Why do so many cartoon characters only have four fingers? Simple, a four-fingered hand is SO much easier to draw than a five-fingered hand. Plus, it simplifies the design of the hand in the same way the rest of the body is simplified.
Although this simplification has been on a recent decline in cartoons starring people, it has never completely gone away. This only appears in more "cartoony" styles; action or dramatic series won't usually use this, and it rarely shows up in anime for several reasons:
Yakuza members traditionally chop off fingers if they are unable to pay back a debt, or as punishment for other offences that don't warrant death.
The four-fingered hand is taken as a derogatory reference to the burakumin social class (four fingers = four legs = animals).
Quite often, Western four-fingered characters have to be edited to have a fifth finger — most notably Bob the Builder. Strangely enough, this does not include Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, despite Disney's popularity in Japan. (Possibly because he isn't a human, unlike Bob, or it could just be the Grandfather Clause at work.)note Not to mention Disney is NOT a fan of having their own works being edited in any way, cultural reasons be damned.
This trope is not limited to depiction of humanlike characters: Animal characters (from any point along the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism) can also be depicted with a reduced number of digits on each paw when compared to its real-life equivalent — typically three visible toes on a given foot rather than four (although some of the earliest cartoons simplified it even further, depicting only two digits on a given foot). Actually, sometimes, the fact that the characters are not humans provides an excuse.
Funny Animals in particular often combine four-fingered hands with three-toed feet. This is excusable when human characters in the same context also exhibit four-fingered hands, but it can be jarring if the humans have five-fingered hands, or if other animals in the same context are depicted with the correct number of digits.
Those with four-fingered hands are often seen wearing White Gloves.
Why these people use base 10 rather than the logical (for them) base 8 may be a Translation Convention. Also note that number of fingers doesn't necessarily imply a corresponding number system; numerous real life cultures have used counting systems based on numbers other than 10.
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Spoofed in an Oreo commercial which shows the mascot (a giant Oreo cookie) struggling to get through a security system. At one point he comes upon a hand scanner and presses his left hand to it; when nothing happens, he adds one finger from his right hand, which is good enough to open the door.
Anime & Manga
The introduction to one Astro Boy manga chapter has Tezuka discussing how he's drawn Astro with four or five fingers at different times.
Piccolo has four fingers in the manga but for some reason the producers decided to paint in an extra finger in the anime, making his hands look sorta odd. Conveniently, doing that makes it less jarring when Piccolo declares that he'll finish Goku off in 5 seconds, and holds up a five-fingered hand that he only has for that one panel. That's so infamous the author apologized for it on a note next to that panel.
Other characters such as the humanoid animals or aliens also have different numbers of fingers. The author constantly mistakes the numbers of fingers on these characters. A good example is Kyui, whom half of the panels has five fingers, and the other half only four.
Majin Buu: In the manga, he has two stubby fingers and a similar thumb in his Super Buu form, four-fingered, somewhat stubby hands after absorbing the aforementioned Piccolo and Gotenks, the standard five-fingered hands at his most humanoid after absorbing Gohan, AND a mitten-like hand with a lone thumb and stubby finger as Kid Buu. In the anime, however, he has standard five-fingered hands in all instances.
The magi in the Magi-Nation card game have four digits on each hand, though this stems from the original art style. They are also not human, but from a fantastic world. Of course, the animated series uses five-fingered hands.
On the other (ahem) hand, the elves, preservers and trolls of ElfQuest are not four-fingered representations of five-fingered characters. They really do have only four fingers on each hand. After a few issues, the authors realized that they should logically count in base-eight, and the elves are Ret Conned to do exactly that; Cutter gets the slightly less catchy title of "Blood-Of-Eight-And-Two-Chiefs".
Lampshaded at least once: Cutter, attacked by a human, proposes to rectify the man's problem of an overpopulated hand as he cuts off one of his fingers.
Much later in the series, a culture of elf-worshipping humans amputated the little fingers and surgically altered the ears of their ruling elite, believing this could make them immortal.
One of the effects of Ben Grimm's transformation into the Thing is that he now has four fingers and toes. In one What If? comic where he continues to mutate, he actually develops (devolves?) down to three-fingered hands.
Another Marvel character, X-Men's Nightcrawler, has three-fingered hands and feet. The X-Men: Evolution version of Nightcrawler has some kind of holographic disguise that makes him look like a factory-standard human. Whenever he's in disguise, his fingers stick together in a Vulcan-salute formation.
And the X-Man Longshot, though it's due to his alien/technomagical origins.
Every character in normalman. Well, sort of. When norm found himself in the American frontier in the 1800s, the frontiersman he befriended figured he was an inbred simpleton because he only had four fingers on each hand.
