The 50 Best Animated Movie Characters

The greatest hand-drawn, CG and stop-motioned personalities out there


by Willow Green |
Updated on

The second golden age of animation is well under way, with Aardman, Miyazaki, Disney Pixar and DreamWorks rolling out rather good stories on a fairly regular basis. But which characters of the stop-motion, CG or hand-drawn world really make the grade? Which existing characters made the leap from short form to full-length feature with their dignity intact? How do the newcomers really compare to old hands of earlier eras? Read on to find out...

50. Mickey Mouse

Movie(s): Fantasia (1940), Fantasia 2000 (1999)

First Apperance: Steamboat Willie (1928)

Voiced by: Walt Disney, Jimmy MacDonald, Wayne Allwine

Mickey Mouse

The most famous cartoon of all time, all the way down here? Why yes, because Mickey Mouse has never been a big character in feature-length animation, and his best performance was in a tiny segment of classical music oddity Fantasia. Here, he's the over-enthusiastic but under-disciplined assistant to a sorcerer, who tries to take a short-cut when his master is out of town and ends up with hundreds of magical mops flooding his home - and he's wonderful at it. The moral of the story is that it's best to take pride in your work and do it properly, and also that you should just never clean house because it'll only lead to trouble.

Stroke of genius

The hangdog (hangmouse?) expression on Mickey's face when his master comes back and discovers the flooded castle, full of enchanted mops.

Fun fact

The raised eyebrow and disapproving stare with which the sorcerer greets the havoc his apprentice has caused was referred to as the "Dirty Disney stare" by the animators on Fantasia and modelled on Walt himself.

49. Miles Morales

Movie(s): Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

First Appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4 a Marvel Comics' title from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli.

Voiced by: Shameik Moore

Miles Morales

After a vast variety of on-screen Peter Parkers (and yes, several more show up in Spider-Verse), it's refreshing to see Miles get his shot at the starring role. The character has proved incredibly popular, showing up in animated series and video games, but the movie truly puts him on screen in layered, compelling fashion. So much so that the result was an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and two sequels on the way. Miles feels like a teenager who stumbles into superheroics and, thanks to the likes of producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, he's also very funny.

Stroke of genius

The 'What's Up Danger' sequence as Miles embraces his destiny is a highlight, though the whole of Spider-Verse is an artistic mash-up of styles.

Fun fact

Moore once wrote in his diary as a teenager that he wanted to play Spider-Man.

48. Fiver

Movie(s): Watership Down

First Apperance: Watership Down, a 1972 novel by Richard Adams

Voiced by: Richard Briers

Watership Down

How sweet and innocent is Fiver, the visionary rabbit hero of Watership Down? Well, he's voiced by Richard Briers, perhaps the nicest man in the history of Planet Earth. And that's pretty much all you need to know about a character who somehow manages to retain its innocence through the heartbreaking slog of Watership Down, through the savage dog attacks, environmental destruction and perilous journey, and somehow through Art Garfunkel's blinking Bright Eyes. Hazel (John Hurt) may be the nominal hero, but it's Fiver's visions of Watership Down that kickstart the story, and he remains the cutest and most fragile of the rabbits, even blaming himself for all the trouble the rabbits endure. Fiver, son, it's not your fault.

Stroke of genius

Imbuing Fiver with an indomitable spirit and an unshakeable belief in his brother, Hazel, that carries him through. Also, the ability to make our eyes all wet just thinking about him, and the movie. Damn those infernal rabbits!

Fun fact

His Lapine name is Hrairoo, which means "Little-five" or "Little-thousand"

47. Daffy Duck

Movie(s): Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Space Jam (1999), Looney Tunes (2003)

First Apperance: Porky's Duck Hunt (1937)

Voiced by: Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, Joe Alasky, Dee Bradley Baker


Tricky one, this. Based largely on his movie career, you can't include Daffy Duck - arguably the greatest of all the Looney Tunes, with his scheming and his skiving and his suffering suckatash speech impediment - on this list. But you can't not include Daffy Duck on this list, and you shouldn't hold it against the character that Warner Bros. hasn't found a vehicle worthy of its greatest assets, from Daffy to Bugs to Elmer to Wile E. to Sylvester to Marvin and so on and so on and so on. The best we can do is to mention that he's pretty funny in Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back In Action, and that he's on this list because he's Daffy Duck. And if anyone disagrees, we have an Acme Reader Pulveriser out back, just waiting to be fired up. Capisce?

Stroke of genius

Just to show how Warners have dropped the ball, Daffy's greatest full-length feature film moment comes in a Disney film. Notably the magnificent dualling pianos scene between him and Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which ends with the two ducks engaging in a spot of M.A.D.

Have Your Say

Should Daffy Duck be higher or lower on our list? Vote now!

Fun fact

Mel Blanc, the classic voice of Daffy, recorded a novelty single in the 50s called Daffy Duck's Rhapsody. We have to hear this song. Bet Kim Newman has it.

46. Toad

Movie(s): Flushed Away

First Apperance: Flushed Away (2006)

Voiced By: Sir Ian McKellen


Criminally underrated, and implicated as the main cause of Aardman's acrimonious split from DreamWorks, Flushed Away is actually an enormously fun film, that may not have the soul or finesse of a Wallace & Gromit flick, but which has a joke ratio that's up there with Zucker Abrahams Zucker. And it also has, in the megalomaniacal Toad, Ian McKellen's most deliciously funny big-screen performance. A pompous, pumped-up buffoon who walks around making wild, grandiose speeches about ruling the sewers (while remaining tragically unable to suppress his craving for flies), Toad is a spot-on parody of Bond villains, with more than a hint of the craven idiocy of British politicians thrown in for good measure.

Stroke of genius

Casting McKellen, who tackles Toad's stiff-upper-plumminess with relish and elevates the character into Well, someone worthy of placing 46th on this list. They didn't make him a knight just for the fun of it, you know.

Fun fact

In the grand tradition of excruciating puns begun by Nick Park, The books on Toad's shelf are "Warts and Peace" by Leo Toadstool, "Unfinished Verse" by Long Tung, "A Brief History of Slime", and his scrapbooks, "The Tragic History of the Great Great Toad, Vol. I," followed by Volumes II through VI.

