In character art, especially animation, it's usually best to create a character with an identifiable feature. The problem comes in some cases when that feature might only be visible from certain angles, or might be reduced to something less than its full iconic status (or even misinterpreted as something else). Some might see this as being a Lazy Artist
, and so overcompensate for the problem. For some characters, the usual rules of proportion and perspective are ignored, and that feature is drawn anyway. Commonly, characters with tails or ears might have those drawn even when they should be hidden by other parts of the head or body. This is known as a 'cheat'.
In Video Games
and CGI animation, this trope is usually enforced
with sprites. Sprites are two-dimensional images, so they have to always be facing the camera because they look paper-thin when viewed from any other angle. However, sometimes sprites are used in that fashion to make something look sharp, particularly in older games and ones which don't have much processing power.
A subtrope of Distinctive Appearances
. Unmoving Plaid
is the subtrope of this for patterns that don't move with what they're attached to. Compare Cheeky Mouth
and Ambidextrous Sprite
. Social Semicircle
is in the same spirit.
Of course Tropes Are Tools
. Sometimes cheating angles is preferable — be it to keep that distinctive feature visible, or to avoid a distracting tangent (having to tell the audience what's happening because they can't see for sure for example) that would be caused by drawing it "correctly". In addition, this happens all the time even in live action. Visual storytelling requires reality to bend in order to tell the story with all the important information. Individuals will stand unusually close together so that no one is cut off by the frame, give enough room for the camera to follow them into a confined space and actors will stand on boxes
so they don't disappear behind the tall people.
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Anime & Manga
- Astro Boy's iconic headspikes. Action figures of him usually end up looking extremely awkward as a result.
- Pokémon: Ash's Pikachu is almost never drawn without the tail projecting outward and prominently visible, even when it should be behind him or otherwise blocked.
- Jessie's hair as well. See here◊, for a particularly egregious example. She's facing away from the camera, her hair is pointing to the right. She turns 180 to face the camera, and her hair is still pointing off to the right.
- In Nurarihyon No Mago/Nura: Rise of the Youkai Clan, the main character's hair in his demon form is always shown in its entirety from any angle.
- Dragon Ball
- Page picture: Goku has a very distinctive shape to his hair that is always maintained no matter which way you view him. It even has the ability to completely flip direction based on the direction he's looking. The 3D videogames do a good job of rendering it in a way that preserves the shape when viewed in profile and head on.
- The Dragon Balls themselves always have their stars facing the screen as long as they're not moving (the stars only cover one side of each ball, so they would be harder to identify if seen from the wrong angle).
- Actually in the anime the stars are always visible and facing the camera even when the dragon balls are moving. So maybe the balls are transparent and the stars are inside them. (Which would explain why the characters always see the stars from whatever angle they’re looking at the dragon balls.) This make the stars themselves an example of this trope, since they act like 2D objects always facing the camera, and you never see one star overlapping another.
- Akagi. Generally speaking, Nobuyuki Fukumoto's character designs have a bunch of very specific-looking angles and slotting them together is left as an exercise for the reader.
- The most distinctive part of Yuno in Hidamari Sketch are her X-shaped hairpins that she puts on both sides of her head. However, those were often drawn on the back of the head when the angle required it—and in the cover of the sixth volume of the manga, to compensate for her hair being covered by a hoodie, she drew X's on the hood over where her hairpins should have been.
- Many Lyrical Nanoha characters are drawn with a distinctive poof of hair that to gravitates towards which ever side of their face is less-shown by the angle of the shot.
- Similar to the page image, Tsumugi from K-On! has thick semicircular eyebrows that frequently flip upside down for certain expressions. Lampshaded in an Omake video where Yui tries to catch them mid-change but ends up being distracted.