Three Fingers explores this; it is a pastiche of the Animated Actors idea, specifically the Who Framed Roger Rabbit conceit that toons and humans coexist in the real world. Toons are born with a full set of five fingers, but the first toon actor to achieve real fame was Rickey Rat, a mutated toon born with only four. Toons were described as superstitious, and so many other toons began to mutilate themselves, having a finger removed in order to become successful in Hollywood; the book explores this shadowy ritual in-depth. The book is drawn in the narrative style of a TV documentary, like the E! True Hollywood Story or a Ken Burns film, mostly interviewees talking to the camera, with photographs intercut.
One episode of the Futurama comic takes place in a freak show. Exhibits include Zoidberg's uncle, a bearded lady, and a five-fingered man.
Ivy the Terrible in The Beano has four fingers, but oddly enough, other characters in her comic have five.
Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series have both the four-fingered and five-fingered hands. The SEGA-based heroes and the normal humans have five fingers while those from the Saturday morning Sonic Sat AM series or Original Generation characters have four fingers. The humans with four fingers were given the name "Overlanders", while five-fingered humans are still referred to as "humans".
This happens to Steve Harmon when he's in his Slapstick form, since he was wearing his oversized four-fingered toon gloves when he got his powers.
The Smurfs have four-fingered hands and four-toed feet, while the humans they encounter have five-fingered hands. In their first comic book appearance in The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, they were originally drawn with five fingers.
Fire Breather Duncan Rosenblatt plays this for laughs in the comic book.
After being called to the principals office, a teacher stops him for a hall pass. He promptly tries various pockets, leaving one out to show the teacher. Once in the principal's office, he shows his his four figered hand and asks "Help me out, which one is "the bird"?"
This was averted in Little Lulu, where the characters are drawn with five fingers.
The title story in Werner – Volle Latte!lampshadesWerner's four-fingered hands (and the artist Brösel's inability to draw women) with Werner's dream woman drawn by Jörg Reymann (both actually and In-Universe). Reymann used his own drawing style and gave her five fingers which Brösel's Author Avatar later points out explicitly, worrying how many fingers her kids with Werner would have.
Blue Devil in the New 52 has four-fingered hands. Out of costume, though, he has five-fingered hands. Justified, as the costume is magical.
In Calvin and Hobbes, most of the characters have four fingers but in one panel of a strip, Calvin is drawn with five fingers on one hand and four fingers on the other by mistake.
The majority of comic strips such as FoxTrot follow this rule.
Most of the cast of Monsters, Inc. have four fingers. However, the monster who counts down to the beginning of scare floor activities starts with "we are on in seven..." and holds out his seven-fingered hand.
Abu and the Genie have four-fingered hands while the rest of the human cast of Aladdin has five... except for the merchant who narrates the opening. Originally, he was supposed to be revealed as Genie at the end of the film, and while that was left off the final cut, the design remained.
This was sort of lampshaded in the Aladdin: The Series episode "Eye of the Beholder", in which Genie tries to place his hand onto a handprint on a door to opening, but because said print has five fingers, Genie magically conjures up a fifth one.
The Blue Meanies in Yellow Submarine have SIX fingers. At least, their leader does.
Pinocchio has four fingers as a puppet, but has five fingers after he's been turned into a human at the end of the film. Geppetto, Stromboli, Lampwick, and all the other humans have five fingers each, but for some reason, the Coachman only has four.
Justified for the Coachman: he's not really a "human..."
Interestingly, both played straight and averted in Wreck-It Ralph. Of the three games original to the film, only the characters from cutesy racer Sugar Rush have four-fingered hands. Characters from Hero's Duty have five fingers befitting its realistic looking design and characters from Fix-It Felix Jr. have five fingers befitting its supposed origin as an '80s Japanese-made arcade game. Oddly, the 1980 character Turbo, who otherwise has rather cartoony features like Felix and Ralph (rather than the Animesque look of the Sugar Rush characters), only has four fingers, even when out of disguise. It should also be noted that Sugar Rush is supposed to be a Japanese-developed game, Japanese-made characters usually don't have four fingers for reasons listed above.
Played with in the fourth Futurama movie, where Leo Wong is dealing poker to Bender who ends up with five kings (the regular four plus a coaster that has the "King of Beers" on it). To illustrate Leo holds up a single five-fingered hand long enough for the audience to go "what the hell, he has five fingers."
In Planet 51, Chuck Baker, the human astronaut, has five fingers on each hand, but the aliens have only four.
While most of the cast of Frozen have five fingers, the trolls have four.
