Cars 2

Weekend Roundtable: Worst Animated Movies

Not every animated movie is destined to go down as a children’s classic. Perhaps this is just me being overly judgmental again, but this week’s theatrical release of ‘The Emoji Movie’ doesn’t look like it will stand the test of time. With that in mind, let’s look at some of our other least favorite animated movies.

Luke Hickman

Disney made a downright awful Shakespeare adaptation that was so bad the studio wouldn’t even put its name on it. Instead, Disney released it under the rarely-used Touchstone Pictures banner. For me ‘Gnomeo & Juliet‘ is the absolute worst. The miserable movie is the type that leaves you groaning in disbelief at the stupidity unraveling before your eyes. I recall screening the movie and spending equal time picturing an animation team making fun of the stoopid movie as they worked on it, and watching the second hand of my watch tick the time away. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this Travelosity nightmare was deemed too cruel and unusual to be used as a method of torture. I’d rather by impaled by a garden gnome’s pointy cap than ever have to trudge through this maddening mess again.

Brian Hoss

I’m a major proponent for indulging in nostalgia, but when the nostalgia is not mine, it can be hard to sit through. Such was the case when I watched ‘The Last Unicorn‘. I don’t want to completely trash the movie, but thinking of it, or even watching ten seconds of it (or worse, hearing the theme song), triggers an almost allergic reaction in mine. That 92-minute film sort of never gets started, and then never ever ends.

M. Enois Duarte

It seems like common practice for smaller, independent studios to capitalize on the success of popular box-office hits from the major studios. For those who conveniently forgot and those who didn’t even know, such was the case for James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’. Not one, but two direct-to-video animated features were produced in Italy immediately following the success of that production: ‘Titanic: The Legend Goes On’ and ‘Legend of the Titanic’. In both cases, the plot revolves around a pair of star-crossed lovers fighting for love against a social system that wants to tear them apart. They’re each aided in this fantasy quest by talking animals. In addition to the shoddy animation style, the blatant ripoff of famous fairy tale stories is practically laughable and enough to regret even knowing these animated films exist. They both feature a young woman and a cruel stepmother. Of course, imagine the young couple surviving the infamous sinking of the ship so that everyone lives happily ever after.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

If I were to make an offhand reference to ‘Cinderella III: A Twist in Time’, chances are that many of those reading this would assume it’s some no-budget knockoff from the other end of the world or that I’m making that sequel up altogether. Nope! With the success of earlier direct-to-video experiments like ‘The Return of Jafar’, Disney eagerly set out to strip-mine every last ounce of good will to be found in its library of animated classics. These instantly forgettable “cheapquels” were churned out at a steady clip for a full decade, with not a single one managing to enter the public consciousness as their (mostly) legendary predecessors had. For instance, ‘The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea’ introduces us to Ariel’s daughter, only this time, she’s a human who’s hoodwinked by a waterlogged witch into becoming a mermaid. ‘Mulan II’ ravages everyone and everything worthwhile in the original film to make way for yet another quest for romance. ‘Bambi II’ isn’t a sequel so much as a midquel, exploring the relationship between the Great Prince of the Forest and a still-young Bambi in the wake of his mother’s untimely death. (Okay, I genuinely do enjoy that one.) For whatever reason, there are even sequels to ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’, ‘Brother Bear’ and ‘Atlantis’.

The worst of Disney’s direct-to-video cheapquels that I’ve been exposed to is ‘The Fox and the Hound II‘. If you know and love the first film, you know all too well that there’s not much room for a proper sequel, so this one is also set in the middle of the original story. This second outing is tonally unrecognizable: bright, breezy and fat-packed with slapstick and puerile gags. I guess Disney’s market research uncovered considerable overlap between, 1) people who’ll indiscriminately buy one of these DTV retreads because of a familiar title followed by a number, and 2) country music fanatics.

To cash in, ‘The Fox and the Hound II’ revolves around Copper joining a country band and not paying nearly enough attention to his pal Tod. Aside from being dreadful in its own right (the songs aren’t even any good ) re-watch ‘The Fox and the Hound’ and try to figure out where an all-dog country/western group and the seductive thrall of celebrity would fit in. It stomps all over the original film’s core premise of an enduring, impossible friendship.

Thankfully, John Lasseter put an end to the cheapquels when he was handed the reins as Chief Creative Officer at Disney, sparing us the horrors of ‘Pinocchio 2’ and (shudder) ‘The Aristocats 2’.

Josh Zyber

I can tolerate Pixar’s ‘Cars’. It’s one of the studio’s weaker movies, but my kids have watched it a bunch and it has an appealing sweetness and charm that make it easy enough to sit through.

Cars 2‘, on the other hand… what a mess. Everything about this sequel is misguided, especially the shift away from lead character Lightning McQueen to focus primarily on dipshit comic relief sidekick Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). When used judiciously, a little bit of Mater can be amusing, but ‘Cars 2’ gives us way too much of the grating buffoon. The decision to foist a half-assed spy plot onto the movie is also problematic. The opening scene is really inappropriately violent (cars are murdered on screen!) for the age range of the target audience. And even by the shaky logic that this universe operates on, equipping the cars with wings and jet engines so they can fly around (among other silly gadgets) is flat-out stupid. I can’t fathom what writer/director/Pixar demigod John Lasseter was thinking with this one.

For as many times as my sons have watched ‘Cars’, they still don’t even know about the existence of ‘Cars 2’ yet. I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can.