- Older Than Dirt: Ancient Egyptian artists did not use or value realistic perspective. Images were meant not to represent actual appearance in 3D space, but to create a representation or even microcosm of the whole of the individual or event pictured. For this reason, Egyptian artists drew different body parts from different angles, making each as recognizable and complete as possible without overlap. So faces are viewed in profile with the eyes depicted as if seen from the front, etc.
- Marvel artists' notes on how to draw Nightcrawler from the X-Men say how they must draw his tail with a curve in it (when character is drawn from the front, with legs apart) so the tail wouldn't look phallic. This has the added bonus of emphasizing that his tail is prehensile, even when he's not actually doing anything with it.
- It's extremely rare to see Chilean comic book character Condorito facing front.
- The two 'horns' of Doctor Strange's collar are typically drawn to retain their hook shape, even when one of them would be straight-on from the viewer's perspective.
- The title characters from the Franco-Belgian comic The Smurfs have round caps with a rounded end pointing forward (in their first appearance in Johan and Peewit, they were pointy hats bent at the end, until Art Evolution changed it). They mostly appear at a 3/4 view, sometimes at full profile, and rarely in front view, at which point (no pun intended) the hats still are shown facing sideways.
Films — Animation
- In Mulan, the topknots on Shang and Mulan are cheated up slightly to keep them visible even when they would otherwise be blocked in a front angle view.
- The Lion King
- Pride Rock, for some reason, is always seen from the left to which the front is faced on the inside and from nowhere else. The only times we ever see it from a different angle is an overhead shot of Rafiki climbing to the top of priderock and two overhead shot of him holding up Baby Simba at the very beginning of the film and a shot of Rafiki jumping of a cliff and when Scar falls to the ground and gets up while Simba looks down and when the hyenas come to attack Scar at the climax.
- 1 1/2 shows Pride Rock from several angles early in the movie, along with dramatic music and Timon narrating.
- In The Lion King II, Pride Rock is always seen from the right to which the front is faced on the inside except in one shot at the very beginning, three in the middle, and end of the film.
- Less regarding looks and more regarding mechanics, but in Frozen during the song "Let It Go," there's a short scene◊ where Elsa takes down her hair and pulls her braid over her shoulder. This little scene proved to be nearly impossible. The only way they could do the scene without having the model break was to cheat and have her braid phase through Elsa's arm instead of over it. The animators did a good job of making it barely noticeable, and those that did seemed to agree it was Worth It.
- In The Book of Life, the curly top section of Manolo's hair is never seen straight on, even when he turns - the curl simply flips from one side to the other, depending on which way he is facing. From the front, the direction of the curl appears to depend on whatever looks best for the scene. The same thing applies to his father, who has the same hairstyle as his son.
- Averted with the red skulls that form Xibalba's irises/pupils, which, with one exception (when Xibalba is finding Manolo's greatest fear), always turn to face wherever he is looking, even if that means they are no longer facing the camera or even recognisable as skulls.
Films — Live-Action
- Not exactly a perspective error, but in Star Wars, the Death Star is always shown so the superlaser dish is facing the viewer. The only exception is the occasional view from behind when the superlaser is firing, but it's never shown without the laser visible in an establishing shot.
- Sark's carrier in TRON is always shown from the starboard side, which is where the bridge sits. The only exception is when the MCP shows a wireframe of it to Dillinger in the beginning of the film.
- In Discworld's Pyramids, it's implied that one character actually "walks like an Egyptian" — whether he picked it up from being around the art for so long, or people started drawing like that because he was around so long, isn't clear.
- Kipper the dog has a huge forehead when seen from the front, but his forehead shrinks when he turns to the side.
- The problem of trying to represent a round world on a flat surface inevitably leads to distortions of size, shape and relative position on maps — you want to be accurate in one area, you have to completely sacrifice another. Hence the popularity these days of the Robinson projection and other maps that just go ahead and imitate the curvature of a globe, which means they're somewhat inaccurate in all categories but give you a better idea overall of what you're looking at. The only hugely distorted spots on these maps are the poles, and who cares about the poles unless you're going there?
