Disney's Worst Villain: Prince Hans (from Frozen)

Walt Disney Animation Studios has a rich history of feature film characters. From Winnie the Pooh to Stitch, many strong protagonists highlight this library. However, the scratched side of the coin is just as wonderful with villains like Jafar, Cruella De Vil and Scar. When it comes to villains: Disney delivers… well, almost always.

Princess and the Frog saw the addition of the most recent great Disney villain: the Shadow Man.

2013 saw the release of Frozen, the latest animated film from Disney, based this time off the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Snow QueenIt’s good, it’s very good. Building off the fun but predictable film, Tangled; Frozen delivers a unique story of sisterhood highlighted by magic and gorgeous animation. I’ve already sung “Let It Go” to myself more times than I would care to admit so the movie also has at least one song that’s really worth remembering.

Overall I can’t say I wouldn’t recommend Frozen to anyone seeking some animated fun, but I wish I could recommend the movie more. Frozen has a flaw, a big one. For most of the film it keeps it off screen, which is a good thing. Warning: minor plot spoilers to follow… for a Disney movie… do I really need to give plot disclaimers?

Anyway, Frozen follows two sisters: Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has magical powers, the ability to freeze things and create snow. Anna is normal, without any magical powers whatsoever. Magic is fun but also dangerous so Elsa hides her powers. This plan works until both girls are of marrying age (at least I hope they are) and Elsa is getting crowned as the new queen. Needless to say things go wrong and the kingdom ends up a little… frozen. Get it? I’ll move on.

But that pun is besides the main point. At Elsa’s coronation, Anna meets a prince, Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and they fall in love… well they decide to get married. Ah young love. Unlike every other Disney Princess movie in existence, Elsa vetoes the marriage:

This should have happened before 2013.
This should have happened before 2013.

And so the kingdom gets frozen and Anna goes off to find her sister to put things right. Along the way she meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Hans is left in charge of the kingdom. He does his best, even going so far as to foil the Duke, a comical satire of the usual Disney villain voiced by the always hilarious Alan Tudyk. Hans is set up as a good guy, clearly not Anna’s true love but a good guy nonetheless. In other words: it is an interesting character development, something more unique than the average animated film.

Then comes the turn, the big turn. Anna is injured and only a kiss from her true love can save her. Does Hans save her: no. Does he remain the good guy and just admit that he isn’t in love with her: nope. Hans reveals that he hates both Anna and her sister and will take this opportunity to kill both of them and take over the kingdom. He also mentions that if Anna had a dog or cat, he would run it over in his truck (okay he doesn’t say that but it would fit with his declaration of evil). If all that sounds out of left field, that’s only because it is.

This is the face of evil. Pure, unexplained, evil.
This is the face of evil. Pure, unexplained, evil.

There is no set up, literally nothing to suggest to the audience that Hans is a bad guy, nevermind a murderer. The turn is nothing short of awful. Frozen was a story about two sisters struggling to maintain a relationship while one struggles with magical powers and the other went on a journey of self-discovery in a frigid wonderland. That doesn’t sound like a story that needs a Prince Dirtbag to make it interesting.

Also: it’s Disney, their villains usually rock. And remember Fox and the Hound, proof that Disney didn’t use to shy away from telling a complex story without a needless villain. Sure the hunter is a dick to the Fox but… that’s kind of what hunters do.

The “reveal” of Prince Hans comes off as a cheat. A way to move the story to more expedited resolution instead of the natural ending it was heading for. One wonders what the morale of Prince Hans is for young women watching the film: remember girls, just because you meet a boy and he seems cute and fun – don’t get into a relationship because he probably just wants to kill you and your sister. That’s it: that is the only reason you shouldn’t rush into a relationship.

In a movie where one of the main characters can create snow from nothing, this should not be the most unrealistic scene.
In a movie where one of the main characters can create snow from nothing, this should not be the most unrealistic scene.

