Created By: LiamM32 on March 16, 2013 Last Edited By: EdnaWalker on May 16, 2016

Realistic Humans, Cartoony Animals

Humans are illustrated realistically, while animals look cartoonish. Inversions are also common.

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Trope
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For various reasons, humans may be illustrated realistically or in detail while animals appear cartoonish and/or unrealistic in a work of animated or illustrated fiction. The inversion of this is also not uncommon; where the humans appear cartoonish, while the animals appear realistic or detailed. Fictional creatures which are neither human nor animal (such as elves and intelligent human-like aliens) may be placed in either category for illustration style when appearing in a work that includes both humans and animals. This trope may also apply to works without humans if there is a similar animal to fill the same role.

The human audience will generally recognizes the appearance of humans than other (real world) animal species, which could explain both straight examples and inversions of this trope. If the wild animals look unrealistic, then most of the audience won't notice because they don't remember exactly what that species really looks like. The humans may also look more detailed to diversify their appearance. For inversions of this trope, this may be because it is easy for humans to recognize a character as a human even when the appearance is simplified, while they need to see more detail to know exactly what type of animal a character is.

No Cartoon Fish is a subtrope of this trope inverted, which is specific to fish being realistic and detailed. This is a Graphical Trope.

Also see Cartoon Creature and Nonstandard Character Design.


Examples:

Animated Films
  • An American Tail: The humans are realistic, but the mice, cats, and other animals are cartoony.
  • Cinderella: The animals (the mice, the songbirds, the chickens, Bruno the dog, Major the horse, and Lucifer the cat) are cartoony but humans are semi-realistic or at least less cartoony than the animals. The four mice-turned-horses and other horses other than Major are semi-realistic though.
  • This is often seen in films of the Disney Animated Canon. Examples include, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Mulan, etc.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: The humans are realistic, but aside from the realistic horses, the animals (the mice, bat, rat, cat, dog, lizard, and octopus) are cartoony.
  • Ice Age; the original film only, as the sequels strangely didn't have humans. Although a few talking animals such as Manny had fairly realistic anatomy - Sid the sloth had strange eyes on the side of his head, as well as some other stylistic shapes on supporting characters. The adult humans looked fairly realistic, and the baby to a lesser extent.
  • Mr. Bug Goes to Town has cartoon bugs against rotoscoped humans.
  • Mulan: The humans are semi-realistic, while Cri Kee the cricket and Mushu the dragon are cartoony. Khan the horse is semi-real though.
  • Dreamworks Over the Hedge has big-headed cartoonish animal protagonists. All of the humans are somewhat realistic, with accurate proportions.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Snow White, Prince Charming, the Queen (before and after transforming into a hag) and the Huntsman are realistic, while the animals are more cartoony, although still semi-realistic. The Dwarfs are appear as heavily cartoonized humans, the most cartoonish in the film.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie has cartoonish animated anthropomorphic sea-creatures. All humans (David Hasselhoff and the scuba diver/shopkeeper) are live action. The scenes outside of water have live-action backgrounds, and the sea creatures are live action when they dry and die.
    • This is done similarly in the series, but some of the rules are different. See example in Western Animation.
  • The bees and other insects in Bee Movie are cartoonier than the humans.

Comic Books
  • Jeff Smith's Bone graphic novel series has this in a simple zig-zag. The human-like Bone characters have the simplest appearance while the actual humans are quite realistic. The wild animals are somewhere intermediate; except the rat creatures - the antagonists, who are the most detailed (though not realistic).

Newspaper Comics
  • In the newspaper comic, Bloom County and its sequels. The animals were always cartoony, but got more so during the several occurrences of Art Shift throughout the series.

