Making an animated movie takes a lot of money, people, and effort, which is usually the reason why studios don’t like taking big chances on them the same way that they bet on live-action films. But even after getting a studio’s greenlight and putting in all that time, energy, and investment, some animated movies are just the worst.
When an animated movie's plot is not right, or the characters aren’t compelling, or the story isn’t original, people tend to be pretty vocal about their disappointment. The standards of animated movies have historically been set very high by companies such as Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks Animation, and audiences can be quite unforgiving when certain elements such don’t match up.
To figure out which particular movies have been hailed as “the worst” based on the opinions of critics and fans, we turned to the entertainment industry’s biggest review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, and considered all major full-length animated features that had theatrical releases in the United States and featured somewhat notorious actors, directors, or writers in the making of them.
These are the 20 Worst Animated Movies Ever (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
20 SHREK THE THIRD (41%)
Shrek was DreamWorks Animation’s first major hit, both commercially and critically, earning the studio the first-ever Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2002 (beating out Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.). This movie proved that DreamWorks could create entire franchises out of their original animated characters in a way that Disney had so successfully done throughout the years, but as the films were developed and the title character’s love story with Fiona was pretty much resolved in Shrek 2, it seemed as if there wasn’t much else left to explore.
Shrek The Third is arguably the worst movie in the entire franchise, which signaled to DreamWorks that just having recognizable characters doesn’t necessarily always translate into having a successful film. Shrek The Third has a well-deserved score of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the lowest-rated movie in the Shrek series and one of the most badly reviewed projects ever from the DreamWorks Animation studio.
19 19.CARS 2 (39%)
The Cars franchise has been very commercially successful for Disney and Pixar – selling merchandise, spinning off theme parks, doing advertisement partnerships, and even performing well at the box office. Critically, however, the series has faulted quite tremendously in comparison to other Pixar films.
Cars 2 is Pixar’s lowest-rated animated movie ever, with a 39% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Cars 3 – which came out in 2017 – comes as second to last (scoring 66%) and the original Cars is placed as the third to last (scoring 74%). The Good Dinosaur has a score of 77%, being the lowest-rated non-Cars Pixar movie to have come out.
Out of the 18 feature films Pixar has released in the theaters, 12 have scores above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes – which is impressive, to say the least!
18 BROTHER BEAR (38%)
Disney’s Brother Bear is another shining example of a film with a major commercial success that didn’t translate into positive criticism. It is the second lowest-rated original animated movie the studio has ever made, with a score of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.
On paper, everything seemed right with Brother Bear: stellar cast featuring Joaquin Phoenix, music by Phil Collins, direction by Disney veterans Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker. The movie, however, just didn’t land with critics. While nothing in particular was necessarily awful, the film was just not seen as a great one, especially when compared to other Disney classics from the times before it.
17 ICE AGE 4: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (37%)
Even though Fox’s Blue Sky Studios enjoyed a mild success with Rio and Rio 2, this small studio revolves almost entirely around the success of the Ice Age franchise, which is responsible for the big box office numbers and mainstream attention Blue Sky has gathered since 2002.
As more and more Ice Age films kept coming out, 2012’s Ice Age 4: Continental Drift was released, and it was the clearest sign that the franchise was definitely losing steam and, at this point, merely releasing new installments of this series to keep the Blue Sky Studios competitive in an industry dominated by Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks Animation.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift scored 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, a pretty steep fall from the first installment’s 77% score.
16 MARS NEEDS MOMS (37%)
A partnership between Walt Disney Pictures (not the Animation division!) and ImageMovers Digital, Mars Needs Moms was released in 2011 with a big marketing campaign that didn’t convince anybody to go see it. The film, budgeted at $150 million, made $39 million back and scored a low 37% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Mars Needs Moms is about a boy who tries to rescue his mom after she is abducted by Martians who are in need of mother figures to provide data in order to program nanny-like robots. The cast features Seth Green, Dan Fogler, and Joan Cusack.
This animated movie was the last time Disney partnered with ImageMovers Digital, a studio owned by filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (writer and director of the Back To The Future trilogy).
15 CHICKEN LITTLE (36%)
Chicken Little was Walt Disney Animation’s first-ever full-length computer-animated feature film – a huge leap for the studio, which for a long time kept insisting on hand-drawn animations. It was also the first ever Disney movie to be released in theaters in the 3D format.
While Chicken Little enjoyed a modest commercial success – performing better than other 2000s animated Disney movies – it completely sunk among critics, earning it a score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes and becoming Disney’s lowest-rated animation ever.
