Ben Ali Gator is a character from the 1940 feature film Fantasia. He is a tall and skinny alligator who wears a red cap with a purple feather on top and temporaily a cape. He appears in the segment Dance of the Hours. It is inferred that Ben Ali, and his cronies symbolize the somber hours of the night.
In the segment Dance of the Hours, Ben Ali Gator takes the role of Enzo Grimaldo, a Genoese prince. He is also the leader of the Dancers of the Night. This is deduced by the fact that he meets and falls in love with Hyacinth Hippo (who symbolizes Laura Adorno), and furthermore the flinging aside of his cape (symbolizing Enzo flinging aside his disguise upon discovery of Laura's body). When Hyacinth awakes from her sleep, she sees Ben Ali Gator and immediately feels threatened by his appearance, but he tries to woo her by catching her with his strength. He attempts this but fails comically, but Hyacinth seems to be interested in him nevertheless and they begin to do a short dance with each other, Ben Ali bows as Hyacinth walks away and does an alluring gesture aimed at Ben Ali Gator, which attracts him and he proceeds to chase after her, creating the Grand Finale of the segment. In the end, Ben Ali Gator attempts to embrace Hyacinth but they spin out and he, unfortunately, falls in the fountain, he gets back up to find her, Ben Ali Gator is seen dancing with Hyacinth one last time in the segment and it is inferred that they became a couple.
Ben Ali and his gator accomplices were part of Minnie Mouse's skating routine. They are later seen in traditional artwork during the end credits. In this film, Ben Ali does not appear to be wearing his red cape from Fantasia.
Though he is named "Ben Ali Gator" and his name, therefore, indicates that he's an alligator, he looks more like a crocodile. He has a narrow snout, and his bottom teeth also stick out when his mouth is closed.
Ben Ali Gator's character design was created and animated by John Lounsbery, one of Disney's nine old men. According to "The Illusion of Life", Lounsbery's favorite character he ever animated was Ben Ali since he loved timing his cocky walk and attitude to the music.
Ben Ali Gator went through many iterations before his final design. Altogether, his height was originally shorter, he was far more rotund, he had a purple ruff around his neck, his under jaw was wider, he wore slippers just like Hyacinth and at one point had a body type similar to humans.
The whole setting of Dance of the Hours may just be a play rather than a real event. When Ben Ali Gator does the Grand Finale with Hyacinth, set pieces like a Greek column to fall down, and it can be inferred that Ben Ali Gator failing to catch Hyacinth was a failed act.
Ben Ali Gator, as a character was conceived by Walt Disney himself during a story meeting early in Fantasia's production. Walt was dancing around the room, improvising his own take on Ponchielli's ballet when he suddenly stopped and Walt bares his teeth, snarls, and prances. "Slinky alligators would be swell, I think."
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Madame Upnova and Hyacnith Hippo appeared as cameos. Originally Ben Ali Gator was planned to be a cameo as well but was scrapped for unknown reasons.