So while Frozen is still good, it never gets great. Before I saw this film, I heard it compared to Beauty and the Beast. Not even close. Beauty and the Beast has more than one song worth remembering… and, you know, a villain who isn’t the dumbest thing since George Lucas thought to explain the Force in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

17 thoughts on “Disney's Worst Villain: Prince Hans (from Frozen)

  1. I disagree I loved this twist. Usualy the bad guy is either in your face evil from the start(still awesome but admittingly not very original) ugly, childish, over the top sexy, years older (grown ups…) then main character or a dumb idiot. Hans breaks stereo type disney villains by being none of these. ,In fact he even is a character that usualy is a hero or the one who saved the day, a prince. For the first time we have a young, handsome (but not over the top) disney prince who is in fact the villain. And clever at that because he was able to fool everyone, even most of the audience when they first watch the movie. Other villains are predictable. This was a surprise which I for one really enjoyed. Hans might not have the most interesting personality (mostly to blame on the fact that he indeed was mostly showing his fake face, so we didn’t get to see how deep the reasons to do what he did are or more of the real hans, which is sad because I’d love to see more of the real him, but that doesn’t make him a bad villain, it just makes frozen to short a movie to use him to his full potential. fingers crossed for a second movie :P) but following villains with their reasons and plots right from the start is so overdone that this new twist was a blow of fresh air. And anyway, if you watch the movie the second time and you know he is evil and then listen to the song closely he sings with Anna, you do get that agenda villains usualy give, only in a more clever way. Overall Hans might not be a classic villain, or even one of the most memorable ones, but he deffintly was far from the worst. He just was different. And if different isn’t ones cup of thee then yes you wont like him much.

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  2. I have to agree with Amber. I see there’s a lot of hate towards Hans, with good reason….but for me, his role as villain is my reason to love him. Is it too strange? Allow me to share my reasons:

    1. Like Amber said, you don’t see it coming. As I watched the movie for the first time I loved him as a good dorky prince so much I wanted to erase the “reveal scene” just to keep him as a good, noble prince. THEN it hit me. His act was so effective it fooled everyone. Once you know his true nature and watch the movie again, you start to glimpse it: how his intentions were there from the beginning and how he shaped and adapted his plans along the way. Its not that he became a villain out of nowhere, its that he effectively fooled the audience into believing he was a good guy.

    2. Back on the topic of not seeing it coming…his appearance. There is nothing malevolent about him. Think of all other disney villains and how they look. Hans doesn’t look grotesque, funny, powerful or evil, when he might be all of these things anyway. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. It is bad for those like me who enjoy disney villains so much, with their mystique and cool songs. But its good for the part of me that doesn’t like to look for one second at a character and know if they are good or bad. Sure, Hans may not look cool or evil enough to stand next to the rest of the villains, but his appearance and behavior makes him one of the most dangerous, manipulative and intelligent ones.
    Now, I understand this may be a type of villain too advanced for kids. They exist…I have met many Hans. People who seem nice to the world until they stab you in their selfishness. It is good to be wary of them. But maybe not at such a young age.

    3. There is more to him than just evil….in fact more than a villain he may just be an antagonist. Before the reveal he was a good temporary ruler. He was just selfish and antagonized the characters who stood in his way to what he wanted: his own kingdom. Its not that he hated Elsa and Ana. One was just in the way and the other was a cute tool, until events occurred in such a way that he could seize it all by taking the sisters out. Still an awful thing to do but he didn’t wanted to burn down the kingdom and eat everyone’s babies.

    Now…there’s a 4th reason that may be just me. There is so little known about Hans because he spent 3/4 of the movie acting, but the little we know is that he was the youngest of twelve brothers. Like Ana he was neglected for some years. And he really wanted to have a kingdom. Depending of just how neglected and unloved he was by his family he may actually be a really tragic figure. Still a jerk, but tragic. But that is just me speculating.

    Anyway…I think that covers most of it. I can see why so many people dislike him. It all falls down to people’s tastes and expectations…but I do wish some of his traits would be recognized because they make him probably the “realest” villain we may encounter in our life.

    Frozen isn’t as good as Beauty and the Beast, but in Hans we have a reversed Beast. We have someone handsome who looks and acts good, but whose selfishness tarnishes him on the inside in a way that it leaves him a Beast.

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  3. I really appreciate the feedback and you both provide valid opinions. I plan on re-watching “Frozen” next week and maybe my opinion of Hans will change with the second viewing. However, now that I can be a bit more spoiler-y: there is one addition scene I would like to mention (and for me, it’s the big one):
    The evil Duke has sent men to kill Elsa, they are in her throne room about to kill her. Hans stops them. He goes out of his way to prevent Elsa from being hurt. My question is: why? Who is the act for in this scene, outside of the audience?
    Yes, there can be an argument made that he felt Anna wouldn’t marry him if Elsa died but really: why wouldn’t she want to marry the man who bravely tried to save her sister but couldn’t due to the Duke’s wicked plans? Hans looks like the hero still and the Duke is further revealed to be evil (or just not a fan of having everything covered in ice).
    Hans wanted Elsa dead and he had his chance. But he didn’t take it. Moreover, I don’t remember him even looking like he was thinking about it. They probably did this to not spoil their big reveal scene but that’s my point: it’s not a natural scene. I still feel that it is constructed to deliver the “oh no, he’s evil” moment without proper regard to the storytelling that came before.
    I agree that it is refreshing when dramatic villain reveals are done well and Hans is not the typical villain (he is most like Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast”). While I’m still against “Frozen” feeling like the story needed a villain, I guess my biggest complaint as that dramatic reveals need to be more properly executed: and this one just didn’t feel natural.

