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Animal Disguise

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By the way, that's the skin of an actual monkey.

A person needs a disguise for whatever reason, and decides that the best option is an animal suit. Common reasons include: the person wanting to hide among a group of animals, or the person wanting to scare someone (as a prank or as a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax). The animal suit is sometimes an elaborate costume, but more often it is the skin of an actual dead animal. Though it is often a Paper-Thin Disguise, but nevertheless it generally successfully fools someone. Apes and bears are common choices, due to their generally human-like body shape, but any animal works. Larger, quadrupedal animal disguises can be worn by two people, in which case the examples overlap with in-universe examples of Pantomime Animal. Donning such a disguise may lead to Attractive Bent Species if a real animal with amorous intentions is fooled by it.

Needless to say, a person putting on an animal skin and pretending to be a real animal would look generally very unconvincing in Real Life - not only would it be difficult to seamlessly put on the skin, but also humans have very different skeleton and musculature from any other animal.

Often worn by a Master of Disguise. Compare Ass in a Lion Skin, which is an animal disguising itself as another species of animalnote , and Embarrassing Animal Suit, when it's obviously a person wearing the animal suit and finds it rather humiliating. Also compare Animorphism, when the character actually turns into an animal instead of simply donning an animal suit. Human Disguise is this trope inverted. Not to be confused with People in Rubber Suits, where animals are played by actors in animal suits, but in the context of the movie they are actual animals. Also not to be confused with fursuits, which are animal costumes worn by the Furry Fandom not as a disguise, but as a hobby.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In Pokémon: The Original Series, Ash and friends get chased by an angry mob after accidentally injuring a Slowpoke, but luckily a strange man in a Slowpoke costume, who later turns out to be the Poké Ball creator they were looking for, provides them with Slowpoke costumes so they can hide from the mob among the Slowpokes.
    • In Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, Ash dresses up as a Passimian, a lemur/monkey Pokémon, to get closer to them in the wild. The episode is known for being banned in America due Ash's face being disguised with dark makeup instead of using a mask, which was feared would remind people of Black Face.
    • Cassidy and Butch disguise themselves as a Nidoqueen and a Golem during one of their heists in Pokémon Chronicles. Cassidy's disguise ends up working a little bit too well when they run into a real Nidoking who tries to court her.
  • Sands of Destruction: Kyrie is wearing a humanoid cat disguise when Morte finds him waiting tables at a restaurant. This is for practical purposes as humans are second class citizens compared to beastmen and the disguise allows Kyrie to get employment at a better establishment. It also keeps the more feral predatory beastmen from trying to eat him.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman #1 has Diana (along with a conscripted Etta Candy) disguising herself as a baby elephant to investigate a rash of elephant murders at a local circus. "Disguise" here meaning "took all the sawdust out of an actual taxidermied baby elephant and shoved herself inside".
  • Tintin in the Congo, in one of its less bizarre and offensive moments, has the main character killing and skinning a monkey so he can use his skin as a disguise to rescue Snowy from another monkey. Seriously.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • In an episode of Mézga család, the Mezgas disguise themselves as seals and penguins to hide in a menagerie captured by a group of poachers on Antarctica.

