Grotesque Gallery

Ugly Cute characters, and those trying to design them, walk a thin line. If they run too close to the "Ugly" side of the scale, you can wind up with something that warrants an Nightmare Fuel warning, due to how messed-up it looks.

This basically covers what happens when animators try for Ugly Cute and fail spectacularly. Then again, sometimes the "failure" is intentional. Compare Uncanny Valley.


Examples:

Advertising

Art
  • A completely straight example: When Ed "Big Daddy" Roth designed the characters in Rat Fink, he was aiming for the ugliest creatures in the world. He succeeded.
    • In Tales Of The Ratfink, Ed Roth (voice by John Goodman) describes Ratfink as the Anti-Mickey Mouse so it's kind of fitting.
  • Some of Hieronymus Bosch's paintings might be considered this, such as his painting of Christ Carrying The Cross.
  • Grotesque Old Woman by Quentin Matsys: [3]
  • Francisco De Goya: In his later work the faces of the people on the paintings and drawings look more sinister and grotesque, almost animalistic.
  • Diane Arbus: A photographer renowned for her pictures of eccentric or otherwise bizarre looking people.
  • The 18th century cartoons by James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson.

Comic Books
  • Urbanus: Also a staple in this comic strip where the characters will typically be drawn ugly and vulgar.
  • Haagse Harry: All characters are degrading foul mouthed people from The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Robert Crumb: His creations often show our Crapsack World as a collection of grotesque people. Mr. Snoid is a particular example.
  • The cartoons of Jean-Marc Reiser, Kamagurka, Gotlib, Gummbah... are all typical of this style.

Comic Strips
  • Lena Hyena in Lil Abner, whose face is so ugly that it drives people mad.
  • MAD Magazine:
    • The comics by Basil Wolverton often featured grotesque people, like his iconic parody of Life Magazine [4]
    • Similarly Tom Bunk and Bill Wray (Monroe)'s work is also a collection of ugly people.
    • The magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman symbolizes everything that's uncanny and grotesque about the magazine.

Film
  • The Wizard of Oz has the unspeakably creepy flying monkeys.
  • 1985's Return to Oz has the Wheelers and Jack Pumpkinhead, who then calls Dorothy "Mom"!
  • Federico Fellini's later films are mostly this. He would cast people with grotesque faces, deformities, handicaps or unique bodies. His fascination probably stemmed from the fact that he used to be a caricaturist. His Spiritual Successor David Lynch also thrives on this trope.
  • Jim Henson's Labyrinth. Goblins in a childhood bedroom plus kidnapping plus David Bowie's aggressively bubbling sexuality are bad enough, but then there's those horrible red Fiery puppets who juggled and swapped their body parts and sent their grinning, disembodied heads to chase our fleeing heroine while chanting "We just want to take off your head! Let us have your head!" Horrid.
  • Also all of The Dark Crystal by Jim Henson... though this may have been intentional.
  • Most of Harmony Korine's films, but especially Julien Donkey-Boy and Trash Humpers.
  • E.T. Particularly his weird, spine-like legs. (And especially if you're only three in 1982, there's merchandise everywhere, and nobody has explained to you that E.T. is a friendly alien.)
    • The better to make that intro scene in the garage pants-wettingly frightening with.
    • As such, a lot of the imitators that Followed the Leader make their aliens even uglier, like in Mac and Me or the Turkish ones "Badi" and "Homodi", which throw convincing special effects out for sheer horror.
  • The Jan Švankmajer version of Alice in Wonderland is a severely bad trip.

Literature
  • The picture book Hair in Funny Places is intended to reassure kids about to go through puberty. With pictures of a young girl's insides being taken over by grotesque furry monsters representing hormones.
  • Alice in Wonderland: Half of the people Alice meets in the original book, illustrated by John Tenniel are grotesque. Especially the Duchess and her servant.
  • The Nursery Alice, apparently illustrated by a morbid Impressionist having a very bad acid trip. How it came to be in the children's section is beyond comprehension.
  • Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories has a whole array of weird characters who are kids with strange abilities or deformities, such as Stain Boy (whose only superpower is to leave a nasty stain), the girl who turned into a bed, the pincushion queen and Jimmy the hideous penguin boy. (It's telling that Burton showed Danny DeVito his illustration of Jimmy to give the actor an idea of how they would be approaching the character of The Penguin in Batman Returns.)
  • Gennady Spirin's illustrated edition of The Tale of Gentle Jack and Lord Bumblebee. Spirin's paintings take what the text would seem to indicate is a fairly bland fairy tale involving magical beings who shift between somewhat insect-like humans and somewhat human-like insects from one moment to another, and plunge it straight into an industrial-sized tank with human faces leering in place of compound eyes and mandibles, monstrous bee-knights impaling their enemies on the lance-like stingers springing out of their faces and dying as the ants drag their dismembered bodies down into the eternal darkness under the earth to be fed to the larva...
  • Henrik Drescher's children's book Simon's Book has the young boy Simon being accompanied by two pens and an ink bottle that suddenly comes to life. Not to mention the large menacing monster that chases them throughout the book.