Tell us in the Comments about some of the animated duds you’ve watched.


  1. Chris B

    The Secret Life of Pets sucked pretty bad. I went into it expecting a clever and witty film with jokes for kids and adults alike. Instead it was charmless, tactless and wildly uneven in tone. I kind of hated it.

  2. NJScorpio

    There are certain movies that I love, who’s sequels I’ve heard are terrible. I’ve actively avoided watching those terrible sequels in an effort to preserve what I love about the original. An example of this would be ‘Highlander’. I watch the original about once a year, but have never seen any of the sequels.

    Similarly, I’m a big fan of the original ‘Heavy Metal’, but have heard terrible things about ‘Heavy Metal 2000’. Can anyone confirm how bad it is? It has a 10% on R.T.

  3. Alan Arkin as Schmendrick? What’s not to love!

    For me…Space Jam. No matter how hard he tried, Michael Jordan simply didn’t have the acting chops to keep up with Bugs.

  4. Scott David

    The worst for me is Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights. Being Jewish, going into this, I was thinking, cool a movie about Hanukkah. Boy was I wrong. The humor was crude and the film mean spirited. There was nothing funny about it and I wish I would have got my money back.

  5. Elizabeth

    Cinderella III is actually one of the better Disney direct-to-video sequels. It’s certainly miles better than Cinderella II.

  6. Bolo

    I remember ‘Appleseed’ being absolutely painful to watch. The plot was one gimmick on top of the next, involving an amnesiac wife-fu asskicker chick who must find a magic macguffin so that she can solve a political conspiracy, avenge her father’s murder, and save a convoluted dystopian world inhabited by sterile clones of herself. Aside from endless gimmicks, it was constantly driven forward by total convenience such as how all the answers she is looking for are found on a video that is left right out in the open for her to play. When the plot runs out of convenience, it goes for full on deus ex machina.

    However, the worst part was the animation itself; done in 3D at a time and place where 3D human models was far from refined. The characters all sport prozac grins with big glazed eyes that blink at unnatural times and speeds. The way their heads flop around atop their necks seems inspired by bobbleheads. A lot of the time it seems like their computers aren’t powerful enough to animate anything going on in the background, so when they’re driving around the big glass dystopian metropolis, there frequently appears to be nobody else on the road or anybody walking the streets. The characters also have not real transition between running and standing still, so they frequently appear to stop on a dime with no deceleration. Every now and then there would be a shot that looked really good that could at least make you see why they went with this approach and not 2D animation, but they weren’t frequent enough.

  7. I am going to go off of JudasCradle’s comment, and throw up anything by Don Bluth.

    And here comes the hate comments.

    Let me explain. Everything he has done has been beautifully animated, well written, and pulls at an emotional heart string – if you are an adult. As a child, I found his movies to be creepy and dark. The movie that hits me the most was The Secret of Nimh. Ignorant adults in the 80s seemed to think that if a movie was a cartoon, it was automatically okay to show to any kid. The strange people at the Motion Picture Association of America went a step futher and slapped a G rating on this! Even trying to watch this as an adult, the movie is more creepy than any of the Harry Potter movies, and 3-8 all had PG-13 ratings, and 1-2 had PG ratings. Me and many of my friends were scared to death by this movie. Movie day at school had several of us wishing under our breath “Please don’t let it be Secret of Nimh” followed by many of us acting up so that we would be forced to sit in the corner so that we would not have to watch. By the time I was 7, I had classified this movie as worst animated movie ever!

    Creepy just does not go well with me. Spirited Away is one that I just cannot stand. The first Care Bears movie bothered me (although I LOVED the second). I HATED Unico.

    However, this may be slightly off topic. None of the above movies were bad, they just were not for younger children.

    One very bad one I remember was The Pagemaster. Quie frankly, I don’t even remember what the movie was about, I only saw it once and remember coming out of the theater thinking how bad it was. My parents bought my brother the CD Rom computer game of it – I think he played it once.

    The Chipmunks Adventure is a weird one. The worst part is the chippets singing a song while dancing around with snakes about “tell me what I have to do to get lucky with you”. Who thought this was okay for a children’s movie? But my issue with it was that it was such a departure from every other Chipmunks cartoon up to that date. It wasn’t that the movie was bad, it was just that it was SO different. It is like someone wrote a random story, got a license to The Chipmunks, and decided to combine the two.

    Back in the 80s and 90s, there was some small animation house that seemed to capitolize upon Disney releasing cartoons. It was awful – Disney is releasing The Little Mermaid, you go into the video store and… Oh, there is The Little Mermaid. Huh, I didn’t realize it was out on home video yet. Let’s rent it! And not only was it not the Disney one, it was plagued by horrible writing, animation and story. The only way this studio seemed to stay in business was by this deceptive practice of releasing titles at the same time as Disney.

    • Oh, I’m quite fond of ‘The Pagemaster’ (and the virtual adaptation is my favorite GameBoy game!)
      Don Bluth’s ‘The Land Before Time’ is my favorite animated movie of all time, by the way. As a kid, I never found it scary, just sad (the death of the mother). But the ending is triumphant, hopeful, bittersweet and never fails to bring a tear to my eye – accompanied by the supreme James Horner soundtrack. Rest in peace, you are missed, dear sir.

      • Oh, I forgot about The Land Before Time. Okay, that was a favorite as a child, but by then, I was also a bit older. That was about the same time as An American Tale, which I found to be a bit too deep and depressing as a child.

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