I know that at one time or another we have all been forced to watch a cartoon. If you were lucky you got to watch a good one, and thereby solidifying your idea that cartoons are good for children. If you watched a bad one, perhaps featuring a purple dinosaur, you are irrevocably scarred for life, and have a loosening of the bowels at the thought of another such torturous 90 minutes.
I have to be honest, I love cartoon movies. I have five nephews, a niece, and a great-nephew, and they require the watching of these movies. Again honesty intrudes and I have to let you know that I personally own most of Disney’s collected works, I think Pixar is the next best thing since sliced bread, and Dreamworks was just what the doctor ordered to shake up the complacent world of animated movies. That all having been said, as an adult, my taste in what we watch, I have noticed, varies greatly from what the little ones ask to see. Their ideas of great movies are not spun by the great quotes, the unique and funny characters, or the by play with the rest of the “cast”. They like the story, and yes, I guess story gets you some points from me.
The big thing is the characters. Let’s face it, most of my favorite characters in animated movies are not necessarily the stars. I think there are a few characters that make a movie, without having to be in it for more than a few minutes. You will see as my list unfolds.
#10- Jim Crow in Dumbo. Jim Crow, actually the whole group of crows that sing to Dumbo and give him his “magic feather” in this movie are my absolute favorite part. This old Disney flick is about being different, and liking who you are because of it. Everyone is different, and therefore have different gifts. But, as the crows sing, “I be done seen ’bout everything, when I see an elephant fly.” Now, I know the historical reference of Jim Crow, and that they represent vagrant Southern black Americans at this time, but let me assure you, if you have to watch movies with a child, they do not get this reference. It is not racist, in fact, they are portrayed in much kinder light than the circus men (all white) who make a baby elephant drunk.
#9- Naruto Uzumaki in Naruto. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura are the 3 ninja-in-training in this series of anime. It is occasionally available to watch on Cartoon Network, and they have had the movie about the land of Snow. This kid holds an ancient demon of destruction inside of himself and is learning to harness his own power along with that of the fox/demon. It is actually more of a lesson to all those overactive, non-thinking children in your life. “You want to be like Sasuke, and not like Naruto, right?” But, my thing about Naruto is that no matter what knocks him down, he keeps coming back for more. He does not quit, does not give up, and inspires everyone around him. I guess I want the little ones in my life to learn this, as well as being a reminder to myself.
#8- Hades in Hercules. Now I am a big fan of mythology, and this story did not exactly line up, but Disney has to be given credit. It was excellent. I love Hercules, Phil, Meg, and the whole panel of gods and goddesses. But, Hades is outstanding, and totally unstoppable in this movie. The smart, sarcastic comments, the “let’s make a deal” attitude, he is by far and away worth watching at least once. Watch it just to see him ask who blew out his hair. Now, I do have to make the comment that Hades, in true mythology, was not really like this, and Disney attributed “Satan-like” characteristics to him. No matter what, he is worth watching.
#7- Roger in 101 Dalmations. This is the original, animated flick by Disney that was recently revived and given new “clothes”. Roger is the human owned by Pongo, the male dalmation who fathers the 15 puppies that are kidnapped. There is lots of animal characters and fun to be had for all ages, but Roger reminds me of several men (ie brothers). The way he gets when he figures out what words to put with his music, the over-the-top way he behaves, is so real, it is almost as if they had to go back and reanimate that part because the voice over person was Robin Williams. (FYI, he wasn’t in this flick, and we will get to him in a moment.) He also brings one of the puppies back to life by rubbing it, essential performing a basic CPR move. Roger gets props from me, and I encourage you to form your own opinion.
#6- Lumier in Beauty and the Beast. Yes, the candlestick talks and performs some of the best lines in the movie. Let’s face it, if not for the cursed objects in the Beast’s home, this movie would have been boring. Lumier gives lessons on romance, performs a song and dance routine, and is a general peacemaker between everyone but himself and Cogsworth. He is what makes this movie worth watching once, the action and fun in it make it worth owning. I could expound on the greatness of this movie, but I will let you rent it, or buy it, and see for yourself.
#5- Sebastian in The Little Mermaid. The little crab conductor of the undersea chorus, the escaped crab from the kitchen, and the cohort of Ariel, the title character. Sebastian is one of the best characters that I have witnessed. He is a tattle tale, a creator of moods, and one of the reasons for a happy ending. He is also the pessimist of Ariel’s little group, trying to get her to go home throughout the movie. In the end, he is one of the best friends a girl with no voice could have.
#4- Mushu in Mulan. I hate to name names, but Eddie Murphy did this one. Mushu, the little dragon that was the replacement spirit guide of the daughter of a recruited Chinese soldier. Replacement because he broke the great Stone Dragon who was supposed to return her home so she would be killed if discovered. Remember the Chinese army in medieval China did not accept women, and they go into that in the beginning of the movie. The only reason for Mulan to live is to produce sons, and then she turns around and saves all of China. Talk about THE movie to have your little girls watch.
#3- The Gingerbread Man in Shrek. That’s right, Gingie made my top five. I love that little cookie. The whole group that forms in the second movie and continues to the third is worth mentioning. But Gingie’s scene in the first Shrek movie, where is being interrogated by Lord Farquaad, is by far and away my favorite part of the movie. When Farquaad intones to the Mirror, Gingie screams, “Don’t tell him anything!” This movie is all laced with adult references, but the beginning is very heavily done. After watching this movie, I always go around asking, “Do you know the muffin man?” for days. Don’t ask me, it is just some malfunction in my brain.
#2- Genie in Aladdin. That’s right, Robin Williams made this character infamous. The fact that Disney probably had to go in and reanimate almost every scenn with him in it because he added and changed the script so often made this worth watching by itself. The way he made this character light up off the screen and made him real and personal, that is why it was worth watching. “Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty bitty living space.” The way he jumped from voice to voice probably made this harding than we can imagine to animate, but unbelievable to watch.
#1- Frozone in The Incredibles. The best friend to Mr. Incredible, the super hero with the power to freeze water out of the air, and the man who has to fight with his wife before he can rescue the city for “the greater good.” Samuel L. Jackson is one of my favorite actors, and that probably influenced my number 1 spot, but this movie alone is worth watching, with or without Frozone. The whole premise is that superheroes have gone into witness protection programs because of lawsuits, that they no longer fight crime because of liability. So they hide in plain sight, and Bob (Mr. Incredible) cannot stand it and an old fan threatens to distroy the world to prove how ordinary people can be special with technology. The whole Incredible family must stop him, and Frozone helps cool things down as well.
These are my
favorites, and by no means have to be yours. I do have to give a nod to the
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as a group they have entertained me for most of
my life. I also have to say that all of Disney’s original line up of fairy
tales are worth seeing once, just to remind you what it was like to be a
Over the Hedge, Titan A.E., Lion King, and Lilo and Stitch all deserve some praise as well for originality and being an overall good movie. My opinion of animated movies is that if it looks like the general audience to enjoy it should be over eight, than I would enjoy it. The people who make these movies understand there will be parents in the theater.