Working at the Car Wash

Shark Tale is the movie equivalent of “Sleeping with the fishes.” Next to Antz, the second most obvious DreamWorks Animation copycat movie is definitely Shark Tale. It only came out a year after Finding Nemo, but it’s obvious which one is better. Shark Tale is objectively the worst DreamWorks animated movie ever made. It has a serious identity crisis that mixes everything that worked for Shrek with serious adult themes, a celebrity cast, and lowest common denominator pop culture references. Think “gangster” meets “gangsta” with anthropomorphic humanoid fish people. I know it’s technically bad, but I still really enjoy Shark Tale even now. Not enough to think it deserved a Best Animated Feature nomination (it was a slow year), but I was 9 when my dad took my brother and I to see it. So it was still a prominent edition in my DVD collection. Even though it took me several years to fully understand the bizarre amount of mob movie references.

I wasn’t even into hip hop at the time, so my main draw was Will Smith. He bares an uncomfortable resemblance to his bluestreak cleaner wrasse character Oscar. Smith does his thing, but I’m sure he’s just as embarrassed as most of the other celebrities in the movie. Shark Tale is at least 60% fish puns (Katie Current for example). Complete with fish themed real world advertisements. Oscar is a lowly tongue scrubber at the local Whale Wash. He uses get rich quick schemes in an effort to reach the top of the reef. Renée Zellweger brings her usual best to angelfish Angie. The typical nice girl coworker secretly in love with the lead. Most fish give Oscar a hard time including his boss’ right hands Ernie and Bernie the Jamaican jellyfish. Despite being a kids movie, several gangster movie/TV heavyweights lend their voice to shark mob families. Robert De Niro is shark Don Lino and Martin Scorsese himself voices Oscar’s pufferfish boss Sykes. Oscar’s biggest problem is getting in deep with loan sharks and having to pay back his boss at the seahorse track. Which attracts the attention of Angelina Jolie as sexy lionfish gold digger Lola.

The plot kicks in when Oscar’s story intersects with Don Lino’s sons Frankie and the far less fearsome Lenny. Pre-Po Jack Black voices gay metaphor Lenny who just wants to be a vegetarian. He also dresses like a dolphin later on if it wasn’t obvious. When Frankie is killed by an anchor, Oscar takes credit as the “Sharkslayer.” Turning him into a rich somebody, but when Lenny swims back into his life, they become unlikely friends and keep the lie going. Until the mob catches up to them and the lie comes out. Ending in another big Shrek or Shrek 2 style party complete with a hip hop version of “Car Wash” sung by fish Missy Elliot and jellyfish Christina Aguilera. Apart from some genuinely fun bits like the shrimp scene, it’s mostly a bunch of unnecessary gross out gags. The computer animation has the underwater look, but it’s actually pretty ugly to look at. Fish faces will probably creep out the uninitiated. The hip hop soundtrack has several classics, but it’s just as out of place as everything else. Shark Tale is a fishy guilty pleasure that DreamWorks probably wants to forget.

6. Shark Tale

Oscar makes a plan with Lenny

A Bad Kitty

Puss in Boots is Zorro with way more cat jokes. After stealing the show several times, Antonio Banderas was finally promoted to lead character in his own spin-off. A Puss in Boots movie had been in development ever since his debut in Shrek 2. With the Shrek franchise coming to an end, this was the only way DreamWorks Animation could continue with the world. Turns out a more focused swashbuckling adventure was exactly what they needed to regain a Best Animated Feature nomination. Puss is every bit the troublemaking Latin lover he’s always been, but now crude pop culture jokes can’t distract from his potential.

Puss in Boots was once an orphan living in the fictional Spanish town San Ricardo. His mama Imelda loved him and an act of bravery earned him his signature pair of boots. Until a terrible betrayal made him a legendary feline outlaw. Puss in Boots pretty much uses any remaining fairy tales not used in the Shrek films. Puss tries to clear his name with magic beans that lead to the Beanstalk containing a goose that lays golden eggs. The beans are in the possession of a villainous married Jack & Jill voiced by Billy Bob Thornton & Amy Sedaris. They don’t have much character outside of Jack wanting a baby. Puss’ bean job is thwarted by his female boot wearing black cat counterpart Kitty Softpaws. A role that could only be filled by Salma Hayek. It’s a Desperado reunion afterall.

