King".Giphy
Zazu, honestly, keeps the entire kingdom in line before and after Simba's rule because of his strict schedules and tireless efforts to preen (pun unintended) Simba into becoming the best king he could be. Unintentionally hilarious, Zazu provides both the comic relief and responsibility that Simba needs in his quest.
5. Khan from "Mulan".Giphy
Khan literally comes close to sacrificing himself for Mulan and is one of the best animal sidekicks of any Disney movie, including arguably, Mushu. Mushu is hilarious, but he does a lot to keep Mulan from her goals in both movies. Khan is the polar opposite and keeps Mulan going when she is down and stands by her side.
The next time you watch a Disney movie, or really another movie at all, go ahead and observe the unique side characters that make the movie as enjoyable as it is. Watch a movie that you've already seen before through the eyes of an animal sidekick or through the hero's family. It changes your perspective and makes for a different watching experience!