45. Aisling

Movie(s): The Secret of Kells (2009)

First Appearance: The Secret of Kells (2009)

Voiced by: Christen Mooney


Generally speaking when countries are embodied in the form of people, they're big strong muscly men, or women who make up for in weaponry what they lack in coverage around the bosom region. Aisling represents the spirit of Ireland in this medieval adventure, but instead of being powerful or a bit slutty she's a tiny sprite, an impish younger sister who irritates Brendan as much as she helps him. Oh sure, she's also got magical abilities, but she's magical more in the way that Luna Lovegood is, rather than in the way that Gandalf is. Some might say that that fits Ireland rather well though, so maybe it's for the best.

44. Thumper

Movie(s): Bambi (1942), Bambi 2 (2006)

First Appearance: Bambi (1942)

Voiced by: Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Sam Edwards, Brandon Baerg


The thing about Thumper is that he's so cute he almost helps you to forget that Bambi's mum has, um, [sob] died. The scene where the rabbit and the young faun venture out on the ice during their first winter, slipping and sliding around, remains one of the happiest things you'll ever see, guaranteed to raise a smile even if you've just eaten venison before watching the movie and are feeling horrendously guilty. A sage advisor to Bambi himself, more or less, and a more streetwise (forest-wise?) character, he's a good friend and fellow adolescent in the big, bad woods.

Stroke of genius

Why, it's his trademark habit of drumming his feet against the ground, much imitated but never bettered.

Fun fact

Thumper doesn't appear in the original novel, which is darker and more concerned with the natural world than the cuddly baby animals. The Nazis, book lovers that they were, banned the book as an allegory for the treatment of the Jews in Europe.

43. Mebh Óg MacTíre

Movie(s): Wolfwalkers (2020)

First Appearance: Wolfwalkers (2020)

Voiced by: Eva Whittaker


Though young Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey) is ostensibly the hero of Cartoon Saloon's charming, emotional 2020 offering, it's Mebh Óg MacTíre who grabs the attention. One of the "Wolfwalkers" of the title, she's a girl who becomes a wolf... Or rather, a wolf who becomes a girl. Fiercely protective of her pack and her mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy's Moll), she represents the native population pushing back against England's militaristic colonisation.

Stroke of genius

Mebh is part of the acclaimed "Wolf-vision" segment of the movie, where the Cartoon Saloon team shows off their artistry.

Fun fact

The character is named after Queen Medb, who is buried on top of a mountain in Ireland.

42. Katie Mitchell

Movie(s): The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (2021)

First Appearance: The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (2021)

Voiced by: Abbi Jacobson

Katie Mitchell

Co-writer/director Mike Rianda drew inspiration from his own family to create the humanity-saving goofballs at the heart of this excellent animated adventure. For Katie Mitchell, he used a few sources, including his own teenage passion for creation and the parent-child connection barrier he sometimes faced with his father. Mostly, though Kate came from various sources, and is remarkable for her live-wire filmmaking and huge belief in doing the right thing. She also represents the first LGBTQ+ character in an all-ages animation, yet that never defines her or becomes a source of conflict, as driven by the various LGBTQ+ artists who worked on the movie.

Stroke of genius

Katie's inspired films, including Dog Cop, are a comedic highpoint.

Fun fact

Katie's socks bear the carpet design from the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The Columbia Pictures logo figure at the start shows off the same design on one of its socks.

41. Remy

Movie(s): Ratatouille (2007)

First Appearance: Ratatouille (2007)

Voiced by: Patton Oswalt


Brad Bird's Pixar efforts are rather more complex of moral than your average cartoon, willing to admit that not everyone is going to end up a princess or a superhero and that some people are just more talented than others. Remy, here, is a culinary genius, but it's not always easy for him to get ahead. After all, rats and kitchens do not match brilliantly from a hygiene point of view. Still, his obsession with his chosen profession and determination to get ahead make him compelling - even though he's not always entirely sympathetic. Seriously: would you let a rodent puppeteer sit on your head and force you to cook?

Stroke of genius

Remy's magical, camera-spinning cooking scenes, making the creation of a soup and a ratatouille into a cross between dancing and singing.

Fun fact

Patton Oswalt landed the job of voicing Remy after Bird saw a video of his stand-up routine where he waxed lyrical about food.

40. Elsa

Movie(s): Frozen (2013), Frozen II (2019)

First Appearance: Frozen (2013)

Voiced by: Idina Menzel


With, according to John Travolta at least, the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem (actually Wicked stage veteran Idina Menzel) providing both her speaking voice and her impressive singing pipes, Elsa was originally going to be a more traditional take on the Snow Queen. Instead, she's part of a sister sibling duo with Kristen Bell's Anna that made for a hugely successful animated movie. Elsa's troubled, isolated initial existence gives way to a bold, thoughtful ruler and someone who never needs a prince to save them.

Stroke of genius

Song 'Let It Go' (by Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who won an Oscar for it) not only changes Elsa's path but changed her entirely storyline. Oh, and it became a huge earworm.

Fun fact

With 420,000 strands of computer generated hair, Elsa has 15 times more strands than Rapunzel. Take that, tower-dweller!

39. Lumiere

Movie(s): Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

First Appearance: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Voice by: Jerry Orbach


Perhaps the strangest thing about returning to this Oscar-nominated classic after all these years is learning that Jerry Orbach provided the voice of Lumiere, the irrepressibly Gallic, lover man, er, candlestick who plays such a big part in the story. Yes, him from Law & Order / Dirty Dancing (delete according to viewing preferences). The flamboyant Lumiere, forever sneaking off into corners for some private time with a duster, is the most amusing of the new characters introduced for the film, and it turns out that sensible Detective Briscoe has a romantic side after all.

Stroke of genius

The song Be Our Guest, which sees Lumiere introduce perhaps the greatest dining experience in animation history. One question though: would you really be comfortable putting living cutlery in your mouth?

Fun fact

It was legendary lyricist Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid) who came up with the idea of everyone in the castle turning into objects. Sadly, he died during production.

38. Satan

Movie(s): South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

First Appearance: The Bible, sort of.

Voiced by: Trey Parker

Satan, South Park

Call him what you like - Lucifer, Shaitan, the Devil - but he's always scary and badass and in control. Unless, of course, you're Matt Stone and Trey Parker, in which case Satan may be physically well developed but he's rather more shy and retiring than we're used to - to the extent that his gay lover, Saddam Hussein, physically and emotionally abuses the poor fella. His attempt to regain his own sense of dignity and independence is the closest thing this foul-mouthed classic has to a story arc, and if you end up cheering for the underworld dog, well, all to the good.

