- “Now I lent you money. And I don't see it. Do you know what happens when I don't see my money, Fagin? People get hurt. People like you get hurt. Do I make myself clear?”
- ―Bill Sykes
Bill Sykes is the main antagonist of Disney's 1988 animated film, Oliver & Company. He is based on the character Bill Sikes of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, of which the film is actually a modern reimagining. He is a Mafia crime boss who operates out of a warehouse by the docks and the owner of two Dobermans, Roscoe and DeSoto.
Sykes is one of Disney's most heavy-set villains, shown usually in shadows like most stereotypical villains. He is brutal, shadowy, sarcastic, psychotic, impatient, uncaring, clean-shaven, eerily charming, evil, cruel, slightly naive, cunning, opportunistic, murderous, ruthless, greedy, sadistic, and villainous.
Unusually for Disney, the lifestyle and behavior of a mob boss is not glamorized or made more child-friendly. Beneath his businessman-like exterior, Sykes is clearly a ruthless, brutal murderer - during a scene with Fagin, he is heard clearly on the phone discussing with a supposed underling about their manner of torturing and murdering some unknown victim. He appears to know anyone important and wealthy in New York City, even their home addresses and phone numbers, as seen when he calls the Foxworth estate to begin the ransom.
Sykes' minions are his two Dobermans, Roscoe and DeSoto, which he takes care of a lot; however, in the final chase, when he was so determined to get Jenny back, he didn't notice that his dogs died and even if he did, he didn't seem to care.
Sykes is a big muscular man who is roughly in his early sixties. He is half bald, has gray hair, and as well as this, he wears square spectacles. He smokes large cigars and is always seen in a sharp suit to further emphasize his role as an intelligent businessman in command of the situation, and not merely some common thug taking orders from someone else (a rather stark contrast to the character he's based on). Because of his smoking, he speaks with a hoarse voice which makes his character more menacing.
Sykes has lent a large amount of money to the petty criminal, Fagin for an unknown reason, sending his two evil Dobermans, Roscoe and DeSoto, to tell Fagin to go up and meet with him. Fagin, unfortunately, finds himself unable to pay the money back and begs for more time. Sykes tells him that he has three days to find the money, threatening Fagin, his home, and dogs if they don't. Then, he honks his horn to call his own dogs back; startling Fagin, causing him to lose his balance, and fall off the dock and into the Hudson River.
When Fagin learns that Oliver's new owner is exceedingly wealthy, he instructs "Mr. very rich cat-owner-person" to bring him a large sum of money in return for Oliver. He tells Sykes about the plan; awkwardly at first, which causes him to lose his patience and snap his fingers to order his dogs to attack Fagin, when they are actually confronting one of Fagin's dogs, Dodger.
During the attack, Fagin is able to tell him the plan in a loud and proper way this time and shows him Oliver as proof, which convinces Sykes and causes him to snap his fingers again to cease the attack. After seeing the Foxworth family address on Oliver's collar, he makes the assumption that this is a ruse to kidnap and ransom the cat owner rather than Oliver. He congratulates Fagin and gives him one more chance with only 12 hours left while feeding biscuits to his dogs as Fagin and Oliver come to Dodger's aid after he lays injured and unconscious with severe (but invisible) injuries from the attack.
When Jenny Foxworth comes to get Oliver, she shows Fagin that all she has brought with her is her piggy bank, with Sykes and his dogs unknowingly watching from afar in his Cadillac. When he sees Fagin abandoning the plan by freely returning Oliver to Jenny without asking for the ransom money, he seizes his chance. Driving up, he grabs Jenny by the arm into his car and takes her to his warehouse after throwing Oliver out the window. Fagin begs Sykes not to do this, but Sykes ignores his pleas, tells him to keep his mouth shut and consider their account closed, and drives off back to his warehouse.
Later, Sykes ties a frightened and crying Jenny to a chair in the center of his office, all the while taunting her about his dogs, cruelly joking that he'll have his dogs eat her only when he tells them to.
