Who loves animals, raise your hand!
Since I can't see any of you I will have to take your word for it if you tell me you raised your hand, but I'm pretty sure you all like animals. You'd probably have to be a serial killer not to.
It's a good thing I can't see those of you who didn't raise your hands!
But seriously, folks, animal movies are the bomb. And animated animal movies are the pinnacle of perfection (to some of us). Being something of an animation, animal, and animated animal nut myself, I have decided after much tear-jerking heartache, back-breaking toil, and time consuming deliberation, to generously spam my beloved watchers with an obscure list compiled of specifically female animal characters from animated movies - the ones I feel are The Best Of All Time.
Sadly, there aren't many animal ladies in animation that make much of an impression on viewers, mostly because animal ladies are designed by directors to be air-headed add-ons to the main characters which are typically male. These are basically the beautiful, benign bimbos of beasts. But there are a handful of animal gals that stand out from the crowd, and they are listed in order of Best-ness below.
#10. Lady - Lady And the Tramp
The sincere tale of Lady and the Tramp marks a milestone for Disney as being their first full-length animation with an entirely original storyline. It is also the first Disney film to cast a female animal as the main character. Lady is, to put it simply, naïve, not only about the rascality of doggish young males, but also life in general. Her charm lies in her innocence as she deals with the events surrounding her owners' pregnancy and the eventual birth of their first son.
Once the child arrives, Lady takes it upon herself to protect him from neglect, cats, and eventually a dreaded rat (people were very concerned about rats in cribs for some reason, back in the day). Perhaps she is a little pampered, a bit sheltered, and a touch domesticated, but her gentle curiosity and simplicity are endearing qualities to watch, to make no mention of the loyalty she holds for her family.
#9. Perdita - 101 Dalmatians
Perdita, or Perdie, is the mother of the film's original litter of puppies, and she is Pongo's loving mate. She, out of everyone in the Radcliffe household, fears Cruella De Vil the most. And for good reason! Her wisdom, however, goes unheeded.
After the inevitable kidnap of her children, she does not let her partner take off into the dangerous dark alone, no! Instead of behaving like a frightened scullery maid, she accompanies Pongo on a treacherous cross-country journey through driving snow in the middle of a billowing English winter. She fights alongside her mate with an anger expected from a dog who's pups are in danger of being skinned, yet she is collected and patient when her brood multiplies nearly tenfold. Voted Mother of the Year 1961, Perdie is one down-to-earth lady animal.
#8. Rain - Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Softhearted yet stubborn, Rain is the perfect match for Spirit, the stallion who stars in his movie of the same name. This painted mare is as alluring as she is smart, using her mystifying feminine charm to her own advantage at least twice in the film. But catching the untamable stallion off guard and teaching him a thing or two about patience and tenderness is only one half of her appeal. She is devoted to her owner and friend, Little Creek, even going so far as to defend him from Spirit himself. She may think Spirit is cute, but she doesn't let that prevent her from speaking up when he oversteps his bounds.
Her bravery causes her to fall under gunfire as she takes a bullet intended for her beloved master, and though near the end of the movie she plays the role of helpless maiden by floating away in a river, Rain belongs on this list for her levelheaded hardheadedness.
#7. Jenna - Balto
Jenna may be petite, but she is as sharp as a fox. And what a vixen she is, drawing all them boy dogs to the yard, simultaneously catching the eyes of both the hero and the villain in this 1995 film. But the antagonist, Steele, wins no favors with her. Jenna is wise enough to see past the exterior of a dog, or wolf, and recognize the true character within.
The beautiful husky is terribly concerned for her girl, Rosy, and when the child falls ill she is heartbroken with worry. In an attempt to help Balto return with life-saving medicine, she follows after him, alone, in the dead of an Alaskan winter. Stupid? Perhaps. But I like to think that she has a heart of gold and a fearless composure in the face of danger. Not even a hellish bear deters her when it comes to saving the lives of those she loves, and though her attack is short-lived, it's just enough for Balto to escape. Jenna's best moment is when she seduces Steele just long enough for him to burn his curly-tailed butt on a stove.
