Humans have always been fascinated by animals. Love them or hate them, they usually provoke a strong reaction in people, from the Jerkass who turns to mush when confronted by a playful puppy to the tough guy who freaks out when he encounters something slithery. Most mythologies feature animals in starring roles; some belief systems feature animals as guides, oracles, or totems representing certain qualities or certain people. So of course animals are going to turn up as symbols in popular media.
This animal isn't around to be petted or kicked, or to assist in taking over the world... well, it might be, but only as a side job. The real purpose of these animals is that of most motifs: they're there to underline a theme, or make a statement about a certain character. They might not even be physically present at all. The "animal" might be the name of a football team, a charm on a bracelet, or an ornament on the mantelpiece.
Animals are used to depict characters more often than they describe themes. Even in the real world, describing a person by comparing them to an animal is a good way to convey your opinion of them: phrases such as "lion-hearted," "eagle-eyed," or "doity rat" are popular to the point of cliché. Therefore, many Animal Motifs are also Characterization Tropes. The wimp who spends his time watching the tigers at the zoo will most likely be stronger than you think. As for the girl doodling big black spiders with suspicious red hourglasses on their underbellies... well, think twice before accepting her invitation to "coffee."
Animals, like flowers, are a motif that tends to be gendered. Men are usually compared to animals that are clearly predatory: wolves, lions, and bears, for example. Women generally get the cute and fluffy animals as motifs, such as bunnies and suchlike. However, women have historically had a strong association with the cat which, while cuddly and furry, is also a predator. Cats are therefore a common motif for female characters, but one aspect of the feline mystique will most likely be emphasized over the others — the woman will either be a predator, a seductress, or a sweet little kitten. (Lionesses are especially popular for Action Girls: they look very different from male lions, and most people know it's lionesses who do the hunting, so a lioness motif conveniently emphasizes both femininity and ferocity.) Women are also frequently associated with foxes, also a predatory animal, although it is the fox's attractive nature or reputation as a trickster that is being invoked. A woman represented by a large, predatory animal is twice as dangerous as her male counterparts - after all, women are traditionally characterized as pretty and helpless, not aggressive and scary.
In the world of fiction, someone who doesn't like animals at all is either a nasty piece of work or obsessively clean and germ-phobic. "Animal hater" is quite a strong term though, so to dilute the "hard-heartedness" of this character, expect to see one particular animal that they just can't resist.
Usagi Tsukino from Sailor Moon. Even her name means "rabbit", and her hair is meant to mirror the ears of one. This relates back to the astrological motif as well, from the Japanese myth of the rabbit on the moon. Chibi-Usa is designed to look even more like a rabbit, with her pinkish eyes and bunny ear-shaped Odango.
Yamcha from Dragon Ball has a wolf motif, fitting to his Wolf Fang Fist.
Yuuko who is often represented by a butterfly, which symbolizes change and how she changes her customers, including the main characters. It also symbolizes life and death, to reflect her undead nature and fate.
Watanuki is often represented by Foxes and/or birds. However, he selects the bird to be his signature, which is representative of his connection to Tsubasa, as well as his being Yuuko's successor (because birds can go farther than butterflies).
Being an anime about ballet and fairy tales that was heavily influenced by Swan Lake, Princess Tutu has several of these, along with references to Animal Stereotypes. In particular, Princess Tutu is heavily associated with swans (as is Mytho in his true, princely form), the girl that transforms into her is named Ahiru ("duck") and is really a duck disguised as a human, the villain is a Raven (see Creepy Crows), and Princess Kraehe ("crow" in German) is associated both with crows (obviously) and black swans. The opening intro goes as far as to show Ahiru in her duck form flying into the sky as she transforms into a beautiful swan—an "Ugly Duckling" reference that has not been lost on the fandom.
Gecko Moria: the Gecko, his clothing resembling a gecko. Or alternatively, the Bat, given his general shadow theme, and that his name is very close to, or at least contains, the Japanese word for bat (koumori).
Crocodile: the Crocodile, keeping monstrous crocodiles as pets and having a scar that resembles a crocodile's smile
And a few other characters, like Mr. 2 (a swan), the marine captain Nezumi (a rat) and every ZoanDevil Fruit user (their respective animal).
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! takes this concept to the logical conclusion. It is easier to list the amount of characters who don't have an animal associated with them. That number is 0.
In Chrono Crusade, Aion is often associated with birds, particularly an eagle that is his familiar. He often sends his eagle ahead of him to communicate with others or make his presence known. He also refers to Chrono as "my bird who can't fly", and goes as far as to describe a character falling into his trap as a "turkey flying into the oven basted and ready to cook."
Black and White from Tekkon Kinkreet are collectively referred to as 'the cats,' and White is often seen wearing hats or hoods that mimic animal looks.
The animals in Pet Shop of Horrors are usually connected to both their owner's "fatal flaw" and a possible means of redemption. The man who deceived his new bride gets a highly possessive (and hungry) mermaid; the selfish drifter gets a sweet little kitten to soften his nature.
In Lucky Star, the characters themselves start wondering about which animal motif suits them best. Joking unflappable otaku Konata gets a fox, cute and innocent Tsukasa a puppy, soft-mannered and peaceful Miyuki a sheep (although Konata would quip that she's more suited to a cow due to her...ahem... bust size)... and resident Tsundere and Straight Man Kagami is to her endless shame given a bunny (due to her underlying emotionality and her tendency to hide it from the world, and, apparently, because her pigtails look like rabbit ears according to Konata).
Rurouni Kenshin is full of animal motifs: Kenshin is the Dragon, Sano the Rooster, Saitou the Wolf, and Enishi the Tiger. It also makes an extended joke concerning women's face shapes: in Japan, women are considered to be Tanuki ("raccoon-dog", round and open features, implying naivete) or Kitsune ("fox", long and narrow, implying mischief). When Saitou meets Misao for the first time, he has an Imagine Spot: If Kaoru = Tanuki and Megumi = Kitsune, then Misao = Itachi (weasel). Misao was not pleased.
Ikki from Air Gear is often compared to a crow, both by other characters and through imagery.
The witches from Soul Eater: not only do their motifs tie in with their outer appearances and powers, but a good deal of them have tie-in names as well:
While Free is male and not necessarily a witch, he does have a multitude of magical powers and has a wolf motif.
Another male non-witch character, Eibon/Noah, can be presumed to have a worm motif, since "worm" is in his chanting and since he used one to bite an enemy to pieces. The fact that he wields a book, specifies it as a (badass?) "bookworm".
In Berserk, Griffith is closely associated with the hawk; besides the name of the group of his followers, The Band Of The Hawks, his helmet is vaguely similar to that of a bird of prey, he often wears a cape (symbolising the wings), and is even called "The Hawk of Light". Eventually, once he becomes a member of the Gondhand, his demonic form Femto resembles a red hawk with bat like traits. His counter part, Guts, however, is more closely associated with wolves, most notably by his "inner beast" Guts is also known as "The Dark Hawk", to counter Griffith.
Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha are odd cases of having two Animal Motifs each. First are ones which they "inherited" from their teachers (which are really too blatant in their cases to even count as motifs) and the second are ones unique to them. Naruto has toads and foxes (resemblance to a fox, a prankster but always keeps his promises), while Sasuke has snakes and hawks (what he names his team, an illusion he uses is represented with feathers pierces the person, he learned to summon a hawk, his hair).
Also, Itachi has a raven motif-thing going on, which is interesting if you consider that Sasuke's motif is the hawk...
The rest of the Konoha clans save for the Senju have their own, too: Hyuuga- birds, Inuzuka- dogs, Aburame- insects, Yamanaka- boars, Nara- deer, Akamichi- butterflies, Sarutobi- monkeys, Uzumaki- foxes.
The same can be applied to several Akatsuki members: Deidara- bird, Kisame-shark, Sasori- scorpion.
The Second Mizukage can summon a Giant Clam and styled his outfit and hair to resemble said shellfish.
Soifon's theme is the Asian Giant Hornet. She has the aggression to match, too.
Gin's theme is predominantly the snake. However, some characters also compare him to a fox because of his tendency to play pranks on people. In the end, the manga does take the snake-plus-fox theme to its logical conclusion in chapter 414 where a colour picture of Gin depicts him as Inari (more famous for being fox themed, Inari has even older, but less well-known, snake associations).
Unohana is ray-themed. Her shikai form even takes the form of a giant ray of indeterminate species. Akin to the mixed mythology of the ray as both aggressive, dangerous poisoner and killer, and a more benign healer and antidote, Unohana has been portrayed as a benign healer but hints occur occasionally that there's a much more dangerous side to her.
Komamura is wolf-themed to such an extent that he's a humanoid wolf and has the stereotypical Undying Loyalty (to Yamamoto) as well. It's a Running Gagin-universe that characters mistake him for a dog instead of a wolf which works well as the fandom often mistakes him for a dog as well. He's also got the ability to communicate with dogs, owns a dog, and has a secret weakness for human shows about puppies.