The final piece of the puzzle is Humpty Dumpty himself. A bad egg voiced by Zach Galifianakis who has a history with Puss. Humpty is an eggy Da Vinci who was also an orphan obsessed with finding magic beans. Kitty is working for Humpty and they make a deal to retrieve the golden eggs with Puss. Except Humpty is really in it for revenge. With the Giant pre-defeated, their only obstacle is the baby goose’s giant mother. An elderly Jack tells Puss the whole story. In the end, Puss saves the town, redeems Humpty, and romances Kitty. With the influence of Guillermo del Toro, Puss in Boots was way better than it needed to be. The computer animation is still heavily detailed like Shrek, but it makes the presentation that much better. Puss in Boots is a bad kitty in a good movie.

21. Puss in Boots

Puss duels

Spin-Off of: Shrek 2

It’s a Fairy Tale Life

Shrek Forever After is stronger than Shrek the Third, but not by much. There’s still no competition between Shrek and Shrek 2. Even with the intention of making it The Final Chapter. DreamWorks Animation had changed so much since 2001 that their style barely matched the original movie anymore. DreamWorks finally found their own voice separate from Disney & Pixar and were no longer making movies out of spite. So a fourth and final Shrek movie wasn’t exactly special in 2010. Unlike Toy Story 3 released the same year, Shrek Forever After almost completely lost its adult appeal. Gone was the innuendo and occasional profanity of their glory days. Shrek is a family ogre with his wife Fiona and babies Fergus, Fargel, and Felicia. His swamp is a tourist attraction, Donkey, Dragon, and Puss in Boots drop by for playdates, and no one fears Shrek like they used to.

Shrek Forever After was the last major film role for Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy was stuck making kids movies, and Cameron Diaz was nearing the end of her career. Antonio Banderas was frankly the only actor getting something out of the final installment. With all other villains used up, Rumpelstiltskin became the primary antagonist. Just not the ordinary looking one from Shrek the Third. This Rumpel is cartoony with an annoying voice, a giant goose, several mood wigs, and a penchant for making sleazy deals. When Shrek’s goofy life pushes him too far, he makes a deal with Rumpel to have a day as a real ogre. Things come full circle with an It’s a Wonderful Life twist. As Shrek unknowingly gave up the day of his birth, he finds himself with one day to set things right. Since King Harold and Queen Lillian once made a deal with Rumpel, he inherited their kingdom. In this alternate reality, witches run rampant, Donkey is a cart mule, Puss is a fat cat without boots, and Fiona rescued herself from the tower. Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf are also dealing with the dystopian fairy tale kingdom.

Shrek tries to convince Donkey they’re friends, but most importantly, he tries to make Fiona fall in love with him. Easier said than done, since Fiona is now a cynical ogre warrior leading a resistance of ogres. The only time we see ogres other than Shrek or Fiona. Most of them are voiced by a celebrity cast that has their moments, but don’t make much of an impact. Things take a turn when Rumpel hires the Pied Piper to capture the ogres. Fiona starts to come around, but she doesn’t love Shrek just yet. Not until he helps her fight Dragon and take down Rumpel. I was sad to see Shrek go, but of course they live happily ever after. Ending with a party in the swamp set to “I’m a Believer,” followed by a montage of past movies. I saw every Shrek movie in theaters from age 5 to age 14. The far advanced computer animation was the main reason for it seeming out of place. Aside from a Christmas & Halloween special, stage musical, and several minor appearances, Shrek Forever After was the last we’d seen of the lovable ogre. Shrek Forever After did its best to go out on a high note.

