Uncanny Valley: Western Animation
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"Have you ever met my candy wife?"
- The Fleischer cartoons that pioneered rotoscoping can fall into this at times. Just look at Bamboo Isle, in which Betty Boop's massive, misshapen cranium is put on an actual hula-dancer's body. There it was probably unintentional, but everything about Minnie the Moocher seems precisely calculated to terrify, from the use of rotoscoping to make a walrus-man ghost dance like Cab Calloway to the dark lyrics of the song he sings to, well, everything else in the cartoon. Take a look here.
- This trope is brilliantly alluded to, and parodied, in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Frankendoodle." The drawings of the characters that come to life are described in-universe as being "kinda creepy when they move." And Patrick is obviously put off by Doodlebob because he resembles, but never entirely imitates, Spongebob. In universe, Doodlebob is seen as disturbing, unsettling, and creepy.
- In a Transformers example, though it's not obvious to the viewer due to the animation style, this is implied to be why Transformers Animated's Sari is despised by other children.
- One of the many complaints leveled against Beast Machines are the designs of the Maximals, all of whom have very humanlike features despite being alien robots. Nightscream is the worst offender: unsightly, scrawny body, a hunchback, Creepy Long Fingers, an incredibly humanlike face with gigantic, widely-spaced eyes, nostril-like holes on his forehead, and a clump of actual hair dangling in front of his face, which looks like a piece of flesh due to the CGI's limitations. Blackarachnia is a close second: her extra eyes deliberately invoked this, but when closed, the give her a giant forehead. Her hair also looks like a clump of tissue.
- If you think the character designs in Sofia the First are ugly with its own characters, wait until you see your favorite Disney Princesses in the CGI style! You'll have nightmares!
- Skyland, a motion-captured 3D-modeled cartoon, attempts to make things look more stylish by cel-shading it afterward. This backfires, though, making the characters look inhumanly polished and sending the entire thing plummeting into the Uncanny Valley.
- Debatable. It's actually really beautiful despite this.
- In a similar vein, Iron Man: Armored Adventures.
- Letter TV, a low-budget CGI educational program for children, seems to have fallen squarely into the valley's nadir.
- Math Girl: A series of semi-animated CGI shorts with writing that seems aimed at children, subject matter (calculus) aimed at high school and college students, and extremely frenetic, jerky pacing that makes actually learning anything unlikely. The characters are right in Uncanny Valley, helped by the creepy Exorcist-style theme music. The temptation to shut it off or vocally make fun of it is nearly unbearable, but unfortunately, this is rather hard to do in a classroom setting.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog was a very frightening cartoon for many, often skipping the "comedy" part of its "horror-comedy". By far, the most frightening episode was the Grand Finale: "Perfect". Courage had a series of nightmares where he was declared "not perfect" by what appears to be a blue half-human, half-octustingray thingy◊.
- In the "Kitty & Bunny" episode, Kitty before removing the mask qualifies, and the atmosphere and music certainly doesn't help. Doc Gerbil's World is equally mindrending.
- Mr Meaty was made of this. Especially the two main characters◊.
- Intentionally invoked in The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack with this image◊ of the titular Flapjack.
- Also parodied in an episode of Chowder with a pink, badly CGI'd dancing pig-baby (probably a parody of the infamous CGI Dancing Baby), whose mere existence instills great horror (and grief) on those who watch it.
- Also invoked for many of the villains in The Real Ghostbusters. One of the most traumatic characters for anybody growing up in the 1980s might have been their Boogey Man.
- If you're still not clear on what the Uncanny Valley looks like, watch Sid The Science Kid.
- That show is unique, in that Henson Studios uses a technique that combines CGI Motion-Capture with actual puppetry. The actors are "filmed" in real time as the CGI characters. As little post-production as possible is used.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer briefly imagines his children as "mutants" with pinkish skin, five-fingered hands and eyes with irises. The camera briefly cuts to a more realistic rendering of Bart, Lisa and Maggie. Homer, like the rest of us, screams and runs far, far away.
- The original show has nothing on the depths into the Uncanny Valley the fans will boldly go. Michael Swaim gives us The 7 Creepiest Simpson Fan Tributesnote . The title is most certainly accurate.
- In the episode were Gabbo was introduced, Krusty tries to compete with his own ventriloquism number, using a puppet that looks rather creepy. And then the puppet loses its lower jaw. From this point on, things go downhill rather quickly.
- This Butterfinger commercial shows Homer from an angle that doesn't make him look like Homer anymore.
- A throwaway gag in the season 5 episode "Rosebud" has George H.W. Bush rejected from Mr. Burns birthday celebration for only serving one term as president. His caricature is mildly offputting, especially when he says "Get away from me, loser" to Jimmy Carter.
- Many of the celebrity guest appearances come across as this, basically looking like traced photos with minimal to no effort to make them fit in with the Simpsons art style. The result is often incredibly unsettling.