- This is often true with generic clip-art of certain real-life astronomical objects. The Moon is always shown with its near-side (the side facing the Earth) facing the viewer, the planets Jupiter and Neptune are always shown in a way so that the Great Red/Dark Spot is facing the viewer, etc.
- The title character of Lil Abner always has the part of his hair towards the reader regardless of what angle he's being shown from.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's spikey hair behaves in much the same way as the Dragon Ball example shown in the page image, looking noticeably different only when seen from directly behind. Ears are fudged in a similar fashion — they look much the same whether seen from the front, side, or behind.
- Peanuts: Snoopy is rarely, if ever, seen directly from the front.
- This is true of all the characters. (Indeed, Snoopy is the only one who is ever seen from the front.) For the animated specials, the animators avoided turning the characters around too much, transitioning quickly from one position to another in order to stay true to how they are represented in the strip.
- Except for a few strips early on, Snoopy's house is always seen from the side, making it all the more feasible for Snoopy to lie comfortably on the roof.
- Super Mario Bros.
- The Mario Brothers from the original Super Mario Bros. game always have their head to the side they're walking towards, even when they aren't moving and the rest of their body is facing the screen. The only time they ever fully face the viewer is if they're dying.
- In just about every Mario game up to World, however, they're depicted at a 3/4 view all around, creating the odd appearance that they're running slightly off to the side of where they're actually facing.
- Rosalina's face for some reason, is never seen from the right. Occasionally, her Peeka Bangs are drawn so they cover the left side of her face instead, allowing us to see her right eye, but that is only because of an illustration error.
- Originally, Goombas stood and walked the opposite of the Mario Bros.: they actually walked sideways, so that they always face the viewer, much like a crab.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Sonic's spines tended to be fudged in his original design. Seen from the side, you only see three spines protruding from the back of his head. However, seen from the back, it looked more like two rows of spines instead of three. And seeing him from the front just looked weird. All this meant Sonic was usually shown from the front or back only when necessary, even in media such as comics. This sort of thing is likely one reason why Sonic's design was overhauled when Sonic Adventure was released, since the spines needed to work in 3D.
- Sonic X took this rule and ran with it, so that no matter which way Sonic was facing, only three spikes would show. This made Sonic look odd from the front, and downright ridiculous from the back.
- The birds and pigs from Angry Birds are always seen from the front, but the Green Bird and the Eagle are always seen from the side.
- BlazBlue: Hazama's Lifelink Aura is always angled to appear as a perfectly circular ring around him. Possibly justified by Hazama's true nature.
- Panel de Pon: Not only does Lip's ponytail always appear to stick straight up regardless of whether or not her ribbon or head should block it, but outside of Ambidextrous Sprites, she is never drawn outside of a three-quarters shot facing left or head-on, likely because the artist couldn't figure out how to get her hair to work from any other angle.
- Microsoft 3D Movie Maker has Mc Zee, whose eyes always face the viewer no matter where the rest of his face points. This Picasso-like look is made even weirder by the fact that he's rendered in 3D. The eyes actually roll around his face.
- Some weapons and armor (usually staves and shoulder armor) in World of Warcraft have dangly bits or hanging strips of cloth represented by 2D sprites that always have exactly the same orientation on the screen. This looks fine most of the time, but when viewing a player with one of these equipped from a top-down perspective, the dangly bits appear to defy physics, sticking straight out from the character, parallel to the ground.
- In the original Doom, any dead monsters always faced the player. If their legs were facing you, could actually circle around them and watch the legs follow you around. This was presumably done in order to make the coding easier.
- Both Homestar Runner and The Cheat for some reason are never seen from the front. Some older cartoons actually do portray Homestar from the front (and, though camera angles conspire to keep it to a minimum, he does, occasionally, get seen from the front in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People). There appear to be two reasons why he's not drawn like this anymore: First, his characteristic underbite is incredibly hard to portray like this, and second, in order to stay in view, his eyes have to drift, flounderlike across his face as he turns. This is especially awkward in Homestar's real-life puppet form, where there is no such fluidity. Check out the old music video shorts for the weirder side effects of this trope. The eyes are even felt so they can be moved between shots.
