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Child-Abusing Villain Joins Pixar Roster

Disney Villain
Credit: Disney

From the Evil Queen to Hades and Cruella De Vil, Walt Disney Animation Studios is responsible for creating some of the most memorable and maniacal villains in modern fiction. However, Pixar might be giving them a run for their money with one of its rogue emotions in Inside Out 2 (2024).

Esmerelda and Frollo in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'

Credit: Disney

Although Pixar’s films rarely utilize the traditional villain archetype made so famous by Disney’s rogues gallery, its latest entry presents a relatable and devastating antagonist animation fans haven’t seen since Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). That’s certainly a lofty description, but there’s a reason they both have more than a few things in common.

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Judge Frollo is often considered Disney’s scariest and most controversial villain because he’s not only threatening but also realistic. While Inside Out 2 doesn’t deal with themes of religion, lust, and persecution, Anxiety is one rogue emotion that becomes just as real and just as damaging as Disney’s sinister minister from so many years ago.

WARNING: Spoilers for Inside Out 2 beyond this point!

How Inside Out 2 Redefines the Disney Villain

Four animated characters are in a colorful, whimsical room. A large, pink character in a hoodie stands next to a small, orange character with wild hair, and a tiny, green character, both sitting at a control panel. A tall, blue character lounges on an orange sofa.

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Although Disney has beaten them to the punch for a few decades, Pixar is no stranger to creating memorable villains. Where would the world be without the toy-torturing Sid Phillips, the sinister Syndrome, or the grim eater Anton Ego?

Related: Disney Permanently Removes ‘Finding Nemo’ From Controversial Attraction

That said, Pixar’s villains are often either wiped off the board before the credits roll, or they find some form of redemption at the film’s ending. That’s all well and good, but it’s been a long while since a Pixar villain’s actions have had permanent effects that many in the audience can personally relate to.

Anxiety introduced in Inside Out 2

Credit: Pixar

Anxiety (voiced by Maya Hawk) might not be evil in the textbook sense, but she’s an antagonistic force that causes a tremendous amount of damage to her environment and those around her, all under the guise of doing good and noble things. Starting to sound familiar?

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After bottling up the core emotions from the first film, Anxiety and her friends Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) seize control of Riley’s console and completely deconstruct her sense of self as she tries to fit in with the senior players at hockey camp. You know what they say about roads paved with good intentions.

Anxiety isn’t a threatening presence at first, but her protective plans to keep Riley from potential dangers soon turn calculated caution into a full-blown panic disorder. Not only that, but the memory spheres created by her actions are what ultimately lead to Riley’s loss of self, panic attacks, and damaged relationships with her friends.

Animated characters from the movie

Credit: Pixar

The most damning scene happens when Joy confronts Anxiety as the rogue emotion converts Imagination Land into a fear factory where potential threats are presented as projected fears resembling an animator’s desk. When Anxiety states she’s only doing what she’s doing to protect Riley, Joy comes back with the line, “Then why do you keep hurting her?”

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That was the moment Anxiety went from a well-meaning antagonist to a villainous force. Her actions and thirst for control soon led to Riley having a panic attack as she dominated the console.

The Truth Behind Anxiety

Four Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Anxiety (Maya Hawke), and Envy (Ayo Edebiri) in Inside Out 2 characters showing varying emotions and styles plus colorful backgrounds: blue drenched and sad, pink and surprised, orange and quirky, and purple and dreamy.

Credit: Pixar

Although Joy teaches her to let go of the things she can’t control, that doesn’t magically make the damage she’s done go away. Riley’s sense of self is still permanently altered, damage has been done to her mind, she still hurts her friends, and she will ultimately have to live with the consequences of Anxiety’s actions.

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Inside Out 2 paints a glorious picture of how anxiety can distort our perceptions, no matter what age we are. There’s a difference between cautious planning and overthinking, and (as demonstrated by the film) anxiety can lead to a damaging disorder if allowed in the driver’s seat for too long.

Anxiety is comparable to the evil Judge Frollo, not just because she hurts those around her in her mission to do what she perceives as good, but because she’s so incredibly realistic. That’s what will make her one of the most memorable characters on Pixar’s roster.

Have you ever battled with anxiety? Let us know in the comments down below!

About Zach Gass

Zach Gass is a writer from East Tennessee with a passion for all things under the Disney name. From Disney history to the careers of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, Zach tries to keep his finger on the pulse of the mouse. While he would certainly love to see the parks around the globe, his home park will always be the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. When he's not rubbing elbows with Mickey, Zach enjoys reading fantasy novels, retro video games, theatre, puppetry, and the films of Tim Burton.

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