Sunday, February 24, 2019

My Top 10 Favorite Trilogies

If there’s one thing that “Schoolhouse Rock” taught me as a kid, it’s that 3 is a magic number. It’s no surprise that I love long running film series, but they always feel the most complete when there in a package of three. There are some very famous trilogies, and there’s some less appreciated, but whatever the common critical or cultural consent, these are my personal top 10 favorite movie trilogies all leading to my absolute favorite trilogy ... which might just take you by surprise.  

# 10 The Matrix Trilogy 

Oh man, in the early 2000’s no other film series held my attention more than the Matrix trilogy. To this day, the first movie is still one of my all time favorites. I’ll admit the trilogy isn’t perfect from beginning to end, especially because the finally is so muddling, but regardless, I just couldn’t leave this series off my list. It may not be perfect, but each film still has something special to offer. Their visually fascinating to look at, the action is some of the most stylized and awesome I’ve ever seen, and I love how their storytelling infuses both religion and philosophical with fantasy and ingenuity. It's also nice that there havent been any prequal or additional follow up films, it's just a trilogy, and that's somthing to admire in this day and age.    

# 9 The Back to the Future Trilogy 

This is arguably the most perfectly self contained trilogy ever made. Just like The Matrix, this series has no other spin-offs or tie-in’s, it’s just this trilogy. “Back to the Future” is arguably one of the greatest Sci-Fi family movies ever made, and both sequels capture the same spirit and excitement perfectly. Every film in this series picks up right where the last one ends, making it the tightest string of sequels I’ve ever seen. In fact, you could watch all three films back to back, and it would be like watching one long feature film. With lots of exciting time travel adventures, a great sense of humor and with stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as two of the most charismatic leads I’ve seen, it’s hard not to have fun going back to this classic 80’s film series.  

# 8 The Captain America Trilogy 

Just about every superhero from Marvels ever growing cinematic universe has their own set trilogy of films, and I think the best by far is Captain America’s three part film series. This is a special case in which the films just get progressively better with each installment, leading to an epic finally in the form of “Captain America: Civil War”. Each film has their own respective style and tone, so it never feels like you’re watching the same film twice. The first film is like an adventure serial from the 1940’s, the second is a riveting political thriller, and the third is a clash between various hero’s on opposing sides. Captain America himself admittedly isn’t one of my favorite superhero’s, but his films are without a doubt some of the best the genera has to offer.  

# 7 The Indiana Jones Trilogy 

Yes, there are technically four movies, even a live action TV series, but I’ll always remember Indiana Jones as a trilogy first, and a great one at that. This is the series that defined that adventure genera, and Harrison Ford as the title character is still one of the most iconic in Hollywood history. Unlike the “Back to the Future” trilogy, these movies are more self contained and can be watched as standalone films, which I like. It’s nice to have a series of films that can be viewed out of order, without the baggage of a linear story. The third film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is hands down my favorite, and personally one of my all time favorite movies.

# 6 The Toy Story Trilogy 

When it comes to a near perfect trilogy of films, the “Toy Story” series often comes to mind first. While I obviously love all the previous trilogies mentioned, I’ve still had up’s and downs with individual installments. This is the series that has a perfect entry all the way around, every film is among my top 30 favorite movies, and each installment is a solid 10 out of 10. The “Toy Story” movies will always stand as some of the greatest, if not the greatest family movies of all time for me, as they perfectly capture all the charms and nostalgia of our youths. These films do an amazing job combining laughs with legitimate drama, all while focusing on mature themes of friendship, identity and loyalty at the center. The characters are all so lovable, colorful and genuine that they practically leap off the screen. There’s actually a touch of humanity to these characters that some human characters in other films lack, and it’s that bit of believe-ability mixed with all the charms and impressive visual effects that make these films so timeless. I’ve held a special place for these films for the longest time, and in return can share them with a new young generation ahead. Every installment has the power to make you laugh, cry and just warm your heart with repeated viewings. However, while this is my favorite “movie trilogy”, it’s still not my absolute favorite trilogy ... there’s actually one more left that I feel gets top honors.

# 5 The Dark Knight Trilogy 

Often regarded as the greatest comic book film series in recent years, Christopher Nolan’s take on the famous crime fighter blew audiences away and raised the bar for the standards of a great superhero movie. Full of dark themes, ideal casting, sharp cinematography, and a more grounded character driven story, this is the franchise that made Batman awesome again. The respect for the source material is obvious, but the mature tone and execution of these films make them feel like the “Citizen Kane” of comic book movies.         

#4 “The How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy” 

It was the start of a new millennia, and this was the animated experience that topped anything I had previously grown up with. The “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy perfectly bookended the 2000-teens, and and can be regarded as one of the great trilogies of our time. It’s the tail of a young Viking who becomes friends with a Dragon, during a time when man and beast was wagging war with each other. The story is built on old concepts and formulas that have been done in countless other movies, but the execution of it was done so well, that it made every convention feel fresh and new again. The characters felt real, the emotions felt real, it didn’t rely on traditional selling points like big musical numbers, and even the first movie soared without the appeal of a villain. It was just a very well-paced experience, laced with honest dramatic depth, and multilayered characters. Even the dragons made for fascinating characters that convey so much without even speaking. Following on the heels of a masterpiece film like the first "How to Train your Dragon" was no small task, yet it's two sequels improved on the first in every way a good sequel should. They both moved the story forward, layered the characters on deeper levels, one up’d the stakes, explored the world, had grander battles, and our heroes grow into completely different people then they were at the start.They're also movie's that dared to take chances, and gave younger viewers some really mature material. In short, the "How to Train your Dragon" trilogy is every bit as stunning, beautiful, thematically poignant, and uplifting as animated offerings get, and it makes for a perfect three part story. 

# 3 The Star Wars Trilogy 

Obviously “Star Wars” is arguably the most iconic and legendary film trilogy of all time. Even though it’s not my #1 favorite, it’s still damn good and most definitely one of my top three favorites. The characters are unforgettable, the effects were mile stones, and the imagination behind it captured our attention in a way that no other series did before. More than anything, I love the universe this series creates, it’s so vast and imaginative that I just want to explore it. The first two films are great classics, but personally it’s the third film “Return of the Jedi” which has always stood out as one of my favorite films, and the reason this trilogy has stuck with me. Regardless, from beginning to end, this is a perfect trilogy of movies and one that will last till the end of Hollywood.

# 2 The X-Men First Class Trilogy 

This is the third superhero trilogy on my list, and while that may seem a little repetitive, I just couldn’t keep any of them off my countdown. X-Men in general is my favorite comic book franchise of all time, and their second film trilogy beginning with the 2011 movie “X-Men First Class” is hands down one of my all time favorites. The original X-Men film trilogy was obviously very good, but it’s the “First Class” trilogy that just got everything right. The characters are more interesting, the action is much bigger, the themes are more meaningful, the stories are grander and they just feel more satisfying to experience on repeated viewings. I love all three of these films equally, and honestly have a hard time deciding which is my favorite. “X-Men First Class” is a captivating origin story. “X-Men Days of Future Past” balances resonant themes with an exciting time travel adventure. I even like the third film “X-Men Apocalypse”, despite its negative reputation, and consider it an epic finally to a near flawless string of Blockbuster comic-book movies.   

Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions ...

The Chronicles of Narnia Trilogy 

The Original X-Men Trilogy

Heather Langenkamp’s Nightmare on Elm Street trilogy

The Original Star Trek Trilogy

The Spider-Man Trilogy

# 1 The Avatar: The Last Airbender Trilogy 

This is it, right here, when I think of the text book definition of a perfect trilogy, I think of the three seasons of the TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. I sure this doesn't seem fair as it's a TV show and not a movie, but still, I look back at the three seasons as a set three-part story, and it's truthfully my absolute favorite. The overall layout and structure of this series is eerily similar to the original Star Wars trilogy. Both revolve around a small band of hero’s that need to overthrow an evil empire, their guided by a magical force of sorts, and at the center of the conflict is a menacing yet complex villain who needs to find redemption in the end (and ironically is horribly burned too). Yet for all their similarities, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a very different experience, and in many ways is far superior, at least in my opinion. The characters were a million times more lovable, it’s various stories were intriguing, the action was exhilarating, the animation was incredible, the messages were more thought provoking, and even the philosophy was more enlightening. Also, Just like Star Wars before it, this show took old formulas and weaved them all into one of the most intriguing and original franchises to be viewed on screen. Even though there were several episodes in the seasons, each of the three told a self contained story that as a whole came together as a complete trilogy. In my opinion, it’s the most satisfying and solid trilogy of them all, and definitely one to check out.      

      The End

Monday, February 18, 2019

Godzilla (1998) (Movie Review)

     Way back when I was just a little kid, I was obsessed with giant movie monsters, and the one who always stood front and center for me was Godzilla. No joke, I grew up watching an old VHS collection of all the original Japanize Godzilla movies, I had a huge collection of Godzilla toys, pajama’s, bed sheets … you name it. Back then, I viewed Godzilla like a super hero, but where did it all start? What kicked off my childhood obsession with the legendary king of the monsters. Well, surprise, surprise … it all started in 1998 with the American remake simply titled “Godzilla”. I was somewhere between six and seven years old, and I distinctly remember how thrilled I was, as it was actually one of the very first PG-13 movies I ever saw in the theater. At the time, it made me feel like a big boy watching more exciting forms of entertainment rather than my usual cartoons. 
I also remember being consumed by all the marketing, advertising, toy tie-ins, and for completely nostalgic reasons, I still have one of those Taco Bell Godzilla cup holders. More to the point, there was a time in which I absolutely adored this film, and that old VHS tape with Godzilla’s glaring eye on the cover was a crowning piece of my collection. However, I’m now a grown adult who prior to this post hasn’t watched the movie in over fifteen years. Yet, with the brand-new American Godzilla film series continuing this year, it’s gotten me curious (and even a little excited) to look back at America’s first attempt at a Godzilla movie. It’s no secret that this film has gained a reputation as not only the worst thing under the monsters banner, but one of the absolute worst movies to ever come out of the 90’s. While I can’t defend this film from its mostly deserved reputation, I still want to try and look for positives to highlight. Maybe I’m blinded by nostalgia goggles, maybe there is some good, or maybe it’s all terrible, but either way, I’m excited to look back on the film that kick started my love for one of the greatest giant movie monsters of all time.      

       The movie begins with what I can only describe as … a damn good opening credit sequence. It’s all set to a montage of orange tinted stock footage of both nuclear testing and nature shots of lizards. While viewing this as a kid, I didn’t understand the context of this, yet there was still something about the select shots, the distant radio countdown, and the ominous music building that always gave me chills. Even that iconic shot of the mushroom cloud has been ingrained in my head thanks to this opening. So, the film actually has a very strong opening, and even the first fifteen to twenty minutes of build-up in the first act are quite good. We begin with Godzilla sinking a boat out at sea, yet all we see of the monster is a quick shot of it's tail. We then see a traumatized survivor in a recovery room, who upon being asked what he saw, can only respond by repeating one name … “Godzilla”, or maybe it’s “Gojira”. It’s actually an effective enough scene, and I also love the following sequences in which the military find giant footprints out in the open. The beast eventually makes its way to Manhattan Island, and even in his first attack, we still don’t get a clear picture of what he looks like, which is great. Unfortunately, once the military draw the monster out into the open, and we see Godzilla in full form, the film nose dives into a sink whole which it can’t escape from. The intriguing build-up is over, and from this point on, the film is stuck in a loop in which we see Godzilla running around buildings during rainy nights with the military shooting at him.

     It gets so repetitive that it’s hard to separate one action sequence from the other, and Godzilla for whatever reason isn’t doing that much damage to his surroundings … in fact, the military are responsible for more destruction then he is. I should note that this was the first movie to introduce me to the classic monster movie formula, in which a giant beast of some sort is set loose in a populated area, and armed forces need to kill it. There’s nothing wrong with the formula, but one of two key ingredients need to be established in order to make it work. The first is that there needs to be some kind of emotional core to anchor down all the destruction, and this film really has no soul beneath all the mayhem. The second is that there needs to be a sense of tension and dread to make the monsters appearances more exciting. While I can’t say that the original 1954 “Godzilla” was a scary film, it at least maintained a dark, serious and foreboding mood, which enriched the experience with a lot of atmosphere. There was even a good deal of subtext behind the movie, as Godzilla was being portrayed as an allegory for the atom bomb, and the devastation of a country that witnesses its devastation. This American Godzilla by contrast has nothing meaningful under the surface and is basically just a big monster stopping though a city. On a side note, this film was responsible for introducing me to the majority of New York’s famous land marks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Madisyn Square Garden, the Hudson River and the Chrysler Building, so that was educational.

