Cow and Chicken was an animated television series, running from July 1997 to July 1999. Cow and Chicken are sister and brother, a cow and a chicken, with human parents. The creators were faced with the question of whether and how to explain this scenario. Sometimes opening credits are cumbersome vehicles for an origin story. David Feiss approached this problem in the series' opening title sequence:
This is all that is ever offered in explanation, although in one episode, their father threatens to send both Cow and Chicken back to 'the orphanage'.Cow and Chicken's extended family consists of various other types of animals, including Cousin Boneless, who is a boneless chicken (unable to walk or get up from the floor); Snail Boy, a snail; Cousin Black Sheep, a sheep; and Sow, an evil pig. They also have an uncle Longhorn Steer, who appears in "Professor Longhorn Steer". The episode "Happy Meat" also showed the ghosts of a pair of Cow and Chicken's ancestors, a male (human) farmer married to a female chicken. Friends and close associates include Chicken's two buds Flem and Earl, and a loud and obnoxious school teacher. And then of course, there's the Red Guy, who they run into frequently in various guises.Initially, the show included a Three Shorts format with two Cow and Chicken episodes and one of I Am Weasel. Later on, I Am Weasel was spun off into its own series.As of March 2013 you can find the series on Netflix.
Contains examples of:
Abusive Parents: Red's mother feeds him gruel and keeps challenging him to fight her like a man.
Ambiguously Gay - Pretty much everyone at one point or another has had a Gay Moment, but the Red Guy is the only character on the show whose consistent effeminate mannerisms may be a sign that he's a homosexual.
An Aesop: Averted. Starting halfway through Season Two ("Buffalo Gals", specifically), an episode would end with a character, usually Red Guy, announcing, "There's a moral to this story...", and most of the time, those so-called morals were pretty irrelevant to the actual story. These "morals" became more frequent towards the end of Season Three, to the point that almost every other episode ended with these moments.
Art Evolution: While the show was always pretty well animated (for a crudely animated show made on the heels of Ren and Stimpy's popularity in the early 1990s), as the series progressed the color palette became richer and the line work was stronger. Compare the look of Season 1 and the look of Season 4 and you'll see the difference.
Both Season 3 and 4 are very consistent, Season 2 is like a transition season: the first handful of episodes look like a slightly improved version of Season 1, while the rest of the season better resembles the following two.
Be Careful What You Wish For: In an episode of the same name - Chicken wishes for Cow to shut up, which backfires when she is unable to A) warn him of dangerous traffic, and B) speak in his defense in court.
Also, Red Guy, depending on what the situation of the episode calls for: most of the time, he is the villain, who doesn't care if either Cow or Chicken are hurt, or even killed, while on a few occasions, he is actually somewhat helpful to them (specifically when he poses as some kind of teacher or instructor).
Credits Gag: During Season 1, whatever aliases that Red Guy posed as in the entire half hour episode is how he would be listed during the closing credits. For example, in "Confused / The Molting Fairy", Red Guy poses as a drill sergeant, a sensitivity trainer named Mrs. Beaver, Larry the Molting Fairy, and his brother the Scab Fairy... so, rather than listing, "Charlie Adler as Cow/Chicken/The Red Guy", the listing would be, "Charlie Adler as Cow/Chicken/Drill Sergeant/Mrs. Beaver/Larry/Scab Fairy".
The episode "Cow's Toys" has Tom Kenny voice an unnamed little girl (you know it's him because "she" sounds like Heffer Wolfe from Rocko's Modern Life).
A Day in the Limelight: Red Guy had a hilarious "tour de forced" episode where he throws himself a birthday party... "Oh birthday boy, add one more year! Oh birthday boy, with the big fat rear!"
And just a couple of episodes later, Flem and Earl had one where they believe they're lost at sea, and reminisce about past events that never really happened, such as eating cheese in France, being chased by bulls in Spain, and hanging out in a milk bar in Germany.
A little more literal example from "The Ugliest Weenie", but also later serves as a subversion. In Cow's play, weenies want to be picked by The Giant Hand, Cow's character tries to help Chicken as the Ugliest Weenie, though it doesn't work, and The Giant Hand picks her instead; shortly thereafter, all the weenies learn that to be picked by The Giant Hand pretty much them being prepared for their doom (being roasted and cooked over fire and subsequently eaten).
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Chicken once had no choice but to allow his cousin Snail to join his team for a relay race. Snail's adversaries fell into this trope. Chicken even told them they could just keep running.
Drop-In Character: Jolly Roger. He appeared only once on Cow and Chicken at the beginning of Season Two, but afterwards, it wasn't uncommon for him to make a completely random and unexpected appearance in any segment of I Am Weasel.
Evil Is Petty: The Red Guy is supposed to be Satan, yet he has nothing better to do with his time than constantly mess with a cow and a chicken (and occasionally a weasel and a baboon).