Stroke of genius

Turns out that Satan has a sense of gratitude, offering Kenny one wish in return for his help in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Well isn't that nice?

Fun fact

Yes, that's a picture of Scream actor Skeet Ulrich hanging above Satan's bed.

37. Maui

Movie(s): Moana (2016), Gone Fishing (2017) (Short)

First Appearance: Moana (2016)

Voiced by: Dwayne Johnson


In what is one of the most perfect combinations of character and voice, the outsized demi-god could only have been voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Maui's a cheery, cheeky, crafty sort, plotting his escape from exile while also dealing with some confidence issues. A great counterpoint to central figure Moana's (Auli'i Cravalho) noble spirit, he's the Puck to her pluck. And how many characters, animated or otherwise, have moving, sarcastic tattoos? You're welcome!

Stroke of genius

Maui's change of heart and heroic attempt to save Moana at the film's climax is an earned example of the hero's journey.

Fun fact

The movie was originally developed as focused on Maui, with Moana as a side character, but an inspirational research trip to the South Pacific changed all that.

36. Mirabel

Movie(s): Encanto (2021)

First Appearance: Encanto (2021)

Voiced by: Stephanie Beatriz


It can be tough if you feel like an outsider in any family, but spare a thought for Mirabel, who is the one person seemingly not gifted with magical powers like her sisters, cousins and others. As it turns out, she does have a huge part to play in saving the family's magic, all the while being charming, loveable and brave. She's also the one to finally reconnect with banished uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), who has his own issues. Beatriz gives a spirited vocal performance, and Mirabel never comes across as whiny.

Stroke of genius

Mirabel's songs are provided by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and she has more than one show-stopper in a movie crammed with great tunes.

Fun fact

Part of Beatriz' audition included her singing Maui's song' You're Welcome' from Moana.

35. Roger Rabbit

Movie(s): Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

First Appearance: Who Censored Roger Rabbit, 1981 novel by Gary K. Wolf

Voiced by: Charles Fleischer

Roger Rabbit

The concept of setting a Looney Tunes-type character in the real world is a bonkers but brilliant one, and this effort from the newly reinvigorated Disney of the late 1980s set them on course for a renaissance. And a lot of that is down to Roger himself - loud, brash, hugely irritating to partner Eddie Valiant but always well-intentioned. The killer is that Roger isn't stupid; he's capable of cunning and trickery in his attempt to clear himself of murder charges and regain the love of his smokin' hot wife. And after all, a rabbit with a woman like that on his arm has got to have something serious going for him.

Stroke of genius

It's Roger's heartbroken reaction to the news that his wife, Jessica, is cheating on him. Why is he so concerned with the fact that she's playing playground games? We've never been quite sure, but we feel for him nonetheless.

Fun fact

Charles Fleischer performed Roger's lines on set, off camera, while wearing a full costume including rabbit ears, overalls and gloves.

34. Homer J Simpson

Movie(s): The Simpsons Movie

First Appearance: The Tracey Ullman Show (1987)

Voiced by: Dan Castellaneta

Homer Simpson

With the hindsight switch very firmly flipped, we can now admit to ourselves, and each other, that The Simpsons Movie really wasn't very much cop. But it's almost impossible to have a list like this and not include the Simpsons' loveable, doltish, lunkheaded patriarch, even if it's something of a legacy choice, dictated almost entirely by the existence of the TV show. But despite the dearth of classic Simpsons gags, still manages to present the Homer we all know and love, putting him very firmly centre stage as he tries to win back Marge and his family, and prove to Springfield that he's not a monstrous jackass.

Stroke of genius

OK, it was in the trailer, but it's hard to top classic Homer slapstick, namely the moment when he gets caught - literally - between a rock (a giant rock) and a hard place (a cafe called The Hard Place, complete with giant pointy fork). Drawn out for just the right amount of time, as Homer swings between the two, getting crushed and stabbed alternately, it's up there with the rakes gag in Cape Feare.

Fun fact

The J. stands for Jay. Simples.

33. Emily

Movie(s): Corpse Bride (2005)

First Appearance: Corpse Bride (2005)

Voiced by: Helena Bonham Carter


This could easily have been an uncomplicated horror, with a young man ensnared by a terrifying deadite obsessed with wedding bells, a Bridezilla with bits falling off. Instead, it became an unusual love story, precisely because Helena Bonham-Carter's Emily is so adorable. Rather than the lurching zombie she might have been, she's tragic, charming and strangely beautiful - yes, even with the blue flesh, skeletal extremities and loosely-attached eye. The fact that most of the audience consider the nicely wrapped up, happy ending an unhappy one is testament to just how likeable Emily is.

Stroke of genius

It's the melancholy song that Emily sings when she realises that Victor only proposed by accident and is still in love with Victoria upstairs, while her friends try to reassure her that she's pretty.

Fun fact

There were 14 different models of Emily and Victor, all based on a stainless steel frame with faces moved by clockwork.

32. Shifu

Movie(s): Kung Fu Panda (2008)

First Appearance: Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Voiced by: Dustin Hoffman


It takes a very light touch to take a venerated martial arts master - the archetype that inspired Yoda, Mr. Miyagi and dozens more - and make him fresh, while satisfying all the demands traditionally associated with the character: namely, enough neatly-phrased expressions of wisdom and advice to fill a thousand fortune cookies. Shifu, the kung fu master who teaches Jack Black's Po to be all that he can be in DreamWorks' unexpectedly entertaining adventure, is fresh as can be, thanks largely to Hoffman's playfully bemused line readings, a genuine warmth beneath the wiliness, and a refreshing sparkle to the banter between him and Po. Their delightful final exchange leaves the movie on a high note, and is the chief reason why we're looking forward to the incoming sequel.

Stroke of genius

It's got to be the hilarious attempts of the kung-fu master to tutor the enthusiastic but hopelessly inept panda Po in the basics of the martial art. His increasing exasperation and the faltering of that firmly-held calm is a joy to behold.

Fun fact

Dustin Hoffman had a clause in his contract allowing him to record additional voice sessions if he was unhappy with his original performance. Now that's perfectionism.

31. DJ

Movie(s): Monster House (2006)

First Appearance: Monster House (2006)

Voiced by: Mitchel Musso


A lot of animated heroes are children; a lot more are teenagers young enough for kids to identify with but old enough to have some sort of romance. Monster House, however, puts its three young leads right in the middle, veering wildly from childish enthusiasms one minute to adolescent awkwardness the next. DJ is the quietest and least assuming of the bunch, between Chowder's loudmouth and Jenny's know-it-all, but he's quietly compelling.

