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Analysis: Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism Terminology

When people talk about the term "anthropomorphic," they usually refer to an animal (fictional or nonfictional species), plant, alien, mythical or fantasy creature, robot, inanimate object, or other non human that acts human or is humanoid in shape. However, the word, "anthropomorphic," technically means "of human shape or form."

Pertinent Terms

  • Anthropomorphic: technically means of human shape or form; usually used to mean an animal (fictional or nonfictional species), plant, alien, mythical or fantasy creature, robot, inanimate object, or other non human that acts human or is humanoid in shape
  • Zoomorphic: means of animal shape or form
  • Anthrozoomorphic: technical term for animals that act human

Peculiarities of The Anthropomorphism of Various Animal Species

Insect and Arachnid Anthropomorpism

There is a much greater tendency to actually add facial and bodily features to insects and arachnids that simply aren't present on their real counterparts in order to anthropomorphize them even slightly. Other animals are much less commonly subject to this when they are anthropomorphized pr otherwise drawn in a non-lifelike manner. Typically, those facial and bodily features are human or otherwise mammalian.

There are Some Mammalian, Anthropomorphic, and other Vertebrate-Like Facial and Bodily Features That Cartoon Insects and Arachnids Are Often Drawn With, Including:

  • Noses shaped either like human noses or like the generic jellybean shape that looks vaguely like a dog's nose. Real Life insects and arachnids don't even have noses to begin with.
  • Vertebrate eye structure with sclerae, pupils, the ability to blink, and even irides.
  • Often has four legs instead of the correct six if an insect.
  • Often has six legs instead of the correct eight if an arachnid.
  • Sometimes have Non-Mammal Mammaries
  • Having back legs or back and middle legs located on the abdomen instead of having all legs being located the thorax like they are in Real Life insects.
  • Have legs on the abdomen and a head instead of having all legs and head located on the cephalothorax and an abdomen like they are Real Life arachnids.
  • Hands and feet with fingers and toes respectively.
  • Two eyes instead of the five eyes that Real Life insects have. This can be forgiven as three of those five eyes are far smaller than the other two.
  • Two eyes instead of the eight eyes that Real Life spiders have.
  • Have vertebrate mouths, jaws, and teeth instead of or in conjunction to their mandibles if an insect.
  • Have vertebrate mouths, jaws, and teeth instead of or in conjunction to their chelicera if a arachnid.
  • Sometimes have a facial "mask" marking
  • Sometimes have a shortish, doglike muzzle
  • Sometimes has a vaguely humanoid torso


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Examples

    Advertising 

    Anime and Manga 

    Film 

    Live Action TV 
  • Though not a straight example of this trope, Star Trek's Andorians fit this description, at least how they were originally conceived, as having both mammalian and insect-like traits.

    Video Games 
  • Charmy Bee from Sonic the Hedgehog is a two-foot tall bee with only four limbs and a muzzle with a jellybean nose.
  • Pokémon's bugs vary but usually just have somewhat more mammalian eyes than their real-life counterparts, often only four legs and optional bipedalism. Scyther, however, though nominally a praying mantis, obviously borrows several vital features from vertebrates: its head resembles a reptile, complete with the accompanying mouth, fangs and eyes, and while its forelegs end in curved blades based on those of a praying mantis, its hind legs are clawed. Additionally, though Flygon is arguably only partly based on an antlion, it has a cute mammal-like body, paws and a tail.
  • In Bug and Bug Too, there are several insects with mammalian-looking characteristics. Two notable examples are Bug's girlfriend from the first game and several enemies from the sequel.

    Tabletop Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Dreamwalk Journal features literally mammalian insect and arachnid hybrids. The implication is that the entire population is the result of genetic engineering (pantropy) by their human ancestors.

    Western Animation 
  • The French short series Miniscule features otherwise quite realistically drawn insect characters, but the small spider's two eyes have pupils. It also shivers when cold.
  • Chuck Jones' The Cricket in Times Square averts the body design issues with Chester Cricket, though he has a cartoonishly-stylized face.
  • Ken the weevil and Grubby from Dirt Girl World have faces that look awfully like human faces.
    • Mostly averted with the other insects in the show, though.
  • The monarch butterfly who's considered a perfectly normal butterfly in the Handy Manny world has correct number of legs (that is, six), but it has Cartoony Vertebrate-Style Eyes.
  • The insects in The Buzz on Maggie
  • The Classic Disney Shorts are teeming with them.
    • Bucky Bug, from the Silly Symphony "Bugs In Love" and a series of comics set on his hometown of Bugville.
    • Wilbur the Grasshopper, from the Silly Symphony "The Grasshopper and the Ants" and the Goofy cartoon "Goofy and Wilbur". Also, the ants from the former short.
    • Donald Duck often had to deal with insects, including ants, a bee (which had a big red nose) and the Bootle Beetle.
    • The title character from the Silly Symphony "The Moth and the Flame", which was a Humanoid Female Animal, as well as the more cartoony male moths.
    • The Pluto The Pup cartoon "Springtime for Pluto" had a butterfly that looked more like a '40s Pin Up with wings.
  • Zipper from Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, as well as any other insect characters the Rangers came across.
  • The population of Santo Bugito.
  • The moth and butterfly from the Animaniacs episode, "Wings Take Heart" are this. The moth has four legs, a light facial "mask" marking, and a red, doglike nose and the butterfly looks basically like a human with antennae and wings.
  • The female Mantis in Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness has a mammalian bustline, lipstick and blush.
  • Averted with the giant ant in the Futurama movie, The Beast With a Billion Backs.

