Bojack Horseman, “Humans with Animal Heads” Animals, Furry Reminders, and The Aversion of Informed Species

One show that features animals as basically “humans with animal heads” is the Netflix show Bojack Horseman. They are completely animal in the head and completely human in the body down to having completely human hands and feet and not having a tail even if their species has one.

Unlike Arthur, there are no Informed Species, animal characters that have a species name, but hardly or very vaguely look like the species that they are said to be (like Taz the Tasmainian devil in Looney Tunes, Crash Bandicoot, and Sonic the Hedgehog). Informed Species can also look like a completely generic form of a given type of animal despite having a specific species name of that type of animal (like Baloo from the Disney animated The Jungle Book having the look of a generic bear despite being called a sloth bear).

Interestingly, the animals show a fair number of Furry Reminders, behaviors that remind the audience of the species that the given characters are outside of their appearance. Also, the chickens at the chicken farm in one episode, including one named Becca, behaved like normal, nontalking chickens despite wearing clothes and being as anthropomorphic in body shape as all the other animal characters.

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Sliding Scale of Animal Species and Type Ambiguity and Accuracy

A) Cartoon Creature or Ambiguous Animal Type and Species

No set animal type or species

Ver 1) Little or no resemblance to any real world species or animal type

Ver 2) Vague resemblance to a real world animal type and little or no resemblance to any real world animal species

Ver 3) Close resemblance to a real world animal type and either little to no or a vague resemblance to a real world animal species

Ver 4) Close resemblance to a real world animal species

B) Informed Animal Type

Set animal type and no set animal species, but has little or no resemblance to any real world animal species or its respective animal type

Ver 1) Little or no resemblance to any real world animal type

Ver 2) Greater vague resemblance to another real world animal type

Ver 3) Greater close resemblance to another real world animal type

C) Informed Species and Animal Type

Set animal species, but little or no resemblance to its respecitve species or even its respective animal type

Ver 1) Little or no resemblance to any real world animal type or species

Ver 2) Greater vague resemblance to another real world animal type

Ver 3) Greater close resemblance to another real world animal type

D) Generic Set Animal Type

Set animal type and no set animal species, identifiably and obviously its respective set animal type (cartoon monkeys, frogs and toads, turtles, and songbirds commonly fall into this trope)

Ver 1) Little to no resemblance to any real world species within its respective animal type

Ver 2) Vague resemblance to a real world species within its respective animal type

Ver 3) Close resemblance to a real world species within its respecitve animal type

E) Informed Species Obvious Set Animal Type

Set animal species, identifiably and obviously its set animal type, but has little or no resemblance to its respecitve species within its set animal type

Ver 1) Little or no resemblance to any real world species within its respective animal type

Ver 2) Greater vague resemblance to another real world species within its respective animal type than to its respective species

Ver 3) Greater close resemblance to another real world species within its respective animal type than to its respective species

F) Biologically Inaccurate Obvious Set Species

Identifiable and obvious set animal species, but can have a few or some major or glaring biological inaccuracies in their character design (like rabbits with pawpads and dog or cat noses and insects with four legs)

G) Mostly Biologically Accurate Obvious Set Species

Identifiable, obvious, and mostly accurate set animal species; can be rendered or drawn in a stylized manner as long they don’t have any major or glaring biological inaccuracies in their character design (blinking snakes and owls that move their eyes are biological inaccuracies but very minor ones)

H) Completely Biologically Accurate Obvious Set Species

Identifiable, obvious, and completely accurate set animal species; hard to do except in photorealistically rendered animated works

Animal Anthropomorphism Levels: The Difference Between Maus and Mickey and Friends

Speaking of the “humans in animal suits,” “animals heads on human bodies,” and “humans with animal traits” levels, I understand why Maus is the way it is. The characters in Maus are actually human characters and have very anthropomorphic animal shapes to the viewer. Maus appears to be “animal heads on human bodies,” but the character’s animal shapes are metaphorical, making it easier to suspend disbelief toward the treatment of them as human characters.

The Mickey and Friends verses (like the Mouse comics and the Duck comics) goes the “humans with animal forms” route with its more anthropomorphic (“Animals with Many Human Traits” appearance-wise) animals like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Scrooge McDuck, and Ludwig von Drake. However, unlike Maus, the animal forms are literal, they are half dressed (shirtless mice and pantsless ducks), and what kind of human sounds quacky in a typical natural voice. This makes it harder to see them as basically humans who just happen to be done with animal forms.

