As this week’s theatrical release of the new ‘Jungle Book’ remake reminds us, filmmakers have used movie magic to integrate talking, thinking, fully conscious animals into live action movies for almost as long as cinema itself has been around. Sometimes they’re hand-drawn animation, sometimes puppets or animatronics, and these days mostly CGI. Whatever the method used, and however photorealistic (or not) the results, here are some of our favorite talking movie animals.
Back when only five movies were nominated each year (so it actually meant something), ‘Babe‘ scored a nomination for the Best Picture Oscar, and completely deserved it. Witty, sweet, heartfelt and clever (in all the best possible ways), this movie is still a winner 21 years later. Speaking of winners, the film did win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
“Hide me, Eddie… Puhleeeeeze!” I can think of no other character who better fits this week’s Roundtable topic than good ol’ Roger Rabbit. The movie is rapidly approaching its 30th anniversary (in 2018), and it’s still a technical wonder – with perhaps the biggest “wonder” being why a sequel was never made. Creating a world where humans and animated characters co-exist believably was hard enough, but the fact that director Robert Zemeckis and crew made Roger and his co-stars so likeable and loveable in the process is the real achievement here. Will we ever see Disney attempt to re-launch/reboot the franchise? Seems like money just being left on the table, doesn’t it?
M. Enois Duarte
After thinking of several other talking animals in live-action movies, I think I’ll go with Rocket Raccoon from the hilarious and wildly entertaining ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘. Who couldn’t love a smart-aleck, wisecracking and ill-tempered genetically engineered raccoon? Although the movie misses Rocket’s best friend and co-pilot Wal Rus (obviously a talking walrus) from the comic book, along with some of his backstory working on a colony for the mentally insane, I thought the character was very well represented in the film adaptation. And Bradley Cooper turned out to be the best voice casting choice. He provides just the right level of humor and temperament from the comics while also instilling some pathos and humanity into the tough-as-nails bounty hunter and mercenary, a creature who struggles with being the only one of his kind in the entire universe but never really talks about it. The fast-talking, wickedly sarcastic Rocket has become my new favorite anthropomorphic character in movies.
Because the movie flopped and its plans for a trilogy were canceled, the character names probably won’t ring a bell. However, the armored polar bear Iorek Byrnison from ‘The Golden Compass‘ (voiced by Ian McKellen) was probably the best character in a bunch powered by A-list actors. And yet, in the very same film, the pine marten Pantalaimon (Freddie Highmore) is also a strong candidate for favorite.
Not being familiar with the source material, I was quite fond of the talking bear in the family flick ‘Paddington‘. Like the animals in the new ‘Jungle Book’ movie, Paddington is such a pleasant and likeable down-to-Earth character that I quickly forgot I was watching a talking animal movie shortly into it. While I’m certain that the writing of the character is part of what adds to that magic, I have to credit Ben Whishaw for delivering a perfectly matched voice for the lovable little guy. If the filmmakers can keep up the charm they accomplished in ‘Paddington’, I’ll gladly take my kids to see any sequels or spinoffs that may follow.
Half man, half dog. Barf from ‘Spaceballs‘ is his own best friend!
Perhaps that’s a cheat. Failing that, I will nominate Frank the Bunny, the possibly evil, possibly time-traveling, possibly hallucinated mystery figure from ‘Donnie Darko‘ who prophesizes the end of the world and manipulates the title character into doing things he probably shouldn’t. No, I can’t explain it better than that. If you’ve seen the movie, you understand.
What are your favorite talking animals that have interacted with normal live action humans? Tell us in the Comments.