"He found a formula for drawing comic rabbits: This formula for drawing comic rabbits paid. Till in the end he could not change the tragic habits This formula for drawing comic rabbits made.
— Animator Robert Graves
, "Epitaph of an Unfortunate Animator", quoted by Richard Williams
in The Animator's Survival Kit
A trope primarily seen in webcomics
and other artistic media. It seems that a lot of comics and cartoons have anthropomorphic animal characters. Possibly more than one work of fiction can justify this by saying, "The artists are themselves furries
, and this is why the characters are all literal Furries
The other, more common reason may be this trope.
Most Artists Are Humans
, but unfortunately humans are fairly hard to draw. This has a lot to do with the principles behind the Uncanny Valley
theory. We know what people look like. We see them every day. We have entire neural structures in our brains dedicated completely to picking up the incredibly subtle differences between human faces. If an artist's human characters don't look juuust so, those characters won't be appealing.
Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much of an Uncanny Valley
equivalent for animals aside from photorealistically rendered CGI animated animals and real animals in live action films that talk or make humanlike facial expressions. There is almost no equivalent of Uncanny Valley
for extremely stylized animal
, monster, and alien characters, or giant robots. After all, there aren't any Petting Zoo People
running around in the real world (at least not to our knowledge). This means that there isn't any right or wrong way to draw cartoon animals, so it's impossible to be close but not quite there.
Also, it tends to help that while artists who limit themselves to humans are very likely to use Only Six Faces
, Furries and animals have several additional traits to help tell each other apart, from fur color to ears, tails, paws — not to mention species. As a result, an artist can easily make a Cast of Snowflakes
just by randomizing each character.
Further, while human body language can be on the subtle side (especially if you have trouble drawing people to begin with), animals have lots of features that are easy to use in this regard; tails, ears, whiskers... they all can convey meaning very directly. And since, as above, we are more familiar with human emotions by default, if you make a misstep with animals it isn't as noticeable.
In some cases, but not all, this may be due to a Lazy Artist
. Most webcomic artists are amateurs, and thus they do this in their free time. Some of them just can't draw that well
, so they borrow from the more professional Furry Comics
as a shortcut. The audience tends to notice the difference in quality. Most art school students run a long, long
gauntlet of figure drawing courses. An appealing human face is indeed one of the hardest damn things in the world to draw — however, the rest of said human isn't any harder or easier to draw than any other animal. Many artists go on to create animal characters anyway — but there is a noticeably greater attention to detail from someone who's trained on drawing humans. Furthermore, once you start drawing animals, you understand why you drew so many human figures. We're about as close to a "Do Anything Tetrapod
" as you can get.
A major cause of Furry Confusion
, if not handled well.
Manga and Anime
- Subverted in Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. Stan is perfectly capable of drawing recognizable and distinct humans - but his "furry" characters allow new readers to grasp the essentials of his regular cast very quickly and easily. The character Katsuichi is powerful, insightful and reserved, so he's a lion. Kitsune is fun-loving and cunning but essentially amoral, so she's a fox. Gen is fearless, powerful and easily angered, so he's a rhinoceros... and so on.
- Omaha the Cat Dancer is pornographic - its characters all have animal heads and tails, but the rest of them is quite human. Quite.
- This is almost certainly why Pluggers uses furries, since the strip is about Midwestern senior citizens.
- This was the reason stated why German comic artist Peter Puck drew his character Rudi as this. Dog snouts are easier than human noses, apparently.
- Played straight by Lewis Trondheim besides being a huge Carl Barks fan.
- Tracy J. Butler, the author of Lackadaisy Cats, says that she doesn't identify with the Furry Fandom but uses cats because she finds them more expressive.
- Coach Random had some characters drawn as dogs because the artist was under a deadline. In one strip, he has humans and a dog side-by-side, showing the difference in how the artist drew them. His humans are quite detailed. The dog, not so much.
- After seeing both humans and Furries as drawn by David Hopkins, the artist for the Furry Webcomic Jack, it doesn't take much effort to figure out why he very rarely draws humans.
- VG Cats — though the artist had no idea what Furries were when he started.
