The parenting achievement I’m most proud of is that fact that my children are five and three and neither of them has a clue that we live 15 minutes from Disneyland Paris. I have nothing against the place, it’s just insanely expensive.
As a parent, I find myself watching a lot of Disney films and I’ve been struck by how many Disney films are set in France or have French characters, many of whom are honking great stereotypes. It’s compelled me to compile a list of the Frenchest characters ever to be animated into existence by Disney (and Pixar).
To be included they need to be a character in a story set in France, or be demonstrably French – have an accent, say. In addition, they need to have characteristics that are usually attributed to French people, like being a foodie say. On y va?
10. Fairy Godmother, Cinderella
Defining French characteristic: incredible style
No, not Cinderella – she’s far too weedy for our list – but her fabulous, fashion-forward fairy godmother. She conjures up an incredible Dior-esque ballgown out of nowhere while casually singing “
Zou bisous bisous“ I MEAN “Bibbidi bobbidi boo“. Cinderella goes on to slay at the ball and become a Princess in (judging by their clothes) revolutionary France. Oops. There’s only one winner here and that’s the sassy one with the wand.
9. Anton Ego, Ratatouille
Defining French characteristic: food obsession
The French are known for being very critical, especially of food, and there’s no one more knowledgeable or intimidating than Ego. Chefs tremble awaiting his verdict as his reviews can make or break a restaurant. Not a 100% food dick, Ego’s softer side is awoken during his Proustian madeleine moment when the taste of Remi’s ratatouille takes him back to his youth.
8. Hunchback, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Defining French characteristic: romanticism
In many ways it’s a standard trope in Romance literature: the humble would-be lover pursuing the inaccessible lady. Here Quasimodo is suffering more setbacks than most with his physical challenges. (Can we say even “hunchback” now?) Despite winning her friendship, Quasi doesn’t win Esmeralda’s heart. A hopeless romantic, he suffers agonies of unrequited love against the backdrop of the world’s most romantic city. To be honest, with his central Paris address – including superb views – I’m pretty sure there are ladies out there who’d be willing to get on that train.
7. Stepmother, Cinderella
Defining French characteristic: intimidating snob
In every fish-out-of-water film set in France, adorable Americans encounter a terrifying French person, who delights in tormenting the idiot abroad because of their general lack of sophistication (ie their inability to speak French, order wine or appreciate dairy). Cinderella’s stepmother is your regulation French nightmare: snooty, cruel and deeply hostile to outsiders. It’s what makes her a classic villain, and it’s a cliché that makes French people endlessly fascinating – and frightening – to the rest of us.
6. Gaston, Beauty and the Beast
Defining French characteristic: arrogance
Let’s be real here: French people have a reputation for being more than a little pleased with themselves. Justifiable or not, it’s a trait that is personified in the swaggering villain of Beauty and the Beast. Gaston is confident Belle will want to marry him, and why shouldn’t he be? He has a cleft chin, he’s built like The Rock, he’s the best at hunting, spitting AND eating eggs. He loves himself and, quite frankly, who can blame him?
5. Remi, Ratatouille
Defining French characteristics: food obsession
Look at this little guy having orgasms over strawberries and cheese. So French.
4. Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty
Defining French characteristics: flawless beauty and general fabulousness
Flicked eyeliner, arched brows, red lips and nails, impeccable black clothes: why, she’s the quintessential French beauty! While her regal, haughty manner is reminiscent of ice-queen Catherine Deneuve, her hair and pet choices are 100% drag queen, and she’s so much more glamorous for it. She’s drop dead gorgeous and could only be one nationality.
3. Chef Louis, The Little Mermaid
Defining French characteristics: food obsession, cruelty, moustache
Another film, another French guy that’s super into yums. Chef Louis is more extreme than the others, taking a malicious delight in eviscerating his dead and not-so-dead seafood victims, playing into the impression that the French have a sadistic streak when it comes to food (foie gras-production, horse-eating, etc).
Chef Louis is the first on our list to have an outrageous French accent (complete with “zoot alors” and “hee hee haw”) and an outstanding moustache. He also chases Sebastian to the rousing can-can music, in case you didn’t pick up on him being French.
2. Duchess, The Aristocats
Defining French characteristics: sex appeal, revolutionary spirit
If Maleficent has aires of Catherine Deneuve, Duchess is all about another French screen goddess: Brigitte Bardot. Originally from well-to-do Parisian family (like BB), Duchess escapes and discovers a darker, faster side of Paris with Thomas O’Malley (Serge Gainsburg) and jazz. Dance brings out her sensual nature and soon she’s rejecting her bourgeois background in favour of slumming it with kindred free spirits. Did I mention that she’s a single mum with no baby-daddy on the scene? Take that, society!
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1. Lumière, Beauty and the Beast
Defining French characteristics: food and sex obsessed, upsets English with foreign behaviour
We’ve arrived at the top of the list and there could only ever be one winner: Lumière. He is the Frenchest of the French with a superb accent. His starring moment is when he sings the fabulous “Be Our Guest” about the wonders of French cuisine (“… after all, this is France, and dinner here is never second best”) surrounded by showgirl dusters and an anachronistic Eiffel Tower. His pursuit of Babette (below) throughout the film hints at his virility (as much as you can in a Disney film) as a nudge-nudge joke for the mums and dads. What’s more, he upsets stuffy Brit Cogsworth with his Gallic cheek kissing. What more could you ask for in a cartoon Frenchman? Rien du tout.
Do you think anyone has been overlooked? Or shouldn’t be included on the list? Are you simply furious at the inclusion of a Pixar film? Get it off your chest then! And please share if you’ve enjoyed 🙂