      I suppose I should quickly zip though the human characters, who leave much to be desired. For whatever it’s worth, this was the film that introduced me to the actors Matthew Broderick and Hank Azaria, and helped me put a face to them. While I’d obviously see them both in better roles, this is still the movie I find myself looking back on when I think of those two names. 

The one salvageable character in the whole film is a French secret service agent played by Jean Reno. While an admittedly stock character, I still love the guys laid back performance, and slight cool factor. When I was a kid, he was the only human character I remember singling out as someone to cheer for. I also didn’t mind some of the smaller military characters, who I think could have held the film if they were the only other humans to focus on. Unfortunately, we have a very boring girlfriend character, who hijacks way too much of this film. She has this detailed sub-plot about trying to progress her carrier as a reporter, but she’s under the mercy of a boss who’s always trying to flirt with her, and she also has a cliched best friend with a pompous New York attitude, and … who cares, why is all this in the movie? It doesn’t help that the girlfriend’s performance by young Maria Pitillo is absolutely hilarious. It’s so off-putting that she won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Also, her romantic relationship with Matthew Broderick’s character is about as lifeless as Godzilla’s CGI effects. Then there’s that odd Mayer, who along with his advisor are modeled after the critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel ... and I think they speak for themselves. It’s also worth noting that no-one ever acts phased by the appearance of a giant monster. Sure, they run away, but once an action sequence ends, the human characters go right back to talking like it was another day at the office, which further emphasizes this films lack of an emotional anchor.    

      Lets finally talk about Godzilla himself as portrayed in this film. For the most part, Godzilla is CGI, as opposed to his classic rubber suit, although there are select moments in which Godzilla is played by a guy in a costume. The criticism’s aimed at the monster itself have been universal from day one. This Godzilla doesn’t breathe fire, he’s all hunched over, way too acrobatic, significantly smaller and noticeably weaker, as his armored skin for whatever reason isn’t indestructible in this film. One little detail that always amused me was the whimsically inspiring musical score that always seemed to follow Godzilla whenever he makes an appearance. I have to say, I’ve never had a problem with Godzilla’s re-design in this film, in fact I actually kind of like it. The original Japanese Godzilla is so classic looking that I always felt an American version should have its own original design to stand apart. This Godzilla looks nothing like his foreign counterpart, and I felt it helped give the monster its own unique identity. What I can’t defend is the painfully dated CGI effects that brought the monster to life. I remember thinking he looked awesome as a kid, but these creature effects have not aged well at all.

     I was at least surprised to see a fair amount of practical effects in the film, and they’ve actually held up. All the buildings, explosions, and military vehicles are all practical visuals with real models, and it’s really become a dying art to see effects of this sort in a summer blockbuster. The same kind of effects were used two years earlier with “Independence Day”, which isn’t surprising as Roland Emmerich and his team were behind the creation of both movies. Of course, it made for very effective marketing to promote “Godzilla” as a new film from the creators of “Independence Day”. 

Now when I first saw this movie as a kid, I hadn’t yet seen too many films in my time, so it was really amusing to look back on this film as an adult and catch all the little nods and winks made to other movies. For example, when Godzilla makes his first appearance in front of the military, the camera tightens up on Matthew Broderick, which was a call back to the camera work in “Jaws”, when the shark makes its first public attack in front of the main characters. Even the line “We need bigger guns” is a call back to “We need a bigger boat”, also from “Jaws”. There’re of course countless references to “Jurassic Park”, right down to the monster appearing in the rain just like the T-Rex. One little call back to the T-Rex that really worked in this film were the distant footsteps causing things to trimmer. There’s a brief moment when a giant Octopus is seen on a TV screen, which was a clip to the 1950’s monster flickIt Came from Beneath the Sea”, which was subsequently my first window into a larger world of classic B monster movies. Of course, there’s also a painfully forced moment in which Barney the dinosaur briefly appears on a TV screen. Then there’s the scene in which we see Godzilla’s eye opening while framed in a tunnel entrance, which has always stuck with me as a memorable image, and was recreated again with the dragon in “Shrek”. 

