Sure, there have been lots of stories written and films made about characters dreaming the impossible dream—longing to do something with their lives beyond their “directive,” (to quote our last fascinating character’s film) but the magic of the third most fascinating animated character on my list is that he is following his directive; he is using what he has (amazing sense of smell and taste) to its full potential. Oh, and also that he is a rat who loves to cook.
How could a character who emotes so much with virtually no dialogue NOT make the top ten—especially when that character is a hopelessly romantic, whimsically eclectic robot whose only friend left on the abandoned futuristic wasteland of Earth is a cockroach that he loves like a labrador? WALL•E is not just another Johnny Five, (although he undeniably looks like J5’s very close cousin) he is an endlessly fascinating character from SCENE ONE of Andrew Stanton’s masterful film.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not grow up a ravenous anime connoisseur, as so many of my fellow animation geeks. I enjoyed some shows that were anime without really noticing that they were (like Rainbow Brite and TMNT), but I didn’t watch much Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh!, or Dragon Ball Z (much to my husband’s chagrin.) I did see Spirited Away the year it won the Academy Award and I, to be perfectly honest, did not get it. So much more fantastical and bizarre than what I was used to, I wrote it off as “weird.” Yet, I always knew there was something great I was missing–whether because the whole world was raving about it or from some inherent awesome-story-detector deep inside me, I’m not sure. In any case, it is now one of my favorite animated films, and Chihiro is one of the most interesting, admirable characters ever depicted–on-screen or in print.
It may be unfair to rank animated characters from television on the same list as those from film. A long running cartoon series has so much more time to develop the character. This character has had over fifteen years, four hundred episodes and two full length feature films in which to pique our fascination. However, I believe that SpongeBob Squarepants won this spot on the top ten most fascinating characters from the first moment we met him in episode one, “Help Wanted,” which aired on Nickelodeon on May Day of 1999.
So far (and for most of the rest of the list) males have dominated as most fascinating original characters in animation. One reason for this seems to be that most female protagonists who are interesting have been derived from literature, so I nixed them in accordance with my rules for this series. A few examples of girls I absolutely love from Disney would be Alice, Rapunzel, Tiana and Ariel. However, today’s character wasn’t imagined by Hans Christensen Anderson, Lewis Carroll or a Grimm brother, but by a man with one of the most imaginative artistic styles in all of animation history.
So far in this list of the ten most fascinating original characters in animation history, we have seen a little boy, Norman from ParaNorman, animated using very advanced, gorgeous, stop-motion animation and a far-out space ranger, Buzz Lightyear, a character from the first fully computer animated feature whose design and overall character appeal continues to dazzle audiences twenty years later. However, number 8 on the list did not enter the spotlight in such an aesthetically appealing fashion. D’oh!
In case you missed the first installment, this is a little series I’m writing as a lark to identify ten of animation’s most fascinating characters. These characters are supremely interesting in-and-of-themselves, regardless of their varying fascinating plots/settings, etc. Check out number 10, Norman from ParaNorman, if you haven’t already. Today’s spot belongs to a character that is so out-of-this world that you have to go to infinity and beyond to find someone as fascinating as him.
Yesterday I began to contemplate specific aspects of character development in animation and my musings have turned into a series of articles—namely, analyzing which animated characters from history are the most fascinating. First, as any Socratic thinker knows, I have to define my terms: by fascinating characters, I mean interesting—in and of themselves. These characters attract as much attention—or more—than the plot, itself. They are like disco balls (or train wrecks in some cases)—you can’t not watch them.