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The Real Hero From 32 Disney Animated Movies

 Lilo & Stitch surfing scene with Lilo, Stitch, Nani and David.
Lilo & Stitch surfing scene with Lilo, Stitch, Nani and David.

For over a century now, Walt Disney Animation Studios has given audiences some of the most beloved, groundbreaking, and majestic cinematic experiences. During that time, those timeless films have introduced us to unforgettable movie villains, sidekicks, and heroes that have withstood the test of time and found a permanent place in the hearts of billions of fans. But sometimes, those iconic princesses and knights in shining armor aren’t the real heroes of their respective stories.

That being said, here are the REAL heroes and unsung champions, from some of the best Disney animated movies

Princess Anna smiling in Frozen II
Princess Anna smiling in Frozen II

Anna (Frozen)

There are countless reasons why Princess Anna is the true hero of Frozen, and a lot of those have to do with the younger sister of Queen Elsa actually being a great inspiration for younger viewers. She opens up about her feelings, accepts the call to adventure, and is willing to do anything and everything to help out those she cares about, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Abu in Aladdin
Abu in Aladdin

Abu (Aladdin)

In addition to being one of the best Disney sidekicks of all time, Abu is actually a pretty righteous hero in Aladdin, one who always stays true to himself and his friends. Sure, his greed nearly kills him and Aladdin, but he comes through moments later when he tricks Jafar and steals the magic lamp, which leads to Genie coming out of his lamp.

Baloo in The Jungle Book
Baloo in The Jungle Book

Baloo (The Jungle Book)

Baloo is not only one of the best Disney characters of all time, but he’s also a great hero throughout The Jungle Book. The iconic sloth bear goes above and beyond to help Mowgli on his journey to find the “Man-Village,” teaches him some great lessons and a legendary song along the way, and comes through for everyone time and time again.

Widow Tweed in The Fox and the Hound
Widow Tweed in The Fox and the Hound

Widow Tweed (The Fox And The Hound)

There’s a lot to love about the classic Disney animated film, The Fox and the Hound, but the character who continues to rise to the occasion is Widow Tweed. From finding and caring for a young Tod to saving multiple characters from certain death to being the voice of reason in some tense situations, this lovable elderly character is simply the best.

Nani in Lilo & Stitch.
Nani in Lilo & Stitch.

Nani Pelekai (Lilo & Stitch)

Go back and watch Lilo & Stitch as an adult and see if your opinions on Nani, Lilo’s older sister and guardian, have changed. Throughout this 2002 animated film, Nani does everything she can to make life better for her younger sister, even if that means pushing herself to the limit (and then some) or trying to pull off the impossible. She’s a hero, that’s for sure.

The main characters in The Lion King.
The main characters in The Lion King.

Rafiki (The Lion King)

Who never gives up hope for Simba in The Lion King? Rafiki, that’s who. The shaman and advisor for the late Mufasa is one of Simba’s biggest supporters and was there for him as a young cub and as an adult when he returned from his self-imposed exile away from the Pride Lands. And he puts a whooping on some hyenas, which never gets old.

Scuttle Ariel and Flounder in The Little Mermaid
Scuttle Ariel and Flounder in The Little Mermaid

Scuttle (The Little Mermaid)

Sure Scuttle doesn’t know what he’s talking about half the time in The Little Mermaid, but the seagull and friend of Ariel helps the young princess learn more about the human world before helping in a big way when he discovers that Vanessa is actually Ursula in disguise.

Pacha in The Emperor's New Groove
Pacha in The Emperor's New Groove

Pacha (The Emperor's New Groove)

Pacha in The Emperor’s New Groove is an underappreciated hero if we’ve ever seen one, so it’s about time he receives some praise. Putting up with Kuzco is enough to earn Pacha a place in the halls of great Disney heroes, but he does so much more than that throughout the movie. Constantly putting himself before others, taking care of himself in a fight, and being a supportive friend are also admirable qualities.

Thumper in Bambi
Thumper in Bambi

Thumper (Bambi)

Besides the titular deer in Bambi, no character is more impactful or important than Thumper. More than 80 years after the film’s release, fans still celebrate the iconic rabbit for his go-getter personality, leadership skills, and seemingly limitless energy. If it weren’t for him, who knows what would have happened to Bambi.

