Disney Villains have a following that rivals the ever lucrative Disney Princess brand. For those drawn to a darker, edgier aesthetic and some of the best songs in the Disney canon, the Disney Villain brand is a welcome relief from the saccharine rest of the official Disney lineups.
But it’s tough out here for Disney Villain fans. Recent Disney animated movies have lacked true villains, opting for more metaphorical and thematic antagonists at the expense of snazzy character designs and showstopping musical numbers. And many live-action remakes have put sympathetic spins on even the cruelest villains (don’t blame Cruella de Vil for wanting to skin dogs — her mom was killed by a pack of Dalmatians).
The well of Disney Villains has run so dry that it might leave one pining for the
good bad good old days, with nothing to amuse other than bad guys you’ve already watched a million times before. Today, the only real way to truly experience that beloved macabre theatricality anew is to dive into an era mostly forgotten and latch onto the weirdest, strangest Disney villain of all: Maestro Forte, the sentient pipe organ tormenting Belle in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas is a product of Disney’s direct-to-video era, where the House of Mouse pumped out cheaply made sequels, prequels, and midquels from 1994 to 2008. Obviously, I’ve watched every single one of them. Enchanted Christmas is a midquel, taking place sometime in the events of Beauty and the Beast, so the Beast is still a beast and the rest of the castle staff is still furniture. The movie asks a burning question everyone watching the original Beauty and the Beast definitely had on their mind: Will Belle successfully throw a big Christmas celebration for the whole castle and defy the Beast (who, of course, hates the holiday)?
What does this have to do with a pipe organ? Well, with Gaston presumably off on a Christmas hunt in some fancy lodge, the movie needs a villain. And that villain is Maestro Forte (as voiced by Tim Curry), a gloomy pipe organ who is perhaps the only piece of furniture in the entire castle who absolutely loves being an object.
The organ’s whole deal is that he actually doesn’t want Belle to break the curse on the Beast. Why? As Prince Adam’s personal musician, Forte was never appreciated for his dark and dreary rearrangements of popular songs. However, because the Beast is so angsty and grumpy, he enjoys somber music! Forte finally feels like he’s getting the recognition he deserves. Forget Jack Skellington, emo kids and goths — this pipe organ should be your new idol.
So, while the rest of the Beast’s loyal servants just want to be human again, Forte thinks being a pipe organ is the coolest shit that’s ever happened to him. Not only is all his music inherently dark and dreary, it is also very loud and can literally bring the house down (not to spoil the movie). He is thriving. He wants nothing more than to be a pipe organ for the rest of time. (Sidebar: Can the servants die of old age in furniture form? Or is it a case of when your object is worn beyond repair, your consciousness goes along with it? What if Chip the cup had siblings that got smashed?!)
All of these direct-to-video movies had significantly lower budgets than their theatrical counterparts. In Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, it seems that 80% of the money was put into rendering Forte in CG. He is the only character done this way, which makes his well-sculpted luscious lips and heavily hooded yet totally empty eyes all the more disconcertingly terrifying.
With Tim Curry bringing his A-game to the role, Forte is the most memorable part of this whole movie — and perhaps the most memorable villain of the direct-to-video era. Many of the villains in this time were simple offshoots of the bad guys in the main movies — or the bad guys themselves came back to be… kinda disappointing and lame. Ursula’s sister swears revenge on Ariel in the Little Mermaid sequel, while Scar’s most loyal devotee comes for Simba in the second Lion King. Jafar returns in The Return of Jafar (shocking!) and thanks to quasi-historical accuracy, Ratcliffe is back in Pocahontas 2. But The Enchanted Christmas has its own batshit villain, separate from Gaston, with his own unhinged mission, design, and motives. The bar is low, but sometimes, in a world where Cruella is now a girlboss and Maleficent is an antihero, you just need a very emo pipe organ.