Here, then, are the five DreamWorks productions that tower above all the rest:
How to Train Your Dragon’s place atop this list isn’t due to its exhilarating action sequences or its consistently jaw-dropping animation style. No, it’s the film’s unabashedly old-fashioned atmosphere that ultimately cements its place as DreamWorks’ most accomplished effort – as the movie’s timelessness ensures that it’ll surely hold up just as well for future generations as it does for ours. How to Train Your Dragon mostly feels as though it could’ve emerged from any animation era, although, of course, the jaw-dropping visuals instantly establish it as a work of this new century. It’s also worth noting that the film’s unexpectedly touching father/son element results in a depth rarely seen outside of a Pixar film, which is no small feat.
DreamWorks’ first foray into computer-generated animation, Shrek burst out of the gate an instant hit – with its irreverent and frequently hilarious take on various fairy-tale staples quickly establishing it as a breath of fresh air in a genre that sometimes thrives on repetition. The movie’s off-kilter sensibilities are certainly reflected in its various voice performances, as stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy transform their respective characters into figures that have justifiably become a part of the contemporary pop-culture landscape. And though its sequels have been rather disappointing, Shrek remains a landmark comedy that almost demands multiple viewings in order to catch all the jokes and gags.
This stop-motion adventure, which follows several chickens as they plot to escape from a meat-producing farm, marked Aardman Studios’ first stab at a full-length animated feature, following a successful run of shorts and television specials (including the Oscar-winning Creature Comforts). The company’s signature style is evident in everything from the character designs to the off-kilter sense of humor, and although kids will appreciate the emphasis on over-the-top silliness, Chicken Run’s ongoing references to classic war movies like The Great Escape and Stalag 17 ensures that there’s a whole other level here designed to appeal just to grownups.
Jack Black’s antic energy and larger-than-life persona has probably never been put to better use than in Kung Fu Panda, with the film casting the actor as a bumbling panda who wants nothing more than to become a kung fu warrior. With its bright, vibrant animation style and quirky supporting cast (which includes Seth Rogen, Angelina Jolie, and Dustin Hoffman), Kung Fu Panda represents DreamWorks’ most successful attempt at blending action with comedy – following such underwhelming titles as 2004’s Shark Tale and 2005’s Madagascar.
One of DreamWorks’ last traditionally-drawn animated releases, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron follows a wild horse as he gets into a series of hair-raising adventures. The movie’s absence of conventional animated elements, including wacky sidekicks and animals that talk, probably contributed to its lackluster box office performance, yet the unabashedly old-fashioned atmosphere ensures that Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is that rare mainstream animated film that seems to have been geared more towards adults than to children (this is, after all, basically a western).