Tousen is themed on the bell cricket to such an extent that when he finally gains resurreccion it takes an insect form reminiscent of the The Fly.
Mayuri has, amongst a few other themes, a strong peacock theme from his name, to his colourful attire, to his aptitude for poisons and antidotes.
Ukitake is carp-themed. This includes the concept of the carp representing boys who can overcome adversity to become stronger. He gained an incurable lung disease as a child. Despite that, he's still managed to not just reach the captain rank but is one of the longest-serving captains of all.
Rangiku is cat themed. She takes the seductress route with her cat themes being officially the sexiest woman in the entire Gotei 13 and is also an example of The Tease. Her zanpakutou behaves like volcanic ash, conviently tying in to the concept of a slashing cat.
Yumichika is peacock-themed to such an extent that, as well as having the vanity and obsession with beauty, he's also got the less well-known folklore traits of being extremely watchful (he tends to sense reiatsu when others don't or even as fast as captains), but he also has the ability to "bind" evil, as well as having rejuvenation abilities - powers also associated with the peacock which is why the peacock overlaps the phoenix in mythology.
Yoruichi can turn into a black cat.
Coyote Starrk is wolf-themed, specifically, lone-wolf themed. Appropriately, he has the unique power of being able to split his soul into companion beings, including a large pack of very dangerous wolves.
Harribel is shark-themed. Dignified and terrifying, she comes with obligatory water powers.
Ulquiorra is bat-themed to go with his darkness, void and despair themes. His resurreccion has led to fandom-wide Batman jokes.
Nnoitra Jiruga is Praying Mantis themed. Predatory, capable of being stealthy and underhanded or a whirlwind of brute force. Also, a lot of emphasis is made on the fact that he's not as strong as a certain female teammate and one of his resurreccion tricks is to produce multiple arms (four initially, with two extra hidden for ambush purposes to bring his total to a very six).
Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, who is jaguar-themed, specifically panther (black jaguar) in keeping with the theme of him being the dark counterpart of Ichigo (who is sun and eclipse themed), who (as the jaguar symbolises in mythology) is obsessed with kingship. His sword is named Pantera and his released appearance becomes decidedly more feline. When he was a hollow, he was a cat.
Zommari takes the prize as the weirdest. He's sea urchin-themed, and his resurreccion turns his lower body into one full of many eyes. He shows the author did the research as the sea urchin is associated in mythology with witchcraft just as Zommari's powers are.
Szayel Aporro Grantz is a parasitic worm; strange, maybe even good-looking but incredibly vile and with a variety of powers that rely on drawing health from hurting/killing another organism. On a more fantastic level, he's also associated with the phoenix which is again appropriate for parasitic worms.
Ggio is cat-themed, specific sabre-tooth cat and tiger-themed.
Findor is crab-themed. In resurreccion his one arm even becomes a giant pincer. His powers are water-based.
Avirrama is eagle-themed, even down to having wings and feather-based attacks.
Nirgge is elephant-themed and his power lies with his physical strength.
Poww is essentially a monstrous whale that masquerades as humanoid. In resurreccion he becomes monstrously large (not that he wasn't already) and gains a throat like a baleen whale.
Harribel's three fraccions are all animal based (Mila-Rose is lion themed and has the Greek Amazon look to go with it, Sung-Sun is anaconda-themed and has snake-appropriate powers, Apacci is deer-themed. In resurreccion she is a deer-woman).
Tesla is warthog themed and practically turns into the warthog equivalent of a minotaur in resurreccion.
Loly is centipede-themed.
Pesche is stag beetle themed, to an extent where it's made a joke of in the manga. He's mistaken for an ant and he gets very indignant.
In Get Backers, Ban is often associated with snakes. His eyes are slitty and look a lot like a snake's, and one of his trademark attacks is called "Snake Bite." Shido even calls him "Snake Bastard." Hey, even his proud, condescending attitude is rather reminiscent of a certain trope. Though physically, it's especially obvious in this page of the manga.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, there's an animal motif on two points where Misawa and Judai clash. The artwork depicts a dragon coming from Judai, and a tiger coming from Misawa. This is a reference to tigers and dragons represented by Yin and Yang in Taoism. Dragon was Yang, and Yang went with rushing headlong into things on instinct, which is how Judai does everything. The tiger was Yin, going with thinking and planning, which Misawa does even with things like batting in baseball.
For extra giggle points, Misawa eventually falls in love with Taniya, a tiger woman, and Juudai with Yubel, who was transformed into a dragon to protect him.
Hajime No Ippo uses this trope quite a lot. Ippo is a gazelle, Sendo a tiger, Vorg a wolf, Date a lion, Woli a monkey, Kimura a dragonfish... Notably, Takamura, despite being the 2nd main character, does not have a clear motif. He could be a hawk (his name reflects it and he wears a hawk costume for world title fights), a bear (won against one and has worn his fur) or a rhinoceros beetle (wore such a costume and his K-On! manga appears to have a thing for turtles and tortoises. For one, there are the statues on the school staircases, based on the fable of the tortoise and the hare. In the opening of the first season, the girls are seen hopping over stones in a river, some of which are turtle-shaped (both are from real locations, by the way). Ui owns a large turtle plushie. And then there's Ton-chan, a turtle living in an aquarium in the club room.
The creator of Descendants of Darkness has often drawn the two main characters with animal traits, both in the manga and in extra art. For Happy-go-lucky, often childish, always energetic and loyal Tsuzuki, it's a puppy. This visual is used enough in the manga and anime that fans often reference Tsuzuki as going into "Puppy-mode". For the quiet, loner, bookish, easily angered, defensive and Tsundere Hisoka, it's a cat. While this isn't used nearly as much as the Puppy-Tsuzuki visual, it's no less apt.
In Full Metal Panic!, during comedic moments, Sousuke's animal motif is a cute (albeit irritable looking) little dog. A more plot significant one for him, though, is a tiger (referring to the fact that he's the "son of Bdakshon's Tiger," being called "Tiger" by Gauron in the English dub, as well as his adopting a pet tiger that he loves). On the other hand, Gauron's animal motif can be seen as a dragon, derived from his name "Gauron" (meaning "nine dragons" in Chinese). Symbolism is rampant when one considers the antagonizing, spark-filled relationship between the tiger and dragon in Asian culture. In fact, the Tiger Versus Dragon trope page describes their relationship perfectly.
Shin's Nanto Koshuken style is the "Long Eagle Fist"
Rei's Nanto Suichoken style is the "Waterfowl Fist"
Juda's Nanto Kokakuken style is the "Crimson Crane Fist"
Shuu's Nanto Hakuroken style is the "White Heron Fist"
Souther's Nanto Ho-oken style is the "Phoenix Fist"
Haz and Gil's Nanto Soyoken style is the "Twin Hawk Fist"
The only exceptions to this theme are the Golan Colonel's Nanto Muonken style ("Silent Fist") and the knife jugglers Beji and Giji's Nanto Sozanken style ("Twin Kill Fist"), as well as most of the anime-only styles from filler episodes. However, most of the styles from the Gaiden spin-offs follow the avian theme.
In Future GPX Cyber Formula, some of racing team's logos have these. For example, Team Sugo has Pegasus as their logo, Aoi has the Griffin as their logo and as for the team Albatross DDT... well, you can probably guess what they have as their logo.
When Shinjyo uses his Peacock/Phoenix Wing boost, the fire in a shape of the fiery bird comes out of the booster's nozzles. And when Hayato uses his Super Asurada 01 boosters, an image of Pegasus appears while the car is being blasted in one episode of the TV series.
Fullmetal Alchemist uses the "dog of the military" motif, which is what Ed is constantly referred to as. It's mostly used as a derogatory nickname given to state alchemists by people who believe alchemists should not be involved in state affairs.
In the 2003 anime version, after defecting when his brother becomes the philosopher's stone, Ed voices to his commander, Mustang, that he is now a stray.
In Axis Powers Hetalia, there's Greece with his many cats. He himself wishes to be a cat, and has a cat army. He wears cat ears in one episode (Japan put them on him), after wishing he were one of his feline companions.
There's Usarisu. After a drawing on the author's blog of Chibirisu (the little kid version of England) with bunny ears, the trend spread of drawing little England with the ears became quite popular among fans.
In Shigurui Kogan Iwamoto and after him Gennosuke Fujiki symbolise the Tiger while Seigen Irako symbolises the Dragon.
Most of the superheros in Tiger & Bunny have an animal motif. Kotetsu is a tiger, Antonio an ox, Nathan a phoenix, Pao-Lin a dragon, and Barnaby has the honor of being frequently alluded to a rabbit. He is not amused by this.
In Blue Exorcist, Konekomaru is one of the main characters to be this. Part of his name, Neko, means cat. He loves hot milk, he hates being cold, and he is one of the smallest and cutest characters in the series.
On the other side of the spectrum, Mamushi Hojo is incredibly snake-like. She is very sharp tongued, condescending, and slippery like one; her name means pit viper; she even has the slitted snake-pupils for God's sake!
