Follow TV Tropes


Cheeky Mouth

Go To

"Like the majestic flounder, some characters have features that drift to the side of their head. Side-mouth is how to avoid lip and chin motion when animating on the cheap. It's not a style or a good excuse to avoid learning to draw expressions in profile."

In larger budget productions, there's sometimes a dedicated animator just for the lips of characters, due to the squash-and-stretch aspect of the face deforming on a cartoon character. In cheaper animation, artists will use tricks to minimize the amount of distortion to the face, so you just animate a mouth moving on a static face.

The problem occurs when you see characters in profile (that is, when they're facing to the side of the camera, so you see half of their face), since the face should be animated. Lower budget cartoon (especially anime) artists sometimes tend to actually show the (already small) mouth from a 3/4ths viewpoint, even if the face and lips are still in profile. Since small noses often require drawing them to a point, this creates a weird flounder/Picasso effect or 'snout' as the character's mouth is no longer centered but completely on the side of the face.

This is understandable for animation, as it's a budget saver and makes production go faster. This trope becomes artifactual in other media, specifically comics. Despite the fact this trick is really necessary only in a moving picture medium, a fair number of amateur artists do this, either due to inexperience, laziness, or adherence to the visual trope. This effect can be averted by simply avoiding profile altogether and doing 3/4 points of view instead. When it comes to time savers, some artists will cite preference for this kind of drawing with other shortcuts such as the Pac-Man mouth.

Compare Cheated Angle and Sideways Smile, for face-splitting smiles with obscured eyes viewed from the side profile.


