Anthropomorphic Zig Zag

This is like a standard Anthropomorphic Shift, except the shift is geared to the role or co-star a character is in a work, movie, short, cartoon, or episode. For example, an animal character appears as an Nearly Normal Animal in one cartoon or episode, but appears as a Funny Animal in another.

This trope also includes examples that shift roles back and forth in a single work or shift back and forth depending on their mood. There are also a lot of characters that do this intentionally to live a double life, going from walking on two legs to Running on All Fours depending on the company. The shift can either be intentional or unintentional.

The difference between a Anthropomorphic Shift and an Anthropomorphic Zig Zag is that the former is what happens when animal and anthropomorphic characters in a work become progressively more human-like in appearance and behavior in later installments. The latter is a shift dependent either on the role or co-star the character has in a work or roles he/she has in a single work or his or her mood, or to live a double life.

This trope is by no means restricted to animals.

Furry Reminder is a related trope, as is Furry Denial.


  • In Madagascar, the animals would constantly go back and forth between walking on four legs and walking on two legs.
  • Remy and the other rats from Ratatouille can switch between walking on two legs and walking on four legs too.
  • This is also true with the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story, which was later seen in anthropomorphic form in the Pixar film Cars.
    • The three paintings, one of Lightning McQueen, one of Doc Hudson, and one of Flo and Ramone, make those four Cars characters look non-anthropomorphic and a little more realistic than usual.
    • And the toys from that movie themselves, who only come to life if no one's around. The only time they ever break that rule is if someone actually treated that toy very badly.
  • Any work where animals will communicate in human language whenever left alone, but communicate in animal language when with humans.
  • The electrical appliances from The Brave Little Toaster (except Radio, who doesn't have a face), who can actually make their faces disappear whenever they've been spotted by humans.
  • The gargoyles from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame actually only come to life whenever Quasimodo's around. If Esmeralda/Phoebus/Frollo/etc. is with Quasimodo, then the gargoyles will all still stay put.
    • And yes, like the Toy Story example above, they too have exceptions: Except it's not the three gargoyles we're accustomed to who break their own rules, but rather an unnamed fourth gargoyle who comes to life to finish off Frollo at the end of the film.
  • The lawn ornaments from Gnomeo and Juliet.
  • In Mannequin, Emmy (a mannequin which comes to life apparently because of a time travel experiment) can only be seen in her animated form by the man who built her. If someone else enters the room, peeks into the window, etc., she's instantly frozen until they go away.
  • From An American Tail: Naked Fievel.
  • Actually a plot point in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox struggles to live a civilized life with his family while his animal urges to hunt and steal distract him.
  • The LEGO Movie has a variation where on one "level" of reality, the characters move and experience like living beings, and on the next level, they are just toys that don't move.note  Whenever something happens to them as toys, there is some equivalent event happening to the living versions.

  • This happens a lot in The Wind in the Willows; Rat, Mole and Badger are usually portrayed as Partially Civilized Animals, but Toad, who lives in a grand house, drives motorcars and gets arrested, is a Funny Animal. (Notably, while the other characters stay in the Mouse World of the Riverbank and Wild Wood, Toad is the only character who goes out into the Wide World and interacts with humans.) This means other characters have to shift up on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism a notch just to interact with him.
  • Lucoryphus of the Bleeding Eyes in the Night Lords series of Warhammer 40,000 novels, constantly behaves like an animal, particularly a bird, he walks on all fours surprisingly well, but can be persuaded to stand on his feet, though the notion bothers him. He often chides his men for speaking too much in raptor clicks and hisses, though he does it himself sometimes.

Live-Action TV
  • The titular sifaka lemur of the PBS children's show Zoboomafoo is always anthropomorphized at the very beginning of each episode by being fed a different snack. However, at the end of each episode, Zoboo actually loses his anthropomorphism due to the effects of said snack wearing off.

Newspaper Comics
  • Snoopy, from Peanuts, goes back and forth between all fours and walking upright, sometimes within a strip, not necessarily depending on his role, but more on his mood.
  • Garfield goes back and forth, but has noticeably become bipedal. The other cats can switch between the two stances as well.
  • Calvin and Hobbes has a variation on this. The question of whether Hobbes is really alive, or just a product of Calvin's imagination, was deliberately avoided. Even when depicted as a "live" tiger, Hobbes' appearance zigzags— sometimes he'll walk on two legs as a very cartoonish Funny Animal, with long arms and stubby legs. This stature is used mainly when he's doing something cerebral, like philosophizing or acting as Straight Man to Calvin's insanity, or else a task that requires manual dexterity, like throwing snowballs. At other times he'll go on all fours, usually for the purpose of pouncing on Calvin, and his body will take on realistic feline proportions.
  • The cows of The Far Side show us how it's done here.

  • Mother 3: Boney has to impersonate a kid to get into Club Titiboo, so Lucas dresses him up with a shirt and cap and he walks on hind legs for the remainder of the chapter (but quickly switching back to all-fours when they're in the wilderness again).
  • In the Super Mario Bros. series of games, Koopas were originally depicted as quadrupedal turtles. As the series continued, they've been redesigned to walk on only two legs, and by the time of Paper Mario, they were completely anthropomorphized. However, in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, they've reverted back into being quadrupeds.
    • Before that, there were quadrupedal electrical enemy Koopas in Super Mario Sunshine.
    • However, Bowser and his son, Bowser Jr., both being Koopas, are completely immune to this even in these two games.
    • Also, Hammer Bros. and their ilk have always been bipedal, even in the original.
  • Behemoth-type enemies in Final Fantasy XIII walk on all-fours (and look a lot like the classic design of the Behemoth, as it had appeared in previous Final Fantasy titles), until they're put into Stagger mode, in which case they'll morph into a more powerful bipedal form (recovering all damage taken in the process), and wield a strange circular saw-like weapon.

Web Comics
  • Justified in Freefall with Florence, who can run on all fours, but usually doesn't because it gets her hands dirty.
  • Mind you, this trope has nothing to do with the webcomic known as Sabrina Online, which is a furry webcomic with a main character named Zig Zag, 3/4ths skunk.
  • VG Cats: #343 ("I Am Gross") shows that Leo and Aeris have both a toilet and a litter box. Although Leo doesn't poop in the box anymore. ( Because it's full.)

Western Animation