Animated films have steadily been gaining respectability over the past few generations, thanks in most part to Pixar (and sometimes Dreamworks) creating movies that are in every way the equals of live-action in both poignancy and complexity. Animation isn’t just for kids, and it hasn’t been that way for years.
The following list has nothing to do with any of that, because for every Inside Out or How to Train Your Dragon, there’s an unbearable Saturday morning cartoon stretched into movie format, and they’re so bad that even kids can tell the difference.
Not counting the two-bit rip-offs of other, more superior animated films (which deserve a list all to themselves) here are some of the worst animated movies of all time. Somehow, these were deemed fit to show to children.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 12 Worst Animated Films of All Time
Titanic: The Legend Goes On (2000)
Straight off the bat, you might see a problem here, in that there’s nothing “legendary” about the Titanic. It was a real ship, it really sank and it was really one of the worst boating tragedies in history. You wouldn’t think so watching this movie, since you’ll be so very distracted by the actual, honest-to-goodness rapping dog. Bear in mind, this dog had to be written, drawn, coloured, animated and voiced, and at no part of this process did anyone think this might be a bad idea. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg (or if you’d like an expression that isn’t tasteless, “the first of many problems”).
Titanic: The Legend Goes On might technically be considered a rip-off, but in less of the “tricking people into buying the video” sense of the phrase and more along the lines of blatantly stealing set-pieces and characters. There’s a blonde guy, he falls in love with a redhead, there’s a soulful love ballad, it happens on the Titanic. In fact, every character in the movie seems suspiciously similar, from the Cruella de Vil-lookalike with her bumbling henchmen to Mexican mouse family, who seem to be a brood of Speedy Gonzalez clones.
Not that you’ll be noticing any of this because of how shoddily the entire affair is put together. Nothing before the actual sinking makes a speck of sense (see: rapping dog), as the cacophony of characters and plots collide into a Frankensteinian monster of children’s entertainment. The animation bounces back and forth between styles as fast as the animators can steal and trace over other, better films. The movie mercifully ends when all the characters you were supposed to care about are carried to safety by geographically-impossible dolphins and everyone lives happily ever after. Still, at least they managed to keep enough historical integrity to let the titular ship actually sink, unlike…
Legend of the Titanic (1999)
Gee, it’s almost as if the tragedy of the Titanic sinking doesn’t mesh with wacky cartoon animals. Somehow, we got two Titanic movies with talking mice and gross historical inaccuracies, and this time…it’s worse? Probably?
There’s still a blank slate of a couple – Don Juan and Elizabeth – who fall in love (in about four seconds) despite being kept apart by their respective social classes. This one goes a step further and has the poor, helpless rich girl about to be married off to an unscrupulous rich guy who owns a whale hunting company, and intends to marry Elizabeth, inherit her share of the ocean and become the undisputed whale-killer of the seas. To complete his nefarious plan, he enlists the aid of a giant talking octopus with a dog nose, who’s actually a nice guy but very naive. The octopus (along with some hoodlum sharks of the ocean) throws an iceberg at the ship, causing it to sink. Despite the talking mice having chewed through the telegram cables and doomed them all to die, they send out a message using one mouse’s mustache. The octopus eventually realizes his mistake and uses his inconsistently-sized tentacles to hold the ship aloft, allowing everyone to get off safely. There’s a gigantic happy ending at the docks. Also, Elizabeth can talk to dolphins because she cried over one of them.
If you managed to follow any of that, I’m sorry; you’re probably one of those people who thinks cheese is naturally found in cans. It’s harsh to say it, but portraying the Titanic disaster with a Disney happy ending isn’t just inaccurate; it’s disrespectful. It’d also be just swell if they stopped referring to the whole thing as a “legend.”
Bolivar: el Heroe (2003)
Bolivar: el Heroe (Bolivar: the Hero) is a Colombian animated film that follows the now tried-and-true method of butchering history and hoping that kids are too stupid to tell the difference. It’s difficult to find even in the varied and phantasmagorical world of the internet, but the trailer is really all you need to see. Bear in mind, this was released in 2003 and not, as you might guess, 1975.
Adding to the bizarre mystery surrounding the film is the decision to go for anime-inspired visuals. Bolivar himself is depicted as a flaming-haired man-lady with one eye obscured by gorgeous locks; this does nothing to hamper his prowess in the ways of the ninja, as the trailer shows him performing what can only be described as a finishing move from a Naruto video game. Unfortunately, his purple-haired nemesis has the same abilities, and the two engage in poorly-drawn battle over stock footage of their armies being shot to death. There’s also someone with a tail, because of course there is.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Amazon weirdly refers to this version of Alice in Wonderland has having “cutting-edge animation.” The exact opposite should be obvious from seeing a single frame of the actual movie, though fortunately there’s no need to watch it after the trailer explains the entire plot. The animation quality here cannot be understated: this does not belong anywhere near the 21st century.