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    1. I see what you mean. Actually…I was wondering about that myself. Like…what was his deal? had Elsa died there it wouldn’t have been his fault so…why?

      I started going on about it and this is what I got, which may be a stretch so feel free to dismiss it ^^; here goes…

      Looking at the scene, at the moment he sees Elsa is about to get shot,for a split second at 2:26 he looks up (to the chandelier) before running to the Duke’s guard. My theory is that he deflected the arrow upwards on purpose to kill Elsa with the falling chandelier and make it look like an accident. He later tells Ana that he will be known as the hero of Arendelle. He wanted to have his own kingdom were people loved him and saw him as a hero. Maybe in that scene he thought he could be a hero who tried to save Queen Elsa only for her to die of an “accident” anyway? why else animate him looking upwards?

      Its the only answer I have found to this. Its a stretch not only because it happens so fast but because even if he really didn’t tried to kill her and make it look like an accident there, it wouldn’t have been his fault. It would have been someone’s else treason. But then he wouldn’t be a hero?

      No need to take my word for it. Neutral as I may try to be, I’m still biased because I do like him (I think he’s manipulative and quick to adapt his plans). So go ahead, watch it again and if nothing of what I expose seems legit, no sweat….its still a good movie woth of a second watch ; P

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  4. So I agree strongly with this article. I think there are only a few unrealistic possibilities when it comes to Hans. 1 is that he is evil right from the start. For this to be true he had to recognize Anna right from the start even though she and her sister lived almost their whole young adult lives away from other people making this unlikely. Even if there were portraits made they would likely have been not recent, and the dress was no help as we learn everyone was dressing up for coronation day. Hans made his first impression by bumping into, and saving Anna, spending energy and time on who was most likely a commoner as he would not have expected Anna to be out wandering around, especially if he did his homework remember these girls never left the castle. Hans is a genuinely nice guy. Remember that the kind of evil he is: he isn’t the selfish jerk you met in high school who seemed nice at first, he actually wants to kill innocent people and he is ok with that. That kind of sociopathy rubs people the wrong way, it is pretty hard to be able to convincingly fake all the good emotions and still lake enough empathy for other people to be able to kill them without destroying yourself. I guess the biggest clue that he cannot be real is that if he really had planned all of this from the start he made some glaringly huge mistakes. The Hans who fooled us all was extremely careful, never dropping his guard or acting untoward for a single moment no matter who was around, even when he could have removed Elsa from the picture with no consequence to himself. This Hans would eat sleep and breathe subterfuge in order to pull this off and yet he broke every single rule at the “reveal” scene. He told Anna his plans when he could have just left with an excuse, he lied about her death when everyone, including castle staff, knew right where she was and were likely to check on her immediately, he lied about being married even though there was no church figure present nor witnesses making any such claims null, and he sentenced Elsa to death even though he had no authority in a kingdom that was not his, not to mention Elsa had clearly NOT been guilty of treason, how could she be? She is the queen, how can she commit treason against her own crown? No, I think our “evil from the start” Hans could never be so foolish, right when all the pieces were falling into place.

    The second option is even worse: Hans is a genuinely nice guy who seized an opportunity, literally in the moment that he saw Anna dying. He acted to preserve Elsa and Anna’s kingdom until he saw that it was all within his own grasp, and his mistakes were due to his inexperience with being bad. I could live with this guy except for one little problem. This guy doesn’t exist. He said so himself that he was planning to kill Elsa right from the beginning which takes us right back to evil from the start.

    The third option is the one I have chosen to believe: the trolls have their own agenda and put a spell on Hans to make him act the way he did. There is a lot of evidence to back this up. Firstly is the contradicting accounts of Hans above, a change of personality is exactly the kind of thing that could change a nice guy to a bad guy. Second, has anyone noticed that trolls are pretty much universally evil in every book, story or movie? They had magic, they could obviously use it to manipulate people’s minds as they did so in the beginning of the movie. Grand-poppy said that heads were easy remember? During their song (which was obviously a love spell on Anna and Christoff) they said “get the fiancé out of the way and the whole thing will be fixed”. The spell went into effect the next time she was close to Hans, who they basically told to go to immediately. Yeah it is a bit “conspiracy theory” but it still makes more sense than the first two options.