Puppet Shows
  • The Ferals: The humans are played by actual people while the animals are played by puppets.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • In Dora the Explorer, protagonist Dora and the other human children look cartoony, and the adults are more realistic. However, her anthropomorphic animal friends are more cartoony, often more so than the children. Her sidekick Boot's the monkey, and a few other animals - hardly resemble the animal that they are supposed to be.
    • Baby Jaguar and other animals in Go, Diego, Go! are more realistic than Boots, Tico, Benny, Swiper, Isa, and other animals in Dora the Explorer and are as realistic as the humans in both shows.
  • Most of the incarnations of the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise, but moreso its 1983 cartoon series, its 1987 film adaptation, and the two VHS movies released in 1999 and 2000; in these incarnations, the human characters have rather realistic designs (especially true for The Chipmunk Adventure), while The Chipmunks and Chipettes are cartoony, roughly three feet tall, and walk, talk, dress, and eat like people.
    • Played straight and subverted in Alvinnn And The Chipmunks. The humans are realistic whereas the Chipmunks and the Chipettes are cartoony. However, animals other than the Chipmunks and Chipettes are realistic.
  • In Spongebob Squarepants, most of the characters are cartoonish animated anthropomorphic sea-creatures. Patchy the pirate, and his friends, are live action humans (and a mermaid)- save for his pet parrot, who is a puppet.
    • In an episode where Spongebob and Patrick go on land, they appear as live action puppets outside the water.
    • Mermaidman and Baracle Boy are the only cartoony humans in the show.
    • This is also done in the movie, with slightly different rules. See example in Film-Animation.
  • Played straight and subverted In Gaspard and Lisa. The main dog characters and their family and relatives are cartoony and over-stylized, whereas the other animals (like Burlee the kitten and even non-anthropomorphic dogs) and the humans are semi-realistic.

Inversions (Realistic Animals, Cartoony Humans)

Anime and Manga
  • An inversion would be TOEI animation's Digimon shows, where some of the monsters look more like real world creatures than the humans, to say nothing of the animals.

Animated Film
  • Inverted in Brave. The adult bears, Mor'du and Ellinor as a bear, the dogs, and the fish caught by bear Ellinor look realistic, but the humans and Merida's triplet brothers as bears appear semi-realistic or cartoony, more typical of the Pixar style.
  • Inverted in Up. The human characters are very caricatured (Carl's face is a perfect square, Russel's facial features are too close together, Muntz is unrealistically skinny), but the dogs (apart from Dug, whose eyes clearly show sclerae and are placed close together) look like real dogs. Kevin the "Snipe" is cartoony, but then, on the other hand, her species is fictional, so what is inner species meant to look like?

Newspaper Comics
  • Inversion: Calvin and Hobbes people are drawn in a very cartoony style while animals (except for Hobbes) are almost always drawn in a very realistic style.

Toys
  • LEGO minifigures have simplistic shapes and unrealistic proportions (as well as all-yellow skinnote ), probably to match the rectangular style of Lego pieces and models. The animal figures, however, have better curved shapes and more realistic proportions - probably so that humans will recognize their genus/species.

Webcomics
  • In The Whiteboard, the Funny Animal main characters are drawn in a fairly realistic style, while human extras are drawn as featureless 'bubbleheads' distinguishable only by their clothing. Inanimate objects are the most detailed of all, since before starting the comic the author mostly drew hardware or machines.
    • Later on the comic switched to just having everyone be funny animals, and implied that the extras' earlier "human" appearance was simply a lack of description rather than an indication of species.
  • In Hyperbole and a Half, none of the pictures are drawn completely realistically, but the animals (usually dogs) have a tendency to be drawn with more complexity than the humans, who can look like they were drawn by a five-year-old.

Western Animation
  • South Park: The humans are cartoony, but the animals in later seasons are realistic. Dogs and cats are still cartoony however.
    • Averted in the earlier seasons as both the humans and the animals were cartoony.
  • Inverted somewhat on The Simpsons. Except for those introduced early on the series (Blinky the fish, Snowball II, Santa's Little Helper), animal characters are depicted more realistically than the humans.
    • From the beginning the producers established a rule that animals would behave as they do in real life, although that rule has gotten a little looser in later seasons.
    • This trope applies to Stampy the elephant the most as he is actually semi-realistic, unlike most of the other animals and the humans.
    • The Funny Animals from The Itchy & Scratchy Show, however, are exempt.
  • In The Wild Thornberrys, the humans are very cartoonish. Most of the wild animals in the show, who are numerous, are more realistic. Darwin the chimp is as cartoony as the humans however.
  • Sanjay and Craig: The human characters and Craig the snake look cartoony, but the other snakes look semi realistic.
  • Bob's Burgers: The human characters look cartoony with very weak chins, but the other animals, including the horses appear closer to semirealistic.

Comic Books
  • Maus, a true Holocaust story - is an interesting (strange) example. All Jewish people appear as cartoonish, anthropomorphic mice - although this is just a metaphor, as they are humans in-universe. Other humans appear as other animals; such as Polish pigs, American dogs, and Nazi cats. In a panel in the first book, a real rat is seen running on the floor of a room that some Jews went into.
    • There was a ''comic within a comic'' in this book written by the protagonist, in which the characters are detailed and fairly-fairly realistic humans.

