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Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag

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You'd be angry too if you had to go back to quadrupedalism.
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This is like a standard Anthropomorphic Shift, except the shift is conveniently geared to the role a character has in a work, movie, short, cartoon, or episode. For example, an animal character appears as an Nearly Normal Animal in one cartoon or episode, but appears as a Funny Animal in another.

This trope also includes examples that shift roles back and forth in a single work or shift back and forth depending on their mood. There are also a lot of characters that do this intentionally to live a double life, going from walking on two legs to Running on All Fours depending on the company. The shift can either be intentional or unintentional.

Compare Anthropomorphic Shift, which is what happens when animal characters in a work become progressively more human-like in appearance and behavior in later installments instead of just going back and forth in the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism.

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This trope is by no means restricted to animals.

Furry Reminder is a related trope, as is Denial of Animality.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens quite often in One Piece, mostly for humor value. Animal characters frequently adopt human-like mannerisms for a quick joke or two.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes has a variation on this. The question of whether Hobbes is really alive, or just a product of Calvin's imagination, was deliberately avoided. Even when depicted as a "live" tiger, Hobbes' appearance zigzags— sometimes he'll walk on two legs as a very cartoonish Funny Animal, with long arms and stubby legs. This stature is used mainly when he's doing something cerebral, like philosophizing or acting as Straight Man to Calvin's insanity, or else a task that requires manual dexterity, like throwing snowballs. At other times he'll go on all fours, usually for the purpose of pouncing on Calvin, and his body will take on realistic feline proportions.
  • The cows of The Far Side show us how it's done here.
  • Garfield goes back and forth, but has noticeably become bipedal. The other cats can switch between the two stances as well.
  • Snoopy, from Peanuts, goes back and forth between all fours and walking upright, sometimes within a strip, not necessarily depending on his role, but more on his mood.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cyrill Proudbottom, Mr. Toad's horse in The Wind in the Willows segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. He is first seen as a Talking Animal, pulling Toad's cart and running on all fours. Later, however, he is seen walking on his hind legs, and even dresses as a human being and completely fools a jailer into thinking that he's Toad's grandmother.
  • From An American Tail: Naked Fievel.
  • The electrical appliances from The Brave Little Toaster (except Radio, who doesn't have a face), who can actually make their faces disappear whenever they've been spotted by humans.
  • Actually a plot point in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox struggles to live a civilized life with his family while his animal urges to hunt and steal distract him.
  • The lawn ornaments from Gnomeo & Juliet.
  • The gargoyles from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame actually only come to life whenever Quasimodo's around. If Esmeralda/Phoebus/Frollo/etc. is with Quasimodo, then the gargoyles will all still stay put. And yes, like the Toy Story example below, they too have exceptions: Except it's not the three gargoyles we're accustomed to who break their own rules, but rather an unnamed fourth gargoyle who comes to life to finish off Frollo at the end of the film.
  • The LEGO Movie has a variation where on one "level" of reality, the characters move and experience like living beings, and on the next level, they are just toys that don't move.note  Whenever something happens to them as toys, there is some equivalent event happening to the living versions.
  • In Madagascar, the animals would constantly go back and forth between walking on four legs and walking on two legs.
  • Remy and the other rats from Ratatouille can switch between walking on two legs and walking on four legs too. This even has some minor importance in the story — it's noted at the beginning that walking on four legs is the norm, but Remy walks on two to keep his front paws clean. When the clan rallies to help Remy cook for Anton, Remy insists that they all do the same.
  • This is also true with the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story, which was later seen in anthropomorphic form in the Pixar film Cars.
    • The three paintings, one of Lightning McQueen, one of Doc Hudson, and one of Flo and Ramone, make those four Cars characters look non-anthropomorphic and a little more realistic than usual.
    • And the toys from that movie themselves, who only come to life if no one's around. The only time they ever break that rule is if someone actually treated that toy very badly.
  • The tanuki in Pom Poko shift back and forth on the anthropomorphic scale throughout the movie, not even counting their frequently used ability of transforming themselves into humans (or only mostly transforming, if they're not careful). Sometimes, especially around humans, they're depicted realistically as quadrupedal canids; in less serious moments, they turn into Funny Animals that only barely resemble their species.
  • Most of the animal characters in Dingo Pictures' Animal Soccer World are drawn as normal animals, unless they are playing soccer or performing music, at which point they become anthropomorphic. The soccer players also put on clothes for the match, which they don't wear otherwise.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mannequin, Emmy (a mannequin which comes to life apparently because of a time travel experiment) can only be seen in her animated form by the man who built her. If someone else enters the room, peeks into the window, etc., she's instantly frozen until they go away.
  • Chucky from the Child's Play films would usually only come to life if he needed to kill or possess someone. Beginning with Bride of Chucky, he came to life more.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The titular sifaka lemur of the PBS children's show Zoboomafoo is always anthropomorphized at the very beginning of each episode by being fed a different snack. However, at the end of each episode, Zoboo actually loses his anthropomorphism due to the effects of said snack wearing off.

