THE BIG BAD WOLFOriginal medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney
First Appeared: 1933
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The Little Mermaid's Ursula? Aladdin's Jafar? Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent? One thing's sure — The Big Bad Wolf is the most famous. No other Disney villain went straight from a single short cartoon to the top spot on the Hit Parade of popular music.
The song was, of course, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", the cheerful ditty that caught the public fancy in the darkest days of the Great Depression. It was first heard in Three Little Pigs, a Silly Symphony released May 27, 1933, which was also Big Bad's own first appearance. Almost immediately, the song was on every radio in America, and was selling briskly in the form of both sheet music and 78 RPM records. It didn't win an Oscar for Best Song because that category didn't exist until the following year, but the cartoon itself was an easy winner in the Animation category.
Big Bad himself rode its popularity to a permanent (if low-key) spot in the Disney cast. He was next seen in The Big Bad Wolf, also a Silly Symphony, which came out the following April. Then there was Three Little Wolves, the Silly Symphony where he turned out to have progeny. He was incorporated into the mainstream Disney Universe in Mickey's Polo Team (1936), where he was one of the players. In all his animated appearances, his voice was done by Billy Bletcher, whose other roles include Paw Bear for Warner Bros. and Barney Bear for MGM.
He became a comic book regular, in a supporting role at least, in Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #52, published by Dell Comics with a January, 1945 cover date, when his son, Li'l Bad Wolf, got his own series. Li'l Bad wasn't one of the nasty little cubs from the cartoons — this was a new character who, despite the name, was actually a good little wolf, and even became friends with the Pigs. Jammed solid with dramatic tension, this series lasted all through the 1940s, '50s and well into the '60s. It was frequently reprinted during the period Gold Key published the title, and later. In fact, it's still seen in various parts of the world. It was here, by the way, that Big Bad was given his official first name, Zeke, which was first mentioned in #64.
In this series, Big Bad, while frightening enough to his would-be victuals, that is victims, is regarded by most of his neighbors as a disreputable character but not a deadly menace. He pals around with other forest-based Disney bad guys such as Brer Fox and Lumpjaw the Bear, none of whom ever seem to have indulged their appetites quite to the point of murder.
It's in this situation that Big Bad has made the vast majority of his appearances over more than half a century. But even now, his greatest fame rests on his role in that Depression-era popular song.