Stroke of genius

It's a toss-up between DJ's reaction to having a girl in his room, and his later, wiser talk with the previously scary Mr Nebbercracker, counselling him as an equal rather than a child.

Fun fact

Mitchel Musso, who voices DJ, is best known to tweens as one of the regulars on Hannah Montana. Still you shouldn't hold that against him.

30. Grumpy

Movie(s): Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

First Appearance: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Voiced by: Pinto Colvig


When it comes to choosing one of the seven dwarves to go on this list, it really is throw a dart time. (Snow herself is a bit too bland to warrant serious consideration.) Dopey aside, Grumpy - long white beard, red nose, perpetually pissed off expression - has the best arc of the dwarves, initially reacting with hostility to the gorgeous princess dumped in their midst, before coming over all conciliatory and rushing to her aid. He's a nice chap, after all. Aww...

Stroke of genius

When Snow White has slipped into a coma - what the dwarves think is death - Grumpy's pissed-off facade crumbles as he pays tribute to her perfectly preserved 'corpse', insisting on leaving his garland of flowers in her sleeping arms. Maybe she finally pierced his cold exterior. Maybe he thought he had a shot. Either way, there's not a dry eye in the house.

Fun fact

A fight between Grumpy and Doc was animated, but cut out from the movie. It can be found as an extra on DVD.

29. Carl Fredricksen

Movie(s): Up

First Appearance: Up (2009)

Voiced by: Edward Asner


Cranky, grumpy, irascible, cantankerous. Carl Fredericksen is all of these things and more, but the genius of Up's lead (the first of two characters from their arguable masterpiece to make this list) is that we know right from the off why he ended up that way. And it's not just because he's old. Watching Carl slowly shake off the shackles off loss and hurt over the course of 90-odd gloriously rejuvenating moments is a rare joy, the sort of thing that Pixar seems to specialise in. Carl (impeccably voiced by Asner) remains one of the most well rounded and plain human characters in animation history.

Stroke of genius

Even though it's not as cathartic as the moment when Carl stumbles upon Ellie's scrapbook and decides to move on with his life, and instead merely illustrates why Carl becomes the man he is when we meet him, we have to go for the Married Life montage near the film's beginning. The most moving, boldly brilliant four-and-a-half minutes of moviemaking we've seen in a long time, it retains the power to provoke tears even now. Genius.

Fun fact

Carl's look is modelled on Spencer Tracy from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, which was his last film.

28. Steve

Movie(s): Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

First Appearance: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Voiced by: Neil Patrick Harris


Possibly the most random character on this list, Steve is, and there's no easy way of describing this, a monkey. Nothing random about that, admittedly. But he's a monkey connected to a Speak & Spell machine that translates his thoughts into speech. And those thoughts mostly revolve around eating Gummi Bears, and doing what monkeys do, which is act like children hopped up on sugar and fizzy drinks. All. The. Time. The master of the hilarious non sequitur, Steve's every appearance in this underrated gem is gold, and further proof that NPH can do no wrong.

Stroke of genius

The look of unrestrained, demented triumph on Steve's face near the end as he rips the still-beating heart out of the chest of his nemesis, a giant Gummi Bear, and pops it into his mouth.

Fun fact

Steve was the star of his own game on the Cloudy promo website, where he attempted to read your mind. Generally, it worked, as long as you were thinking of potatoes.

27. Chihiro

Movie(s): Spirited Away (2001)

First Appearance: Spirited Away (2001)

Voiced by: Rumi Hiragi, Daveigh Chase


Miyazaki has a wealth of great characters, from bizarre gods to eccentric spirits and terrifying witches. But it's his heroines who are usually the best, and Spirited Away boasts the best of the lot. Over the course of her adventures Chihiro matures from a spoiled little brat into a mature and courageous young woman, helping others who are worse off than herself and eventually earning her own freedom and that of her (enchanted) parents. She also gets bonus points for getting a job - most animated characters are a bunch of benefit-scrounging layabouts.

Stroke of genius

It's probably the scene where Chihiro has to help clean a terrifying and rather repellent "stink spirit", which is revealed under her ministrations to be a polluted river spirit, poor thing.

Fun fact

Pixar's John Lasseter is well known to be a Miyazaki fan, but it's mutual: the jumping light which shows Chihiro the way is intended as a reference to Pixar's mascot Luxo Jr.

26. Hiccup

Movie(s): How To Train Your Dragon, How to Train your Dragon 2, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

First Appearance: How to Train Your Dragon, a novel by Cressida Cowell

Voiced by: Jay Baruchel


Yes, we've gone for Hiccup rather than his adorable dragon Toothless? Why? Because he's a character we don't see enough of in animation: someone smart, competent and braver than he gives himself credit for. While the wise-cracking, geeky outsider is familiar in live-action teen movies, he's given a fresh breath of life here amid a town full of Vikings and plagued by dragons, and Hiccup's developing bond with Toothless is one of the most finely drawn friendships ever established in the genre. Also, his awkward relationship with his father is much better than the average orphan story, with bonus points for the joke about his mother's breastplate.

Stroke of genius

SPOILER WARNING. It's at the end of the film, where Hiccup wakes up in his bed to discover that he's lost his foot in the battle with the enormous dragon. He stares wordlessly for a moment, but after a single sigh refuses to dwell and - with Toothless' help - gets out of bed to try out his prosthetic. Heartbreakingly good.

Fun fact

The novel's version of the story is almost entirely different: Toothless is very small and brown, there's no giant dragon to fight in the last act and Hiccup remains whole. To be honest, however, it's not as good.

25. Kristofferson

Movie(s): Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

First Appearance: Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Voiced by: Eric Chase Anderson


One of the few non-star voice actors to appear in Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's book, Eric Chase Anderson nevertheless got perhaps the most amusing character in a cast of eccentrics. He's a nephew of Mr Fox's, but his presence causes no end of grief for Fox's son Ash, who is thoroughly outshone by the polite, meditation-practicing, entirely self-sufficient cousin. While Ash gets the more obviously interesting character arc, Kristofferson's just so amusingly perfect that he keeps stealing the show - and of course he turns out not to be such an obnoxious little nerd after all. Three cheers!

Stroke of genius

Beating up the mole who tries to pick on his cousin Ash, first taking off his shoes so that his Kristofferson's mad martial arts skills don't kill him.

