Follow TV Tropes


Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag

Go To
You'd be angry too if you had to go back to quadrupedalism.

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.


This trope is by no means restricted to animals.

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


    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 and 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.

    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.


    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.
    • The whole Kong Family, despite being of the same species, are very inconsistent about how animalistic they can be. Compare the more primal DK and Diddy with, say, Surfer Dude Funky and Humanoid Female Animal Candy, who are essentially humans in ape skin.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • Justified in Freefall with Florence, who can run on all fours, but usually doesn't because it gets her hands dirty.
  • Mind you, this trope has nothing to do with the webcomic known as Sabrina Online, which is a furry webcomic with a main character named Zig Zag, 3/4ths skunk.
  • VG Cats: #343 ("I Am Gross") shows that Leo and Aeris have both a toilet and a litter box. Although Leo doesn't poop in the box anymore. ( Because it's full.)

    Western Animation 


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: