As I’m sure regular readers will be aware I have a great love of animation. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at Disney, and their films, but now it’s time to look at another big animation studio, DreamWorks. Starting in 1998 they have been one of the leading animation studios. Today I am joined by Andrew Hayler as we pick our Top 5 DreamWorks animated films. For my list I am not counting the Aardman Animation films that were distributed by DreamWorks, just DreamWorks productions.
- Shuggie: Madagascar – I remember seeing Madagascar in the cinema and really enjoying it, so whilst none of the sequels have ever really resonated for me, the first one is still a favourite of mine. It was never any of the main characters that drew me into this film, instead it was the wonderful cast of eccentric supporting characters. The Penguins, especially Skipper in the first film, are hilarious, and even got their own spin off TV show and film, which were fine. Sasha Baron Cohen’s King Julius, along with Maurice and Mort then come in and steal the film when they do get to Madagascar. I loved a lot of these characters as a kid, and that nostalgia is certainly enough for me give it the 5th spot on my list.
- Andrew: Kung Fu Panda – Jack Black brings his usual energy and enthusiasm to his role as, you guessed it, a martial arts loving panda. After being toted as the one to complete an age old prophesy, Po is thrown into the world he has only admired in the past, and joins the martial arts masters known as the Furious Five. With excellent performances from big names such as: Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogan and David Cross; this funny, fast paced and action filled romp certainly deserves a place on my list.
- Shuggie: Antz – I saw Antz when it came to cinemas, but I was clearly far too young, because as I noticed when I watched it again recently this is not a kids film. It opens with a typical Woody Allen monologue for goodness sake. It may have been DreamWorks first film, but it still stands up as one of their absolute best. The film is funny, entertaining, and has an incredible voice cast (including Gene Hackman and Sly Stallone). Whilst I think that parts of the film are far too dark (there’s a brutal massacre at one point) or Woody Allen esc for a younger audience, this is great film those who aren’t too young.
- Andrew: Shrek – The memes. Need I say more? Alright maybe a little; Shrek burst onto our screens in 2001 and became an instant hit. Shrek the ogre; hated by nearly everyone, except one over excitable and eager donkey. Together they make an unlikely pairing, that find themselves saving the fair Princess Fiona from a castle, under the watchful eye of the loathsome Lord Farquaad. Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz really riff off of each other resulting in some brilliant performances, however Eddie Murphy’s Donkey steals the show for sure; countering Shrek’s pessimism with plentiful amounts of blind optimism and some frankly hilarious lines. Donkey alone gives Shrek a place on the list.
- Shuggie: The Road To El Dorado – This is another one I only saw recently, and really enjoyed. The film is genuinely hilarious, and the friendship between the two lead characters, Tulio and Miguel, is great. Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh both do great work as voice actors to help bring two such great characters to life. I have actually studied a little bit of the history of the ‘New World’ and it’s interaction with the Spanish at the time, and whilst this is clearly so far from accurate, I really enjoyed seeing a fun family film set in that time period. It’s a shame that The Road To El Dorado didn’t perform that well, with either critics or at the box office, but I am glad that it has found something of a cult status now.
- Andrew: The Road To El Dorado – Coming in at bronze is a bit of a wild card, as it didn’t exactly receive critical acclaim, however I believe it deserves its place here. Two con artists know as Tulio and Miguel, played by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh respectively, scour Spain earning as much they can with little regard for morals. They come across a map to the ‘City of Gold’ and, of course, eventually find themselves there, with due hilarity along the way. My affection for this film may be slightly biased as I grew up watching it, however the ‘bromance’ between Branagh and Kline’s characters is both funny and scintillating at times; whilst Rosie Perez produces a solid supporting performance as ‘Chel’. With the odd spectacular musical number thrown in, and the silky voice of Elton John, The Road to El Dorado certainly earns it place.
- Shuggie: How To Train Your Dragon 2 – I loved the first How To Train Your Dragon Film, but the second took it to even bigger and better places for me. The film is so funny, so heartbreaking, and so uplifting. Really following on from where the first film left off, this sequel is about Hiccup and Toothless’ journeys to becoming leaders of Berk and the dragons respectively. Introducing a great human villain and Hiccup’s mother was such a great idea. We get to see two completely fresh takes on the world’s interactions with dragons. But at the heart of the story is still Hiccup and Toothless’ friendship, and it’s still one of my favourite friendships in modern cinema. I always find it hard not to put the HTTYD films top of my list, but it can’t quite unseat my number 1 pick.
- Andrew: How To Train Your Dragon – Flying high at second place is this fantasy action piece set in a fictitious Viking world. Our protagonist here, is scrawny, son of the Chieftain, Hiccup, who’s aspirations involve being a dragon slayer like all his ancestors before him. We follow him as he manages to capture a Night Fury, the rarest and most vicious dragon of them all, of which he befriends and names Toothless. From here we watch on eagerly as he shows off his dragon taming abilities and attempts to find out the real reasons dragons attack humans. How to Train Your Dragon combines magnificent animation, especially of the dragons, with top notch performances from the likes of Jay Baruchel as Hiccup and the powerful voice of Gerard Butler as Chieftain Stoick. The films storyline is refreshingly original, and is driven on by interesting and enjoyable characters as well as intense and visually impressive action sequences. All of this, combined with the fact that dragons are badass, secures it a very close second place.
- Shuggie: Shrek – Shrek 2 would also be a top contender for my list, but I tend to try and restrict myself to just film per franchise on a list, and that meant going for the first installment. This is one of the films I grew up on. I can probably recite most of dialogue in Shrek from memory at this point. The voice cast, particularly Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy, is perfect. The story and dialogue is so sharp, witty, and original. There is such great rewatchability to the film as you get older and understand more of the jokes. It’s not just one of the best DreamWorks films ever, but one of the best animated or family films ever. Shrek is love, Shrek is life.
- Andrew: Shrek 2 – Shrek grabs gold with his big, oniony, sausage fingers as the franchise just went from strength to strength upon the release of this sequel in 2004. We rejoin Shrek living happily ever after with Fiona, until their tranquil lifestyle is interrupted by an invitation to visit from Fiona’s parents, the King and Queen of Far Far Away no less. Begrudgingly, Shrek agrees to go, not knowing what lies in store. We are introduced to new villains, in the form of Prince Charming and the Fairy God Mother, who have a devious scheme that may not be to Shrek’s liking. Shrek 2 brings all the brilliance of the original, i.e. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy as the protagonists, with the added excellence of Antonio Banderas as Puss, John Cleese as King Harold and Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy God Mother. The Final action sequence in this flick is stand out for me, with the heroics of Shrek and co being played out as the Fairy God Mother gives a ‘spell bounding’ performance (see what I did there) of ‘I need a hero’. All in all, Shrek 2 certainly deserves top spot, and will remain as one of the great films produced by DreamWorks.
So thats our picks for the Top 5 DreamWorks Animation films. Are there any other DreamWorks productions you would have liked to see us include? Let me know in the comments. And remember you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @shuggiesays.