Ass in a Lion Skin
And the $50,000 prize for the Best Dog in Show goes to this rare Black-Feathered Quacking Retriever!If you are a duck on the make, or a Rascally Rabbit trying to escape the hunters, or just a dog that thinks it's "cute" to wear a turkey costume◊ (or, at least, has an owner who does), you have a good chance of turning into an Ass in a Lion Skin. This involves one animal (usually a Funny Animal) that attempts to pass as an animal of an entirely different species, not simply of a different style or level of reality — Augie Doggie pretending to be Top Cat, but not Augie Doggie pretending to be Doggie Daddy, Scooby-Doo, Underdog, Pluto, or Rin Tin Tin. Note also that the trope specifically excludes an animal dressed as or imitating a human being (or vice versa). Though this is mainly an Animation Trope (the Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies series in particular were addicted to it), it also occurs in other fictional contexts. The disguise in question is usually Paper Thin, but is often remarkably successful, to the point that its removal may actually provoke a comedic BSOD — "My God! You're not a fruit bat at all! You're a killer whale!" The Ass In A Lion Skin has a Real Life counterpart in the phenomenon of "animal mimicry," in which a harmless milk snake may resemble a deadly coral snake, but in such a case, unlike its fictional counterpart, the mimicry is permanent and (probably) unconscious. Compare A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. Contrast with Furry Confusion, which is about the bewilderment caused by differences in two individuals of what are supposed to be the same kind of animal; with I Am Not Weasel, the Inversion of this trope, in which the animal is taken for another species against its wishes; and with most of the entries on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism, which are about animals acting like humans. Not to be confused with a human whose ass is in a lion skin; that's Fur Bikini or Loin Cloth. When the filmmakers dress up an animal as a cheap way to put a "monster" on screen, that's a Slurpasaur. The Trope Namer is, of course, the Aesop's fable of the same name "The Ass in the Lion Skin".
open/close all folders
- An American Tail: Warren T. Rat (actually a cat himself) dresses as a rat to fool the mice into buying into his protection racket against the cats.
- The Jungle Book: Baloo disguises himself as an ape to try to rescue Mowgli from King Louie.
- Robin Hood: Robin, a fox in this version of the legend, disguises himself as "the spindle-legged stork from Devonshire" and as Nutsy, the vulture.
- Shark Tale: Lenny the Shark passes himself off as Sebastian the Dolphin.
- Rock-A-Doodle: The club that Chanticleer is playing at bans all cats, mice, dogs and birds from attending so that Edmond and his friends can't get in. So what does Edmond and the gang do? They sneak in dressed as penguins. And it works since the announcer told them to "bring your penguin suits (i.e. tuxedos)!" literally.
- In one Nu, Pogodi! short, the Wolf is thrown out of a TV studio when he tries to sneak in, and keeps re-entering in attempted disguises as other animals (e.g., wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and claiming to be a zebra, or dropping on all fours with a big bowl on his back and claiming to be a tortoise.) None of these work.
- Aesop's Fables:
- In The Last Battle Puzzle the Donkey is, as a Shout-Out to the Aesop's Fable above, put into a lion skin by Shift the ape so that the poor ass can unwittingly function as the local Antichrist. The costume is so feeble that the only reason why it works is because the Narnians haven't seen a lion for ages, because Puzzle is forbidden from braying, and brought out only at night.
- In the Discworld story The Truth, there is a reward offered for a specific dog. One of the candidates presented, along with the massive range of dogs of the wrong breed, is a parrot with "DoG" written on it.
No, sir, I know that's not it. Because it's a parrot, that's why. You've taught it to bark and you've painted "DoG" on the side of it but it's still a parrot.
- Also, Quoth the raven tries to dress up as a robin in Hogfather.
- The "DoG" parrot turns up again in The Last Hero.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Grinch dresses his dog, Max, as a reindeer.
- Maus: The mice (Jews) wear pig masks to pass among the general population of pigs (Poles}. As the story is non-fiction, it's understood that the Jews didn't actually do this, but is just the comic's way of depicting their attempts to blend in.
- Happens a couple of times in Redwall. Brome the mouse and Jukka the squirrel both managed to pass for rats, in Jukka's case by shaving her tail and dyeing her fur. The hares Midge Manycoats and Tammo dress up to enter the Rapscallion camp; they end up looking like miscellaneous weird-looking creatures "neither wholly rat, ferret, or stoat, but definitely vermin of some sort", but since they're dressing up as Seers the otherworldly look actually helps. And then there's the otter Mask, who is a master of disguise and can pass as pretty much ANY other creature.