- Awkward Zombie: Lampshaded by Roy here
- One strip of Casey and Andy mentions that the cartoonist had to move the cat around slightly between frames because otherwise it wouldn't be visible in one of the side and top view.
- In Dan Thompson's stylized comical adventure strip Rip Haywire, femme fatale/love interest Cobra's black hair is nearly always behind her head, no matter the angle, effectively framing it.
- In Slightly Damned, Buwaro's pet rock Thadius is always drawn exactly the same way regardless of angle, because otherwise the readers wouldn't be able to tell it apart from other rocks.
- In Out There, the lead character Miriam has two strands of hair that stick out from the top of her head, and always do so at the same angle, whether she's facing you, in three-quarters view, or in profile, as this strip shows.
- Mike of Something Positive is almost never shown straight on, probably because of his enormous wedge-shaped nose.
- Kevin of Kevin & Kell always has one ear flopped over — the furthest one from the audience. Which technically means if he turns his head, his ears are flopping and unflopping. The author readily acknowledges this in the FAQ as a stylistic choice, and even points out the Li'l Abner example.
- Mike Warner of It's Walky! and Shortpacked! has hair that juts outwards at the same angle at all times. In fact, this ended up posing a problem for the artist when Mike figurines were in pre-production and he needed to find out how to angle the hair in the third dimension.
- Terrifyingly averted in a Nedroid comic showing why Reginald is never facing the viewer.
- Characters in Homestuck tend to have distinctive features that flip a la the Dragon Ball example above (hair, and in one particularly memorable case, Spades Slick's arm), but other features, such as the designs on the kids' shirts and the trolls' horns, stay oriented the way they should.
- In Phoebe And Her Unicorn, no matter which way Marigold the unicorn is turned, the mane on the top of her head is always behind her horn (e.g. here). Lampshaded by the author as "it's magic".
- Some typical memefaces, but especially Trollface and Yao Ming. Most of them are really jarring, though.
- Most of the comics on Bitstrips feature either heads in 3/4 or front profile, as the side view is usually ugly and non-expressive.
- Discussed on a Nostalgia Critic making-of video, where he is conducting a coffee pot (it Makes Sense In Context). Doug points out that he's actually turning his body slightly towards the camera so it's easier for the audience to tell what's going on.
- Mickey Mouse
- The classic example: Mickey's ears are a legacy of his original rubber-tube design. Now, even as the rest of his design has been updated, the tradition of keeping the Mouse-Ear logo visible stays true. (This also applies to Minnie and any other mouse characters.)
- Mickey's nose is also cheated. From the side it points up, but viewed face on, it appears flat.
- This is so familiar that attempts to model him in 3D with static ears like on the character at Disneyland just looked... off. Subsequently in Epic Mickey, the ears were animated specially to fit the familiar look.
- Same with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
- Lampshaded in one episode of House of Mouse when it's revealed that Mickey starches his ears to make them look round from every angle.
- Played straight in the first Kingdom Hearts game, but averted in every sequel, where his ears don't always face the screen. His various official art from the series do, however feature it.
- Family Guy
- The artists have to cheat Stewie's head to keep the football-like shape prominent. Lampshaded in a conversation between "Griffin Peterson" and "King Stewie" in a flashback:
Griffin: Hey, you're the guy whose profile's on all the coins! You know, your head looks really weird from the side.
Stewie: Yeah, we didn't... think that through when we started...
- Brian is rarely ever seen from any angle other than 3/4, especially the front.
