In the tale of Thumbelina by Hans Christian Anderson, there was a toad who fell in love with the titular character. That's a thing that happened a lot in fairy tales. You ever hear the one where a snake tried to marry a princess? And did? Anyway, Thumbelina rejected the toad because Thumbelina was a white supremacist. Seriously, the original story was all a metaphor about different races (represented by animals and tiny people) can't get together. And that was the last anyone ever heard from the toad. He just lived the rest of his amphibious life the way every other toad does, I guess.
Don Bluth's Thumbelina
Loneliness is a cruel mistress, and no man- er, toad knows it better than Grundel. Like all lonely shut-ins, he has his share of fetishes. We're not entirely sure what he gets up to in his spare time, but we can make an educated guess that some of it involves looking at sexy human ladies. You'd think that a toad would be attracted to other toads, but this guy has the hots for people. It's like reverse-bestiality. Maybe he was a prince in a past life or something, I don't know. Anyway, imagine Grundel's glee when he comes across a human who so happens to be just about the right size for him. Next trick will be figuring out how it'll work with the anatomical differences.
A Present from Mommy
On a seemingly normal night, Grundel and his mother were minding their own business, when a fairy prince and a tiny hottie flew past them. Grundel wanted that little hottie so badly, that his mother had no choice but to find out where she lived and kidnap her. With Thumbelina in his grasp, Grundel was looking forward to a happy ending (and many long years of figuring out how they'll mate). But, when Thumbelina got away, Grundel devoted the rest of his days to finding her again.
The Search for Thumbelina
On his search, Grundel came across a Gilbert Gottfried beetle named Berkeley, who had a previous run-in with Thumbelina before his peers called her ugly. To convince the beetle to help him, Grundel pulled his wings off. Seriously, that happened. This is a children's movie. Berkeley continued to assist Grundel (and provide comic relief) for the rest of his arc.
Berkeley found Cornelius frozen in a pond, cut him out, and delivered him to Grundel. The toad was glad that one competitor was out of the picture for awhile. He was probably aware that the ice would eventually melt, but since it was still winter, this still bought him time.
She's Marrying the Mole?!
Grundel finally caught up with Thumbelina just as she was about to marry Mr. Mole. Unfortunately for him, Cornelius had thawed and caught up with Thumbelina at about the same time. Though Grundel managed to knock Cornelius into a chasm, the fight left Grundel crippled, forcing him to accept that he's better off with his own kind/race. Unfortunate implications abound.
The way Grundel looks is absolutely baffling. When designing a villain, especially a Disney-style villain, the whole point is to make them look dark, sinister, and/or intimidating, unless their character specifically calls for something less obvious. That's part of the reason Loki and Darth Vader fit in so well among the other Disney villains, and also the reason Ruber and Rasputin look the way they do.
Compare that to Grundel, who looks less like a villain, and more like a comic relief character. With that ridiculous clown outfit, Grundel has no business trying to be threatening in any way. He looks something out of Looney Tunes! He's Michigan J. Frog wearing pajamas! Berkeley Beetle has a more villainous design, and he's just a lackey! Couldn't Grundel at least wear a suit, or a cloak, or something that allows him to be taken seriously?
Alternate Character Interpretation
- Grundel isn't a bad guy. He's just lovesick, and had the misfortune of falling in love with a wannabe Disney Princess who imprinted on the first man she ever met. Tearing off Berkeley's wings? He did that out of desperation. The poor fool pursued her even though it was clear that Thumbelina would never even attempt to get to know him, and he only stopped because Cornelius beat him within an inch of his life.
The frog's son is relegated to a minor role reminiscent of the original tale.