Live Action TV
- On the Cloris Leachman episode of The Muppet Show, pigs take over the show and fill all the roles. Cloris comes out on stage while "Kermit the Pig" is making an introduction and states her belief that he's not Kermit the Frog, despite being green (not easy for a pig) and having the collar. What changes her mind? "Ribbit!" He didn't even have to hide his ears or snout.
- Whether she was actually fooled for any length of time is another matter, as revealed in the end, when Kermit and the others made their escape;
Kermit: Who ever thought that someone would be holding a hog-calling contest next door? It was amazing, it was bizarre...Cloris Leachman: It was easy. I'm from Iowa.
- Whether she was actually fooled for any length of time is another matter, as revealed in the end, when Kermit and the others made their escape;
- A Sesame Street sketch featured William Wegman's dogs dressed as different kinds of animals. "It's Kermit the Dog!"
- A more recurring incident was with Gladys the Cow, who liked to pretend she was another animal. In one scene, she got some horses to pretend they were cows.
- In A.N.T. Farm Cameron enters for a dog show but has no dog. His solution? Strap a stuffed toy dog onto a cat. He wins.
Myths & Legends
- One version of the Trope Namer goes as follows: An Ass, having put on the Lion's skin, amused himself by terrifying all the foolish animals. At last coming upon a Fox, he tried to frighten him also, but the Fox no sooner heard the sound of his voice than he exclaimed, "I might possibly have been frightened myself, if I had not heard your bray." The moral of the story is often quoted as "Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away."
- Another fable (the Trope Namer for A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing) has a wolf trying to infiltrate a flock of sheep (in order to eat them) by wearing a sheepskin. This plan ends up biting the wolf in the ass, though. In some versions, he gets caught when he tries to bleat like a sheep but ends up howling instead. In other versions, the disguise works too well, and the farmer decides to kill a sheep for food and settles on the wolf.
- There was a cartoon in the Wall Street Journal or similar paper during a recession, in which the boss of the New York Stock Exchange arranged to have a bear dressed as a bull so he could claim that it was a bull (i.e., rising) market as opposed to a bear (falling) market.
- The Far Side had one with a polar bear with a Paper-Thin Disguise — a penguin's beak — pretending to be a penguin.
- A Running Gag in Peanuts involved Snoopy imitating other animals, most often a vulture.
- This political cartoon◊ by Thomas Nast, in a Shout-Out to Aesop, depicts The New York Herald as an ass in a lion-skin stampeding the "foolish animals" of the press, including The New York Times (unicorn), The New York Tribune (giraffe), and The New York World (owl). A skittish fox, representing the Democratic Party, has edged onto a reform plank near a gaping pit, by which the trumpeting elephant, symbolizing the Republican vote, lumbers. (This is probably one of the original sources, incidentally, of the depiction of the G.O.P. as an elephant; Nast also popularized the Democratic donkey.)
- Purr-Tenders, a strange toyline about a gang of cats who realized they were the only animals who weren't getting adopted from a pet shop, so they disguised themselves as other animals (i.e. dogs, parrots, mice...)
- There's a range of Winnie-the-Pooh cuddly toys with the characters dressed as different animals — Pooh in a bee costume and Eeyore as a butterfly, for example.
- There're even a few where everyone who isn't Tigger, is dressed up as Tigger. Presumably, this is to coincide with The Tigger Movie.
- In Kevin & Kell many characters have used make up, costumes, and/or parts of other characters to disguise themselves as members of other species. For starters, Corrie had gone a long while disguised as a wolf named Dale. Kell has disguised herself as a rabbit and shortly after as a feline. George Fennec spent a small while disguising as a rabbit despite disliking rabbits since he was always been confused as one his whole life. And at least three non-rabbits spent Easter disguised as the Easter bunny.
- And this occasionally pops up as Halloween costumes for kids. Kell noted one time that a child was using a...less-than-fresh pelt. (In fact, this is eventually where Corrie's "Dale" pelt went: into Coney's dress-up box.)
- One storyline ends with a group of jackals being tricked into and then trapped in the Rabbit Warrens, where they have the option of either dressing up as and pretending to be rabbits in the hope they can find their way out, or spurn the disguises and probably be torn apart by virtue of the fact they are outnumbered hundreds to one. The final panel reveals at least one jackal got so "into character" that he wound up an old man, happily married to an equally elderly rabbit lady, father of countless litters... and with her still oblivious to the truth of her husband's species.
- One of the main characters in Mike Witmer's Pinkerton is Steve, the guinea pig trying to pass himself off as a moose (complete with glued-on fork-and-spoon antlers).
- This Perry Bible Fellowship strip, featuring an actual ass.
- Also bloodily deconstructed with literal wolves in sheep's clothing here◊.
- In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Snoopy is tapped to perform the parts of all the animals in the Christmas play, including a sheep, a cow, and a penguin. (He gratuitously adds a vulture.)