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  5. Oh, another person who’s never seen a Disney movie before Frozen… ah, but what else is new?

    Name every one who “married a man they just met”. Yeah, none. Well, Tiana comes close- she married a player after knowing him only, what, two days? Tops?

    The others never married in their movies or married sometime in the future, not clear when, and knew their princes at least a bit.

    But then, you’d know all this if you actually watched any Disney movies before parroting what other cliche-spouting Disney critics have been babbling for years without ever having watching any themselves.

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  6. Hi folks, just looking to respond to a couple of things here on behalf of the Red Rings of Redemption: First off, this article is about how Prince Hans is not a well constructed villain, not on how love is understood and expressed in Disney films.

    Secondly, the ideas that Benjamin brought up. I think that Prince Hans is almost two different characters at once. On one hand, you have him acting like the classic Disney Prince; charming, handsome, noble, and a do-gooder. However, when Anna comes back, he immediately transforms into the stereotypical Disney villain; unquestionably evil. The problem is that there is no good reason for him to be mustache-twisting evil at this point. Even if he only wanted to take the throne of Arendelle, it doesn’t behoove Hans to let Anna die. Sure, he doesn’t really love her, so he cant save her, but there is a big difference from seeing this as an opportunity to kill Anna and from just being selfish. I suppose it could be argued that since he knows Elsa is in prison in Arendelle, it might be easier to manipulate/kill her if she knows she killed her sister. But for claiming to have it all planned, being the megalomaniac villain etc etc. He seems to be taking a lot for granted. What if Elsa hadn’t struck Anna? He had literally no way to know until she returns to Arendelle. And Hans seems like he could’ve gotten the throne of Arendelle without having to be evil. All in all, there isn’t a good reason for Hans to be evil, but he is.

    As for your theory regarding the trolls meddling with Anna’s head… it is interesting, but doesn’t quite fit with the movie. From a thematic standpoint, the movie is supposed to be about a different expression of love; for instance, the kind of love that two sisters can have for each other. So to let that message shine through, Disney takes the ‘fairy tale’ version of love, and has to show that isn’t the only way that people can express love. They did that in a very good way. Showing the traditional ‘Girl meets Boy, they fall in love, and live happily ever after’ thing, and then have it fall apart is great. Unfortunately, they needed a character to take the hit, as it is. That person is Hans, because he acts, at least in the beginning, as a stereotypical Disney Prince. He does make for better target to have ‘love’ blow up in his and Anna’s faces. As well, the idea that the trolls placed a spell isn’t outrageous, but doesn’t fit within Frozen’s story. The theory makes more sense than the other options for explaining Hans’ villainy, but I think it is best to use the more meta ‘Disney wanted a classic villain for their movie and they made Hans it.’

    Also, trolls are actually not universally evil. That really comes from the congealing of a lot of old folklore and mythic tales, and of course, J.R.R. Tolkien, who has had a huge impact on fantasy and the like. The oldest tales of trolls come from old Norse stories, where, unfortunately, the term seems to have a few different meanings. Often it seems as though ‘troll’ was interchangeable with ‘jotun’. However, there are other accounts which describe trolls as their own entity of own, as magicians. As well, ‘troll’ seems to be most used by Scandinavian folkore as a general term for a supernatural, otherworldly creature, usually involved with magic, like the Faeries from Celtic folklore. (Also, if you want to read some really scary fairy tales, read old Celtic folk stories that involve the Fae of some kind). As well, there are a few German folktales that have trolls in the place of the stereotypical fantasy dwarf: a mountain-dwelling, tinkering race. Trolls that are always evil or malevolent really some up in more recent Anglo-Saxon folklore; where they often live in caves or under bridges and prey on people.

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  7. You say that hans is evil, but in the song fixer upper the trolls say “get the feonsay out I the way and the whole thing will be fixed” that being said what if the trolls put a spell on hans and made him betray Anna, elsa, Olaf, kristoff, and Sven so Anna will love kristoff instead of hans

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  8. But what I do not get with the statement I just made is don’t the trolls have to be in contact with the person that they are casting the curse/spell on the person

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  9. I love the idea that Hans could be ‘un-vilified’, and that perhaps the trolls cast a spell on him. Also what does a troll ‘fire crystal’ do…? what other kinds of crystals are there..? Could it be that Elsa has feelings for Hans? Could they be a fantastic couple…? Squeal needed!!!

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