    open/close all folders 
    Anime & Manga 
  • Really, one would be hard-pressed to name an anime that doesn't feature Cheeky Mouth. It's been a staple of anime as far back as Astro Boy in the early '60s. It's also more noticeable in TV anime than in theatrical features, since TV series tend to have smaller budgets. For comparison: while you're likely to see much less of it in Studio Ghibli movies, Hayao Miyazaki used it a lot on his first TV series, Future Boy Conan.
  • Pani Poni Dash! uses this.
  • An eyecatch for Azumanga Daioh features Sakaki drawn in this style.
    • Most of the series uses this, actually.
  • Happens a lot in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, even though there isn't any need for lip flap. In this case, it makes the artwork more dynamic.
  • Particularly visible in Bleach at some points.
  • Used in both the anime and manga versions of Zatch Bell!.
  • Rumiko Takahashi used it in the manga and anime versions of Urusei Yatsura and Ranma ½. Less so in Maison Ikkoku though it's not completely absent even there.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann perpetrates this often, despite the reasonably high animation level. Or maybe they spent all their budget on the giant robots.
  • Kyouran Kazoku Nikki uses this (when they are visible at all) for almost the entire cast, except for the lion Teika, who just doesn't get that many spoken lines.
  • Done quite frequently in Yu-Gi-Oh!!
  • A common occurrence in Pokémon: The Series as trainers often shown on their side profile during Pokémon battles, expressing their faces or shouting commands.
  • Appears a couple times in both the Hellsing OVA and TV series.
  • All over the place in Slayers.
  • Fairy Tail does it with female characters in comic situations. In more serious situation, the females suddenly get a normal mouth, and the guys never have it happening to them.
  • Happens a few times in the anime Ergo Proxy. The animation quality is generally very good, so cheeky mouths that appear can be actually particularly glaring.
  • Happens in episode 10 of Nichijou where Mai blows a bubble and eats it.
  • Typical in Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Extremely common in Day Break Illusion. It appears to be an actual artistic choice.
  • The image shown above is from K-On!. Take note that the girls' lips are still drawn as part of their facial profile while they talk.
  • Happens in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid especially for characters further back in a scene. The anime generally sticks to front shots of speaking characters. Profile shots and many characters in the background however end up falling into this trope.
  • It's a rare occasion when the As the Gods Will and its sequel don't do this.
  • Kemono Friends does this sometimes, despite being an All-CGI Cartoon.
  • It's virtually the default character design for the title character in Little Pollon, which despite being made in 1982 often looks stylistically something out of the '60s.
  • Cap Revolution Bottleman uses this trope.
    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes has the characters' mouths visible even when they're seen from a side view.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, most characters' mouths are fully visible, even when they are viewed from the side.
  • In Simple Samosa, most of the characters' mouths are fully visible even when the characters are viewed from the sides.
  • In Sweets Fairy, the characters' mouths often shift to one of their cheeks when they're being seen from a side angle to make the mouth more visible. The characters with beaks don't utilize this.
    Comic Books 
  • Cerebus the Aardvark does this by design. Cerebus always has one of those, even when his snout does not obscure the view. When viewed en face, he has two of those.
  • Archie Comics characters often seem to have their mouths shoved over to one side of their faces, even when they're facing the camera!
  • The controversial children's book Maggie Goes on a Diet (aka Maggie Eats Healthier in international releases) features this in its illustrations. Although the book is American, the illustrator (Mari Kuwayama) is Japanese and uses a very Animesque style.
    Newspaper Comics 
  • Pointed out in a Dilbert anthology by author Scott Adams, who prefers the Cheeky Mouth look.
  • Self-mocked by Bill Amend in this FoxTrot strip. A slight variation, since his comic is not animated and is not usually in profile.
  • Curtis; check out, for instance, the Curtis strip in here.
  • Calvin and Hobbes used it occasionally, especially in the first few years of the strip.
    Video Games 
  • Prominent in a lot of Artix Entertainment games, since their characters are almost always shown from the side, but DragonFable and MechQuest are the biggest offenders.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Ty the Tasmanian Tiger has a cheek mouth on either side of his face. The effect is somewhat odd, especially when he faces the screen and appears to have two mouths on both cheeks.
  • Jingle the reindeer in Animal Crossing has his mouth texture permanently on one side of his face. When you talk to him, he will often ask you specifically to make sure to only look at his "good side".
    • With the exception of Axel, all elephant villagers in Animal Crossing games have their mouths permanently on one side of their faces. Cyd is the only elephant villager whose mouth is on the right side, while all other elephants' mouths beside Axel's are on the left. Some non-elephant villagers, such as the mouse Dora and the pig Hugh, also have this.
  • Character Portraits in Machine Knight will normally make use of this, but certain characters will move their lips at the edge of their face - others, however, will obviously not, as if the lead artist couldn't decide if this trope was in force.
  • Artwork for the original Mario Bros. portrays the title characters with their mouths practically coming out of the back of their heads.
  • Princess Peach's sprite in Super Mario Bros. features her face in profile with an open smile and a row of pixels closing off the outer smile, creating this effect.
  • Dominic Deegan consistently uses this every time a head is seen in profile view, except for when the character wears a mask or similar face-veiling headgear.
  • Megatokyo.
  • Misfile, though it stopped, possibly from reader complaints. There's at least one commissioned artwork where the only correction was specifically to remove a cheeky mouth.
  • Referred to as "Flounderface Disorder", and is pointed out that it's largely used when animating on the cheap, and shouldn't be considered a style when drawn in a different art medium such as comics where animating isn't a concern, in this Lackadaisy Expressions Tutorial.
  • Penny Arcade: Sometimes characters' mouths reach past the edge of the face when they shout (like, here for instance).
  • Concession.
  • In Wonder Weenies, the mouths will even move from cheek to cheek in frontal views between panels.
  • Frequent in early Walkyverse comics. At one point in the It's Walky! rerun, present-day Willis berates his past self for being "averse to drawing the mouth anywhere but floating on the middle of the cheek".
  • In Rain, characters' mouths can often move to their cheeks. This is largely due to the comic's animesque style.
    Western Animation 
  • Done on Total Drama with most characters. Heather is the most notable exception.
  • Look closely and you'll notice The PJs does this. And it's done in claymation.
  • Can appear when a cartoon character has a big nose or snout that would obscure the mouth needed for an expression. Example: some Tove Jansson's illustrations of the Moomins show it.
  • Rugrats: This seems to be a genetic trait of the female side of Angelica Pickles' family. Both her and her mom have their mouths drawn far off to the side inside their cheeks. Even when you're looking at her full profile, her mouth is always drawn inside one of her cheeks instead of being where it actually should be like every other character in the series. (Given how she's basically perpetually smug, maybe her face just got stuck that way.)
    • Aunt Miriam even has one too... to be fair she is implied to be a elderly version of Angelica due to how she treated Grandpa Lou in the past.
  • It's used quite frequently in Doug as well, beginning with Season 2 when Ellipse Programme took over as animation studio.
  • Rigby from Regular Show. Rigby is Cheated Angle personified. When his snout points up, his eyes move down to the bottom of his head.
  • Mickey and Minnie from the 2013 Mickey Mouse shorts have these.
  • Shaun the Sheep: Whenever the titular character and the other sheep show their usually invisible mouths, they're usually on the sides of their heads, though when they make an O shape with their mouths, they're in the center.
  • All the characters in The Mr. Men Show when viewed from the side.
  • In Steven Universe, Pearl almost always has her mouth drawn like this. Other characters are more likely to have normal-looking mouths in profile view.
  • Many if not all characters in The Crumpets can have their mouths like this when seen from the side.
  • Used almost constantly with everyone in Big City Greens.
  • The Loud House also does this constantly.
  • All the characters in Jelly Jamm have mouths that conveniently tilt to face the viewers regardless of what side the characters are being seen from.
  • Marina from Zig & Sharko has one.
  • All of the characters in Codename: Kids Next Door have them.
  • While this trope is prevalent in T.U.F.F. Puppy, special mention has to go to Becky, whose mouth sits just below her eyes and above her nose.

Alternative Title(s): Cheek Teeth, Flounder Face