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: In the episode "Karate Chick", Chicken takes up karate to defend himself against a bully at school. After Chicken earns his butt belt (Red Guy's equivilant of a black belt), he confronts his bully, who is actually seen helping old ladies cross the street, and consoling a traumatized veternarian, refusing to fight with Chicken. When Chicken questions why he won't fight, the bully explains he's a school bully, and that he only fights with him Mondays through Fridays, but on weekends, he's nice.
Executive Meddling: After the first season was completed, David Feiss wanted to drop the I Am Weasel segments from the show altogether, but Cartoon Network demanded that he keep it in; eventually, a compromise was reached, that would allow Feiss to have Red Guy cross over into the Weasel segments, as to hold his interest in continuing the segment (and eventually, more characters, including Cow and Chicken themselves, were allowed to cross over into the Weasel segments).
Expy: Mom and Dad are all too similiar to Mr. and Mrs. Pipe (only more mentally disturbed), Cow is a lot like Stimpy, and Chicken has some visible likeness to Ren. Also, the Red Guy and how he changes jobs and roles depending on what is needed for the plot is very much like Mr. Horse. Granted, Dave Feiss worked on The Ren & Stimpy Show, and John Kricfalusi doesn't seem to mind how much influence he took from it, openly admitting he likes Cow and Chicken (and Kricfalusi usually dismisses every cartoon as not being as good as the stuff Bob Clampett did back in the Golden Age Of Animation).
Many other ex-Ren and Stimpy artists also worked on the show, such as Bob Camp and Chris Reccardi.
The Faceless- Mom and Dad from the waist up (exaggerated as they actually have no upper bodies at all, if their shadows are indicative of anything).
For the Evulz: Most of the Red Guy's actions seem to fall under this justification. It's never explained why he keeps trying to scam, torture, or even outright kill Cow and Chicken; he seems to just do it for fun.
Gender Bender - "Which Came First?" revolves around Chicken being convinced that he is a girl because he laid an egg (when in reality, it was just a bird egg that the Red Guy put in Chicken's bed sheets overnight as a prank). Of course, Flem and Earl jumped the gender barrier once they find out Chicken's current gender identity.
The episode "Horn Envy" has Cow crushing on a boy at school. To get his attention she tries numerous ways to make her boobs...I mean, horns look bigger by stuffing them with toilet tissue inside a bra.
The constant jokes and references to gender-bending and possible transsexuality are way too high for a typical kids' cartoon. How most of them got past the censors is anyone's guess.
The tribe in "Boneless Kite" are called the "As-Wi-Pe" (It was spelled out as "asswipe" in closed captions).
Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In episode "P.E.", Chicken, Flem and Earl became Junior High students. While they were having a shower after P.E. classes, some bullies stole their clothes. To compound the problem, the only place in school where gym towels were offered was the cafeteria.
Inversion - the Spanish-language version has Supercow and Wonder Wattle speaking Gratuitous English, but only in the Latin-American dub, because in the European Spanish dub the Wonder Wattle speaks with a Gratuitous Mexican accent.
Grossout Show: Justified in that most of the people who worked on Ren and Stimpy also did this show and, well, old habits really do die hard.
Halfdressed Cartoon Animal: The Red Guy, who never wears pants. His aliases are always puns referring to his lack of dress (Ben Panced, Mr. Jeans B. Gone, Larry Lackapants, Baron von Neinlederhosen, Cleo-Pantless, etc) or his prodigious heinie (Mrs. Barederriere, C.D. Heinie, Rear Admiral Floyd, etc).
I Am Not Weasel - The Red Guy often thought Chicken was a duck or turkey and Cow as a moose, horse, or antelope (considering how Off Model they are, it may be a reference to what viewers thought of them when they first saw this show). Weasel from the Trope NamingI Am Weasel was often referred to by The Red Guy as a squirrel, a gerbil, a ferret and several other species of rodents, despite weasels not being rodents, I.R. Baboon got this treatment too. Being often mistaken for other species of primates
In the episode "Duck, Duck, Chicken" The Red Guy (as a door to door doctor) thought Chicken was a Duck and surgically altered him into a non-sapient one.
One episode had Chicken perform a magic trick and pull Weasel out of his hat. After being referred to as a squirrel, Weasel responds, "I am not a squirrel. I am Weasel!"
I Have Many Names: the Red Guy. Most of his aliases are puns on the fact that he doesn't wear pants (Baron von Neinlederhosen, Ivan Panced, Ben Panced, C.D. Heinie, Mrs. Barederriere, Larry Lackapants, Rear Admiral Floyd, Geraldo Rearviewa, Cleo-Pantless, etc).