#6. Zira - The Lion King II
While Disney sequels are not really anything to think twice about, The Lion King II held up fairly well for a direct-to-video release. There was a whole new cast of interesting characters following the legacy of the original, and leading the majority of these rapscallions was this evil ol' lady… Even though she's the bad guy, she loves her cubs and is a strong female role, though for better or for worse is undetermined.
Truly the queen of her rag-tag pride, Zira lives a troubled existence in the shadow of Scar's death, and has cleverly bided her time for the opportune moment to exact revenge on the one lion who killed her beloved mate. In squalor and banishment, she does her best to keep her followers and her children alive, wanting only the best for her family and their legacy, as anyone would. But she is clouded by anger and obsessed with the idea of vengeance. With her family pulled apart by Simba's actions, it is difficult to hate her even though she is meant to be the movie's villain. There are glimpses of compassion in her eyes, of regret, and a fury understandable to those who have loved and lost and been consumed by grief. Being a somewhat more complicated character than is expected to arise from Disney, Zira is one of the more fascinating villains in animation.
#5. Nala - The Lion King
The Lion King is truly one of, if not the, greatest story wielded by Disney animators. Each character is as dynamic and engaging as the next, which is why there is not one, but two females from the Serengeti included on this list. Nala comes in at number four because she is as confident and resilient as ever a cat there was. She displays her independence and bravery by the very way she treats the male lions in her life. She is not a subservient follower, she is a lioness - a hunter, a leader, an athletic beauty.
When the land has died and all hope is lost, Nala escapes Pride Rock in search of help, venturing out on her own and traversing vast distances through the blistering desert. And in a scene not included in the original Disney film, Nala approaches Scar with agitation, imploring him to control his hyenas and demanding him to curb his wanton behavior. Scar, unfazed, instead propositions Nala to become his queen. Despite the offer of power, safety, and surplus food, she denies Scar immediately by scratching him and basically telling him that he had no chance in a million years. Strangely enough, this scene is included in the theatrical Broadway version. You go, Nala!
She does lose points, however, for not leading the pride on her very own. Clearly she had the brains and the muscle which far surpassed her childhood love's. Simba's whiny butt should have been obsolete!
#4. Moro - Princess Mononoke
Has there ever been another character quite like Moro? I am hard pressed to find one. The magnificence of this entire 1997 epic makes it difficult for an animation nut like myself to keep from gushing, but I will try to contain the enthusiasm pulling at my keystrokes. Moro is, by and far, one of the more interesting female characters I've come across, not to mention a female animal. The reason for this is not only her physical strength, wolven cunning, and ancient mysticism, but the very way she is depicted as a no-nonsense animal.
In animation, and most movies in general, the populace expects a certain degree of Disney-like friendliness from talking animals - it just seems to come with the package. Naturally, anime stirs things up a bit, but Hayao Miyazaki, a legend in and of himself, has a particular knack for creating characters that actually behave in the nonchalant, straightforward, wild way that animals do.
Moro is the embodiment of one portion of Nature itself, the calm, the clever, and the controlled. This is in direct contrast to the pigheaded stupidity of the brave, but foolish boar Akoto. This is not to say Moro is not brave. On the contrary, she directly attacks the movie's closest thing to an antagonist twice, taking a bullet to the chest at one point, and even saving her adopted daughter from a demon. She fights for the forest until the very end, and arguably she suffers the longest in her quiet way. Being a single mother of two in a once-beautiful forest that is now dying all around her, she is a tragic character. But Moro's determination and passion has always inspired me. Plus, she is voiced by Gilian Anderson. Let's just say I approve.
#3. Blue - Wolf's Rain
There sure are a lot of canines on this list, aren't there? They are the most prevalent animal characters in animation, probably due to their already established place in our hearts. Most people grow up with a family dog, or currently own one, and can recognize them as emotional, forgiving, selfless animals worthy of our respect.