Both:

Animated Films
  • Played straight and inverted in Turbo. Inverted with the crows as they are photorealistic and more realistic than the humans, who are semi-realistic. Played straight with the snails, who are cartoonier than the humans.

Community Feedback Replies: 67
  • March 16, 2013
    CaveCat
  • March 16, 2013
    TonyG
    Mr Bug Goes To Town has cartoon bugs against rotoscoped humans.
  • March 16, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Animated Film
    • Mulan: The humans are semi-realistic, while Cri Kee the cricket and Mushu the dragon are cartoony. Khan the horse is semi-real though.
    • Cinderella: The animals (the mice, the songbirds, the chickens, Bruno the dog, Major the horse, and Lucifer the cat) are cartoony but humans are semi-realistic or at least less cartoony than the animals. The four mice-turned-horses and other horses other than Major are semi-real though.
    • The Great Mouse Detective: The humans are realistic, but aside from the realistic horses, the animals (the mice, bat, rat, cat, dog, lizard, and octopus) are cartoony.
    • An American Tail: The humans are realistic, but the mice, cats, and other animals are cartoony.

    Western Animation
    • Inverted in South Park: The humans are cartoony, but the animals in later seasons are realistic. Dogs and cats are still cartoony however.
      • Averted in the earlier seasons as both the humans and the animals were cartoony.
  • March 16, 2013
    TonyG
    • Inverted somewhat on The Simpsons. Except for those introduced early on the series (Blinky the fish, Snowball II, Santa's Little Helper), animal characters are depicted more realistically than the humans. From the beginning the producers established a rule that animals would behave as they do in real life, although that rule has gotten a little looser in later seasons. The Funny Animals from The Itchy And Scratchy Show, however, are exempt.
    • Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs: Snow White, Prince Charming, the Queen (before and after transforming into a hag) and the Huntsman are realistic, while the animals are more cartoony, although still semi-realistic. The Dwarfs, however, are the cartooniest of all.
  • March 16, 2013
    SneakySquirrel
  • March 16, 2013
    acrobox
    The inversion should be noted to essentially be No Cartoon Fish expanded to other species
  • March 17, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Minor grammar fix: accept -> except x 2. Accept = receive with thanks / except = set aside as not belonging.
  • March 17, 2013
    LiamM32
    For the Simpsons example:
    • This trope applies to Stampy the elephant the most as he is actually semi-realistic, unlike most of the other animals and the humans.
  • March 17, 2013
    Winchesterbros
    Just thinking, could we call the trope scooby doo syndrome? Just a thought.
  • March 17, 2013
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^ I think tropes named after works are generally frowned upon. In this case, it might not be that clear at first which aspect of Scooby Doo is being referred to.
  • March 17, 2013
    LiamM32
    @Winchesterbros: No I will not name it that. The current title is self explanatory, but that one is unclear.
  • March 17, 2013
    LiamM32
    Could someone that knows how please fix the note on the Lego example.
  • March 17, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^It's fine. Note doesn't work in ykttw.
  • March 17, 2013
    LiamM32
    ^Thanks for the response.

    Do you think that the humans in Pixar's film Brave are cartoonish enough to qualify for this?
  • March 18, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    For the Sponge Bob Square Pants example:
    • Mermaidman and Baracle Boy are the only cartoony humans in the show.
  • March 28, 2013
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^ Judging by the trope name, are you sure you don't mean cartoonish enough to qualify for an inversion of this?
  • March 29, 2013
    helterskelter
    Can we make a distinction here? I don't think any Disney movie (save perhaps Pocahontas or any purely animal movie) has ever animated its humans realistically enough to warrant this trope. Just because they're not a crazy exaggerated caricature doesn't make them realistic.

    I think you'll see tons of misuse and people basically using it for every animated movie unless you make it very clear that the humans must be realistic. Cinderella is a cartoon person. She doesn't have the levels of exaggeration that characters in, say, Hercules had, but she's still obviously a cartoon.

    Basically, no example should have to say "well, the humans are less cartoony".
  • April 12, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    ^Do you think that Humans Less Cartoony Than Animals is a good trope name?

    The point of this trope is that the humans are realistic or semi-realistic while the animals are cartoony.
  • April 13, 2013
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^ That's... not quite as concise or catchy as the current title.

