One trope that catches animators when portraying fish, cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) and pinniped (walrus, seal) characters in cartoons is to have them walk on their tailfins (or tail flukes if a cetacean or back feet if a pinniped) when on land. This makes even less sense than a cow with a prehensile tail - cow tails are relatively rigid, but prehensile tails are viable, whereas tailfins just aren't meant to support an animal's weight - but it's easier to show a fish walking on its tailfins than on its pelvic fins.
This is a subtrope to Feather Fingers
Anime & Manga
- This is an explicit rule of mermaids in One Piece. Around age thirty their tail fin splits in two enabling walking on land (among other things). They're also capable of moving around on their tailfins however.
- Mermaids in A Centaur's Life are shown to do this in shallow water, sort of, with several feet of tail extending behind them.
- Charlie Tuna from the StarKist commercials.
- Subverted with Fish Police. While the characters are in the upright, fins-at-bottom position of most humanoid fish characters, they seem to float more than walk.
- The fish in Shark Tale sometimes walk on their tailfins, but they stay in the water the whole time.
- This is averted with the shark characters, however.
- Averted with the fish in The Little Mermaid except during the "Under the Sea" song, where they walk on their own tailfins underwater.
- House of Mouse normally averts this with Ariel, who either shows up as a human or a mermaid, but plays this straight with her father King Triton.
- Some Disney Princess artwork showing the princesses in a group will for some reason show Ariel as a mermaid, and standing on her tail!
- Melody briefly does this in the sequel as well, more specifically during "For a Moment".
- Averted in Madagascar 2: The shark that follows Morty onto the beach, through the jungle and into a volcano doesn't walk, it just lunges forward repeatedly.
- Averted in the fourth Ice Age film. Flynn, the seal, doesn't walk, he moves by slithering along.
- The fish character in the Disney live action Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton.
- Willie the Operatic Whale in Make Mine Music, although it was only during his daydreams.
- Fish from Chicken Little.
- Kenny and the other fish characters in Kenny The Shark walk on their tailfins on land.
- In one of The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror episodes, the dolphins who took over the earth walked on their tail flukes when on land.
- Dr. Blowhole from The Penguins of Madagascar stands on his tail flukes and moves around on a scooter but he cannot walk.
- Jabberjaw, as seen in the page pic.
- Misterjaw in the 90-minute The Pink Panther show
- Pearl, the whale character from Spongebob Squarepants.
- Rare pelvic fin variant: The fish characters in the same show.
- An old cartoon had a female competitive swimmer win the trophy, we pull back, revealing her to be a mermaid, and she walks away by tip-toeing on her tail fin.
- Animalympics has the dolphin Mark Spritz and the orca Ono Nono stand and walk on their flukes.
- The water-fearing mermaid in American Dragon: Jake Long was guilty of this on occasion. Averted with the older mermaid who was Jake's principal, who hid her tail by using a wheelchair.
- Sometimes played straight and sometimes averted in Chuck Jones' adaptation of The White Seal.
- The fish in Fish Hooks all stand and walk this way. And yes, their tails look absolutely nothing like actual fish tails at all!
- Narwhal on Almost Naked Animals.
- Sally the fish on Scaredy Squirrel plays this straight, although she also averts Fin Fingers.
- One episode of Arthur featured an Imagine Spot where Buster Baxter envisions himself as a fish-based supervillain who lives inside a space station shaped like a giant crab, and plans to take over the world by hypnotizing fish so that they do this to "eat land people."
- Played with with Darwin the goldfish from The Amazing World of Gumball; Darwin's pelvic fins have turned into actual legs and feet so he can walk.
- Marina from Zig And Sharko does this whenever she's on land. (Maybe intended as a poke at this, in the episode "Fancy Footwork", she actually has a harder time standing and walking on her magically-granted legs than she normally does on her tailfin)
- Moosel from The Wuzzles.
- Bull Sharkowski and Phineas Porpoise from My Gym Partners A Monkey walk on their tails, which is a little strange in the show as all the other fish and cetacean students and teachers are unable to do so.
- This trope occurs in water in a standard training routine in shows with trained dolphins.
- Small wild dolphins and porpoises sometimes do this too, while "spyhopping" to look above the surface.
- Played with by sea lions, who turn their rear flippers out to the sides when they hunch their way along level ground, alternately supporting their weight on their widely-spread front flippers and paired hind ones. They can't, however, actually stand upright this way.
- Sirenomelia, also called mermaid syndrome, occurs in human beings when the legs fail to separate in the womb. It is linked to kidney problems.