Blue from Wolf's Rain is not very different from a dog you may have known in the past, with all the same qualities we admire in a loving pet. The thing that makes her different, however, is that one of her parents was a wolf, a heritage she only comes to discover towards the later part of her life. Once Blue discovers her true bloodline she decides it wise to distance herself from her wolf-hating owner, and begins a journey to discover herself.
Being half wolf, Blue is strong, and has a bite just as vicious as any of the male leads, but her dog side keeps her soft, grounded, and instills in her a strong work ethic. She enjoys working, and is happiest when she feels she's pulling her weight. Chalk it up to wolf pride, but you won't ever see her crying for help. She can take care of herself and tenaciously fights to protect her friends. Despite the rumor she will not be able to get into Paradise like the other wolves (she is a half-breed, after all), she follows them to the very end, faithful. Possessing a quiet strength on par with Kiba's, Blue is one of the more complicated characters in the series - and that's really saying something.
#2. The Unicorn - The Last Unicorn
Adapted from the novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn holds a special place in many a girl's heart. As childish a story as one about a unicorn may seem, it is so unlike the rainbows and butterflies that instantly come to mind. As the title suggests, The Last Unicorn is indeed about the last remaining unicorn, who, after being alerted to the fact, goes on a tiresome journey to the ends of the earth in a search for the others.
Eventually finding that the unicorns had all been banished by a miserable king's monster (a red bull), she is forced to transform into a human girl to hide herself from the beast's scrutiny. Within a mortal body for the first time in her life, she is in despair, and nearly loses sight of herself by falling in love with the king's son. At perhaps the worst possible time, she is eventually transformed back into her original cloven-hooved self, and the prince is killed trying to defend her from the bull...
Having experienced a human body, the Unicorn now knows how to feel complex emotions such as love, regret, and anger, so seeing her prince trampled to death sends her into a rage. She boldly turns her horn on the terrifying bull, goading him with intent into the same ocean he trapped the unicorns in. She does what no unicorn ever could - she fights. Even though he outweighs her by ten times, she wills him to submit, and as he steps into the waves her kin leap forth like seafoam, running onto the land by the hundreds towards freedom.
A somewhat tragic character, the Unicorn is as bittersweet as the movie's ending. She is no longer like the others she fought so valiantly to save, and she cannot exist with her human friends because of immortal soul. The sacrifices she made to save her kind leave a heaviness on her heart, but she, being a unicorn, can do nothing more than continue living on as she always has - dedicated to her forest and its inhabitants. That is what makes her strong.
#1. Mrs. Brisby - The Secret Of NIMH
It is no big surprise that the #1 animal lady from animation did not arise from Disney, a company which seems to have an unhealthy obsession with placing female characters into the same roles of doting girlfriend or child-bearing wife. But the honor of this award cannot be given to the Aurora Pictures director Don Bluth all by his one-sies. This movie was based off of the book Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH by author Robert C. O'Brien.
Mrs. Brisby (or, as she is called in the book, Mrs. Frisby) is a sheltered, meek little mouse, as most mice are, modestly taking care of her three children after the sudden death of her husband. The tale unfolds when she realizes that her youngest, Timothy, is deathly ill, and cannot be moved in time for the family's annul migration to avoid the local farmer's plowing. With fewer and fewer options, Mrs. Brisby becomes desperate, and her meekness washes away in place of the love she has for her children. Despite her fear of heights, she flies atop a crow. Despite her fear of owls, she confronts one in his own home. Despite her fear of cats, she volunteers to drug one. Despite her understandable fear of everything bigger than her, she sabotages a human's plow! A PLOW! It's like a million times bigger than her!
It is amazing to see the change that occurs in this character over the course of the movie, starting out as nothing more than a regular little mouse she gradually becomes a legend in her own time. And she accepts her challenges so realistically. She does not suddenly burst forth with all the swell of a viking warrior, hers is a subtle bravery, the kind that we have all known at least once. The bravery that causes you to step forth from your comfort zone even though you are shaking with trepidation. She fears for her life, but more importantly she fears for the life of her kids, and she stops at nothing to keep them safe.