Slam Dunk uses this trope pretty frequently in combination with chibi. Centers that are big and ugly are nicknamed some variation of "gorilla" (Gori, Bald Gori, Ape King), while someone whose annoyingly energetic is called a monkey (Redheaded Monkey, Wild Monkey). Similarly, Shohoku is often portrayed as a team full of monkeys who follow a Gorilla, with the exception of Rukawa whose called a fox.
Eyeshield 21 has Monta with an uncanny appearance to a monkey. Patrick "Panther" Spencer is known to be one of the fastest people in the world. Blood Knightberserker Gaou is comparable to a Tyrannosaurus with the way he "devours" anyone who stands in his way. Rui has the appearance of a chamelion.
Gaou's teammates Marco and Kisaragi are a raptor and a pteranodon respectively.
In Kodomo No Jikan (manga only) Kuro is occasionally drawn as a black cat (and in both anime and manga she often sports/sprouts cat ears) and Mimi is drawn as a white rabbit. Also, Aoki compares the cat he had been feeding to Rin. When it scratched him, she justified it by saying that it might have been abused.
In Kotoura-san, Manabe's perversion is usually emphasized by having him act like and occasionally turn into a Wolf.
The girls in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo have different animal motifs; Mashiro's motif is a cat, Nanami's is a tiger (which shows up a bit as her favourite stuffed toy), and Misaki's a bear (she seems to be a fan of a nameless bear mascot).
The friendly, loyal, hyperactive Tamaki as a dog (he is also a dog lover).
Haruhi is teased by the others for resembling a "tanuki" (raccoon dog).
The twins are portrayed as sneaky and "devilish" as cats, which adds humor to their relationship with Tamaki.
The main male cast from Free! has their own animal motifs in their swimming styles:
Haruka has the dolphin as his motif as he has a toy dolphin in his home bathroom and Nagisa compares to him to one.
Makoto's motif is the orca. Notable in Episode 6 when his feelings about swimming reflect the nature of orcas conquering the largest distances as a pod.
Nagisa's is the penguin, and he even has them printed in his underwear.
Rin is often compared to a shark, due to his competitive nature and has the teeth of a shark.
Rei's motif is the butterfly, as it is also his preferred swimming stroke, which is the only swimming stroke he knows.
The Sohma family in Fruits Basket are themed after the eastern zodiac, and most of them have personalities fitting the particular animal spirit they're cursed with. Some subvert or avert the trope though- Shigure uses his appearance of civility and uselessness to manipulate the other thirteen.
Yuki (rat) is a self-acknowledged coward, who prefers to hide behind his mask of politeness rather than risk being rejected by others. Kyo (cat) is defensive and easily angered, and feels as out-of-place in the family as a cat would in the eastern zodiac. Momiji (rabbit) is playful and cute, with a whimsical personality that hides great insight into the pain of others. Haru (bull) is patient and a little stubborn; he looks placid on the outside, but has a bad temper that emerges if he's pushed too far. Kagura (boar) is impulsive and violent, persistent to a fault. Shigure (dog) is perverted, but lighthearted and a good friend. ( Well, except for his Manipulative Bastard tendencies, anyway.) Rin (horse) is proud and rebellious. Hatori (dragon/ seahorse) is cryptic but highly knowledgeable, a guide to the rest of the Zodiac. Kureno (rooster/ sparrow) is mild and unobtrusive- loyal to Akito and trying to avoid conflict. Ayame (snake) finds it difficult to establish personal relationships, and Yuki feels that Ayame betrayed him in their childhood.
In a broader sense, in Attack on Titan, humans are domesticated livestock and the Titans are predators. The thematic goal of the protagonists is to become hunters and live free rather than be shut up in a pen.
Some motifs are made explicit in some scenes. Annie is muzzled like a wolf. Lord Balto, a selfish and gluttonous rich man, is seen as a pig.
The assassins from Arachnid and Caterpillar have insect motifs. The plot often pauses to compare the techniques of the characters to the behaviour of insects. Killing Bites, written by the same author, has a similar premise with more common animal motifs.
Psychic operatives in Matt Fraction's Casanova all seem to have differing animal totems that manifest when they use their powers. The protagonist had spiders then upgraded to crows and his villainous sister had snakes.
Wolverine, a violent, foul-smelling Canadian with a talent for surviving tough conditions.
Besides having a tiger for a best friend,Calvin frequently visualizes himself as animals. His favorites are dinosaurs, with him usually as an Allosaurus/T-Rex, and those around him as herbivores.
Sharks are notorious aquatic predators; Erik is a Badass, a hunter (of Nazis), and first meets Charles when they're both in the water. Rats are small, cute (to those who like them), clever, and associated with science; Charles is a Badass Bookworm professor of genetics and his actor is both rather pretty and a bit on the short side.
One Piece fanfic On the Alteration of Species has the Straw Hats transformed into an animal based on their personalities. Lampshaded by one character. Luffy becomes a monkey because monkeys are funny and enjoy to explore. Robin is a cat due to her observing and clever nature. Zoro a wolf, headstrong and powerful. Usopp a stoat, able to get away quickly and also stand their ground if necessary. Sanji becomes a horse due to his intelligent and sweet nature. Nami becomes a magpie which are known to like shiny things (see Thieving Magpie) and being very smart (see Clever Crows). And Chopper remains as a reindeer.
It should be noted that creator Oda has given a Word of God answer to the question of what each pirate would be as an animal. Luffy is a monkey, yes, though Nami is a cat, Zolo a shark, Sanji a duck and Usopp an armadillo (Robin had not yet joined at that point).
Jewel Of Darkness: Doctor Fate has a vision of the future at the beginning of the second arc, which begins with a cat and a bird fighting in the shadow of a tiger. Word of God has confirmed that they represent Terra, Midnight, and Slade, respectively.
Children of Time is full of this, sometimes in-universe. The TenthDoctor'sPuppy Eyes are almost a Running Gag. Professor Moriarty retains all his serpentine qualities, in the narrative and in the characters' thoughts, and Colonel Moran is as much the tiger as ever. Sherlock Holmes calls Beth Lestrade the "tigress that got away," a double play on words as Beth is very much the tigress and Moran is a famous tiger hunter. Holmes himself is described often as "feline" and "catlike," especially once he marries Beth.
Candy For Your Thoughts: Alejandro is often compared to and referred as a snake, and to a lesser extent Duncan has a lion motif.
There's asubgenre of crossover fics- usually referred to as 'daemon' fics- that focus on what kind of daemon [Character X] would develop and why. note
One of these fics, Neala, depicts Harry Potter's daemon as a hare, to underline his Humble Hero tendencies. Ron's is a husky dog, symbolizing his loyalty and determination. Hermione's is a raven, which shows her intelligence.
Alatus shows her as a dragon because "Harry cannot pretend he belongs in the muggle world."
"I’m good like this," she whispered back, when he asked her under cover of Sam watching cartoons that evening, licking a paw and scrubbing it over her ear. "We’re good, like this. People won’t fuck with us, and we can take care of Sammy. Chicks’ll think you’re all mature and shit cause I settled early, and everyone knows people with cat daemons are all mysterious and seductive." She’d flashed him a grin, all sharp teeth. "Try not to let ‘em down too much."
Two protagonists of Guidestuck- being animals in canon- are themed after their original forms. Bec is gruff and stubborn, like a wild dog. Jaspers, a cat, is proud, sophisticated and a little bit spoiled.
Film - Animated
Jafar, the villain of Aladdin, was actually given a snake motif: his hat and robes resemble the hood and body of a cobra, he has vaguely serpentine eyes, teeth resembling a venomous snake's fangs, a constant tendency to flick out his tongue while speaking, he always carries a cobra-headed staff with him all the time, and at the end of the film, he eventurns into one.
From Coraline, the Other Mother is especially given imagery of a spider. Particularly her real form and her kind is known to eat their offspring.
Bugs are everywhere in the film as well. The Other Mother added them to the Other World because she thought Coraline liked bugs.
An in-universe example in Brother Bear; the protagonist's spirit animal- much to his annoyance- is a bear, and he ends up getting transformed into one.
Kung Fu Panda takes it so far as to name characters after what species they are (or what style of kung fu they practise). Fore example, Tigress practices Tiger Style, and her personality is deeply emotional and fiercely competitive. Monkey is playful and used to be the town prankster.
Master Oogway, a tortoise, is patient and wise.
The peacock Shen is a vain perfectionist.
Film - Live Action
Many of the characters in Blade Runner are associated with an animal, including all of the (confirmed) Replicants. Roy Batty, in fact, has two.
Bram Stoker's Dracula has the obvious bat, rat and wolf associations for the titular character, but there's also a snake motif for Lucy: her first appearance has her wearing an evening gown with snake embroidering and a hairdo resembling coiled snakes, the nightgown she wears when attacked by Dracula resembles a snake's belly, and her wedding/funeral dress was inspired by frill-necked lizards.
In The Dark Knight, the Joker makes some references about dogs and their loyalty. Bonus points for reinforcing his ideals on actual dogs, starving them and gaining their loyalty that way.
The last shot of The Departed, a movie about a pair of moles within the Boston Mob and the Mass. "Staties" hunting each other, features a rat scurrying across a balcony
Spoofed on The Simpsons which did a parody of this movie. As the rat scurries by at the end, Ralph pops up and tells the audience, "The rat represents obviousness!"
In Ever After, when preparing for the masque, Marguerite is dressed as a peacock, beautiful and vain. Compared to her sister, Jacqueline, who is kind and sweet, is dressed as a horse. The brief conversation they had before leaving also reflected Jacqueline's situation. She complained that she always wanted to be the peacock (someone beautiful and admired like her sister), in which her mother then told her a horse is still a noble creature. In the end, she chooses to help Danielle and falls in love with the captain, living happily in the castle with her stepsister, unlike her mother and sister.
Psycho also has a bird motif, associating Norman Bates' female victims with the birds he stuffs. He comments that Marion Crane (note the surname), from Phoenix, Arizona, eats like a bird shortly before killing her. In the finale we learn that he has preserved the corpse of his mother with his taxidermy skills.
There are many, many different references to the bird motif throughout the film. Try to find them all!
In Rebecca, the animal favoured by the nameless heroine is the lap-dog, Jasper. Rebecca, however, is regularly mentioned in conjunction with horses. The second Mrs. de Winter is meek, mild and childish, always eager to please and desperate for her husband's approval, to the point where she is almost pathetic. Rebecca, however, is wild and dangerous and too powerful for Max De Winter to keep control of - especially since the horses mentioned alongside her are crazy with pain, as Rebecca whips them into a frenzy.
From Sherlock Holmes, a crow is always seen whenever Blackwood is about to kill someone. So at the end, when Blackwood really does die for real, it flies away. The crow turns out to be nothing more than a normal crow.
At one point in Star Trek, McCoy indirectly referred to Kirk as a stallion, who had started out wild, reckless and proud. Eventually, he does grow up and becomes "tamed" and more controlled of his emotions.
The Wolverine: Next to the Wolverine, we also have the Viper, and their animalistic nature is often alluded to.
In the opening credits of the 1939 film version of The Women has each major character represented by an animal, which dissolves into the face of the actress. (As with the human characters, all animals in the movie were female.)
The Conspiracy Members of the Tarsus Club are divided into ravens and lions, complete with masks, and the core of their mythos is the worship of Mithras with a heavy focus on the bull hunting-and-slaying scene and a ritualistic murder symbolic of the latter in every meeting.
Lone Wolf, Lone Wolf has a wolf motif, unsurprisingly.
Felix Leiter is described as having feline slanted eyes in Casino Royale.
In The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Colonel Moran often compares Professor Moriarty to a snake, cold-blooded, deadly, with cobra eyes, an adder's smile, and a neck-wobbling habit that reminds him of a snake.
The Bible is full of animal analogies. Lions, doves, sheep and cattle are especially prominent: Jesus himself was regularly compared to lambs, lions and, in later Christianity, unicorns.
The Iliad is heavy with animal similes when describing characters' emotions and actions.
Many of the noble houses in A Song of Ice and Fire have animals on their coats of arms, and are commonly referred to by these animals as well as showing an awareness of how they are 'supposed' to act to fit the animal characteristics; the series has a lot of fun with the possible symbolism. For example, the grim, grey, and cold-dwelling Starks have a direwolf on their arms, while the blonde, vain, and aggressive Lannisters have a lion. Littlefinger deliberately chooses the small, bright, and harmless cunning thief, the mockingbird, for his arms to appear nonthreatening. Crows seem to act as the motif for the series as a whole, symbolizing war, ill omen, and death.
To top it off many characters are refered to by animal nicknames based off their traits. Sansa Stark is nicknamed "little bird" for her ability to repeat "pretty words". Also, Sandor is often called dog or The Hound (because the Clegane coat of arms has three dogs).
To expand on the use of the bird motif used for Sansa, her chapters are usually rife with symbolism relating to birds, the sky and flying, not to mention the fact that she is currently living with Petyr Baelish, the other avian associated character.
And they're located in a mountaintop castle, which is nicknamed the Eyrie.
The Starks, Targaryens, and Dothraki have a closer relationship with their animal sigils (direwolf, dragon, and horse, respectively) than most (no, not like that). The Stark children all get direwolf companions early in the first book. The Targaryens rode dragons to war, and the Dothraki consider horses essential to their nomadic lifestyle.
The Neanderthals depicted in Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear have individual animal "totems"; the heroine, Ayla, has a cave lion, a controversially strong totem for a woman.
In His Dark Materials your daemon's form (an animal) represents yourself and is part of your soul. Since children have not yet truly defined who they are in life, their daemons can shape shift until they mature.
Song of the Lioness stars a female knight called Alanna, who gains the appellation "The Lioness" because of her courage and tenacity.
Her daughter, Aly, is a clever girl who likes to joke around. She learns how to talk to crows early in the plot, befriends the crow gods, and eventually falls in love with a crow shapeshifted into a man.
In the Provost's Dog books, the proto-police force adopt the disparaging nickname "Dogs," call their watchouses "Kennels," and their trainees "Puppies," as they find the connotations of a loyal hunter/tracker to be highly appropriate. Beka is also nicknamed after a breed of hunting dog for her actions in each book as a Title Drop.
The main characters in The Impairment each are associated with an animal of which reflects their personalities.
Lead and POV character Kyle Griffin is associated with, what else, Griffins. His motif is the only one among the rest that isn't actually a real animal, but rather a mythical beast. This is a reflection of his desire to escape from the cruel real world and find solace in the "fantasy world" of his drunken stupor. It may also reflect his desire to be free of suspicion (the bird/flying aspect of the creature) and his aggressive nature towards his suspicion (the lion aspect).
the sole believer on campus to Kyle's claims Mark Rivera’s is wolves which reflect his aggressive attitude towards anyone that's hostile to anyone he's fiercely protective and loyal to, a part of a gag with his deceased girlfriend Naomi Portman’s motif of the Moon and also reflection of his sad and lonesome outlook on life.
Nathan Reeves Bret Cameron, takes the falcon as his both for the fact by personality he’s an excellent tracker and a careful and silent overseer of his surroundings and that he uses camera-bots disguised as taxidermy falcons to spy on Kyle.
Allie Parker’s seems to be cats which fit to her curious attitude, the mysterious nature of her personality and of course in truth to her agile and dangerous skills and techniques and her territorial, independent and dangerous tendencies.
Being that he’s a bipedal version and greatly resembles one, Meleeo is identified with Chameleons. This greatly reflects how he blends in to his surroundings and adapted and fooled both the readers and the characters of his true personality and colors. Oh and of course his tongue.
Kiefer Waldgrave identifies himself with the caterpillar, cocoon, and Moth family. He clearly started out a pathetic, weak and idealistic young man, but slowly gave in to his newfound ideals and confined himself to the cocoon of his new ideals till he hoped to become something much greater.
The men of the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity are identified by Mark as “dogs”, possibly by how depending on their owner and surroundings it ultimately shapes their personalities, of which these boys are aggressive and brutal.
Emma Sumiko is identified with koi fish, possibly due to her Asian heritage and her milky, elegant and beautiful appearance.
There are the protective spirits brought forth by the Patronus Charm in Harry Potter — Harry's Patronus is a stag, which is the animal his father could turn into, Ron Weasley has a terrier, and dotty but quick-thinking Luna Lovegood has a hare. The Patronus of Severus Snape turns out to have a critical symbolic significance recognized even by characters in the scene. Dolores Umbridge, who fills her office with adorable kittens and has a cat Patronus, presents an atypical symbolic association for felines; the cute kittens and sleek cat Patronus (which we see only in a scene where it magically shields Umbridge against the consequences of her own ongoing miscarriage of justice) represent cloying, false sweetness, politeness masking lethal intention, and near-pathological self-justification.
Minerva McGonagall has a cat Patronus and transforms into a cat, so it's likely that there are alternate ways to interpret the Patronuses based on the witch or wizard's personality.
The matching Patronuses of Umbridge and McGonagall are particularly interesting, at the two are shown in distinct contrast as teachers: Umbridge is sickly-sweet and falsely kind on the outside, but is ruthless and sadistic within; whereas McGonagall is firm and strict at first glance, but is protective and genuinely cares for her students. The contrast between them and their similar forms reflects the contrast between the two most universal stereotypical tropes of cats: Cats Are Magic vs. Cats Are Mean.
Apparently the Patronuses can also change forms if the witch or wizard's personality changes, or to reflect the person they love. Lily Potter, for example, had a doe to match her husband's stag as did Severus Snape, who loved her, and Tonks's changed into a werewolf after she fell in love with Lupin.
Animagi can also serve as a character motif. James was a stag, representing a strong animal which is wild but also overly prideful. Sirius is a dog; something clever and also devotedly loyal. Peter was a rat, specifically Ron's pet rat Scabbers. This could be interpreted positively as being dexterous and clever, but also as being mistrustful and well...rat-like.