Films — Live-Action
Justified in Splice. Dren has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, which is due to the fact that she a hybrid creature spliced from a unholy mixtures of animals' DNA that widely varies in the amount of fingers each species has.
'Casper:' *practicing ways to introduce himself to Kat* 'Sup; I'm Casper. Give me four! ...god, I'd kill for a pinky.
The Na'vi in Avatar have four fingers, four toes, and a base eight counting system. Given that the film's budget dwarfs many countries' annual budgets, this was probably just to be alien. The avatars have five, so it would seem intentional.
Bumblebee in the 2007 Transformers film has these, as do Jazz, Barricade, Megatron, Dispensor and Bonecrusher.
There are several other characters either have three fingers (Sideswipe, Blackout/Grindor and Brawl, to name a few) or more than five (Starscream & The Fallen, who have six and eight, respectively).
Inverted in Gattaca: the pianist has six fingered hands (which exists in real life, but often removed), and he plays music you couldn't play with five-fingered hands. Well, he doesn't, but just roll with it.
Zig-zaged by Grevious in Star Wars. At first he has two six-fingered hands, including two thumbs. But he can divide his arms, then he has four three-fingered hands.
Since they have only eight fingers, Hutts use a base-8 counting system. Zero through seven mean the same thing in both Huttese and Basic, but anything after that is just plain confusing, which many other races have been swindled by. To avoid this problem, Hutts use base-10.
While the title character on ALF has four-fingered hands, the humans (and certain Melmacians — maybe it's a genetic trait?) have five. When Brian is recovered from a crooked used car salesman (as in, selling stolen cars), this exchange happens over a high-four-and-a-half, to take the average:
Brian: Give me a high-five, so I know you're alive! Alf: How about a high-four— 'cause I ain't got any more!
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Enterprise's Scotty only had three fingers on one hand owing to an injury James Doohan sustained in the war. Doohan took great pains to hide his missing middle finger all his acting life.
Most characters in The Muppet Show have four fingers, even when the puppeteer wears the hand as a glove. Exceptions include Kermit and Dr. Teeth. The Swedish Chef, being a character who has to manipulate things, just has Frank Oz's hands.
In the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Minotaurs and Dragonborn are shown with having three fingers and a thumb on each hand. They're the only non-human races with this array of digits. Minotaurs also have cloven hooves for feet, while Dragonborn have four-toed paws.
The Aslan in Traveller have four digits per hand, and count in base 8. (Their leadership is called the "Tlaukhu", translated as "Twenty-Nine"; it's more literally 3 eights and five.) "Toons" has been mentioned as a derogatory nickname for them, because of the four-fingered hands association.
The Tau only have four digits a hand. The fluff has them logically using a base 8 system.
The Orks, on the other hand (or possibly paw), have five fingers but use base six numbering. Which actually makes a certain amount of sense if you use the other hand for the second digit. Of course, this being Warhammer 40000 it all started as a joke on the theme of Orks being too stupid to count higher, to the point where they had specialist mutations (like Mekboyz and Doks) called "sumboyz" who were effectively Orky accountants because they knew the numbers that came after "lotz".
The original figures had either no real hands, or only two fingers or three claws. Only much later figures received articulate, fingered hands, usually the larger ones, and these had four. In '09, this phenomenon reached the smaller and medium-sized toys, as they got four-fingered graspers.
All of the prominent characters from the first two Direct-to-Video movies had five fingers, save for those that had claws (Nidhiki, Pewku), no hands at all (Vahki robots), or had just plain weird-looking hands (Krekka). Then, by the third movie, all of the new or newly transformed characters were outfitted with only four. In the fourth movie, which wasn't part of the original trilogy, they also had four, but this time it was because the toys also had that many.
The video game Bionicle: Heroes also decided to give the Piraka and Toa Inika four fingers, which is an understandable example of Artistic License, since their figures had no fingers at all, save for Toa Nuparu's huge claws.
Minimates generally have formless hands with no fingers, but on occasions when fingers are required, the toys have three fingers and a thumb.
In keeping with this reduction, when they made a Minimate of the Fantastic Four's Thing, he was dropped down to two big fingers instead of his usual three.
All of the characters in Grim Fandango have four-fingered hands, despite being human skeletons (or Calaca dolls, depending on who you ask).
The Ratchet & Clank games have an interesting subversion. Ratchet and any Girl of the Week characters will have five fingers. Everyone else, no matter the species, has only three. The official reason for this is because Insomniac wanted to avoid any Four Is Death connotations when they shipped the game to Japan, thus everyone who was originally intended to have four-fingered hands instead has three. This includes Captain Qwark, who otherwise looks human.
The characters in the classic arcade game WWF Wrestlefest are fairly accurate representations of real WWF wrestlers of the time — except for their four-fingered hands.
