Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Animated Characters (Part 1 of my top 30 favorite Characters)

There’s many things that bring me back to the movies or TV shows I love. Sometimes it’s the writing, or the experience, or the visual appeal, but more often than not, it’s the characters that bring me back for more. Sometimes, even if the movie isn’t that great, I’ll still be on board just because I love the characters, and love watching them on the journey. There are so many characters I love from various TV shows, and movies that I’ve always wanted to highlight my personal top 30 favorites, the cream of the crop, the ones that have stuck with me long after viewing them. In order to give this rather long list some variety, I’m going to break it down into three classes for three separate posts. In part 1 I'll cover my top 10 favorite animated characters. In part 2 it'll be my top 10 favorite villains. In part 3 it'll be my all time favorite characters in general from various movies and TV shows. Also, with some exceptions, I’m only selecting a single character from a series or movie. With all that said, lets kick part 1 off with ... My Top 10 Favorite Animated Characters!

#10 Belle (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast)

    I'll admit that as a kid, Belle never stood out to me as a memorable Disney princess, but looking back as an adult, I think she’s hands down one of the greatest female characters to ever come from an animated feature. Belle is stronger, smarter and more independent than any of the clichéd Disney princesses that had come before her. She’s kind and loving but she has her limits and can be firm and tough when the situation requires it. The things that make her good are really good, and help her stand apart without showing off. Every Disney Princess has had their own wants, desires, but what sets Belle apart from them is a need to discover something greater then herself, something impact-full, something she can't even comprehend. That's kind of a deep and inspiring character trait, and it all pays off because what she was looking for came from the last place she expected. Belle may look and sound like your typical Disney princess, but she’s so much more special than that.

#9 Megamind (DreamWorks Megamind)

He was once a super villain that did every sinister thing a super villain could do, and worse, right down to killing the superhero who protects the city from evil. Once the city belongs to him, Megammind realizes that he lost a part of himself, and when he unintentionally creates a new super villain who's even worse, Megamind has more than a change of heart, he has a serious change of character as he takes the place of a superhero. It’s a change of heart story that’s every bit as touching as it is clever and funny. Will Ferrell is about as lively, charismatic and hilarious as you can possibly in an animated role. To be honest, despite not being on screen, I think this is his best role by far. Aside from an outstanding performance, and terrific character arch, I actually see a lot of myself in this character. Weather he's being a villain or a hero, Megamind's ultimate goal is to just find a place in the world, and to make a life. I think a lot of people can relate to that on some level. Throw in a great theatrical performance, touching reformation story and you got an animated character that oddly enough is one to look up to.      

#8 Gadget (Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers)

    Growing up in the 90’s “Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers” was one of my favorite animated programs, and after all these years, the character Gadget has always stuck with me as a personal favorite. Being completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more charming and all around likable animated girl then Gadget. She’s a brilliant inventor but also a clumsy goof, which are the perfect ingredients for hummer and charisma. In many ways she’s the smartest member of her team, crafting high-tech vehicles ranging from plains to boats and even a submarine just using small, common everyday things that she finds lying around. At the same time, her brilliant, hyperactive mind leads to a lot of funny scenes or situations. What can I say, I love how energetic she is, I love how excited she can get creating inventions, I love her chemistry with the other characters, and I love how funny she can get when doing something completely unintentional. I’ve been around the block with many charming animated characters for years, many of which can instantly put a smile on my face, but Gadget has this special charm that’s all her own. She had a wonderful personality, she was inventive, heroic, funny, emotional, tough, caring and always a real joy to watch. 

#7 Frollo (Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

   I know I shouldn’t like a villain as much as a hero, but Frollo has always been a personal favorite of mine. This guy probably did more evil deed’s than any other animated villain, yet he’s actually a rather complex character. For all the terrible things he does, he tries to justify his actions every time and even convince others that it’s what needs to be done. Most villains like Maleficent are evil and did terrible things, but Frollo is a frustrated, psychopathic, holly man that can’t control his emotions, and really believes that these are things he should be doing. It doesn’t justify what he does, but it makes you except the fact that there are no limits to the things he can do, get away with and why he doses them. You just believe he’s out of his mind and that adds a layer of fascination to his character. Also big points go to his villain song “Hellfire”, which is by far the greatest villain song ever. For all this and more, Frollo stands as not just one of my favorite Disney villains but as one of my all time favorite villains in cinema. 

#6 Woody and Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story series)

     Of all the classic animated Disney characters I grew up with, no two were more special to me then Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the “Toy Story” series. I know I’m cheating by including two characters in one spot, but this is a packaged deal, and I just couldn’t imagine one without the other. Both have iconic designs, are brought to life perfectly by their respected voice actors, have no shortage of quotable lines, are both brimming with personality, and both have a heart of gold underneath the plastic stuffing. They were rivals who hated each other’s guts, but through a series of well placed and funny events, the two became inseparable. I don’t know why, but this is probably my favorite movie friendship I’ve seen between two characters. I just love all the peaks and valleys it goes through. The two will always be staples from my youth, and I love that over the years they continue to take new generations of children on adventures through infinity and beyond.

