Total Recall

Total Recall: Our Favorite Talking Animals

Narnia's Aslan inspires us to put together a list of our favorite talking animal movies.

by | May 14, 2008 | Comments

C.S. Lewis was no dummy. His Narnia books might have had all the necessary ingredients for success with the younger set — sweeping drama, larger-than-life action, and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, to name a few — but he must have known his ace in the hole was the fact that one of his main characters was a talking lion who wasn’t afraid to tear things up when the bad guys got out of hand. (Why do you think “The Lion” got top billing in that first book? Duh.) Now that the second film in Disney/Walden’s big-budget reimagining of the Narnia series, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, is heading to theaters, we here at RT thought it would be the perfect time to revisit some of our favorite theatrical talking animals.

Our parameters were fairly loose — the movies had to be live-action, and the animals had to, you know, talk — which enabled us to make our selections from across the animal kingdom without regard for Tomatometer, as you’ll soon see. Prepare to relive your fondest (and not-so-fondest) memories of chatty fauna in Hollywood — and, of course, to hit the comments section to take issue with our selections. It’s Total Recall!



more info…
10. Paulie

Given the level of animosity he seems to inspire wherever he goes, you’d think a movie where a character voiced by Jay Mohr spends most of his time locked up in a cage and squawking for pet food would be a big hit — but unfortunately for Mohr, you’d be wrong. At 63 percent on the Tomatometer, Paulie is one of Mohr’s better-reviewed films — and okay, it stands out largely because it’s lumped in alongside titles like Are We There Yet? and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, but still, Mohr is at his most consistently charming here, as an unusually loquacious parrot whose search for his original owner (Hallie Kate Eisenberg, in her screen debut) sends him on a series of incredible adventures. Plus, you get Buddy Hackett in his final role. What’s not to like?

Video



more info…
9. Oh! Heavenly Dog

In one of the great cinematic pairings of the ’80s, box-office heavyweights Chevy Chase and Benji teamed up here for a crime caper about a private eye (Chase) whose death leaves him stranded between afterlife destinations, giving him a chance to return to Earth in the form of a stray dog (um, Benji) so he can punch his ticket to heaven by solving his own murder. Chase received top billing, but this is really a Benji movie, as evidenced by the involvement of director Joe Camp, who had already helmed a pair of features and a TV movie with the canine star. Both Benji and Chase would go on to make better movies, but none of them would include love scenes between Jane Seymour and a dog.



more info…
8. The Shaggy Dog

For their first live-action feature-length comedy, Disney took an unused television pilot and turned it into one of the most successful films of 1959 (good Lord, it even outgrossed Ben-Hur). Tommy Kirk, fresh out of Old Yeller and on the brink of starring in seemingly every single live-action feature Disney made between 1960-65, takes the spotlight here as Wilby Daniels, the goggle-eyed teenage na�f who, thanks to a surprisingly intricate plot too complicated to go into here, winds up shuttling unpredictably back and forth between dog and human form. Though not exactly a critical favorite, The Shaggy Dog stands at a respectable 69 percent on the Tomatometer — and was, perhaps most importantly, responsible for Fred MacMurray’s late-period reincarnation as the go-to guy for films in need of cardigan-rockin’ dads.


more info…
7. Charlotte’s Web

“Modern-day remake of beloved children’s classic” is a phrase that, nine times out of 10, is synonymous with cinematic disaster — but the 2006 film version of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web proved to be the exception to the rule, soaring to 78 percent on the Tomatometer and racking up over $80 million at the box office. Of course, casting the voice talents of Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, and Oprah Winfrey (as a horse, spider, rat, sheep, and goose, respectively) never hurts — but White’s timeless tribute to pan-species friendship has been resonating with readers young and old for over 50 years. Tell the story faithfully — as director Gary Winick and screenwriters Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick did here — and the audience will follow. Some pig, indeed.

Video



more info…
6. Stuart Little

Michael J. Fox as an adorable talking mouse and Nathan Lane as a jealous cat named Snowbell. How’s that for perfect casting? And it gets better — M. Night Shyamalan and David O. Russell were just two of the writers involved in bringing E.B. White’s 1945 classic Stuart Little (66 percent) to the big screen, and the human cast includes Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, and Jonathan “The Human Head Weighs Eight Pounds” Lipnicki. It isn’t hard to see how the budget topped $100 million — or why Columbia earned it back, and then some. As White’s plucky protagonist and his arch-enemy, Fox and Lane helped make the film a hit with parents as well as kids — and helped make kid-friendly voicework appealing to actors with bigger box-office clout than, say, Jay Mohr.