If it looks like it was cobbled together in someone’s basement, that’s probably because it was. We start off with a version of Alice who looks like Arnold from Hey Arnold! performed the fusion dance with Angela Anaconda, and the result is something that could give Tim Burton nightmares. It sort of ruins the effect of an ordinary girl entering a fantastical world when Alice is by far the scariest thing on screen.
The movie also uses an old radio drama for most of its audio, which means we have voices and music from the 1940s playing over what resembles a garishly-colored PowerPoint presentation, and also an Alice voice that seems far too old for what we see on screen. Yeah, because that thing really needed to be creepier.
It’s kind of a shame about Delgo, because the poster looks amazing and the concept isn’t too bad: two races at war, a warrior falling in love with a princess on the opposing side, magic stones and a main character voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. (remember him?). The movie was made with a budget of $40 million, but didn’t even manage to scrape together $700,000 at the box office, making it one of the worst bombs in history.
There are a number of reasons for this, the most obvious of which is the animation. For 2008, it just wasn’t enough, and while it might not have been Foodfight! (there can only be one Foodfight…), it was just too lazily rendered to keep up with the competition, with very little in the way of flowing CGI- everything has a rigid feel. There’s also the fact that perhaps some of the $40 million budget should’ve gone into writing, because the plot is a mess. Adult themes of war and reconciliation will fly over the heads of the little ones, while the blatant kid-friendly bits stand out like a sore thumb.
The plot is also stuck together from various dead horse tropes: there’s a guy and girl, they can’t be together, a forbidden romance, a wacky (and unbearable) sidekick, an evil queen who causes her own ironic death and so very much more. Anything aside from that is seemingly pulled from James Cameron’s Avatar (which is itself kind of a Pocahontas rip-off), even though Delgo was released first. The soup of a plot, phoned-in performances and lazy animation make you wonder why this movie took nine years to release.
Foodfight! (2012, somehow)
At some point, somebody who should never have been put in charge of children’s entertainment was in a supermarket. They looked around at the shelves, and in their diabolical mind, Foodfight! was born. And that’s terrible.
It’s likely that Hilary Duff was either ridiculously scrapped for cash or she had no idea what she was getting herself into; either way, it’s got to be a point of shame that she ended up voicing an blonde cat-girl with a single, ditzy facial expression. In fact, the movie manages to wrangle an all-star cast, which makes it even worse that it’s utterly deplorable in every way. Remember, this was released in 2012. That’s the same year we got Wreck-it-Ralph, Brave and Rise of the Guardians. There was no excuse for Foodfight! looking like a lazy Sims mod.
The plot is somehow even worse than the animation, as it concerns a number of iconic brands uniting to stop generic brands from taking over the shelves of a supermarket. Yes, the brands come to life, and it’s the most shameless piece of cross-promotion you’ll ever see, as well as just mean-spirited. The film was also criticized for including Nazi imagery, as well as a whole load of crude jokes and sexual innuendo, just what kids need apparently. Then again, that’s what you get casting Charlie Sheen as a dog detective embroiled in an interspecies romance.
Elf Bowling the Movie: The Great North Pole Strike (2007)
Elf Bowling was a 1988 computer game where you play as Santa, who has for some reason set up his elves like bowling pins and is now proceeding to roll heavy objects at them. The story was sparse, making it difficult to ascertain exactly why any of this is happening. Naturally, someone looked at this and thought it’d be a marvelous idea to drag the entire thing out into a movie. And that, children, is how Elf Bowling the Movie: The Great North Pole Strike was born. Don’t watch it.
As we learn from the trailer, which is voiced by a man who just received his very first thesaurus and is simply losing his marbles over the wonders within, Santa used to be a pirate. He was then frozen in ice, floated to the North Pole and immediately set about enslaving an entire race and using them as bowling pins, as Santa is wont to do. However, Santa’s evil brother tries to ruin Christmas, yadda yadda Elf Bowling, Fiji and other plot developments that become impossible to care about because this is a movie based on Elf Bowling. Nothing makes sense, from the elves’ entire existence to why they enjoy being used as bowling pins, or why Santa begins as a man willing to kill his own brother and becomes the Lord and Master of Christmas in the space of five minutes.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil (2011)
The original Hoodwinked! was a mixed bag of sloppy animation and fairly decent writing. It wasn’t nearly as memorable as literally anything that came out in the same year, but neither was it a cinematic ink-stain. That honour goes to Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil, which tops the fast-growing list of sequels that never should have been allowed to happen.
The plot dispenses with the media-res approach of the original, instead going for the straight story involving evil truffles. Really, there’s not much to be said, as the trailer commits the sin of giving most of it away.