Fun fact

Kristofferson is, as you'd expected, named after legendary singer and Blade star Kris Kristofferson, since Wes Anderson and writer Noah Baumbach are both fans of his work.

24. Captain Hook

Movie(s): Peter Pan (1953)

First Appearance: JM Barrie's Peter Pan (1904)

Voiced by: Hans Conried


Maybe it's because Captain Hook started out on stage that he's so darn good at getting us all cheering and yelling at the screen - for the other guy. A villain more adept at sneering you'd look hard to find, and as cold-blooded killers go it's hard to top him. But he's also a man of culture and some pretentions to finesse, making his all the scarier when he decides to just go for the throat. And it's a testament to this film that, while the character's been played a thousand times, this one feels like the original. Maybe it's that dashing red coat - we do love a man in uniform.

Stroke of genius

The gibbering panic that overtakes the otherwise snarling bad guy whenever the sound of ticking comes near.

Fun fact

This was the last Disney film that all nine of the legendary animators the Nine Old Men worked on as directing animators. After this, they were spread across different concurrent projects at any given time.

23. Mike Wasowski

Movie(s): Monsters Inc

First Appearance: Monsters Inc (2001)

Voiced by: Billy Crystal

Mike W

When it comes to Monsters, Inc., it's throw a dart time. You could go for Boo, arguably the cutest kid in movie history. Or Sulley, John Goodman's lovable walking rug of a monster. Or even Roz, the first evidence that Bob Petersen could do more than work behind the microphone. But it's the refreshing, unforced jollity and decency of Billy Crystal's Mike Wazowski that just about wins out. Endearingly hapless, with a cavalier attitude towards paperwork, the manic wackiness of Wazowski provides the perfect counterbalance to Sulley's more lugubrious nature. And when he's funny, boy, is he funny. No wonder the dude goes into stand-up by the film's end. Oh, and we should also point out that Wazowski is effectively a walking eyeball just another excuse for the boys at Pixar to show that they can take any object or shape and invest it with emotion and life. Show-offs.

Stroke of genius

The sweetness that's exposed when Wazowski or Googlie Bear, as he might also be known goes on a date with his beloved Celia. It all goes wrong, naturally, but it's nice to see another side to the big goof-eyeball.

Fun fact

Mike has his own Facebook page. We suspect he gets an assistant to post for him.

22. Jack Skellington

Movie(s): The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

First Appearance: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Voiced by: Chris Sarandon, Henry Sellick (singing)

Jack Skellington

Culture clashes have always been dramatic meat for filmmakers, but this is a more imaginative take on it than most. And Jack Skellington is at the heart of it, good-hearted but profoundly ignorant of what he's messing with. His obsession is not something you usually see in kid's cartoons - he's not a man on a noble mission but a weirdo fixated on something against reason, and it's his friend Sally who, like the audience, knows it's a bad idea and wants him to stop - but it's his flaws that make him human, first getting swept away despite himself and then, eventually, doing the right thing. He also gets bonus points for owning animation's most adorable ghost dog, as Zero and his cute little Jack o' lantern nose couldn't belong with anyone truly evil.

Stroke of genius

The song "What's this", as Jack - accustomed as he is to the dark, twisted Halloween Town, tries to get his head around the sweetness and light of Christmas Town. It's no wonder he gets things a bit mixed up.

Fun fact

Tim Burton (who, please remember, did not direct) came up with the idea for this film after seeing a department store swap straight from Halloween decorations to Christmas ones. His original story only included the characters of Jack, Zero and Santa Claus; the rest were added for the screen.

21. Donkey

Movie(s): Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek 3, Shrek Forever After, a Christmas short

First Appearance: Shrek!, a 1993 novel by William Steig (adapted heavily for the screen)

Voiced by: Eddie Murphy


Anyone remember the last time they really cared about Shrek or Fiona in a Shrek movie? Nope? Us either. It's all about the supporting cast, who upstage the ostensible leads every single time the camera turns their way. Donkey - hyperactive, desperately insecure, unfailingly loyal - is one of the best of them. Eddie Murphy plays nerdier and sillier than his usual characters and, in profound contrast to his efforts in Norbit, it pays off in spades. Sure, we have yet to forgive him for making us wonder how a donkey and a dragon mate, but apart from that he's a raving success.

Stroke of genius

The single best Donkey moment in the series is probably when Puss-in-Boots appears in Shrek 2, trying to wangle his way into Shrek's affections with his adorable kitty pose. "I'm sorry, the position of annoying talking animal has already been filled!"

Fun fact

When Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the book on which this is based, in 1991, he apparently envisioned making a traditionally animated film with Bill Murray as Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey. We'd rather like to see that one.

20. Genie

Movie(s): Aladdin (1992)

First Appearance: The Arabian Nights, dating from the 10th century

Voiced by: Robin Williams


Ever been annoyed by a celebrity voice coming out of a cartoon's mouth? If so, blame this guy, because Robin Williams' electric voice performance as the Genie in this Disney fairytale set something of a fashion for star casting in animation. What most of the copycats missed, however, was the fact that it wasn't Williams' star power that did the job here but his gift for comic improvisation - and the ability of Disney's animators, led by Genie supervising animator Eric Goldberg, to keep up with him - that made the Genie such a memorable, magical character. Also, far too few animated characters turn themselves into rockets.

Stroke of genius

Probably the 'Prince Ali' musical number, which sees the Genie perform the main song but also transform himself into crowd members to start a hundred different rumours as Aladdin, disguised as a prince, makes his triumphal entry into the city.

Fun fact

Robin Williams was allowed to improvise much of his performance, which is pretty unusual in animation. His initial recordings included about 52 separate characters, which Eric Goldberg then took and worked with, picking the funniest bits to animate.

19. Madame Souza

Movies: Belleville Rendezvous / Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003)

First Appearance: Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003)

Voiced by: N/A

Madame Souza

She may be older than most of the characters here, but the grandmother in Belleville Rendezvous is the very definition of indefatigable. When her cyclist grandson is kidnapped by nefarious underworld biking fans, she pedals across oceans with only her faithful dog for company, enduring hardships without number to seek him out. She also endures the all-frog diet of the eccentric triplets of Belleville before finally taking on gangsters and tycoons to rescue her prize. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is dedication.

Stroke of genius

In an unusual approach to sports massage, Madame Souza massages her grandson's overworked calves with an egg beater.