18. Shrek Forever After

Shrek makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin

Preceded by: Shrek the Third

Ogre Babies

Shrek the Third is the royally designated third installment in the ever growing Shrek franchise. I continued to enjoy all DreamWorks Animation movies regardless of quality, but even at 11 I couldn’t pretend to enjoy Shrek the Third. It wasn’t half the classic that Shrek or Shrek 2 were. Similar to the closely released Spider-Man trilogy, the first movie is great, the second movie is better, and the third movie is a complete disappointment. Shrek the Third has its moments, but their mistake was forgetting what made Shrek so good in the first place. There’s an overreliance on childish humor, pop culture references are more cringy, and the soundtrack isn’t that memorable. My brother and I were still on board and Shrek the Third was actually the last movie our dad took us to see as a chaperone. Even though we were starting to see movies by ourselves at that point, my dad still wanted to see what came next for Shrek. I’m not sure if it’s the director change, but Shrek the Third barely feels like the same franchise. Even with Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas returning, none of them are as funny as usual.

Naturally the next choice of villain has to be Rupert Everett returning as Prince Charming. He’s on a quest for revenge against Shrek for killing his Fairy Godmother mother and taking his kingdom from him. So Charming devises a plan with other fairy tale villains at the Poison Apple to seize the throne. Villains include Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, enchanted trees, dwarfs (for some reason), and other ugly stepsister Mabel voiced by other talk show personality Regis Philbin. Another problem with Shrek the Third is their over reliance of celebrity voices outside of the main cast. Meanwhile in Far Far Away, Shrek is forced to do kingly responsibilities with his wife Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots’ help. Donkey’s dronkey babies are featured characters now too. Since Shrek is still just an ogre, he’d much prefer someone else be king. After Frog King Harold’s seriously drawn out death, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss set out to find the remaining heir. King Arthur of course. Things just get complicated when Shrek and Fiona’s marriage makes the next obvious progression. As Shrek deals with the nightmare of being an ogre father, Fiona is having her own ladies only party. The most on the nose Disney jab by far is the somewhat unflattering use of various Princesses.

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, and Cheri Oteri join the cast as Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. In a group that also includes Queen Lillian, Doris, and already familiar fairy tale creatures Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf. Their material is especially lame, but the badass scene with the Princesses is pretty fun. Rapunzel is unsurprisingly working with Charming since she wasn’t a Disney Princess at the time. All the while Shrek, Donkey, and Puss visit Worcestershire Academy where we’re treated to a whole bunch of Arthurian high school jokes. There’s teenage Gwen and Lancelot, but Shrek is only here for Artie. Justin Timberlake does his thing, but he was really more singer than actor at the time. Artie’s main purpose is helping Shrek explore parenthood. They get help from a cooky Merlin voiced by Eric Idle who accidentally causes Puss and Donkey to switch places. It doesn’t add much. The climax is Charming attempting to assassinate Shrek live on stage. Artie uses diplomacy to turn the villains to good and Dragon finishes off Charming. Ending with Shrek and Fiona having ogre triplets back at the swamp. The only moderately memorable song is Puss and Donkey singing “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” during the credits. The computer animation has an old fashioned charm, but most of it was wasted on a lackluster story. Shrek the Third should be kept far far away from the franchise.

10. Shrek the Third

Shrek and Fiona get dolled up

Preceded by: Shrek 2 & Followed by: Shrek Forever After

Far Far Away

Shrek 2 is the first of many DreamWorks Animation sequels. After a minor slump of poorly performing traditionally animated movies, Shrek 2 became the highest grossing animated movie at the time. With a nearly billion dollar box-office gross. Ensuring the studios exclusive focus on computer animation for years to come. If Shrek is the Toy Story of DreamWorks, then Shrek 2 is their Toy Story 2. Even after 3 years, Shrek 2 managed to be a rare sequel that matched or even surpassed the original. Ogre mania was in full effect once again in 2004. The only major Shrek media at the time was the Universal attraction Shrek 4-D.

Which took place immediately after the first movie with the ghost of Lord Farquaad haunting the cast. With that plot thread out of the way, Shrek 2 made an effort to do something different. While at the same time polishing its computer animation. So they did a fairy tale take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sensing a hit, the three main stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy all requested a raise. Shrek 2 doubled the Disney parodies, pop culture references, and songs on its contemporary soundtrack. While remaining sincere enough to earn another Best Animated Feature nomination. They lost to Pixar again, but that doesn’t make Shrek 2 any less of an accomplishment…