The entire movie is essentially Shrek-lite, as it attempts to mash together pop-culture references with fairy tale characters with all the finesse of a high-speed bus collision. The animation might have improved from the previous offering, but at the cost of all of the low-budget charm, leaving Hoodwinked Too as a repository for dated jokes and terrible slapstick. Even the action sequences in the movie ring hollow when there’s nothing holding them together.
Freaky Flickers: Quest for the Golden Flicker
Freaky Flickers were a toy fad that popped up a few years ago and assumed that kids would be enamored with tiny, body-less monstrosities that bounced. That was basically it. They bounced, and presumably this was highly amusing for all of four minutes. Naturally, this was a solid base for a feature length film apparently animated by a single person.
Tiny bouncing faces don’t exactly make for compelling character designs, so exactly who thought kids would want to sit through an entire movie of them is a mystery. The trailer (if that’s what it was meant to be) doesn’t do much to clear up matters, as it goes from bizarre to sheer insanity and back again in the space of three minutes. There’s a pirate, who goes into a cave to find an artefact and dies at least four times on the way out. A little green, screaming fish thing gets carried away by a giant tree rabbit, they almost get eaten by a T-Rex with an improbably huge head, there’s a solid fifteen to twenty seconds of a bunch of characters falling down some stairs and then the pirate blasts off into space with his jet-powered pirate ship.
If this really was animated by one person, that actually makes it quite a solid effort, despite the movie never properly seeing the light of day due to technical issues. However, that still doesn’t clear up the fact that it’s all based around a toy franchise that was in its death throes before it even got off the ground. Please take a moment to enjoy the sheer insanity that is supposedly the Freaky Flickers official website.
Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back (2010)
Well, this needed to exist, clearly.
Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back, a title I simply refuse to type again in its entirety, is a movie about space chimps that nobody realized didn’t work the first time around. It tells a story (barely) of Comet, a decidedly-not-space chimp who really wants to be a space chimp. He gets his chance to prove his skills when the evil Zartog takes over mission control, and Comet must team up with all the chimps from the last movie to save the world. There are banana/primate puns. None of them are actually good.
This time, the animation isn’t the absolute worst, with some endearing character designs, particularly Comet’s. It’s therefore understandable that it’ll entice the young ones with some slapstick and the general charm of talking monkeys. The problem lies in the fact that the animation is again leagues behind what it should be, and the plot is paper-thin and feels like it was written by an actual chimp. It’s a classic case of cobbling together some cute animation and flashing colors to draw in the kids, but it’s ultimately exactly that cheap. It’s a combination of all of these things that make a RottenTomatoes rating of 0% seem somehow generous.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (2013)
There have been plenty of adaptations of The Wizard of Oz that would make author L. Frank Baum turn in his grave. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return probably takes the cake, as far as animation goes. Once again, this movie gathers a fairly talented and well-known cast and squanders it by having them spout sheer, processed nothing.
When an evil jester steals the Wicked Witch’s broomstick and uses it to command an army of flying monkeys, the residents of Oz are forced to do exactly what they did last time: pluck an innocent farm girl out of her life and just hope she’ll end up killing whoever happens to be the problem. Because, hey, it worked before. The visuals in Legends of Oz aren’t to blame, as kids won’t notice the slightly sub-par animation (there’s a lot of distracting color). Instead, the content of the movie is just insipid and impossibly saccharine. The movie attempts to ride on Disney’s coat tails by stuffing the movie with songs, which would’ve worked great if they hadn’t been completely forgettable. Meanwhile, the plot is rushed and makes about as much sense as…well, the original. But without the pervading charm.
Overall, the movie just comes off as unnecessary, another adaptation in the growing library of Wizard of Oz-inspired media that will do very little to inspire anything else. Still, at least it’s in glorious 3-D!
The Magic Roundabout was a 1960s kids’ show that thrived on not making a lick of sense. A film of the same name was released in 2005, which received mixed reviews but was praised for remaining true to the original.
And this brings us to Doogal. The Weinstein Company apparently thought that all those British accents would be far too confusing for American kids, and so The Magic Roundabout was sliced and diced into the monstrosity that was Doogal, complete with its own American voice cast and a new script. Surprising no one, this turned out to be their downfall, as the plot became non-existent and the abundance of flatulence jokes didn’t go down quite in the way they were expecting. Crucial scenes were cut and replaced with pop culture references, causing the characters to suffer and the trailer to reference Lord of the Rings so relentlessly it’s like the result of some sick bet. It’s perhaps the best example of why you should leave well enough alone, as while the movie might not have done so well in the American market…at least it wouldn’t have been Doogal.
Ironically, barring all the terrible shout-outs, Doogal’s bizarre idiot plot actually brings it closer to the feel of the original. If only it were still the sixties.
Know any more animated abominations? Let us know in the comments!