Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Talking Movie Animals

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.

Mike Attebery

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.

Shannon Nutt

“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.

Brian Hoss

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.

Luke Hickman

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.

Josh Zyber

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.


  1. Csm101

    30/30 from Bravestarr. A total bad ass half man half horse (a little more horse, actually. I believe equestroid) with a blunderbuss type cannon named Sarah Jane.
    Cringer/Battlecat was He-Man’s badass green with orange stripes samurai sporting armored sidekick. Maybe he was a space liger. If a live action Masters of the Universe film ever sees the light of day again, he would be the character that I would most look forward to seeing. As long as they’re faithful to his original appearance.
    Dug and Alpha from Up. Dug is one of the most endearing dogs or animals I’ve seen in any movie and Alpha’s angry rants crack me up.

  2. EM

    The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. He doesn’t just talk—he sings, too!

    Runners-up include the titular character in Roger Corman’s The Raven and Mickey Mouse in Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.

    • Clark

      I don’t remember Mickey talking in Fantasia… I’ll have to rewatch the movie to make sure, but I thought he only appered in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment – with no lines.

      • EM

        In Fantasia, once “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” has concluded, Mickey and conductor Leopold Stokowski have a brief on-screen verbal exchange, with both in silhouette. Fantasia 2000 replays that sequence after its encore of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, then segues to a more elaborate on-screen interaction between Mickey and conductor James Levine (Donald Duck also appears, in silhouette).

        But don’t take my word for it—go ahead and rewatch the classics. 🙂

  3. Ryan

    Ah, The Golden Compass…..one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever had with a movie. His Dark Materials is one of my very favorite set of books ever. To say I was excited for a film adaptation would be an understatement. And they just botched the entire thing. A special side note, it also features the worst credits song I’ve ever heard (and this includes videogames like Symphony of the Night!).

    I hear the BBC is going to make a series out of the books…fingers crossed they get it right this time!

    • Elizabeth

      I really enjoyed the film adaptation of the Golden Compass but I’ve never read the books to know what I’m missing. There was something about the way it portrayed deaths that actually seemed to give them more weight than your average action or fantasy/sci fi movie death. It was disappointing that they weren’t going to finish the series.

      I would be interested in watching the BBC adaptation. I think more movies should get extended TV event series. I think a multi-part adaptation of Jurassic Park following the book plot faithfully would be awesome (though maybe the girl could still be the computer expert since otherwise her character is dead weight); it would have to be better than whatever follow up they’re working on to the mediocre Jurassic World.

      • Ryan

        Speaking of deaths, you just reminded me….the movie cut out the most emotional gut punch death….
        If you enjoyed the movie…and are a reader, you really should give the books a go! Some of the best “YA” books out there!

        • Barsoom Bob

          Absolutely agree ! They lamed out on the real ending, which is fairly powerful, because they wanted to save it for the beginning of the second film. They neutered this movie and shot themselves in the foot in regards to there even being a sequel. Movie executives making creative decisions, yeah, way to go. This is from an interview with the director in an English magazine I read.

          Enjoyed the movie, but the books are much better. But the second and third books get increasingly esoteric
          and might be unfilmable unless they do a “Children of Dune” TV series and merge the last two books into one film, which might be palatable. But, of course, that is totally the opposite of the studio habit of milking the third books in a series for two films. Greed, don’t you just love it.

          • It kinda made sense to end the movie where they did – it made the movie self-contained. I mean, yeah, they did cut a good chunk of the end of the end of the book, but it wasn’t a bad place to end it, and as Bob said, it would have been a good place to start the second movie from.

            The studio was in trouble (not really sure why, I thought their previous movies had done really well). This movie also had a lot of uncertanties with it As such, the studio did a lot of things right with this film, and it has everything it needed to be a fantastic movie, and in all honesty, it was. Could it have been better? Yep. But it was still a very good movie.

      • Hahaha – yeah, totally agree on Jurassic Park – I didn’t read the book until about a year after the movie came out. I mean, I had such a crush on Lex in the movie when it came out – she was like, what 12, blonde, and a computer geek? Yeah, I was on board with that! Then I read the book, and she was like the most annoying character in the book – she was like seven and cried through the entire book. Shoot, halfway through the book, I was like “Okay, can we kill her off already?” The way they rewrote both the kids in the movie – both kids were now cool! I also like how they rewrote Hammond – you actually care for the guy in the movie – he was a visionist who wanted to give the world something incredible, whereas in the book, he was a greedy and mean and manipulative little old man.