Video



more info…
5. Francis

Before there was Jason, before there was Freddy, there was Francis the Talking Mule. Novelist David Stern’s creation was the inspiration for an incredible seven films, starting with 1950’s Francis (and ending, unfortunately, with 1956’s Francis in the Haunted House, which featured none of the actors from the first six installments). The plot — as with Jason and Freddy — was always basically the same, dropping soldier Peter Stirling (Donald O’Connor) into a ridiculous situation where he had to be bailed out by his sarcastic, braying friend (voiced by Chill Wills). Stirling’s penchant for ill-advised honesty when it came to Francis’ special talents invariably landed him under some sort of psychiatric observation, until the movie’s final act, when everyone realized he’d been telling the truth all along. Until the next movie, of course.

Video



more info…
4. Joe’s Apartment

Skits and short films rarely benefit from being turned into feature-length films — just ask Lorne Michaels — but as soon as MTV started airing brief clips of talking, singing, dancing cockroaches in the early ’90s, a Joe’s Apartment movie was a foregone conclusion. The film’s 12 percent Tomatometer speaks for itself, but this earnest tale of cockroaches with hearts of gold is still the only place to hear Billy West, Dave Chappelle, and Jim Turner voicing lifelike bugs, and it offers a tantalizing glimpse of the career Jerry O’Connell was building for himself before he wrote the First Daughter screenplay and became the world’s foremost Tom Cruise impersonator.

Video


more info…
3. The Wizard of Oz

All right, so maybe this is fudging a little — but what kind of talking animals list would be complete without a nod to Bert Lahr’s turn as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz? Victor Fleming’s adaptation of the L. Frank Baum classic boasts a 100 percent Tomatometer rating for many reasons, not the least of which is Lahr’s iconic performance. In Baum’s book, the Lion gets his courage from a bottle, but Fleming and company understandably shied away from that idea; instead, his film counterpart finds it inside himself, and is rewarded with a shiny new medal. Lahr went on to acquire some hardware of his own, winning a Tony Award for his performance in the 1964 musical Foxy, but to most of us, he’ll always be best remembered as the guy who sang “If I Were the King of the Forest.”

Video



more info…
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books sat around for over five decades before someone started making blockbuster live-action epics out of them. The missing ingredients? CGI technology — and the gravitas-drenched voice of Liam Neeson as Aslan, the titular lion. Announced as having been awarded the role just five months before the film’s release — and only after director Andrew Adamson bumped his original choice for Aslan’s voice, Brian Cox. Neeson, of course, was perfect for the role, and although he can’t take all the credit for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe‘s 76 percent Tomatometer rating (or its nearly $300 million gross), his involvement certainly didn’t hurt. Neeson has described Aslan’s role in the upcoming Prince Caspian as more “parental” — here’s hoping the movie still makes room for him to lay some smack down.

Video



more info…
1. Babe

Yes, it’s true: A film about a talking pig who enters a sheepdog competition really was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. It was nominated for seven Oscars, actually — and came away with one, for Best Visual Effects. This George Miller-adapted fable (taken from the Dick King-Smith book) built a lot of buzz thanks to its then-state-of-the-art visuals, but it earned its 98 percent Tomatometer rating based on the story’s big heart, and a terrific cast that included the voices of Christine Cavanaugh (as Babe) and Hugo Weaving (as Rex the sheepdog) — not to mention James Cromwell, whose laid-back turn as Farmer Hoggett earned him a Best Actor nomination and boiled his long, distinguished career down into five words: “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”

Video



more info…
Dishonorable Mention – Howard the Duck

A Lucasfilm release based on one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved second-string characters — a wisecracking, cigar-chomping alien duck. A cast including Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins. A soundtrack featuring Thomas Dolby, Stevie Wonder, and Joe Walsh. What could go wrong? The answer, of course, is “everything” — thanks largely to a nigh-incomprehensible mess of a plot that virtually ignored the comics, Howard the Duck went down in history as an enormous flop, earning the almost universal enmity of critics (look at that 19 percent Tomatometer rating!) and making back less than half of its $40 million budget back during its American theatrical run. Howard the Duck has never even been released on DVD here in the States — and in a marketplace that has room for a 10th anniversary deluxe edition of Tommy Boy, that’s really saying something.

