Top 10 Kitties in Cinema – Animated Edition
So far I’ve managed to fill two seperate lists with my favourite filmic felines. We’re covered your standard house cats and their bigger, wilder cousins, but the form of cinema has more options in the form of animation. This one turned out to be a much wider field with some strong contenders.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (First Appearance)
Tigger is not an original creation of Hollywood, having been born of the imagination of A.A. Milne and immortalised in his book series. When Winnie the Pooh and his friends first went through the Disney factory they went through a change, giving us the new and very recognisable Tigger of modern pop culture. Tigers are awesome and ones who bounce on their tails doubly so…it’s only his status as a stuffed animal that puts him so low on the list. It certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful things about Tiggers.
My Neighbour Totoro
Again, this lands a bit low due to it’s questionable status as a ‘cat’, but it’s so weird and wonderful that we couldn’t not include it. In one of the many quietly emotional scenes of Hayoa Miyazaki’s opus My Neighbour Totoro, we find sisters Satsuki and Mei (voiced by real life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning in the English dub) waiting in the rain at a lonely bus stop for their father. Eventually they’re joined by the forest spirit Totoro, who enjoys the sound of the rain on the umbrella with the girls before boarding his bus. His…Catbus. A giant, roaring, multi-legged bus shaped feline with huge rats as headlights comes charging through the night and it’s delightful.
8. Puss in Boots
The original Shrek was a genre and industry changing blockbuster that, frankly, doesn’t hold up especially well. Knowing the hateful place Katzenberg allegedly pulled this idea from doesn’t help, nor does the dismal, unfunny place the sequels ended up in. The one shining light was the swashbuckling, charming and adorable Puss in Boots, a mercenary burglar with a specialist set of skills. Not just voiced but embodied by Antonio Banderas, this is the only part of the franchise worth salvaging.
The Lion King
Lion’s have long represented a certain standard through their appearance in heraldry, mythology and literature. They demonstrate strength, wisdom, compassion, ferocity and pride. All of these traits are seen in the king of the Pride Lands, Mufasa. Amply voiced by James Earl Jones, this is the very embodiment of the fictional lord of the jungle.
6. The Pink Panther
The Pink Panther
Well, we included the MGM Lion in the last list so I guess an animated opening credits sequence is valid. Possibly more so, as The Pink Panther became a pop culture icon of such renown that you could assume most people haven’t connected him to his original source. Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers put out the blockbuster hit The Pink Panther in 1963, launching a long running comedy detective series featuring the memorable Inspector Clouseau. Surprisingly the unrelated animated feline who opens the film’s credit sequence caused enough of a splash to reappear across the series and spin-off into a successful series of animated shorts and memorabilia. Although the ‘Pink Panther’ in the film is a stolen pink diamond that never appears in the sequels, all but one of the movies retains the title due to its popularity.
5. Cheshire Cat
Alice in Wonderland
One of the most memorable and weirdly on-message adaptations of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ comes from Disney decades before they put out one of the worst in a misguided live action version. True to the rest of the story, the insufferably vague Cheshire Cat is a perfect translation of the literary original. Best known for the striped purple version, but appearing in many forms over the years, the one consistent feature is a wide, distended grin which is often the last thing left hanging in the air when he disappears. Bewildering and fun, the Cheshire Cat is a stand-out from an ensemble of memorable figures.
4. Scar and Shere Khan
The Lion King and The Jungle Book
There are two reasons we’re bundling these entries together. They’re both classic Disney villains who are also charmingly and devilish British big cats. Second reason is because we want to. Scar is the brother of the king Mufasa who plots to overthrow the ruler to take his place. He’s a cunning and vicious usurper who manipulates all those around him. Conversely, Shere Khan is a killer without motivation. He hates mankind so he wants to kill the man-cub. Although they’re very different types of villain they are both linked by their inexplicable Britishness. (I mean, the rest of Scar’s family have American accents…what’s going on here?)
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Winning the award for the most accurate feline personality on this list, Kiki’s talking cat Jiji is one of the highlights from Hayao Miyazaki’s popular coming of age story. Newly trained young witch is heading for the big city to start her career, accompanied by her loyal kitty Jiji. Voiced by Phil Hartman in the US version of the film, Jiji is proud, sarcastic and something of wisecraking sidekick. Although this is a departure from the cautious and feminine Jiji of Japan, we wind up with the perfect embodiment of household cats.
Fritz the Cat
Adult orientated animation isn’t uncommon in the modern age, with The Simpsons and South Park paving the way for a huge number of cartoons with adult content, themes, and a lot of childish swearing. Conversely, the early days of cinema saw most animated shorts having a distinctly adult bent, but for a solid 50 years the form was considered the realm of childish fantasy. Ralph Bakshi’s political and social satire, based on the works of Robert Crumb, was released in 1972 and quickly became a cult classic. It also shocked and offended audiences with it’s violence, blunt racial themes and animated drug fuelled orgies.
1. Felix the Cat
Feline Follies (First appearance)
There are few animated character who boast the longevity of Mickey Mouse, and although Felix the Cat hasn’t had the same level of financial success he has become ingrained in pop culture. Immediately familiar to almost anyone, Felix was a staple of the silent era and kept up a steady output of shorts and the occasional feature film since. Felix’s immediately distinctive while also simple design has gone a long way to ensure his ongoing success in merchandising even if animated features are becoming rare. When it comes to animated felines, Felix is the king.