4. Shrek 2

Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona travel to Far Far Away

Shrek 2 was every bit the childhood favorite Shrek was. It was just a prominent edition in my DVD collection instead of VHS collection. Since 3 years passed, I was 8 years old when my dad took my brother and I to see Shrek 2 in theaters. I remember the experience a lot better since there was a couple of chatty old ladies in the audience. That didn’t take away from the absolutely hilarious sequel. It helped that I was older and able to pick up on pop culture references a lot better. This time there’s way more than just friendly jabs at Disney. Once upon a time, Princess Fiona was cursed by a witch to become an ogre every night. What we don’t know is that her parents made a deal with a Fairy Godmother to have Prince Charming rescue her. Right off the bat I recognized Rupert Everett’s devilishly charming voice as Prince Charming. Like Fiona, Charming is another direct critique of Disney Princes. Since Charming is a pompous airhead who only cares about his looks. He’s a little late in saving Fiona when he discovers the Big Bad Wolf in her place.

Shrek and Fiona are already well into their honeymoon at the Witch’s gingerbread house. Shrek farts his way back into our hearts with a romantically gross honeymoon with appearances from Little Red Riding Hood, the Little Mermaid, fairies, dwarfs, and parodies of The Lord of Rings and Spider-Man. It’s a delightfully cynical sequence set to the catchy tune of Best Original Song nominee “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. Unlike most fairy tales, Shrek 2 takes place after happily ever after. Shrek and Fiona are happily married, but face relationship problems when they receive a royal invitation from the King and Queen of Far Far Away. Of course Donkey is still around to talk everyone’s ear off. Shrek reluctantly takes the far far away trip in their onion carriage to see the In-laws. It’s just as awkward as you’d expect. Adding to the already perfect cast are the respectable John Cleese and Julie Andrews as King Harold and Queen Lillian.

They’re admittedly shocked to see Fiona married to an ogre, but the Queen isn’t dismissive like the King. Their royal feast is a hilarious comedy of errors made better by Donkey’s presence. Unfortunately, it’s not what Fiona was hoping for. So she unintentionally contacts her Fairy Godmother with a tear. The Fairy Godmother is quite the character. She’s showy with a demanding attitude and treats her job like a business. I’m not too familiar with Jennifer Saunders, but she was perfectly cast as the normally good fairy with an ulterior motive. Turns out the Fairy Godmother is Prince Charming’s mom who made a deal with the King in exchange for his own happily ever after. The King reluctantly honors their deal by hiring a sleazy hitman to wack Shrek. He enters the Poison Apple full of fairy tale villains like Captain Hook, enchanted trees, the Headless Horseman, and one of the ugly stepsisters. Doris is made funnier by her masculine appearance and Larry King voice.

The King hires a shadowy figure with a Spanish accent and has Shrek meet him in the forest. Shrek tries to make an effort with Fiona’s parents after reading her diary full of “Mrs. Fiona Charming” passages. Shrek and Donkey instead come face to face with the biggest scene stealer in Shrek 2. Puss in Boots is an existing fairy tale character who actually faced an ogre in his story. Antonio Banderas turned him into an adorable orange swashbuckling latin lover cat with a feathered hat, sword, and cute little boots. Puss is by far the best new character since the original trio. He humorously attacks Shrek, but melts his heart with his signature cat eyes. Donkey is understandably threatened by another talking animal companion. Fortunately Puss was just what their duo needed. Shrek is willing to do anything for Fiona, so he uses Donkey’s tear to contact the Fairy Godmother.

They travel to her potion factory with hopes of making Shrek the man of Fiona’s dreams, but the Fairy Godmother is definitely the villain of the story. Instead they break into her potion stash and Puss obtains “Happily Ever After” potion. A potion that’ll make you and your true love beautiful. Shrek and Donkey take the potion with gassy results. “Better out than in I always say.” I’ll never forget my shock when they both wake up the next day. Shrek is turned into a handsome human and Donkey is turned into a majestic stallion for the remainder of the movie. Fairy tale lasses faun over Shrek and he’s finally accepted by villagers. The spell was also an opportunity to get Fiona back to human form. Unfortunately, Prince Charming got to her before Shrek did. Fairy Godmother manipulates Shrek into leaving and wallowing in the Poison Apple. However, things change when they discover Godmother’s plan to force Fiona to fall in love with Charming using a love potion.