Also, for all that Snape's patronus is a doe in honour of Lily, he is often associated with bats, something which is dark and 'evil' but also misunderstood and associated with witchcraft.
The Animorphs all have signature animals they often turn into, particularly in battle. For example, Marco, the team clown, typically transforms into a gorilla, which is big, bulky, but still capable of delicate manipulations with opposable thumbs; The Hero, Jake, is a tiger; Blood Knight Rachel is a grizzly bear; Tobias is a hawk (self-sufficient and needs lots of space); Team Mom Cassie is a wolf.
Later in the series, Cassie's Hork-Bajir morph become her default battle morph; morphing a sentient being despite her convictions that it is wrong to do so represents the conflict between her role in the war and her pacifist nature.
Ax also often goes into battle unmorphed, since Andalites are plenty dangerous in their natural state (extremely sharp tail blades, remember?)
When Tom acquires the morphing power late in the series, the only morph he is ever seen using is a cobra. This is incredibly fitting, given his role in the final story arc.
Finally, Visser Three has a grab bag assortment of alien morphs, but the only one he uses more than once is the 'Eight', the bizarre eight-headed, eight-armed, eight-legged, fire-breathing abomination he uses in the climax of the first book. Besides setting up the Visser as an alien threat of monstrous proportions, this particular morph owes a lot to the Beast of Revelations.
The Grapes of Wrath has in its third chapter a tortoise trying to cross a road and getting run over by a truck. In the fourth chapter, we meet Jim Casey, who's described as having a "long head" and a "beaked" nose.
Incredibly important in 'Het verrotte leven van Floortje Bloem', a Dutch book which title translates to 'The screwed-up life of Floortje Bloem'. It's about a young hooker hooked on heroin who gets a fur rabbit from a pedophile. This fur rabbit is used to portray her innocence and it deterorates further and further from that point.
Songs of Innocence and of Experience employs the recurring imagery of different animals to represent innocence, e.g. "The Lamb", and experience, e.g. "The Tyger". In "THE FLY", the narrator compares himself directly to a fly with reference to human mortality and vulnerability.
An in-universe example: In the Dragaera series, each of the 17 Great Houses is named after an animal. However, since a lot of those animals aren't from Earth, the similarities between the personality traits of the House and the traits of the animal are much better understood by the characters than by us.
In Stardust, a character remarked when Tristran is transformed into a dormouse by a witch, that she isn't sure whether the spell simply transformed Tristran into a dormouse or it had chosen the form that Tristran is most like.
The Hunger Games has President Snow identifying with a snake, especially his eyes. Katniss has been compared to a mockingjay. (The motifs actually plays a lot into the story & symbolism Snow is described as having features that make him look like a snake and importantly, later on, we learn that he gained his position from poisoning his enemies. And Katniss' role as the Mockingjay is revealing about the nature in which she's been manipulated in the novels, the mockingjays were signs of rebellion but could not produce their own words. Katniss is constantly a puppet for the 'players' of the books, like President Snow, Plutarch and Coin. She also is reduced to a poor mental state where she begins singing to herself in the end of the last novel.
Rue is described as having bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skin and standing tilted up on her toes with her arms slightly extended to her sides, as if ready to take wing at the slightest sound. It's impossible not to think of a bird. Her swift and almost invisible movements through the treetops added to the bird-like description. Rue's pre-games interview costume is described as a sheer dress with shimmering gossamer wings. Of course she can also communicate to the birds through song.
Katniss nicknamed the girl from District 5 "Foxface" because of her fox-like appearance. She has red hair and is describe by Katniss as sly and elusive. Foxface demonstrated her cleverness by figuring out the path into the Careers' supply pyramid and reached the bulk of supplies, takes an unnoticeable amount of food, and then runs back to the safety of the woods.
In Death series: Roarke has been compared to a wolf in Ceremony in Death, Vengeance in Death, and Promises in Death. Promises in Death actually had Eve and several women discussing the men in their lives and comparing them to animals. Nadine got a turtle of a man. Trina got a snake of a man. Mira got an owl of a man. Peabody got a puppy of a man. Mavis got a bear of a man. Louise got a cheetah of a man. Nadine theorizes that Roarke is a panther, but Eve ends up saying "wolf," and Mira points out that when wolves mate, it's for life.
In the Belgariad, each of the gods has a totemic animal: Belar's is a bear, Torak's is a dragon, Chaldan's is a bull, Issa's is a snake, Nedra's is a lion, Mara's is a bat, and Aldur's is an owl. Each god, and his chosen race of people, take on the personality characteristics of their animal, and in some cases go beyond: Barak turns into a bear when a certain condition is met; Salmissra is transformed into a serpent as punishment for her particular meddling; Torak's successor transforms into a dragon on occasion in an effort to impede the party; and the female sorcerers under Aldur's tutelage prefer the form of the owl for themselves (the males prefer the wolf). The sorcerers also wear an amulet each bearing the image of their chosen form.
Heraldic animals feature heavily in the Branion historical fantasy series set in an alternate Britain. There are two opposing Gods - Essus (a white dragon) and the Living Flame (a fire-wolf). Since the Vessel of the Living Flame doubles as the kingdom's sovereign, the fire-wolf doubles as the national symbol and the royal family's crest. Other creatures that feature prominently include the bear, symbol of one of the strongest noble families; a crimson gryphon, symbol of Gwyneth (an expy of Wales), and the wyvern, crest of the royal dukedom of Yorbourne (aka York). There's also the owl, symbol of choice and totem of a Seer. All these symbols appear commonly in visions and may battle in metaphysical combat.
In Terra Mirum Chronicles both the Nightmare Queen and Titania, mockingly in the first case and affectionately in the second, refer to Prince Oswin as a rabbit. He takes the place of the white rabbit in the original tale.
Sherlock Holmes has a few. Moriarty is compared to a spider at the centre of a web. His right-hand man, the grizzled tiger hunter Moran, is described as being very much like a tiger himself. Similarly, The Devil's Foot features a character named Leon Sterndale, a lion-hunter with a mane of blonde hair and a fierce, noble temperament. Inspector Lestrade, meanwhile, is repeatedly likened to a ferret.
The two protagonists of The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness come from the Wolf and Raven clans respectively- two animals that frequently share prey. Given that the first book centers around a hunt, this is quite fitting.
Live Action TV
Game of Thrones: The traditional sigil of House Baratheon is a black stag on a yellow background, which is most commonly associated with Robert in the series. After Stannis is converted to the faith of the Lord of the Light, his sigil becomes a black stag encased within a red heart surrounded by yellow flames. When Renly allies himself with the powerful House Tyrell, he incorporates the colours of his wife's (and lover's) sigil into his own, so he's represented by a golden stag on a field of green.
In Smallville, during Lana Lang's return and last appearance, she gains a phoenix motif. She gets a phoenix medallion from her Training from Hell. Then when she gained superpowers, she also emits a speed aura when she uses Super Speed. However, while all other speedsters usually leave behind a trail of translucent "shells" of themselves when they super speed, Lana has a solid, burning, orange aura, even though she had a faint purple aura when she used Super Speed before. Bonus Points for bursting out of the containment chamber and waving her arms once to form the wings of a phoenix from the flames.
Elementary deliberately uses bees to represent Sherlock's relationships with people and tortoises as a metaphor to his friendship with Watson.
Lampshaded in the Doctor Who episode "Blink", in which Muggle Sally Sparrow's best friend, Kathy Nightingale, advises they start a detective company based on their surnames. Sally says that that sounds too ITV.
In Criminal Minds, Gideon loves birds and is associated with them. When his successor Rossi debuts, the first thing he does is shoot a bird, to indicate that he's nothing like Gideon.
In The League of Gentlemen, Tubbs & Edward have porcine features, live in filth, and Tubbs even breast-feeds a piglet in one scene. Also, Harvey Denton is obsessed with & raises toads, and his appearance and household reflect this.
In the pilot of Once Upon a Time, there is a swan on Henry's night light and on the room key that Granny gives to Emma. Particularly poignant since Snow White has an affinity with birds and she is Emma's mother and Henry's grandmother.
Each Sentinel has a spirit animal that appears to guide them; Jim's is a black jaguar, and Blair's is a grey wolf.
Like everything else in the Hannibal Lecter series, Hannibal has one. The Ravenstag in season 1.
The Shoebox Zoo were transformed into animal-shaped Living Toys. Fittingly, the proud, excitable Hunter became a horse.
Speaking of insect motifs, Papa Roach was known for its use of cockroaches in the cover for Infest, as well as their music videos, most notably "Between Angels and Insects", in which cockroaches come out of Jacoby Shaddix's mouth.
One of The Rock's many, many nicknames is "The Brahma Bull."
Countless wrestlers have "Dragon" in their names or nicknames. It's universally a sign of respect.
Early on his career Chris Jericho had a number of lion-based names and nicknames, which fit well with his long blond hair. He hasn't gone by any of those names in years, even since before he cut his mane short...but his version of the springboard moonsault is still called the "Lionsault".