    Video Games 
  • Donkey Kong constantly switches between having regular gorilla intelligence to human-like intelligence. In the original Donkey Kong and his guest appearance in Punch-Out!! (Wii), he appears to be just a gorilla. In the Donkey Kong Country games (both the original trilogy and Returns/Tropical Freeze), he displays more human-like intelligence, but still walks around in all fours like a typical gorilla. In the cartoon and Donkey Kong 64, he is now bipedal and displays far more human-like mannerisms. Whenever he is capable of speech and not just random gorilla noises, it can range between Hulk Speak to regular speak. In general, it appears that he becomes more beast-like whenever he is cast in an antagonistic role.
  • Mother 3: Boney has to impersonate a kid to get into Club Titiboo, so Lucas dresses him up with a shirt and cap and he walks on hind legs for the remainder of the chapter (but quickly switching back to all-fours when they're in the wilderness again).
  • In the Super Mario series of games, Koopas were originally depicted as quadrupedal turtles. As the series continued, they've been redesigned to walk on only two legs, and by the time of Paper Mario, they were completely anthropomorphized. However, in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, they've reverted back into being quadrupeds.
    • Before that, there were quadrupedal electrical enemy Koopas in Super Mario Sunshine.
    • However, Bowser and his son, Bowser Jr., both being Koopas, are completely immune to this even in these two games.
    • Also, Hammer Bros. and their ilk have always been bipedal, even in the original, despite being just Koopas with helmets and hammers.
    • The depiction of Yoshi and his species frequently vary, going back and forth between an intelligent species that's no different from Toads and Koopas to animals exhibiting limited sapience. Their speech is also portrayed inconsistently, ranging between perfectly regular, simplistic, human-incomprehensible (represented by the text being in parenthesis) and no speech at all.
    • Bullet Bills are normally depicted as lifeless ammunition, but some games, especially the spin-offs, give them some characterization.
  • Behemoth-type enemies in Final Fantasy XIII walk on all-fours (and look a lot like the classic design of the Behemoth, as it had appeared in previous Final Fantasy titles), until they're put into Stagger mode, in which case they'll morph into a more powerful bipedal form (recovering all damage taken in the process), and wield a strange circular saw-like weapon.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Plato from Adventures from the Book of Virtues would often go back and forth between all fours and two legs.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore all started out as actual chipmunks, but via their two cartoon series (The Alvin Show and Alvin and the Chipmunks) they looked less and less like chipmunks. However, in their first live action movie, they all started to look like chipmunks again, although not as much as they did on the original covers.
  • Rita the Civilized Animal cat from Animaniacs with a lot of Talking Animal moments would switch between walking on two legs and walking on four legs. In a few cameos and possibly in part of "Kiki's Kitten", she is shown as a Funny Animal, and in a cameo in "The Return of The Great Wakkorotti," she is even fully-dressed.
  • The animals in Barnyard and Back at the Barnyard walk on two legs, talk and partake in "human" activities, but when humans/a human show/shows up, the animals switch to a four-legged stance (except the birds, which are two-legged by default) and act like normal animals.
  • Brandy from Brandy & Mr. Whiskers would usually walk on two legs, but was shown acting more like a normal dog in flashbacks to when she was a pet and one episode where she found out she was a mongrel and lost all self-respect.
  • Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar of the old Disney cartoon shorts and comics started out as actual four-legged non-anthropomorphic barnyard animals and alternated between anthro and non-anthro roles before becoming full-fledged Funny Animal characters alongside Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and the others.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog flips-flops between a Speech-Impaired Animal around his owners, Eustace and Muriel, to being a full-on Talking Animal around anyone else (human or otherwise) and to the audience.
  • Fat Cat in the pilot episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, back when he is still Aldrin Klordane's pet Right-Hand Cat. After Klordane is arrested, he becomes anthropomorphic completely.
  • Dinosaur Train: Most of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in the cartoon zig-zag between Nearly Normal Animal or Partially Civilized Animal when they are in their natural habitat (some species live almost completely normal lives in the wild, but others can do more human-like activities, such as the Ankylosaurus individuals that play Dino Ball) and either Partially Civilized Animal or Civilized Animal when they ride the titular train. The most antropomorphic of the dinosaurs are the Troodons, who operate the train and in general have access to human technology that virtually no other species do.
  • Eek! The Cat is a Talking Animal/Funny Animal who often partakes in human activities, but is also a pet cat and cannot speak to his owners, although he appears to be able to speak to other human characters.
