/Answers: The Best Talking Animals In The Movies

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with the release of War for the Planet of the Apes, this week's edition asks "What is your favorite talking animal in the movies?" As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team.

Jack Giroux: Roger Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Roger Rabbit is so annoying and yet so wonderful. When I first watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit more than a few times on laserdisc, I couldn't get enough of Roger. Now when I revisit the 1989 film, I empathize more with Eddie Valliant's (Bob Hoskins) annoyance. Roger disrupts his life and comically irritates the alcoholic detective in most scenes. Somehow, the character is as endearing as he is loud. Why is Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner) in love with him? Because he makes her laugh, which is why Roger is lovable in the first place. All he wants to do is make people laugh and enjoy himself. The rabbit's song and dance in the bar, him mistaking probate for prostate, when he places Valiant under arrest – the list of great Roger gags go on and on. Almost 20 years after watching Roger Rabbit for the first time, he continues to make me laugh, even when I'm just thinking about him. With Roger Rabbit, actor Charles Fleischer, designer Richard Williams, and everyone who worked on him provided me with a character I'm thankful for.

Ben Pearson: Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy

In an effort to avoid the grueling task of singling out my favorite Walt Disney Animation character, I instead opted to talk about a different animated character that's technically housed under the Disney umbrella: Rocket Raccoon, the loud-mouthed CG creation in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Rocket, a bounty hunter by trade, doesn't even know what a raccoon is: he's an alien creature who was on the wrong end of some twisted experimentation, and that experience continues to haunt him (for good reason). He's built a boisterous, sarcastic personality in order to wall himself off from the pain of his past and shield himself from getting close to anyone...which, of course, is exactly what he finds himself doing in the Guardians movies when he and his buddy Groot meet up with Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax.

I think the visual effects work for this character is on par with the motion capture work of the new Planet of the Apes franchise, but Rocket is far more than just a group of well-crafted pixels. There's a sad, soulful, damaged creature under that gruff exterior, and Bradley Cooper is equally adept at tapping into that sadness or firing off a quick quip or funny one-liner. Writer/director James Gunn has said he feels the most kinship with Rocket among all of the Guardians characters, and it's clear that Gunn has gone out of his way to give Rocket a satisfying and memorable arc over the past two films. I can't wait to see how he continues to evolve in Infinity War and Guardians Vol. 3.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Remy from Ratatouille

Many a talking movie animal are lovable or witty sidekicks to the human protagonist, there to offer sage advice or a snarky one-liner. But Remy from Ratatouille is a tried and true hero in his own right. Remy (Patton Oswalt) may have shared top billing with Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano), but he is the true puppet master of their fates — literally and figuratively. Remy was born as a rat with a gift for taste and cooking, but had no opportunity to hone it. Through a series of lucky accidents, Remy discovers that he can control Alfredo, the docile, lanky garbage boy who works at a top Parisian restaurant. The two of them work together to become the best chef in Paris — allowing Remy to become the world-renowned cook he has always wanted to be and Alfredo to get the girl.

Now, we all know that rats are the worst animals in real life and often the villain in many animated movies (I still have nightmares from that red-eyed monster in Lady and the Tramp), but Pixar manages to make a rodent positively lovable. Remy is expressive, idealistic, and ambitious — more complex than even his human counterpart. Alfredo, in a reversal of roles, is the semi-sidekick in this film. And yes, while the best scene in this movie revolves around the epiphany of a human character — the tough, no-nonsense food critic who is brought back to his childhood with ratatouille — it's the animal characters that give this movie its humanity.

Ethan Anderton: Iago from Aladdin

There are plenty of lovable talking animals out there, but for some reason, when I really thought about the answer to this week's question, I couldn't get Iago, the sidekick of the villain Jafar in Aladdin, out of my head. It's mostly because Gilbert Gottfried's voice is unshakably resonant in my head (as it probably is in everyone else's), but also because Iago is a genuinely hilarious character that perfectly utilizes the comedian's voice.

I still laugh out loud at some of Iago's lines to this day, whether it's his rant after the first person Jafar coerces into stealing the lamp doesn't turn out to be worthy enough to get it or his revenge against the Sultan for stuffing crackers down his throat. Plus, I also love that the impressions he does of Jafar and Jasmine are merely dubbed over by the real voice actors playing those characters, making him an expert impressionist. Iago is simply a laugh riot.

Jacob Hall: Caesar from the Planet of the Apes Series

Is it a bit of a cop-out to go with the character who inspired this list in the first place? Maybe. Possibly. Probably. And yet, there's something so enthralling, so magical, about how Andy Serkis and the team at Weta Digital bring this hyper-intelligent ape to life. And it's not just the photo-realistic animation or Serkis' thoughtful, complex performance. It's how he talks.

Most talking animals are given the vocal patterns of human beings and that is part of their charm. Just pick any talking animal from the Disney animated canon – they talk like people. Even the talking critters that live their lives in the wild (like Thumper from Bambi) speak as if they were raised amongst human beings and attended years of school. It's cute and adorable and allows us to empathize with whatever plight they're enduring, but it's an injection of humanity into something that is purely inhuman.

Enter Caesar, who learns to speak because a man-made virus pushes his intellect to unforeseen levels (while also decimating the human race). What begins as basic words and phrases in Rise of the Planet of the Apes evolves into complete thoughts and sentences in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, but it's a slow process. His words come out slowly, with some effort. This is a creature not built for human language, but speaking it anyway. His gruff delivery, hoarse voice, and odd pauses represent an animal's mouth attempting to figure out the english language, an attempt by a wild creature to wrap its mind and vocal cords around something truly alien. It's a delivery that gives Caesar an identity, but also one that helps sell the divide between the humans and the apes. As humanity wastes away, the apes are truly learning to take their place and rule the planet.

Christopher Stipp: Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio

Occupation: conscience

There are all sorts of anthropomorphized characters that litter the animated film landscape and then there's Jiminy Cricket. When you think of all the heavy lifting that Jiminy has to do in Pinocchio when it comes to being our narrator and guide through Pinocchio's journey from wooden toy to little boy and helping this puppet become something more, it's truly revelatory. I'm not sure if it's the enduring quality of the story or the nostalgia that infuses every scene of this almost 80 year-old classic but the character of Jiminy has always had a special place in my soul as that childhood anchor that just takes you back whenever you hear him croon "When You Wish Upon a Star" over the opening credits. I can't watch that opening without feeling that, instead of a song, we are getting a glimpse into something deeper than just some words. It's the coda that sets the table for everything that comes after.

WAr for the Planet of the Apes

Previous Editions of /Answers