- The vulture may be a reference to a series of strips where Snoopy pretended to be a vulture. He eventually gave up when he decided it wasn't creeping people out enough to be fun any more.
- It happens in a number of Classic Disney Shorts:
- In "The Fox Chase" (1928), Oswald The Lucky Rabbit flushes a skunk out of a log. Oswald and his hounds flee into the distance — and then we see that the "skunk" is really a fox in disguise.
- In "The Moose Hunters" (1937), Goofy and Donald digsuise themselves as a cute lady moose doing a peek-a-boo dance in order to lure a male moose to his doom. Too bad they attract two males...
- In "Three Little Pigs" (1933), Zeke the Wolf disguises himself in a sheepskin, becoming a literal Wolf In Sheep's Clothing.
- In "The Golden Eggs" (1941), Donald disguises himself as a chicken to get some eggs from a rooster.
- Billy of Grim Adventures fame once entered Irwin in a dog show. He'd been infected with lycanthropy, and his wolf form made for a passable wolfhound—a term that is confusingly used both to describe dogs bred to hunt wolves, and dogs that are part-wolf.
- In The Little Drummer Boy, Baba the lamb pretends to be a lion, a frog, and a hog; Joshua the camel pretends to be an alligator and an elephant; and Samson the donkey pretends to be a caribou.
- In the Tex Avery cartoon "Little 'Tinker," near the end B.O. Skunk tries to woo a female by painting his fur like a fox. The girl fox he meets turns out to actually be another skunk in disguise after they fall into a creek and their paint washes off. Cue Crowning Moment of Heartwarming as they kiss.
- "The Counterfeit Cat": A cat rips the ears off a dog to deceive the bulldog who's guarding the canary he's after.
- Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies:
- "Bedevilled Rabbit": Bugs pretends to be a monkey and a Tasmanian she-devil to escape the Tasmanian Devil.
- "Dog Pounded": Sylvester the Cat dresses in a dog suit in an attempt to cross the city dog pound and eat Tweety. Near the end of the same short, Sylvester paints a white stripe down his back, managing to purloin Tweety. The stunt works (a little too well, as Pepe LePew appears out of nowhere and starts hitting on him in standard Pepe fashion).
- "Double or Mutton": Sam the sheepdog disguises himself as a sheep stolen by Ralph the wolf.
- "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!": Bugs pretends to be a duck; Daffy pretends (briefly) to be an elk and a fiddler crab.
- "Duck Soup to Nuts": Daffy tries (and fails) to convince Porky that he's a fish. When that doesn't work, Daffy manages to trick Porky into trying to prove that he's an eagle.
- "False Hair": A father-and-son pair of wolves disguise themselves (badly) as rabbits and try to trick Bugs Bunny into a series of death-traps disguised as the initiation to a "rabbit club". Bugs sees right through the ruse, but plays along to troll the papa wolf. After one failed attempt too many, the papa wolf decides to start a "rooster club", prompting a cameo by Foghorn Leghorn.
- "For Scentimental Reasons": As in a number of other Warner Bros. . shorts, a black cat (later christened Penelope Pussycat) disguises herself as a skunk to frighten away her persecutors; this, of course, backfires spectacularly when it attracts Abhorrent Admirer Pepe le Pew.
- Speaking of whom ... some version of this is pretty much de rigeur for any Pepe le Pew cartoon. It's usually unintentional: a female black cat inadvertently gets a stripe of paint/whitewash/bleach or something; cue Pepe catching sight of her. There's at least one that inverts it, with Pepe getting splashed with black paint and the female cat (who has a bad cold and can't smell anything) starts pursuing him.
- "Foxy By Proxy": Bugs disguises himself as a fox to mislead a pack of hounds.
- "Muzzle Tough": Sylvester does this again, but this time as a female dog to lure Hector away from guarding Tweety. His costume is so convincing, it even fools the dog catcher!
- "Rabbit Fire": Bugs pretends to be a duck; Daffy pretends to be a rabbit and a dog.
- "Sheep in the Deep": Ralph the Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog disguise themselves as sheep and as each other.
- "Tom Turk and Daffy": Tom dresses Daffy as a turkey to divert Porky Pig from himself.
- "You Were Never Duckier": Daffy dresses as a chicken to win a poultry contest; Henery Hawk and his father dress as a duck and a chicken to do the same.
- "Fowl Weather": When spying on Tweety on Granny's farm, Sylvester dons a rubber goat mask and hides behind a fence to obscure his body, yet Tweety knows he's not really a goat. Later in the same short, Sylvester disguises himself (poorly, by means of a rubber glove and some feathers) as a chicken, which doesn't fool a large burly rooster one bit.