- In the 1960s there were action animated shows (often based on Marvel Comics) that actually were not animated at all. Yes, apparently they reached a new low in how to be cheap on animation. But how did they handle the characters talking? Simple! When a character spoke, that character would be a still drawing with a human mouth on the face speaking. This is called Synchro-Vox and it gave off what is arguably the first and one of the creepier examples of Uncanny Valley in North American animation. Say what you will about the 1970s being a Dark Age for TV animation, but by that time that practice was no longer the least bit common. (Nowadays it's only very rarely used for comedic effect and for the Annoying Orange series, where two of the same human eye and a human mouth are used to make talking inanimate objects.)
- Intentionally invoked in Batman: The Animated Series, part two of "Heart of Steel". The robotic replacements for Gotham's citizens look perfectly normal, but move in increasingly impossible ways - such as their heads spinning around to look at things, or crouching and leaping in a terrifyingly inhuman manner.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, Static Shock, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, Toyman version for DCAU falls into this trope, with his very big toy head.
- In the Powerpuff Girls episode "Knock It Off", the Big Bad creates an army of PPG imitations, but with shoddy worksmanship. The scariest ones are those who are only slightly different from the originals.
- Arguably, the Powerpuffs themselves. As the characters are designed to look ridiculously cute, they have rather big eyes, and a lack of fingers, toes, noses, and ears. A number of jokes in the show revolve around their appearance because of this, and there's even an episode that showed what would happen if the Freak Lab Accident never occurred and girls turn out to be the Run of the Mill Girls instead, without their unique cuteness features. Now try retaining these features in a hypothetical Live-Action Adaptation. Still think they'd be cute?
- The infamous Pingu episode Pingu Dreams became a Missing Episode because of this. If you need evidence, just look at the series' page.
- Video Brinquedo defies the Uncanny Valley chart quite a bit. Despite the fact that the human similarity to characters is as big as in any cartoon characters, their familiarity index is much lower than it should be.
- Same goes for its American equivalent, Spark Plug Entertainment.
- An episode of The Fairly Oddparents had Timmy's dad using a rather creepy puppet of his mom, who is now too busy working as Dimmsdale's new weatherperson. It even creeps Timmy out.
Timmy's Dad: I don't know [if Mom would get this upset]. Let's ask while I'm drinking a glass of water!
Sockpuppet Mom: I think you're being too hard on Timmy.
Timmy's Dad: *Spit Take*
Oh, sure! Take his side!
Timmy: No amount of therapy will ever make this moment okay.
- Anyone who's ever taken a German class and had to sit through episodes of the series Hallo Aus Berlin will have been subjected to Rolli und Rita, the creepiest creations ever to come out of computer animation. See for yourself.
- Dirtgirlworld. Oh God, dirtgirlworld!
- Glenn Martin DDS: All of the characters look like an unholy hybrid between Sloth and Quasimodo.
- Parodied in an episode of The Tick where a department store security guard complains that the store's animatronic Santa Claus is re-appearing in his nightmares. This gets aggravated when Santa's head gets torn off and thrown into his lap.
"I may never sleep again"
- Avatar: The Last Airbender invokes this with the brainwashed Joo Dee(s) during the gang's visit to Ba Sing Se.
- Invader Zim, in a way similar to the Mars Needs Moms, example had the Irkens looking better than the humans! Dib, Gaz, and some of the adults could pass, but a lot of the other adults were....creepy. That lady with the weird boil on her head who lived next door to Zim may have been more scary that the invading aliens.
- Quest for Zhu, a direct to DVD movie features some of the ugliest hamsters in cartoon history which look nothing like their toy counterparts.
- BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn used the actual LEGO toys as its character models with an absolutely minimal amount of tweaking, to make them seem more realistic while still keeping the intended "toy look". One added feature was the rotten-looking teeth and weird lips formed by a second row of mechanical teeth that slid over the real ones, but their true jaw-line still remained apparent. When they smiled, it looked horrifying.
- The earlier movies also had shades of this, not with the designs (which did their best to avert this by redesigning the characters from their toy looks) but the animation itself. The movements in the first two were often very choppy, with the characters turning stiff a lot. Then, there are Tahu's cheeks, which flap like tissue as he performs a skydive inside a volcano, despite his mask being supposedly solid metal. Given that the mask has an odd, organic-looking design with many tubes running across it, this flapping makes it look like he has his facial muscles exposed.
- The Delightful Children From Down The Lane in Codename: Kids Next Door are pretty much in and out universe Uncanny Valley fuel, due to their Voice of the Legion, blank eyes, and sociopathic qualities, not to mention a slight Non-Standard Character Design. They're arguably the scariest aspect of the series.