    Film — Animation 
  • In El Arca, the two human antagonists disguise themselves as a pair of animals named "Grasswhoppers" to sneak onto Noah's Ark.
  • The Boss Baby: The Boss Baby at one point disguises himself as a puppy to infiltrate Puppy Co.
  • Inside Out has Joy and Sadness, two humanoid characters, disguise as a dog to excite Riley awake. It fails when the costume rips apart, depicted on the dream monitor as showing the "meat" inside of the dog.
  • In Long Live Servatius, Servatius disguises himself as a seal to bait a Wily Walrus, then as a tiger to intimidate a real tiger.
  • In Treasure of Swamp Castle, when Jonas gets thrown in the Governor's bear pit, he learns that what seems to be the bear is actually a gypsy wearing a bear skin. The gypsy, who is an old friend of Jonas, was hired to guard the pit, but didn't get any salary, so he ate the bear and started wearing its skin. He then helps Jonas escape the pit by dressing him up as the bear and pretending to take him for a walk.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ace takes it up a notch with a mechanical rhino. Unfortunately, he gets stuck inside, with the African heat not helping matters, leading to a rather squicky scene of the rhino giving birth to a sweaty, naked man — right in front of a family on safari.
  • Mom and Dad Save the World: The resistance movement on the planet Spengo (whose Human Alien inhabitants are all idiots) wear masks whenever they travel to disguise themselves as birds. However, since there aren't any birds that big on their planet (and they still just look like people in bird masks anyway), it's a pretty useless disguise.
  • The two rebels disguise themselves as a cow in Top Secret!. One insists on playing the rear end, causing his compatriot to gripe, "Fine, be an asshole!" Leads to Attractive Bent Species when a horny bull mistakes them for a real cow.
  • Trading Places: Done involuntarily to Agent Beeks after the heroes knock him out and take his place as part of their revenge scheme. He's put inside a (apparently sealed) gorilla suit and left in a cage with an actual gorilla that's being shipped back to Africa. Worse yet, the disguise is so effective, and Beeks has been gagged under the mask to boot, that the gorilla handlers think Beeks is a real gorilla, opting to leave him with the amorous real one. This does not end well for the antagonistic agent.

  • A man is looking for a job in a zoo. The director tells him that their ape just died and they had no time to replace it, but they can hire him to replace the ape by wearing its skin. The man, desperate for work, accepts the offer. He gets into the role quickly, jumping around in the ape enclosure and swinging on the ropes. The audience loves him. But he once takes a too large swing and ends up in the tiger enclosure. Seeing the tiger approaching, he tries to scream for help, but the tiger shushes him: "Be quiet, or we both lose our jobs".
  • Two border guards are chasing a foreign spy. They suddenly see that human footprints end abruptly and are replaced by marks of cow hooves, so they realize the spy put on hoof-shaped boots. As they follow the trail, they come to a cow herd watched over by an old man. They ask him if any of the cows seem suspicious to him, and he points: "Oh, that one. It came here and asked me about the way to the railway station. I smelled a rat at once: all of our cows know the way to the station!"

  • In Help! Tigers! by Mikhail Korshunov, the main character disguises himself as the eponymous tiger to get back at the school bullies and prove he can be an actor. His disguise is so flawless it fools everyone, adults and children alike, and nobody suspects anything until he roars in class.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gorilla suits are often used for Candid Camera Pranks in various comedy shows, typically tricking people into believing they're trapped in a cage with a real gorilla. In this example by Hamish and Andy, they dress up as gorillas in a zoo, then surprise visitors by showing gradually more and more un-gorilla-like behaviour.
  • Dad's Army: In "Operation Kilt", the platoon decides to sneak into the Highlanders' headquarters at a local farm to spy on them, so Private Walker and Private Frazer "borrow" a pantomime cow costume. Mainwaring dismisses the idea, insisting it will not work, but Walker and Frazer decide to try anyway, only to return bruised and battered after running into a bull.
  • Robbie Rotten from LazyTown disguised himself as a gorilla twice, first in "Play Day" to scare the kids to make them stop playing and then in "Pixel TV" to climb on Pixel's roof in order to disable the satellite dish. He also disguises himself as a dinosaur in "Cry Dinosaur" because he was convinced Sportacus is afraid of them.
  • An episode of Nash Bridges focused on a group of animal traffickers. At one point, they capture a bear that was being trafficked and keep it in a cage. The traffickers go after the bear to recapture it. When they get in the cage, the "bear" takes off his "head" to reveal he's actually Officer Ronnie and the traffickers are now under arrest.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Sabrina turn herself into a cat to cover up the fact she's spying on the judge of a cat show Salem is participating in. Given she's a witch the disguise works but she ends up in a cage and needs her aunts to turn her back to normal.
  • Discussed a couple of times on Would I Lie to You?:
    • When Kevin Bridges claims he once accidentally bought a horse, he says that the locals told him he bought from a counterfeit horse guy. David Mitchell latches on to the phrase "counterfeit horse" and suggests that it was not actually a horse but two men in a horse costume.
    • In a "This is my..." round, Kate Humble claims that she and the person in question dressed up as a giraffe in order for him to take close up photos of the giraffes in the wild.