Live-Action TV
  • From Sesame Street.
    • Pictured above are the Martians (aka Yip-Yip Aliens).
    • See also Frazzle, with his largely immobile big-fanged mouth, heavy dark eyebrows, and devil horns. In his case it's harder to believe the effect isn't intentional.
  • Those (un)lucky enough to grow up in Chicagoland (and various syndication markets) in the late '70s may have been "treated" to Gigglesnort Hotel, which featured a number of rather grotesquely modelled puppet characters; most notable was Blob, a literal blob of (apparently living) clay "statuary" who would regularly have his facial features remolded by the human host as he moaned and bellowed in a rather ghastly wordless voice.
  • Most of the characters on The League of Gentlemen are played by the same three actors, so they need to use various prosthetics to differentiate between roles. Some of them (Tubbs and Edward, in particular) are quite hideous.
  • The '80s French program Téléchat. The Joueur du Grenier (the French equivalent of The Angry Video Game Nerd) even dedicated his first Special to this show and how it abused this trope to no end.
  • Spitting Image: This satirical puppets series made caricatures of celebrities into puppets. Many of them look absolutely grotesque to downright ugly.
  • Australian children in the early 90s were treated to the program Mulligrubs, as seen here. The main character/presenter was a garishly made-up, disembodied human face on a gray background, which spoke directly to the viewer in Baby Talk despite obviously being an adult woman's voice creepily distorted by Auto-Tune.

Music and Music Videos
  • Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At" is an upbeat-sounding dance song, but the video has monkeys with human faces who, after playing guitars a bit, chase a man through a science lab, tearing through safety nets, before the man is captured in a Mad Scientist's experiment, where people have their heads switched with animals.
  • Music videos by Aphex Twin often feature characters with Richard D. James' warped, grinning face; others, like Rubber Johnny, feature far worse things.
  • Many videos by Marilyn Manson.

Theme Parks
  • There are more than a few examples of terror to be found in good old Disney Theme Parks. Simply put, there is a darn good reason why The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World has a whole chapter heading about "Disney, Kids, and Scary Stuff".

Toys
  • Nutcrackers are not festive symbols of holiday cheer. They are terrible, grimacing figures of rage with toothy, lipless mouths that open into their chests. That they are generally dressed in military garb and carry weapons does not help. And since they're made to, you know, crack nuts, it's easy for a child's mind to seize onto the idea of them crushing other things, such as the bones in one's fingers. Overexposure may numb the terror, but won't remove the underlying wrongness of the malevolent, garish things. How something so ghastly became a symbol of yuletide festivities is absolutely baffling.
  • Boglins are incredibly gross looking.
  • Bobbleheads are weird looking because of their abnormally large heads.

Video Games
  • Any character from Psychonauts is quirky at least (the camp kids are odd but still relatively cute) and often bizarre (characters like Loboto, Crispin, and most of the mental realms' inhabitants).

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog uses this trope on a regular basis.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven has King Gator, the grotesquely animated crocodile who has horrified children for years with his sexually ambiguous nature and innuendo (specifically, the song "Let's Make Music Together").
    • It's more likely that the kids were scared by the fact that there actually IS an alligator living in the sewers. It contributed nicely to the general creepiness of the whole world.
  • Rankin and Bass' animated version of The Hobbit is a notorious case of going for characters that are so ugly they're cute and... failing. Badly.
    • "We hates it... hates it... FOREVER!"
      • "Is it... scrumptious? Will it taste... delicious?" ...It wiiiiill.
    • The wood elves.
      • Most of the hobbits (with the exceptions of Frodo, Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin) especially Samwise from Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings are hideously deformed creatures with bulging eyeballs and jagged teeth.
  • Filmation is almost as bad at this. See Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night.
  • Lots of stuff in The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, like the plague victims in the episode where Flapjack gets a pet rat, and the sea monster things from "How the West Was Fun"!
  • Candle Cove. Good heavens, Candle Cove.
  • A few in Invader Zim were especially ugly. Bloaty comes to mind. There were also a lot of grotesque background characters who ranged from unpleasantly greasy to clearly disfigured.
  • Most anything in John Kricfalusi's oeuvre.
  • South Park: Plays with this trope whenever scenarios take place with handicapped or mentally challenged people. Though it also subverts this by making people like Timmy and Jimmy recurring characters so that we, as viewers, get used to their bizarre looks.
  • The Simpsons: Some citizens, like Homer Simpson, Barney Gumble, Moe, Mr. Burns, Patty & Selma, Lunchlady Doris and Krusty the Clown fit this trope exactly.

Real Life
  • A real-life equivalent were the Come to Gawk sideshows, carnivals, and fairs in the 19th and early 20th century where people could come and watch people with special handicaps, illnesses, birth defects or just from some exotic culture.
  • Many documentary makers and photographers look for places like this.
  • Any place where a large number of people with a similar special interest gather together (fan conventions, festivals, contests, press meetings, gala premiers, honorary events,...) may get this feeling from outsiders.