What inspired me to do this post? Well, the project I did for Beauty and the Beast. I care a lot about animation and character design tops the list of reasons why I do. Through animation, designers and studios have brought many unforgettable characters to the screen that remain with us. In my opinion, this is because animation remains in the realm of dreams and imagination. Thus, I decided to make this list to take a look inside myself to see which ones have stayed with me since childhood and through my adulthood life.
So without further ado, here is my 50 favorite animated characters in animated films. Just so you know, this is a list about DESIGN. A lot of it has to do with likability and the voices that go with them, but many times it is simply because I like how they look. Some on this list might surprise you. Some are on here because I love the way they move and some for how they look. I will clarify for each character.
50. Red Bull/ The Unicorn- The Last Unicorn (1982)
I have seen The Last Unicorn only once. The film I found sad and I wished the ending was different. However, the two diametric opposites, the Red Bull wreathed in flame and ill-intentions and the pure unicorn left alone in the world, made the film for me. I like them both equally for different reasons. The unicorn is one of the few main female characters that I like, in design at least. What I like most about her is her mane that flows gently with each movement. Everything about her is graceful and I enjoy seeing her gentleness which shows through her pearl blue eyes. As for the bull, what can I say? He is a mesmerizing creature of flame, terrifying and a dominating figure on the screen. What I like most would have to be the horns and eyes. I also love how each of these characters move, the Unicorn as if she is walking on air, and the red bull with the speed of an impending forest fire. I could not find who designed these characters. It actually isn’t even in the end credits.
49. Skeleton(s)- Skeleton Dance (1928)
Designed and animated by Ub Iwerks, “The Skeleton Dance” is my favorite Silly Symphony done by Walt Disney. What I like about it most is the skeleton in the short, specifically the way it does its macabre. Maybe it is the music, but I love how it moves! This also applies to when he is joined by three other skeletons, who look the same, in his crazy dance. My favorite part is when he and the other three skeletons dance from side to side before they separate into pairs. I also love when he clicks his teeth together with the music. All in all, my love for this character’s design lies solely in the way he/they move.
48. Joker- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Again, it doesn’t specify who originally designed this character for the film, however Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane were his original creators for the comic. Though the Batman portrayed by Heath Ledger is impressive, this is the Joker of my childhood. I love his long hooked nose, yellow teeth and dark lined eyes. His smile, whose inspiration came from the 1928 Gwyplaine from The Man Who Laughs, still captivates me after all these years. If there ever was a villain I remember from the original 90’s cartoons this is him. Why do I choose Joker from the film rather from Batman The Animated Series? Well, the design in the film is cleaner and darker to me. I don’t love the film but the minute the joker stepped on the screen, he had my undivided attention.
47. Fish Waves/Ocean– Ponyo (2009)
This counts! If you have never seen Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo I wholeheartedly recommend it. Any time I mention a character from one of Miyazaki’s films automatically know that Miyazaki designed the characters and backgrounds. In this film, the ocean acts as an awakened character turned into a swarm of giant fish made from the swelling waves. This happens after Ponyo, or Berhilda, decides to become a human girl and transforms her sisters into an overwhelming tsunami. I love to see the ocean as a swarm of morphing fish. I have always loved the idea of the ocean being alive and having a will of its own. Through this film it is given a face and form. It doesn’t just have one stagnant form. O Contrare! Like the ocean we know and love it changes shape and form with each brush of its waves.
46. Alfredo Linguini– Ratatouille (2006)
There are not very many 3D animated characters on my list. I do not really like how they look. They look weird to me and kind of bulky. There are exceptions, Alfredo Linguini being the first of them. Jason Deamer, Greg Dyktra, Carter Goodrich, and Dan Lee were in charge of all the characters designs (Designing seems to be different in 3D animation) and I love them for all of them. In my heart of hearts however, I love the gangly, large-nosed red head best out of. I love seeing tall, awkward characters grow into themselves in films. I also noticed that I have a lot of men with big noses on my list. I think I just like big-nosed male characters. We learn knew things about ourselves each day. As for Linguini, I just find him very endearing and innocent in design and movement. All in all, I love nerdy guy characters.
45. Hippos- Fantasia (1940)
Norman Ferguson was in charge of the sequence “The Dance of the Hours” from Disney’s musical adventure Fantasia, however John Lounsbery did the animation for the hippos so he gets the credit. Now, let’s talk about this hippo. By itself without moving, I wouldn’t like it. If it was a hippo just munching on grass I wouldn’t like it. HOWEVER! it is a prima ballerina, dancing hippo. That’s different. I love to see this fat hippo dance. It is hilarious. Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli is such a serious ballet, beautiful but serious. Thus, making this lovely hippo with all her rippling fat dance to such a beautiful sequence especially with her lovely crocodile prince is true gold to me.
44. Toothless- How to Train Your Dragon (2009)
Gabe Hordos and Cassidy Curtis designed the cutest dragon I have ever seen. When I watched this film for the first time, all I cared about was this character. His design is almost like a cat, from the way he curls his back, to the way his yellowish eyes sharpen and change. In fact, I probably like him so much because he is sort of feline. I especially love his eyes and how they change depending on his mood. All in all, his design is cool and memorable especially when compared to the other dragons in the film. They are ugly. . . really ugly. I don’t like them. Toothless on the other hand from his wings, sleek body, cute ears and feral eyes is still a joy to watch. Being black also helps.
43. Sherkan- The Jungle Book (1967)
Milt Kahl, one of the Nine Old Men, designed and animated this memorable Disney villain, with his low voice. Let me be frank, my admiration for this character’s design is basically this: he looks and talks like George Sanders. I love Sanders as an actor. He plays like a Victorian England villain, who talks and walks like he is above everyone else. I love old-fashioned 19th century, early 20th century men with their suits and cool hats. As for Sherkan, he appeals to me in design because he represents that old British aristocrat we’ve seen with an elephant gun and cigarette. We hate them because they are cruel, yet at the same time love them for it. Life is an enigma is it not?
42. Quasimodo- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
James Baxter headed the animation for this less then perfect hero and I applaud him for the work he and others did for this character. It is very hard to make any character appealing through their voice and personality. What is harder still is making them visually acceptable by an audience. No matter how good the character is voiced or how wonderful a part they play in the story, if they look strange or don’t fit into their part visually they fall apart. That is why I love Quasimodo’s design. Though the character is no Adonis, he still has a beautiful heart which is reflected through his body language and eyes. He had to be ugly, yet in time that ugliness needed to be able to fade away. That is why the design for this character is nothing short of genius to me.
41. Ratigan- The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
This is one of the many wonderful Glen Keane creations I will mention on this list. I have mentioned Keane before, probably too many times, however it is warranted. Ratigan’s design, like Sherkan’s, reminds me of an old Victorian villain. This is due in part by the phenomenal voice over done by Vincent Price, but also Keane’s witty design. I love how he moves so gracefully despite his larger shoulders. He looks well bred, intelligent and maybe a little mad. His smile is the clincher for me though. Oh, how I love his smile. It always make it look like he is up to something, but of course it is impossible to see behind his unreadable face. I also love how his eyes narrow when he thinks of something particularly nasty.