The royal ball is a star studded affair hosted by Joan Rivers herself with the likes of Hansel & Gretel, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, and Sleeping Beauty as guests. Meanwhile, Gingy, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Wolf, and Three Blind Mice are all at the swamp watching the show on the Magic Mirror. They turn to a hilarious parody of Cops called Knights where Shrek, Donkey, and Puss are maced by a pepper grater and sent to the dungeon. One Mission: Impossible parody later, the fairy tale posse frees the trio with the help of Pinocchio’s lady’s underwear. The next plan is to use Gingy’s relation to the Muffin Man to bake a giant gingerbread man named Mongo. The action packed climax is full of great jokes like the Starbucks gag and Mongo’s Godzilla roar, but it’s made better by the best rendition of “I Need a Hero” ever recorded. Every fairy tale creature uses their skills to get the Fairy Godmother’s wand. It seems like it’s too late when Charming kisses Fiona, but luckily the King made the right decision. He sacrifices himself to deflect Fairy Godmother’s magic onto her and he’s revealed to have been the Frog Prince all along.

The Queen still accepts him for who he is and so does Fiona. Shrek and Fiona turn back into ogres, but Donkey doesn’t have much of a choice. It’s still a fiesta though, so Puss and Donkey team up to deliver another infectious final party number of “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” And they once again lived happily ever after. Until a mid-credit scene cameo for Dragon that reveals why she was absent. Turns out Donkey and Dragon somehow managed to have mutant dragon-donkey babies. The weirdness doesn’t stop there. The DVD also came with a bizarre American Idol parody short called Far Far Away Idol. Where Simon Cowell himself has you vote on performance’s done by the movie’s fairy tale contestants. Shrek 2 can’t touch the original, but it is a major improvement. The computer animation is so much better with a much larger cast of humans. Existing characters like human Fiona are polished a bit with a more refined appearance. Hair, clothing, and Puss in Boots’ fur were given the most attention to detail. Far Far Away is a great new location that sets up an even more epic conclusion. Shrek 2 accidentally became the most successful computer animated DreamWorks movie ever made.

5. Shrek 2

Shrek travels with Donkey and Puss in Boots

Preceded by: Shrek & Followed by: Shrek the Third

What are You Doing in My Swamp?!

Shrek is the greatest subversion of fairy tales I’ve ever seen. Although it’s technically their fifth production and second computer animated film, Shrek will always be the poster ogre for DreamWorks Animation. Since Shrek was the first animated movie to win the much needed Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Making them genuine competition for Disney and Pixar. I may have grown up loving all things Disney, but DreamWorks was never far behind. Despite the obvious heated rivalry between the studios. Shrek! was originally a crudely drawn children’s book by William Steig.

Steven Spielberg himself bought the rights with the intention of making it a traditionally animated movie. Former disgruntled Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg promptly acquired the rights to Shrek and intended to make a computer animated movie with Chris Farley as the ogre. When Farly passed away, the role was recast instead. So fellow SNL star Mike Myers took over and the rest is history. The humorous spin on fairy tales may take several jabs at Disney, but Shrek works because they never forget to tell a sincere story with a genuinely lovable unlikely hero. We have Shrek to thank for popularizing innuendos in kids movies, pop culture references, and upbeat pop music soundtracks for animation…

2. Shrek

Shrek explains layers to Donkey

Shrek was a very prominent edition in my VHS collection growing up. The tape included a fun karaoke short film. I was 5 when Shrek came out in 2001, but I remember every detail of seeing it. My dad took my brother and I to see it in theaters and we’ve been watching it non-stop ever since. We bought Shrek toys, merchandise, and I frequently quoted the movie around the school yard. Shrek is practically the animated movie of my generation. Since its inspired countless memes and a large internet presence. DreamWorks really knew what they were doing when they created Shrek. Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess trapped in a castle guarded by a dragon awaiting true love’s kiss. At least that’s how it would start if Shrek wasn’t the one reading the fairy tale.