  • Spoofed in Old Master Q (like everything else) when the titular character reads about historical uses of animal disguises; how the ancient Chinese hunts deer while wearing deerskin and antlers, African nomads dressing themselves in furs to hunt ostriches, and Native Americans clad in bison disguises while stalking the wild in the plains. Intrigued, Master Q then goes fishing while wearing a human-sized fish costume.

    Video Games 
  • Shay from Broken Age is recruited to rescue captured creatures by a man in a wolf suit named Marek. He never gives a reason for wearing the wolf suit. When Vella gets trapped on the ship and finds Shay's mother, he calls over the viewscreen, takes off the mask, and reveals himself to be a genetically engineered humanoid named Marekai who manipulated Shay into capturing young women in the "Maiden's Feasts".

    Web Videos 
  • Claire from Cream Heroes wears a large cat mask to hide her face while posing for a family photo with her ten cats. The original seven, who have been with her for a number of years, are used to her wearing silly disguises so they barely react at all. By contrast, newcomer Nana is both confused and alarmed, her older son Toto is curious about the mask while her younger son Dodo runs away in fear.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs (2020): In the campaign video for the Surprise Party (a crackpot third party running for the election), a tiger in a zoo is revealed to be the party's campaign manager in a tiger suit.
  • In Family Guy, Peter attempts to sneak Chris into the county fair for free in a two-man horse disguise:
    Peter: One, please.
    Chris: [sneezes]
    Clerk: Wait a minute... your ass just sneezed! And horses can't talk! No, no, nothing about this adds up at all!
  • In The Little Rascals episode "Pete's Big Break", due to Pete overeating during rehearsal, Alfalfa has to wear a dog costume, which conveniently resembles Pete, during the actual commercial.
  • In the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Never Ape an Ape Man", the Villain of the Week pulls a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax by disguising himself as a gorilla-like ape-man.
  • In the South Park episode "Britney's New Look," the boys make Butters dress as a squirrel so they can take a picture of Britney crapping on a squirrel and get rich.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • In "Friendenemies", Tom's snow tiger turns out to be his anger management teacher Brian in disguise, watching him hang out with Marco as part of a test to see if Tom can spend time with someone he dislikes without getting angry. Even though it's implied that Tom knew this, Marco certainly didn't.
    • During the "Battle for Mewni" arc, Star and Marco both seperately come up with the idea to get into Butterfly Castle (currently taken over by Ludo) by disguising themselves as rats.
  • In the Timon & Pumbaa episode "Truth or Zaire", Congo Quint the hunter, pursuing Timon and Pumbaa, disguises himself as a male gorilla to get close to a female gorilla who believes Timon and Pumbaa are her babies.
  • Total Drama: In "Severe Eggs and Pains", Ripper convinces Zee to dress up as a cassowary to distract a nesting mother while Ripper takes one of its eggs. The cassowary falls in love with Zee.

    Real Life 
  • Animal conservationists who raise the endangered whooping crane in captivity wear crane costumes when interacting with crane nestlings. The purpose of this is to avoid the crane nestlings imprint on humans, so that when they are released in the wild, they will interact with their own conspecifics instead of people. While the costumes are rather goofy-looking from a human's point of view, they do the trick because they have the key species features (head coloration, sounds played from an MP3 player attached to the costume).
  • In the 1990s, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a sting operation on a Mexican zoo director who was attempting to illegally purchase and import a gorilla. To arrest him, though, they would need to complete the transaction, with the director handing over money for an illegally smuggled gorilla. But as it was too risky and dangerous to use a real animal, so they instead used an agent dressed in a gorilla suit. The agent was placed in a cage at the Opa-Locka airport, supposedly to be flown to the Toluca zoo in Mexico. The director and two Mexican middlemen took delivery of him, and were arrested immediately after.


Video Example(s):


Zee's cassowary disguise

Ripper convinces Zee to dress up as a cassowary to distract a nesting mother while Ripper takes one of its eggs. The cassowary falls in love with Zee.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / AttractiveBentSpecies

Media sources: