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Good Animals, Evil Animals
"When casting a picture with 'good guys' and 'bad guys', these are important considerations. The 'good guys' have to be small, ineffectual, cute, and associated with nonviolence. It doesn't matter if the real animal is that way or not. You are playing off the images in the viewers' subconscious, and if people grew up thinking a certain way that is where you must start. To have a mean and cruel kitten terrorizing a family of nervous, flighty bears is an uphill fight for everybody."
Similar to Animal Jingoism
. Also see Animal Stereotypes
There is a tendency, especially in animated works involving animal characters, often Funny Animals
or Talking Animals
, to cast characters of a certain species as bad guys and characters of a different species as the good guys.
Some animals, like butterflies
, dolphins, deer, otters
, and dogs
(aside from a few breeds), are usually portrayed as good, friendly, or nice. Some animals, like sharks
, and rats
are usually just portrayed as bad, mean, or evil. Others animals that typecast as bad, like cats, ducks, parrots, wolves note
and humans, can just as easily be either/or in stories. Some animals, like bears, bees, pigs, rabbits and hares, monkeys, foxes, owls, and birds of prey (hawks, eagles, and falcons), can be either/or.
This trope is invoked whenever a work attempts to inform the audience who the good guys and who the bad guys are based solely on their species.
When Species Coding is used as a metaphor
for racism, it becomes Fantastic Racism
This is different from Animal Jingoism
in that here, there may or may not be a natural hatred, and that one side is definitely evil and the other side is definitely good.
Keep in mind that not every animal character in a work is necessarily going to align with the alignment most associated with their species. Aversions do occur
and is completely up to the discretion of the individual creator. The following list is not meant to pass judgement on the value of the species listed, but simply to associate the species with the alignment most often associated them when species coding is involved.
Not every work will employ species coding and thus alignment of the characters will remain independent of the character's species, leaving the species of each character to be an aesthetic choice rather than a visual cue towards their alignment. These works are not examples and should not be listed.
See also Good Colors, Evil Colors
and Dress-Coded for Your Convenience
for when you want to do this with Non-Non-Humans
. See What Measure Is a Non-Cute?
and Unpleasant Animal Counterpart
. Whenever you expect the above codes to hold true, but they don't, you may be dealing with a Killer Rabbit
. For sub-tropes dealing with specific animals, look at the Pleasant Animals Index
and the Scary Animals Index
Anime and Manga
- Beast Saga, being the Spiritual Successor to Battle Beasts/Beastformers (mentioned below) features the good Land Tribe and the evil Sea Tribe. The Land Tribe primarily consists of noble big cats and savanna-dwelling herbivores (there's an elephant, a zebra, etc), while the Sea Tribe is mostly sharks, other threatening fish like a piranha and a manta ray, and a few reptiles and mammals associated with water.
- There are some notable subversions in both tribes, like the good snake and the evil dolphin.
- The neutral Sky Tribe seems to exist for comedy reasons; its members are mostly cute or non-threatening birds like ducks, parrots, and pigeons.
Film — Animated
- Maus: Very much like the below example, the cats (Nazis) were bad, mice (Jews) were good. There were good and bad Polish pigs. Americans were portrayed as dogs while other animals appeared (British appeared as fish, Swedes as reindeer and a gypsy as a moth)
- All Germans were cats, Nazi or otherwise. The nice German lady married to a Jewish mouse is still a striped cat (and their children are mice with tiger-stripes).
Film — Live Action
- An American Tail: The mice were the good guys, the cats were the bad guys.
- Not ALL the cats. There were a few good ones.
- Inverted with The Lion King. The Big Bad is a lion, and his species is generally presented as good. Hyenas, meanwhile, are ostensibly bad guys, but it's because they're being starved to death.
- A Bug's Life: Ants are good, grasshoppers are bad.
- Played with in Kung Fu Panda, with villainous wolves and crocodiles in an Imagine Spot and rabbits, pigs and ducks for civilians... actually, any species that doesn't have more than two specimens is destined to stand out, for better or worse. The villain, however, is a snow leopard.
- In Kung Fu Panda 2, the main villain is a white peacock, while there are primarily good characters who happen to be a rhinoceros, a crocodile and an ox.
- Rock-A-Doodle: Owls are evil, all other animals are good.
- The Secret Of NIMH and its source novel, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, averted this for the most part; rats were both good and bad guys, the owl was terrifying but also wise and helpful if you dared to approach him, and the crow is not at all evil. However, Dragon is a prime example of Cats Are Mean.
- Cat City: Mice are good, Cats Are Mean, rats are mean but clumsy. Subverted with the bats, who are first menacing, but become friends with one of the protagonists.
- In films such as The Pebble and the Penguin and Happy Feet, penguins are usually good guys while leopard seals and skuas, their natural predators, are Always Chaotic Evil.
- Hillariously inverted in Soviet Russian series Leopold The Cat. A kind, peaceful and artsy Leopold is harassed by two mice bullies, who set traps and perform brutal practical jokes on him. In most cases, they're just a petty nuisance, given that Leopold is several times larger, older and wiser. Having a Jesus level in forgiveness, Leopold occasionally even saves the mice.
- Cats & Dogs: A movie in which cats were evil and try to Take Over the World and dogs were good trying to save the world. In the sequel, however, some of the cats are actually good, but the villain is still a cat.
- The first Chronicles of Narnia movie has the armies of Aslan and the Witch pretty much divided among these lines. There are dwarves on both sides, but they are visually different depending on which side they were on (mostly by hair color). In the second movie, however, nearly all of the non-humans of Narnia (minus a Hag, Werewolf, and Black Dwarf) fight together, and a minotaur sacrifices himself to save the monarchs.
- Redwall played this to a T. The few exceptions were Gingivere and his descendant Julian, who were both good cats, and Veil, who was possibly slightly maybe good. A couple of birds of prey who would normally eat mice and other small rodents had their turn on the side of good, too. But apart from the few notable exceptions, even Deyna in Taggerung, who was raised to be evil's champion, wound up being good because he was an otter.
- There were a couple other exceptions, such as the searat who reformed in The Bellmaker and the traitor shrew in Marlfox. But for the most part, yeah, it was Good Species/ Evil Species.
- The Deptford Mice books fall under this, too. Mice are good, rats are evil; squirrels are good, bats are good, and the main villain is a cat. There are exceptions, rats that are sort-of good and nasty mice, but for the most part, convention is followed.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe split talking beasts more or less along the standard lines between those on the side of the Witch and those on the side of Aslan. This didn't show up so much in the rest of the series when Narnia was united, but "evil" animals didn't show up much at all then.
- Star Trek: Enterprise the antagonists of the third season, Xindi, who plot to destroy humanity with mini-Death Stars because trans-dimensional beings told them humans will destroy their future home world, are split into five species, the Reptillians and Insectoids the much more benevolent Primates and Aboreals (who side with humans near the end of the season after being told they've been lied to by the trans-dimensonal beings) and the neutral Aquatics. There also exist Avians but they went extinct before the series began.
- The Wesens in Grimm also tend to be like this; Mauzherz (mice), Genio innocuo (tortoise), Seelengut (sheeps) and Fuchsbau (foxes) been generally good or peaceful while Klaustreich (cats), Königschlange (snakes) and Gelumcaedus (alligators) to name a few are evil (or at least generally violent). Nevertheless other like Blutbad (wolves) and Bauerschwein (pigs) have both good and bad individuals in a more balanced level.
- Garfield the Cat vs. The either evil or spotlight stealing dogs.
- LEGO's Legends Of Chima series. Out of the factions seen so far, Lions, Eagles and Gorillas are the good guys while Crocodiles, Ravens, and Wolves are the bad guys.
- Subverted in the Pokémon games. While many of the villains used Dark-Type and/or Poison-Type Pokémon, the Pokémon themselves are not actually evil. They're just essentially doing what their trainers are telling them to do.
