While DreamWorks Animation still doesn’t have the brand recognition of the two titans Disney and Pixar, the studio has been around since 1994 and has been producing a steady stream of movies ever since the production house was founded. The studio’s first feature film Antz was released on October 2nd 1998, and yesterday DreamWorks’ latest movie, How To Train Your Dragon 2, hit Dutch cinema screens. Having been responsible for 29 films over the years, with many projects currently in the works, now it’s time to shine a light on DreamWorks Animation and the studio’s five best animated offerings. Note that the studio’s collaborations with British studio Aardman Animations are excluded from this list.
5. Kung Fu Panda 2
The first Kung Fu Panda from 2008 delivered colorful animation, zippy martial arts action and good-natured humor, but its story left something to be desired. Its plot about Jack Black’s clumsy panda Po who wants to become a kung fu master was a typical underdog story and, while Kung Fu Panda‘s characters were endearing, the movie’s message about being yourself and believing in yourself was all too familiar. Then, in 2011, Kung Fu Panda 2 took all of the first film’s strengths, brought the animation and action to the next level, but most importantly: it contained a much better and more emotional story and featured a wonderfully despicable villain. This DreamWorks’ movie is a film that’s not simply bigger than its predecessor; it’s one that understands what made the original so successful with audiences. Kung Fu Panda 2‘s greater emphasis on character development is what makes this one surpass the first, while still maintaining its brand of humor.
4. Madagascar: Escape 2 AfricaAnother sequel that surpassed the original is Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. While its 2005 predecessor was entertaining, it was also quite bland in the story department and really had to rely on its characters and celebrity voice cast to sell itself. Escape 2 Africa from 2008 doesn’t: its chaos, absurd and off-the-wall sense of humor and, again, much more emotional story make this second part in the trilogy the best movie by far. The fact that Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa also, in large part, serves as a The Lion King parody, made it even the more enjoyable. The film’s reliance on silliness instead of on the mandatory message, makes this movie a joy to rewatch, something that’s only heightened by the unique animation style and the rapid-fire rate with which it fires gags at its audience.
3. Rise Of The Guardians
In 2012 DreamWorks released it’s fairy tale adventure film Rise Of The Guardians, a beautifully animated effort that tells the story of Jack Frost, an isolated and mischievous boy who’s called upon to protect earth’s children from a looming threat. At first sight its plot is, once again, nothing to write home about, but in this case looks are deceiving. Rise Of The Guardians tells a very sweet and poignant tale that really evokes the feeling you had as a kid when your mom and dad read you a bed time story. It’s a wondrous adventure with its heart firmly in the right place, and its animation really is enchanting. The unique spin the film puts on familiar characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny only adds to the magic and fun of this terrific entry in DreamWorks’ catalog.
2. How To Train Your Dragon
Like discussed in the How To Train Your Dragon 2 review, the 2010 original about a boy and his dragon firmly cemented Hiccup and Toothless as one of animated movies’ best central duos, through Jay Baruchel’s performance and the animation wizardry that brought the adorable cat-like dragon Toothless to life. While the sequel is on a par with the first one and it furthers the relationship these two characters have, it can’t beat the amazing way Hiccup and Toothless first met, grew attached to each other and became best pals. It’s that journey that captured the hearts of audiences everywhere, and the wow factor of the first time viewers saw the outstanding flight animations and choreography also can’t be bested, even though the technology certainly came a long since 2010. How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a wonderful film, but it owes a great depth to the first film, one it hasn’t quite managed to surpass.
1. The Prince Of Egypt
The only title on this list created through traditional animation techniques, is DreamWorks’ 1998 effort The Prince Of Egypt, a film thatover the years has proven to be a timeless classic. Not only because it tells the equally timeless and wondrous story of Moses, but also because of its gorgeous hand-drawn style, some truly memorable songs and the outstanding voice acting of Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sandra Bullock among others. The narrative decision to focus the story on the brotherly bond between Kilmer’s Moses and Fiennes’ Rameses II, a bond that steadily dissolves throughout the movie, makes for a very human and moving tale that really anchors an epic filled with such amazing and sometimes horrifying supernatural events. But DreamWorks’ The Prince Of Egypt is not only this studio’s best movie by a mile; it’s also simply one of the best animated films ever created, a true achievement in the history of the animated movies.
But what about you? Do you agree or disagree with these five choices? Do you think Shrek is suspiciously absent from this list or would you have put 2013’s The Croods in your personal top 5? Also: what topics would you like to see me discuss in the future? I’ll go over the suggestions and, who knows, maybe I’ll discuss your subject in the near future! So, to let me know, please comment below.