In Japan and Japanese-influenced promotions, up-and-coming wrestlers are called "young lions."
Rhino/Rhyno is powerfully built and fights by charging at his opponents.
Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin was "The Black Spider" for its impressive saves and an all-black uniform.
Quite a few national soccer teams have animals on the logo (France has a rooster, England has three lions), or as a nickname (Brazil are the "Little Canary team", Nigeria the "Super Eagles", Cameroon "The Indomitable Lions").
Common for domestic clubs as well. The Premier League currently includes The Tigers (Hull), The Black Cats (Sunderland), The Eagles (Crystal Palace), The Foxes (Leicester), The Magpies (Newcastle), The Swans (Swansea) and The Throstles (West Bromwich Albion, though largely out of use).
In 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, the familiars of wizards, sorcerers, and adepts bestow minor skill bonuses to their masters, which vary with the familiar's animal type. While some grant bonuses derived from their genuine aptitudes (e.g. Move Silently for a cat), other bonuses reflect the animal's anthropomorphized reputation (Bluff for snakes, Appraise for ravens).
This was present in 4th Edition too, with the Arcane Familiar feat available to those playing a class with the Arcane power source.
Exalted: Many Exalts take an animal for their character motifs. Lunars take it one step further, in that they can turn into any animals, provided they ritually hunt the animal first. Infernals on the other hand, takes some characteristics of their Coadjutors, which tends to be demonic version of certain animals. (Erymanthoi are demon-gorilla, Theodozjia are demon-cats, etc.)
Reinforced by Clan warriors sometimes wearing full-head masks patterned after their Clan's respective animal for ceremonial purposes. While this is seen most frequently in the fiction when the Khans assemble for council, it's not actually limited to them; similar occasions involving lower-ranking warriors are simply not shown as often.
Most of the Cirque du Soleil shows directed by Franco Dragone from Saltimbanco through La Nouba invoke bird imagery, usually through one or more characters and their costume(s).
Saltimbanco: The Songbird (the lead singer).
Mystere: The Red Bird, the Birds of Prey, and the bungee trapeze artists.
Alegria: The evil nobles are known as the Nostalgic Old Birds, and wear masks that appear a cross between human and bird faces.
Quidam: Zoe has a pet bird in a cage in the opening scene.
Vastus had a snake motif, with snake ornaments on his shoulders, a helmet based off a snake, and a snake-like staff with the fangs forming a blade that injects venom (in the story, not on the toy, duh).
Although the '08 Makuta and Shadow Matoran respectively shapeshifted or were mutated into bat or insect-looking forms, it seems the mask that some wore had been vaguely animal-like to begin with.
Hero Factory's Jungle Planet line had the Heroes adopting various animal motifs for their new armor.
Super Mario Sunshine takes place on Delfino Island, which itself is shaped like a dolphin. There are also a few fountains with dolphin figures spouting water.
Bayonetta has a distinct butterfly motif, largely due to her patron demon.
Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII has - as indicated by the name - a lion motif, one so omnipresent that he and Rinoa actually have an ingame conversation about it.
In Squall's case, the lion symbolism is at odds with his apparent personality, and serves as a signal that there's more to him than meets the eye. Although he's spent years cultivating an angsty loner persona, once he starts to confront his issues it becomes increasingly clear that he's actually a natural leader who cares deeply about his friends. Appropriately, one of the songs that plays during the final boss fight is titled "Maybe I'm a Lion."
In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Cloud has a very strong wolf symbolism going on. Not only is there a wolf head in his shoulder pad but his motorbike is named Fenrir and he's being followed by a shaggy old wolf that mourns in the places he most strongly associates with personal failure. You have three guesses which kind of wolf this is painting him as.
The wolf works well for Cloud as more than just 'lone wolf' symbolism. When fighting Bahamut Sin, Cloud gets up to Bahamut through the assistance of his friends, working together as a 'pack' to take down their prey. And Cloud's position of leadership arguably shows him as an 'alpha wolf'.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy continues Squall's lion motif, though as painted by the villains this time. They seem to make a habit of referring to at least a few of the protagonists as though they were animals, such as calling Bartz a mouse, and Zidane a monkey.
Zidane being referred to as a monkey is hardly out of the ordinary, given that has a monkey tail and was implied to be an actual monkey-person for most of the game leading up to the big reveal.
Lucina in Fire Emblem Awakening has a butterfly motif (symbolizes her in the opening animation, the shape of her mask, and shield as a Great Lord), though it is never formally acknowledged in any dialogue.
Most of the Animal-themed Code names in Metal Gear Solid match their owners in terms of personality, though some (like Mantis) are less obvious than others. Notable for that the Snake isn't automatically "evil".
Sniper Wolf psychologically fixates on a specific "prey" target (and marks them) and is famous for working alone, never with a spotter, fitting the 'lone wolf' stereotype. In-universe, she was given her name because she is Kurdish.
Psycho Mantis is terrified of sex, so uses the name of an animal which gets devoured by the female after mating. He's also ridiculously skinny and wears a mask that resembles insect eyes.
Laughing Octopus came from a village with an octopus fishing trade, and was tortured into killing her own family, under the stress of which she began to imagine the blood was octopus ink. She wears a robotic suit with multiple arms that changes colour to blend in with the environment.
The Snakes we meet throughout the series are all sneaky natural predators, although in different ways. They are kind of a Legacy Character, so the 'Snake' is perhaps being used in its more mystical sense to represent death and rebirth, or the circle of infinity. The opening credits of Metal Gear Solid 2 likens DNA strands to snakes, which is appropriate considering the Cloning Blues that affects all of the Snakes.
The Boss is also associated with snakes. She mentions snakes multiple times in her speeches, one slides out of her body after her death, and she gives the player snakeskin camouflage as a reward for defeating her.
The Fear is spider-themed, fighting with rope traps, and with spider venom as a weapon.
Mario Power Tennis: Advance Tour included a cat-and-mouse theme in one doubles partnership, with Paula (who was tiny, had a ponytail that could be seen from the front, with a huge, puffy bow over her head and rosy cheeks) and Whisker (taller, slicked-up cat-ear style hairdo and a prominent, muzzle-like nose). Why, exactly, is unclear, unless it was a parody, as they're the best of friends.
Travis Touchdown, main character of No More Heroes has a number of tiger motifs- his Dark Side Mode meter is a pixellated tiger walking across the screen, a number of his clothing options have tiger designs, his motorcycle is named the "Schpeltiger", his ultimate sword has a 'Tiger' kanji on its hilt, and one of his final wrestling moves is the Tiger Suplex.
Taken to a extreme levels in the sequel, where, in addition to everything before, Travis has the completely unexplained ability to turn into a tiger to maul and devour his opponents.
Some of the bosses also have motifs to match, such as Ryuji and the dragon, and Alice as a scorpion. Jasper as the bat, as well.
And then there's Arakune, whose body is filled with decay...and insects. His emblem is a spider and, for bonus points, everyone except the announcer pronounces his name as "Arachnae" in the English dub.
Hazama makes his snake motif really obvious when his drive, Ouroboros, shoots snakes, his emblem looks like Jormungandr and his Overdrive in Chrono Phantasma is even called "Jormungand", he's responsible for creating the Black Beast which resemble the Orochi, a hydra like demon, he openly defies a god-like entity like the snaky devil, he wields a paired of knives which in some martial arts circle it is referred as the "Fang of the Snake", and it folds out with a curved blades just like the snake's fangs. Even a few characters compare him to a snake.
A strange case, but Ragna is often compared to an "underdog". Hazama calls him an "adorable little puppy of a man", and Platinum compares him to a stray dog.
Kagura Mutsuki of Chronophantasma uses the dragon as his motif. Big, black, scary dragons. He eveb calls out the names of various dragons, such as Nidhogg, Vritra, and Lindwyrm, when he attacks. Note that he's a good guy.
Higashizawa: Ovis Cantus, the Ram - brutal power head-on, but blindly following orders (what is a ram but a male sheep, after all?).
Minamimoto: Leo Cantus, the Lion - vicious claws backed by an unending drive to rule.
Konishi: Tigrus Cantus, the Tiger - a sadistic fiend who toys with her victions on the end of her claws.
Kitaniji: Anguis Cantus, the Snake - hidden in plain sight, coiling around his victims who don't see until too late that they're caught. After stealing Joshua's power, he becomes Draco Cantus, the Dragon, pure, desperate power.
Hanekoma: Panthera Cantus, the Panther - a quiet hunter, much stronger than he appears.
Assassin's Creed I uses eagles for Desmond Miles' ancestors as well as their names (Altair is Arabic for "The Flying One" and Ezio is derived from aestos, which is Greek for "eagle"). There's also the genetic "Eagle Vision" that allows Desmond and his ancestors to spot out their targets and better analyze their surroundings.
One of the developer's logs available online also mentions that the signature hood and cloak were designed to create the silhouette of a bird of prey during dramatic leaps.