With a flush of a toilet we’re given one of the greatest animated character entrances of all time. As Shrek goes about his gross morning routine to the tune of “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Shrek is the most iconic ogre of all time. He’s a fantasy creature that hasn’t gotten much attention in the past. Shrek is large with distinctly green skin, trademark horn ears, a snazzy fairy tale outfit, and is far less hideous than his book counterpart. Although Chris Farley gave it his all, Mike Myers will always be Shrek. Using his signature Scottish accent was a stroke of genius that made Shrek an even bigger icon worthy of imitating. Like most ogres, Shrek spreads fear and just wants to be left alone in his swamp home. Until fairy tale creatures end up on his doorstep.

All well known fairy tale creatures are outlawed by the kingdom. There’s the Seven Dwarfs, Tinkerbell, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, and even Gepetto giving away a lying Pinocchio. I love Disney, but I can’t resist a good joke at their expense. The most out of place creature is a certain talking jackass named Donkey. Eddie Murphy is no stranger to voicing animated comic relief, but his comedy stylings are perfectly suited for the adult edge of DreamWorks. When Shrek and Donkey literally run into each other, it starts one of the funniest buddy duos in animation history. Their initial meeting is so quotable that Shrek was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. A rare Oscar acknowledgment for animation. Shrek sees Donkey as just another annoyance at first, but they’re forced to be together when his swamp fills up with even more fairy tale creatures. Including the Three Blind Mice, the Big Bad Wolf, the Good Fairies, and so much more.

They’re all thrown out of the kingdom by the villainous Lord Farquaad. A not so subtle jab at current Disney chairman Michael Eisner. Farquaad is a diminutive little creep who hates fairy tale creatures and wants to be king. John Lithgow makes him all the more hilarious with his torture of poor Gingerbread Man Gingy. Their “Muffin Man” exchange is comedy gold. Farquaad uses the Magic Mirror to find a princess à la The Dating Game. His choices are Cinderella, Snow White, and the original Princess Fiona. His scene stealing minion Thelonious helps him make the obvious choice. Farquaad’s kingdom is a further jab at Disneyland complete with mascot and an annoyingly catchy “It’s a Small World” parody. Shrek starts to win over the crowd when he and Donkey beat a bunch of Farquaad’s knights pro wrestling style.

Although his only intention was getting his swamp back, Shrek is instead sent on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Shrek and Donkey eventually make it to the dark and spooky castle. The Dragon seems like a major threat, but all that changes when Donkey discovers she’s a girl dragon. Starting one of the weirdest interspecies relationships in movie history. Shrek makes it to the tallest tower, but an ogre wasn’t exactly what Fiona was expecting. Of course the most Disney jokes come from Princess Fiona. Whether she’s exploding a bird with her singing or awaiting true love’s kiss. However, Fiona is a tough sassy princess with a red braid and signature green dress. Cameron Diaz rounds out the early 2000’s cast with some of her best work yet. Fiona judges Shrek for being an ogre until she overhears him talking to Donkey at night. Shrek has layers just like an onion and only wants to be accepted.

So Shrek and Fiona start to bond over their shared grossness. Gross out gags work really well when the lead character is an ogre. Fiona shows another side of her when a French Robin Hood tries to sweep her off her feet, then sings his impromptu theme song. One Matrix parody later, Fiona shows off her unexpected fighting skills. They may be an ogre and a human, but Shrek and Fiona’s unconventional budding romance is genuinely sweet. Until sundown ruins it for the both of them. Since it turns out Fiona secretly becomes an ogre every night. A misunderstanding keeps them apart, but Donkey talks some sense into Shrek, and Dragon helps them stop the wedding. Farquaad is finally defeated when Dragon eats him and the spell is broken with true love’s kiss.

Except the twist is Fiona remaining an ogre and both of them accepting each other for who they are. A big fairy tale party breaks out as Shrek and Fiona are married to the infectious tune of “I’m a Believer” and they lived happily ever after. Shrek has a strong story, hilarious jokes, and an awesome soundtrack, but none of it would’ve mattered without equally amazing animation. The computer animation has aged surprisingly well since 2001. The Pacific Data Images animation used by DreamWorks was pretty much on par with Pixar. The difference was how realistic they tried to make hair, fur, clothing, and skin. Although humans can be a bit rough at times, they make up for it with several well rendered fairy tale backgrounds and locations. Shrek is a pop culture phenomenon that put DreamWorks on the map.