     Now apparently someone on the writing staff for this film took note of how repetitive it was for the movie to single its attention on one monster stomping through the city. Thus, we get a sup-plot involving Baby Godzilla … lots of them. While there is a Baby Godzilla who’s a prominent character in the Japanese films, this is nothing like that character at all, in fact there’s over 200 Baby Godzilla’s in this movie, and clearly modeled off the Raptors from “Jurassic Park”. Our team of heroes learn that Godzilla nested in Madison Square Garden, so they go in to scramble the eggs, only for them to hatch, and chase the survivors through the interiors of the building. This was yet another addition to the film that was heavily criticized, but speaking personally … this is my favorite sequence of the film. It’s the only action-set piece that stands apart from all the repetitive military battles, and I’ve always loved the concept of a small group of people trapped in a tight setting with monsters on the hunt. Seeing this as a kid was actually the perfect thing to wet my appetite for when I’d eventually watch “Aliens” and get a thrill from seeing the space marines in close quarter battles with ravaging monsters. The effects for these Baby Godzilla’s are once again a mixed bag, as some are terrific looking practical animatronics, while other shots are really bad CGI. Like, the full-grown Godzilla looked dated, but the special effects for these little creatures are far worse. There’re also some really goofy moments, like how a pack of these savage beasts can easily get thwarted by knocked over gumballs. 

     Eventually, our heroes succeed in whipping-out the nest, but unfortunately, it also makes mama Godzilla angry. Now, it’s really sad when the most emotional moment of the film comes from a giant monster reacting to seeing her barbecued children ... oh, that little scene always got to me. We then segue into the climax, in which Godzilla relentlessly chases after our four principle characters. This is when the action gets so laughable, it honestly becomes a self-parody. We have a giant monster failing to keep up with a taxi cab, it trips over a metaphorical banana peel, gets blinded by headlights that aren’t even aimed at his eyes, and in the most anti-climactic finale you could ask for, he gets gunned down by the military. Godzilla’s death is shot and scored like some kind of epic tragedy, which might have worked if there weren’t so many corny elements. For instance, before Godzilla collapses, it actually locks eyes with Matthew Broderick’s character, as if they had some kind of emotional connection this whole time. I will say that I’ve always loved that final close up shot of Godzilla’s eye losing its light, and the lids slowly close … that was effective. The movie ends revealing that one of the eggs survived, hatches into a new born Godzilla, and basically sets up a sequel that never happens.

       I distinctly remember being a kid and waiting in high anticipation for the next film, but it just never came. There was at least an animated TV show, which continued the story, and I remember watching it as part of the Fox Kids line-up. When the movie “Godzilla 2000” came out two years later, I thought for sure it was the sequel I was anticipating, but it turned out to be a launching pad for a new Japanese series. 

However, there were references to the American film in the following Japanese films. The American Godzilla itself even made a surprise appearance in the last film of the Millennium series titled “Godzilla Final Wars”, in which it briefly battles the classic Godzilla. In the end, the nostalgia bug has me for the 1998 remake of “Godzilla”. Especially with all the little details that constantly remind us it was made in the 90’s, like Kodak disposable cameras, Blockbuster videos, and Sonny Bata tapes. However, this is obviously still a bad movie, and one deserving of its reputation. It at least started on a good note, then got repetitive, and concluded with an embarrassing ending. Still, even though this film was a failure, it’s never injured me any. I did enjoy the film for a short time, and while it certainly hasn’t aged well, I was still highly amused by my little re-visit. When it comes to monster movies or disaster movies in general, it all comes down to one simple question … was I entertained? Well, yes, I was, just for all the wrong reasons ... so take that for what it’s worth. Hopefully the new Godzilla movies can deliver with some legit entertainment, and not just a nostalgic guilty pleasure.

I give the 1998 American remake of “Godzilla” … what ever you feel it deserves.


Monday, February 11, 2019

My Top 10 Non-Romantic Animated Couples

It’s February, the Valentines season, and thus, a common topic or trend during the time is couples. However, I want to twist the formula a bit, and talk about male and female couples that still have great chemistry, yet have no romantic context in the relationship. Truthfully, I sometimes find it more enduring when a strong relationship can form without any romantic implications. It’s actually kind of healthy to look at things from the less formulaic fashion, yet still very wholesome in their own respected way. Now, originally, I was going to do Non-Romantic Couples from general movies and TV, but then I noticed that the majority of my picks were animated, so I decided to make this countdown more consistent by looking at parings from animated sources. So, for a little twist on this Valentines season, here are, in my view, the sweetest pairings of animated characters … with no romantic tie-ins.

