Disney’s new animated film Zootopia will be released this weekend, once again returning to the always popular realm of anthropomorphic animals that seem to be universally loved by kids and adults alike. Disney and Pixar seem to hold the reins of anthropomorphic animals, creating characters that are fully fleshed out and enormously enjoyable. However, in the past few years, Dreamworks has been catching up with hits like How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda.
If you’ve also got the talking animal buzz, here’s a rundown of some of the best characters to make you both laugh and cry.
Shrek may be one of the best animated films of all time, winning the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film (beating the beloved Pixar classic, Monsters, Inc). A large part of this success is due to the hilariously funny Donkey. His iconic lines and annoying antics are often repeated too often; I remember that kids always made his popping noise after Shrek 2 was released. Voiced to perfection by Eddie Murphy, Donkey stole the show in almost every Shrek movie, even the last two lackluster sequels.
Sebastian, The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid had several memorable anthropomorphic characters, including Flounder and Scuttle. However, a heavy Jamaican accent from a crab named Sebastian seemed to stick more than the other sidekicks. A perpetually anxious and almost father figure-like character, Sebastian was the voice of reason (that was mostly ignored) for our precocious, young heroine. His cute character traits aside, Sebastian was mostly popular because he sung two of the most popular songs within the Disney classic: “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” the former of which gave Alan Menken his first Oscar.
Dory, Finding Nemo
Dory was such as great character that they decided to give her a sequel in the upcoming Pixar film Finding Dory. Voiced by another great star, Ellen DeGeneres made Dory a lovable, hopeless, always positive character. “Just keep swimming” is a cute and uplifting phrase that inspired a generation of kids to do just that. Elevated in what might be Pixar’s greatest movie, Dory was the standout, original character that gave Finding Nemo its heart and humor, no easy feat. I’m interested to see how her character develops and entertains in her self-titled film.
Timon & Pumbaa, The Lion King
This is a duo so interconnected and dependent on one another that they couldn’t have been two separate characters even if they tried. Timon and Pumba also received their own movie due to their popularity called The Lion King 1&½, almost a parody of the first movie. Nathan Lane as Timon shines a little bit more than Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa. But together, they can make fart jokes that are not too crass, and gave us one a great and catchy philosophy that means no worries.
Dreamworks Animation hit big with Madagascar, which spawned two sequels. In addition, the most popular and iconic characters, the penguins, received their own spin-off movie and television show. Like Timon & Pumba, these four are inseparable, although Skipper, Private and their relationship standout as the best of them all. The pseudo secret agents are surprisingly effective and adept at violence, perhaps contributing to their comedic success. Receiving sadly too little screentime in the first movie, Dreamworks recognized the popularity and potential of the waddling team and gave them the attention they deserved.
Roger Rabbit, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? may be one of the most underrated films ever, consistently being forgotten for its classic comedic turns and interesting combination of animation and reality (Bob Hoskins’ character is a pseudo-alcoholic after his brother was killed by a toon). Roger Rabbit was the breakout star of the 1988 movie, eliciting great chemistry and charisma with Bob Hoskins despite being completely animated. Most of the character’s success to the screenwriters and director, who were able to succeed in transporting the character from a kid’s show to a slightly more risque movie with plenty of sexual innuendos (Roger’s wife played “patty-cake” with another man).
Although Eddie Murphy’s role as Donkey is arguably better, Mushu was the only reason that Mulan had any comedy in it. Playing a tiny dragon, Mushu gave Mulan much-needed guidance and support during her time in the Chinese army, despite some of the advice being a little subpar (in my experience, men do like to spit and punch each other in the face to say hello). His relationship with the lucky Cricket is reminiscent of C-3PO and R2D2, since their mutual teasing and brotherly love serve as both funny and touching parts of the movie.
Puss-in-Boots, Shrek 2
Puss-in-Boots is my favorite character in the Shrek series, and is one of the main reasons I consider the sequel to be slightly better than the original. Triumphing again due to the perfect voice casting, Antonio Banderas plays the sarcastic yet adorable puss who’s pretty handy with a sword. Also receiving his own successful spin-off, Puss delivers some of the best lines in the movie with aplomb, and knows how to utilize his devastatingly cute face to seduce anyone. Now that the Shrek franchise is over, Puss, along with Donkey, will still be remembered as the two greatest parts of the films.