For years, Dreamworks has been considered the pretender to the throne of Disney Pixar, the secondary studio in the world of animated blockbusters.
While box office receipts suggest that’s largely still the case, the studio has seen a real creative resurgence in recent years and the balance seems to be shifting.
Since its first Antz animation, in 1998, the studio has released a series of highly original films. Despite the occasional drop in quality, they continue to find huge followings worldwide.
With the success of franchise films such as How To Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks is finally starting to become an innovative force – matching Pixar every step of the way.
With How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World new in cinemas, revisit our selection of the studio’s best films below – but note that, although Dreamworks distributed Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit, both are primarily Aardman Productions, so we have intentionally not included them below.
10. Antz (1998)
Woody Allen as a neurotic ant, falling in love with a princess, before reluctantly going to war and discovering the world outside the nest – as far as animation ideas go, it’s a cute idea, carried away with real verve.
Antz, the studio’s very first animation, was released a few months after Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, and while the film’s animation work pales in comparison, Allen’s Z proved a much more compelling protagonist than Dave Foley’s Flik. – probably Pixar’s most uninteresting main character.
Allen’s involvement gave the film a boost in profile, but the voice cast is actually full of A-list names – Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone and Gene Hackman are all involved. Although a little rough around the edges, Antz remains one of the studio’s most enjoyable films.
9. Bee Movie (2007)
Depending on who you ask, Bee Movie is either the nadir of Jerry Seinfeld’s career or his most inspired project since Seinfeld ended in 1998. It’s much derided by some, with a low 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. and a series of mediocre reviews. – NPR at the time went so far as to say “it’s a film with no particular style for its animation, no interest in its twists and no real reason to be bee” – but it’s since developed into something a cult status among Fans.
Despite its mixed reception in 2007, the film was the subject of a meme craze a few years ago, which helped boost its notoriety and caused everyone to reassess the film for what it was – a completely bonkers movie, with a quirky Seinfeld script.
The plot reads: Barry the Bee from Seinfeld pursues the entire human race for “enslaving” bees to make honey, before falling in love with a human woman, who then leaves her fiancé for him. It’s the kind of movie it’s hard to imagine a studio like Dreamworks taking a risk on in 2019 and in truth it’s a miracle it’s ever been made, but it’s an adorably triumphant one. strange, which often wins the skeptics, if the opportunity arises.
8.Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
The third installment in the Kung Fu Panda series features some of the studio’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring animation, transporting viewers to the stunning landscapes and intricate interiors of ancient China.
It wasn’t just the visuals that made the film so successful – while Kung Fu Panda 2 felt like little more than a retread of the initial film, the third film took the narrative to enticing new places and gave Jack Black’s Po more to put his paws on. The filmmakers also added a new dynamic, with the introduction of Po’s father – beginning an absorbing new relationship that felt like a justified and effective addition to the franchise, rather than a lazy plot.
Black, as always, managed to strike a balance between whimsy, endearing naivety, and scatterball eccentricity to lead the vast cast of celebrities in style. The likes of Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, JK Simmons, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Kate Hudson and Jean-Claude Van Damme are all involved. Like many of Dreamworks’ recent films, the quality of the film’s production – from script to animation and casting – is undeniable.
7. The Hunt (2006)
Dreamworks’ modest hit Flushed Away centers on Kensington’s pet rat Roddy St James, who finds his world turned upside down after being flushed down the toilet and ending up in the underground city of Ratropolis, encountering all sorts of characters over time. Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Bill Nighy, Andy Serkis and Shane Richie all contribute their voices, helping bring the characters to life. It’s by no means perfect – the slightly bossy and genuinely creepy look of the sewer dwellers makes this a hard movie to love, and it only grossed $187 million worldwide on a budget of $178 million. , but it’s still a very solid movie. which stands up well to revaluation.
6. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Dreamworks’ 90s and early 00s animations are definitely a mixed bag. For every success (the touching Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), there are failures (the tedious Road to El Dorado, for example). However, the studio’s second animation is something of an anomaly, with a different atmosphere than anything that would come out of the studio.
The biblical tale, following Moses and the events of the book of Exodus, features music by Hans Zimmer and vocal performances by an impressive roster of talents, including Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock and Jeff Goldblum .
