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The Best Grandparents In Animated Movies Ranked

Animation lets us experience heightened realities crafted by teams of artists. Sometimes those realities are very similar to our own, while others exist only within the expanding boundaries of the imagination. Whether it's telling a simple story about growing up and becoming part of the larger world around us, or an epic tale of good vs evil, animation always works best when it mirrors the human experience in new ways.

Everyone has — or had — grandparents. Some people aren't fortunate enough to know them or have ones who were less than stellar humans; others are still basking in the glow of bubbe's love, but the concept of a grandparent is a universal fact of the human experience. Since grandparents are often close to young children, and cartoons largely target young children, it makes sense that cartoons include them.

Storytellers and artists have chosen to depict grandparents in myriad ways. This is a list of some of the best. They're either here because of their entertainment value, story function, or how accurately they represent a familiar reality. Their rankings were decided on their importance in their stories, artist interpretations, and if they are an idealized version of what many of us would like grandparents to be.

The Great Prince of the Forest - Bambi

The Great Prince of the Forest, aka Bambi's dad, is only a grandparent for the briefest of moments at the end of the film. It's tough to gauge what kind of grandfather he is. However, we are given enough information about him to come up with a pretty good guess.

As a father, he was distant. Bambi only met him once while his mother was alive. In fact, the fawn didn't even know the regal and mysterious buck was his father until a hunter came along. Despite his distance, Prince plays a pivotal role in the survival of all the woodland creatures, as he is the one to warn them when danger is near.

Following the death of Bambi's mother, the Prince steps in to take Bambi off and raise him on his own. We don't actually get to see his parenting skills in any detail (not until "Bambi II," that is), but judging from Bambi's health and confidence, it's safe to say his father did a fine job. During the film's final scene, we see Bambi and his father looking down on Bambi's children. The Prince beckons Bambi away, but he stays to admire his young ones. This suggests The Great Prince of the Forest continues to take his role as a guardian very seriously. The new fawns may not know their grandfather, be he is out there protecting them.

Grandma Gertie and Grandpa Phil - Hey Arnold! The Movie

In the Nickelodeon series "Hey Arnold!," the titular Arnold's grandparents are delightfully eccentric. While Grandpa Phil appears to be the more down-to-Earth grandparent, that's only in comparison to the wild, free-spirited Gertie. He can mask some of his quirks, while she is an ever-exploding nuclear bomb of bizarre hobbies and character traits. 

These characterizations carry over to "Hey Arnold! The Movie," where the two are willing to do anything to help their grandson save the neighborhood. In the case of Gertie, that means fleeing from prison multiple times and turning into an elderly, animated commando carrying out a mission against her oppressors, while Phil mostly tries to be morally supportive. That is, until he turns to terrorism to stop the construction workers from tearing down their homes.

These are the fun grandparents, the ones you love to see on holidays, even if it means you're going to get a crappy gift that doesn't make sense. You love them anyway because you know that it is an expression of their affection, in its own strange and unique way.

Grandpa Simpson - The Simpsons Movie

Homer's absent-minded father serves as the catalyst for the plot of "The Simpsons Movie." When a divine light shines on the napping old man in church, he goes on a rampage about a dark prophecy. He warns of terrible things to come and how everyone will suffer before Homer rolls him up in the carpet and gets him out of there.

Grandpa is usually depicted as an oblivious, lonely old man who just can't seem to figure out the world around him — not that he really wants to. No, like many grandparents, he's usually content to be napping in a chair rather than participating much. When he does take part in family activities, he's far too clueless to contribute much of anything except some classic one-liners

Really, he is the classic pain-in-the-neck grandparent who annoys you most of the time, but you'll miss dearly when he's gone.

Grandmama Addams - The Addams Family

Unlike the Grandmama who has appeared in other adaptations of Charles Addams' morbid family of weirdos, Gomez's mother does not permanently live with the family. She comes in to help Morticia, her daughter-in-law, with preparations for a party. It turns out that Gomez asked her to help and Morticia isn't exactly pleased about it. She would also like to help Wednesday in her time of rebellion, but has to step back and let Morticia handle it.

