The Little Mermaid, Buena Vista Pictures, 1989
Though Ariel is sweet and naive and in love, she worries that, without her voice, she’s got little more than a clamshell bra and a dream in her heart. “You’ll have your looks,” Ursula assures the young mermaid in her husky snarl, “your pretty face. And don’t underestimate the importance of—” the witch shakes her hips lustily as she swims past—“body language.”
Like Ursula’s tentacles, the stakes spread out before us: this is a first-rate scam and Ariel is out of her depth. Among the coterie of evil queens, stepmothers, and sorcerers who terrorize out of jealousy and greed, Ursula is unique. She’s the only one who actually gives a young princess what she wants.
But witches want stuff, too. And, until that inevitable moment when heroes destroy them and restore order, witches have the upper hand.
Although the sea witch is singular among Disney villains, there is a person behind this character. She is a real-life Ursula with a crimson mouth, eyebrows sharp as switchblades and a homicidal gleam in her eye.
She is Divine.