- "Roughly Squeaking": Hubie and Bertie convince a cat he's actually a lion and put on the disguise. They also convince him that lions hunt moose and disguised a dog as a moose.
- Not an intentional disguise, but related: there are several cartoons in which Sylvester believes a young kangaroo to be a giant mouse. In his defense, the "kangaroo" is usually drawn like a oversized version of the mouse that will inevitably also appear in the show. On the other hand, it's kind of stupid of him to assume he can defeat it because it's a "mouse" while ignoring the fact that the "giant" part means it's as big as he is (or, in the cases where the Mom Kangaroo also shows up, signficantly larger than he is).
- In the DePatie-Freleng Misterjaw cartoon "Show Biz Shark", the eponymous shark disguises himself as a porpoise to sneak into show business.
- In Olive the Other Reindeer, Olive the dog is constantly trying to convince people she's a reindeer. No one believes her.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Got Game?", Perry the Platypus dresses up as a dog (i.e., he wears an earband and fake tail) to infiltrate a pet shop where Dr. Doofenshmirtz has been shopping, and ends up being bought by the doctor, who is unaware of Perry's disguise.
- In an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bullwinkle was in hiding and he hid out on a mink farm. When the criminal went to the mink farm, the moose hid in a mink pen and pretended to be a mink by squeaking and hopping on all fours.
- In the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Jeepers, It's the Creeper," a baby chick labors under the delusion that it is a dog after imprinting on Scooby.
- Tom and Jerry:
- "The Brothers Carry-Mouse-Off": Tom disguises himself as a female mouse, complete with eyelashes, pink bow, and perfume, because of course, nothing's sexier than your equivalent of the 50-foot woman. It works... too well. He attracts every male mouse in the vicinity. Rather than take advantage of the feast at his feet, he runs off when they start fighting each other. Just when he's safe from that, he finds that his zipper's stuck... and he's being noticed by cats now.
- "Jerry and Jumbo": A baby elephant paints himself to look like a giant Jerry just to mess with Tom. Poor Tom goes completely over the edge when the elephant's mother gets in on the act.
- "Jerry's Nephew": Jerry disguises himself as a baby chick to smuggle his nephew Dinky out of a hen-house.
- "Little Runaway": To capture an escaped baby seal, Tom disguises himself as a seal. He is then mistaken for the escaped seal and captured.
- "Puttin' on the Dog": Tom disguises himself as a dog to catch Jerry in a dog pound.
- "Flirty Birdy" has Tom donning probably one of the most paper-thin disguises imaginable. When an eagle steals Jerry from Tom's hands, Tom disguises himself as a female bird to woo the eagle into handing the mouse over. Said disguise consists of lipstick, a party horn for a beak, a skirt, and a few feathers strapped to his rear. Regardless, the eagle is instantly lovestruck.
- In the Wallace & Gromit short "The Wrong Trousers'', the notorious rooster bank robber Feathers McGraw is really a penguin with a red rubber glove on his head (whence the page image).
- In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Vixen pretends to be a dog, even to the point of chasing a cat.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show:
- "Dog Tags": At the end, Stimpy consoles Ren (who's been snubbed by his fellow dogs) by letting him dress up as a cat and hang out with Stimpy and his cat buddies.
- "Fire Dogs": Ren paints himself and Stimpy as Dalmatians in order to get jobs at a firehouse.
- "Monkey See, Monkey Don't": Ren and Stimpy dress as monkeys. Later in the episode, Stimpy disguises himself as a hippopotamus and Ren disguises himself as a tickbird.
- In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "An Elk For Heffer", Heffer needs to bring an elk home to his family as a Rite of Passage. So he goes to the most logical place to find an elk: The Elks Club. Only, he can't get in, being a steer and all. So he takes branches and ties them to his horns to create antlers. Oddly enough, it works.
Heffer: I am an elk. I have antlers!
Bouncer: (shrugs) You want a prize?
- One episode of Slacker Cats had Buckley, a house cat, disguising himself as a full-grown tiger by painting himself the correct colours so he could feel brave enough to fight rats. Then the zoo caught him...
- In the half-hour animated television special based on the Garfield comic strip, "Here Comes Garfield", Garfield and Odie are captured by the local dogcatcher and thrown into a dark and dreary cell with the other inmates. Among the delinquents is Weird Lonnie, a dog who tried to impersonate a moose (at least his head looks like a moose). Even after the escape attempt, Weird Lonnie's true face is never revealed.
- In the second act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Hipster Tripster", Bogus disguises himself as a mouse (done by shaping his nose in the shape of a mouse snout and stretching his ears in the shape of mouse ears) in order to scare off an elephant at the zoo as a tactic to help himself to the elephant's peanut cache.