#5 Princess Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)

      Kicking off my top 5 animated characters is my personal all time favorite movie Princess. One that unfortunately isn’t as popular but shouldn’t be ignored, nor should her movie. In an apocalyptic future, civilizations wage war for ownership of the last surviving human populations, and cot in the middle is a brave young Princess named Nausicaa who’ll fight to her dying breath to insure peace is made across the land. So what, is she another stereotypical Princess that switches between being a soft spoken mediator, and a cunning, sword wielding action heroin, well, yeah she is ... and more. Princess Nausicaa has a warm heart and charming personality, but she also has grit, and is driven by her passion. You also knows how to lead her people, if a sudden attack happens, she’ll quickly think of a plan on her feet, and take charge the way a strong leader should. With that said, she never talks down to her people like their in any way beneath her, in fact she see’s everyone on the same equal ground, and has the same love and devotion to the smallest inhabitant of her Kingdom that she has for her own family. More than anything, this is a Princess who really inspires her people, raises their hopes, and you just feel that warm connection she has with everyone in her home valley. Also, like any animated princess, she has a real love for nature and can form an instant connection with animals. Now underneath her warm smile and selfless devotion to a just cause, Princess Nausicaa dose in fact have a dark side, an unstoppable rage that lashes out, and it terrifies her when she loses herself. This add’s a lair of complexity to the character which keeps her from being a stereotypical good role model. She is in fact a person bound by the human condition, but that only makes us respect her all the more when she acts heroically. In my opinion, she’s just an all around perfect character who earns her title, and set’s a new standard for other Princess characters to aspire from.

#4 Prince Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

    Next on my list is yet another complex villain from one of my all time favorite animated shows. Prince Zuko was initially the main antagonist of the first season of “Avatar: The Last Air Bender”, and was a bad as they got as he pursued the shows hero’s in an effort to hunt down and kill “The Chosen One”. His soul reasoning is to restore his honor after a mistake that forced him to be exiled from his family. While I’ve seen tragic villains before, there’s so much more substance and intrigue that goes into this character. He dose bad things but with honorable intentions instead of greed, and throughout the show we see him go through some huge changes. In season two he becomes an anti hero who just needs to find his place in the world while also battling his personal demons that corrupt his soul. Then in season 3 he becomes a hero who gradually gains friendship among our hero’s. Watching this banished prince go from menacing villain, to anti hero, to champion has been an awesome experience, and I just loved watching him slowly gain acceptance and friendship among the shows team of protagonists. It’s one of the shows biggest highlights, and one of the most captivating stories of evil turned good I’ve ever seen.

#3 Raven (Teen Titans)

    Every superhero has their own motivation or back story as to why they become hero’s, and personally it’s Raven from the 2003 animated “Teen Titans” series who’s always stood out as one of the most multi layered, complex and intriguing. Initially created by a demonic villain to bring about the end of the world, Raven feared the harm she would inevitably bring to others, but decided to utilize her life as a super hero, whatever good she can possibly achieve. She’s a powerful witch, with hex casting charms, but her greatest strength and power is “hope”, hope that that she can accomplish more good then evil. Even with that said, she still keeps quiet to herself and is still very dark. However, despite being so cold and mysteries, she is still brimming with personality, and has some really funny remarks for just about any situation. Voiced by the incredibly talented Terra Strong, Raven might just be one of the funniest and most charismatic animated hero’s I’ve ever seen. She’s a Gothic super hero brimming with personality, has a deep back story, and is a strong fighter. More than anything Raven is a great example to follow in regards to how one persons “hope” can bring about something pure from a dark place.

#2 Hiccup and Toothless (How to Train your Dragon)

     Hollywood has had no shortage of memorable stories revolving around a boy and his pet, that’s also his best friend. However, I can’t think of any pair more special then this Viking boy and his pet Dragon. Hiccup and Toothless are two of the most enduring, and charming characters to grace the silver screen in years ... animated or not. These two have great chemistry and are both just brimming with personality. Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, you can’t help but wish for a special connection of your own with a creature as awesome as Toothless, who in my personal opinion is the cutest animal character I’ve ever seen on film. That might sound odd to call a dragon cute, but honestly, there’s so much more to Toothless then just an adorable mug.  This dragon conveys so much personality and charisma with no dialogue at all, making him one of the best animated characters I’ve ever seen. Both Hiccup and Toothless individually are excellent characters, but the two of them together make for something very special. 

Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some quick honorable mentions ... 

Wolverine (Various X-Men shows)

The Genie of the Lamp (Disney's Aladdin)

Demona (Gargoyles)

Mrs. Brisby (The Secret of Nimh)

Dinobot (Beast Wars: Transformers)

#1 Batman (Batman: The Animated Series)

     I could have filled this list entirely with animated superhero’s, but that would have been too easy. Instead, let’s just cut to the chase and highlight my absolute favorite animated superhero to ever grace the silver screen, that being none other than Batman. More specifically, the animated Batman voiced by Kevin Conroy, who in my opinion will always be the definitive Dark Knight. This was the version of Batman that never seemed intimidated by anything, or at least never showed that he was intimidated. He definitely has his weaknesses and shows his emotions, but he was always so cool, collected and always kept the problem his own, no one else’s. He fights his own battles, but will still put his trust in those he respects. Whenever this Batman battled his demons or his enemies, he always did it in a way that could be admired, respected, while still thrilling us at the same time. As a kid, Batman was always my ideal super hero, representing tragedy at a young age but an overcoming strength in his later years. What else do I even need to say ... it's just Batman!    

This concludes the first half of my top 30 favorite character countdown, so check in for part two were I countdown my all time favorite villains. 

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