Video

Tag Cloud

book adaptation anime witnail Superheroe tv talk 4/20 revenge Mindy Kaling Video Games news Cartoon Network superman true crime facebook joker 2021 natural history Hulu dramedy Discovery Channel foreign SundanceTV YA docudrama werewolf First Reviews renewed TV shows Epix social media Pet Sematary Spectrum Originals Bravo screenings concert 007 BET vampires USA Network laika emmy awards what to watch Shudder Paramount Plus Cosplay comics Vudu MSNBC a nightmare on elm street black Trophy Talk Spring TV TV Land 2016 LGBT Netflix Christmas movies documentaries rt archives mission: impossible harry potter universal monsters Esquire science fiction archives Mary Poppins Returns President Tumblr Year in Review 71st Emmy Awards GoT blockbusters anthology crossover Pride Month war Travel Channel italian WGN scary movies El Rey psycho fast and furious mockumentary NBC crime thriller BBC Universal Nat Geo kaiju Stephen King Fox Searchlight Marathons Marvel Studios Holiday Walt Disney Pictures king kong SDCC Extras American Society of Cinematographers french nbcuniversal Pirates game show sequels 45 Quiz Exclusive Video Spike Turner TCA Awards comiccon Endgame TCM Tarantino Awards Tour movies stand-up comedy TV renewals worst movies television monster movies Hallmark Christmas movies Premiere Dates zombies asian-american Toys docuseries DC streaming service finale Horror period drama Winter TV halloween tv Reality 2018 Disney Channel Rocketman DC Universe E! mutant romance Writers Guild of America National Geographic The Purge Syfy pirates of the caribbean green book discovery Opinion Country obituary The Academy hispanic Box Office franchise Turner Classic Movies dark screen actors guild talk show sitcom batman Binge Guide spider-man aliens 2019 spanish RT History LGBTQ golden globes Christmas zombie Animation Kids & Family blaxploitation hist all-time Reality Competition The Walt Disney Company boxoffice Apple 2020 Britbox free movies Tomatazos Baby Yoda dragons child's play HBO Go crime drama satire indie Pop TV blockbuster indiana jones Creative Arts Emmys supernatural MTV Best and Worst 72 Emmy Awards New York Comic Con YouTube Red football A24 strong female leads cancelled television remakes See It Skip It Shondaland nature Action Star Trek Certified Fresh toronto PBS Comedy travel twilight name the review Marvel south america james bond rotten streaming psychological thriller political drama Ghostbusters Academy Awards Amazon Prime police drama medical drama cancelled Lucasfilm classics Black History Month elevated horror Pixar Drama TLC Lifetime Christmas movies PaleyFest ghosts Polls and Games Funimation Disney streaming service Lifetime Heroines superhero The Arrangement The CW Holidays christmas movies dceu TCA 2017 YouTube Premium 99% Schedule worst disaster best rotten movies we love Sundance Netflix stoner spain 24 frames teaser cooking SXSW prank nfl Nickelodeon First Look cartoon women Disney BBC America ABC Signature Fantasy Podcast chucky TNT comic Musicals Captain marvel San Diego Comic-Con telelvision historical drama Arrowverse Hear Us Out 21st Century Fox Dark Horse Comics romantic comedy reviews TCA Winter 2020 Alien Lionsgate CMT Disney Plus TruTV 93rd Oscars cults criterion Biopics Rock Paramount Network NYCC parents The Walking Dead festival serial killer composers sports halloween Cannes Comedy Central ABC Family Television Academy Women's History Month thriller documentary Logo HBO Interview Tubi Crunchyroll 2017 Awards Sony Pictures Ellie Kemper Chernobyl ESPN Mary poppins YouTube adaptation Comic Book ratings Winners Mary Tyler Moore CBS All Access Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Teen Broadway singing competition Sneak Peek Brie Larson slashers biography Valentine's Day Black Mirror FX on Hulu FXX Amazon cancelled TV series razzies cancelled TV shows dogs FX Showtime movie BET Awards Fall TV DGA rom-coms golden globe awards Music canceled diversity FOX godzilla cars CBS AMC series E3 Paramount Crackle films Martial Arts binge children's TV GLAAD Peacock Starz Mystery Trivia cats Anna Paquin jurassic park venice PlayStation Masterpiece boxing MCU OWN japanese Set visit Countdown Calendar VICE miniseries Emmy Nominations Trailer Legendary Film directors Pop Red Carpet reboot Television Critics Association Chilling Adventures of Sabrina zero dark thirty IFC Films deadpool cinemax Adult Swim Song of Ice and Fire theme song sag awards VOD Sundance Now 20th Century Fox Musical 2015 Columbia Pictures RT21 kids X-Men space Western Photos Watching Series critics comedies Oscars Superheroes TBS Classic Film animated Apple TV Plus DC Comics Avengers video on demand The Witch new star wars movies casting Infographic spinoff kong Election CNN HBO Max BBC One comic books ViacomCBS WarnerMedia latino Fox News spy thriller Character Guide Summer TIFF USA Hallmark ID cops Food Network TV One Rom-Com breaking bad crime Film Festival Grammys spanish language TV stop motion Elton John fresh game of thrones OneApp Star Wars IFC History Comics on TV Family Warner Bros. festivals video politics ABC transformers Sundance TV hollywood Amazon Studios book robots award winner Amazon Prime Video Super Bowl Mudbound Apple TV+ GIFs based on movie versus Acorn TV dc A&E doctor who jamie lee curtis technology Freeform sequel BAFTA heist movie APB CW Seed toy story adventure Nominations scorecard Sci-Fi Emmys Thanksgiving australia richard e. Grant ITV die hard Marvel Television Ovation canceled TV shows Rocky justice league VH1 Disney+ Disney Plus TCA popular quibi independent unscripted hidden camera trailers DirecTV