He hears a strange sound and sends Roscoe and DeSoto to check it out. While watching Jenny, Sykes calls the Foxworth family's butler, Winston, and tells him to call Jenny's father. Oliver, Dodger, and the gang follow them to the warehouse, where they discover that Jenny is being held for ransom.
While Tito, Einstein, and Francis manage to stall Sykes by dressing up as a pizza delivery guy, Sykes is shown loading a handgun, acknowledging that he did not order any pizza. When he leaves to look for his dogs, Oliver, Dodger, and the other dogs manage to enter his office. Finally, he finds his dogs trapped under a net and frees them. When he and his dogs return and find the door locked, he thinks it was Jenny's doing and warns her to open it. Oliver and the gang manage to pull her up into a higher part of the room, with the help of a crane and Tito's electric specialties, before Sykes and his dogs burst through the door.
But just when it looks like they are home free, Sykes grabs an emergency fire axe and destroys the crane's controls, thus, causing Oliver and the gang to fall and land on a long slide. At its end, Sykes and his dogs confront them as he prepares to signal his dogs to attack. Before he can, however, Fagin bursts through the window on his scooter and the gang, along with Jenny, hop on and drive away as fast as they can. Unfortunately, Sykes and his dogs follow them in his car. Fagin goes onto the subway tracks, hoping that Sykes could not follow them, but he does anyway.
Now driving like a maniac (and not thinking rationally, as he does not even seem to consider the danger), Sykes pulls on the gearshift so hard that it breaks off and then presses hard on the gas. He goes at full speed, causing his car's tires to wear away and run on the tracks. He bumps into Fagin's scooter, causing Jenny to fall onto his hood. He then punches his hand out of the window and grabs her arm. However, Oliver sees this, jumps onto Sykes' hand, and bites it. But Sykes throws him into the back seat with Roscoe and DeSoto.
Dodger manages to jump on and fights off Roscoe, while Oliver fights off DeSoto, causing both dogs to fall onto the tracks and get electrocuted. Sykes does not notice this and continues to chase the gang. He goes up through his sun roof and grabs Jenny by the leg, trying to pull her back in. Just as he is doing so, Dodger and Oliver jump onto him and fight him off, causing him to lose his grip on Jenny. Even as he manages to throw both animals off, Sykes turns to see a train rushing straight towards him just before his car collides with it, killing him in a fiery blaze and throwing what remains of him and his car into the Hudson River.
- Sykes is clearly seen loading a handgun. This was the first time a modern pistol was seen in Disney.
- While primarily based on Bill Sikes, his position as a crime boss, and his suave and sophisticated personality are more aspects of Monks, the actual (and often forgotten) villain of the Oliver Twist novel.
- Robert (Salvatore) Loggia is famous for playing the role of gangsters and mob bosses, including a gangster named Salvatore (his actual name) "The Shark" Macelli in Innocent Blood.
- Sykes is the last male villain until Hades not to sing a song. Percival C. McLeach technically did not have an original number either, but he was heard singing a parody of "Home on the Range" in one scene and one of "The Crawdad Song" in another.
- Along with Roscoe and DeSoto, (both electrocuted by the subway tracks), Sykes' death is one of the more graphic deaths in Disney history.
- Sykes appears as more of a main antagonist to Fagin while Roscoe and DeSoto are secondary ones to him.
- In the original novel, Sykes' name is written as "Sikes". Also, he had only one dog, a bull terrier named Bull's Eye, whom he would beat until it needed stitching.
- Sykes' appearance may have been an inspiration to John Silver as they are both pot-bellied, tall, and some of their facial expressions are similar. Also, they were both animated by Glen Keane, which could also explain the same physical appearances. Coincidentally, in the 1990's Swedish redubs, they had the same voice actor.
- Marlon Brando was offered the role of Sykes by Michael Eisner himself. He, however, turned it down, fearing the movie would bomb. Despite Brando's concerns, the movie ended up becoming a modest success at the box office.
- Although he is the main villain, Sykes has little screen time, as a majority of the film focuses on Oliver's scenes with either Dodger or Jenny.