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Captain Hook: Disney Villains

Captain Hook: Disney Villains
Captain Hook is the villain in the 1953 Walt Disney animated movie, Peter Pan. Captain Hook is one of the most popular Disney villains, and is also one of the most highly recognizable ones. This is the story of how he was developed, who he is, and who he was based on.

Captain Hook is the villain of the 1953 Walt Disney animated movie, Peter Pan. He is the pirate who commands the ship, The Jolly Roger, though he has abandoned sailing the high seas to put his efforts into getting revenge on Peter Pan for cutting off his left hand and feeding it to a crocodile (Peter considered it a “childish prank”). Since getting a taste of Captain Hook’s flesh, the crocodile has been in pursuit of him, wanting to eat the rest of him. So, not only is Hook wanting to get revenge on Peter Pan, he is also always trying to stay one step ahead of the crocodile. Also, Hook is frustrated because he cannot fly like Peter Pan, which gives Peter an advantage in their encounters with each other.

These aspects of his life and personality make Captain Hook one of the most sympathetic Disney villains. The audience can understand why Hook is the way he is. Because of this, he is one of the most recognizable and popular of the Disney villains. Captain Hook’s scenes with the crocodile in the original film are considered by some to be among the funniest animated sequences in the Disney library.

When Captain Hook was being developed for the animated cartoon movie, the story department initially suggested he be somewhat of a dandy, but with a cruel personality to the point of being murderous. Another animator suggested that Hook be more of a true villain with physical strength, but with dandy-ish characteristics to make the audience believe, at first, that he was not as villainous as he was. Captain Hook’s true personality was not fully worked out until well into the animation phase of the movie’s production, when the people in the story department realized it would be difficult to create a menacing villain who wouldn’t seem less of a villain by his scenes with the crocodile.

Peter Pan, 1953 Film Frame (Postcard)

The story department used this realization to create a character who had revenge in his heart, and who put on airs and pretended to be a refined gentleman of taste and style to lull people into trusting him. Walt Disney himself realized that because of these personality traits, Captain Hook would become a likeable character to the audience. Because of this, knowing the audience would develop an attachment to him, at least in some way, it was decided to not kill off Hook in the film.

Walt Disney himself had this to say about the character of Captain Hook:

Maybe with the crocodile and Hook – the crocodile is waiting for him – then have a funny chase – the last you see is Hook going like hell. That’s better than having him get caught… the audience will get to liking Hook and they won’t want to see him killed.

Among Walt Disney villains, Captain Hook is quite emotionally vulnerable. Because of this vulnerability, he often makes a fool of himself. In spite of this, he is singularly focused on his goal of getting revenge on Peter Pan, and he is a menacing and cunning person who should not be underestimated. Captain Hook can be murderous, and killed two crew members aboard the Jolly Roger in the movie, casually shooting one because he did not like his singing, and throwing another overboard using only his hook. Both physically and mentally, Captain Hook is a character with whom to reckon. Being strong and smart, he is in the upper echelons of villain quality. Peter Pan has been shown to be the only person with the actual skill to be able to successfully take on the pirate.

Concept art by Frank Thomas using  Graphite Colored Pencil
Concept art by Frank Thomas using Graphite Colored Pencil (Postcard)

In addition, Captain Hook is able to be a successful manipulator thanks to his high level of intelligence. He finds it easy to obtain assistance in his pursuits from those who are taken in by his charming and suave personality. This intelligence also allows him to locate loopholes in contracts and agreements, and to follow the letter of the law while not following the spirit of it. As an example, in one scene in the movie, Hook promises to not lay one finger on Peter Pan, but instead puts a bomb disguised as a gift in Peter’s hideout.

Also, Captain Hook is one of the only villains to look at their sidekick as more than just a minion, but as an actual friend. While he is short-tempered and murderous with the rest of his crew, showing no care for their well-being, he is uncharacteristically willing to tolerate the bumbling behavior of his first mate, Mr. Smee. Though Smee annoys Captain Hook a lot of the time, Hook has never shown any desire to kill him. Quite the opposite. He seems to view Smee as a confidant, and shares personal thoughts with him, and even turns to Smee for comfort on occasion.

Though not confirmed by any official Disney sources, it is rumored that the physical appearance of Captain Hook was based on that of his animator, Frank Thomas. An actor named Hans Conried provided the voice of Captain Hook, and also performed a lot of live-action reference for the animation of the character.

Captain Hook is based on the character of the same name in J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play, Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. In the play, it is said that Hook was once Blackbeard’s boatswain, the only man of whom the infamous pirate Barbecue (also known as Long John Silver) was afraid, and had attended Eton College and Oxford’s Balliol College. It was implied that Captain Hook was from an upper class English family, and Barrie says of him in the novel version of her play that the man’s true name, which was not Hook (that name was taken from the metal hook he wore in place of his left hand, that Peter took and fed to the crocodile), could not be revealed because it would be a scandal for the country, even telling it so far after the events of the story had taken place.

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