#10 Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (from “Zootopia”) 

In a world full of animals, a mystery is brewing, in which something is secretly causing certain beasts to act like savages, and it’s up to two poplar opposite animals to come together and crack the case. Who doesn’t love a good buddy cop parring, especially between two characters brimming with such distinct personalities? However, their partnership, and more specifically their friendship goes so much deeper then two quirky cops budding heads. They’re both at opposite ends of the animal food chain, and see past all that to form a really special bond. While the two do admit to loving one another, it’s still not conveyed in a romantic sense. Still, the two are delightful, and its great fun seeing them work together to solve the mystery. No matter what kind of funny or emotional situations they face, it’s always together.   

#9 Lilo and Stich (from “Lilo and Stich”) 

In this animated Disney classic, a little girl takes on a new pet, one that just happens to come from outer-space. The little girl also happens to be two parents short, and is having trouble getting along with her older sister. Thankfully, her new pet dose more then become a new friend, he ties this broken family back together, and becomes a figurative sibling in the prosses. I think most fans can agree that Lilo and Stich are some of the most enduring, emotional and all-around lovable characters under Disney’s banner, and none would disagree that they both have beautiful chemistry. It’s such a simple joy seeing two characters born galaxies apart, yet still come together as a family, and their relation varies from the affection a girl would have for a pet, to the love a sister would have for a brother.     

#8 Moana and Maui (from “Moana”) 

When a brave young village princess sets sail on a quest to save her island, she’s forced to team up with a powerless Demi God, and the two need to learn to work together in order to set things right. Something you may notice throughout my whole list are friendships that take shape between two polar opposite characters, and this is no exception. One is tinny and hopeful, while the other is big and full of himself. Both are brimming with charisma, and it makes for some really fun interplay. Moana lacks knowledge, while Maui lacks chivalry, and both help one another better themselves through the course of their journey. For the most part, their the only two human characters on screen, and they both carry the show with ease. Each character is charming on their own, but put them together and its movie magic. 

#7 Prince Zuko and Katara (from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) 

From a magical land of four kingdoms, an evil army called the Fire Nation plots to rule it all, and small team of young hero’s set out on a quest to not only end the war, but bring peace to all nations. Watching such a vulnerable young group go on such an adventure is very exciting, but things are only more compelling when their greatest adversary, the Prince of the very nation their trying to defeat, becomes one with our heroes. Katara, being the emotional center of this group of heroes already felt sympathy for their foe, but was also the most resentful to take him on as an ally, as she’d been cruelly betrayed by the prince all while she tried to convey a sense of remorse to him. Seeing the villain make a full reformation is an enduring character arc in of itself, but seeing him form a deep friendship with the girl who both feared and hatted him the most is even more rewarding. The bond that forms between the two is so deep that other characters in the show call them out on being a romantic item, which they openly object to. Still, they make for an enduring pair, and were an important example of how peace and love can be achieved between enemies. They're friendship was so touching that a part of me genuinely wanted to see them both become an item, but I’m happy with them just being close friends.      

#6 Ralph and Vanellope (from “Wreck it Ralph” movies) 

Here’s yet another unique friendship that blooms between two polar opposites, one being a giant man and the other being a smart talking little girl. Despite being so different, the two can at least relate to being outcasts from their homes. One is regarded as merely a bad guy and the other is viewed as a glitch. It’s through this one connection that a warm and humble friendship takes shape, and it’s truly as sweet as they get. The two end up filling a void in each other’s lives, and their friendship is only deepened in the sequel. Not too much more needs to be said, just another solid, meaningful and heartfelt relationship between two best friends.     

#5 Quasimodo and Esmeralda (from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) 

Quasimodo was a poor soul born with a human dis-figuration, and thus was regarded as an outcast by the world. However, one exceptional woman named Esmeralda stands as the first to see past the deformity, and aims to help expose the mans beautiful soul under the features. While Quasimodo does fall in love with Esmeralda, she on the other hand has her heart set on a soldier. It’s a bold move for an animated picture to have a main hero that doesn’t get the main girl in the end, but it works as the two still retain a meaningful friendship. No, Quasimodo and Esmeralda never become a romantic item, but it is still a beautiful friendship, and one that illuminates both their lives in the process.      

