Top 3 Animated Animals: Let's Crack this "Nut Job" Too

Each week(ish), CinemATL Podcast hosts Martin Kelley and Michael D Friedman will be naming our Top 3 picks based on the weekend’s big movie release. Keep in mind, these lists are totally based on our opinion, and aren’t supposed to be a definitive list of the “best." If you disagree with our selections (or if you agree!), please let us know in the comments section below!

The sequel to The Nut Job comes to theaters this weekend, and that got us to thinking about all the awesome animated films out there -- more specifically the ones that feature animals. So, before you take in The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, let's take a look at some of the best animated animals to hit the big screen...

Michael D Friedman's Top 3 Animated Animals

1. Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy

When I was a young boy, I loved raccoons. I had raccoon toys, raccoon stuffed animals, raccoon books -- everything raccoon. So, when I was a young teenager and I found out there was a Marvel comic called Rocket Raccoon, I was instantly hooked. It was only a 4-issue limited series and at that time, Rocket wasn’t as well developed a character as he is today. He didn’t have a sarcastic sense of humor or a snarky attitude, but I still loved the obscure character. Time went by, and I started paying less and less to comics…

Imagine my surprise years later when I found out Rocket was part of the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I had no idea that they had rescued him from obscurity in the comics, nor that he would be such an integral part of the films. Voiced by Bradley Cooper, Rocket oozes a charisma as the a-hole you still want to be friends with. His brotherly bond with his partner Groot makes this CGI character feel as real as his human counterparts. Who’s ready for a Rocket & Groot movie?

2. Gromit, Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers

With no words, Gromit brings heart and character to the charming Wallace & Gromit series -- and he absolutely wins the day in The Wrong Trousers. The brain behind this human-dog duo is able to express himself more clearly with a facial expression than more complexly animated characters. It’s hard to think that he’s just a piece of clay, with all the love and attention to detail that the Aardman Animations team give in bringing him to life.

3. Ash, The Fantastic Mr. Fox

I absolutely adore Wes Anderson movies, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox is no exception. I could have chosen many of the characters from this film -- George Clooney’s Mr. Fox and Bill Murray’s Badger also come to mind -- but Ash is the best! Adapted from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, Anderson brings his own spin on the tale, none more evident than Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman), Mr. Fox’s teenage son who is jealous of his cousin’s talents. Ash’s spiteful behavior and know-it-all attitude is hilarious and makes him the most memorable character in a movie filled with standouts. Plus, the stop-motion design, mixed with Anderson’s cinematic style, makes one of the most memorable animated films in recent memory.

Honorable Mentions: Donkey, Shrek; Rhino the Hamster, Bolt; Snoopy, The Peanuts Movie; Po, Kung-Fu Panda

Martin Kelley's Top 3 Animated Animals

1. Robin Hood, Robin Hood & Tod, The Fox and the Hound

Yes, I’m cheating again. Why? Because I’m partial to the fox family (Mr. Fox of The Fantastic Mr. Fox could qualify here too and maybe even Michael J. from the Teen Wolf days). In this case, I am choosing two of my childhood favorites from Disney films. First, there’s Robin Hood of Disney’s animated Robin Hood. Voiced by Brian Bedford, Robin famously robbed from the rich to take care of the poor inhabitants of Nottingham and the surrounding area. The other Disney fox that I liked as a child was Tod, an orphaned fox who forms an unlikely friendship with a young hound dog named Copper in The Fox and the Hound. Voiced by Mickey Rooney, Tod was lovable and another classic orphan in the Disney mold. So the lesson here for Disney is pretty much just put an animated fox in the movies and you’ve got my butt in the seat.  

2. Roger Rabbit, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The concept was brilliant, a world where cartoon characters lived among us humans and were just like any other Hollywood performer who acted in motion pictures. They had the same hang-ups and problems and in the case of A-list 'toon actor Roger Rabbit sometimes they get accused of crimes they didn’t commit just like other classic movie protagonists. However, unlike other actors, Roger had talents that could transcend human physics and his better half was drawn so appealingly that humans try to achieve her look to this day. Roger was based on Bugs Bunny and other classic characters but in the end, Charles Fleischer’s excellent performance made Roger Rabbit a classic character in his own right. It’s no wonder the movie was such a hit.

3. Donkey, Shrek

Shrek was an animated sensation for DreamWorks, proving that others could play in the same park as Disney if they did it right. As unique and funny as the title character was, another character came out that proved as memorable and likely the true MVP of DreamWorks animation. I’m talking about Donkey of course. Being voiced by Eddie Murphy is already a great head start for a character, but Donkey was more than just a hilarious sidekick, he was also a tremendous friend to the main character. Donkey sets the standard for funny sidekicks in the modern animation playground and he never failed to bring the hilarity even in numerous sequels and spinoff movies.

Honorable Mentions: Snoopy, The Peanuts Movie; Tigger, Winnie the Pooh; Scar, The Lion King