- Lenny (The football helmet) averts this when he betrays them for the K.N.D. He's still a bit weird, but seems like a normal kid with a nasally lisp thanks to his headgear. Then he dives headfirst back into the creepy hole when he reveals himself as a triple agent. He slides back into his place in the group with a slurping sound.
- Phineas and Ferb manages to avert this because it's so highly stylized...but then people went ahead to make giant 3D costumes of the characters. Just... look◊.
- In the South Park episode "Free Willzyx", the announcers from the marina hand out very photorealistic artist's impressions of the boys. Since by that time the viewer has gotten used to South Park's cutout style of drawing, the photorealism of the drawings is a little off-putting for them. Just check them out...◊
- Franklin in the new Franklin And Friends series. It's an All-CGI Cartoon but the animation is actually pretty top quality. Everyone looks fine.. Except for the turtles◊. The series is going for a realistic look but the turtles are just too cartoony.
- Rugrats: The original pilot. The animation is much more detailed and makes the characters look ugly or downright monstrous, especially the necks.
- This poster for a live-action Marsupilami movie in France. Be warned, your childhood may be destroyed if you follow the link.
- Allen Gregory: The characters just look off.
- Allen himself suffers the most from this. He looks like a ventriloquist dummy with huge Vocal Dissonance.
- Baby Jake , part of The BBC's latest line of What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs? programming that is actually meant for toddlers. Words just cannot describe it, and the only thing deeper into the valley than the show itself are the toys (see Toys section).
- Bob's Burgers: The characters look a cross between Muppets and Worms.
- My Life Me: The characters move like marionettes and the character designs just look weird.
- Some video series for little kids involves insects called Hermie the Caterpillar, an Animated Adaptation of a series of books by Max Lucado. Some of the bugs are just a little bit creepy, thanks to No Flow in CGI, but special mention goes to two ladybugs named Hailey and Bailey whose eyes are just too big for their vaguely human-looking faces.note
- Season 2 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is riddled with shots which slip into the valley, usually head-on shots of the characters' faces. One suggestion as to the cause of this is the animators for Season 2 making the mouths substantially wider than was done in Season 1.
- Family Guy suffered from the uncanny valley for the first few seasons until it got popular enough to have a bigger budget. Most of the characters moved quite stiffly and facial expressions were also just as stiff. Peter also suffered from glitches in the animations, such as his eyes suddenly growing bigger or how his tongue stuck out in odd places when he talked. As the series progressed, the characters' movements improved and their facial expressions are a lot smoother.
- This eventually gets lampshaded by Brian and Stewie when they go back in time to the pilot episode and they witness the oddities themselves.
- Any Futurama Fan-Art that portrays remotely non-human characters in a more realistic drawing style. It's a given that if Leela's eye wasn't a simple oval and black dot, Fry would be unable to look at her, much less have sex with her.
- Actually, that's probably how many people in-universe see her. From The Cyber House Rules...
No one's stared at me, or avoided staring at me, or tried to burn
- The character designs used in the Uncancelled seasons of Dexter's Laboratory. Dee-Dee and Mom have soulless-looking eyes and Dexter looks squashed.
- Dexter's dad got hit just as bad. His character design looks misshapen and badly-proportioned.
- Adventure Time makes use of this trope a lot when creating a character who is supposed to be off-putting.
- Lemongrab. In a show where almost all the characters have black dots for eyes, his eyes are jarring. Lemongrab, with his Non-Standard Character Design, has realistic eyes- white ovals with dark pupils, Dull Eyes of Unhappiness that just look wrong when they're not exaggerated into cartoonish outrage or fear.
- The scene of Lemongrab's creation, and coming to life, deliberately invokes this trope. The reaction Princess Bubblegum has to her failed experiment is the same reaction the audience has to him, too.
- Goliad has the voice of a little girl and the head of a baby, and uses People Puppets as a means of ruling the kingdom. These generic cute characteristics paired together with the body of a sphinx make her incredibly unsettling. It doesn't help that Goliad is also HUGE, and runs/leaps like a lion would. That eye that comes out of her forehead notably makes her face even more disturbing, to the point where Jake actually gets disgusted.
- Marceline's Dad moves like a marionette on mismatched strings- his walk is just creepy.
- Princess Monster Wife. The Ice King assembled PMW from body parts stolen from his favorite princesses. Imagine Frankenstein's Monster, but as a big, bulky princess with grossly mismatched arms, legs, and parts of her face. Her voice consists of three simultaneous voices of the princesses who compose her mouth. The most unsettling scene with PMW is when she is trying to eat. She lifts a spoonful of mashed potatoes to her mouth, but she is unable to eat because her mouth is so misshapen. The food dribbles out. (The fact that Princess Monster Wife is a sweet, kind, and genuinely sad character softens the blow of the uncanny valley a little bit, though.)
- Guardian Angel. Cartoonish eyes mixed with a realistically drawn, skeleton mouth.
