There are plenty of Disney villains that are inherently sympathetic - Captain Hook suffered a gruesome accident that cost him his hand, Shere Khan has seen the cost of man's influence on the jungle firsthand, Gaston's not actually even a bad guy, and Maleficent had to suffer through being the subject of that crappy Angelina Jolie movie. But even some of the seemingly unredeemable villains actually deserve some pity, such as these 5:
1. Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother is just a grieving widow
It's important to remember that before she married Cinderella's father, Lady Tremaine (the actual name of the Wicked Stepmother) was a single mother and widow raising two bratty kids by herself. That's no easy task, but she managed to do it (and was certainly not rich - although she comes from a "good family," she has no servants or maids or any of the other things that rich evil Disney villains have). And in her time raising her two daughters and Cinderella, she was purportedly a good mother to all (which is why Cinderella's dad stayed married to her, until his untimely death).
It's the death of Cinderella's father that caused Lady Tremaine to supposedly "reveal her true colors" that led her to turning Cinderella into essentially an indentured servant. But maybe it was the raw and utter grief of losing the man she loved that made her into the sociopath villain of the film. There's no excusing her actions or behavior, but it does add some nuance to it - she became so singularly-focused on her biological daughters having a good and easy life, even if it meant turning her stepdaughter Cinderella into a slave.
And here's the real rub - Cinderella was treated like dirt and kept away from the rest of the family, only seen very rarely. Why? Because Cinderella was her father's daughter, and likely looked like him to some degree. Seeing Cinderella reminded Lady Tremaine of her lost love, so she turned herself cold and hard and pushed away Cinderella so she wouldn't have to deal with the pain and grief.
2. Cruella de Vil needs therapy - LOTS of therapy.
Cruella has ISSUES - she doesn't want to take over the world, or steal a bunch of money, or anything nefarious on an epic scale. She just wants a really gauche jacket made out of dog fur. And not even fluffy dogs who might have comfortable fur. Dalmatians. It would probably make for a real ugly coat in the end, but Cruella feels like she HAS to have it. Why?
Look at her - she's painfully thin (almost surely anorexic), she has some weird obsession with black-and-white duality, and - again - she's obsessed with murdering over 100 dogs to make a single coat (instead of just waiting for some of the puppies to grow up and get bigger, thus only needing to kill like 30 of them). This is all points to some kind of unbalanced mental state.
Also - HER PARENTS NAMED HER "CRUELLA." Odds are they raised her REAL wrong. Or her parents got eaten by dalmatians, which explains her obsession with wearing a coat made out of them, because that is a CRAZY THING TO DO UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
3. The Evil Queen was made insanely insecure by the magic mirror
Wow, I mean - you would feel pretty insecure too if you had a mirror telling you EXACTLY where you stood in the world your entire life. We know the mirror tells her whether she is the fairest, but on those long, dark, lonely nights, she probably asked if she was the smartest - only to find out there were 4,682,200 people smarter than her. Finding out EXACTLY how insignificant you are and EXACTLY how you stack up against other people would mess with anyone's mind and really force them to double-down on the few things they're good at. In her case, being attractive and poisoning apples (actually, there were probably people better than her at poisoning apples - her poison apple didn't even kill Snow White! It was more like a Roofie Apple).
4. Scar would have made a much better leader than Simba
Here's the thing - Scar SHOULD feel slighted by Mufasa naming his pre-teen son Simba as his successor to the throne of Pride Rock. Scar is a seasoned, politically-savvy adult, while Simba is an actual child who sings an entire song about how he's going to be a narcissistic, petty leader who doesn't listen to anyone else's advice. In short: SIMBA WOULD BE A HUGE DISASTER FOR PRIDE ROCK. He would be the equivalent of putting Joffrey on the throne in Game of Thrones, except AN ACTUAL LION.
Not only that, but Scar is a much more inclusive leader than Mufasa ever was - think about it, Mufasa demands all the animals of the fields to get to Pride Rock and bow down to him and his son. Some of these animals (namely the gazelles) are going to be EATEN by Mufasa at some point, and he's making them bow to him still? If nothing else, Scar at least brings in the hyenas and allows them to be part of the weird Jungle Government, while Mufasa would only allow lions.
That doesn't make Scar's assassination of Mufasa any less villainous, but he's right to feel like he's gotten a raw deal. After all, his parents already named him Scar - he at least deserves to be the preferred ruler over a child.
5. Ursula is actually the most fair, rule-abiding villain there is
Listen, I don't know where Ursula found the time, but she clearly went to law school and studied contract law to some extent. That's impressive - and what's equally impressive is that Ursula plays by the damn rules. She's not going out and cheating people left and right - she signs a fair contract with Ariel and abides by the stipulations of that contract. She then makes a fair trade of Ariel's freedom for Triton's trident. At no point does she break any rules or cheat anyone out of anything.
But the point is - while Ariel was goofing around with forks and King Triton was whiling away his time hittin' the gym pretty hard (HOW DO YOU GET THAT JACKED WHEN YOU'RE AN OLD MAN AND LIVE UNDERWATER 24/7?!), Ursula was studying up on contract law and waiting for her moment. Gotta respect that.