/Answers: The Best Talking Animals in the Movies

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

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