Everyone has fond memories of animated movies from their childhood, and while today?s teenage generation grew up on CG classics like Toy Story and Shrek, anyone who came of age in the ’80s and ’90s will remember eagerly anticipating the next mega-budget traditional theatrical cartoon. Thanks to Disney?s run of incredibly successful animated musicals in the early ’90s, though, there was suddenly a giant glut of new animated product flooding into the theaters, and a lot of them were really, really, really shitty. Colossally shitty. Childhood-ruiningly shitty. For animation nerds who watch this stuff as adults, it?s even worse with the chilling clarity of age, making it possible to see just how shockingly half-assed some of these movies were.
Here?s a list of the 10 worst offenders; to keep it simple (and to keep the list from having 300 items on it) we?re ignoring direct-to-video product and the entire catalog of Ralph Bakshi, whose filmography would easily take up 15 or 20 spots on its own.
10) Treasure Planet
Back in the late ’90s, when it was becoming clear that traditional animation was on the way out and CG would be replacing it at the box office in the near future, a bunch of longtime Disney animators, directors and producers panicked and came up with this, a sci-fi version of Robert Louis Stevenson?s played-out adventure novel, Treasure Island. The idea was that they would blend classic two-dimensional characters with shiny new 3D effects, and so the audience would be quietly lulled back into being impressed by hand-drawn animation because accompanying it on screen would also be some kind of 3D spaceship or something. The film was essentially born entirely out of desperation to save their jobs, so it?s no wonder the movie reeks of a pathetic attempt to connect with a mainstream audience while still using an outdated technique to impress them.
Instead of actually making a good movie, however, they just took the generic Treasure Island characters, gave them slightly spunkier personalities (Jim Hawkins flies around on a totally extreme space-snowboard-glider thing, as though the movie itself is pleading ?You like that kind of thing, right kids?! RIGHT?! OH GOD PLEASE?), set the whole thing in space, gave Long John Silver a cybernetic transforming robot laser-arm and also included not one but two annoying sidekicks, including a wacky broken robot voiced by the nigh-intolerable Martin Short. The story is incredibly generic and predictable, and as it turns out, nobody wanted to see another version of Treasure Island anyway; this catastrophic misfire cost Disney $180 million and only managed to pull in about $100 million worldwide, making it the studio?s biggest flop ever. It kind of deserved to fail.
9) Bebe?s Kids
Bebe?s Kids is based around the comedy stylings of the late Robin Harris, who wrote this movie but was lucky enough to have died two years before it came out, sparing himself the pain of actually having to see what he?d wrought. Blisteringly unfunny, poorly animated and saddled with a weak premise, the film follows the ever-suffering Robin as he deals with a trio of hell-raising hip hop kids for a day at Fun World in order to impress their mother, who he?s trying to date. If you remember what mainstream rap culture was like in the early ’90s?lots of neon colors, Yo! MTV Raps, parachute pants, those tee-shirts with Bugs Bunny and the Tazmanian Devil wearing gangsta outfits?then you?ve got a great idea of what this movie is like. It?s garish, has a few too many embarrassing musical numbers, and relies heavily on the fact that the baby character is voiced by Tone Loc (get it? He?s a baby, but he has a really deep voice! Comedy gold!) for a good chunk of its supposed laughs. Nearly forgotten by time, Bebe?s Kids also spawned an equally terrible Super Nintendo game, which to this day is still laughed at by nostalgia-hungry Nintendo nerds.
8) Eight Crazy Nights
What?s unfunnier than a shitty Adam Sandler comedy? An animated shitty Adam Sandler comedy! Here?s the premise: Davey?a cartoon version of Sandler?pisses off his community by being a drunken asshole one too many times and, because it?s a Christmas movie, gets sentenced to rehabilitation, aided by an annoying little old man named Whitey and his wife (both voiced at a horrifying and often unintelligible pitch by Sandler). Naturally, the film?s humor relies mostly on poop jokes, boner jokes, and humiliating the old man, often using poop and boner jokes. It?s a musical, too, so not only do you get to hear Sandler?s intolerable Whitey voice throughout the film, in several instances, you get to hear him sing in the intolerable Whitey voice.
This movie has no reason to exist; it is uniformly unfunny, the songs are terrible, and it doesn?t even function very well as an ?edgy? holiday special for bored teenagers. It doesn?t appeal to Sandler?s normal audience of oblivious frat boys, either; it has more goopy sentimentality than his comedies normally do, and it?s a cartoon, which I believe qualifies it as ?gay? and/or ?retarded? in frat boy culture. The odd thing is, originally, Columbia Pictures didn?t want to produce this as an animated film since it would cost an arm and a leg, but Sandler convinced them otherwise, even though there?s nothing in this film that requires animation to depict at all. Except maybe the sequences that feature a group of deer laughing and shitting all over themselves.
7) Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
So it?s the year 2002 and Dreamworks Animation has launched a slate of traditionally animated films out of spite thanks to Jeffrey Katzenberg?s obsession with bringing Disney to its knees. Their first effort, The Prince of Egypt, was pretty good and did pretty well at the box office, but post-Shrek and Toy Story, it was clear that audiences weren?t going to be showing up for traditionally animated films much longer. This was proven by the dismal box office for the studio?s next animated movie, The Road to El Dorado, a mediocre film that is most famous for having the first all-male nude scene in a family cartoon. Dreamworks had two remaining 2D films in the oven?the first of which was Spirit, which is about an untamable horse who talks to himself in the voice of Matt Damon.
It?s a tremendously boring premise, hampered by tremendously boring execution. It?s hard to imagine what demographic they were aiming this thing at?horses, perhaps, and the girls who love them between the ages of 6 and 13. Spirit?whose working title must have been Matt Damon: The Horse, was also produced during a time when it was common knowledge that audiences were sick of cartoon musicals, and so the notion of characters bursting into song and selling millions of soundtrack albums was being phased out in favor of playing appropriately-themed pop songs over montage sequences. It worked well enough for Phil Collins in Disney?s Tarzan movie, but for Spirit, Dreamworks hired Bryan Adams, who promptly composed songs that almost directly described the action on screen rather than being subtle. To wit, the sequence where a bunch of cowboys try to tame the Damon horse and get thrown off his back again and again is set to a song called ?Get Off My Back?, wherein the chorus reminds you to get off his back. The rest of the songs in the film do the same thing, and the result is a film that?s not only horribly dull, it?s also embarrassingly awkward.
6) Home on the Range
Home on the Range is, essentially, a death rattle; it is the final film finished by Disney?s traditional animation studio before they shut the doors seemingly forever after years of critically and commercially unsuccessful projects that were quickly eclipsed by modern CG animated films, which audiences were flocking to. A sad story for fans of traditional animated films, to be sure, but after seeing Home on the Range, it?s hard not to see it as a mercy killing.
The film is the story of three cows, voiced by Jennifer Tilly, Judi Dench and Roseanne Barr respectively, who go on an adventure to save their farm from being sold to a ruthless land developer named Alameda Slim. It?s an attempt at zany slapstick comedy, but frankly, the concept of watching a comedy-adventure movie where the lead character is a cow voiced by Roseanne Barr is pretty fucking terrible and it?s a wonder this movie ever made it into production in the first place. It?s a fairly half-assed film, too, with uninspired characters, a surprisingly bland color palette that evokes memories of cheap motels in the Southwest, and featureless, dull art design that suggests the creative team behind this movie weren?t really giving it their all. It looks and feels like a throwaway Saturday morning cartoon with a slightly larger than average budget. They say when you die, you eject the contents of your bowels at the moment of death, meaning you shit your pants on the mortal plane as one final humiliation before your long journey to Hell. If that?s true, Home on the Range is the sad little pile of feces the corpse of the old Disney animation department left behind. It still stinks pretty bad.
5) The Pagemaster
The Pagemaster is about an animated version of Macaulay Culkin, who had recently made billions for Fox by beating the shit out of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to the delight of audiences across the globe. Culkin?s character is a whiny little paranoid asshole who gets caught in a rainstorm and takes a detour into the local library, where a creepy Christopher Lloyd transforms him and the library?seemingly for no reason at all?into cartoons, wherein Culkin must navigate through a series of challenges based on classic literature, with the help of three talking books. There?s a pirate book, voiced by Patrick Stewart, a jive-talkin? fantasy book, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, and an Igor-like horror book, voiced by some guy you?ve never heard of.
It?s pretty lazy storytelling; all the challenges Culkin faces are predictable to a strange extreme; they?re in a horror story, and so there?s a monster. They?re in a fantasy story, so there?s a dragon. Obviously this movie was produced to promote reading (and a mountain of Pagemaster merchandise that collected dust after the film proved to be a bomb), and they obviously didn?t want to put a lot of effort into the characters, so they just made the hero?s sidekicks a bunch of talking books. The Pagemaster is the equivalent of sitting through an almost unbelievably uninspired 80-minute version of one of those yellowed ?Read a book, kids!? posters from the ’80s you still see on public library walls. In fact, they could?ve saved everyone a lot of time and money by simply producing a line of Macaulay Culkin-themed posters that promote reading; at least then Whoopi Goldberg would likely not be involved.
4) A Troll in Central Park
Don Bluth gets a lot of free passes from people who really loved The Secret of Nimh (likely Furries) who seem to forgive the fact that he?s made a mountain of absolutely terrible cartoons. His signature subtlety-free, chubby-cheeked animation style infects everything he gets his hands on, including ambitious misfires like Anastasia or Titan AE, the latter of which was such a financial disaster that it seems to have sent Bluth to movie jail where they don?t let him work on anything expensive anymore. It?s for the best?the man made A Troll in Central Park, which is about a magical happy troll named Stanley who can make flowers grow with his green thumb and is voiced?both for normal dialogue and his interminable musical numbers?by Dom Deluise, a casting choice nobody sober or sane would ever have agreed to.
