DreamWorks Animation has been on quite a roll of late. But, if you think about it, the quality of the work coming out of the Jeffrey Katzenberg wing of DreamWorks has always been quite good. In no time at all, they have come to rival that Pixar company and their parent company, Disney.
But, given that Katzenberg was the Disney Animation Chief who green lit The Lion King among many other instant classics, this success by DreamWorks Animation should not be a surprise. With Turbo set to hit theaters July 17, we look back at Katzenberg’s babies and present out Top 10 DreamWorks Animation Movies.
Will Ferrell as an evil animated villain? Brad Pitt as a slothy superhero who just wants to watch TV and drink beer? Tina Fey as a spunky, willing-to-do-anything-to-get-the-story reporter? Sold, sold and sold. Wickedly drawn and impeccably smart, Megamind showed that DreamWorks Animation can go outside of their comfort zone and create a madcap comedy with a heart of gold.
9. Rise of the Guardians
Taking the children's book by William Joyce and bringing it to the big screen as an animated feature instead of a CGI-heavy live action film was a stroke of genius. Then the talented animators at DreamWorks Animation could bring more fully to life the vision of Joyce who imagined a world where all of childhood's fantasy figures would know each other and form an Avengers-type force for good.
Then, there's the voice cast of Rise of the Guardians. Chris Pine is the lead as Jack Frost, Alec Baldwin as North (aka Santa Claus), Isla Fisher is the Tooth Fairy and Hugh Jackman is the Easter Bunny. Let’s hope this one becomes a franchise.
8. Over the Hedge
One of DreamWorks Animation’s first efforts is actually still one of their best. When it arrived on screens in 2006, Over the Hedge previewed a new dawn in the animation world. The man who used to head Disney Animation was now making it on his own in a town that only seemed to have room for one animation powerhouse. It also showed that it could cull the most powerful names in the business to headline an animated movie including Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, William Shatner and Nick Nolte.
7. The Croods
One of DreamWorks Animation’s latest showed how the studio was willing to take risks on stories that we all feel we’ve seen before. They have a “you’ve never seen it like this” mantra and boy, could that not be truer. In The Croods, Nicholas Cage stars as the paternal leader of a group of cavemen (and women) who were the last of their kind.
The world is vastly (and quickly) changing and the motto of “change is bad” is their own family credo. Ryan Reynolds stars as one of the first homo sapiens and when he catches the eye of Emma Stone (who plays Cage’s animated daughter)… the world, and the Croods, will never be the same again.
6. Puss in Boots
You want to do a spin-off of Shrek featuring that talking cat? It seemed like a crazy idea, but in the hands of the fabled animation studio, Puss in Boots proved to be a brilliant idea. That largely had to do with the man who voiced the character that wore cat’s boots, Antonio Banderas. In fact, it could be said he was one of the best things about the latter Shrek movies!
What a perfect cast in a wildly original idea for an animated movie. Madagascar featured Ben Stiller as a showboat lion, Jada Pinkett Smith as a hippo, Chris Rock portraying a trying to bust out if his stripes zebra and David Schwimmer as an awkward giraffe -- all trying to escape their Central Park Zoo confines.
Their Madagascar adventure that takes them to the titular locale is heartwarming, hilarious and then there are those penguins. Zany doesn't even begin to describe the non-flying avian creatures, who were so popular they got a spin-off TV series and a slew of animated shorts as well as increased roles in Madagascar 2 and Madagascar 3.
4. Kung Fu Panda
Jack Black is a pudgy panda who dreams of being a kung fu warrior in ancient China. Again, score one for DreamWorks Animation for great casting for a great story. The life lessons abound in Kung Fu Panda and it also features some of the best action sequences showcased in the studio’s films. Angelina Jolie even starred as a ninja-savvy kickass tiger named Tigress in the 2008 flick that only gave it even more panache and power.
Toss in Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Seth Rogen and Kung Fu Panda may take the cake for best DreamWorks Animation cast.
3. Chicken Run
DreamWorks Animation’s visionary methods were further proved brilliant with their working with filmmaker Peter Lord (Wallace and Gromit filmmaker). His claymation style of moviemaking may seem old school, but their ability to tell a story that simultaneously thrills and has heart is astounding.
Chicken Run brought Lord’s impressive animation style to the masses that had been garnering raves for years. Mel Gibson played a rooster living on a farm who was determined to get himself and his fellow chickens out of what he perceived was a prison camp and as such, the film felt like a chicken-based The Great Escape.
2. Tie: Shrek and Shrek 2
Not that we didn’t like Shrek 3 and 4 (they’re below in our honorable mentions), but there was something truly special and revolutionary about the first two Shrek movies. Casting Mike Myers as a Scottish ogre, Cameron Diaz as a princess (er… ogre) and Eddie Murphy as a sassy donkey was a stroke of brilliance. Shrek filmmakers’ ability to not only channel some of our favorite nursery rhymes into a single world, but also to parody our current pop culture universe is astounding on every level.
1. How to Train Your Dragon
The immense response to the How to Train Your Dragon 2 teaser trailer is proof that DreamWorks Animation struck a truly special chord with their 2010 smash hit. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup, a Scottish son of a warrior who was always too skinny to do much damage as a medieval fighter. So, when he stumbled on an orphaned dragon and managed to not only make the fire-breather passive towards him, but also train him to soar like a horse with wings, it catapulted Hiccup to a world of almost celebrity in his village, and certainly made his father proud.
How to Train Your Dragon has it all: Action, thrills, humor and interpersonal relationships that are far from typical. To say we’re excited for the sequel in 2014 is a gross understatement.
Honorable Mentions: Madagascar 2, Shrek the Third, Shrek Forever After, El Dorado, The Prince of Egypt, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Bee Movie, Antz, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda 2.