3. Shrek

Shrek bonds with Princess Fiona

Followed by: Shrek 2

Insectopia

Antz put DreamWorks Animation at the top of the ant hill. Of course I grew up loving Disney & Pixar, but DreamWorks has always been a top childhood favorite as well. Even though the studio may have started out of spite. Like most rival animation companies, Jeffrey Katzenberg was a disgruntled Disney chairman who left the studio in order to make his own animated movies. Although intending DreamWorks Animation to begin with the traditionally animated Prince of Egypt, Antz was fast-tracked to 1998 just to compete with A Bug’s Life. Two early computer animated ant movies about a misfit in love with a princess who fights for his colony couldn’t have been a coincidence. It was a heated feud that made Antz & A Bug’s Life the biggest copycat movies ever made, but I never questioned it. Although I was only 3 at the time, I loved both ant movies equally. Seeing Antz with my mom and brother is one of my earliest memories.

The biggest difference with Antz (and DreamWorks) is the PG rated edge that its had from the beginning. Despite being a kids film, Antz is loaded with adult themes, sexual innuendo, and a lot of swearing. Mostly thanks to Woody Allen playing nervous drone ant Z. Z is exactly like Allen with his neurotic babbling. Antz deals with societal problems that stem from a colony that never thinks for themselves. Ants are literally assigned worker or soldier at birth. To match that realism, ants have tan exoskeletons and the right number of legs. Z feels inadequate, but all that changes when he dances with Princess Bala in a bar. A lot of unconventional Woody Allen co-stars provide voices. Sharon Stone is the feisty Bala who’s looking to rebel. Sylvester Stallone is Weaver, the muscle bond soldier friend of Z that switches place with him. Just so Z can get closer to the Princess. Gene Hackman is the despicable army ant General Mandible that leads an army to their death and plans to drown the part of the colony he deems weak. Ironically both ant movies have Lex Luthor as their villain.

Meanwhile, Anne Bancroft voices the Queen, Jennifer Lopez voices a worker friend of Z’s, Christopher Walken voices a flying ant colonel, and Danny Glover voices an army sergeant that quickly befriends Z. After cleverly singing “Ants go marching one by one,” an intense battle with termites ensues. Antz is also pretty realistic when it comes to how terrible a bug’s life can really be. Ants are decapitated, burned with a magnifying glass, trapped in water, stepped on, and swatted. Humans are only ever obscured like monsters. Z survives, but ends up with Bala after a misunderstanding. They grow closer after a few arguments and become the first DreamWorks animated couple. Along the way they trek through a picnic where they meet a couple of friendly wasps voiced by Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin. Z tries to find the fabled Insectopia which is hilariously just a trash can. Bala is discovered, but Z returns in time to save the colony that learned from his example to think for themselves. They construct an ant ladder and escape the very first use of digital water in film. The computer animation is rough, but no less impressive with its lighting and realistic textures. Antz has a unique maturity that makes it a very underrated piece of animation history.

1. Antz

Z and Princess Bala explore a picnic

Real American Heroes

G.I. Joe: The Movie is a real American blast. If you love the Transformers, then you have to love Hasbro’s other action packed toy line as well. G.I. Joe coined the name action figure in the 60’s and earned a new generation of fans in the 80’s with the cartoon adventures of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. I didn’t watch much of it, but I did have Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow toys when I was younger. Like The Transformers: The Movie, my brother really wanted me to check out the 1987 movie. The difference was the latter’s financial losses resulted in G.I. Joe going straight to video.

It’s a shame since this animation was clearly made for the theater. It starts with a bang by having warring factions G.I. Joe and Cobra Command fight at the Statue of Liberty. That macho military excitement can be found throughout the entire movie. With the perfect amount of awesome all-terrain action and cheesy characters. When the shrieking Cobra Commander’s position is threatened by the ridiculous Serpentor, a new threat arises in the form of Pythona, Nemesis Enforcer, and her superior Golobulus of a snake civilization called Cobra-La. It’s silly, but I expect nothing less.

