There’s been a long history of memorable sidekicks throughout cinematic history, and it’s certainly not surprising to note that the canon of Disney animated films is rife with memorable sidekicks of all shapes, sizes, and even species. It’s also worth noting that you could probably do a whole list comprised solely of villainous sidekicks, but we’re limiting ourselves to the easy-going counterparts of such heroic figures as Simba, Snow White, and Cinderella.
1. Timon & Pumbaa ('The Lion King')
There aren’t too many sidekicks within the Disney canon that can claim to have saved the hero’s life, which instantly cements Timon and Pumbaa’s place right at the apex of this list. After rescuing protagonist Simba from heat exhaustion and a wake of vultures, the duo, a meerkat (Timon) and a warthog (Pumbaa), introduce the adorable cub to their laid-back lifestyle and raise him as if he were their own. The characters have proven to be so popular that they’ve since spawned a sequel and a television series.
2. Rutt and Tuke ('Brother Bear')
Voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, Rutt and Tuke certainly peaked the interest of comedy fans right out of the gate – as Moranis and Thomas are essentially offering up an animated interpretation of their most famous characters, Bob and Doug McKenzie of SCTV fame. More than that, however, Rutt and Tuke prove instrumental in helping the central character (Joaquin Phoenix’s Kenai) see the importance of friendship. And really, that’s about all you can ask out of a sidekick.
3. Mushu ('Mulan')
Anchored by Eddie Murphy’s frenetic, frequently hilarious voice-over performance, Mushu, a tiny Chinese dragon, offers comedic relief in an otherwise action-packed story that follows the title character as she assumes her father’s identity and heads off to war. It’s interesting to note that Mulan marked Murphy’s first foray into the world of animation, and while Mushu doesn’t quite have the staying power of Shrek’s Donkey, the character remains an indelible part of the film’s success (ie most people, when asked about their favourite element within the film, would most likely not say the battle scenes or the storyline but rather Murphy’s scene-stealing work).
4. The Seven Dwarfs ('Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs')
In the decades since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ 1937 release, it’s become a rite of passage for children to memorize the names of each and every one of the seven dwarfs (for the record: Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey). The irresistibly varied nature of their respective personalities has surely played a strong part in their enduring popularity, and it’s also worth noting that the diminutive characters play a significant role in the villainous Queen’s applause-worthy demise.
5. Jiminy Cricket ('Pinocchio')
Standing just a few inches tall and dressed to the nines, Jiminy Cricket loyally accompanies Pinocchio on his various escapades and provides the walking, talking puppet with bursts of sage advice and life-saving tips. Though a minor presence within the source material, Jiminy Cricket’s personable nature and silky smooth singing voice has cemented his place as one of the most indelible and flat-out beloved sidekicks of all time.
6. Thumper ('Bambi')
Though he doesn’t have much screen time, Thumper, Bambi’s faithful, furry compadre, helps cheer up the title character after his mother’s death by teaching him how to speak (and, eventually, how to ice skate). The perpetually upbeat hare, whose "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all" philosophy has come to be known as Thumper’s law, has since appeared in a straight-to-video sequel and a storybook entitled Thumper Goes Exploring. Not too shabby for a character that wasn’t even named in the source material.
7. Gus and Jaq ('Cinderella')
Gus and Jaq, tiny yet resourceful mice, time and time again proved themselves as the title character’s most tenacious ally in her fight against her wicked stepmother, with their ingenuity and willingness to crawl into tight situations ultimately paving the way for Cinderella – or Cinderelly, as they charmingly nickname her – to slip on her lost glass slipper and marry Prince Charming. The irresistible chemistry between the two rodents – Jaq is a born leader, while Gus is slow yet loyal – has certainly played an instrumental role in the characters’ presence within Cinderella’s two sequels, and, as tends to be the case with sidekicks, it’s not difficult to envision a spin-off movie centering entirely around their off-the-wall exploits.
8. The Genie ('Aladdin')
It’s easy enough to forget that the Genie isn’t actually the star of Aladdin, as the film, which follows the title character as he attempts to overcome his humble origins to marry the beautiful Princess Jasmine, boasts an incredibly entertaining and thoroughly inventive vocal performance from Robin Williams that often overshadows everything else within the proceedings. Williams, who offers up uncanny impressions of everyone from Jack Nicholson to Rodney Dangerfield to Ed Sullivan, does the scene-stealing thing with apparent ease, yet there’s little doubt that the Genie ultimately possesses all the qualities that one has come to expect from an honest-to-goodness sidekick (ie he doggedly assists the hero on his quest).
9. Sebastian the Crab ('The Little Mermaid')
Sebastian’s place as a loyal sidekick isn’t quite as cut-and-dried as some of the other characters on this list, as the ebullient crab spilled the beans about Ariel’s infatuation with Prince Eric to her stern father (which effectively gave the villainous Ursula the upper hand). The singing crustacean made up for his transgression by assisting Ariel in her battle against Ursula, with his energetic performance of “Under the Sea” also winning the movie a host of awards (including an Oscar for Best Song).
10. Baloo ('The Jungle Book')
Baloo’s fun-loving antics ensure that he primarily comes off as the textbook definition of a sidekick, as the gregarious bear teaches protagonist Mowgli how to cut loose and have fun. It’s easy to credit Baloo’s larger-than-life personality to his enduring success over the years, with his massive popularity eventually landing him a starring role on the Disney series TaleSpin. (And this is arguably one of those rare cases in which the sidekick is more popular than the hero.)