I’m not going to lie I’m debating whether or not to see “Teen Titans Go! to the Movies” this weekend. For the sake of committing to this blog I probably will but either way I still wanted to do a list that ties into the film somehow and I decided to look to the source, Warner Bros. Animation. This studio may still be a growing entity of relevance in today’s world but there’s no denying its connection to the history of animation with its Looney Tunes shorts in the early days of cinema. However their contributions to the medium don’t end with Bugs Bunny. In the modern age of feature-length projects the studio in all it’s different iterations has provided some classic films that have stood the test of time. With their latest animated offering coming this weekend I took a look at the best of what they’ve offered so far. These are my picks for the Top 10 Warner Bros. Animation Movies.
For this list I only looked at original feature length and theatrically released movies from Warner Bros. Animation in any of its forms as the studio has changed names several times. That said you won’t see Looney Tunes shorts here nor will you see compilation films comprised of such shorts reconfigured to create a feature length product. Warner Bros. didn’t start distributing feature length animated movies until 1991 as Warner Bros. Feature Animation and since then has released ten movies to date under its own animated studio banner so essentially every film prior to “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” will be on this list. Not all of these movies are fully animated. Films that cross over into a live action/animation hybrid were also considered for this list as long as they were made by some iteration of Warner Bros. Animation. These films are not to be confused with Warner Bros. Family Entertainment movies which were distributed by but mostly not made by Warner Bros.
Lastly these movies were graded on several factors including their overall quality, their legacy and cultural relevance among other factors including, of course, my own personal bias.
What is your favorite Warner Bros. Animation movie so far? Let me know in the comments below and look out for my review of “Teen Titans Go! to the Movies” this weekend because yeah I’m probably going to give it a chance…Anyways on with the list!
10. “Quest for Camelot”
Infamous for being a critical and box office failure this list has to start somewhere and it begins with “Quest for Camelot”. Based on the novel “The King’s Damosel” by Vera Chalman, this fantasy film was only the third feature length animated movie created and released by Warner Bros. and one of only four the studio released in the 90s. Following the adventure of a woman named Kayley who wants to be one of the Knights of the Round Table and gets her chance to prove herself when Excalibur goes missing this was Warner Bros.’ true first test of their capabilities with animation and while it didn’t go their way it helped paved the road for better things to come. If nothing else the soundtrack earned the movie a bit of credibility. Its main song “The Prayer” earned it a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and an Academy Award Nomination. Its characters have also become examples of late 90s nostalgia especially Devon and Cornwall, the two halves of the two-headed dragon who was featured prominently in the film’s promotional campaign. It might not be a GOOD film but with only ten movies to select from it earns a spot here by default.
9. “Looney Tunes: Back in Action”
An animation/live action hybrid, “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” hit theaters in 2003 as Warner Bros. looked to squeeze whatever they could out of their popular cartoon icons. With the star power of Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin as human characters and modern vocal performers bringing classic Looney Tunes regulars to life this action adventure film did end up being a box office bomb but it reminded people why the Looney Tunes were so lovable in the first place. The story mixes many classic Looney Tunes heroes, villains and settings together as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck team with humans to hunt down a rare diamond the Acme Corporation plans to use to turn the world into subservient monkeys. It may not be the studio’s most memorable offering but it does provide some laughs and some smooth animation that helps give it great cinematic quality. Hell even the overt product placement isn’t so bad if you don’t take the film too seriously. Due to its failure this would be the last movie under the Warner Bros. Feature Animation banner and it would be the studio’s last animated theatrical film until they returned to form eleven years later.
8. “The Lego Ninjago Movie”
Following the success of the first Lego-themed movie in 2014 Warner Bros. Animation released not one, but two sequel movies set in the same universe in 2017. The second of these films was a step back for the studio as “The Lego Ninjago Movie” received mixed critical reviews. It’s connection to the much loved Lego franchise alone puts it this high on the list but that’s not to say “The Lego Ninjago Movie” doesn’t have merit. The animation is great and the story has a lot of kid-friendly action reminiscent of classic superhero television shows like “Power Rangers” and “The Transformers”. It may be cliché and lack the charm of its predecessors, but “The Lego Ninjago Movie” does enough to warrant its own existence and despite being a stumbling block for the studio at the end of 2017 it doesn’t appear Warner Bros. plans on shying away from any more Lego-themed projects anytime soon especially with a sequel to the original Lego film on the way.
7. “Osmosis Jones”
Before closing up shop after “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” Warner Bros. Feature Animation tried something truly unique by taking us inside the human body in yet another live action/animation hybrid “Osmosis Jones”. A box office bomb upon its original release in 2001, “Osmosis Jones” was a hit on home video and eventually even spawned a spinoff television series. Admittedly the animation is more impressive than the live action segments of the film with Chris Rock bringing to life the titular white blood cell who helps a cold pill take down a deadly virus, played by Laurence Fishburne, inside the body of a man played by Bill Murray. It’s about as odd as it sounds but it offers enough humor to satisfy both kids and adults and managed to establish a decent legacy despite its shortcomings. It’s not like the movie was critically panned either. It received mixed reviews but the animation and voice work stood out as its strongest points and even years later a lot of the admittedly dated CGI still looks gorgeous for its time.