While most characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise have four fingers and one thumb per hand, the character Fang the Sniper (A.K.A. Nack the Weasel) has only three fingers and one thumb per hand. This is generally attributed to the Yakuza idea, since he is the ONLY Sonic character always drawn with three fingers. This was lampshaded in the original miniseries where a fish robot attacks a drawing of Sonic on a rock, then mumbles about how he should have realized it was fake because it had four fingers.
There is also the whole no sort of toes thing, which applies to all animal characters other than those in Sonic's Schoolhouse. Just◊ look◊. However, if All-Stars Racing Transformed is anything to go by, driving through electricity or being hit with an electric All-Star move shows that the Sonic characters have toe bones.
Abe from the video game series Oddworld had four fingers in the original game. It was changed to three due to controversy from Japan.
The Tauren and Trolls in the Warcraft universe only have three fingers on each hand. The Tauren's hands are evolved hooves most likely. The trolls are just trolls. Gnomes, goblins, and worgen in beast-form have four fingers per hand, as do the Pandaren.
It would normally be acceptable as he's a monkey, but Diddy Kong gets a special mention: he had four fingers when he was still owned by Rare (which is British), but (probably because of the Yakuza concern mentioned in the intro) he switched over to five fingers when Nintendo (which is Japanese) took over.
Amazingly, both Bowser and Yoshi have four fingers. While the former is supposed to be a villain, one would wonder why a cute little dinosaur like Yoshi have four fingers instead of five like other fictional Japanese heroes.
Many of the Non-Human characters in the Breath of Fire universe only have four-fingered hands. Garr and Jean are the most noticeable ones, though.
Oddly enough, in Psychonauts, some characters have four fingers whereas other characters have the normal five. To further confusion, certain characters (such as Dr. Loboto) have more joints on each finger than their compatriots.
All characters in Backyard Sports originally had four fingers on each hand. Somehow, they each grew another finger later.
All player characters in Fat Princess have four-fingered hands. Edited to be five fingers in the Japanese release. (See Above)
In Glover, you play as a four-fingered glove. Justified as the thumb and ring fingers are his arms, and the index and middle fingers are his legs. Having a fifth finger would be... yeah...
Half-Life: Vortigaunts have three arms, with the third one growing straight out of the chest, with two fingers on each, and their feet don't seem to have toes, instead ending in a pyramidal... claw, let's call it.
Character art from Torchlight shows that the characters have four fingers each, although it's hard to see in-game.
The Kilrathi in the Wing Commander series are shown (usually) as having 4 digits, and use Base 8 numbering.
In X-COM, most if not all Aliens only have four fingers.
The Mario Bros. and Peach in Hotel Mario. The official versions of those characters have five fingers.
Most Pokémon that have hands and feet usually have three fingers/toes, unless they have human-shaped hands, in that case they usually have five. However, some might have four in earlier game sprites. Many usually have two toes on each foot. Which can lead to unintentionally funny moments: see, with three fingers, the index finger is in the middle, so when certain Pokémon point in the anime, they're constantly flipping each other off.
The amateur-produced Interactive Fiction game The Mulldoon Legacy has a puzzle involving aliens whose solution involves realizing you're dealing with base-6 mathematical system, because that's the number of fingers the aliens have. The game includes an alien skeleton, with the appropriate detail mentioned, as a very subtle hint.
Lance Galahad has them by example in Brain Dead 13, along with other characters.
Whatever Zer0 of Borderlands 2 is underneath that mask and armor, it is the only character in the game that has only four fingers.
The vast majority of alien species in Mass Effect have only three fingers. The only exceptions are the asari and batarians, who have human-like hands, and the hanar, who have tendrils instead of normal limbs. Fans have made jokes about how hard it must be to buy gloves if you have human fingers.
The rather simplistic sprites used in the original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni novels all have very large, four-fingered hands. The anime changes to the more typical five.
THREE-fingered hands in the case of DSBT InsaniT, due to the simplistic art style.
All characters of Cat Legend have always been drawn this way.
In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , having three fingers and a thumb seems to be not just an artist habit but a species trait, with some characters having three fingers and a thumb while others, usually horses or cows, have only three digits on each hand. As for humans, they tend to have a normal amount. (And yet the artist draws herself with only four digits, fueling speculation that she is secretly a Fraggle.)
Mostly averted in Everyday Heroes, where all the human characters have five fingers ... although Uma and her father, being aliens, have only four.
All the characters of Freefall. This is justified only in Florence, an anthropomorphic wolf, and Sam, a squidlike alien who wears an environment suit.
