Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pointless Lists: Greatest Talking Animals

Yesterday, I gushed over Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This got me to thinking about Caesar's place in another world, the one of talking animals in movies. There have been plenty. I'll be the first to admit that once you're passed the age of twelve most of us, myself included, hate most of them. However, there are a few that sneak through our defenses and find a warm spot in our heart.

For this list, I gave myself a set of simple rules to follow. First, the character in question has to be a real animal that can be found here on Earth (even if they aren't on Earth in their movie). Therefore, Falcor the luck dragon from A Neverending Story, nor any other type of dragon, will not be making an appearance. Second, the character can't be represented as a replica of the real thing. This means no Ted or Lots-O'-Huggin' as they are stuffed animals, not actual animals. Lastly, the animal has to appear completely as such. I mean, being played by a guy (or girl) in a suit is okay, but human features cannot be visible. Bye bye, Cowardly Lion.

Now that the criteria is set, let's get to the actual list. In my opinion, and certainly not a definitive list by any stretch, these are the ten greatest talking animals in movies.

10. Sid
(voiced by John Leguizamo)
Natural Habitat: The Ice Age movies
What is he? A three-toed sloth
What do smart people call them? Bradypodidae
Fun Fact: Sloths only come down out of the tree they live in to urinate or defecate, once a week
He speaks with a lisp, isn't the sharpest prehistoric bone, and generally gets on the nerves of everyone around him. You know what? I love him for it. Through four movies, with a fifth on the way, Sid gives us probably 90% of all the funny moments not given to us by the non-talking squirrel.

9. Aslan
(voiced by Liam Neeson)
Natural Habitat: The Chronicles of Narnia franchise
What is he? A lion.
What do smart people call them? Panthera Leo
Fun Fact: Male lions sleep up to 21 hours a day
This lion is not just the king of the jungle, but of everything. I mean that literally, as in that biblical "King of Kings" sort of way. Given that, it's no surprise that he's wise, brave, and well, god-like.

8. Puss in Boots
(voiced by Antonio Banderas)
Natural Habitat: Shrek sequels and prequels
What is he? A domestic shorthair tabby, or a cute li'l kitty cat - your choice
What do smart people call them? Felis silvestris catus
Fun Fact: The technical term for a cat's hairball is "bezoar"
You gotta love a sword fighting cat that's also a ladies' man, right? If you don't, he'll melt your cold, icy heart with the most pitiful set of sad eyes you've ever seen. I mean, can we get Puss in Boots 2 already?

7. Po
(voiced by Jack Black)
Natural Habitat: Kung Fu Panda movies
What is he? A panda
What do smart people call them? Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Fun Fact: Pandas spend roughly 16 hours a day eating
Simply put, I love the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Both function as wonderful kiddie-flicks and excellent martial arts movies. Po is at the center of it all, giving us a terrific hero and probably the best character Jack Black has ever played.

6. Roger Rabbit
(voiced by Charles Fleischer)
Natural Habitat: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
What is he? A rabbit
What do smart people call them? Oryctolagus cuniculus
Fun Fact: In the wild some female rabbits can produce about eight litters of bunnies per year.
Okay, I'll be honest. Roger is here mostly because I've never seen a good Bugs Bunny movie. However, that doesn't make him any less fun a character. Besides that, he has arguably the hottest wife of all time. I mean, after mine, of course.

5. Jiminy Cricket
(voiced by Cliff Edwards)
Natural Habitat: Pinocchio and all things Disney
What is he? A cricket
What do smart people call them? Gryllus assimilis
Fun Fact: Crickets' ears are located on the knees of their front legs
More than just a cute little fellow in an adorable suit, Jiminy actually provides our hero with a conscience. He is the angel sitting on the wooden boy's shoulder.

4. Scar
(voiced by Jeremy Irons)
Natural Habitat: The Lion King
What is he? A lion.
What do smart people call them? Panthera Leo
Fun Fact: The roar of a lion can be heard five miles away
I know that Mufasa's iconic voice is provided by the legendary James Earl Jones. I know that Simba is the hero. However, watch The Lion King again and tell me it's not Scar who makes the movie tick.

3. Dory
(voiced by Ellen DeGeneres)
Natural Habitat: Finding Nemo
What is she? A regal blue tang
What do smart people call them? Paracanthurus hepatus
Fun Fact: Blue tangs are capable of adjusting the intensity of their hue - from light blue to deep purple
Finally, we have a female on the list. Sadly, she's the only one. However, this doesn't make her any less deserving as she is by far my favorite character in a great movie. I can't wait for Finding Dory.

2. Napoleon
(voiced by Maurice Denham)
Natural Habitat: Animal Farm
What is he? A domestic pig
What do smart people call them? Sus scrofa domesticus
Fun Fact: Pigs are widely accepted to be smarter than human children up to 3 years of age
Another villain finds his way onto the list. Napoleon is used to represent many of society's ills of the 1950s and he is a masterful one. Animal Farm is a great movie based on a great book. Fun facts about the movie: it was the first British animated film to get a theatrical release and Maurice Denham voiced all of the animals.

1. Caesar
(voiced by Andy Serkis)
Natural Habitat: Rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise
What is he? A common chimpanzee
What do smart people call them? Pan troglodytes
Fun Fact: Chimpanzees make and use tools for more purposes than any other creatures except human beings
Perhaps I'm just basking in the afterglow of my viewing of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Or, maybe Caesar is a piece of truly genius filmmaking, both technically and emotionally complex. Either way you want to paint the picture, he gets my top spot.

I know. I missed your favorite, or at least a character you feel is worth mentioning. Let me know what you think.


  1. Well, I don't normally see a lot of talking animal movies, so it's harder for me to pinpoint a personal favorite. The closest I could probably come would be the series Arthur, which did have a pretty big impact on my childhood but I'm not entirely sure that counts.

    The one that does stand out in my mind is Wallace and Gromit, which is ironic because those films usually avoid talking animals in favor of having them express themselves through body language. Fun fact: Gromit was originally supposed to talk, but a bit of test animation convinced the filmmakers he could communicate entirely through expression.

    Of course, the one time they did use a talking animal was Hutch in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, who was a lot of fun. Granted, he didn't exactly talk so much as he quoted lines spoken by Wallace at some point in the series, but I still enjoyed him.

    1. Hutch was a lot of fun. I'll admit, though, the Wallace and Gromit flicks aren't really my cup of tea.

  2. The pets in Homeward Bound had my heart as a kid, probably now too if I see those movies again.

    And I love Puss in Boots, I have a cat...and they certainly got at the cat right in Puss...from their playfulness, to the big sad eyes and the hairball puking.

    1. Somehow I've never seen Homeward Bound. I have to agree that they definitely got Puss right. He's such a great character.

  3. I love this list! I agree with many of your choices too. I would love to do a list like this of my own if you didn't mind me doing so! I'm going to have problems picking just 1 animal from Dr Dolittle though...
    - Allie

    1. Thanks. By all means, go for it. I'd love to see someone else's take on the subject.