Narrative Shapeshifting

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An Intellectual Animal in a cartoon just saw something strange land in the cornfields. It is something beyond description. The animal wants to tell his owners about the dangerous thing he just saw. Unfortunately, he can't talk. So how does he convey what he saw? He alters his physical appearance to resemble the strange thing he just saw.

It's a form of Voluntary Shapeshifting in which one character changes his appearance to tell a story or warn of a danger, especially if that character cannot speak or has trouble speaking. It could be especially jarring if the character shows no signs of being able to shapeshift in any other time.

The character does not have to be The Speechless in order to invoke this trope, and may indeed combine shapeshifting with spoken dialogue to get the idea of the story he is telling across.

A minor variation is when a speechless character attempts to warn the others of the impending danger by playing a nice game of charades.


Examples

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     Anime and Manga  
  • Pokémon: Ash's Pikachu has pulled on its face to imitate humans and other Pokemon on occasion.
  • The opening credits of My Neighbor Totoro.
  • Despite not being mute (quite the contrary), Mako in Kill la Kill turns into several other characters and things during her crazy monologues that happen Once an Episode.

     Film  
  • In Enchanted, the chipmunk can't speak outside the fairy tale world, so he tries using charades to warn Prince Edward that Nathaniel is planning to poison Giselle with an apple. It doesn't work; Edward just thinks the chipmunk is praising his greatness.
  • In The Little Mermaid, as Flounder tells King Triton where he and Ariel have been, he briefly turns into a seagull when he comes to the part when they talk to Scuttle.
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, when Mindy talks about the "cyclops" to SpongeBob and Patrick, her eyes merge into one big eye.
  • Abu and Iago do this in Aladdin.
    • The Genie is likely to have done this as well.

     Literature 
  • Greg Egan included a subtle and rare literary example in his Orthogonal trilogy. One application of the Starfish Aliens' Shapeshifting ability is that they write by raising shaped ridges on their skin, then dusting their skin with dye and pressing it to paper for posterity, like a stamp. But when characters can't hear each other, either because the environment is too noisy or because they are in the silent vacuum of space, they can also communicate by "writing" notes on their skin for others to read.

     Video Games  

  • Mario in Super Mario RPG uses this to get around his Heroic Mime status. Whenever someone asks for an explanation of the game's events, Mario will flawlessly imitate others' appearance, and give a general imitation of their Voice Grunting, while acting out the scenes in charades. The first time he does this, his Bowser impression is good enough to send everyone in the room into a panic.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, after the first segment in Hyrule Castle, Midna briefly shapeshifts into screaming images of Ilia and Colin to get Link to help her, as a rather mean-spirited way reminding Link that It's Personal for him.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, this appears to be the case when Link is telling the Funny Joke to the depressed boy, as Link's body contorts in ways never before seen from our favorite Heroic Mime.

     Western Animation  

  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Courage would often do this to warn Eustace and Muriel of the Monster of the Week.
    • In one episode, Muriel doesn't understand what he's trying to warn her about since she can't "hear" him without her glasses on.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Scooby would also do this to tell the others about the monster.
    • The other incarnations of Scooby-Doo may have done this to some degree, but not as much.
  • In Doug, Porkchop briefly turns the same color as Mr. Dink and replicates his laugh to suggest to Doug that they visit Mr. Dink for assistance.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "Of Feline Bondage", Jerry uses this trope to tell his fairy godmother about his cat troubles.
  • A Simpsons short on The Tracey Ullman Show had Maggie briefly turn into Bart in order to convey the idea "Bart stole the cookies."
  • Doom Kitty in Ruby Gloom uses her extremely thin, flexible and strong tail to make shapes - not strictly shapeshifting, but it does alter her appearance after a fashion. Of course, only Ruby can understand her.
  • In the South Park episode "Up the Down Steroid", Timmy attempts to tell Mr. Mackey about Jimmy using steroids, but doesn't have much luck since all he can say is "Timmy" and "Jimmy". So he mimics Jimmy shooting up and then getting all muscular, but Mr. Mackey still doesn't get it.
    • In "A Very Crappy Christmas", Stan is told to fill in for Cartman for the boys' cartoon. When imitating Cartman, Stan briefly gains his double-chin.
  • Baby Beaker in Muppet Babies, explaining his fear of the monster under his bed to the other babies (since, like Adult Beaker, all he can say is "Meep!").
  • Slimer does this a few times in The Real Ghostbusters, especially when he gained a more prominent place.
  • Robin in Teen Titans Go! is really good at mimicking other characters. He mimics Batman, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven at one point or another, taking on their general shape while doing their best impressions of those characters.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Camping Episode", Squidward gains SpongeBob's eyelashes and buck teeth when imitating his Annoying Laugh.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone", Rainbow Dash does an imitation of Twilight and her hairstyle briefly straightens up to match her's.
    • In "Celestial Advice", Spike quotes some advice from Rarity and, in addition to imitating her Mid-Atlantic accent, briefly slicks back his scales to resemble her trademark mane-style.
    • In "Rock Solid Friendship", Pinkie Pie briefly imitates Maud's mane and deadpan expression while quoting her.
  • Justified in Beetlejuice, as Beetlejuice shapeshifts on a regular basis anyway.
  • In the Mike, Lu & Og episode "Repeat After Me", parrot Skipper repeats Mike's comments about Og's "dorky hairdo" while his head feathers take on said do.

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