This list took quite a bit of thought and made for more than a few polite arguments with friends during its creation. When the idea of compiling the Top 10 Talking Animals came about, I instantly wanted to avoid the Warner Bros/Disney/Pixar empire. Individual lists among each studio are easily possible and maybe I’ll get around to that idea in the future. I also politely put aside anime as that would get quite complicated rather quickly. For now, I wanted to concentrate on characters outside that system and incorporate as many live-action talking animals as possible. One that might have made this list if the movie had been released in time was Ted
, the foul-mouthed teddy bear voiced by Seth McFarlane, but it’s a stuffed animal come to life so it might have been borderline anyhow as I also wanted to avoid non-real animals. To that end, out went Falcor the Luck Dragon and other creatures of his ilk (unless someone can prove the existence of dragons and no, the Komodo dragon does not count).
So without further ado, here is my take on the Top 10 Talking Animals on film. Feel free to agree and/or disagree.
© Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation
He’s a monkey. Check. He loves to pull our mustache hair. Check. He uses a monkey thought translator to effect speech … AND the voice work is done by Neil Patrick Harris
? Check and mate. Sure, his dialogue in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
isn’t Shakespeare, comprised of simple one word responses and exclamations, but it’s funny and I like it. So there.
9. Amy from 'Congo'
© Paramount Pictures
Sticking with the notion of using a device to translate for the animal, this one’s a bit of a guilty pleasure because Congo
is a terrible movie but I love it so. Any movie that incorporates Tim Curry, Joe Don Baker, Bruce Campbell
, Ernie Hudson, Joe Pantoliano, Laura Linney
and a fake ape with a translator for its sign language, is bound to find its way into my DVD collection. Michael Crichton’s book is far better than the film adaptation, but that’s true of most books. What’s important for this list is that Amy mechanical doohickey verbalizes those signs in a slightly creepy child-like voice and it really is a mess of a movie. Bonus: This film will also allow you to check “watch a man strap an ape to himself and parachute out of a plane before it’s destroyed by rockets” off of your bucket list.
8. Fritz the Cat from 'Fritz the Cat'
© Arrow Films
Definitely the antithesis of kid-friendly, this X-rated cartoon
from Ralph Bakshi features the title feline carousing with a number of other animals. And I think you know what I mean by carousing. You’ll also be “treated” to animated depictions of a number of nude animals, all of whom have sex on the brain. This list is almost entirely made up of films aimed towards the younger set, including Fritz was a no-brainer as someone had to represent for the adults. Why should kids have all the fun?
© Warner Bros Pictures
I’d be doing my teenage self a disservice if I left off the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
. Rather than choose the collective, I’m singling out Donatello because in the first film of the franchise, Ernie Reyes Jr.
was the one inside as the fight double and Corey Feldman provided the voice (Feldman also did the voice for #3 and Reyes Jr. got a human part in #2). That’s a winning combination no matter what math you’re using.
6. Fievel from 'An American Tail'
© Universal Pictures
Somewhere out there – Wait, check that. Everywhere
out there are fans of An American Tail
and its protagonist, the precocious mouse Fievel. His earnestness, big ears, and adorable singing voice made for one of the most endearing animated characters of my childhood. Director Don Bluth was one of the most influential in the animated feature film world not working at Disney
or Warner Bros and hit it out of the park with this one.
5. Mrs. Brisby from 'The Secret of NIMH'
Another animated character from Don Bluth, Mrs. Brisby epitomizes the lengths a mother will go to when protecting her children in The Secret of NIMH. The film is a little dark in its themes and tone so it may not be the best choice for really young kids, but it tells a rich story and is beautifully drawn.
4. Dr. Zaius from 'Planet of the Apes'
© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Perhaps the most prolific of the examples on the list, Dr. Zaius not only defines the Planet of the Apes
film/TV franchise (he was a minor character in the original novel) but is also the inspiration behind a great song on The Simpsons
when they spoofed Falco’s "Rock Me Amadeus." And rather than being just a cute kids film character as most talking animals are, he really was the equivalent of a human character … that just happened to be an orangutan.
3. Roger Rabbit from 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'
© Touchstone Pictures
Setting a standard in mixing hand-drawn animation with live-action, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
hinted at a cinematic trend that would quickly fizzle out, only to be replaced by CGI as technology caught up to filmmakers’ ambitions. And although it was Jessica Rabbit who would utter the line most quoted from the film (“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”), Roger’s zany, irreverent, and yet naïve voice work was so brilliantly brought to life by Howard Fleischmann. (And yes, Disney had a hand in this and your kids can now find Toon Town at a theme park near you, but this was far more about director Robert Zemeckis’
vision and an attempt to push the narrative envelope than just another tale about a princess whose mom had passed away.)
2. Howard the Duck from 'Howard the Duck'
© Universal Pictures
This may be a somewhat polarizing choice, as there are some (I call them heathens) who think this particular talking animal is in a terrible movie. Sure, it’s cheesy. Sure, it’s ridiculous. Sure, the notion of Lea Thompson
and her hilariously crimped hair falling in love with a wise-cracking duck from another planet is far-fetched. But for all of its silliness, the film is fun and doesn’t take itself seriously. Another nice element is that Howard isn’t CGI or hand-drawn, a number of actors shared the duck-suit duties and the character was voiced by Chip Zien. The tangible nature of the character adds to the strange believability and all of you haters our there need to loosen up. I love Howard the Duck
… that is, I love the movie Howard the Duck
… I have no idea what Lea Thompson’s character was thinking.
1. Babe from 'Babe'
© Universal Pictures
La la la! This plucky porcine takes the top pick. Not only is the movie a wonderful adventure that works for all ages, the voice work was excellent all around and it all starts with the title pig. While his cuteness would never give me pause when it comes to a love of bacon, Babe
would go on to win a visual effects Oscar and was nominated for multiple others including Best Film. It’s a sweet, lovely story and a far better choice for your home babysitting collection than most kids films (Pixar
films & classic Disney
notwithstanding). The sequel is more hit and miss but if there’s one film on this list you must make sure your kids watch, it’s this one.