Warner Bros.’ second computer animated movie, “Storks” was released in 2016 and became a box office success when the studio was working on creating a solid foundation for the newly christened Warner Animation Group. Building off of the popular legend of delivery storks, the film follows a hotshot stork and his human partner as they try to deliver a baby for the first time in years after storks have moved on to normal delivery services. While the idea of storks delivering children had been explored in past movies, including Disney’s “Dumbo”, this was a rare treat that somehow managed to find new ground for a cliché concept and thus earned some much-needed respect for the studio. While it earned only modest critical praise the film was considered visually beautiful with acting that helped it rise above its clichés. While today it’s overlooked by pretty much every other movie still to come on this list “Storks” came at the right time for Warner Bros. and helped them solidify their place in modern cinema as a growing animation contender.
5. “Space Jam”
Warner Bros.’ third and final live action/animated hybrid on this list “Space Jam” is by far one of the studio’s most iconic works. Inspired by a Nike commercial featuring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny this delightful piece of 90s nostalgia teams the two up once again along with other popular Looney Tunes characters to take on a group of aliens in a basketball game. While critically panned upon its release “Space Jam” became a smashing financial success and as of 2017 was the highest grossing basketball film of all time. Its mix of live action and animation may not be the smoothest presentation today, but seeing the world’s most beloved basketball player team up with some of the world’s most beloved cartoon characters still provides plenty of entertainment even over 20 years later. What’s more, this film was the first presented through the Warner Bros. Feature Animation officially announcing Warner Bros. as a mainstay in animation with its own dedicated studio rather than just a distributor of third-party works. “Space Jam” was the highest grossing film of the studio’s early years and since then has been surpassed only by a pair of films still to come on this list, including this next one.
4. “The Lego Batman Movie”
The second entry in Warner Bros. cinematic Lego universe, “The Lego Batman Movie” was one of 2017’s best animated features and in the eyes of many also one of the caped crusaders greatest films as well. Warner Bros. has the right to DC’s superhero properties and this film takes advantage of many of them as we see Batman struggle with loneliness and purpose after the Joker puts a plan into motion that rids Gotham of villains, thus leaving his arch enemy searching for new meaning in his life. The movie also acts as a parody of sorts of the superhero genre and Batman movies in general by referencing many of the caped crusaders past features . It also brings many other Warner Bros. properties into the mix including King Kong, Godzilla and even Voldemort of “Harry Potter” fame. In some ways a celebration of Warner Bros. history and the superhero that put the studio on the map “The Lego Batman Movie” is as funny as it is fun and is a perfect representation of just how far the studio has come. Oh, and speaking of Batman…
3. “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”
The first theatrically released feature length animated film by Warner Bros. was put to theaters before the studio even had a dedicated animation division for cinema. Originally conceived as a direct-to-video spinoff of the acclaimed “Batman” cartoon, “Mask of the Phantasm” failed to drum up money at the box office mostly because it was shipped to theaters on short notice. The film has sense become a respected part of the caped crusaders cinematic history and in some circles is even celebrated as one of the best animated feature films of the 90s. The film featured actors reprising their roles from the animated series including Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill and follows Batman as he deals with a vigilante killing off Gotham’s crime lords. Mixing kid friendly flair with adult friendly themes this dark animated film was the last theatrical animated Batman feature prior to “The Lego Batman Movie”. While another film, “The Killing Joke”, also received theatrical release it was only for one day so it didn’t count for this list. That said “Mask of the Phantasm” also earned quite a following on home video and today remains a cult classic and one of Warner Bros. finest 2D animated films.
2. “The Lego Movie”
To call 2014’s “The Lego Movie” a comeback for Warner Bros. in the animation department would be quite the understatement. The film is the highest grossing animated movie Warner Bros. has conceived to date and is also among the two best rated films released through their own animation studio. “The Lego Movie” announced the rise of the renamed Warner Animation Group in a big way with a goofy story about an ordinary Lego minifigure who becomes a hero against a tyrannical businessman in a Lego-themed world. Like its successor “The Lego Batman Movie, “The Lego Movie” utilizes many of Warner Bros. other properties, mainly DC Comics characters, to literally build an epic adventure layered with beautiful animation, nostalgia and fun. The film spawned a franchise still going strong today and a sequel set for 2019. It was nominated for a Golden Globe and the hit song from the movie “Everything is Awesome” earned an Oscar nod as well. “The Lego Movie” sparked new relevance for Warner Bros. in the world of animation and without it the studio would be on the outside looking in while Disney and Dreamworks continue to dominate. However, despite its success “The Lego Movie” is not Warner Bros. most iconic or best animated film.
1. “Iron Giant”
A staple of 90s pop culture, the “Iron Giant” is by far Warner Bros. most iconic and celebrated animated work this side of the Looney Tunes. Despite being overlooked during its initial release “The Iron Giant” is often seen as one of the best animated movies of the 90s and, in many circles, one of the greatest animated films of all time. A beautifully animated story well before it’s time, this tale of a boy who befriends a massive machine of war is touching, sincere and funny, all facts that have made it a cultural icon. The giant himself is so iconic that he was featured in 2018’s pop culture laden “Ready Player One” since he is a Warner Bros. property. All in all, there’s no denying this movie its spot at the top of this list. While Warner Bros. might be a little behind in the animation department and only have ten actual studio creations, a film like “The Iron Giant” is proof that this studio can get things right. “The Iron Giant” has aged like a fine wine and is to this day Warner Bros. most relevant, popular and celebrated animated film that promises to live on for generations to come even beyond the relevance of any other movie on this very list.