In the shadow of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle lies a den of villainy and treachery unrivaled in the Magic Kingdom.
It’s an island of evil in an ocean of sunlight and goodness. Here, hook-handed pirates, crooked-nosed witches and fire-breathing dragons are cherished and celebrated. Of course, things being what they are in Disneyland, they are marketed and sold too.
Open for three years, Fantasyland’s Disney Villain Shop sells the usual line of park merchandise: T-shirts, dolls, mugs, posters and key chains. But in a dark twist for the Happiest Place on Earth, the store’s items are adorned by notorious Disney characters.
Some Disneyland visitors always drop by the little, dimly lit shop that champions evildoers, especially around the holidays.
“Oh, we come here every Christmas,” said Jamie Madden, 30, who eventually settled on a T-shirt of the wicked Queen from “Snow White” after conferring with her mother, Bonnie.
“This really is the most disgusting, creepiest one we could find,” said the San Diego loan processor.
“It’s really awful, isn’t it?” agreed Bonnie Madden, 50, a San Diego court stenographer, who will receive the gift Christmas morning.
Brae Williams, an 11-year-old from Portland, Ore., knew she was in the right place for certain family members.
“I’m looking for something for my dad and brother,” said Brae, a fan of Cinderella’s cruel stepmother and Captain Hook. “My dad likes dragons and stuff, and my brother is more undercover, more secretive. So, I don’t know what I’m going to get him.”
The inspiration for the shop came from visitors. There were plenty of Cinderellas, Prince Charmings and smiling Mickeys, park officials repeatedly were told, but where were the Cruella de Vils (“101 Dalmatians”) and Ursulas (“Little Mermaid”)?
“People would keep coming into shops asking for the Big Bad Wolf,” said Patrice Davis, a Disneyland merchandiser, “and we didn’t have any then.”
The first Villain Shop successfully debuted in Disney World, say park officials, so a second one was opened in Disneyland in 1991.
Disneyland’s small shop creates an atmosphere befitting its ne’er-do-well citizenry. Cobwebs and dying ivy cling to its wall. And motion-detector skulls scream when unsuspecting visitors pass.
“We love the Villain Shop,” said Pat Kennedy, 50, a human resources manager from Irvine, there with her two sisters. “First of all, it’s a hidden shop, and a lot of people don’t know about it. . . . The villains are really part of the fun. It brings back memories of being a child, when it was fun to be afraid.”
After all, as many shop patrons noted, where would a story be without a good bad guy?
“You can’t have a good story without a good villain,” said Tom Monson, 43, a computer engineer from Chandler, Ariz. “You judge the accomplishments of the hero by how much resistance he gets from the villain.”
Besides, said Jo Ette Munoz, 27, of Norco, real life isn’t all roses.
“There’s always a bad guy in life. Period.”
But not everyone is enchanted by a shop devoted to evil. One little girl excitedly ran into the cave-like room, took one look at an Ursula doll and darted out the door. Another poked her head into the store and announced: “Oh, these are all villains. Let’s go.”
And evil things really can happen here. Last year, someone stole a $1,960 print of Maleficent from a back wall.
“We still don’t know how they did it,” Davis said.