This Grandmama doesn't let her age or physical condition keep her down. She moves quickly, speaks theatrically (as one would expect from her voice actress, Bette Midler), and doesn't seem interested in settling down. She is full of zany stories about cheating people out of their money and dangerous adventures. One could imagine that getting into an altercation with her would end very badly for her attacker. At the very beginning of the film, for instance, she fights off some angry villagers to give Fester enough time to help rescue Gomez. Also, she has a thing for Lurch, which is pretty cool. We could totally see her hanging out with fellow "cool" grandparents Gertie and Phil. 

Alma Madrigal - Encanto

Grandparents usually just want to enjoy the time they spend with their grandkids, revel in the success of their children, and appreciate the growth of their families. Others, though, can't let go of their parental duties. They think it is their job to keep each and every one of their descendants in line, becoming overbearing and controlling. Even when their motivations are justified, it still causes drama when a grandparent oversteps their bounds.

This is the case with Alma Madrigal in Disney's "Encanto." Her desire to keep her family safe stems from a tragedy. As a young mother, she and her husband were forced to flee their homes and he sacrificed himself for their safety. In her darkest hour, magic came to the rescue and their home, La Casa Madrigal was built. She raised her family here and kept their children close by.

In her desperation to make sure her family is safe, secure, and perfect, she misses the chance to actually enjoy spending time with them. She can't accept them for who they are, rather than what powers were given to them. This is especially true in her relationship with her granddaughter Mirabel. For realizing the error of her ways, and the honesty with which such a challenging familial dynamic is depicted in the film, she makes the list.

Granny - My Neighbor Totoro

Now we're coming into the more idealized interpretation of grandparents, the kind we all wish we had in our lives. To kick off this part of the list is a character simply known as Granny from the Hayao Miyazaki classic "My Neighbor Totoro." The film is about a family that moves to the country to be closer to the hospital where their ailing mother can receive treatment. While in this new home, they discover that their house and the area around it are inhabited by incredible spirits. 

Their only neighbors are a boy named Kanta and his Granny. We don't know a whole lot about Granny, but based on the kindness in her eyes, easy smile, and the fact that she takes it upon herself to help this new family get situated, it's obvious that she is gentle and cares deeply for others. As the illness of the girls' mother escalates, Granny is there to help them cope with the sadness and uncertainty. Without a doubt, this is the kind of grandparent you want in your corner when things get rough.

Mama Coco - Coco

Abuelita from Pixar's "Coco" is a shoo-in for this list, although she's another example of an overprotective grandparent who doesn't fully appreciate her grandson. While she doesn't necessarily push him away, she discourages him from pursuing the things he loves. She is a great character, but Mama Coco wins out because of the animators' attention to detail (try to count those wrinkles, we dare you) and her role in the main characters' life.

Mama Coco is Miguel's great-grandmother and is very, very old. She doesn't do or say much, and her memory isn't great, but her love for her family is obvious. It's clear that she's lived long and smiled much. If she were capable of telling you the stories of her life, you know they would be absolutely fascinating and the wisdom you could gain from them would be immeasurable. Also, the letters she saved from her younger days went on to prove that Ernesto de la Cruz stole his famous songs from her father. So, while she may not be the most active participant in the plot, she did end up helping to rescue the memory of her father.

Littlefoot's Grandparents - The Land Before Time

Don Bluth's animated film "The Land Before Time" is a dark and devastating masterpiece with a powerful underlying message of hope that is perfectly personified in the grandparents of the main character, Littlefoot. We only get to spend a little bit of time with the proud brontosauruses admiring their new grandson, but the narrator tells us everything we need to know about them. He says, "All that remained of his herd was his mother, grandmother, and his grandfather. He knew them by sight, by scent, and by their love." 

As the tired newborn naps in the nape of his mother's long neck, his grandparents beam with love. Of course, this serves to rip the audience's guts out when a battle with a T-Rex takes the life of Littlefoot's mother and an earthquake separates the child from his grandparents, setting up the grand adventure ahead. Then again, it makes it all the more rewarding when they finally reunite in the Great Valley.