#4 Marlin and Dory (from “Finding Nemo”) 

Now if there was ever an obvious set-up for two characters to fall in love, “Finding Nemo” has it. The film literally begins with a wife tragically dying, and a husband left single. Yet, while a new woman comes into the picture, she does so without becoming an obvious romantic replacement. This is another terrific example of how a lead male and lead female can be a perfect match without being an item. Even though they’re not lovers, both their partnership and their friendship is as natural as they get. Plus, it’s just a real breath of fresh air to have a female character filling the void of a missing lover, without becoming a new girl-friend in the process. Instead, she’s just a close side kick to go along for the adventure, and in this regard, I’d say that Marlin and Dory are a perfect pair, even though they’re not a romantic couple.  

#3 Raven and Beast Boy (from “Teen Titans”) 

Many close friendships develop among this distinct team of young superheroes, and one of the most delightful is between the two most polar opposite characters. Raven is the shady, quiet, shut-out, while Beast Boy is the loud, colorful, jokey, party animal. The two get on each other’s nerves, and bicker like a dysfunctional brother and sister. Yet, like any pair of siblings, they can’t help but form a strong connection, and are secretly each other’s best friend. They are always there for emotional support, and will fight by each other’s side till the end. They’re also a hilarious pairing as their personalities are perfectly at odds, and it leads to some hilarious interplay. Ravens deadpan reactions to Beast Boys over-the-top jokes are comedy gold and I could watch them go back and forth all day.      

#2 Dipper and Mabel (from “Gravity Falls”) 

In the strange little town of Gravity Falls, twin siblings named Dipper and Mable spend their summer going on wild and hilarious supernatural adventures. As is typical with most siblings, they drive each other nuts, but their also respectively as close as best friends get. When it comes to the more conventional relationships I’ve seen between brother and sister characters, there usually kind of one-note. Dipper and Mabel by contrast are about as adorable as siblings get. They tease each other, they goof around, yet they also combine their individual strengths, and are always supportive of one another in both times of need, and plain emotional support. We see over the course of their adventures how a once awkward sibling hug becomes a sincere embrace between two loving siblings. There’s an infectious charm that leaps off the screen when these two work off each other, and through the course of the show, they share some absolutely precious moments together. They’re certainly no romantic couple, yet they still convey such lovable chemistry with each other.

Before I reveal my number one favorite non-romantic paring, here are some Honorable mentions … 

Gadget and Dale (“Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers”), 

Spike and Faye (“Cowboy Bebop”), 

Robin and Raven (“Teen Titans”), 

Ezra and Sabine (“Star Wars Rebels”), 

Sheeta and Pazu (“Castle in the Sky”)

 #1 Anakin and Ahsoka (from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” & “Star Wars Rebels”) 

When it comes to the “Star Wars” saga, there’s a number of stand out relationships, including the struggles between a heroic son and his evil father, as well as the romance between a smuggler and a princess. However, my personal favorite relationship from the “Star Wars” franchise, and taking top honors on my countdown is the journey between a young master and his even younger apprentice. 

It was during the lengthy clone wars epidemic that Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker took on an eager apprentice named Ahsoka Tano. The two don’t see eye to eye at first, but through several harrowing adventures, and emotional struggles, the two made a special bond that was unbreakable. The beauty of this relationship is that it grows and changes over the course of one animated movie and two lengthy animated TV shows that ran for many years. In short, I felt like I embarked on a journey with these two, and the more adventures they shared, the closer their friendship got. While Anakin had a wife in the form of Padme, I never found that relationship nearly as enticing as with his apprentice Ahsoka. 
Things would reach emotional heights when Anakin inevitably became Darth Vader, and was forced to face his former apprentice in one of the most epic battles in all of “Star Wars”. Some may argue that there was a deeper connection between Luke and Vader, but for me, Anakin and Ahsoka had the lengthier experience together, shared more together, fought by each other’s side, supported one another, and in the end, I just felt like a made more of a connection between Anakin and Ahsoka then I did any other paring in the “Star Wars” saga. It was a multilayered relationship between teacher and student, and in my view, they’re the greatest non-romantic animated couple.

The End