Walt Disney Animation was only able to somewhat recover with 2009’s The Princess and the Frog as the studio went back to its roots and released a new Princess story with hand-drawn animation. It was 2010’s Tangled that would become the first computer-animated Disney film to enjoy actual success critically and commercially.
14 SHARK TALE (35%)
While Shark Tale gave us the Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott cover of Rose Royce’s “Car Wash”, which became an instant global hit song that sold millions of copies, there is not much else to celebrate about the film.
Confident from its success with Shrek and Shrek 2, DreamWorks Animation had huge plans for Shark Tale, but none of them panned out. The movie was seen as too adult-oriented for children to enjoy and understand it – with adult themes, characters, references. Shark Tale has a score of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, becoming the lowest-rated DreamWorks Animation film ever.
It also didn’t help that the movie came out a year after Pixar’s Finding Nemo, which enjoyed massive success both commercially and critically, and comparisons, therefore, became inevitable.
13 ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (33%)
The Weinstein Company made a few attempts at entering the animated film landscape, but none of them seemed to work, and Escape From Planet Earth is one of the biggest examples of this ongoing failure from the studio.
Made in partnership with the Canadian studio Rainmaker Entertainment, Escape From Planet Earth centers around aliens trying to leave Earth to return to their home planets, a plot pioneered (on a mainstream scale) by 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and revisited by 2002’s Lilo & Stitch. Unlike those other examples, however, Escape didn’t work, which culminated on the film’s 33% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
12 PLANES (25%)
Planes was a spin-off of the Cars franchise made by DisneyToon Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures – without the direct involvement of Pixar or Walt Disney Animation.
Much like Cars, Planes was about a movie about airplanes that had personalities, names, and life in them. Originally developed as a direct-to-video project, the film found its way to the theaters with a stellar cast that featured Dane Cook, Priyanka Chopra, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and John Cleese.
While the movie far outperformed its low budget, it bombed with critics, landing a 25% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Planes received 2 out of 5 stars from Screen Rant’s Sandy Schaefer, who in 2013 wrote that while the movie would’ve been “passable as a direct-to-video,” it didn’t “deserve a theatrical release.”
11 HOP (25%)
Tied with Planes, Illumination Entertainment’s Hop also has a score of 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, being the studio’s lowest-rated and least commercially successful movie ever – even as it tried to capitalize on 2011’s Easter weekend.
Hop centers around E.B., a rabbit voiced by comedian Russell Brand, who dreamed of becoming a drummer and ditching the title of Easter Bunny. It was directed by Tim Hill, who enjoyed great success as the director of 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks and co-writer of 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
Critics were not impressed by Hop, to say the least. This notion was accentuated even more as the film was released a year after the very successful Despicable Me, which kicked off Illumination Entertainment’s most profitable and beloved franchise to date.
10 BARNYARD (22%)
Barnyard is a German-American animated movie released by Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Pictures in 2006. Its premise was simple: the cow Otis and his party-hard animal friends have to learn to accept responsibility in their lives.
Written and directed by Steve Oedekerk – who has writing credits in hits such as Bruce Almighty, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and The Nutty Professor – Barnyard didn’t land. While the movie grossed over two times its small budget at the box office, it was considered an overall flop among critics and audiences, scoring a 22% on Rotten Tomatoes and making into the Top 10 of worst animated movies ever released according to Tomatometer scores.
The movie also features Friends’ Courteney Cox as Daisy, a pregnant yellow cow, which is quite something.
9 THE WILD (20%)
Yet another Walt Disney Pictures animated movie that didn’t have Walt Disney Animation’s involvement, 2006’s The Wild came out one year after 2005’s Madagascar from DreamWorks Animation, which yielded comparisons between the two very similar projects that reflected poorly on the Disney film.
Both Madagascar and The Wild are about animals roaming outside of New York’s Central Park Zoo, but while the former boasts an “okay” score of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, the latter scored a baffling 20%. Also, the movie barely recouped its $80 million budget, instantly becoming a very forgettable flop from Disney.
The Wild’s protagonist lion was voiced by 24’s Kiefer Sutherland, and the cast also featured actors Jim Belushi and William Shatner. It was animated by a company called C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures, which never made an animated movie again after The Wild.
8 STRANGE MAGIC (18%)
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream play, Strange Magic was made by Disney’s Lucasfilm, which was founded by George Lucas, and is one of the two animated full-length features the company has ever made. The other one is 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars film.