Flea Anthropomorphism

The toon world treats them as a phenomenon particular to canines when virtually every mammalian species on Earth has a variety of flea all its own. However, if a cartoon features dogs, you can count on a plot or subplot eventually centering on popular culture's favorite endoparasites.

Animators tend not to pay attention to what a flea actually looks like, often drawing them as nondescript cartoon "bugs" or even tiny human-like creatures. This is especially evident in Looney Tunes cartoons. Some exceptions to this include Droopy's Dixieland flea band, the fleas in CatDog, the fleas in the Moxy Pirate Cartoon Show, the fleas in the All Dogs Go to Heaven TV series, and P.T. Flea in A Bug's Life. They were still at least a little anthropomorphic, but they looked very reasonably flea-like.


Snake Anthropomorphism

Real Life snakes do not blink, but cartoon snakes are nearly always shown blinking regardless of their level of anthropomorphism.

Since snakes don't have leg, arms, feet, or hands and Civilized Animal, Funny Animal, and Petting Zoo People are almost always bipedal, it is hard to anthropomorphize them beyond a Partially Civilized Animal, let alone to the Petting Zoo People tier without actually adding said body parts. So, if you want to make a snake shrug, it would have to use its elongate body to do so. Also, if it's going to be able to grasp objects or gesture, it's tail would have to made prehensile.

Partially Civilized Animal, Civilized Animal, and Funny Animal snakes are frequently depicted as slithering on their bottom half, while their head and some of their upper body is constantly elevated. It's the closest to walking on two legs you can really pull off with a snake, so almost any anthropomorphized snake will move this way, while real snakes usually keep their head low to the ground while moving and put it up only briefly to analyze the surroundings or make a threat gesture.

Evolution of Animal Anthropomorphism in the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries

Animal anthropomorphizing has evolved over time. In the 19th century and in earlier decades of the 20th century, animals were usually presented as less humanlike than they are now. This can be seen in the 1942 Disney movie, Bambi. Even though the animals can speak, they still move pretty realistically as animals, and what they think about/talk about is more focused on “animal” concerns and uses animal logic. Animals were also seen as less “gendered” creatures.

Bipedal, anthropomorphic animals in the 19th and early 20th century were usually of the Civilized Animal type. The most notable examples include many of Beatrix Potter's works and The Wind in the Willows. The Wind in the Willows may shift toward the Funny Animal trope with Mr. Toad and later parts of the story, but the Funny Animal trope really started to rise in the late 1920s with animated cartoons featuring animals. The Civilized Animal resurfaced in the 1940s, but this kind is more humanized than those in Beatrix Potter's works and can switch between Civilized Animal and Funny Animal depending on the cartoon and/or their mood. Both types of Civilized Animal and Funny Animal became less prominent by the 1970s.

Before the rise of the modern Furry Fandom, the Petting Zoo People type of animal was few and far between and the Humanoid Female Animal and Non-Mammal Mammaries tropes were less common. The most notable early examples of this are various female animals in some Tex Avery cartoons and most of the cats that Tom of Tom and Jerry swoon over.

In the last 30 years however, the anthropomorphized animated animals have grown in their roles to become much more human like, both in movement, speech, and thought. Compare the animals in Bambi (Nearly Normal Animal) to the animals in The Lion King (Nearly Normal Animal, Partially Civilized Animal) and the mice in Cinderella (Civilized Animal) to the mice in The Great Mouse Detective (Funny Animal, Petting Zoo Person).

When that happened (animals being animated, drawn, rendered, or written to be more humanlike) they also began to reflect more a lot of “human” socialization, like more intensified gender coding (through behavior, speech, as well as assigned roles). The Petting Zoo People, Non-Mammal Mammaries, and Humanoid Female Animal tropes grew more common.

Funny Animal and Civilized Animal Characters in the Golden Age Cartoons

in the 1930s, the Funny Animals created (like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Porky Pig) were basically humans who happen to be drawn as animals for the most part. They live like humans, they act like humans, they own animals as pets. Goofy is fully dressed and even more humanlike. His anthropomorphism reached its zenith in the 1950s, when more animal like cartoon animals were created.

The cartoon stars who emerged in the 1940s and 1950s were often animals who actually lived and/ or acted like animals. For example, Tom and Jerry acted like a cat and mouse, Bugs Bunny lives in a hole in the ground, eats carrots, and is menaced by hunters, and Chip 'n Dale live in a tree and crave nuts. These characters are, for the most part, naked, whereas Mickey, Porky, and Donald wear partial outfits. With a character like Bugs, his adversaries have to be human. When they're not, they have to be animal-like animals, like hunting dogs or Tasmanian Devils.
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