- The Anime features an episode where Ash's Pokémon and Team Rocket's Pokémon are both stranded on a tropical island. It's revealed that Ekans and Koffing are actually quite friendly when they're not busy trying to capture Pikachu and were just trying to make their trainers happy. In fact, it's only Meowth that's willingly evil.
- The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games play this straight with most villainous teams having at least one Poison-Type member.
- Angry Birds: Pigs are evil, birds are good.
- Donkey Kong Country: Crocodiles are evil, monkeys are good.
- Rocket Knight Adventures: Depending on the game, Pigs (Original), Lizards (Genesis Sequel), and Wolves (SNES Game) are evil, while the possums (with the exception of the villainous Axel Gear) are good.
- Tom and Jerry: With Tom being the occasionally antagonistic cat, and Jerry being the allegedly lovable hero.
- Ace again, this time in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
- In Biker Mice from Mars, the Martian mice are always good (with the exception of their government and one traitor), while the Plutarkian Fish People from the original series and the Catalonian cats from the Revival are almost always evil.
- Non-animal example: In the Transformers continuities, most of the Autobots turn into ground vehicles, while most of the Decepticons turn into aircraft. A few more specific vehicle types are almost always affiliated with a certain faction; Autobots are more likely to turn into emergency response vehicles like police cars and ambulances, while Decepticons are more likely to turn into purpose-built war machines like bombers and artillery guns.
- Beast Wars brings it back around to this; the Maximals all turn into either mammals or birds (until Dinobot and Blackarachnia become Maximals themselves), while the Predacons all turn into either reptiles or arthropods. There are a few fish on both sides, though, and at least one mammalian Predacon in Ravage.
- Beast Wars II and Beast Machines had it both ways, with the good-guy team of animals fighting a bad-guy group of vehicles.
- Although note that "animals vs machines" means that normally "evil" animals were on the good guys' side, as seen with the Maximal cobra Night Viper and the Cybertron weevil Drill Nuts. The bad guys of II received a Mid-Season Upgrade, receiving their own beast modes. They were: A T-Rex, a raptor, a shark, a wasp, and a wolf.
- Beast Wars Neo featured mostly-mammalian Cybertrons and evil dinosaur Destrons.
- Beast Wars Shattered Glass features a small group of Autobots taking beast modes, including a lion, an eagle, and an elephant, opposing a group of Decepticons mostly made up of the Seacons (a sub-group that includes a shark, a snapping turtle, and a squid).
- The Battle Beasts in Transformers Headmasters followed a similar idea with reptiles, amphibians and sealife as evil, and warm-blooded species as good. Most (yet not all) the Transformers of that same era followed a pattern of vehicular Autobots and beast Decepticons.
- Transformers Animated kept with the vehicular version, but made it narrower — its main Autobots are all non-combat vehicles (even Bulkhead, a military transport), whereas its Decepticons are mostly heavy-hitting war machines. The "Autobots drive, Decepticons fly" thing was also enforced and pointed out; until Jetstorm and Jetfire, flying Autobots didn't exist (unless you counted the Omega sentinels), whereas four of the five main Decepticons are planes or helicopters.
- The series Krypto the Superdog featured primarily "Heroic dogs VS evil cats" for their good guys and bad guys. One noteable exception was Streaky, a heroic cat that acted as Krypto's partner for many episodes. There was also Ignatious, Lex Luthor's pet iguana. However, he was more of a Jerk Ass than actually evil.
- The short-lived Sectaurs cartoon. comic, and toyline was an interesting variation on this; the heroes and the villains are all humanoid insects or arachnids. However, the heroes are based on harmless, cool-looking bugs, like beetles and dragonflies, where the villains were based on venomous or frightening ones like wasps and spiders.
- ThunderCats features heroes based on big cats, with the bad guy's main Mooks being an ape-man, a jackal-man, a vulture-man, and a nasty lizard-man.