Disney Villains and the Psychology of Color

The horned Mistress of Evil, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), flames with green magic as she stares down Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) in a dark, blue-tinted castle atmosphere

It’s officially the Halloween season, and with it comes the change to fall colors. Between the falling leaves and the presence of pumpkins, we’re accustomed to seeing plenty of orange and yellow during this time of year. But in honor of the spooky season, we call attention to a much different, less natural combination of colors that we have been taught to associate with the presence of evil. It’s a clashing, yet subtle color pairing that has been making an appearance alongside almost every Disney villain we have seen on screen—it’s the deadly combination of purple and green.

Promotions and IMAX Collectible Ticket for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

You may have most recently noticed it in the flames wreathed around Angelina Jolie in her latest appearance in the trailers for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)—but this is not the first time this character (along with countless other Disney villains) has been associated with this color. Taking a look way back into the 1950’s, we first get a glimpse of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959), where the color green is continuously used as a harbinger for her evil: the green glow around her castle, the curse of the spinning wheel illuminates a bright green, even in her dragon form she breathes an acid-green flame! So why green? 

Maleficent (voiced by Eleanor Audley) in Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Green can mean a number of things: it can be associated with growth, healing and nature, but it can also carry some negative connotations. Obviously, Disney is not trying to conjoin those qualities with their most evil characters, so we take a look at the negative aspects this color carries: greed, envy, and sickness. All of these traits fall under the character of Disney villains. In Maleficent’s case, after being snubbed by the royal family, she is filled with resentment (envy) towards the Queen, ultimately exacting her revenge (greed) by placing a curse (sickness) onto Aurora. 

Exclusive Interview with Joachim Rønning, the Director of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Now, turning our attention to the cloak wrapped around the Mistress of Evil, we find the color purple. As you can expect, purple is overwhelmingly one of the most villainous colors when it comes to Disney. When you consider that purple is often associated with power, nobility, luxury and ambition, it makes sense that we can find this color wrapped around most of these cartoon baddies. Along with Maleficent, these characteristics are certainly reflected in other Disney villains such as Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog (2009), the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989)—all characters who seek power in some form.

So just in case you don’t believe us, please find below a collection of Disney villains:


The Little Mermaid-Ursula
Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll) in The Little Mermaid (1989)


The Lion King-Scar
Scar (voiced by Jeremy Irons) in The Lion King (1994)


TThe Sword in the Stone-Madam Mim
Madam Mim (Martha Wentworth) in The Sword in the Stone (1963)


Cinderella-Lady Tremaine
Lady Tremaine (voiced by Eleanor Audley) in Cinderella (1950)


The Princess and the Frog-Dr. Facilier
Dr. Facilier (voiced by Keith David) in The Princess and the Frog (2009)


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-Evil Queen
Evil Queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne) in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


See what we mean?

Get a look at a whole new shade of evil this week when Maleficent: Mistress of Evil makes her way into Regal this Friday!

Get Tickets