It’s a serious and rather busy epic, at least as far as family entertainment goes, with the film sticking quite strictly to biblical history – it’s safe to say that the slavery story doesn’t translate either with many comedic moments. However, it was a bold statement of intent from the studio in 1998, with a quirky and rather handsome look. Perhaps surprisingly, the film turned out to be the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time, grossing $218 million worldwide.
5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Dreamworks’ record for sequels isn’t exactly flawless, with follow-ups to Madagascar and Shrek failing to capture the same spark that inspired the originals. However, they got it right with this one.
Importantly, the stakes genuinely felt high throughout the film, as the lovable dragon Toothless battles the mysterious monster in a key setting, while viewers also see the protagonist Toothless’ parents meet after years of separation in a particularly moving scene.
He didn’t just regurgitate what made the original so compelling, but instead expanded on the film’s central relationships and added additional layers to the characterization of the key players. As always, the animation is breathtaking, providing viewers with striking, sunny landscapes and cool moonlit vistas. It’s a true accomplishment, both technically and narratively, that makes the prospect of How to Train Your Dragon 3 all the more exciting.
4. Madagascar (2005)
Madagascar tells the story of a ragtag group of animal friends at the Central Park Zoo, who are torn from their cushy life in captivity and forced to fend for themselves in the wild. While the main roles, voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith, are charming enough, the film’s real strength is in the perfectly drawn secondary characters. The equally civilized and primitive chimpanzees Mason and Phil, the lemur king Julien XIII and the dastardly escaped penguins – who were to get their own spin-off film Penguins of Madagascar in 2014 – are all a real treat.
There’s brilliant characterization and lively writing throughout the show, even if the film feels episodic and shocking at times and jumps from place to place a little too freely. Still, it’s one of the studio’s most striking movies of the 2000s, and while adults might not be entirely satisfied given the lack of real depth, there’s plenty on offer for youngsters. fans.
3.Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Unlikely heroes are an evergreen trait in Dreamworks animations, but Kung Fu Panda’s Po might just be the friendliest of the lot. The clumsy bear, who is raised to work in a noodle shop by his foster father, the goose Mr. Ping, learns the ancient art of Kung Fu against all odds, becoming a hero of ancient China in this imaginative film and incredibly captured.
The film’s mantras of self-confidence, self-determination and fighting boundaries can sometimes seem a little hokey, but the film’s blistering pace, visual flair and adorable heart make it one of the most Dreamworks films. enjoyable ever made, and one of the most successful too, grossing $215 million at the box office in 2008.
2. Shrek (2001)
Shrek is, hands down, the funniest animation Dreamworks has made to date and a lot of that is down to two factors – the snappiest writing the studio has ever seen and a tireless performance from Eddie Murphy in the recording booth, which delivers a pitch-perfect performance as Donkey, alongside Mike Myers as Shrek.
Like other early Dreamworks films, the animation is a little less than perfectly rendered on occasion, but the way the film subverts the fairy tale format is inventive and still feels fresh even 18 years later. The film spawned a series of sequels of varying quality, but continues to be the studio’s highest-grossing franchise – Shrek 2 remains Dreamworks’ highest-grossing film, grossing $920 million at the worldwide box office. It’ll be okay Donkey, it’ll be okay.
1. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
By far the most accomplished film the studio has made is How To Train Your Dragon, which marked a huge breakthrough for Dreamworks in 2010.
Based on the 2003 book by Cressida Cowell, the film tells the story of a misunderstood teenager, Hiccup, who is neglected and underestimated by his warrior father, and who strikes up an unlikely friendship with the dragon Toothless. At first glance, it’s not the most original idea (the “stranger finds a dragon” story has been done before, as anyone who’s seen Eragon’s wildly disappointing adaptation will attest to). 2006), but there is a freshness to the storytelling that elevates it above its contemporaries. It’s the perfect blend of beautiful animation, larger-than-life characters, a stellar voice cast, narrative clarity, clearly defined and well-told relationship arcs, and a fully realized fantasy world. – which combine to create something a little magical.
Significantly, the extremely impressive film coincided with a series of uninspiring Pixar projects, including Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University. For the first time, it suggested a leveling of the playing field and proved that Dreamworks could finally take on the best in the business.