Friday, December 7, 2012

Best Disney Animal Sidekicks

Behold, an amazing table!

A friend had on her blog a countdown of the most annoying Disney characters ever. I decided to go about it more social-scientifically and put numbers on things. There are far too many characters to do them all at once. So this is my ranking of Disney's best animated animal sidekicks. All the descriptions and caveats and all the rest are below the fold.

(Updated 12/7 - fixed chronology, added Max, Pip, and Kevin, rescored Little Mermaid Talking on my brother's advice.)
My Top 5 (tie for 5th)



Movie Character Talk Int. Plot Comfort Comedy Music Prince My Pref Total Time
Pinocchio Jiminy Cricket 10 10 10 8 4 8 10 10 70 1
Jungle Book Baloo 10 8 8 10 6 8 6 10 66 3
Little Mermaid Sabastian 8 10 8 5 6 10 8 10 65 4
Tangled Pascal 6 10 6 10 8 0 6 10 56 14
Aladdin Iago 10 10 8 8 10 2 0 4 52 5
Enchanted Pip 9 10 6 5 7 4 4 7 52 11
Brother Bear Koda 8 6 10 8 2 0 8 5 47 10
Up Doug 10 3 8 4 10 0 6 6 47 12
Aladdin Abu 6 4 6 8 6 0 6 10 46 5
Little Mermaid Scuttle 8 6 2 4 8 4 6 6 44 4
Princess & Frog Ray 8 6 6 6 2 8 6 2 44 13
Brave Mother 4 8 10 6 2 0 6 8 44 15
Cinderella Jacques & Gus 4 6 6 0 8 4 8 6 42 2
Princess & Frog Louis 8 8 2 0 4 6 6 7 41 13
Tarzan Tantor 8 8 4 6 4 0 6 4 40 9
Little Mermaid Flotsam & Jetsam 8 8 6 8 0 0 0 8 38 4
Up Kevin (fem) 2 4 10 4 5 0 4 4 33 12
Little Mermaid Flounder 8 6 2 6 2 0 4 2 30 4
Tangled Maximus 4 8 7 0 6 0 4 0 29 14
Cinderella Lucifer 2 4 4 4 4 0 0 9 27 2
Mulan Lucky Cricket 4 4 4 0 6 0 4 4 26 8
Tarzan Terk 8 6 4 4 2 0 2 -2 24 9
Little Mermaid Max  2 2 0 4 2 0 4 6 20 4
Aladdin Raja 4 2 0 2 0 0 4 6 18 5
Hunchback Djali (goat) 2 2 0 0 2 0 4 0 10 7
Pocahontas Meeko et al 2 2 0 0 2 0 2 0 8 6
Bottom 5 I think we could do without.

Nothing against Raja or Max, really - they got 6/10 just based on whether I like them or not. They just doesn't serve a purpose. What the table tells me is that none of these on the bottom do.

I was really surprised how high Koda came out and that Iago beat Abu. I was rooting for Abu to be in the top 5, but he's the only one I gave a 10 to that didn't make it.

I was also surprised how very few females there are on the list. Merida's mom (and you can argue she doesn't belong on the list for several reasons), and maybe Cri-Kee and Djali - I'm not sure and I'm not checking. Even the female leads don't have female sidekicks! Weirdness. [This convinced me to add Kevin from Up, even though her status as a proper sidekick may be questionable]

So there you have my take on Disney's animated animal sidekicks. Of course, now that I've given this way too much thought over the last two evenings, I'm starting to wonder what other groups of Disney characters I should rank and how. Villains? All the sidekicks I didn't include this time around? Human sidekicks? Leads? Any requests?

Again, full description and the wonkishness below the fold.