        There was a key death in the book that didn’t make it into the movie – in fact, they actually had that character in subsequent movies (well, at least he was in The Lost World – I haven’t seen 3 in years). .

    • I never heard of His Dark Materials until the movie came out. I was absolutely fascinated by the movie, and it opened up the door to the books. After reading the books, I kinda understand what they were going for in the movie – they wanted a self-contained entity that COULD go onto a multi-movie series if they intended, and they also wanted to downplay the anti-Christianity in the first movie that was so prevaliant throughout the books to try to reach a wider audience. One of the weird things was that they rearranged key elements in the book and the movie – but they also cut some side stories, so it was okay that they did this, although it was weird that they rearranged those parts – can’t figure out the reasoning behind that.

      One of the things I liked a lot about the movie was the play on Victorian Steampunk genera, although they are not using steam, so you can’t really call it Steampunk. Still, it was fascinating to see.

      If there is anything I would have changed about the movie, I would have made it about 30 minutes to an hour longer, and fleshed out events, characters and backstories a bit more – the movie had a rushed feeling to it.

      Oh, and yeah, that song that was over the end credits – it was AWFUL!

      I do wonder what they would have done if they had of made the other two books into movies – they tried so hard to downplay the anti-Christianity in the first movie, but you just can’t cover the story of all three books without getting into it – at least in the last book.

      Still, even as a Christian, and knowing the book was anti-Christian, I found it a fascinating story by a really talented author, and I have no issue stating that it is one of my favorite series of books. Absolutely fantastic read, and one of the few books that I found myself unable to put down.

  4. C.C.

    Dog with Human face at the end of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
    Spider made of human head in THE THING (1982)
    Can’t really understand what they are saying though…. ; )

  5. Well, the first one that came to mind when I saw the question, I am shocked that no one has said yet. My favorite is Charlotte’s Web (both the animated and the Live Action). Granted, the animated one is better, but the live action one still has its charms.

    Since puppets are included, can I include Muppet movies? I mean, pig, frog, bear, dog….

    • Csm101

      My daughter just finished the book for Charlotte ‘s Web and we watched the live action one on Netflix just a couple of days ago. I ordered the live version blu from Amazon and just got it yesterday. I want her to watch the animated one as that’s the one I grew up with. I’m holding out for a bluray of that one although I’m not holding my breath. I actually thought the header for this round table was for the Charlotte’s Web live action movie when I saw the little piggy.
      Since no one else has mentioned them, I also have to throw in Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker. I grew up on those and although it’s been a few years since I watch any of the shorts, they never get stale for me.

      • William Henley

        How strange, i thought that the animated one was released a couple of years back (In fact, i thought I had it, but obviously I don’t – I must have watched it on HDNet). I am finding HD Digital Copies around – looks like its available in 1080P on ITunes, Vudu and Amazon. If it ever gets a Blu release, I am sure it would be a bare bones release, so I may just go ahead and pick up the digital copy myself.

  6. agentalbert

    I like Josh’s pick Donnie Darko. The scene where Donnie asks Frank “Why are you wearing that rabbit suit” and Frank replies “Why are you wearing that man suit?” always makes my blood run a little cold. Something about the delivery and Donnie’s reaction to the retort gives me chills each time.

  7. Clark

    The foxes in Fantastic Mr. Fox are my favorite talking animals. Surprised no one mentioned them, nor Nemo and Dory!

    • William Henley

      Yeah, you could go into a whole list of stuff with Disney movies. I mean, Thumber, Flower, Lady, Tramp, Flounder, Scuttles, Sebastian, Emperor’s New Groove, Rescuers (Benard, Bianca, Wlbur, Orvall), Iago, you got 101 Dalmatians, Aristrocats, Fox and the Hound… Just surprised no one else cracked that.

        • William Henley

          Ah, I think we all read the blurb at the top:

          “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.”

          Granted, in your first and last sentence, you did state Live action, but I think several of us missed that.

        • EM

          1996’s 101 Dalmatians was a live-action movie—unlike its 1961 predecessor One Hundred and One Dalmatians—but the remake’s nonhumans did not talk.

  8. Mike’s choice for the movie Babe is good. Even the secret code the sheep use to be “controlled” is pretty funny.
    I recall many an evening pass by watching Nick at Night and one of the shows on was the famous Mister Ed ! A horse is a horse of course unless it’s the famous Mister Ed! I can see Ed saying Wilbur now. Willlbburr.
    Racing Stripes was a fun movie as well, all the animals including the flies talked.
    Animated – Lion King remains my all time favorite. James Earl Jones’ voice once again used for a great role as well as Jeremy Irons. A young Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The talking, the singing numbers, all great.

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