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He is based on the God of the Night in Slavic mythology. At Walpurgis Night (the Witches' Sabbath), he emerges from the peak of Bald Mountain (in reality Mount Triglav in Slovenia) to summon all of his minions, who dance furiously as he throws them into the mountain's fiery pit.
He has been praised as Disney's best representation of pure evil, and as animator Vladimir Tytla's greatest triumph. As a very "raw" representation of evil, he, in his original appearance, is not placed in the context of any real story, and he and his minions' actions are not committed in pursuit of any discernible goal other than general havoc–wreaking and tyranny on all. Some other media has attempted to give his character more concrete context.
The idea for Chernabog was conceived by German artist Heinrich Kley (who, though he did not officially work at the Disney studio, inspired many of the Disney artists, and whose drawings were collected by Walt Disney), who once sketched a pen and ink drawing of a gigantic demon forcing workers out of a factory by blocking the chimney. Albert Hurter, inspired by this drawing and others like it by Kley, drew various sketches of a huge, winged devil tossing handfuls of souls into a volcano. Hurter's sketches also included studies of his hands as his flailing minions attempt to clamber onto his fingers for safety; this imagery is used in a scene in the final film. After Hurter's initial sketches, Kay Nielsen established the final appearance of him and his world in a series of detailed pastel illustrations, as well as a model sheet for him. He was then created as a real model, to be used as reference by Tytla during animation.
“No one but Tytla could have given Chernabog the odious, predominantly animal mentality which made him so fearsome.”
In the film, Chernabog was animated by Vladimir Tytla. Tytla was Ukrainian, and thus had a clear image in his mind of the character of his culture's folklore. Thornton Hee recalled wanting to ask Tytla about something, but finding that the animator's room was in complete darkness save for the fluorescent light under Tytla's drawing, which lit his face in an eerie way as he worked. This unnerved T. Hee enough to compel him to leave without alerting Tytla to his presence at all.
Being the representation of pure evil, Chernabog does not possess a dominant personality like other Disney Villains. However, most material outside of Fantasia depicts him as a ruthless monster, feared by all who encounter him. He is one of the most powerful villains Walt Disney has ever created for that reason. Many of his appearances also show him to be somewhat comedic, as seen in The Wonderful World of Disney, and House of Mouse. His power is shown to be incredibly demonic, being able to unleash hellish realms and spirits. While immensely dark, he has managed to become a trademark Disney villain, appearing in numerous material centering the villainous franchise.
The sequence takes place in a mountainous area, in which a village is overlooked by Bald Mountain. The latter's peak is revealed to be Chernabog's wings, which he spreads out as he looks at the village down below. Stretching out his arms, he casts a dark shadow over the village and summons ghosts, including the spirits of hanged criminals (who pass through the noose a second time as they rise from their graves), fallen warriors in the moat and grounds of a ruined castle, and the souls of all who are not buried in sacred ground.
The ghosts join together to become a single mass, swirling around Chernabog, who summons fire and demons. As the latter emerge and gather below their master, he grabs a number of them and disdainfully throws them into the fires of Bald Mountain, while his other minions dance on. He then uses flames to create images: first, the flames resemble elegant dancers; then, to his pleasure, they transform into dancing barnyard animals. He then transforms them into blue demons, who dance before him, causing him to grin maliciously. As the dancing continues, it becomes more frantic and chaotic. Harpies fly above the demons, occasionally grabbing them and throwing them into the inferno. The celebration culminates in a blinding flash of fire from the inferno. Chernabog, ready to continue, eagerly leers over his minions, but is interrupted by the sound of bells, which herald the coming of the dawn. Though he initially ignores the sound, the light of the sun forces him and his minions to retreat, and the ghosts return to their resting places. He raises his arms one final time, and closes his wings, protecting himself from the sunlight and becoming the mountain's peak once more.
In the House of Mouse series, Chernabog's role is largely for comical purposes, in the majority of his comical appearences, the jokes are about his giant size. Voiced by Corey Burton, he is sometimes seen in the audience, often with a regular-sized table, which causes him to sit in a difficult position. At one point he admits to gossip queen Clarabelle Cow that he is afraid of the dark.
In the later episode "Where's Minnie" however, when the lights go out, he comments "I kinda like the dark" (which is not entirely a contradiction; he may just like things dim and not completely pitch black). In "Mickey and Minnie's Big Vacation", Daisy says he and Zeus played darts with lightning bolts. He also loves corny jokes, especially where Mickey jokes about him partying at his place at Halloween ("it's easy to get to his place, just take a "right" on Bald Mountain") to which he replies, "It's funny, because it's true!"
He is also one of the many villains to appear in Mickey's House of Villains. After Maleficent sings her bit of the song, she transforms into a dragon, he puts a hand on her shoulder, saying he loves her work. He sings with Big Bad Wolf as Mickey and Minnie are sent flying out the doors. From then on, he would be seen with Maleficent, but as a contradiction, she would also appear in her normal form in the audience, leaving some confused. Once Jafar was in command, Chernabog took the role as a bouncer, throwing Mickey, Duck, and Goofy out when they attempted to "dethrone" Jafar.
Chernabog appears in the second half of the fourth season of Once Upon a Time after being released from the Sorcerer Hat. Here, Chernabog is still a demon, but is always referred as "The Chernabog," and has a saytr-like appearance with its dark aura. It seeks the person with the heart that has the darkest potential, and it is not necessarily a person who had done bad things but simply a person who had the potential to be evil. This can be shown by the Chernabog trying to get Emma and not Regina; the reason being that Emma, being a child of a couple's True Love, can either be a mighty hero or a terrible villain. The Chernabog also went after Maleficent in the past after she along with the other Queens of Darkness and Rumplestiltskin attempted to steal the Dark Curse. It may have been because Maleficent was pregnant at the time, and thus carried a heart with the greatest potential for darkness.
In Storybrooke, the beast was defeated by tricking it over the townline and since the creature was made of pure dark magic, it was completely destroyed after crossing over.
Cameos and other appearances
In the intro to Vault Disney, Chernabog can be seen spreading his wings on Bald Mountain.
In Fantasia 2000, Chernabog makes a cameo during the visual references to the original film.
For The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Chernabog was considered for inclusion in early drafts of the film for a big cameo part in the film's climax. However, the director decided it would be better to save him for a sequel should they ever get the chance, as a villain of his magnitude deserves a stronger part. Though his part was cut, there is a gargoyle that appears several times in the film resembling him, often in shots with Horvath, the film's villain.
Chernabog appears as a boss at the End of the World in the first Kingdom Hearts game. The Japanese version of the game uses "Squirming Evil", the track used for most Disney Villain battles. However, in the American version of Kingdom Hearts, as well as in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the background music for the battle with him is an arrangement of "Night on Bald Mountain", renamed "A Night on the Bare Mountain."
On their way to confront Ansem, while fighting his legions of Heartless, Sora, Donald, and Goofy encounter him at the remnants of Bald Mountain. He wakes up and promptly attacks the trio, but is defeated after a grueling battle.
Chernabog is the main antagonist of the series, playing the role of the ruthless leader of the Overtakers. It was originally thought that Maleficent was the leader until he was revealed to be so. Initially he was confined to the Yeti at Expedition Everest by the Imagineers until Maleficent released him at the end of Disney at Dawn. At the end of the third book, he takes over the Dragon Maleficent animatronic figure at Fantasmic! to fight the Keepers while Maleficent battles Finn personally. They are later captured and taken to a secret location at the Kilimanjaro Safaris. At the end of the fourth book, the Overtakers manage to break them out of their prison and effectively escape. In the fifth book it is revealed that Chernabog's been somehow inactive and his true powers are soon to be exposed.
After voodoo queen Tia Dalma tricks Finn into killing his best friend Dillard, Chernabog licks his blood of the knife, gaining his powers back. However, Finn manages to trap him in a room filling with water, leaving him to drown. But in the end, he turns out to survive.
In the seventh book, Chernabog is found by Tia Dalma and transported to Disneyland. In the final battle, he sits on top of the Matterhorn. Finn uses a golden watch left to him by Wayne Kresky to draw a lighting bolt to Chernabog, reducing the villain to fried bat wings. Tia Dalma later uses one of his wings in a potion to bring back Maleficent.
In Fantasmic!, Chernabog is one of the villains summoned by the Evil Queen to do away with Mickey and destroy his imagination. Clips from Night on Bald Mountain are shown on water screens, indicating that he is summoning a host of ghouls against Mickey and is defeated with all the villains when Mickey defeats the dragon Maleficent.
In World of Color, Chernabog plays a role and brings forth the Colors of Fear. Here he conjures up the element of fire in contrast to water. He is accompanied by the Firebird and Dr. Facilier. He also appeared in the 2015 rendition of the show (World of Color: Celebrate!) during the montage celebrating villains.
Chernabog appears during the final mission of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. In this attraction, Hades plots to rule the Magic Kingdom by assembling various Disney Villains. However, Merlin, several Disney heroes, and park guests fight against them and win. At one point, Hades summons Chernabog (who he calls "his #1 guy") to fight the guests. Even still, he is defeated and becomes imprisoned in the crystal of the Magic Kingdom along with the other villains.
In the Disneyland Paris version of the Storybook Land Canal Boats, Chernabog appears in a scene based on the village from Night on Bald Mountain, though he is perched atop a ruined castle tower instead of the peak.
In the former Once Upon a Dream parade, Chernabog served as the centerpiece of the villain-centric float.
The words in his name, "cherna" and "bog", mean "black" and "god" in Slavic languages.
In the Slavic myths Chernabog (named Chernobog) is a black god of darkness who contrasts with Belobog, the white god of light and the two are in eternal conflict. This could explain Chernabog's fear of light. Chernabog and Belobog are similar to Satan and God and Ra and Apep.
In the intro to the 50 Years of Disney TV special, despite terrifying Mickey half to death, Chernabog is shown to be fearful of and obedient to former CEO Michael Eisner.
Chernabog makes cameo appearances in the DC Comics story Kingdom Come in a villain bar and in a climactic battle.
Chernabog was referred to as "Yen Sid" in the pencil tests for Fantasia. But "Yen Sid" was used as the name of Mickey's magic master in The Sorcerer's Apprentice scene in the film, and the animation of both characters were supervised by Tytla.
Walt Disney called Chernabog "the devil, himself".