Charlotte in The Princess and the Frog
Charlotte in The Princess and the Frog

Charlotte 'Lottie' La Bouff (The Princess And The Frog)

When it comes to best friends in Disney movies, few come close to Charlotte “Lottie” La Bouff in The Princess and the Frog. Instead of using her family’s wealth, power, and influence in menacing or vindictive ways, this southern belle uses her blessings to offer support and love for Tiana and her dreams. We could all use a friend like that.

Jacque an Gusgus
Jacque an Gusgus

The Mice (Cinderella)

When it comes to mico-heroes, no names carry as much weight as Jaq and Gus from Disney’s Cinderella. Throughout this 1950 animated classic, these two trusty mice help lead the show when it comes to fixing up Cinderella’s dress, supporting her, and helping make her dreams of attending the ball come true. And who helps save Cinderella from her stepmother’s captivity? Yep, these fearless mice.

The animals of 101 Dalmatians
The animals of 101 Dalmatians

Colonel, Sergeant Tibbs, And Other Animals (One Hundred And One Dalmatians)

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes in One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and some of the best examples of this can be found in Colonel, Sergeant Tibbs, and the other animals who help save the pups and defeat Curella Cruella de Vil by thwarting her masterplan. The way these four-legged (and sometimes winged) characters get everyone involved is nothing short of magical.

Nana in Peter Pan.
Nana in Peter Pan.

Nana (Peter Pan)

One of the movie dogs we want to adopt, Nana in Peter Pan is a character that’s always down to offer some support. Though she doesn’t journey off to Never Land with Pan and the Darling children, she holds the fort down in their absence. Speaking of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling, who is it that takes care of the children every night and gives them much-needed medicine? Yep, it’s Nana, the trusty nursemaid St. Bernard.

The Dwarfs in Snow White.
The Dwarfs in Snow White.

The Dwarfs (Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs)

Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey are some of the earliest examples of Disney heroes, and nearly 90 years later, they’re still some of the best. Sure, the Prince gets a lot of credit in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but it’s these classic characters who take care of the young princess the rest of the time.

Pascal and Rapunzel
Pascal and Rapunzel

Pascal (Tangled)

Rapunzel is empowering and Flynn Rider is dashing, but let’s not forget the real hero of Tangled… Pascal. Despite his small size and stature (he is a chameleon, for crying out loud), this feisty and fearless lizard will do anything and everything to serve and protect the princess. Whether it means putting on a pink dress or tripping Gothel and sending her falling out of Rapunzel’s tower, he’s going to get it done.

Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather in Sleepy Beauty
Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather in Sleepy Beauty

The Fairies (Sleeping Beauty)

The Three Good Fairies (Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather) are crucial to Princess Aurora’s survival in Sleeping Beauty, and they don’t always receive enough credit. From altering Maleficent’s curse upon Aurora at her birth to planning her birthday dress later on, these three fairies get a lot done… once they stop fighting one another.

Archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Archdeacon (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)

If it wasn’t for Archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who knows what that loathsome and depraved Claude Frollo would have planned for everyone around him. The voice of reason with a heart and soul of pure gold, this clergyman saves multiple lives and thwarts diabolical plans like it’s nothing.

Archimedes in The Sword in the Stone
Archimedes in The Sword in the Stone

Archimedes (The Sword In The Stone)

When it comes to heroes in The Sword in the Stone, the first names to come up are probably Arthur or Merlin. And while both of those characters are great, let’s not forget Archimedes, the talking and trustworthy owl who helps both legendary figures along the way. Seriously, this wise owl is constantly coming through for his king.

Fix-It Felix in Ralph Breaks the Internet
Fix-It Felix in Ralph Breaks the Internet

Fix-It Felix (Ralph Breaks The Internet)

Though he’s not in the movie all that much, Fix-It Felix is still heroic as can be in Ralph Breaks the Internet. But when he and Calhoun are on screen, they’re stealing the show and offering both hilarious and tender moments. Come on, who else would adopt all those orphaned Sugar Rush racers when they have no place to go?

Little Noi in Raya and the Last Dragon
Little Noi in Raya and the Last Dragon

Little Noi (Raya And The Last Dragon)

You could argue that every character in Raya and the Last Dragon is a hero in their own right, but Lille Noi, the toddler con artist who joins Raya on her journey, has to be at the top of the list. Though other characters do go through changes along the way, the adorable Noi has one of the most transformative and emotional arcs of them all.

The Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast
The Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast

The Enchantress (Beauty And The Beast)

The Enchantress could be seen as a villain in Beauty and the Beast, but the young and vain prince wouldn’t have learned his lesson if not for her lesson about true beauty in the opening chapter of the movie. A lot of people got turned into clocks, cups, and candelabras in the process, but sometimes tough love is all that’s needed.