There's also the shape of the robes and hood: the tip of the hood resembles an eagle's head, and the below the waist the robes separate to resemble feathers.
The final level of Assassin's Creed: Revelations finally just says "to hell with subtlety" - Ezio goes parasailing behind a charging carriage, and dispatches mooks by dive-bombing them and slicing their necks with his twin blades.
In Assassin's Creed III, the eagle motif is kept on in the hood and eagle vision but Connor also has a strong wolf motif, especially in the DLC.
In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, the eagle as a whole remain, though Edward symbolically draws inspiration from the jackdaw, including naming his ship after the bird, in terms of his relationship to the Assassins for most of the game. Specifically, it's based on The Eagle and the Jackdaw from Aesop's fables.
In BioShock 2, Big Bad Sofia Lamb's cult uses the Butterfly to represent rebirth due to their belief in sacrificing the individual for the good of the group.
It has other meanings behind it as well. The Adam-producing slug is seen as Rapture's current state (the caterpillar), with the butterfly being the Utopia that Rapture is destined to become through Lamb's cult.
Some characters from .hack are associated with animals. For example, Atolinote "atori"/brambling from G.U., who also happens to love small birds.
Crows/ravens: They're used repeatedly and most commonly. They're the apparent minions of the Bird/King of Birds/Eye of the Bird and represent it. They (or their cawing) appear to indicate that there's evil/supernatural shenanigans afoot (see Creepy Crows).
White rabbit(s): Though invoked as the classic entry-to-weird-world symbol from Alice in Wonderland, they're also a symbol for the protagonist (and possibly his friends) as prey pursued by a predator. Though, this being The Last Door with its episodic nature and sheer amounts of Mind Screw, there are likely other meanings yet to explored and revealed.
Many Touhou characters are animal youkai of various sorts, and dress in ways that evoke their original species, in addition to having odd features or Unusual Ears. Less animalistic youkai and humans sometimes have motifs, too, either evident in canon or bestowed by the fandom.
Fujiwara no Mokou is associated with the phoenix because of her immortality and her fire powers.
Goddess Suwako Moriya has an association with frogs. After defeating Suwako and taking over her shrine and worshippers, Kanako Yasaka adopted snakes as her symbol. Their shared shrine maiden Sanae Kochiya has a frog hairclip and a white snake in her hair.
Sakuya Izayoi is frequently associated with dogs by fandom, because of her ferocity and loyalty to her master.
And in the PC-98 exclusive Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream, Kana Anaberal has an association with birds, evident in her spellcard Soul Bird... and lampshaded by Kotohime, who asks in her victory quote if Kana is a birdkeeper.
Most of the AI lords in Stronghold have animal nicknames with personalities to match.
The noble chicken is a recurring motif in Fable III, representing a spirit that is unfortunately frequently taken advantaged of, yet yearns for freedom.
Many of the chapters in the Rule of Rose involve animal motifs, such as 'The Bird of Happiness' and 'The Goat Sisters'. Even ones that don't often have an animal associated with them; 'Rag Princess' has pigs, for example. All these animals manifest as pseudo-humanoid enemies during the game, and seem to be inspired by animals kept in the orphanage.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict has the 12th Independent Legion, which uses a wolf as their symbol. In the US version their unit is nicknamed "Brenner's Wolves" after their leader, and Brenner's leitmotif in the EU version (where he is called O'Brian) is named "Indomitable Wolf". Like a wolf pack, the Legion is very loyal to one another and work much like The Drifter, wandering from place to place as they're needed.
Deliberately invoked by the faculty of Iris Academy in Magical Diary. All students are sorted into one of six houses based on their gender and personality traits. Horses, Butterflies and Snakes for girls. Wolves, Falcons and Toads for boys.
In MOTHER 3, Porky Minch takes his unfortunate name and Fat Bastard status and has the audacity to turn it into an animal motif, theming his entire empire and the Pigmask Army after pigs.
Ganondorf from the Zelda series has always had a pig/boar motif. He transforms into a boar-like creature called "Ganon" at some point in a lot of the games he appears in.
Also, in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, people who enter the Dark Realm without the Moon Pearl transform into something reflecting their soul. When first entering, Link is transformed into a pink bunny to reflect his innocence. In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link transforms into a wolf when in the Twilight Realm. Throughout the game there are references to Link in his human form having "the eyes of a beast".
The Four Great Knights of Gwyn in Dark Souls each have their own unique animal theme; the lion for Dragonslayer Ornstein, the hawk for Hawkeye Gough, the wolf for Artorias the Abysswalker and the hornet for Ciaran The Lord's Blade. Ornstein in particular wears some really pimped out golden lion armor.
Yuri Lowell from Tales of Vesperia has a wolf motif, with his name meaning "little wolf", many of his artes having "wolf" in their names, and some of his artes like Lone Wolf Charge projecting a wolf-shaped battle aura.
To a lesser degree, Tison has a snake motif, having some artes that are named after snakes, projecting snake-shaped battle auras, and also looking somewhat snake-like with his fangs and golden eyes.
Weaponlord has two examples: Zarak with the spider, down to the fact that his armor is a literal spider. He has a move or two involving webbing and one where he throws a spider at people.
Talazia is a much better example, being themed with the raven. Her playstyle is incredibly aerial-based and she has plenty of anti-air moves to stop people from taking her place. This theming is so ingrained because she actually was a raven before she was cursed by a magic spell seven years ago.
Scout from Team Fortress 2 is compared to a rabbit or a bunny by some other classes due to his speed and buck-teeth.
Demoman: Yer like a little bunny... scurryin' around, eatin' up yer lettuce and berries!
Engineer: Just a dead little jackrabbit.
Spy: Ooh, you were quick as a little bunny, weren't you?
Conversely, The Heavy is compared to a bear, given that he has made a melee weapon out of bear claws, can wear a skinned bear head, eats raw steak, and has several beard styles of increasingly preposterous proportions. His first item set was called the Hibernating Bear set. The comics shows us that he even hunts and eats bear. Heck, even his name, Mikhael, is often shortened to "Misha" by his family, which means "bear" in Russian!
Scout: He's like a bear! He's like a big, shaved bear that hates people!
Spy is often compared to a snake due to the sudden, surprising nature of his attacks and his ability to remain hidden until it's too late...as well as his generally unpleasant nature that means that people distrust him. He also draws out his 's' sounds in Sssssnake Talk fashion. He also uses Your Eternal Reward, a dagger very similar to the one used by Jafar (mentioned above), and his Nanobalaclava item gives him a slightly serpentine appearance. He has access to the Deep Cover Operator item, which makes him resemble Solid Snake. Finally, his animal companion cosmetic item is the Backstabber's Boomslang, which hangs out on his arm.
Demoman: Yer a back-pokin' snake and by God you'll die like one!
Engineer: Dominated, you snake!
Sniper: Backstab that, ya snake!
Others include Soldier (bald eagles for his American patriotism, raccoons because he's homeless), Demoman (a parrot, because Demo wears an eyepatch, thus resembling a pirate), Sniper (owls for his sharp eyesight, crocodiles because he's an Awesome Aussie), and Medic (a dove with bloody feathers, because he's both a healer and a Mad Scientist).
Joe Dever's Lone Wolf: Lone Wolf has a literal one, in the form of a recurring Alpha wolf. He mentions the link himself - like the wolf, Lone Wolf is beholden to protect his subjects.
Saber aka Arturia, the gender flip version of King Arthur is often given a lion motif.
Rider gets both horses for her ability to summon Pegasus and snakes as befits her real identity of Medusa.
Fujimura Taiga, although she really doesn't like being compared to a tiger. One would think that she would stop wearing the yellow striped shirt and take the tiger strap off her shinai if that were the case, but... well, logic has never been her strong point.
Tsukihime compared Arcueid to a cat a few times with her mood swings, occasionally impish nature and impulsive behavior. And Neko-Arc in the hints corner. Kagetsu Tohya took that and ran with it. Neko-Arc everywhere, a leopard booby trap in her underwear drawer (Yes, really) that eats Shiki, Arcueid in a catsuit, normal Arcueid with cat ears... Len also has a cat theme, but that really doesn't count considering what she is.
In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Beatrice is most frequently associated with golden butterflies (appearing early on a cloud of them), signifying the questionable nature of reality as presented in the series. Bernkastel, the self-entitled "cruelest Witch in the world", has a cat's tail. In what may have been a partial Cultural Cross-Reference, Battler is a few times compared to a Phoenix (for his determination).
Kazuko in Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai is heavily associated with dogs. She is frequently depicted with dog ears, and occasionally a tail. She's trained to respond to a whistle and will run to the person who blows it whether she wants to or not. Most notably, though, she has two nicknames referencing dogs, Wanko (used by everyone) and Inu (used by Chris). Mayucchi comes up with an animal motif for everyone.
Rin is strongly associated with cats, considering that she's constantly surrounded by them and looking after them, has a generally Tsundere, skittish personality, is occasionally drawn with cat ears when she gets angry or shocked, and wears a bell in her hair (and her name is the sound of a ringing bell, too).
Kud, on the other hand, is associated with friendly dogs, having a playful and easy to please personality, dearly loving two pet dogs of her grandpa's, and sometimes being drawn with dog ears when upset. She's even great at fetch! She's also associated with bats based around a story about a bat being excluded both from the village of beasts and village of birds, representing the isolation she feels being not entirely Japanese.
Sasami is an odd case - her hair ties strongly resemble cat ears and her battle title is 'self-centered cat queen', but if you follow the miniroute focusing on her it's revealed that she's actually a huge dog lover.
Akane, of Virtue's Last Reward, has a rabbit theme; an artificial intelligence she designed is modelled after one, and she lives on a lunar base, thus referencing the 'rabbit in the moon' myth.
Antimony is associated with Wolves. She carries a stuffed wolf doll around with her, and she's named after an element that the alchemists of old associated with the wolf. Others often find her hard to approach (the 'lone wolf' idea). And she keeps running into supernatural canines.
Kat has decorated a few of her possessions with cartoon felines. Also, not to be Captain Obvious, but her name is Kat. And she has an unhealthy obsession with birds.
Alistair was associated with birds. Besides the obvious connection, both his room at the Court and his old home had artwork of birds on the wall. Since his departure, Kat had developed an interest in birds (perhaps too much of an interest).
Zimmy is associated with insects and spiders. She was first introduced beneath a sign that read (in Greek) "Danger: insects", and her anger tends to be visualized by symbolic swarms of bugs. When she gets energetic, she likes to pass time by hunting spiders in the library.
After Jack is accidentally transported to Zimmy's bizarre mental Dark World, his astral body gains a spider image on its face. The two hairs on his forehead look an awful lot like spider fangs, too.
There's a minor character named Catalina Bobcat, whose character design and choice of hairstyle (along with her personality) does make her seem rather catlike. Word of God states that this was intentional and that no, she cannot transform into a cat.
The Beast Legion universe involves characters who transform into powerful beasts with Awesome powers.
In Sakana each of the primary characters' design is based on some kind of seafood: Jiro has hair similar to a shark fin, Taro's design is based on a whale, Taisei's hair looks like jellyfish and Yuudai resembles an eel.
Several of the trolls in Homestuck have animal motifs, associated with their lusus and their Zodiac sign. Karkat - crabs, Nepeta - cats, Terezi - dragons, etc. Vriska's spider motif is the most obvious though, working its way into her typing quirk. John seems to be picking up on it. The kids (with the exception of John) each have one as well, relating to what their sprites were prototyped with: Dave's crows are the most obvious, then Rose's cat (in addition to her affinity for all things tentacled), and Jade's radioactive god dog. Finally, there's Roxy's cats and Dirk's seagulls.
Similarly, Dave is associated with crows, Rose and Roxy are associated with cats, Jade is associated with dogs, Jane is associated with rabbits, Dirk is associated with (seagulls as opposed to Dave's crows), and Jake is associated with "frightening fauna".
In Moon Crest 24 a few of the characters, namely the female ones so far, have showed signs of having a motif when it comes to the things they wear. But the only ones to actually have an animal motif are Lucy and Rachel - them being Ladybugs and Rabbits, respectively.
Non animal motifs: Dory's is moons and stars; Liz's is skulls and hearts.
The protagonists of Panthera can turn into different big cats. Most notably, the team's leader is a lion.
Many of Judecca's inhabitants are animal-themed. Sharky is a Shark Man, Frederick Dickenson is a rabbit, Lilith turns into a bird, and Cleo is a snake lady.
Communications Workers of America has a See 'n' Say toy which depict business officials as animals based on their negative traits.
Downplayed: Jon of the Game Grumps tends to prefer bird Pokémon, along with having a bird sidekick in his own series.
The (fully human) Team CRDL are all themed after different birds.
Word of God states that he tried to make Ruby look 'wolfish' but couldn't quite manage it.
Taylor (the protagonist of Worm) is noted by other characters to be like the insects she controls. Both positive and negative meanings are in play here- insects are creepy, potentially poisonous, and on the bottom of the food chain. But they're also tough, versatile creatures, talented at working in groups and creating useful things like honey and silk. Taylor shows nearly all of these traits over the novel's course.
The character Bitch controls dogs, and due to a traumatic childhood, thinks and acts like a particularly intelligent one. She essentially considers her pet dogs family (and is deeply touched when Siberian gives her a wolf cub) but is Not Good with People.
Dogs (or to be more precise, pomeranians) are Maximilian's animals of choice. After all, his mascot, Benny, is one.
Taken to a logical extreme where in Tokyo Jungle, Max plays as a pomeranian while his friend Matt favors the saber-toothed tiger.
Moral Orel has a blue bird appearing in key shots throughout the two-parter "Nature." The bird also appears in Beforel Orel. Dino says the bird represents Orel's innocence.
Mummies Alive!: Each mummy has an animal motif for their Powered Armour - falcon (Ja-Kal), cat (Nefertina), ram (Armon) and snake (Rath). Big BadScarab also has one in his (much less friendly-looking) transformed state.
Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender had an animal motif in the theme of dragons, creatures associated with fire. However, his motifs were of two dragons, one blue and one red, representing the dual aspect of his nature. The dragons also refer to his Uncle Iroh, the Dragon of the West who protected the last of the dragons, from whom Zuko and Aang later learn the true source of Fire Bending from.
His sister Azula's motif is the snake; she is also associated with the blue dragon.
Cats for Steven of Steven Universe. His favorite ice cream treats are Cookie Cats, has grown cats on his fingers, spawned a wrestling persona named "Tiger Millionaire", and even got a pet lion.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's nickname was "Monkey" (Saru), allegedly given by Oda Nobunaga because of his facial resemblance to a monkey. This recognition directly contributed to the popular image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi being a monkey styled person, both in appearance and mode of behaviour
Most countries have an animal they use as a symbol for the nation as a whole. The United States have their bald eagle, while Russia has the bear, the United Kingdom the scrappy but lovable bulldog (officially it's actually the Lion but the bulldog characterisation stuck), India has the tiger, Thailand has the elephant, Israel the Lions of Judah, Italy inherited the wolf from Ancient Rome (Italy would actually have both wolf and eagle, but the heavy use of eagle symbologism by Fascism caused most Italian to 'forget' the eagle) and China has its whiskered dragon. Other countries apparently had to take whatever animal mascots were left over: Canada has the mighty beaver, Spain has the black bull note (although this is a rather recent development, from a set of countryside ads for sherry (!) - there's more information on the other wiki, while France is unofficially associated with the Gallic rooster. Empires with great reach or which were viewed as secular and religious authorities often adopt the double-headed eagle: the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the old Russian Empire, the Imperium of Man, etc.
Actually, Judah has the Lion of Judah; each of the tribes has its own animal motif. However, due to the loss of the Ten Tribesnote Reuben, Simeon, Naftali, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Zebulun, Gad, Ephraim, and Menasheh, most modern Jews descend from the tribe of Judah. Hence the term "Judah-ism", or Judaism.
England also identifies strongly with the robin, as British robins were never hunted for food and consequently became the friendliest robins in the world. To this day, harming a robin is as repulsive to most Brits as a grievous felony, given their strong symbolism as representing the gentle English countryside. It just isn't done.
Australia's Coat of Arms features a Kangaroo and an Emu, two fearsome, Australia-only animals that can't walk/jump/run backwards. Seriously. That's why they picked them.
A lot of the original generation that were from England wanted to choose a more fearsome creature like the lion, but the majority won out with the Kangaroo and Emu because it symbolized a nation that will move forward and never backwards.
These two animals are popular barbecue options that can be purchased at supermarkets & butcher shops. Yes, friends. Australia may be the only country in the world that regularly devours BOTH its national symbols.
See France, above - they do still eat chicken in France. Others that are willing (even if it's not frequently on the menu) include every country that has a variety of deer as a symbolic animal (including Norway), Spain (who uses the bull), and several countries that have the camel as their symbol (at least among those for whom it isn't a taboo to eat them).
To be fair, Australia may be the only country where their national symbol (Kangaroo) outnumbers people. No joke, Kangaroos have to be culled each year to keep the numbers down.
The four Asian Tigers (sometimes Dragons) (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) that saw very rapid economic growth from the 1970's through 1990's. Now followed by the Little Tigers who rose starting in the 90's (more varied, but usually includes Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines).
The late great Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was ubiquitously dubbed the "Liberal Lion" of the Senate.
Vladimir Putin's recent news coverage has increasingly linked him with tigers. First he saved a camera crew from an angry tiger and then there was some talk about him getting one as a pet or something. Right-Hand Cat indeed.
Continental officer Francis Marion was known as the "Swamp Fox" in the American Revolution because he could disappear into the South Carolina swamps like an elusive fox.
Similarly there was Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox" of Germany in WW2.
Diogenes of Sinope frequently praised dogs and compared himself to them; his most famous statue shows him beside one in recognition of his close association with them. The school of thought he founded, Cynicism, is actually named for its association with dogs.