A greater mother than Perdita, a stronger character than Nala, this small, unsuspecting widow does everything in her power to utilize the best options she can. She may not be ferocious like Blue or wild like Moro, but she is relatable, resolved, and without a doubt the most resolute rodent there ever was. Mrs. Brisby, you rock.
Yoimanon on April 13, 2016:
Bro u forgot Dory!? fISH ARE stIlL anImALs
DUPA HIM on October 28, 2015:
YOU FORGOT MS. BIANCA FROM RESCUERS ONE OF THE BEST
Andrew from Rep Boston MA on January 16, 2015:
I loved this article. It is such a good list of female cartoon characters that actually makes sense in the lineup as to what they accomplished and what they done in each of their roles. Keep up the good work!
Evan Smiley on January 08, 2014:
Rain !!! !! I love that movie! Yes yes yes!
Shaddie (author) from Washington state on May 21, 2013:
Nala is amazing, and I love her as a character, but let's face it... She could have done a lot more with her role. Disney has a fascination with male characters doing the brunt of the saving of comrades and defeating of enemies, and Nala fell to the wayside in the face of that. She has the potential to be so much more! It drives me bonkers actually.
EJ Lambert from Chicago, IL on May 19, 2013:
This is a well balanced list of Disney, MGM and other studio classics. I love where you placed Mrs. Bribsy though I believe the Unicorn was a little high and Nala was somewhat low. Otherwise it's an excellent list. Don't forget about Dory from Finding Nemo and Tanya from American Tail.
Shaddie (author) from Washington state on October 02, 2012:
I debated a long while as to whether Lady should be classed at #9 instead of Perdie. I tried to weigh the amount of danger and input both Perdie and Lady had in the courses of their movies, and while I personally think Lady and the Tramp is a far superior movie, character-wise Perdita was mentally stronger.
I also considered Terk as an honorable mention, but I think a more appropriate runner-up might have been Bianca from the Rescuers movie. I didn't include these characters though because, I felt, they didn't really progress the story at all themselves, and honestly the movies may have been the same without them. Terk was comic relief and Bianca was eye-candy.
Your other two suggestions I am unfortunately unfamiliar with! That's very interesting that you had your own comic strip though. I am a big fan of skunks (even if yours was just a hybrid), I'm sure I would have liked the know that character :)
Ghost32 on October 02, 2012:
I got sucked into this one--just had to make sure you'd included Lady from Lady & the Tramp, which of course you did (even if "only" at #10).
I've not seen...6 or 7 of the 10 movies. But a few other "animal gals" come to mind. Maybe not contenders for your list, but I like 'em anyway. In no particular order, and in no way required to have acted in a movie:
1. Terk of the Tarzan series, which if I'm not mistaken did include a movie at some point. (Terk is a girlie gorilla often mistaken for a guy by boy guerillas...to her disgust.)
2. The Chihuaha mother of...hm. He's a character in the Kick Buttkowski series, human, but instead of being raised by wolves, he was raised by Chihuahas. His Mommy Chihuahua is adorable, calm, wise, and--did I mention cute?
3. Lily. Few know of Lily, since she's a character in the CLUCKERS anti-drug cartoon strip, which I drew for a couple of years but which only made it into 3 newspapers (2 in Louisiana, 1 in Illinois) during that time. Lily is a cutie, a compassionate nurse--oh, and she's also half chicken, half skunk, eventually married to Shady Skunk.
Shady? Well, he's the first major protagonist, a drug pusher who goes straight after getting run over by the Skunk Squasher Special train (think Amtrak on a bad day). He survives the squashing but loses his bag of drugs and has to have his tail reattached in the hospital, which is where he and Lily meet.
Better stop here, I guess. Not trying to hijack your Hub.
Voted Up and More.
Shaddie (author) from Washington state on October 01, 2012:
Thank you very much :) I spend a lot of time watching "cartoons" as my mother always used to call it... So I figured I might as well put my pointless musings to good use!
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on October 01, 2012:
What a fabulous idea for a hub! In enjoyed it very much. I've seen a good portion of these movies and I agree with your analysis of female characters.
Good job and voted up.