This weekend will be the final adventure we spend with two of the unlikeliest heroes, and even more unlikely buddies, we've ever seen on the screen. Buzz Lightyear and Woody spent Toy Story hating each other, Toy Story 2 trying to reunite, and in Toy Story 3 they... well, we'll let that last chapter of their story be a surprise. But the return of Woody and Buzz has gotten us thinking about one of the best tropes of animated films: the unlikely friends. Ever since Snow White took refuge in the house of the seven dwarves, animated characters have wound up teaming up with all kinds of people and creatures they wouldn't expect. We don't know if it's because animation gives filmmakers so much room to experiment, but animated movies have provided some of cinema's most unlikely duos.
From a fox befriending his mortal enemy the hound, an inexperienced cook relying on a rat in the kitchen to two different killing machine extraterrestrials learning to love human children, we've got a list of the 10 best unlikely friendships ever animated. Grab your best pal, put on some Randy Newman, and join us in looking back. Feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments below of your own favorite unlikely animated pals.
Woody and Buzz
The Toy Story movies
There are many reasons Woody and Buzz shouldn’t be friends. One has earned his place as Andy’s favorite toy over years and years, the other just showed up one day in a birthday present. Woody is an organized realist while Buzz constantly lives in a world of his own creation (or the toy company’s anyway). Hell, one is a cowboy and the other is an astronaut. That doesn’t mix. But through trial and tribulation (and three movies), Woody and Buzz have emerged as the best of friends, able to work together and help each other whenever needed.
Wallace and Gromit
A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, The Curse of the Were Rabbit and more
Wallace is an inventor with big ideas and good intentions but not always the smarts to make things go off without a hitch. Gromit is an intellectual and capable dog who doesn't speak but constantly gets his master out his self-created fixes. We don't know how these two got lucky enough to find each other, but after five adventures together we know that neither would be able to make it alone. It's not just that I'm sure they make excellent company for each other while they eat cheese and read the paper together, but that when they go off on their adventures they make for a great comedic duo-- Wallace the pratfalling comedian doing anything for a laugh, Gromit the straight man forced to roll his eyes and go in for the rescue. Why go looking for human equivalents of the Marx brothers when Nick Park has perfected them in clay?
Carl and Russell
When he finally sets off on the grand adventure he and his wife always dreamed of, Carl Fredericksen is thrilled that he'll finally be left alone with his memories, totally unaware that stowed away on his front porch is overeager scout Russell. Throughout Up Carl learns to accept all kinds of creatures and adventures into his life, but it's Russell who truly opens him up, helping him realize the importance of living in the here and now, embracing Ellie's old maxim that "Adventure is out there!" and allowing himself to actually love another person again. And for Russell, a lonely boy trying to earn the approval of a father who won't come back, Carl makes the perfectly grumpy mentor. Bonus points for Dug, who really is the key third member of this adventuring team.
Hogarth Hughes and The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant
Let’s take a trip back to 1957, shall we? It’s the heart of the Cold War and any little piece of advanced technology is causing the average American citizen to poop their pants. You are a nine-year-old kid who discovers a giant, anthropomorphic robot has crashed by your house. Do you save said robot’s life and become friends with it or scream bloody murder and call in the army? Fortunately for little Hogarth Hughes, the robot in question was not a nuclear weapon launched by the Soviets. Rather, it was a three story friend that he could share comic books with. By the end of the film, Hogarth is willing to stand up to tanks to prevent his metallic buddy from getting hurt and that is the mark of a true friend.
Lilo and Stitch
Lilo & Stitch
One is a lonely little girl who lives with her older sister, takes hula lessons, and doesn't fit in with the other kids at school. One is an extraterrestrial experiment who crash lands on earth, is mistaken for a dog, and struggles constantly to overcome his violent impulses when he's adopted by a well-meaning family. It's hard to explain why Lilo and Stitch make such perfect pals, but once she teaches him how to behave like Elvis and he helps her rebuild her family after the death of her parents, the duo become the perfect model of how two oddballs can embrace each others' weirdness and learn from each other. Ohanu means family, and family means nobody gets left behind-- not even alien killing machines.
Remy and Linguini
Discounting debilitating loneliness (I’m looking at you Willard and Ben), there are very few reasons why a rat should be friends with a person, particularly a chef. Rats are unkempt, dirty, disease-spreading pests and something you certainly don’t ever want around your food. But when Remy and Linguini find each other in Ratatouille, they have an opportunity to help each other out – one is on the verge of losing his job because he can’t replicate a soup recipe and the other simply has an unyielding passion for the culinary world. They don’t speak the same language, but the more and more they work together in the kitchen of Gusteau’s it becomes a friendship like none other.
Copper and Tod
The Fox and the Hound
The Fox and the Hound is a gut-wrenching film about the innocence of youth and the friendships that kids form when they just don’t know any better. After a young red fox is orphaned, he’s taken in by a kindly widow. She names him Tod and he quickly befriends Copper, the floppy-eared puppy who lives next door. But Copper’s a hound dog and even though he and Tod can’t possibly understand what’s coming, we know they’re destined to become mortal enemies. Even in its happiest moments Fox and the Hound is tinged with a beautifully bittersweet sadness as the leaves turn brown and the seasons move on, dooming Tod and Copper’s seemingly perfect friendship with it. Despite their history Copper and Tod can’t escape their nature, and it’s not long before they’re forced to choose between the best friends they’ve promised to be and being the creatures they were born to become.
Ponyo and Sosuke
As kids plenty of us became "blood brothers" with the friends we cared about most, but it never had quite the same effect as when Ponyo licked Sosuke's cut, magically healed him, then began turning into a human being. It's arguable that the deep affection between Ponyo, a goldfish transformed into an energetic girl, and Sosuke, a lonely son of a deep-sea fisherman, is more of a romance, but come on: these are kindergarteners. I was planning a wedding with a classmate at that age, but I wouldn't call it love. The relationship between Ponyo and Sosuke is the kind of intense friendship that exists between boys and girls that age, when you think you have to marry a girl if you like her-- and especially if you're taking her away from her king fish father and transforming her into a human being. That's just how the rules work when you're five.
Pinky and the Brain
It’s explicit in the opening credits – one is a genius and the other’s insane. But just as the greatest artists and scientists walk that thin line between crazy and brilliant, Pinky and The Brain are two halves of the same whole. While Pinky certainly is not the brightest bulb in the bunch, and has caused our favorite Orson Welles impersonator to facepalm multiple times, they helped keep each other grounded. Sure, it was often Pinky’s mistakes that led to the end of their world domination plan of the week, but sometimes Brain’s plan was simply too grandiose to work. Despite their failings, episodes never started with the two partners and friends in separate corners of their cage. The Brain needs Pinky and Pinky needs The Brain, and that’s the best kind of friendship.
Marlin and Dory
Racing across the ocean to find his missing son, Marlin is forced to team up with perhaps the least useful fish in the South Pacific: Dory, a scatterbrained regal tang who constantly forgets where they're swimming and why. Albert Brooks's neurotic, control-freak performance contrasts perfectly to the bubbly and naive Ellen DeGeneres, and it's not just wonderful to hear two comedy veterans bounce off each other, but to witness the genuine, 100% digital friendship that emerges between two fish who couldn't be more different. Dory helps Marlin learn to let go and trust other people, and as Dory tells Marlin in one of the movie's many sob-worthy moments, "I remember things better with you. I look at you, and I... and I'm home." What more could you ask of a friendship than that?
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