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Character is drawn as an anthropomorphic animal, but contextually is human.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Carliro on Aug 17th 2017 at 6:07:07 AM
Last Edited By:
Carliro on Aug 23rd 2017 at 3:43:53 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Anthropomorphic animals tend to be allegorical by default. After all, as conceptions of human beings, anthropomorphic animals are based off a human template, and tend to be metaphors for the human condition, political groups or even just individuals.

Some creators, however, go one step further and make the characters straight up not anthropomorphic animals at all, but human beings, visually portrayed as anthropomorphic animals. In this case, the characters are contextually human beings, but are portrayed as animals, often for symbolic reasons.

Sub-trope to Stylized For The Viewer. Compare and contrast Furry Denial, which can invoke this, but it is (usually; see the Disney examples below) non-overlapping since it directly acknowledges that the characters are animals.


Examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Punpun and his family from Oyasumi Punpun are depicted as sloppily drawn cartoon birds. Everyone else is a semi-realistic human. It's been shown that Punpun is also a human, and that "Punpun" probably isn't even his real namw, however he resembles a bird to the reader. Punpun's form also changes when he becomes dark or depressed. Punpun's real face is never fully depicted, only bits and pieces of it are shown at a time. A character drew him once however marked out the eyes.

    Comic Books 
  • The Trope Namer is Circles, where the characters are drawn as various anthropomorphic animals, but stated by Word of God to be actually human beings seen through a "furry lens". Finally confirmed in the last "issue", which is actually an illustrated novel, where the narration pretty explicitly describes the characters as human... while the illustrations still show them as animals.
  • Maus is an a biography of Art Spiegelman's father, in which various ethnic groups are visually portrayed as animal species (i.e. Jews as mice, Germans as cats, French as frogs, et cetera). Contextually, they are still human beings, not allegorical animals representing human groups (though a few gags mock the concept).
  • Disney Mouse and Duck Comics generally do depict their characters as actual animals (albeit functionally human, for all intents and purposes). Not so much The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, where the characters are very explicitly human beings, depicted (often randomly) as either ducks or Dog Face. The fact that they meet historical figures and racial/ethnic profiling conforms to the real world pretty much seals the deal.

    Music Video 
  • The video for Daft Punk's "Da Funk" shows an anthropomorphic dog walking around New York City with a boom box playing the song. He has a number of small adventures, but no one seems to acknowledge that he's an anthropomorphic dog.

    Video Games 
  • Night in the Woods has both its anthropomorphic characters, who live exactly like regular humans, and actual animals, with no suggestion that they're meant to be the same. There are even references to "people" and "humanity," with only a Furry Reminder or two that would suggest they're really meant to be animals.

    Webcomics 
  • The characters of Lackadaisy are portrayed as anthropomorphic cats, but (at least in the canon strips) act exactly like prohibition-era humans. The non-canon strips have an occasional Furry Reminder, like Rocky claiming he had to shave Freckle's face to see his freckle, and the characters being confused what Tracy J. Butler's Author Avatar (depicted as a cartoony human) actually is. Tracy J. Butler also made some drawings how the characters would look like as humans - which is presumably their actual appearance.

     Western Animation 
  • This was Walt Disney's intent with the Classic Disney Shorts characters. Early shorts clearly had them as animals however eventually he began to see them as humans who simply look animal to the audience. This explains why many older shorts portray the characters living alongside humans. He banned any Furry Reminders, such as Mickey eating cheese. Since Walt's death, Disney has ignored this idea. Mickey Mouse and the others are repeatedly noted to be Funny Animals and Furry Reminders aren't that uncommon.
  • Arthur has toyed with this trope a lot. The original books and early episodes implied that the characters are animals, however most episodes past season one imply that they're actually humans.

Feedback: 14 replies

Aug 17th 2017 at 6:19:08 AM

Stylized For The Viewer?

  • This was Walt Disney's intent with the Classic Disney Shorts characters. Early shorts clearly had them as animals however eventually he began to see them as humans who simply look animal to the audience. This explains why many older shorts portray the characters living alongside humans. He banned any Furry Reminders, such as Mickey eating cheese. Since Walt's death, Disney has ignored this idea. Mickey Mouse and the others are repeatedly noted to be Funny Animals and Furry Reminders aren't that uncommon.
  • Arthur has toyed with this trope a lot. The original books and early episodes implied that the characters are animals, however most episodes past season one imply that they're actually humans.

Aug 17th 2017 at 7:53:05 AM

^ This also explains why Pluto and Goofy can coexist. Pluto is an actual dog, whereas Goofy is a human depicted as a dog.

Animals in these stories will usually be drawn as Petting Zoo People, but Funny Animal examples also occur.

  • The characters of Lackadaisy are portrayed as anthropomorphic cats, but (at least in the canon strips) act exactly like prohibition-era humans. The non-canon strips have an occasional Furry Reminder, like Rocky claiming he had to shave Freckle's face to see his freckle, and the characters being confused what Tracy J. Butler's Author Avatar (depicted as a cartoony human) actually is. Tracy J. Butler also made some drawings how the characters would look like as humans - which is presumably their actual appearance.

Aug 17th 2017 at 5:35:43 PM

Good examples, will add them

Aug 17th 2017 at 5:49:15 PM

Is this common enough in media to be distinct from Stylized For The Viewer?

Aug 18th 2017 at 7:11:30 PM

Music Videos

  • The video for Daft Punk's "Da Funk" shows an anthropomorphic dog walking around New York City with a boom box playing the song. He has a number of small adventures, but no one seems to acknowledge that he's an anthropomorphic dog.

Aug 18th 2017 at 7:56:30 PM

  • Night In The Woods has both its anthropomorphic characters, who live exactly like regular humans, and actual animals, with no suggestion that they're meant to be the same. There are even references to "people" and "humanity," with only a Furry Reminder or two that would suggest they're really meant to be animals.

Aug 20th 2017 at 6:09:39 AM

Compare Furry Denial, when anthropomorphic characters refer to themselves as humans despite being nonhuman.

Aug 20th 2017 at 8:26:49 AM

True, but it differs from Furry Denial in that the characters being canonically animals isn't even posited.

Aug 20th 2017 at 1:34:50 PM

Webcomics

  • All characters in Nellie M Kitchen's webcomic Furry Experience are depicted as Funny Animals, but function in very human ways. They attend college, work at unfulfilling jobs, and drive vehicles. The central trio are composed of one Author Avatar, while the other two are based upon close associates from the Creator's college days in Utah. The occasional Furry Reminder comes when Cat wonders what would be in a furry zoo (Wed 30 Sep 2009) or a pet shop that'll claim unattended children as merchandise (Thu 11 Jan 2011).

Aug 20th 2017 at 5:19:15 PM

  • The Furry writer's podcast "Fangs and Fonts" refers to this type of fiction as "zipperback", with the implication that the characters might as well be humans in fursuits.

Aug 22nd 2017 at 2:27:37 PM

How do you tell the difference between this and Lions And Tigers And Humans Oh My combined with Uninteresting Interesting Sight? I'd say only Word Of God or explict examples count, not "One character is a dog but no one notices".

Aug 23rd 2017 at 3:43:53 PM

In-universe context. For example, something like the Amazing World of Gumball still draws attention to the species of the individual characters, while Arthur doesn't.

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