"Is it just me, or is there something eerie about Scooby? He's not anthropomorphic, exactly, he just speaks English. With a canine accent. It's as if trying to force his tortured vocal cords to form sounds that no loving God ever intended. Was he the result of some madman's blasphemous experiments in creating life? Are the ghosts he's chasing really the ghosts of his own inhuman mind? Should I get out more?"A mandatory requirement for most cartoons since the 1960s — a Non-Human Sidekick that could almost, but not quite, speak English. Often they were smarter than anyone else in the cast. When they weren't, they were dumber than everyone else in the cast. Like Talking Animals, they are still animals in almost every other way, particularly when it comes to instincts, priorities and motivations. They very rarely wear clothes, and they are often vocally proud of the fact they aren't human. Many SIAs lack hands and walk on all fours, negating the possibility of performing many human tasks and behavior, though a few examples are bipedal even if their species isn't naturally so. However, when required by a joke, the SIA can sometimes act like the mostly anthropomorphic Funny Animal (Scooby dressing up in a costume to aid one of Shaggy's elaborate deceptions) or the semi-anthropomorphic Civilized Animal (Astro walking with his arm around George). Sometimes, the SIA can talk eloquently, but no one except maybe other SIAs hear them. This trope is particularly associated with works by Hanna-Barbera.
— Lore Sj÷berg, The Book of Ratings
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Bakarasu from Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger was a raven ("Bakarasu" roughly means "Dumb crow") Boss and his gang used as a lookout or a messenger. In return, Bakarasu mocked Boss, annoyed him and drove him mad. Bakarasu strangely could talk—and laugh, usually at Boss—and theoretically it worked alongside Boss, Nuke and Mucha, but in reality it did whatever it pleased. It only had one appearance in Mazinger Z (episode 69), but he showed up in several Great Mazinger episodes.
- In Digimon Tamers, Marine Angemon's dialogue is unique in that he speaks like he's underwater. Thankfully, his Tamer, Kenta, can understand him. The dub just has Marine Angemon speak short sentences.
- Yumeria: Borderline case: Koneko, Neneko's kitten, who says only "Nono"; this is not the Japanese onomatopoeia for "meow".
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Shou Tucker created two chimeras that could understand and attempt to replicate human speech. They are not cute. They are Tear Jerking Nightmare Fuel creatures, especially once you realize what they're made out of. Poor Nina...
- It's not the Raptor DNA; Elise is part human, so not only can she communicate through sign language, she has a larger understanding of human speech and grammar than other dinosaurs like Rexy and the Raptor Squad.
Films — Animated
- Madagascar: The animals sort of fit. They can understand themselves fine, but when, for example, Alex tries to speak to humans, all the humans hear is roaring. However, some of the animals move in a more humanoid manner (Alex and Gloria).
- In The Lion King, Ed the Hyena can't speak English like Banzai and Shenzi. He only can laugh.
- Abu from Aladdin could not form any recognizable words (although he did say Aladdin's name on at least a couple occasions), but the sounds he made were close enough that if you listened closely you could usually tell what he was saying. Aladdin in particular has no difficulty understanding him, though others like Jasmine do not. The people in the movie treat him as a monkey, and his motives and capabilities reflect this. Contrast with Iago, a Talking Animal who speaks English with grating clarity, and even has a knack for mimicking voices, but still has no physical capabilities beyond that of a parrot. Apparently the idea is Iago lives in a world of speech-impaired animals, but as a parrot, his ability to speak makes him an animal without the speech impediment. In The Return of Jafar, Jafar implies that he taught Iago to speak, probably through training and/or magic: "If it weren't for me, you'd still be in a cage at the bazaar, squawking Polly wants a cracker!".
Films — Live-Action
- Enchanted has Pip the Chipmunk who is a full Talking Animal in Andalasia but is limited to Rufus style squeaks and gestures in our world. Once he gets back to Andalasia he publishes a book about his experience called Silence Isn't Golden.
- Dexter the monkey from Night at the Museum is very similar to Abu (see Disney's Aladdin) in terms of this trope, only without the clothes.
- Jack the Monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean. The best part? Those are spontaneous actions by the monkey! It wasn't supposed to turn around and return Barbossa's incredulous look...along with a bunch of the other Jack the Monkey moments.
- The Cat from Outer Space lost the power to speak, along with telekinesis, whenever its alien-tech collar was removed.
- Daffy Duck lampshades Donald Duck's speech impediment in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- As the animated counterpart, Azrael in The Smurfs (see Western Animation).
- In Gone, Pack Leader, in a non-comedic way.
- In Edward Eager's Half Magic, a girl wishes her cat could speak while holding a magic coin that grants your wishes... but only half-way. The cat could speak, but all its words began, ended, or replaced a syllable with the sound "fitz."
- In The Dark Tower series, a strange creature called Oy can mimic human words, but usually leaves off the first consonant. His species is apparently fairly intelligent, as one was reported to be able to do basic arithmetic.
- Discworld Averted with Gaspode the "Wonder Dog", who can talk just fine except most people only hear him on the subliminal level because few of them are prepared to believe a dog can talk.
- Also, in terms of the "speech impaired" part, it should be noted that Gaspode often, when humans expect him to act like a dog, says things like "bark" and "woof", which sometimes takes the human(s) in question quite a while to realize is not the same as an actual bark.