    Not that we shouldn't consider that option, I'm just saying that's one flaw it happens to have.
  • April 13, 2013
    TonyG
    I don't think the page image illustrates the trope very well. The human characters are clear enough, but the one animal character is low on the frame and at an odd angle, and thus is not noticeable enough for a comparison.
  • May 26, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • July 22, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Played straight and inverted in Turbo. Inverted with the crows as they are photorealistic and more realistic than the humans, who are semi-realistic. Played straight with the snails, who are cartoonier than the humans.
  • July 23, 2013
    EdnaWalker
  • August 19, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • October 14, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • October 14, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Fixed a Red Link.
  • October 14, 2013
    Duncan
    This was the case in Newspaper Comic Bloom County and its sequels. The animals were always cartoony, but got more so during the several occurrences of Art Shift throughout the series.
  • October 14, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Also, Baby Jaguar and other animals in Go Diego Go are more realistic than Boots, Tico, Benny, Swiper, Isa, and other animals in Dora The Explorer and are as realistic as the humans in both shows.
  • October 14, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Western Animation
  • October 15, 2013
    DAN004
    Fix the image plz.
  • October 23, 2013
    PhantomDusclops92
    EDIT: Whoops, wrong YKTTW!
  • October 23, 2013
    PrettyinPink
    Why don't you include a separate trope for inversions if they're so common? How did you not even consider that?
  • October 23, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Depends. Since the inversion is simplistic I don't think it warrants a split.
  • November 8, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • November 24, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • November 25, 2013
    DAN004
    Fix the image plz.
  • December 16, 2013
    EdnaWalker
    For The Wild Thornberries example: Darwin the chimp is as cartoony as the humans.
  • January 23, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • January 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Fix image plz...
  • February 9, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    The bees and other insects in Bee Movie appear cartoonier than the humans.
  • March 23, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • March 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Removing hat till image's changed.
  • March 23, 2014
    m8e
    Fixed the image.
  • April 11, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • April 11, 2014
    TonyG
    Still think we can find a clearer image.
  • May 30, 2014
    jormis29
    • The Ferals: The humans are played by actual people while the animals are played by puppets.
  • May 31, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    Played straight and subverted In Gaspard And Lisa. The main dog characters and their family and relatives are cartoony and over-stylized, whereas the other animals (like Burlee the kitten) and the humans are semi-realistic.
  • June 1, 2014
    needsanewhobby
    Inverted in Up. The human characters are very caricatured (Carl's face is a perfect square, Russel's facial features are too close together, Muntz is unrealistically skinny), but the dogs look like dogs. The Snipe is cartoony, but then, on the other hand, its species is fictional, so what is it meant to look like?
  • June 28, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • September 12, 2014
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • September 23, 2014
    Cider
    An inversion would be TOEI animation's Digimon shows, where some of the monsters look more like real world creatures than the humans, to say nothing of the animals.
  • September 23, 2014
    landmark356
    Inversion: Calvin And Hobbes people are drawn in a very cartoony style while animals (except for Hobbes) are almost always drawn in a very realistic style.
  • April 12, 2015
    Lymantria
    Bump.
  • April 12, 2015
    dalek955
    • In The Whiteboard, the Funny Animal main characters are drawn in a fairly realistic style, while human extras are drawn as featureless 'bubbleheads' distinguishable only by their clothing. Inanimate objects are the most detailed of all, since before starting the comic the author mostly drew hardware or machines.
      • Later on the comic switched to just having everyone be funny animals, and implied that the extras' earlier "human" appearance was simply a lack of description rather than an indication of species.
  • April 12, 2015
    EdnaWalker
    • Sanjay And Craig: The human characters and Craig the snake look cartoony, but the other snakes look semi realistic.
  • June 7, 2015
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • June 22, 2015
    dalek955
    Bump.
  • April 4, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    I recommend a clearer/newer image. I can't really see the animal.
  • April 20, 2016
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • April 23, 2016
    Aubren
    I see the inversion far more often, especiay in manga. Humans and humanoid entities will be in classical Japanese animation style, while animals will nearly always be deliberately realistic unless they're "special".
  • April 23, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^ That's probably common enough to be a separate trope.
  • April 30, 2016
    Berrenta
    Unlaunched due to ZCE issues, which will need clearing up.
  • April 30, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    What needs cleaning up exactly?
  • April 30, 2016
    dieseldragons
    Technically, this is a subtrope of Sliding Scale Of Anthropomorphism.
  • April 30, 2016
    Monolaf317
    Can we launch it yet?
  • April 30, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^ It just got un-launched. Have issues been fixed?
  • April 30, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    In Hyperbole And A Half, none of the pictures are drawn completely realistically, but the animals (usually dogs) have a tendency to be drawn with more complexity than the humans, who can look like they were drawn by a five-year-old.
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