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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
, 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
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".
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- While Pokémon are not animals per se, Team Rocket's Meowth often disguises itself as other species of Pokémon. This once backfired when Ash used his Pokédex on him, blowing his cover when it described him as being a Meowth.
- 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.
- Aesops 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.
- 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.
- Also, the cover of the book collection The Chickens Are Restless depicts a duck with a false chicken comb among the mob of chickens.
- 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.