Hans: A Disney Villain Like No Other
Another Heroic Prince…Not!
When I saw Frozen for the first time, one of the things I liked most about it was how Hans was revealed to be the main villain. One of the most interesting features about him as a Disney villain is that he does not come off as one right from the moment when he is first introduced. Whenever I first saw many older Disney films, I was usually able to determine the villains right from the very beginning based on their appearances and traits, such as having scary facial expressions or bad tempers (which also includes shouting or raising their voices a lot). The physical appearances of these villains also include dark colors in their clothing and/or hair. In the case with Hans, however, he puts on a facade as a charming, caring, and noble prince for about two-thirds of the film, until he is alone with Anna and reveals his true nature at last. But he only reveals this to her, and continues his facade with the royal dignitaries until the end, when his crimes are exposed. At this point, one can realize that it’s not just Anna and everyone else in Arendelle whom Hans has fooled, but the audience as well. His real nature is hidden so subtly and almost unexpectedly throughout the film, making him one of the sneakiest and most sinister Disney villains. Additionally, since Hans does not at all have a sinister appearance like other Disney villains, this further adds to his deception.
By far one of the most unique features about Hans being a villain is that he is a prince. In many fairy tales with royalty, including those from Disney, the prince is usually the hero of the story and is almost always the protagonist or deuteragonist…but not Hans! In fact, when he and the Duke of Weselton are first introduced in the film, they were set up to be implied as the heroic prince and the villain, respectively. But instead, they turned out to be the real villain and the red herring. While he initially appears to be and acts like a typical prince, Hans is later revealed to be a master manipulator and has excellent, dangerous power over it by fooling Anna, Elsa, and all of Arendelle and its guests. Like many villains, Hans is hungry for power, admiration, and respect, and especially so because he is the youngest of thirteen princes in his own kingdom. Knowing that he would never have a chance to rule the Southern Isles due to him being the (much) youngest, he concocted a scheme to marry into monarchy. He visits Arendelle to try and woo Elsa over since she is the heir, then marry her in order to rule the kingdom alongside her. But he moves onto Anna instead and decides to kill Elsa later in order to have full power over Arendelle with Anna as his consort.
When and after his true nature is revealed, it is clear that Hans’s goal is to become king and gain the love, respect, trust, and admiration from people he never had after being left in his brothers’ shadows since his childhood. Besides being very manipulative with his convincing facade, Hans’s most powerful trait is his vast intelligence, due to his cunning, convincing, and incredible ability to lie and get away with it. He is proven to be quick-thinking, resourceful, and extremely diligent, since he is able to fool the entire kingdom without fail. Hans can be very arrogant, as shown in the scene when he reveals his entire plot to Anna as she freezes right before his eyes. Furthermore, his taunting to Anna, along with the scene where he lies to Elsa about her having killed Anna before he tries to kill her, shows that Hans takes pleasure in tormenting his victims, making him one of Disney’s most sadistic villains. Unlike many Disney villains, Hans constantly has to change his plot accordingly with the shifting events that take place over the course of the film, particularly due to Elsa and her newly revealed magical nature. Once his dark side comes out, he decides to kill Elsa openly to look like a hero in the eyes of Arendelle’s citizens, further hoping to gain their trust and admiration for saving their kingdom. His sadism is also displayed in the scene where he explains his whole plan to kill Elsa to Anna, since he clearly shows excitement for the upcoming praise.
Subtleties in Hans’s Scenes
Throughout Frozen, there are subtleties of Hans’s real nature in many of his scenes before it is finally revealed in the second half. Since I did not read about the film’s plot before I saw it, I was definitely stunned when Hans was revealed to be the true villain! Some people may have been confused and angry at those sudden turn of events. However, this revelation did not happen “out of the blue.” Once people have seen the movie and know that Hans is the villain, it becomes hard to miss several moments in the film that subtly mask Hans’s true intentions. Eventually, when viewers are able to see these moments, it’s not hard to realize that they were intentional all along and hidden very well by the filmmakers.
Now I have seen different users make their own posts to show the subtleties in Hans’s scenes, but I wanted to do one of my own. Here are some of the best examples, including gifs of a few of those scenes.
- First gif: When he first meets Anna, Hans immediately woos the lovesick princess with his handsome looks and charming charisma. After she leaves, he looks after her and smiles. This may imply that he is smitten with her, too, but it’s actually because he realizes that Anna is the perfect tool for his plot to take over Arendelle.
- Second gif: At the coronation party, as Anna trips, Hans grabs her hand, saying, “Glad I caught you.” The fact that he was in the right place at exactly the right time shouldn’t be considered coincidental. It is very likely that, before this moment, Hans had been stalking Anna, secretly following her around and watching her until he saw the right moment to make his move.
- Third gif: Most of Hans’s lines in “Love Is An Open Door” give subtle, dark hints to his true motives. For example, when he sings, “I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place,” he gestures to Arendelle, which reflects his desire to rule it. (For more clues, see this post and this one.)
- Fourth gif: After Anna accepts Hans’s proposal, she asks him if they should live in her palace after they marry, and he over-enthusiastically agrees. This hints that doing so would give him a better chance to rule Arendelle.