Fun fact

Sylvain Chomet doesn't really like drawing beautiful characters, and much prefers eccentric / ugly looking ladies

18. Totoro

Movies: My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

First Appearance: My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

Voiced by: Hitoshi Takagi


Cuddly, gentle and peace-loving, Totoro is a pure forest spirit who comes to the assistance of people in emotional need. He and his small friends also make kick-ass stuffed toys. Created by Japanese animation king Hayao Miyazaki, his gang resemble a cross between a rabbit and a Moomin, but have a quirky personality all of their own - they carry around bags of acorns (which they use to grow trees), use umbrellas and travel in a cat bus. That's right: a cat that is also a bus. But even amid such cuties, Totoro's round and cuddly self is still our favourite.

Stroke of genius

The beautiful, silent sequence where young heroine Satsuki stands beside Totoro at a bus stop during a storm. Enjoying the sound the falling rain makes on his umbrella, the magical creature grins, then jumps up and down, shaking water from the trees above.

Fun fact

A Totoro plush toy appears briefly in Toy Story 3.

17. Dory

Movies: Finding Nemo (2003), Finding Dory (2016)

First Appearance: Finding Nemo (2003)

Voiced by: Ellen DeGeneres


Animation's answer to Leonard Shelby, Dory is as sunny and good-natured as she is incapable of remembering your name for more than a few moments. Her short-term memory problems make for easy jokes within the context of the film, but as the story builds they acquire immense poignancy as she tries to overcome her limits and remember. Her triumphant realisation that she recognises the name Nemo is a moment of triumph on a par with Rocky conquering those darn steps, or the final mission in Top Gun. You'll never root as hard for any other fish.

Stroke of genius

"I speak whale!" Dory's attempts to communicate with the huge sea mammals involve speaking in long, drawn-out sounds and are utterly hilarious - and even funnier when it turns out that they work.

Fun Fact

The myth that goldfish have a memory of only seconds is not, in fact, true. Experiments with mazes and with feeding routines have shown that their memories last substantially longer - months rather than moments.

16. Cruella de Vil

Movies: 101 Dalmatians

First Appearance: 101 Dalmatians, a 1956 novel by Dodie Smith

Voiced by: Betty Lou Gerson


About as subtle as a Simon Cowell critique, the clue to the true nature of Dodie Smith's great villainess can be found in her name, like Dr. Evil, or Truly Scrumptious, or former Celtic defender Rafael Scheidt. In other words, beware a woman named de Vil, who smokes liberally, cackles malevolently at the drop of a hat, swans around in a car that has a King Kong-sized carbon footprint, and wants to make a fur coat out of the skins of gorgeous little Dalmatian puppies. Oh, and she's called Devil. But it's the OTT nature of Cruella capitalism run rampant, greed gnarled into a snarling mask of hatred - that makes her so memorable, and has sustained the character through animated sequels, live action movies (where Glenn Close had an absolute blast) and even on Broadway. If she doesn't scare you, so the song goes, no evil thing will.

Stroke of genius

Her unique approach to keeping her two henchmen, Jasper and Horace, on her side, constantly slapping them, threatening them and berating them for (admittedly catastrophic) failures. Someone needs to give her a reality show, quick smart.

Fun fact

Forbes ranked Cruella as the thirteenth wealthiest fictional character in 2002, with a net fortune of $875 million. She could buy a Dalmatian farm at that rate.

15. Coraline

Movies: Coraline (2008)

First Appearance: Coraline, a novel by Neil Gaiman, 2002

Voiced by: Dakota Fanning


Neil Gaiman's dark-tinged children's tale combines perfectly with stop-motion genius Henry Selick's signature style, and Coraline herself pops off the screen even without the 3D glasses. She's a fully-realised kid, prone to annoying her parents and going off in a huff and being irritated by a neighbouring geek. But she's also smart, capable and ultimately fearless in seeing off the dark forces that threaten to tear her away from her family, showing that there's more to her than being a brat. She's also a masterpiece of stop-motion animation, with thousands of facial expressions and spot-on pre-adolescent body language.

Stroke of genius

It's the scene where Coraline hangs her hands around a doorknob and swings back and forth, pestering her father for attention while he's trying to work.

Fun fact

To weave the cloth and knit the jumpers used for the film's puppets, the team had to use needles as fine as human hair. Now that's what you call detail work.

14. Tetsuo

Movies: Akira (1988)

First Appearance: Akira manga, from 1982 onwards

Voiced by: Nozomu Sazaki


You know how motorcycle gang members are. Tetsuo's always been the odd man out, reliant on his friend Kaneda for support and protection. But when he is picked up by government scientists, and starts experiencing strange headaches, it becomes clear that Tetsuo may have more going on upstairs than anyone realised. It's the slow and nightmarish realisation of what that power involves that sets Tetsuo's story apart from most other animation, and his descent into a sort of madness is infinitely compelling - even if, as is traditional with manga, you have only the haziest idea what's going on.

Stroke of genius

It's probably the scene where Tetsuo's girlfriend, Kaori, tries to talk to him after he's started to go super-mental, regrowing his own arm and on the run from the government.

Fun fact

Wondering what's happened to that live-action Akira that's been talked about for so long? Well, it's still apparently a go project, with producer Andrew Lazar saying earlier this year that a new screenwriter had been brought aboard.

13. Buzz Lightyear

Movies: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Toy Story 4

First Appearance: Toy Story (1995)

Voiced by: Tim Allen


The beauty of Buzz Lightyear is that, beneath the superficiality of the initial premise he's an utterly delusional toy who thinks he's a real Space Ranger there's real emotional depth and endless capacity for reinvention. Witness Toy Story 3's neat reprogramming gag, wherein Buzz becomes a flamenco-flecked Spanish-language toy, complete with an eye for the ladies and neat dance moves. But we love Buzz for so much more than that. We love him because of his bluster. We love him because of his never-say-die spirit. We love him because he's a leader of plastic men. We love him because he's faintly ridiculous. We love him because Tim Allen's macho voice work is so perfect that it almost removes the universe's need for William Shatner to exist. We love him because he has a little light that blinks. We love him because he. Is. A. Toy. And sometimes that's all you need.

Stroke of genius

At the end of Toy Story 2, when Buzz witnesses Jessie's astonishing acrobatics, and suffers a slight case of premature ejection. Bit of blue there, for the dads.

