While Cult vs. Mainstream is still in progress, I’d say it’s a good time to pick up with my other trademark, the random top ten list. Normally “cute” is something I try to talk about in small doses, but I have my reasons here. For one, it’s about time I counterbalanced the case I made for chastity with my top ten evil children list, and what’s more, it’s actually a good way to get at why so many movie kids intended to be cute instead turn out annoying. Tailor-made cuteness won’t get you that far here. This is for genuinely lovable characters whose foremost quality happens to be “adorable.”



– The age limit is approximately 10 years old

– Only characters in movies with a theatrical release are eligible

– No character who spends a significant portion of the movie aged past childhood is eligable

– Serving as a caregiver/guardian or otherwise not being a child within the group is grounds for disqualification (e.g. Christopher Robin)

– No animated/CGI characters from live action movies are eligible



10. Vanellope Von Schweetz (Wreck it Ralph)


You’d think a character like this would be a lightning rod for hate all over the internet. She’s smug, she loves toilet humor, and she pours on “quirky” antics by the cartload, which are three ways to jump straight to the front of the line for labels reading “Strictly For Stupid Kids.” But the writers made it work. For one, we’re supposed to think that she’s a little bit obnoxious towards Ralph, the main character who stumbles into her game, and this is not in and of itself a reason he starts to like her. Only after we see that she willingly takes everything she dishes out and more on the chin do they start to become friends. Vanellope is high maintenance (no pun intended), but she’s not malicious. At worst, she’s mischievous (and perhaps a little bratty). But she’s also fun-loving, playful, and resilient, and she means it when she says she’s your buddy. She’s akin to the smart-aleck you’ve been friends with for years. She makes you think it’d be warranted to slap her upside the head half the time. But when things get rough, you want to give her a hug and tell her you’re glad she’s around.




9. Michael Darling (Peter Pan)


Did you know that the real life Michael was probably the inspiration for Peter Pan more so than the real life Peter? I just thought that was interesting.


Anyway, this isn’t a frontrunner that people often cite, so you might say that he didn’t make the biggest impact. Then again, do you remember, say, what he carries with him throughout the movie or how he uses it to defeat a pirate at the end? How about the bittersweet moment when Wendy realizes he is forgetting his mother and they need to leave Neverland? Michael doesn’t affect the events of the story much, but I’m willing to bet that most everyone remembers him, down to the color of his PJs. We see in passing that he’s bright, imaginative, and sensitive, and he loves every last adventure they have in Neverland, even being captured. He brings the key amount of childhood innocence to the story, and it wouldn’t be the same without him.




8. Boo (Monsters Inc.)


Now granted, she was pretty aggressive in her cutesiness. But the fact that it worked so well for so many people is a terrific example of how less can be more. Boo perplexes and terrifies the monsters in her closet with her antics, blowing raspberries, playing impromptu games of hide and seek, and showing off dozens of little girl facial expressions. But most of it is seen almost in passing while someone else is in the spotlight, so instead of playing like a character who’s always in your face, she instead comes across as a very playful, very human little tyke with a plucky spirit. She packs a little more character than you’d expect into her limited screen time and won a pretty fair number of fans for it, even if a couple of her antics really are just playing to the audience.




7. Penny (The Rescuers)


Yes, she’s another “adorably” clueless little moppet with pigtails and a sugar-coated speaking voice who’s always nice to everyone. But at least this one owns it. Penny is an orphan who wants to believe that she’s special enough to be adopted, but she winds up captured by a scheming witch of a woman and forced to search for the world’s largest diamond. The movie spends more time than it needs to trying to make us feel for her, but it also takes the time to think out each scene, so you really can enjoy some of her sweetness.


For one, much of what she does is actually more understated than it could have been. Only once or twice is there a pause to take in how cute she is, and though she’s a bit inane, she’s usually more restrained than the characters playing off of her. She comes off a bit cloying but not too overplayed, so her antics really can be cute. And we also see that she’s actually very brave and determined, holding herself together in her dire situation and even attempting to sneak past her captor’s pet crocodiles. She’s an example of how a tailor-made cute little girl can at least be done well.



6. Agnes (Despicable Me)


It seems we have learned a thing or two over time on how to do this. Agnes has all the “precious” moments you could ask for from a little girl, with one important addition: A sense of irony.


Adopted with her older sisters by Gru, the criminal mastermind using them as pawns in his scheme to steal the moon, Agnes doesn’t notice that something’s amiss in his evil lair and just enjoys her new surroundings. Like her sisters, Gru finds her incredibly annoying and doesn’t think she’s cute. But we do. She’s a total innocent who loves everything little girls are expected to love at her age, from unicorns to Gru’s strange dog, and she’s so energetic about it that even the movie thinks it’s funny. (“He’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!” She grunts, shaking her new unicorn.) Yes it’s the only reason she’s there, but how could you not love someone this innocent, harmless, and adorably funny? Even Gru changes his mind before long.




5. (Tie) Ducky and Littlefoot (The Land Before Time)



On one hand, I did sort of want to keep the non-human beings off this list. But on the other hand, this is the first entry that doesn’t really make me feel the need to justify myself, even a little bit. Who wouldn’t find these two lost baby dinosaurs banding together endearing? We have Littlefoot, who’s seen more hardship that any child should, doing his best to lead his friends to The Great Valley with his kind nature, and Ducky, the bouncy and affectionate little girl who manages to boost his spirit when he needs it. Their three friends are good too, of course, but they don’t have the charming personalities that these two show throughout the journey, helping everyone persevere through the many rough spots.




4. Lilo (Lilo and Stich)


She makes it look effortless. Lilo is lovable just by being who she is, that being an odd and eccentric little girl with strange tastes, who’s just a bit alienated from everyone but her pet alien. She’s superstitious (ask her why she goes diving to feed Pudge the fish peanut butter sandwiches), stubborn, affectionate (especially towards her strange pets and dolls), fearless, and an Elvis fan. And she’s just about the only one who could have made Stitch, the alien, feel like he had a family. After all, how could he not fall for her?




3. Jumbo Jr./Dumbo (Dumbo)


With an endless number of cute little animals lining up to steal our hearts, which one turns out to be the most lovable of them all? A baby elephant with oversized ears. Who knew?


Dumbo never speaks, but his sweetheart personality comes through in spades, so much that his plight of being taken from his mother after she tries to protect him is enough to pierce you right through the heart. He’s at a loss on what to do, with no friends until the halfway point and no say in anything that happens to him. And when a quick-witted mouse resolves to help him, he never complains and he never gives up, even when it seems to do more harm than good. Dumbo is a vulnerable child through and through, and he’s absolutely precious on that front. But he’s also a true hero for what he overcomes, which is enough to melt the iciest of hearts.




2. Ponyo (Ponyo)


It’s common to say that such kids are cute. It’s not unheard of to say that some of them aren’t cloying. But Ponyo is far and away the most charismatic five year old I’ve ever seen. If you’ve only seen the design, you probably see her as your average chubby little tyke. But if you’ve seen the movie, you probably remember her as an overload of adorable.


I’m still not sure I have the recipe for this one figured out. After growing to love the boy named Sōsuke who takes care of her as a goldfish, she summons the power to turn herself into a little girl, fleeing the lair of her sorcerer father to be with him (a loose adaptation of The Little Mermaid). She knows nothing about life on land, but she’s so curious that she throws herself into it headfirst, as though trying to make up for lost time. And she’s jumps for joy every step of the way. She’s both surprised and fascinated by everything she comes across, and she never censors herself, exclaiming whatever comes to mind. She’s nothing but happy to be with Sōsuke, and it’s hard not to catch the feeling. She just sells you on the joy of it all.




1. Anne Marie (All Dogs Go to Heaven)


What can I say? They set out to create a great character, and they succeeded. Everything about Anne Marie works. The design isn’t cute in the usual ways, but there’s just something sincere about that face, and somehow, she carries some dignity in her tattered outfit. The lines she says work; we can tell that she’s loving, appreciative, and a bit naive from the way she embraces Charlie the dog, who’s a manipulator, if nicer than the captor her freed her from. But we can also tell that she’s not stupid. When Charlie isn’t careful to hide his selfishness, she notices, and when he asks her to do something that seems wrong, she refuses.


But perhaps it’s what she doesn’t say that works best of all. When Charlie pretends to be sick (and a martyr who doesn’t want her to worry) to lure her away from a potential new family, she doesn’t say that’d she’d rather live in the junkyard and make sure he’s alright. We know because she goes with him on the spot. She doesn’t say that she needs to do the right thing by returning the wallet Charlie stole or that she forgives him. She takes it back and continues to embrace him as her friend after she does. And she doesn’t say that she wants a family because she’s not sure she’s as special as the other children, or something along those lines. She says that she has only a picture in her mind of what it would be like as she looks over old photographs of a married coupled and inserts herself into them. We can see that what she wants is something she’s never had: To be loved.



Anne Marie’s is a true human spirit on display. She doesn’t overload on any particular quirk, unless you count sincerity, but she has true presence, and she earns every bit of sympathy and affection the movie asks for her and more. For that, I name her as the most adorable animated child in movie history.



Play us out Anne Marie! http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0EDP9Sf4kE


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