Homestuck follows this trope with one notable exception — the MidnightCrew have varying amounts of digits. It's likely just an artistic choice, although their Dersite origins may offer an in-universe explanation. In the Descend animation, Jade is seen with four fingers except in the Hero Mode pictures where she's slapping John.
Penny Arcade as by Krahulik nearly always draws only three fingers and a thumb, even in relatively "realistic" stories like the recent "Sand". There are exceptions to this, such as the female assassin with the umbrella fighting the Cardboard Tube Samurai, but those are highly unusual. Compare this comic with this comic.
In the first few strips of The Whiteboard, Doc was depicted with 5-digit hands, but shortly after the strip's name became an Artifact Title, the character design was changed to have 4-digit hands, with a note by the author explaining the change.
In Goblins, humans and demons have five fingers per hands. The goblins and about every non-human races (including elves and dwarves) have four-fingered hands. Reptiles (like kobolds, yuan-ti or lizardfolks) tends to have three-fingered hands. All non-humans (well, those with legs anyway) also have three-toed feet.
The Cyantian Chronicles averts this with most immigrant Cyantians, with the exception of foxes. Leading some fans to comment "that fox has too many fingers" when the artist slips up and accidentally draws one with five.
All characters, human or otherwise, in The Mansion of E have four fingers (if they have hands). This is not just an artistic convenience; when a human character visits from another webcomic, he has five fingers.
Inverted in the Looney Tunes short Rabbit of Seville, Bugs Bunny's hands are given five fingers for one scene to properly mime a piano melody played on Elmer's head. Rabbits' front paws normally have four digits.
The more (otherwise) realistic a four-fingered hand is, the creepier - note the hands of the (human) mailman at the beginning of Daffy Duck's The Great Piggy Bank Robbery.
Lampshaded in one episode of Pinky and the Brain — while taking wild guesses at a secret signal, Brain attempts the Vulcan hand sign and visibly struggles with how to arrange his fingers.
Brain: Live long and... (shifts fingers) uh...
Interestingly, in the Animaniacs episode "Star Truck," Wakko, who also has four-fingered hands, does the sign with no problem!
It was lampshaded by Juandissimo once, where he (working as a masseuse) declared "My Eight Little friends and I have work to do".
Very mildly averted in the No Dialogue Episode "Pipe Down" when Timmy is trying to "charade" his wish. To show he means "for", he holds up his left hand and he does indeed have FIVE fingers; he folded his thumb so he could show four fingers for "for".
Lampshaded again where the fairy personification of April Fools raises his hand during a stand up comedy, suddenly realizes he only has four fingers, and so uses magic to conjure up a fifth one.
The characters in Danny Phantom (a show from the creators of FOP) have five fingers, though that may be due to the series having a more "realistic" and "serious" element as opposed to The Fairly Oddparents.
Again Lampshaded in a comic strip from a Nickelodeon magazine, when Timmy and his Fairy Godparents met Butch Hartman (the creator) and couldn't "give him five" as they had only four fingers per hand, but then Danny Phantom and his friends arrive and can easily do it, because they have five per hand.
Characters in T.U.F.F. Puppy have four-fingered hands, just like in FOP.
Kitty Katswell: I'd rather use my TEN CLAWS! (she holds up her hands, with only 8)
They Lampshaded this at least twice. Sometimes when SpongeBob counts on his fingers, he will grow each finger past four as he gets to it.
Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, though explicitly human, have four-fingered hands — despite having been shown with five fingers when they were younger.
Lampshaded in 3-2-1 Penguins!; one of the characters states, "You're only five minutes older!" to his twin, holding up all his fingers on one hand, quickly holding up a finger on the other hand, because he's only got four fingers.
Almost all of the animated characters in the Schoolhouse Rock shorts have four fingers, except in certain instances of "Multiplication Rock", where the characters count on both hands.
Noah and his son in "Elementary My Dear" (x2) have five fingers when demonstrating "Two times 10 is 20," but otherwise have four fingers.
Everyone in "Ready Or Not, Here I Come" (x5) has five fingers, and they count off for hide and seek one finger at a time.
"That prince over there" in "I Got Six" (x6) has five fingers, to show off that he has "six rings on every finger" (6x10=60).
Of course the eponymous "Little Twelvetoes" has six fingers (and six toes) as the song is about multiplication by 12.
Also true of WordGirl, another production of Scholastic. The WordGirl character wears gloves, though only when shown as WordGirl and not her secret identity, Becky Botsford.
The characters in Fillmore! have four fingers on each hand. Considering this is at least a semi-action show, and the rest of the bodies are drawn reasonably realistically, this is unusual.
Braceface's characters were also drawn with four-fingered hands and otherwise-not-too-stylized bodies, clashing rather badly. Also, the show tackles teen issues realistically.
Neosapiens in Exo Squad had four fingers on each hand and four toes on each foot, which resembled hands, anyway. This is a mild subversion, as the Neosapien hand is designed to have two thumbs on each hand, opposing the other two fingers like a capital letter C. All of the human characters on the show were portrayed with the normal five fingers.
Actual exchange from Class of 3000: "I'm lucky that I still have all 10 fingers!" "You have 10? Wow, you really are rich." Played straight, as Eddy is drawn with four fingers in every other scene. Still funny.
A particularly baffling example from Sonic Underground: Sonic and his siblings are drawn with five fingers, but Robotnik has only four. All characters in the othertwo American Sonic cartoons all have four fingers though.
Lloyd Nebulon (the Lloyd in Space title character) also has just three fingers. Justified, seeing Lloyd is an alien.
Lampshaded in "Phineas and Ferb's Musical Cliptastic Countdown". Doofenshmirtz says that after the commercial, they'll show the final four videos, while holding up all of his fingers on one hand but with his thumb lowered. He glances at his hand and realizes that since he has Four-Fingered Hands, he is only holding up three fingers, so he starts holding up his thumb as well.
In Cow and Chicken, Chicken has four "fingers" and Cow has three. Lampshaded when the Red guy tries to give them piano lessons.
Everybody in Family Guy has four fingers. Strangely, despite the nature of the show, they've never lampshaded this.
Though they do have five fingers in the Disneyverse.
Occasionally characters in cutaway gags have five fingers, such as G.I. Joe.
On an interesting note, despite the trope being played straight in both ofMacFarlane's shows, neither took a crack on lampshading it whatsoever.
Lampshaded in Teen Titans. Beast Boy is making a verbal list, punctuated by the number of fingers he holds up. He reaches his third reason, and realizes he now only has four digits. Shaking his hand brings back his missing finger.
Helga Pataki of Hey Arnold! names her fists "Old Betsy" and "The Five Avengers" despite only having four fingers on each hand.
Also lampshaded in the Finnish political satire-cum-GCI-animated comedy series The Autocrats, where one character calls another out on using the term "wrapped around my little finger" because they only have four. Later, two characters are seen bowling, and one advises the other to use their little finger for support... which he doesn't have, of course.
Codename: Kids Next Door averts this trope... while simultaneously showing why most people do it. Those kids have absolutely huge, and completely disproportionate hands! If they had proportional hands it would be hard to fit that many fingers.
Stone Cold Steve Austin once mentioned in an interview that it saddened him somewhat that the claymation version of him on Celebrity Deathmatch lacked a middle finger.
Drawn Together uses the trope interestingly. In keeping with the general art style of the characters' source material, the more realistically drawn characters (Hero, Foxxy, Clara, and Xandir) have the proper number of digits, but the more "cartoony" ones (Toot and Wooldoor) have four. Toot is something of an unusual case in that although she has four fingers, she's often (though not always) drawn with five toes. This could be an animation goof, however.
In Beast Wars, Rhinox and Depth Charge were the most noticeable characters with this trait. Of course, they're not the only characters to have this in the Transformers Universe, some examples include:
In the Ben10franchise, all human characters do in fact have 5 digits on each hand. However, the majority of aliens in the shows, including Ben's transformations, only have the four digits on each hand (one exception is the Anodyte aliens, which also have five digits per hand).
In the The Beatles, the characters have four-fingered hands most of the time, but occasionally have five- and even six-fingered hands.
Can be justified in Space Goofs for the characters being aliens, and lampshaded in the school episode.
Teacher: How much is 5+5? (Candy is nervous) Random Girl: Use your fingers. Candy: Hmmmm. EIGHT!
This joke was later replicated in Oggy and the Cockroaches, by the same creators. In this case, an age reduced Oggy and Bob tried to silently help out an also age reduced Jack in a school problem. Once the other students laughed at Jack's mistake, Oggy and Bob merely shrugged in confusion to each other.
In Invader Zim, Dib (and everyone else) has four fingers, and Zim has three (except for about 3 episodes where he has four, but that might be just an animation error), but then again all the irkens only have three fingers. This is used subtily with Tak, who has three fingers in both her Irken and Human forms.
Frostythe Snowman normally has four fingers, but mysteriously gains a fifth so that he can count to five.
Certain animated segments on Sesame Street feature human characters with four-fingered hands.
Adventure Time is an interesting case, seeing as most (humanoid) characters, including Finn, often have Rubber Hose Limbs that appear as three barely discernible fingers that quickly change into four-fingered hands when close-ups are required. The only instance a character was drawn with 5 proper finger was with Marceline, whose right hand momentarily had an extra finger in "Evicted!" when she shows Finn and Jake the Nut Creatures, and in Heat Signature while putting ketchup on her first two fingers. Billy the hero is an interesting case as he's drawn with 6 fingers.
This is parodied in the episode "Five More Short Graybles", where each of the five stories is apparently themed after one of the five fingers. But the storyteller reveals that the stories were actually themed after the five tastes (sweet, savory, sour, salty, and bitter), and laughs at the viewer for thinking that people still have five fingers.
Many giant characters, such as Lemon John from "All Your Fault", have five fingers on each hand.
The Chipmunks (as well as the Chipettes) in their firsttwo animated appearances. In the Chipmunks appearances, not only do the Chipmunks have four fingers but so does Dave and the other human characters. Averted with how he appears in the 80s/90.
Characters in the Popeye cartoons avert this trope, as they have five fingers. Played straight in cartoons from Famous Studios the 1950s, where the characters were streamlined and have four.
In Project G.e.e.K.e.R. this is averted with most of the characters, who are drawn in a fairly realistic style. Geeker himself being an artificial human, combines this with Nonstandard Character Design. Lampshaded when the Big Bad uses this trait to allow people to identify him. It's also a sore spot for Geeker, which he refers to as a "tragic deformity."
Special Agent Oso had an unusual case when it did a Crossover with Handy Manny. The human characters on Oso normally have the correct number of fingers, but in the crossover episode, they had four-fingered hands. This was probably because the characters on Handy Manny, including Manny, have four-fingered hands and it would have been weird to draw depict Manny with five.
Ironically in Team Umizoomi , a show about math, 2 of the main characters, Milli and Geo, have 4 fingers. Yes, they can magically grow a 5th finger, But Bot has none!
Door Mouse has the proper 5 fingers.
All the human characters on Todd World (a show that aired on Discovery Kids before it became The Hub) have these.
Ranger Gord had these in the animated Ranger Gord's Educational Films on The Red Green Show.
Zig zagged and played straight in Gravity Falls; all the kids have four fingers, but some adults have four fingers while others have five fingers.
Among the kids, Grenda, Gideon and several teenagers have five fingers.
Really, it depends on what looks better with the character's arm. Characters with thinner arms tend to have four fingers, while those with thicker arms have five.
Lucy, the only human character seen on 64 Zoo Lane, and she is usually barefoot, so you can see that she has four toes on each foot as well.
A lot of characters from Mr. Bogus have these, including the eponymous character. This also does not exclude the human characters!
The Oscar-nominated short Oktapodi shows both octopus protagonists as having six, rather than eight tentacles, even though the names of both the species and the film actually mean "eight feet" when translated.
American Dad! lampshaded this trope in "Finger Lenting Good;" when Stan loses a finger, he remarks that he's down to seven.
Superjail! has most of its characters with the standard five-fingered hands. Jared and Charise are intended to have only four fingers on each, but sometimes appear with the average amount due to artist oversight. Ash also has a reduced amount of digits due to the fact that his hands are horribly burnt and deformed.
Title characters of The Ren & Stimpy Show usually have four fingers, while human characters normally have five. Strangely, during Ren's monologue in "Stimpy's Fan Club", he contemplates his "dirty" hands, which have five.
In Regular Show, the anthropomorphic animals and objects usually have four fingers on each hand. However, the human characters alternate between four and five fingers.
Averted with the humanized versions of the characters in My Little Pony Equestria Girls. Their hands actually have five fingers. then played straight when Sunset Shimmer and Snips and Snails transform into demons. Then they get four fingered claws.
Amphibians have four clawless digits on each hand, but have five digits on their back feet.
Inverted with Tyrannosaurus rex, who has two fingers on each hand, but four toes on each foot.
Yet also inverted with Mononykus, whose name even means "one claw".
While the "standard" number of digits was really five at the beginning of their evolution, the carnivorous dinosaurs usually only had four (especially the more primitive ones), but three-fingered hands were the most prominent by far. However the tyrannosaurids and alvarezsaurids (to whom Mononykus belongs) weren't the only groups to have reduced their finger numbers: abelisaurids had virtually no fingers, just stubs, and, of course, there are the birds, the most obvious examples.
Pterosaurs had four digits on their forelimbs, one of which was modified to support their wings.
Reduced Number of Toes Variant:
Anime And Manga
Many Pokémon with feet will usually have less digits than their upper limbs (barring wings, fins, claws, scythes and tentacles). The best example is Pikachu, who has five tiny digits on each "hand" and three digits on each foot. Other examples include Clefairy, Cubone and Marowak, Rhyperior and Hitmonlee and Conkeldurr. Although, the reverse is also true, especially for Kyurem (in normal form), Bagon, Raichu, Anpharos, Growlithe and Chansey.
Averted with Infernape, who actually have 5 toes on each foot.
Ditto with Digimon. Some digimon, including more animalistic types, have three-toed feet with four or five fingered hands such as Veemon. However, others may have the same exact number of toes and fingers such as Agumon (who has three digits) and Leomon (who has five digits). And then there are the digimon who have their feet covered, such as Beelzemon or Knightmon....
In Cerebus the Aardvark, Cerebus' otherwise human son had three toes per foot, just like his father.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles take this a step further — each of the turtles has only three fingers on each hand, and only TWO toes on each foot. Lampshaded in the 2003 series when Raph rates Leo's performance of a kick.
Leonardo: Hey, Raph, only a six? Raphael: Bro, it's all I got!
Mittens from Bolt plays this trope straight by having three-toed paws, but Bolt averts this trope by having the proper four-toed paws.
Scratette from Ice Age: Dawn of The Dinosaurs has three-fingered hands and two-toed feet, while Scrat from all four Ice Age movies has the standard four-fingered hands and three-toed feet.
Ducky, the animated hadrosaur from The Land Before Time, has the correct number of digits on all four limbs (four-toed front feet and three-toed hind feet), although her opposable thumbs are out of place.
The lions in The Lion King avert this trope by having the proper four-toed paws, but the hyenas and meerkats play this trope straight by having three-toed paws. The lions also show dew-claw-lumps (thumbs) on their front paws.
Happens even in literature! In Animorphs, when Rachel morphed into a cat and scratches someone, she notes that it left "three red lines" on the back of his hand. Also, ankles "reversed" when morphing anything four-footed. Applegate, a grown sci-fi author, apparently don't know about digitigrade and plantigrade feet, although the morphing process is stated to change the body at random.
The Diffys on Phil of the Future have five-fingered hands... but they have four-toed feet, which is a plot point when Phil has to go barefoot on a field trip.
The animal characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series have no toes at all. The rare time they're seen without their shoes, they just have oval-ish lumps with no features on them whatsoever. But as previously mentioned, All-Stars Racing Transformed reveals that they have toe bones (with three toes per foot).
On Ed, Edd n Eddy, characters not only have only four fingers, but only three toes.
And Bugs Bunny's feet have three dots on the bottom, two small and one large, suggesting pads like on a dog's paw. This doesn't match the number of pads a three-toed mammal ought to have: one per toe, plus a bigger pad for the sole. To make matters worse, real rabbits' paws don't have pads at all.
And just like Jerry, Speedy Gonzales also has two-toed feet.
Most Disney animal characters have three-toed feet.
Woodpeckers in real life have feet with their toes in a kind of X formation — two forwards (the 2nd and 3rd digits), and two backwards (1st and 4th digits), to allow for clinging to rough vertical surfaces like tree bark. These are known as Zygodactyl feet.
Except Three-toed woodpeckers, which, as their name implies, have only three toes (missing their inward back toe).
Lampshaded in "Moai Better Blues" from the video game series, when a tribe of foot-worshipping ocean chimps mentions that, despite fitting some general descriptors of their prophecies of the true high priest, he's ineligible for any role holier than sidekick to the high priest, because while he was blessed with feet, they're not complete. Max claims he never noticed before, and is suddenly repulsed by Sam's freakish feet.
Lucy, the only human character on 64 Zoo Lane, and she is usually if not always shown barefoot.
The Fairly OddParents is actually somewhat of an inversion. From a distance, it looks like the humans only have three toes, but whenever there is a need for a foot focus scene, or a Gross-Up Close-Up, they have four toes.
Averted heavily in Tex Avery's "Billy Boy" - the title goat grazes off the front of the wolf/farmer's clodhopper shoe. He cries out "Just a minute here! [counts toes - on one foot, mind you] 2-4-6-8-10. Nope - they all there!"
Guinea pigs, capybaras, maras, and other cavies have four-toed front feet and three-toed hind feet.
Parrots and owls have two toes that point forward and two that point back.
There's a tribe in Africa known as the "Ostrich-Footed People" due to having two-toed, birdlike feet as a result of a hereditary mutation. Apparently it's related to what Lobster Boy had.
Inverted with the cats living in Ernest Hemingway's Florida home. There are over 100 cats living there, and about half of them have six "toes" on each paw.
Two-toed sloths, as their name implies, have only two clawed toes on their forefeet, with three toes on their hindfeet. Three-toed sloths, on the other hand, have three toes on all of their limbs.