- The Scrodinger's Cat/Demon Cat... thing... with the broken, floating legs...
- THE LICH. He is literally a moving corpse! A skeleton half-covered in dead, tattered flesh. And he moves. Lich-posessed Princess Bubblegum and Lich-posessed Snail deserve special mention, too.
- Some fans had this reaction to Susan Strong. She has the same simple face, eyes, and head as the other characters, but has a disproportionately large body, and it is a very muscular, realistically-drawn body. Unlike the other examples, she was intended to be appealing- not unsettling.
- Some of the more non-cartoonish expressions, in a similar manner to the infamous "She's Here" scene of Flapjack... such as Finn's "Four Weeks" face, and that horrifying face he makes when a drop of water comes towards him.
- RICARDIO. A cartoonish heart with the realistically drawn face of George Takei.
- Sometimes, Cinnamon Bun falls into this trope, because of the way his mouth is drawn. His green eyes (prior to his redesign) were hella creepy, too.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Its CGI has not aged well, and suffers from ugly looking character designs.
- The 2010 reboot of Pound Puppies. Its art style is a odd mix of "cutesy" and "cartoonish" that often doesn't mesh well.
- The animation has improved significantly, thanks to production being moved to the same company that produces My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, but the first seven episodes are quite... interesting in their animation style.
- The original drawing of the main six from Recess certainly falls into this (Unfortunately, there's no image available)
- And while the whole thing hasn't been shown to the public, from the clips that were shown, the series pilot could also fall into this for those who are really used to the character designs in the show, as the gang were going to be more realistic.
- Almost all of Toon City's episodes fall straight into the valley.
- Just about every short on KaBlam! except Sniz & Fondue and The Offbeats.
- The worst offenders would have to be Garbage Boy and The Shizzagee from season four, the latter especially for the CGI which not only hasn't aged well, but was outdated even from the beginning when it was made in 2000, making it look slightly better than Video Brinquedo.
- This is a complaint levied by some viewers of certain of the human characters in Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot. Joy from "Sad About You" is a good example.
- The appearance of the Beauty and the Beast characters in the CGI interstitial segments shown on Disney Junior.
- While the characters on King of the Hill are mostly in line, there are a few occasions where they slip into this trope, like some of Hank's "bwaah" faces from a a few early episodes.
- Disney's Electric Holiday. It starts out as an adorable short about Minnie Mouse dreaming of entering a fashion show... but then it gets to the catwalk.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) seems to intentionally do this to the Kraang, where, while stylized, the Kraang's disguises are always a simple, droll businessman, whose face and eyes almost never move. It's sort of creepy.
- The episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show "Hermit Ren" features a creepy cave mummy in the cave where Ren plans to spend the rest of his life. The mummy itself may qualify, but it definitely qualifies during a scene when Ren begins to slip into insanity and sees his face on the mummy, thus giving many 90's kids nightmares. Not helped by the implication that the mummy is actually a dead body.
- The infamous ending bumper to [adult swim] featured a pair of bleary eyes being greeted by the grinning sun from behind a hill, and the text THE DAWN IS YOUR ENEMY. The creepy drone music didn't help matters either.
- Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends is this to some fans after the show's format was converted from using model trains to CGI with the characters actually moving their mouths while they talk.
- Even worse than CGI Thomas was the short-lived pre-schoolers' show: Jay Jay The Jet Plane. Imagine Thomas the Tank Engine, except the trains are planes instead and they have more human-like skin tones and facial features instead of Thomas' completely white faces and cartoony features.
- This is pretty prevalent in Storm Hawks Every person and thing moves awkwardly and resembles really, really, really poorly built robots.
- Most anything drawn by animator Peter Chung, which includes works like his well known MTV cartoon series Ĉon Flux, and for doing animated stories for The Animatrix and the Dark Fury special in the Riddick series (also Reign: The Conqueror, but that one's an anime example due to being a Japanese/Korean co-production). Most of his characters (like Aeon Flux herself) look downright anorexic, and as Pan Pizza from Rebel Taxi put it "is it possible to have TOO MUCH animation?", stating that the style really takes some getting used to.
- One of the most common complaints about the character designs in Code Lyoko is that the foreheads of most every character looks gigantic, and is often the butt (or head?) of many a joke made by both fans and non-fans alike. Most people are usually able to look past this oddity once they really get into the show's character driven storylines (and later more complex plots).
- Archer: The stiff animation and semi-photorealistic character designs can cause this reaction in some viewers.
- Mr. Pickles is drawn in a horrifying, grotesque style that makes the characters look absolutely◊ hideous◊. It really looks like the animators were going for a mixture of Uncanny Valley and Squick.
- Most of the human characters in George Pal's Puppetoons have cartoony and simplistic designs, so when a "realistic" one appears it tends to come across as unsettling.