Fun fact

Buzz Lightyear's name was inspired by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin acknowledged the tribute when he pulled a Buzz Lightyear doll out during a speech at NASA, to rapturous cheers. He did not, however, receive any endorsement fees for the use of his first name.

12. Lilo

Movies: Lilo & Stitch, Stitch (2003), Lilo & Stitch 2 (2005), Leroy & Stitch (2006)

First Appearance: Lilo & Stitch (2002)

Voiced by: Daveigh Chase


Alien mayhem machine Stitch steals the show, of course, but in terms of character he isn't a patch on his human counterpart, the adorable Lilo. A recognisably flawed little girl, she's often moody and badly behaved, and has a creepy/cute fondness for things that are ugly or deformed. She causes absolute disaster for her older sister on any number of occasions - but she's also loving and clearly wounded by the tragic death of her parents. Few cartoon characters manage to pack so much into such a small frame.

Stroke of genius

Lying on the floor, listening to Elvis after suffering a bad day, Lilo's an inspiration to us all.

Fun fact

In a pre-9/11 version of the script, Stitch flew a jumbo jet through downtown Honolulu to save Lilo from the aliens. But after that tragedy, this was changed to the existing spaceship chase through the mountains of Kaua'i.

11. Puss In Boots

Movies: Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek The Third (2007), Shrek Forever After (2010), Puss In Boots (2011), Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

First Appearance: Shrek 2 (2004)

Voiced by: Antonio Banderas, Eric Bauza, Frank Welker (meowing)

Puss in Boots

The chief failing of the Shrek series is that the title character has always been a little bland, and always a lot overshadowed by the more colourful supporting cast. But who cares when, as in the case of Puss In Boots, they're this entertaining? A glorious reimagining of the swashbuckling charm of Zorro, transplanting his derring-do spirit and Latino swagger into the body of a cat just about higher than the boots he wears, Puss In Boots gave Shrek 2 a welcome shot in the arm just as Shrek and Donkey's banter was beginning to wear thin. Voiced to perfection by Banderas, it's Puss' loyalty, his indomitability in the face of overwhelming odds, his supreme self-confidence, and his ability to make his eyes as big as Lazy Susans, that make him more than worthy of his own spin-off. The only mercy we'll be praying for is from laughter.

Stroke of genius

His introduction in Shrek 2 when, mid-grandiose speech, he begins to choke and splutter, eyes bulging out of his head like a Pierluigi Collina tribute band. Furball, he sighs, apologetically. Beautiful.

Fun fact

Banderas voices Puss in the Spanish language versions of Shrek as well.

10. Dug

Movies: Up (2009)

First Appearance: Cameo in Ratatouille (2007)

Voiced by: Bob Peterson


Many films have presented us with animals made human, but few have managed to give an animal speech but still keep their essential personality intact. Three cheers then for Dug, a recognisably doggy dog whose unfailing cheer and surprising complexity lift the second half of the film almost to the heights of that unforgettable opening. While his backstory is further developed in the (delightful) DVD short Dug's Special Mission, it's really all onscreen, with the dog's good nature vying with his insecurity and unhappiness under his old pack, and euphoria at meeting Russell and Carl, and the many distractions of life as a dog. Lassie eat your heart out: this is cinema's best dog.

Stroke of genius


Fun fact

Doug (sort of) appears in Ratatouille, as the instantly recognisable shadow of a dog who threatens Remy while he makes his way through French apartment buildings. For maximum doggy authenticity

9. Dumbo

Movies: Dumbo (1941)

First Appearance: Dumbo (1941)

Voiced by: N/A


Oh, Dumbo. There aren't enough tear ducts or heartstrings in the world to absorb the emotional impact of the little elephant who thought and could, as it happens fly. So cute it looks like he was engineered in a lab, Disney's mute pachyderm uses his big eyes and bigger mudflaps to endlessly expressive effect, as he rises from beleaguered whipping boy to star of the show in 64 glorious minutes. Now that's storytelling.

Stroke of genius

The bizarre sequence where Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse get inadvertently drunk and see a parade of pink elephants; a symbol of a happier, more innocent time. Nowadays, Dumbo would have a traffic cone on his hand and wake up to find Timothy Q. Mouse dipping his hand in a bucket of warm water, and putting it on the internet.

Fun fact

Dumbo was bumped off the cover of Time magazine in December 1941 by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Well, not so much a fun' fact, but you can't have everything.

8. The Iron Giant

Movies: The Iron Giant (1999)

First Appearance: The Iron Giant (1999)

Voiced by: Vin Diesel

The Iron Giant

If you're not quite sure why everyone's looking forward to Brad Bird's take on Mission: Impossible IV, check out this beautiful and moving adaptation of Ted Hughes' already-powerful children's book. Bird's film may have sunk without a trace at the box office, but it's one of the great animated films, a tale of friendship, tolerance and fear for the ages. The Iron Giant himself, voiced with surprisingly delicacy by Vin Diesel, manages to be by turns mysterious, childlike, warlike and heroic. His final decision to emulate his comic-book hero, Superman, will break your heart.

Stroke of genius

The devastatingly emotional last act. Remember the first time you watched ET and he went home at the end and you cried all the way home from the cinema? It's like that.

Fun fact

Even though this is a traditionally 2D animated film, the Iron Giant himself is entirely computer generated. They just added a slight wobble to his lines to make him look handdrawn and help him to fit in with the other kids characters.

7. Maleficent

Movies: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

First Appearance: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Voiced by: Eleanor Audley


Hands down, no argument, the greatest animated villain ever. She's sexy, she's sensuous - in a Disney cartoon! - and she can TURN INTO A DRAGON. For added badassishness, she takes revenge on poor, defenceless infants in retaliation for perceived social snubs. Yes, if you fail to invite her to your next soiree, she'll probably curse your baby to a future as Sarah Palin or something. OK, so technically she's a fairy, which sounds neither scary nor powerful, but this lady is to normal fairies what Michael Phelps is to the Water Babies class at your local leisure centre. Her only flaw? Hiring cinema's least competent henchmen.

Stroke of genius

She turns into a frickin' dragon; what more do you need? Although we do also like her twisted scheme to imprison Prince Charming until he's decrepit and only then let him rescue Sleeping Beauty.

Fun fact

The sound of Maleficent's dragon fire was created properly, with the use of a flame-thrower, not any namby-pamby mixing desk. The sound of the dragon's teeth snapping, however, was recorded using castanets for a little Spanish flavour.

6. Jessica Rabbit

Movies: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

First Appearance: Who Censored Roger Rabbit, a 1981 novel by Gary K. Wolf

Voiced by: Kathleen Turner (voice), Amy Irving (song)

Jessica Rabbit

I'm not bad, drawls Jessica Rabbit, I'm just drawn that way. She can say that again. The loyal (as it turns out) wife of the incredibly annoying rabbit (seriously, what does she see in that guy, other than a way with a carrot?) is drawn many ways, all of them guilty as sin. With the sort of measurements that would put your eye out in 3D, she's a sultry, sleazy siren, the ultimate femme fatale, the sort of broad who inspires involuntary wolf whistles and bad Raymond Chandler-a-like writing, like a wet Wednesday that just won't quit until Thursday. But there's more to her than just the sort of lines that would clean sweep America's Next Top Model there's a pure heart and ready wit beneath that magnificent exterior. In short, men want to be with her, women want to be her and a rabbit gets to schtup her. Whadda dame.

Stroke of genius

Her eye-and-other-parts-popping entrance, singing a torch song (Why Don't You Do Right?) that has every guy in the room planning a divorce, or worse. For the song, director Robert Zemeckis brought in Amy Irving, Steven Spielberg's ex-missus to sing, instead of Kathleen Turner's husky whisper.

Fun fact

57 year-old British grandmother, Annette Edwards, has spent thousands of pounds on plastic surgery and more to turn herself into the living embodiment of Jessica Rabbit. Judge for yourself if it's worked.

5. Marji

Movie(s): Persepolis (2007)

First Appearance: Persepolis, a 2000 graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi

Voiced by: Gabrielle Lopez Benitez, Chiara Mastroianni


Arguably, Marji is a bit of a cheat, what with being based on a real-live human being - who, for bonus points, wrote the book and co-directed this film. But however you look at it, this is one fully-fleshed 2D black-and-white character, a little girl who thinks she's destined to be a prophet but who soon gets distracted by the lure of rock music and boys, and turned off religion by the increasing turbulence and fanaticism in her Iranian home. While the grown up Marjane is undoubtedly (even) more complex and realistic, it's her childhood self we fell in love with, all high ideals and crazy schemes.

Stroke of genius

We don't approve, but the scene where young Marji and friends decide to torture a classmate whose father is in prison is shocking, but brilliant; funny and disturbing in equal measure.

Fun fact

Two of the French voice cast, Chiara Mastroianni (the adult Marjane) and Catherine Deneuve (her grandmother) voiced the same parts in the English dub of the movie. Multi-lingual!

4. Wall-E

Movie(s): Wall-E (2008)

First Appearance: Cameo in Cars (2006)

Voiced by: Ben Burtt


Proof, if proof were needed, that strong silent types are infinitely preferable to their chattier counterparts, Wall-E is an almost-mute waste-shifting robot who is easily the most adorable automaton ever created. With R2D2 genius Ben Burtt giving him a voice comprised chiefly of exclamations, hums and snippets of the Hello Dolly soundtrack. Combined with Pixar's genius for creating character with the twitch of an eye-shade, and you have someone who won audience hearts in about ten seconds flat, despite being rusty and rickety and probably smelling of trash. No mean feat for a guy who hangs out with a cockroach.

Stroke of genius

As Wall-E files away his newly acquired items after his shift one day, he hesitates over a spork should it go with his spoon collection or his forks? Finally, he decides to place it inbetween the two. Adorable!

Fun fact

In the tradition of Pixar hiding clues to their upcoming films in new releases, Wall-E appears in the background of one shot in Cars, and in 2D, handdrawn animated form on the Ratatouille DVD, driving a bus in the short film Our Friend the Rat.

3. Baloo

Movie(s): The Jungle Book (1967), The Jungle Book 2 (2003)

First Appearance: The Jungle Book, an 1894 novel by Rudyard Kipling

Voiced by: Phil Harris; John Goodman


Most bears will rip your face off as soon as look at you. You think Yogi hasn't racked up some collateral damage en route to ransacking those pic-a-nick baskets? But Baloo, aka the bear who takes Mowgli under his, erm, wing in The Jungle Book and shows him what's what and who's who, is the type to give bears a good name again after that unfortunate Grizzly Man business. Lovable, jolly and full of homespun wisdom, Baloo is a freewheeling grifter and grinder, the sort of creature who it's impossible not to warm to, even if he does sometimes consort with the shadier creatures the jungle has to offer. And when he lies', face down in that big old puddle, it just about rips your heart out. Even on a second viewing.

Stroke of genius

As Baloo puts it so well, look for those bare necessities, those simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and strife...

Fun fact

Gregory Peck was President of the Academy when The Jungle Book came out, and lobbied hard to get his fellows to accept the film as a nominee or possible winner for Best Picture. Sadly, he was unsuccessful.

2. Woody

Movie(s): Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010)

First Appearance: Toy Story (1995)

Voiced by: Tom Hanks


How could we separate Woody and Buzz, you ask? Well, because Woody just edges his spacey BFF in the character stakes, springing fully-formed from the screen as a living, breathing, er, child's plaything. He always tries to do the right thing, but it's not always easy for him, and Pixar's genius lies in showing that even such a Dudley Do-Righter sometimes wishes he could take the easier road. Still, his intense loyalty to his friends, palpable humanity and the deeply emotional character arc he's given put Woody head and shoulders above the rest.

Stroke of genius

The look on his face as he tries to choose between going to college with Andy and abandoning his friends forever in Toy Story 3.

Fun fact

Boundin' director Bud Luckey was instrumental in the creation of Woody, changing him from a ventriloquist's dummy, as originally planned, into the cowboy that we all know and love - and Andy was named after Bud's son, who's also become an animator.

1. Gromit

Movie(s): Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), numerous shorts

First Appearance: A Grand Day Out (1988)

Voiced by: N/A


Gromit doesn't ever say a word, but there has never been a more expressive character (animated or otherwise) to grace our screens. The long-suffering companion to inventor Wallace, Gromit is a mechanical genius in his own right, a vegetable-grower par excellence and an unfailing example of British pluck and can-do spirit. He also boasts a flair for deadpan that Buster Keaton would be proud of and the ability to let us know exactly what he's thinking with no more than the twitch of an ear. With the fingerprints of genius animators all over him (literally), Gromit is an example to us all.

Stroke of genius

While The Wrong Trousers' train chase takes some beating, our favourite is Gromit's realisation that the Were-Rabbit is in fact Wallace!

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