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.
Fievel - Movie: An American Tail - Best Animation Movie Character
so this guy makes it in not so much on the basis of being layered and complex as because of the fact that he's totally, totally adorable. He's tiny (even by mouse standards), he wears an oversized hat and he's searching for his family on the mean streets of old New York.
Sophie - Movie: Howl's Moving Castle - Best Animation Movie Character
Here's a perfect of marriage of director, author and heroine. Hayao Miyazaki always creates complex, believable heroines. Diana Wynne Jones always writes twisty-turny, slightly trippy plots. And Sophie herself offers loads of meat to play with, a young woman who mixes a no-nonsense approach to her eccentric wizard employer, Howl, with a crippling sense of her own inadequacy (which helps a witch turn Sophie into an old lady, as you do).
Remy - Movie: Ratatouille - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
The cutest little fanboy you'll ever see rolling around inside a Perspex ball, Rhino's a TV obsessed hamster who latches on to the film's doggy hero with unshakeable enthusiasm. He steals all the film's best lines and is, pretty much without exception, responsible for all its funniest moments.
Lumiere - Movie: Beauty and the Beast - Best Animation Movie Character
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).
Satan - South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Insectosaurus - Monsters Vs. Aliens - Best Animation Movie Character
Other characters in this witty B-movie pastiche are wittier, chattier or have better hair (no, not you B.O.B.). But Insectosaurus is the one who really charms us, despite expressing himself chiefly in unintelligible roars (provided by director Conrad Vernon) and a fascination for bright, shiny lights. After all, he's just a little grub who's grown up - waaaay up - before his time, and while he will defend his friends and planet to the hilt, he seems a relatively peaceable sort at heart.
Roger Rabbit - Movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Emily - Corpse Bride - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Grumpy - Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Carl Fredricksen - Up - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Steve - Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Chihiro - Spirited Away - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Hiccup - How To Train Your Dragon - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Kristofferson - Fantastic Mr Fox - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Captain - Hook Peter Pan - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Mike - Wasowski Monsters Inc - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Jack Skellington - The Nightmare Before Christmas - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Donkey - Shrek - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
Genie - The Arabian Nights, dating from the 10th century - Best Animation Movie Character
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.
MadameSouza - Belleville Rendezvous - Best Animation Movie Character
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.