Entertainment

The Weirdest CGI Animals in Movies

Jumanji, Monkey, CGI Animals
<strong>Jumanji | </strong>TriStar Picture

Director Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book arrives in theaters today amidst a stampede of critical praise and high box-office hopes. But I'll be going to the nearest multiplex to see it for just one reason: CGI animals. As someone who is nervous around house pets and once had an asthma attack at the circus, CGI animals are a big deal for me. Mostly, they're safe. Nothing will be more relaxing than purchasing a small popcorn and watching a bunch of PETA-approved, Christopher Walken-voiced animals cavort in the jungle.

But these beautiful creatures consisting of nothing but 1's and 0's also join a rich lineage of weird, creepy, and breathtaking CGI animals, and to mark the occasion, I've decided to establish the CGI Animal Hall of Fame. Like the weird monkeys in Jumanji, the virtual showcase of virtual critters isn't a real thing you can touch. But it won't inflame anyone's allergies. So grab a CGI vine and take a swing through the inaugural class of computer-generated creatures I've inducted and bestowed special awards upon below.

Oh, one quick note before we begin: I'm not talking about the animated creatures you find in A Bug's Life or Zootopia. To qualify for the CGI Animal Hall of Fame, the CGI animal must share the screen with a human co-star. Apologies to the owls of Ga'Hoole.

The Ring Two, Deer, CGI Animals
DreamWorks Pictures

Most Likely to Destroy Your Subaru: The deer from The Ring Two

Back in 2010 the Milwaukee Bucks began to use the phrase "fear the deer" as a sort of rallying cry for their scrappy basketball team. But they could've been talking about these creepy CGI bad boys from a memorably silly sequence in this forgettable horror sequel. Now, apparently, watching the great Naomi Watts and a little kid get terrorized by a wild pack of ornery beasts is something to crack jokes about, because a lot of people online have done that. But that's bullshit. I have nothing but love for these fearless deer. They are beautiful and wild. And, unlike real deer, they'll never pee on your lawn.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar, CGI animals
20th Century Fox

Most Likely to Lead a Political Revolution: Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Not feeling the Bern? Over the Hill? Dumping the Trump? Well, I've got a different candidate for you: this famous CGI ape. Yeah, that's right: Caesar. Thanks to the incredible motion-capture work of Andy Serkis, the Leonardo da Vinci of acting while wearing little ping-pong balls, this is a performance (and a cause) that you can believe in.

Dragonheart, dragon, CGI Animals
Universal Pictures

Most Likely to Say, "You're the Man Now Dog": Draco from Dragonheart

You've heard of Game of Thrones' mother of dragons. Well, this is the father of dragons, and there's no animated creature I'd rather see crack jokes in the voice of Sean Connery alongside Dennis Quaid in a mullet. Amazingly, the mullet was not CGI.

Anti-Christ, CGI Animals, Fox, Chaos Reigns
IFC Films

Most Likely to Blow Your 18-Year-Old Mind: The fox from Antichrist

Lars von Trier's Antichrist is the perfect introductory art-house movie for college freshmen: it's violent, it's vaguely philosophical, and it contains many graphic Willem Dafoe sex scenes. But, most importantly, a fox shows up and says, "Chaos reigns" -- a moment that will either make you laugh or give you a panic attack that ends with you eating a whole box of Thin Mints and calling your parents to tell them how much you love them. Listen to the fox. Call your parents. Don't do drugs. Chaos reigns.

The Revenant, CGI Animals, Bear
20th Century Fox

Most Likely to Show Up on a Pen & Pixel Album Cover: The bear from The Revenant

We know Leonardo DiCaprio likes to party, but I'm going to guess this computer-generated dude also likes doin' thangs. Seriously, has anyone seen a picture of this famous bear with the bears from the cover of rapper Big Bear's 1998 album? Until I see photo evidence, I choose to believe they're the same bear.

Noah, CGI Animals, Arc
Paramount Pictures

Most Likely to Haunt Animators' Dreams: All the animals from Noah

From a New Yorkerprofile of Noah director Darren Aronofsky: "A long pullback shot of some twelve hundred pairs of animals entering the ark set an I.L.M. record for processing hours: it would have taken one computer more than thirty-eight years to build."

Can you imagine the work that goes into creating all these animals? That's why the animators are the real heroes behind even the shoddiest-looking CGI animals. By creating completely computer-generated beings, studios like I.L.M. and Weta Digital can conjure whole species from typing on a computer, pointing a mouse, and presumably eating a lot of snacks as you wait for your hard drive to finish backing up.

The Old Testament God might have made the Earth in six days, but did he also make giant rock monsters voiced by Nick Nolte? The score is Aronofsky one, God zero.

Scooby Doo, Dog, Matthew Lillard, CGI Animals
Warner Bros. Pictures

Most Likely to Help Matthew Lillard Buy a Beach House: Scooby-Doo

Count those Scooby stacks, Shaggy.

Garfield, CGI Animals, Pie, Cat
20th Century Fox

Best Generator of Funny Bill Murray Quotes: Garfield in Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

I don't really have any interest in watching this bizarre kids sequel about the lasagna-craving comic-strip cat. But since the movie did lead to this GQinterview where Bill Murray said he thought Joel Coen from the Coen brothers had written the thing, Garfield gets a spot in the Hall of Fame. Those are the rules. I don't make them up.

Deep Blue Sea Samuel L. Jackson
Warner Bros.

Most Likely to Interrupt You Mid-Sentence: That one shark from Deep Blue Sea

There are a lot of great CGI sharks in cinema history. There's the little chomper that Angelina Jolie punches in the face then rides to the surface in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. There's Mega Shark. There's Sharktopus. And who could forget the sharks in Sharknado? But the best CGI shark of all time will always be the one that pops out of the water and devours Samuel L. Jackson before he can finish his goddamn sentence in Deep Blue Sea. (Side note: if you think any of the snakes from Snakes on a Plane deserve a spot, then you are forever barred from the CGI Animal Hall of Fame.)

Jurassic Park, CGI Animals, Dinosaur, brontosaurus
Universal

Most Chill: The brontosaurus from Jurassic Park

I don't know if I'd be allergic to dinosaurs. But I'm betting there's a good chance they'd give me a rash or make me sneeze -- and that's assuming they don't just attack me on the toilet. So, I'll always have a soft spot for these peaceful, totally CGI-based beauties from Steven Spielberg's theme-park classic. They just wanna eat leaves and impress Jeff Goldblum. Let them live.

Jumanji, Monkey, CGI Animals
TriStar Pictures

Most Fun to Party With: The monkeys from Jumanji

Apologies to the wolves from The Day After Tomorrow, who are known for making a mean mojito, but my bet is these guys know how to have the most fun. Who needs a real monkey when you've got these lovable goons?

Best Dancer: The "Rice, Rice Baby" bear

This is what all CGI animals have been building towards ever since a team of Soviet mathematicians gave birth to Kitty, one of the first-ever computer-animated critters, back in 1968. Who knew that one day we'd be able to watch a bear dance, sing a misconceived hip-hop parody song, and serve a rice-based treat to an unsuspecting office drone? And, who knew that one day there would be a CGI Animal Hall of Fame for that bear to wiggle his little digital ass in for eternity? Not me, my friend -- not me.
 
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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment, and hopes to one day be reborn as a CGI dolphin and get cast in a seaQuest DSV reboot. He's on Twitter: @danielvjackson.