Even with the Shakespearian reference, George Lucas’ involvement, and the marketing powers of Disney, Strange Magic grossed a baffling $13 million at the box office and scored 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Curiously, the movie was directed by Gary Rydstrom, who has been nominated seventeen times at the Oscars (winning seven) for his work in sound engineering. It was undoubtedly a rocky start for Lucasfilm as it had just been acquired by Disney.
7 A TROLL IN CENTRAL PARK (17%)
From Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the duo responsible for All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Land Before Time, and Rock-A-Doodle, came 1994’s A Troll In Central Park, a Warner Bros Family Entertainment movie that grossed $71 thousand – yes, you read that right: thousand – at the domestic box office. To date, it is Don Bluth’s lowest-grossing movie ever.
While the film had a slightly better international following in comparison to the U.S., it still didn’t stop it from scoring 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and becoming one of the biggest commercial and critical flops in the history of cinematic animation.
In the U.K., A Troll In Central Park was renamed to Stanley’s Magic Garden – an attempt to rebrand the movie that ultimately had no impact in its success.
6 FREE BIRDS (17%)
Coming from such a small studio, Free Birds had quite an impressive cast: Amy Poehler, Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, George Takei, and Dan Fogler, to name a few. Also, the film was directed by James Hayward, who had previously worked as a director in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who! and as an animator for Pixar in films such as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Finding Nemo.
Despite the very negative critical feedback, Free Birds made $110 million against its $55 million budget, which was a mild success for such a small studio.
5 LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (16%)
Based on the Dorothy of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum, Summertime Entertainment’s Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return animated musical was a massive 2013 failure that broke the studio (which ceased to exist after only making this one movie).
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, which intended on being a follow-up to the beloved story of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, only made $18 million back from its $70 million budget and scored an awful 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This animated musical featured actress Lea Michele in the title role of Dorothy and also featured actors Kelsey Grammer, Jim Belushi, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy, and Patrick Stewart. The film’s accompanying soundtrack relied heavily on Lea Michele’s singing (of Glee fame), but bombed just as hard as the rest of the movie.
4 ICE AGE 5: COLLISION COURSE (15%)
As Ice Age 5: Collision Course enters this list due to its abysmal score of 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, Ice Age becomes the one and only major animated franchise to have two films included within this Top 20 – which is nothing to be proud of.
Ice Age 5: Collision Course once again follows characters Manny, Sid, and Diego, and - like many other long-standing franchises in the history of cinema - it raises the movie’s stakes by including outer space-related story elements to the plot.
From a $105 million budget, Ice Age 5 grossed $408 million at the box office, which very clearly sends the message that Rotten Tomatoes isn’t always a perfect tool for predicting the commercial success of a film. The Ice Age franchise keeps doing well and selling tickets.
3 HOODWINKED TOO! HOOD VS. EVIL (11%)
2011’s Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil was a follow-up to 2005’s Hoodwinked!, which followed a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. It was yet another failed attempt by The Weinstein Company to get involved in the animation landscape of cinema.
While Hoodwinked! scored 46% on Rotten Tomatoes but developed a strange cult appreciation, Hoodwinked Too! was simply bad – scoring 11% on the Tomatometer and having no goodwill from audiences.
Shockingly, both Hoodwinked! and its sequel featured the legendary Glenn Close in the role of Granny Puckett. Anne Hathaway played Red in the first movie, but Hayden Panettiere took the role in the sequel. Hoodwinked Too! also featured Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, and Joan Cusack. The film made $16 million at the box office.
2 THE NUT JOB (10%)
The Nut Job was a co-production between Canada, South Korea, and the U.S. budgeted at $42 million. Starring Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, and Katherine Heigl, this 2014 animated movie grossed $120 million worldwide but ultimately scored only 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, landing on the #2 spot on this list.
While Screen Rant’s Sandy Schaefer praised the film’s colorfulness and gave it a 2.5 score out of 5, he wrote in 2014: “just don’t expect to remember much of it over the year ahead.” The Nut Job is indeed forgettable, uninspired, and unnecessary.
1 NORM OF THE NORTH (9%)
With so many terrible animated movies out there, it is quite curious that the #1 spot went to such a recent release – 2016’s Norm Of The North.
For a while, Norm of the North actually had a score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, but after more reviews came in, the film landed on its current 9% score, becoming the lowest-rated major animated movie ever.
Surprisingly, this Lionsgate film made $27 million against its $18 million budget. It opened during the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in January of 2016, which is a time of the year known for being terrible in regards to movie releases. The cast featured comedian Rob Schneider as Norm, Heather Graham as Vera, and Ken Jeong as Mr. Greene.
Are you a fan of any of these "Rotten" animated movies? Let us know in the comments.
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