Where would Disney be without its mascots? The house of mouse has had Mickey standing proud and representing the brand for over 80 years now. He’s the face most associated with Walt Disney—there’s even a famous statue of the two holding hands at Disneyland.
Mickey and Walt’s relationship was the blueprint that started a trend in Disney’s animated to always feature a sidekick. From Mushu to Olaf, Disney has long had a habit of bringing inanimate objects or animals to life as side characters in their animated features.
Here are our favorite Disney animated movie sidekicks from throughout the years and why they’re so memorable.
7. Sebastian (The Little Mermaid)
The Little Mermaid was the beginning of the Disney Renaissance era, featuring a mermaid named Ariel and her desire to have legs so that she could go and better understand people—and the handsome Prince Eric.
Sebastian, a sea crab, is so often the voice of reason as Ariel resolutely follows her desire without fear of consequences.
What makes him great is that he’s constantly treading that fine line between King Triton and Ariel, not wishing to displease the king with news of his daughter.
His song “Under the Sea” is one of the highlights of Disney’s musical catalog, where he attempts to impart wisdom to the renegade princess.
6. The Seven Dwarfs (Snow White)
The original Disney sidekicks, the seven dwarfs, are the kindly miners who take in Snow White after she runs away from the Wicked Queen.
All of them have unique personalities from which their names are derived, but they all show a willingness to help Snow White and go after the Wicked Queen for harming her. They care deeply for Snow White, and that loyalty is what endears them to the audience.
Of all the songs in Disney’s oeuvre, “Hi Ho” is one of the most memorable as the dwarfs sing their song while mining for gold.
5. Olaf (Frozen)
Of all the sidekicks in Disney’s long years, Olaf is the most whimsical. He’s love personified, made by Queen Elsa to make Anna laugh.
His personality brings everything in Frozen together. The story of Anna and Elsa is otherwise viscerally shattering, as the pair have to fight for what they think the other needs. This is why Olaf’s role is so potent: he’s the link between the sisters, the expression of Elsa’s love for Anna.
His song “In Summer” is a wonderful part of the first film, providing a break from the carnage Queen Elsa unleashes.
4. Phil (Hercules)
Phil is a sidekick, though not in the traditional sense (in this movie, that would probably be Pegasus). Philoctetes, the trainer of heroes, is the creature who can take a young boy like Hercules and make him into a person worthy of the moniker.
Voiced by the great Danny DeVito, Phil is one of the funniest parts of the classic 1997 animation. He believes in Hercules and often tries to keep his feet on the floor. When Hercules refuses to listen, Phil leaves—but eventually returns in his hour of need.
Phil’s “One Last Hope” might not be a classic Disney song, but it isn’t a bad one and fits within the picture perfectly.
3. Timon and Pumba (The Lion King)
The characters of Timon and Pumba are responsible for the balance in Simba’s life. They show him what it means to enjoy the time you are given and how not everything is about being serious.
They are Simba’s best friends. They saved his life as a cub, and when the chips were down, they fought against the hyenas for Simba’s home. They might be the funniest pair in The Lion King, but they’re also responsible for one of its greatest lessons: always be there for your friends.
Their song “Hakuna Matata” is one of the best songs in Disney history, and shows the life of Simba as he grows up.
2. Mushu (Mulan)
Eddie Murphy’s contribution to Disney’s animated Mulan is phenomenal. He’s the dragon who helps Mulan go to war against the Huns. He helps her blend in with the men who are also learning how to fight. And he ultimately stands with her when she faces down Shan Yu.
Every line that Murphy has in the movie is in some way delivered with an underlying wit. He makes the movie that much better for having cast him, and the journey of Mulan is less lonely because Mushu is with her.
Though Mushu doesn’t have a song, his presence in the film is complete even without one.
1. The Genie (Aladdin)
The Genie is more than a Disney character. He’s more than a sidekick. He’s everybody’s best friend. Voiced by the incredible Robin Williams, in a performance that would change how the industry hired actors to do voice work, Genie and Aladdin are the ultimate team.
Genie is a prisoner of his powers, and after a lifetime of endless servitude, he’s found by Aladdin and promised freedom. The relationship between the two changes throughout the movie, starting as a traditional Genie/Master situation and ending as best friends.
Aladdin freeing Genie is one of Disney’s best-loved and most heartfelt moments—especially now that Williams has passed on—with “Friend Like Me” being one of the best musical moments in Disney’s history.