Live Action TV
- Henrietta Pussycat from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Lore Sjöberg once noted:
I found it particularly eerie that she could only speak English about once every five words; the rest was "meow." It was like the inverse of the Smurf language.
- An earlier show featuring her had only knowing three English words: "telephone", "wonderful", and "Misterogers" [sic].
- Eddie on Frasier. He's a regular dog, except he understands what's happening to a highly intelligent degree.
- Enjuhneer: Tails is a pretty good example.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: Courage seems unable to talk to humans, though he would frequently talk to non-humans and the audience in early seasons. When he does try to communicate with them (usually to warn them of the Monster of the Week) he not only makes gestures and sounds, but also takes the shape of horrible things that scared him. note
- Curious George: Frank Welker repeats Abu's mannerisms in his performances as George.
- Astro from The Jetsons. (In fact it is from 1962 and older than Scooby). The 80's episodes gave us Orbitty (also voiced by Welker).
- In "Elroy's Mob", Astro also writes the same way he speaks.
- Futurama gave us Nibbler (voiced by Frank Welker). Nibbler is intelligent, though usually Obfuscating Stupidity. He occasionally shows more intelligence by vocalizing rapidly and gesturing wildly to indicate danger. And then there's the fact that he's actually a member of an ancient race that can manipulate the minds of others to make it seem like he's speaking their language.
- Rufus from Kim Possible.
- Scooby-Doo: The archetype is the title character, who can speak English, but begins almost every word with an "r", which he rolls a tiny bit, and his voice is a bit growly.
- Weirdly, Scrappy-Doo doesn't have the same impediment. He is from a younger generation than Scooby is, so perhaps the Doos are evolving.
- Wonder Dog from Superfriends.
- Gromit from Wallace & Gromit was completely mute, but his non-verbal expressiveness qualifies him for this trope.
- Brain from Inspector Gadget. During his cameo episode in the spinoff, he's given a voice collar. (revealing that he's understandably shell-shocked.)
- Shag the sheepdog from Road Rovers.
- Spot the cat from Hong Kong Phooey. Which is odd because Hong Kong Phooey himself is a fully anthropomorphic dog.
- Muttley from Wacky Races and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
- The Simpsons: Played a few times with the Simpson's dog, Santa's Little Helper.
Bart! Bart! Bartbartbart!Weeee loooooveee youuuuu!Chewy?
- Mega Man: Rush in the Ruby-Spears cartoon spoke like Scooby-Doo. He was also responsible for all the non-quip comic-relief, which manifested at arbitrary and occasionally inappropriate moments.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Angel, Fluttershy's pet(?) bunny communicates through easily-understood pantomime à la Gromit. Later it's shown that Fluttershy can also translate animal sounds; Angel being The Voiceless anyway is justified since rabbits don't make "animal sounds."
- Played with in one Looney Tunes cartoon with Bob McKimson's hound - without Foghorn Leghorn around to bother him, he was getting bothered by Daffy Duck. As his master, Mrs. Elmer Fudd, hears the parson is visiting for supper and doesn't know what to cook, the dog starts playing Charades with her, pantomiming roast duck. She's not good at playing, and when she finally guesses "roast dog", he has enough and shouts "NO, roast DUCK! D-U-C-K, DUCK! Sheeeesh!!!"
- Perry from Phineas and Ferb never talks other than his little growl, but he's an intelligent character (when he's not covering it up) who seems to quite easily be able to communicate with his nemesis, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Less with the OWCA which he works for. He appears to be able to converse with Doofenshmirtz through mild expressions and sometimes hand gestures (thumbs up), despite being stoic and even managed to make an impression of Candace once.
Dr. Doofenshmirtz: "Don't you roll your eyes at me, Perry the Platypus!"
Dr. Doofenshmirtz: "Why are you looking at me like I'm an idiot?"
- And let's not forget...
Dr. Doofenshmirtz: "So what am I gonna do with the Least-Likely-inator, you ask? Make my daughter obey me? Make my father love me? No, and double no! ...Well, maybe later. But first, I'm gonna aim this bad boy at City Hall and zap my brother the mayor. And he'll MAKE a fool of himself in front of the legislature, which is the least likely thing he'd ever do. And the city will be forced to give the Tri-State Area to me, his next of kin! And don't tell me democracy doesn't work like that, Perry the Platypus. (covers ears) I don't wanna hear it!"
- When Perry gets taken to the pet wash fundraiser and a zoo platypus gets mistaken for Perry:
- Sometimes it's implied that Doofenshmirtz is just interpreting blank expressions however is funniest. Especially when he tells his plan to a potted plant (Perry didn't show up that day) and reacts to its nonexistent responses.
- A good few animated adaptations from the 80's seemed to gain a SIA as a Team Pet or having one as part of the original cast:
- Azrael in The Smurfs is capable of some mildly intelligible phrasing but made of cat-like sounds. He can be understood sometimes as when Gargamel says: "How I hate Smurfs!" and Azrael says "Mew too".
- Zipper in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers is a fly unable to speak clearly with the other (also Talking Animal) characters. Even so other insects seem to be able to speak normally though.
- Some highly intelligent species, e.g, bonobos, gorillas, dolphins, border collies, have been taught to communicate with humans via sign language or by using symbols for words. However, they don't have the same grasp of complex grammar that humans do, but a commercial fooled a lot of viewers. Snopes proves a rumor in an ad of an oranguatan communicating with a young girl to be false.