Grandma Paguro - Luca

Sometimes, when a person ages, they gain a new perspective on youth. While one's parents can be so consumed with keeping their child safe that they don't notice the real problem in their child's life, a grandparent's skill for observation and life experience can provide stunningly profound insights. Such is the case with Grandma Paguro in Pixar's "Luca."

Early in the film, Luca gets a glimpse of something riding in a boat on the surface of the water. He is transfixed by this, almost ready to rise from the water himself and venture into the scary world of the land. Although he doesn't, the experience has clearly left a mark. He returns home to parents, who are a little too preoccupied to notice something is weighing on their son. His grandmother, however, spots it right away and asks him about it. 

A similar incident happens later when he actually does rise to the surface and make "the change." He comes back home with a ton of guilt on his shoulders, desperate not to let his parents know where he's been. Again, his grandmother notices something is up and explains that Luca was late coming home because she had asked him to complete a task for her, saving him from his parents' probing questions about where he'd been. Her life experience is wild and she's probably full of great stories, but it's the way she looks out for her grandson that earns her a spot here.

Grandmother Fa - Mulan

In the case of Disney's "Mulan," the heroine's problem isn't so much that her parents can't tell when something is bothering her, or properly identify what's on her mind, but that they're just stuck in tradition. They can clearly see Mulan doesn't fit, but instead of trying to help her find something she actually enjoys, they believe she will eventually see that the old ways are best and fall in line.

Her grandmother is like this in some ways but is also a rebellious sort herself. While Mulan's mother tries to make sure her daughter looks and acts like a proper bride, Grandmother Fa is more concerned with the unorthodox choice of providing her granddaughter a cricket for good luck. Of course, the cricket is crucial in the terrible meeting Mulan has with The Matchmaker, but that's really for the best. Since no one seems to think Mulan is suitable for a husband, she has nothing tying her to their home when she decides to run off and replace her father in the war.

Also, when Mulan rides off, it's Grandmother Fa who ensures she has protection. Instead of cursing her granddaughter, or mourning her, she prays to their ancestors, who allow Mushu to help her.

The Sanchez Family - The Book of Life

Like "Coco," "The Book of Life" deals heavily with the Day of the Dead and the importance of remembering one's deceased family members. In fact, the film has many similarities to the Pixar film, including a main character who wants to play music despite the disapproval of their family, but there is a key difference: the deceased family in this underrated animated gem produced by Guillermo del Toro is awesome.

This is a family of bullfighters. As demonstrated early on, every single member of the Sanchez family, including the elders, has fought bulls. True, most of them died fighting those bulls, but it's a point of pride for them. So, when their descendants are threatened by an evil man intent on destroying their town, the Sanchez family returns from the world of the dead to put their long history of fighting experience to use.

They may not have appreciated Manolo's lack of interest in fighting and killing animals, but they have his back to the end, making them some of the coolest and most entertaining ancestors (including grandparents) in animated history.

Gran Stonewell - The Croods

Not every grandparent is a kind, frail, elderly person with a big heart and lots of love to give. Sometimes they're tough, cranky, and spry. There's really no better way to describe Gran in the 2013 Dreamworks animated film "The Croods."

Taking place in a fictional prehistoric era, "The Croods" is a movie about survival. We have an overprotective parent wanting to keep his family safe at all costs, almost to the point of stunting them as adults. He isn't interested in raising interesting, well-rounded individuals with rich, satisfying lives; his only dream for his children is that they don't die. 

When it comes to not dying, no one is better at it than Gran, much to her son-in-law's constant disappointment. She's like a Depression-era grandparent in the United States who survived by not taking crap from anyone. She's only interested in hunting, being wild, staying dirty, and annoying her daughter's husband. You don't want to get on her bad side, and you certainly don't want her to confuse you with food, but she seems like a blast to be around and would be a ton of fun at holiday parties. Plus, she was voiced by Cloris Leachman and that's never a bad thing.