- “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?”
- ―Sykes threatening Fagin
William "Bill" Sykes is the main antagonist of Disney's 1988 animated feature 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 loan shark who operates out of a warehouse by the docks. He is also 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 best described as brutal, shadowy, sarcastic, psychotic, impatient, uncaring, clean-shaven, eerily charming, evil, cruel, slightly naive, cunning, opportunistic, murderous, ruthless, greedy, and sadistic.
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, of which he takes care a lot. However, in the final chase, when he was so determined to get Jenny back, he did not notice that his dogs died and even if he did, he did not seem to care.
Sykes is a big, sturdy, muscular man who is roughly in his early sixties. He is half bald, has gray hair, and 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 on which he is based). Because of his smoking, he speaks with a hoarse voice which makes his character more menacing.
Role in the film
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 do not. Then he honks his horn to call his own dogs back, startling Fagin, causing him to lose his balance and fall off the dock 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, who snaps his fingers again to cease the attack, leaving an unconscious Dodger on the floor. 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. Exceedingly impressed by this, Sykes allows Fagin an additional 12 hours, warning him that this will be his last chance.
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.
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 slide safely down to the loading bay from a deactivated conveyor belt. 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 a 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 swerves into the underground subway tunnels, a place where Sykes should not have been able to drive, but the crazed heavy-set mafioso does so anyway.
Now driving like a maniac (and not thinking rationally, as he does not even seem to consider the danger and damages), Sykes pulls on the gearshift so hard that it breaks off and then presses hard on the gas. He goes at full speed, making his car's tires wear away on the subway tracks and turning his car into a makeshift hi-rail vehicle. He rams into Fagin's scooter, causing Jenny to fall onto his hood. He then punches his hand through the window and grabs her arm. Oliver sees this, jumps onto Sykes' hand, and bites it. Unfazed, Sykes tosses 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 sunroof and grabs Jenny by the leg, trying to pull her back in, but Oliver and Dodger jump onto him and fight him off, making him release Jenny. Even as Sykes manages to throw both animals off, he turns to see a train speeding straight towards him. Realizing his mistake far too late, Sykes lets out a short yet shrill scream just before his car collides with it, killing him in a fiery blaze and throwing what remains of him and his car into the East 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 was 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 to not sing a song. Percival C. McLeach in The Rescuers Down Under technically did not have an original number either, but 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, brutal, and violent 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 1990s 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.
- Vic Tayback was also considered to voice Sykes.
- 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.