Inexplicably Identical Individuals - the Red Guy seems to have a lot of identical, er, "relatives," including a beige version of him known as "The Scab Fairy," who collects scabs for money the same way the Tooth Fairy (or in this show's case, the Molting Fairy) does.
Interspecies Romance- Cow and Chicken's great grandfather was married to a non anthropomorphic hen and the family has a lot of animals as relatives.
One of their relatives being married to a normal sized, but talking snail.
Cow has had crushes on human boys too, and Boneless Chicken attempts to date a human girl.
Off Model: Happens on occasion. The animation for "Field Trip to Folsom Prison", "The Girl's Bathroom", and both parts of "The Ugliest Weenie" from S1, as well as "Dream Date Chicken", "Sumo Cow", and "Yard Sale" from S2 look significantly different from the other episodes.
One-Person Birthday Party: In the episode "Factory Follies", in which Red Guy plays the foreman of a factory who treats his employees like worthless slaves. At the end of the workday, he reminds everyone that his surprise birthday party will be held in the conference room later that night. Of course, nobody shows up, so he throws the party for himself and sings, "Oh birthday boy, add one more year/oh birthday boy with the big fat rear!"
At the "END!" of every episode, a screen with the text "END" in it will appear. Oh, and cue a character from said episode saying "End."
Chicken keeps telling the audience he's got to be adopted.
Cousin Boneless asks for bones. Everyone laughs, thinking he was joking.
Boneless: I'm serious! * everyone laughs again * Boneless: What is wrong with you people?
Chicken losing his feathers for whatever reason. It was implied in one episode that his plummage returns by Christmas, but considering that this is Cartoon Network continuity, that just means the next episode.
Appearances of "Milk Bars", where milk is drunk like an alcoholic beverage.
Screwed by the Network: Somewhat. Before the final season had finished its initial run, Cartoon Network jumped the gun at splitting I Am Weasel into its own "spinoff". Because of this, the remaining "new episodes" of the series were essentially unaired "Cow and Chicken" segments cobbled together into half hour episodes.
"Manure the Bear! Manure the Bear! Something ain't right in his shorts that draw flies!"
Shout-Out: In "Journey to the Center of Cow", as Chicken is paddling down a river of Cow's stomach acid, he has to paddle faster. Why? Because he hears banjo music. On top of that, he passes a redneck enzyme plucking away at a banjo, who remarks at him, "Hey, boy! You got a real purty beak!"
Soap Punishment: The Halloween Episode featured the Red Guy (impersonating Space Ghost and hosting his Coast-to-Coast show) trying to use this on Chicken, albeit he initially thought it was "soup" punishment until Chicken corrected him.
Super Hero- Cow's alter ego, Supercow. When Chicken dons Supercow's costume, he becomes Wonder Wattle.
Clark Kenting- Parodied when anyone entertains the thought that Cow and Supercow could possibly be the same cow (being the only Sentient cows in the Universe no less) that idea is always shot down by the fact that Supercow speaks Spanish.
Temporary Bulk Change - The Red Guy attempts to sell a product he calls 'Fat Sauce' to the kids by showing its effects on Chicken, who almost immediately becomes fatter than Cow. Even the Red Guy is surprised it actually works.
Too Dumb to Live: While vacationing in Oregon, were the rest of the populace live in fear of savage head hunters and wear diving helmets to protect themselves, Chicken asks if they can buy some of those helmets and dad refuses, saying they are going to rough it. They are almost immediately singled out by the Head Hunter leader who manages to easily trick them into letting him take Chicken away to get his head cut off.
Trademark Favorite Food: Pork butts 'n taters (fed to Cow and Chicken with a catapult).
In one episode, Red Guy, and his three identical sons (oh yeah, he was a mother in this episode) had an obsession with saltine crackers.
Of course, the entire in-universe favorite beverage: milk.
Unishment: In one episode, the Red Guy was planning to punish chicken by...washing his mouth with soup (though see the Fridge section of this page for a possible Fridge Horror scenario). It is then subverted when chicken corrects him by saying soap. The Red Guy finds this a better idea, and proceeds to put a bar of soap in chickens mouth.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?? - The Red Guy, although there may actually be many Red Guys (as seen in "The Molting Fairy," when it's revealed that the Red Guy has a beige brother who works as The Scab Fairy). And the warden of Folsom Prison made a cameo in a story where another Red Guy had more onscreen time and the two of them appeared together. I Am Weasel had a story where a female Red Guy had three Red Guy kids.
The intro for Cow and Chicken has several Red Guys, though that could just be The Red Guy himself showcasing the many aliases he has on the show.
There is, however, one episode where Cow and Chicken move away and the Red Guy begs them not to go, because he needs someone to scheme against. This seems to imply it is in fact the same Red Guy.
And when he can't get a job, he just makes one up. Office Mountie, anyone?
Yawn and Reach- Done by Flem and Earl on Chicken in "Which Came First?"