Stanley is on the run from the evil queen, voiced by Cloris Leachman in another attempt to make this perhaps the least appealing cast list ever (as everyone knows from Saturday Night Live, this movie even has Charles Nelson Reilly in it). The evil queen requires that all trolls be assholes, and since Stanley is an obnoxiously upbeat little shithead, he gets banished to Central Park where he meets two bratty kids and together they go on a seemingly endless adventure that not even a fifth of Jameson can make entertaining or worthwhile. If the songs don?t make you vomit until your stomach lining gives out, surely the horrifically ugly character designs will. One can only hope that the severe ass-kicking Don Bluth has received from the film industry over the years is somehow karmic payback for A Troll in Central Park.
In the early ’90s, Disney was having its own little renaissance, producing a string of critically beloved films that tore up at the box office; this period gave us classics like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, which was nominated for a motherfucking Best Picture Oscar. They topped off this streak with The Lion King, to this day one of the top-grossing films of all time and a pop culture milestone. Then they had to fuck it all up by releasing Pocahontas, easily the worst traditionally-animated film in the studio?s history (and yes, that includes The Aristocats and Oliver & Company).
It?d be nice to slap the executive that green-lit this pile; who in their right mind would think that following up a series of wildly successful films adapted from classic fairy tales with an animated version of an actual historical event that involved real people and ends with smallpox would be a good idea? People bitch and moan about Disney fucking around with fairytale story details, and it?s easy to dismiss them as being pedantic douchebags, but seriously, providing a happy whitewashed version of real history is a terrible idea?especially when that whitewashing includes the fact that Pocahontas was 10 or so when the 30-ish John Smith arrived. To make matters worse, the film is obnoxiously sincere, the main theme is basically forced, eco-friendly didactic prattle, and the storyline has virtually nothing to do with what happened to the real Pocahontas, who was taken to Europe and died almost immediately of smallpox (Disney’s direct-to-video sequel was sadly not titled Pocahontas: Journey to an Early Grave). It?s worse than what Disney did to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and that movie has singing gargoyles in it, for fuck?s sake. Pocahontas is the equivalent of being wowed by four amazing illusions in a row by an ace magician, who for his next trick drops his pants and takes a giant steaming dump in your lap.
2) We?re Back! A Dinosaur?s Story
One of the most bizarre and misconceived animated films ever made, We?re Back! A Dinosaur?s Story was aborted into this world by executive producer by Steven Spielberg, who claimed in an interview that the film was intended to be a kid-friendly antidote to Jurassic Park, which was released in the same year. Responsible parents would?ve allowed their children to be scarred forever by the scary dinosaurs in Jurassic Park rather than subjecting them to this almost violently weird and unbelievably stupid movie.
This is actually the plot of this movie: Captain New Eyes, some kind of time traveling alien guy, goes back in time and stuffs a bunch of dinosaurs full of ?Brain Grain? cereal which turns them from vicious beasts to cuddly, candy-colored pacifists, in order to fulfill the wishes of a bunch of kids in Manhattan who wanted to see real dinosaurs. So he transports the dinosaurs to modern day New York, where they?re captured by Captain New Eyes? evil brother, Captain Screw Eyes, who can hypnotize people and puts the dinosaurs into a nightmare carnival of some kind. Eventually they all learn about teamwork or something, but the film is so badly written, paced, and just flat-out chock full of incredibly terrible and stupid ideas that it?s shocking that someone of Spielberg?s talent and intelligence would want his name anywhere near this abomination.
1) Quest for Camelot
In the ’90s, plenty of studios went out of their way to carbon-copy the success Disney was having with its run of animated features. Most of them failed, but none of them failed as hard or as spectacularly as Warner Brothers did with Quest for Camelot, the laziest, most obvious Disney rip-off ever made.
Quest for Camelot is about a spunky, adventure-starved girl named Kayley (which sounds like what the weird girl wearing a dragon t-shirt who collects dreamcatchers would name her Dungeons & Dragons character) whose father, a Knight of the Round Table, is blinded in combat by Ruber, an evil red-headed knight-wizard-whatever the fuck who has a magic potion that mutates his henchmen into henchman-weapon hybrid monsters (what?). Ruber wants Excalibur so he can take over and presumably corrupt King Arthur?s Camelot, but he doesn?t know where the sword is. Kayley decides to run off into the Enchanted Forest (seriously, they just called it the Enchanted Forest ? fuck off, creativity!) to find the sword, and runs into a hunky blind guy with a pet bird who guides her through the dangers within. Along the way they meet this hideous two-headed autistic-looking dragon thing, where one head is a very gay Eric Idle and the other head is a castrated Don Rickles, and neither of them ever say or do anything remotely funny or non-horrible (naturally these characters have their own musical number).
Eventually they retrieve the sword from this unbelievably badly-rendered CG rock monster thing, save the kingdom, sing a duet, make some stupid pop culture references and wrap it all up. It?s like watching an early ’90s Disney movie if it were made by terrible hacks who had no previous writing experience and instead just went with whatever half-assed ideas popped into their heads with no regard for quality or entertainment value. Quest for Camelot is insultingly lame; it assumes the viewer has no previous experience with animated movies and thus hasn?t ever seen what a good one looks like, so that the film is the opposite of good came as no concern to the film?s production staff. Fuck this movie and a curse on everyone who helped it get made.