Monday, March 31, 2008

Top Ten Animated Science Fiction Characters

Welcome to the gates of April. This month it is an all Anime extravaganze at the SFSNNJ, with the topics ranging from Anime and Manga, to original novels that were adapted to the screen and much more. While I am not as much of an Anime fan as some of my friends (you know who you are), I do still know a few things. This list will feature characters in books and films that have made the leap to animated features and TV shows.

10 - The crew of the Enterprise - That's right, Star Trek the animated series. It was fun, it was cool, and it went where no TV show could. When Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew made the transition into the 2D world, it was with great fanfare and cool episodes, proving that even Shatner could be animated with style.

9 - That Rats of N.I.M.H. - Robert C. O'Brien's brilliant tale of rats who have been given near human intelligence by tinkering human scientists made the leap from page to screen in the 1980's, and showed us that we needed to take responsibility for our curiosity. Although the Don Bluth film changes many elements of the story from the book, it is never-the-less still an excellent adaptation of this powerful story.

8 - Fiver and Hazel - Richard Adams tale of the hardships of a group of rabbits attempting to start afresh after the destruction of their warren made its bog screen debut to much interest, and managed to show that the British are able animators as well as voice actors. Well treated and respectful of the original work, the film version of Watership Down is considered a classic even today.

7 - Rowf and Snitter - Plague Dogs by Richard Adams is another brilliant film adaptation of animals with human traits. Even more different from the book, the movie version of Plague Dogs features an ending that is far bleaker, but actually a bit more satisfying than the ine in the book.

6 - Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne's classic fat little stuffed bear made the leap to the screen care of Disney Studios, but is the animated version truly superior to the original Shepard illustrations? Many say yes, but the truth is that both are excellent pieces of art in their own right, and the animated Disney version remains as popular today as it was in the 1960's.

5 - Arthur Pendragon and Merlin - Another animated classic brought to us by the talent at Disney, The Sword in the Stone, and one of the more classically inspired stories of its time. Disney's treatment of the classic tale of young Arthur growing up to the point where the mere boy pulls the sword from the stone to claim his birthright is fun and inventive.

4 - Neo - The Matrix has spawned a huge number of professional and amateur animated shorts and features. The version that springs most to mind is the DVD collection entitled The Animatrix, which featured a myriad of new works by noted directors and voice actors.

3 - Juan "Johnny" Rico - Many people disparaged the film adaptation of the classic science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, but Starship Troopers really found its niche when it transitioned into an animted series called Roughnecks. Though there are still many deviations from the book, and the politics of the universe are mostly glossed over, it is still a great version of this classic story.

2 - Taran - While most people find it odd to have the hero fo the story be a Wizard's assistant pig-keeper, it is this youth that makes the story so interesting in Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles. While the Disney feature film conflates several characters and books, condensing them into the animated film, The Black Cauldron, it was still a great, fun fantasy film with some monumentally scary moments for kids. While it does not follow the story set by Alexander, it does follow the tone and style of Alexander's original works.

1 - Bilbo Baggins - Try topping the animated version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, I dare you. Well drawn, well voiced, and very faithful to the original story, The Hobbit shows how wonderful a faithful adaptation of the original work.

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