  • Family Guy has Brian Griffin, who started as a talking dog, but through the course of the series, he has become more and more human. Although every once in a while, you're reminded that he still is a dog.
    • A human example would be Stewie, who would go from being treated like a non talking baby by his family to being treated like any other adult by everyone else.
  • All of the Secret Garden residents from Father of the Pride walk on four feet while proforming on stage or around humans, then walk around on two when talking by themselves.
  • Felix the Cat. From 1919 through the mid-1950s, stories alternated between showing Felix as either a Talking Animal pet in a human home or a Funny Animal master of his own house. Only with the Trans-Lux TV series was Felix established as a Funny Animal for good.
  • Johnny Test: Dukey, the family dog, acts like a regular dog around Lila and Hugh test, but speaks clear English and walks on his hind legs around Johnny, the Test Twins, and every other major character. When around strangers, he uses the excuse that he is a "child with a rare hair disorder". This is due to Susan and Mary test mutating him as one of their experiments.note 
  • Looney Tunes regular Sylvester is notable for being a normal, non-talking cat, a Civilized Animal, or a full-blown standard Funny Animal depending on the cartoon. He's also the only one of several more obscure Looney Tunes cats to do so.
  • Background character Lyra Heartstrings in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is like this more than anypony else.
    • Everypony else in the Expanded Universe and The Merch.
    • Ponies in general have always been like this. It especially shows in My Little Pony Tales where one moment they could be running on four legs and another they can be standing up on two legs without an issue. Even G4 has this, with the ponies occasionally using their hooves as hands when needed.
    • Many of the other animals in FiM are, too. So far, Applejack's dog Winona is one of the few to behave strictly like her species.
      • The general rule is that the hooved animals are the more anthropomorphic, though the exact boundary is somewhat unclear, with pigs and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it deer seeming more like normal animals, while cows and sheep have some brief lines and a pair of goats appear somewhere between the two. *** Becomes even more confusing when you include the society of intelligent deer from the comics.
  • The title character of Nature Cat is a normal housecat who turns into a Funny Animal when his owners are gone for the day.
  • Invoked by Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb. Around his owners he's a mindless domestic pet that "doesn't do much". In reality he's a super-capable secret agent that fights to save the world from evil. He still can't talk, though.
  • On The Ren & Stimpy Show, the titular characters typically behave as any other Funny Animal by living in a house they seem to own, jump from career to career depending on the episode, and interact with human beings with no problems. However, a handful of episodes still treat them as simply Talking Animal such as the pilot when they’re captured by the City Pound and narrowly escape being put to sleep, and the episodes featuring George Liquor, where they are taken home from the Pet store, or competing in a dog show (despite Stimpy being a cat).
  • Scooby-Doo, although mostly a quadrupedal Speech-Impaired Animal, also had the ability to walk on two legs and act like a Funny Animal when the situation calls for it.
  • Taz experienced this somewhat in Taz-Mania. Unlike in the original Looney Tunes cartoons, Taz is cast as a teenager who lives in a house with a family. He watches TV, collects bottlecaps, and even wears a suit and works as a bellboy at a hotel. Other times, he still partakes in his carnivorous behavior and acts like a wild animal as he hunts for prey, and is even hunted by some of the other characters like a wild animal.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The characters are usually Funny Animals, but become Nearly Normal Animals whenever they're on land.
  • Teacher's Pet: The protagonist is a dog who wants to be a boy, so he dresses as a human and attends school with his owner, but has to keep it secret and stay a dog the rest of the time.
  • ThunderCats (1985) had the snarfs, who would switch between walking on two legs and walking on all four at times (and occasionally standing on their tails). The other ThunderCats would do it too, occasionally.
  • Furrball from Tiny Toon Adventures is usually portrayed as an Nearly Normal Animal cat, but he kept weaving back and forth between a normal cat and a Funny Animal depending on the cartoon. He would even switch between walking on two legs and walking on four legs.
  • Tom, Jerry, and Spike from Tom and Jerry.
  • Ravage, Laserbeak and Ratbat from The Transformers, depending on which fiction they're in, may be as sentient as other Transformers but with nonhumanoid forms (in the G1 comics Ratbat was even the most successful known leader of the Decepticons) or basically mechanical Intellectual Animals that can't talk themselves but can at least understand Soundwave's orders.

 
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Otis and the Mailman

Whenever the mailman's back is turned, Otis stands on his hind legs and starts making faces at him, but when the mailman turns around, Otis reverts to the four-legged stance of a real cow.

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