- Though the strip uses human characters at least as often as the cats, depending on what game is being mocked at the time.
- Doc Nickel (artist for The Whiteboard) has explicitly stated that he used anthropomorphic animal characters because he couldn't draw humans for crap. According to several of his posts on the forums in August 2011, though, he's working on overcoming the problem with drawing humans, with more human characters being given actual details instead of undefined "floating bubbleheads".
- The creator of the web comic Harkovast originally struggled to draw animals, but after a few months of drawing nothing but animal people found human infinitely more difficult. Fortunately, the comic features no human characters!
- Vince Suzukawa gives a detailed explanation of why the cast of The Class Menagerie were all furry. The main point was that animal faces can be more expressive (ears can move, fur can bristle etc). Also, it creates a comfortable divide from the real world, and problems of racial balance or resemblance to persons living or dead. He also demonstrates that he can draw humans and make his characters work in human form.
- The artist of Keychain of Creation has stated that he gradually made Marena's fox ears and tail more prominent because they make her more expressive. It's hard to show complex expressions on a stick figure.
- The artist of The Dragon Doctors attempts to avert his instances of Only Six Faces by throwing in a few "beastmen" to diversify the cast. We've seen a cat-man SWAT officer, an insect-looking lawyer (talking to a buffalo-looking lawyer!).
- Though the creator of Cheap Thrills can (and does) draw humans very well, she claims this as one of the reasons she draws in an anthro style: "When I started the comic, I couldn't draw human faces for shit. I could draw animal faces, though, so I went with it...If I were to start over, I'd probably do the comic with human characters instead, or possibly tinker with the comic's universe a little bit so that the usage of animal people made more sense."
- Most of the characters in Stubble Trouble are furries for this reason, though some humans do appear as well.
- Webcomic Rank Amateur has only one human in the main cast, which the author has so far drawn only a few times. The cast also features two furries - Felix, a cat and Guardian, a bird - though the majority of the main characters are humanoid aliens.
- Those aliens have snouts rather than human-like flat faces, so they fit the trope too.
- T.J. Baldwin admits that Karate Bears are easier to draw than people. Look at the crowd scenes.
- The art of Ruby Quest is half this and half Shout-Out to Animal Crossing.
- This series also clearly displays an interesting side effect of this trope: furries are easier to tell apart. Ruby Quest is done in a very simplistic style. The different animal features make it possible to identify who's who.
- Pretty much the reason why many, many cartoon characters were Funny Animals during The Golden Age of Animation when the medium was just getting started. Artists at that time knew how to draw people, sure, but animating them was a whole other story. Cartoons at the time all shared a very similar art style due to Follow the Leader and the fact that details were harder and more expensive to work in, so many characters tended to look exactly the same...what helped separate them from the masses were those one or two characteristics (ears, tails, etc.) indicating that X Character was supposed to be a Y Animal.
- As Walt Disney sought to drastically improve animation quality and standards in his cartoons throughout the 1930's and early 40's, this trope became apparent in full force. Far and away the best and most revered Disney animation of the period tends to be either animal characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, the Three Little Pigs, Jiminy Cricket, Dumbo and Bambi or stylized caricatures of humans such as the Seven Dwarfs.
- Because they found humans to be extremely hard to draw and animate with the technological limitations of the time, most of Pixar's earlier films primarily had either toys, insects, monsters, or fish as main characters. It wasn't until 2004's The Incredibles that humans became a large part of the characters in their movies (though not always).
- In some sense, this trope is Truth in Television. Furries aren't necessarily easier to draw, but it's easier to get away with flaws when drawing furries. The human brain has very specialized centers for interpreting human faces, but there is no equivalent for animals, which end up getting processed with generalized optical centers. As a result, minor flaws in human faces will be picked up on (it could be interpreted as nonhuman), where as bigger flaws in animal faces will go completely unnoticed (Some will assume it is a part of the creature and or animal faces cannot really be too exaggerated)
- Another reason that occasionally pops up is that, except in specific cases, drawing furries bypasses most matters regarding character race. Can't decide if someone is black or white? Answer: make them a cat.