Our Five Favorite Animated Animal Characters
The beauty of animated films is that they take viewers on a journey on their own terms. Where else can audiences see an animal walking on two legs, talking like a human, and singing like a Broadway star? In these animated worlds anything goes, allowing audiences young and old to follow the filmmakers on a journey through the fantastic. From angry ducks to regal blue tangs with short-term memory loss, these creatures have offered memorable film experiences that last long after the movie or short is over.
Bugs Bunny may be the face of Warner Bros. Animated Studios, but it's Daffy Duck who resembles its rascally soul. From his first appearance in 1937 as a bit player in "Porky's Duck Hunt," the character has become an audience favorite. Daffy's demeanor made him something of a live wire, going off without a moment's notice at the slightest provocation. It also made him a hit with audiences used to their cartoon protagonists being mild mannered and heroic. While Daffy was never an outright villain, his temper and prickly attitude made him the perfect foil for Bugs Bunny or Porky the Pig. He was even featured in a piano duel with Disney's Donald Duck in the classic "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" with the duo working to out rage each other.
At its heart, "Finding Nemo" was the tale of a father trying to find his son in the vastness of the ocean. That alone could make for a heart-wrenching story, but by adding the comic foil of Dory, the filmmakers gave the movie a sense of fun. Dory is a regal blue tang who also happens to have short-term memory loss, leading to a running series of jokes that kept the story from getting too dire. But, Dory also serves as the soul of "Finding Nemo," adding a three-dimensional character that is more than just fodder for the comedy crowd. The voice work by Ellen DeGeneres adds an element of pathos to the film, hitting the right note between comic relief and emotional release.
The opening moments of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" begin like the "Merry Melodies" cartoons of old with a title card and the faces of Roger and Baby Herman; a fitting tribute to those Mel Blanc and Chuck Jonze cartoons of old. But, the character of Roger Rabbit was anything but classical. Instead, he's a creature who lives among the rest of the stars and crooks residing in old Hollywood, mixing it up with his fellow cartoons in Toontown as well as the humans residing in 1930s Los Angeles. Voiced by Charles Fleischer, Roger is a toon who borders on manic yet is filled with love (and lust) for his wife Jessica. In "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" the character even becomes wrapped up in a murder mystery all his own, mixing it up with old favorites such as Mickey Mouse and Yosemite Sam, while following Detective Eddie Valiant around in search of the murderer of R.K. Maroon. The character became so popular he was given his own short films, usually at the beginning of other Disney-produced flicks.
Wes Anderson's career has cemented his reputation as a director who favors the twee as well as the dramatic. His adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" contains all the hallmarks of live-action flicks such as "Rushmore" and "The Darjeeling Limited." Unlike those films, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" features stop-motion animation, perfectly tailored to fit Anderson's eccentric cinematic vision. Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, is a perfect encapsulation of all Anderson's character—quirky, bold, and ultimately, a man (or in this case, a fox) searching for something bigger. The creation not only combines Clooney's mannerisms with Dahl's descriptive text, it also builds an all new personality that sits next to other characters from the Anderson-verse such as the Royal Tenenbaums and Steve Zissou.
When "Shrek" first arrived in the spring of 2001, it was touted as a clever spin on classic fairy tales, with the vocal talent of Mike Myers leading the way. While Myers' Shrek hit all the right notes, it was Eddie Murphy's turn as the wisecracking Donkey that took the film to a whole new level. This animated creature came across as a combination of the sidekicks seen in so many action films of the era, while having some of that streetwise comedy that made Murphy such a hot commodity in the '80s. Donkey would be a mainstay in the "Shrek" series, with Murphy turning in some of his best work in years.