Shang singing
Shang singing

Li Shang (Mulan)

Nothing against the titular heroine of Mulan, but let’s not act like Li Shang is some chump put in charge of a regiment of outcasts and misfits. He never gives up, he kicks a lot of butts, and gave us one of the best Disney songs of the late 20th century with “I’ll Make a Man out of You.”

Kala and Tarzan in Tarzan
Kala and Tarzan in Tarzan

Kala (Tarzan)

If we could give this honor to Phil Collins for his Tarzan soundtrack, he’d be at the top of this list. But since he’s not in the movie, we can’t go without celebrating Kala, Tarzan’s adoptive gorilla mom. When everyone sees the young human as a freak or threat, this grieving mother rises to the occasion and takes him in as one of her own.

Olaf in Frozen 2.
Olaf in Frozen 2.

Olaf (Frozen 2)

There’s a case to be made for Olaf being the biggest hero of both Frozen movies as he’s constantly accepting the call of adventure, protecting his friends, and putting himself on the line to make sure the job is done. Sure, he’s mostly around for comedic relief during tense moments, but this snowman is the man!

Toby in The Great Mouse Detective
Toby in The Great Mouse Detective

Toby (The Great Mouse Detective)

The Great Mouse Detective is a Disney movie that doesn’t come up all that often these days, which is a shame because it features one of the best pooches of all time: Toby, Sherlock Holmes’ Basset Hound. This incredibly smart and crafty dog is key to Basil, Dawson and Olivia’s quest and provides for some impactful discoveries. But would you expect any less from the world’s greatest detective’s best friend?

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Piglet (The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh)

Piglet is pretty much the underdog of the Hundred Acre Wood in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and is often caught in the middle of some issue or misadventure. However, this doesn’t mean he’s any less heroic. In fact, there’s an argument to be made for him being an unsung hero of the group as he is often an inspiration for them all, as well as for us watching at home.

Princess Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Princess Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Princess Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)

Atlantis: The Lost Empire isn’t one of the top Disney movies, but it is one that features a rather underappreciated hero, or heroine, as is the case with Kida. The princess of the lost city deep under the ocean, Kida proves time and time again she’s not a damsel in distress, but instead a fearless warrior with a heart of gold and nerves of steel.

Hercules and Phil in Hercules.
Hercules and Phil in Hercules.

Philoctetes (Hercules)

We’d all love to see Danny DeVito return for a live-action Hercules movie because we just can’t get enough of his satyr character, Philoctetes. Though he doesn’t have the strength or height of the movie’s titular hero, “Phil,” as he likes to be called, is a great teacher and trainer who helps the demigod prepare for his hero’s journey. And what good is a hero who doesn’t know how to make the most of his abilities?

Baymax and Hiro Hamada in Big Hero 6
Baymax and Hiro Hamada in Big Hero 6

Baymax (Big Hero 6)

One of the most fun and exciting Disney animated movies in recent memory, Big Hero 6 is a treat from top to bottom. A lot of that is because of Baymax, the childlike inflatable healthcare robot who helps Hiro Hamada find his place in the world and then go and save it. He doesn’t have great communication skills but this robot has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.

Meeko and Flick in Pocahontas
Meeko and Flick in Pocahontas

Flit (Pocahontas)

Flit, Pocahontas’ pet hummingbird, isn’t the biggest, strongest, or most intimidating hero in the Disney universe, but he’s definitely one of the most protective and courageous. Throughout Pocahontas, the colorful bird doesn’t let his size, or lack thereof, stop him from serving his best friend. Is he a little too overprotective? Yeah, but he’s got heart.

Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio
Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio

Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio)

What would have happened to Pinocchio if Jiminy Cricket wasn’t around to keep him in line? Well, you could say that the classic character from Disney’s Pinocchio doesn’t always get the job done, but he tries, and that’s what really counts. And, he’s not big on lying.

Aurora and Philip dancing in Sleeping Beauty
Aurora and Philip dancing in Sleeping Beauty

Prince Philip (Sleeping Beauty)

From following his heart to saving Princess Aurora from an eternal rest to fighting Maleficent and her goons in Sleeping Beauty, there’s a lot to love about Prince Phillip. This courageous character helped set the standard for Disney heroes back in the 1950s.

These characters are heroes in their own way. While some are more courageous, stronger, or more eager than others, they all have a lot of heart and the best of intentions.