It’s easier to see Goofy, Max, the Beagle Boys, Duckworth (he’s not a duck), and their ilk (Dogfaces), as well as Pete and PJ in Goof Troop, A Goofy Movie, and An Extremely Goofy Movie, as being basically “humans with animal forms” because even though their animal forms are still literal, they are more anthropomorphic, either “humans in animal suits,” “animals heads on human bodies,” or “humans with animal traits” (like Roxanne in A Goofy Movie) in appearance. They also dress as fully as any human – shirt, pants, shoes, and all.

Also, there are some less anthropomorphic animals (Milton the cat, Chip n’ Dale, Humphrey Bear, And Louie the mountain lion) and slightly anthropomorphic animals (Pluto, Dinah the Dachshund, Butch the Bulldog, Fifi the Peke, Chainsaw, Figaro, Mr. Pettibone, and Waffles) who are portrayed either as “normal animals” or “animals with human traits.” This, along with making the “normal animals” pets to the anthropomorphic animals (Mickey has Pluto, Goofy has Mr. Pettibone and Waffles, Pete and Peg have Chainsaw, and Minnie has Fifi and Figaro), only makes these universes rife with Furry Confusion.

Furry Confusion, Humanoid Female Animal, and Adults Are More Anthropomorphic

I’ve heard of a trope called Furry Confusion, where the less, slightly, and not anthropomorphic animals and the more and very anthropomorphic animals (some of whom so anthropomorphic that they are basically like humans in animal suits or humans with animal traits) of same (like Pluto and Goofy), similar, and related species share the same universe.

There are also a few companion tropes to this one, Humanoid Female Animal in which the female animals are more anthropomorphic than the male animals (e.x., Tiny and Candy Kong to the male Kongs in the Donkey Kong games), and Adults are More Anthropomorphic, in which adult and older animals are more anthropomorphic than baby, child, and younger animals (e.x., Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and his 420 bunny children in Epic Mickey). Some examples of both these tropes are so pronounced that they overlap with Furry Confusion itself.

The two cats in Disney’s Pinocchio, the male kitten Figaro and the dumb, mute, adult tomcat Gideon are a pronounced example of Adults Are More Anthropomorphic as well as one of Furry Confusion. They are the only two cats in the movie, they are both mute, and the adult one is the more anthropomorphic of the two, wearing clothes and walking bipedally whereas the kitten wears no clothes and walks quadrupedally. Also, there are neither anthropomorphic kittens nor nonanthropomorphic adult cats in the movie.

Animal Anthropomorphism Levels in Looney Tunes, Animal Talk, and Talking Animal

Unlike most other Looney Tunes animals who are usually “animals with human traits” to varying degrees, Porky Pig kind of has this Donald Duck like portrayal in terms of anthropomorphism level to him. Like Donald Duck, he is pantsless and has a body shape roughly like his no anthropomorphic counterpart. Also like Donald Duck, he is frequently portrayed like a “human in an animal suit.”

Porky Pig is also the only character cast with Sylvester who can’t talk to (“Kitty Kornered” is the exception to the rule). Sylvester is shown to be able to talk to Daffy Duck, Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, Foghorn Leghorn, and other animals. He is even able to talk to humans like Elmer Fudd and Granny (when disguised as a bellboy in “Canary Row”). Sylvester is also shown to be unable to talk to a non-anthropomorphic orange pig in “Too Hop to Handle,” so he may just be unable to talk to pigs despite being able to talk to other animals, including humans.

The Animal Talk trope lets animals with the exception of humans talk to and understand each other*, but Sylvester is able to talk to humans and unable to talk to hogs. Is there something about swine that makes Sylvester mute toward them?

The Looney Tunes, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Pinky and The Brain universe, by in large, runs on the Talking Animal trope, in which animals can talk to and be understood by humans, so when some cartoons or episodes appear to run on the Animal Talk trope (like many Rita and Runt and Goodfeathers segments), it’s just for that cartoon or episode or the segment type just plays that way and is not applicable to the whole universe. Plus, some cartoons and episodes shows the characters as toons, animated actors, and toon actors in-universe. Those type of cartoons are Talking Animal in nature.

* The Animal Talk trope would make more sense if it included humans among the animals that are able to talk to and understand each other because humans are animals.

Animal Anthropomorphism Levels (Appearance and Behavior)

  1. Non-Anthropomorphic (Animals with no human traits)
  2. Slightly Anthropomorphic (Animals with very few human traits)
  3. Mildly Anthropomorphic (Animals with a few human traits)
  4. Somewhat Anthropomorphic (Animals with some human traits)
  5. Moderately Anthropomorphic (Animals with many human traits)
  6. Largely Anthropomorphic (Humans in animal suits)
  7. Very Anthropomorphic (Animals heads on human bodies)
  8. Extremely Anthropomorphic (Humans with animal traits)

Levels 1, 2, and 3 can be portrayed as “normal” animals. Levels 6, 7,and 8 are “humans in animal forms” levels.