Who counts as an animal sidekick? The first rule is that you have to actually be an animal. This means
 - No spirits or demons. This removes Mushu from Mulan, Pain and Panic from Hercules, and Aladdin's Genie
 - No animate objects. This removes Aladdin's Magic Carpet, the supporting robots in Wall-E, and the entire supporting cast of Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story.
 - and more controversially, no all-animal casts. The fact that the sidekick is an animal only matters if the lead is human (at least part of the time). This is a difficult choice because it removes a lot of great movies with great animal characters, but it would also make some of the criteria obsolete. All animals talk perfectly in an all-animal movie!

The other element is that they are real sidekicks to a human. They need to strongly identify with a main character and follow them throughout the movie. There may be more than one sidekick in a movie - witness Little Mermaid's shocking 5 sidekicks. Villains' sidekicks count. Here are four examples of animals who are not sidekicks: Bruno the dog in Cinderella because he doesn't follow her around; Remy is a lead, not a sidekick; the Cheshire Cat is not loyal to Alice; Belle's horse Philipe has too little screen time - another flavor of not following her around.

Actually, I put most of the horses in a separate category. I never realized how very few Disney animated horses there are who talk. Horace Horsecollar, Mr. Toad's Cyril, and the cast of Home on the Range are about it. Does Pegasus talk? I missed that one. More than that, aside from loyalty and the occasional incredulous look when the hero does something stupid, the vast majority do next to nothing *as characters.* You could exchange them almost at will and the movie would be no different. So most of the horses would be very far on the bottom and that's just not right. Sorry.

I should also confess that I have to have seen the movie. There was this stretch of 10 movies after the Renaissance where I only saw 3/10 movies and even then only years after they first came out. I know Black Cauldron because of the computer game and have passing familiarity with Hercules, but haven't actually seen either one. If someone would care to rate animal sidekicks from any of the missing movies and comment, I'll add them in.

What are the characteristics that make for interesting animal sidekicks?

First, they have to be able to converse or express themselves, otherwise there is no character. 10 if they can talk to anyone, 8 if they can only talk to the main character, 6 if they are not really verbal but communicate very well regardless (Abu, Pascal, and Merida's mother), 4 if humans can read their expressions, 2 if they can at least obey human commands. No one got a 0 - wouldn't be much of a sidekick.

Second is intelligence. 10 if they are smarter than the lead, 8 for adult intelligence, 6 for child intelligence, 4 for smarter-than-the-aaaaverage animal, and 2 for being just an animal. (Lucifer in Cinderella is just a cat, but gets 2 bonus points for cunning.)

Third: how important is this character to the plot? 10/8 - Essential. Without this character, the movie breaks down. 6/4 - Useful. The character moves the plot along in some way, preferably more than once. 2/0 - We could get rid of this character and it would make no difference.

Fourth: Does the character give comfort and advice to the lead? 10 if the lead would fall apart without their sidekick, 0 if the lead can get along just fine without them.

Fifth: Comedy. Nearly all of them are there primarily for comic relief, but that doesn't mean they are or are intended to be funny per se. Your mileage may vary on this one, but at 10 I repeat some of their jokes or funniest moments and 0 is a character that serious. 4 generally means either that they try to be funny, but I'm not impressed (Terk and Tantor in Tarzan), or that they aren't meant to be funny, but manage a little humor anyway (Jiminy Cricket).

Sixth: Music. 10 for Sebastian the Crab, 8 for nearly anyone with a great song, and 4 for having a forgettable song or just a bit part (Scuttle, Pip). Iago gets a special mention for the new Tiki Birds (2 pts).

Seventh: What would I feel if my son imitated them? 10 I'm proud, 0 I have serious reservations.

Eighth: How much do I like them? If I don't have a strong feeling of like, then I ask instead how annoying the character is from 0-10 and invert that. Terk is my Spinal Tap: the dial goes all the way up to 12.

The last column was what order they came in chronologically. I was interested to note that the average sidekick in the last 5 Disney movies got the same score as the average sidekick in the first 5 (44-45) but the 5 movies in the middle [near the end of the Renaissance] got only 26.