- Fifth gif: When Hans objects to Anna going after Elsa, he is only worried because he knows that if something terrible should happen to her, his plan would be ruined, since he needs to marry her to steal the throne. For the same reason, he demands to go with her to make sure nothing happens before he is forced to agree to stay in Arendelle.
- Before Anna leaves, Hans says to her, “Are you sure you can trust her? I don’t want you getting hurt.” This line is very ironic and hypocritical because, as revealed later, he’s the one who should not be trusted by Anna and he’s the one who hurts her by fooling her and letting her freeze to death (see this analysis for more info).
- When Anna’s horse returns to Arendelle, Hans realizes that she’s lost in the mountains. As he glances up at the North Mountain, there is a brief moment where he smiles (see this post by arrendelle). This is because he realizes that he has a chance to prove himself as Arendelle’s hero if he rescues Anna and kills Elsa, bringing him one step closer to ruling the kingdom permanently.
- Sixth gif: As one of the Duke’s thugs attempts to shoot Elsa with his crossbow, Hans interferes and makes the arrow shoot upward to Elsa’s chandelier. But in truth, Hans does not merely intervene to stop the arrow; look fast, and he glances up at the chandelier before aiming directly at it’s weakest point so that it will fall and kill Elsa while simultaneously making it look like an accident. This is regarded as one of the greatest moves in covering his tracks, and arguably the most sinister subtlety before his true colors are revealed.
To Sum It All Up
Unlike what Scar did in The Lion King, Hans’s goal wasn’t to take over a kingdom full of people who hated him, but to be a respected and beloved king. Also, unlike for Scar, marriage was his only option to try and become king, because he has far too many brothers before him to rule the Southern Isles. Although Hans is clearly shown to be capable of committing murder, if he murdered all of his brothers, it would only and extremely likely arouse suspicion towards him, and then he’d never have a chance to become king at all. He needed to come up with a plan that could help him achieve his goal, but one that could still cover his dark motives and not make people suspicious of him. And because he has terrific skills in deceiving and manipulating people, he realized how he could use those to his advantage in fulfilling his ambition.
So when he learned of Elsa’s impending coronation, he jumped at the chance to attend just to woo and marry her. But he realized he had to change his course because of how Elsa kept her distance from people almost all the time. So then his plan was to marry Anna and kill Elsa after they married so he and Anna would become king and queen. Regarding how he would murder Elsa, Hans would have done it in a way so that his true colors remained hidden from outsiders. Remember he tells Anna that, after they had married, he would have staged an “accident” for Elsa. For the two times that he nearly kills Elsa, they manage to (or nearly) hide the truth behind them. The first time, he fires the arrow at her chandelier, making it look like he was intervening and almost killed her by accident. Then during the second time, before Anna intervenes, he had lied that Elsa killed Anna, so he sentenced her (Elsa) to death as punishment. Hans doesn’t reveal what he would have done with Anna after that point, but given the fact that he left her to die after she returned, there is a chance that he would have eventually gotten rid of her, too.
Hans’s plan once again changed after Elsa revealed her powers and cursed the kingdom to the eternal winter, then when Anna decided to go after her. Although he wanted to go with Anna to make sure nothing befell her and eliminate Elsa once she was found, things still worked to his advantage, as a feared queen with dangerous abilities would be easier to kill with no severe consequences. At the same time, being left in charge of the kingdom in Anna’s absence allowed Hans to gain everybody’s trust as a leader through his seemingly benevolent and caring ways. Even though he truly never cared for anyone but himself, he needed and wanted people on his side so that they would back him up for any potential repercussion, and because he is a terrific manipulator and liar, he earned that very quickly. When the Spanish dignitary tells him that he is all Arendelle has left, he realizes his plan has worked and he no longer needs either Anna or Elsa.
Subsequently, after Anna returns, he leaves Anna to freeze, then announces to the other dignitaries that they managed to marry before she died. After they tell Hans that Arendelle now looks to him for leadership, the first thing he does is charge Elsa with treason and death. When he comes across her in the fjord after she escapes from her cell, he successfully lies to her about Anna, so her state of grief and distraction gives him the perfect chance to kill her. Hans also decides to do it in the open so that the dignitaries and citizens will view him as the hero and savior of Arendelle. But in the end, fortunately, like all Disney villains, justice is met when Anna is saved and Elsa removes the winter, finally exposing Hans’s lies and he is sent back home to his kingdom to be punished for his crimes.
Based on everything I have said and seen in the film, I have to say that Hans is one of the best Disney villains created in a very long time. While I thought Frozen was a fresh and exciting story for a fairy tale by not having romantic love as the main plot, Hans helped strengthen my love for film because he was a very different and unexpected type of villain from Disney. As I feel that Disney is not usually so subtle with the portrayals of their characters who turn out to be the villains, it was only a terrific idea for them to portray their villain for Frozen in a very different way, especially because he fools the audience as well as the other characters. Frozen is definitely one of the best Disney films I have seen in a long time, and I hope that will remain popular in the years to come. :)