- Commissioner Gordon's cowlick in Batman: The Animated Series. In an audio commentary, one of the artists lamented that the cowlick was always slightly to the side, even when it should have shifted with the angle. Special mention goes to the episode "House & Family" which possibly has the only instance of his hair from the front when Commissioner Gordon shifts his head from one side to the other while talking to Pamela Isley at her home.
- Dr. Girlfriend in The Venture Bros. first season had a hair curl that didn't lend itself to changing angles (but worked fine in the deliberately static design) — when the animation later became more fluid, it looks like her hair was altered to 'read' better.
- Phineas and Ferb
- Phineas and Ferb's faces are very rarely shown straight on. For a good reason, too.◊
- This used to be the case for many characters, such as Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Lately, however, a lot of the characters with cheated angles, Ferb included, have been shown from different perspectives more often. Phineas is still the only consistent exception.
- Regular Show
- Mordecai is almost never seen head-on. And when he is, his head feathers are still at a 3/4 angle.
- And whenever Rigby is seen from the front, his nose actually moves to where his forehead would normally be! This only applies when Rigby needs to look exaggerated, though, as at one point he is seen from the front in a mirror, and his nose is where it should be from that angle.
- Fry's cowlick keeps its distinctive shape, regardless of what angle you're looking from.
- Leela's bangs always cover the side of her eye and forehead, regardless of which way she's facing. This also means you will almost never see her face drawn from a straight-on view.
- Calculon's antennae in "Calculon 2.0"—the one closer to the viewer is always angled lower than the one further away. Strangely, their angles stay consistent in other episodes.
- Matt Groening characters in general, such as those from The Simpsons and Life in Hell typically have this problem due to their distinctive overbites. So while they are frequently seen from 3/4, the side, and the back, it's rare to see them from the front.
- Chef from South Park is almost always seen from the front, even when he's walking to the left and right. He was seen from the side in early episodes, but the creators decided this looked too weird.
- There were no 3/4 angle character shots until season 8. That's right, season 8.
- SpongeBob SquarePants, despite being one of those rare characters whose design lends itself well to unique angles, is rarely, if ever shown from the side. The one time he is, it ends up looking awkward.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: The heads of the entire Watterson family stay at a 3/4's angle at all times, no matter which way they're facing. In Darwin's case, his whole body never shifts from that angle. Molded 3D models of the Wattersons were made and the front views are indeed rather unusual looking.
- In the earliest episodes of American Dad!, Francine's hair was always draped over the shoulder closest to the camera.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show. Ren's mouth always looked good when either facing left or right, but animators seemed to have issues when drawing him faced head on. Sometimes they had his mouth pointing down, other times they drew a "side mouth," and other times the animators just didn't bother with making his lips pointed.
- Some of the characters in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic have plainly-asymmetrical mane styles, but unless they are shown actually turning from a left to a right view in the scene, they will almost always be drawn whichever way doesn't obscure their eyes. Technically applies to the crest of all their manes as well, which always curls around in the direction of the viewer (unlike human hair, horses' manes are rooted in a single strip running down the back of the head, and the show generally reflects this correctly).
- For a prominent example, see some Vinyl Scratch fan art. No matter if she is turned to the left or to the right, her very asymmetric and iconic mane is always drawn the same way.
- Flim and Flam's ears move in and out of their hats depending on the angle of their heads.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Subtly Played for Laughs with Duchess. Her design is already a little off, and the few times she actually turns around on-screen, she flips like a cardboard cutout. (Whether this is meant to be taken as a stylistic gag or not isn't clear, however...)
- Parodied in this bumper for cartoon network.
- The Mr. Men Show: Mr. Messy's scribbles behave the same way as the pictured example.
- Most characters in The Fairly OddParents are drawn from a 3/4 angle. For example, it is especially noticeable with Timmy Turner's hair, which faces the direction he is facing, but is facing to the right when seen from the front.
- Timmy's parents are also rarely, if ever, seen from the front.
- From Mixels, Flain's beak is always shown from a 3/4 angle, even when facing forwards.