This looks like a job for the Joes. At least it would be if they didn’t go the Transformers route. Focusing on a new team of potential toys to train. Including the carefree Falcon and female ninja Jinx. Srgt. Slaughter himself steps in to train the more violent recruits. Of course they use celebrity voices on some characters, but this is still a direct-to-video movie. One where core G.I. Joe Duke was supposed to die before Optimus Prime made them call it a coma. So the world is saved without him. G.I. Joe: The Movie is nevertheless a thrill ride that’ll make you scream “Yo Joe!”

G.I. Joe: The Movie

The new Joes

We’re Off to See the World

My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) is the iteration I actually care about. It might surprise some people to know I’m a Bronie, but I’ve loved My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ever since I gave it a chance while it was gaining popularity. The generation 4 reboot added so much depth, character development, and world building to the traditionally girl centric Hasbro toy line. It’s honestly one of my absolute favorite animated shows of the 2010’s. Can’t say I was expecting a theatrical movie to come out of it, but Friendship is Magic was just that successful. Even in an age that’s nearly abandoned traditional animation or big screen continuations of a TV series, My Little Pony: The Movie shines. While normally Flash animated, the film required a more three dimensional look. It helps to make Equestria more immersive than it’s ever been before.

Although the Mane 6 have certainly had better adventures after 7 seasons, The Movie does feel high stakes. The reviews aren’t glowing, but you really have to be a fan to appreciate it. Everything begins with a friendship festival held by magical Princess of Friendship Twilight Sparkle. Her position and braininess are put to the test as she faces certain doom. Fortunately her friends Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy are always by her side. Along with Spike of course. Everypony’s personality, sense of humor, and character choices are intact. They’re friendship is just put to the test thanks to the sudden arrival of warships. Since the Mane 6 retain their talented voice actresses, a large celebrity voice cast fills in the rest.

Emily Blunt is Tempest Shadow, a ruthless unicorn commander with a broken horn. Michael Peña is her less than funny cohort, but Liev Schreiber is the menacing new villain the Storm King. He steals Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadence’s magic in order to rule the land. It’s enough to make the ponies leave Equestria in order to find help. These places are unusual, but it is a fine change of pace. They meet Taye Diggs as a smooth cat con-artist, Zoe Saldana as an awesome bird pirate, and Uzo Aduba & Kristin Chenoweth as royal Hippogriffs turned Seaponies. Earth Ponies, Pegasui, and Unicorns were kept from the original series, but Seaponies were never done before. The final battle brings everypony together in order to defeat the Storm King and restore peace. An epic finale that concludes with a Sia pony singing an original song. The music is very much on par with the series. My Little Pony: The Movie is pure magic.

My Little Pony: The Movie

The Mane 6 prepare for battle

Isn’t the World a Lovely Place?

My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) is the feature film debut for Hasbro’s best selling girls toy line. At least I thought it was the debut. I kinda watched episodes of the 1986 animated series thinking they were first. Then I realized The Movie was meant to come first. Now I realize even that was preceded by 2 specials called Rescue at Midnight Castle and Escape from Catrina. I think I’ll just stick to the teatrical movie for now since I don’t think I can take anymore of these ponies. As a 4th generation Bronie, I knew I’d eventually backtrack to the generation that started it all.

My Little Pony: The Movie was pretty painful to get through. It feels more like an extended episode complete with commercial-like fade outs. The 80’s ponies are just too sugary for my taste. All they do is frolic, play games, and befriend woodland animals. Ponies are distinctive colors with Earth Ponies, Pegasui, and Unicorns populating Ponyland. I couldn’t really tell the difference between anypony. Apart from baby dragon Spike. Other creatures appear like Bushwoolies, Grundles, and even humans.

Megan, Molly, and Danny seemed to come out of nowhere without my knowledge of their original debut. But the real focus is on the witches. A trio of bumbling witches that only hate the ponies because they’re so sweet. There are celebrity voices, but that didn’t help much. The near constant songs are grating, different characters pop up constantly, and nothing feels theatrical. The only threat is a blob called the Smooze that’s easily defeated by Flutter Ponies. Unless you’ve grown up watching it, My Little Pony: The Movie will kill you with cuteness.

My Little Pony The Movie

The little ponies and friends