How 25 famous cartoon animals compare to their real-life counterparts

Disney/iStock‘Ratatouille’ (2007) features a rat.
  • Not all animated animals look like their real-life counterparts.
  • Artists sometimes take a lot of creative liberties when creating animal characters, but others have similar behaviours as the real animals they’re based on.
  • Remy, Puss in Boots, Sven, and Mr. Fox all look pretty similar to the real-life animals that inspired the characters.
  • On the other hand, Arthur, Squidward, Donald Duck, and Perry are pretty loose interpretations of their actual counterparts.
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Artists tend to take some creative liberties when they developed some of our favourite animated animal characters.

From outrageous sizes to unbelievable abilities, their unusual characteristics are what make these animated creatures so entertaining.

Take a look at some of the most beloved cartoon characters next to their real-life counterparts.


Scooby-Doo is modelled after one of the largest dog breeds.

Warner Bros/iStockScooby-Doo is modelled after a Great Dane.

The adorable mystery-solving dog Scooby-Doo is fairly similar to his real-life inspiration. Scooby’s breed is a Great Dane and they tend to be large, loveable dogs who are typically friendly and patient with people.

However, according to the American Kennel Club, Great Danes are known for being effective guard dogs, which is pretty different from Scooby’s easily spooked disposition.


The giant crab, Tamatoa, isn’t so far off from the real-life crustacean.

Disney/iStockBoth have big claws.

Tamatoa from “Moana” is a larger-than-life crab covered in treasure and he’s based on the very large coconut crab.

Found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, this giant crustacean uses its massive claws to crack open coconuts. Although not quite as huge as Tamatoa, the coconut crab typically weighs around 10 pounds.


Artists took some creative liberties with Arthur the aardvark.

9 Story Media Group/AP/M. Spencer GreenArthur’s nose is very different from a real aardvark’s.

Arthur, the cuddly bespectacled aardvark resembles a bear more than he resembles an aardvark.

In Arthur’s first appearance in the 1976 book, “Arthur’s Nose,” he resembled a real-life aardvark with a long snout and sharp claws.

But over the years, Arthur lost many of those classic aardvark features. Creator Marc Brown explained to AV Club, “It wasn’t anything I was consciously doing. I just drew him and the more I got to know him … His nose got smaller and smaller.”


Squidward Tentacles isn’t a squid after all.

Paramount; NOAASquidward Tentacles is actually an octopus.

Despite his name and only having six tentacles, Squidward Tentacles from “SpongeBob Squarepants” is an octopus.

It was revealed by creator Stephen Hillenburg that Squidward is an octopus and he has less tentacles because it makes him easier to animate. His large, bulbous head closely resembles that of an octopus, but that’s about where the similarities between the two end.


Remy’s chef skills aside, he’s quite similar to real rats.

Disney/iStockThey have similar appearances.

Remy from “Ratatouille” is a rat that has great taste in food and big dreams of becoming a chef, meanwhile his family members feast on literal garbage.

Rats do typically eat whatever they can find in human’s kitchen cabinets and can oftentimes spread diseases along the way.

Remy’s animators didn’t stray too far from his real-life counterparts. Both creatures typically have grey fur, small pink paws, and a long tail.


Roadrunners actually run on roads like their cartoon counterpart.

ABC/iStockThe real animal isn’t as colourful.

Road Runner, a speedy bird constantly outrunning his nemesis Wile E. Coyote, is known for his classic “meep meep” call.

The real-life bird of the same name is a bit smaller than the cartoon and they typically have brown and white feathers, unlike their blue and purple cartoon kin.

Roadrunners can be found running alongside roads like their name suggests, marking a similarity between the real animal and the cartoon.


Eeyore doesn’t have hooves as a real donkey does.

Walt Disney Pictures/iStockReal donkeys probably don’t misplace their tails that often.

The perpetually gloomy, stuffed donkey, Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh” doesn’t exactly look like his real-life counterpart.

Eeyore doesn’t have hooves like a real donkey, but both creatures have pretty large ears.

Both animals can be grey with a dark mane, but donkeys aren’t quite as cuddly as Eeyore. In reality, many rely on donkeys to carry heavy loads over mountains and large stretches of land.


Sonic the Hedgehog is a bit speedier than real hedgehogs.

Youtube/Sonic the Hedgehog/iStockReal hedgehogs are not blue.

Classic video-game character Sonic the Hedgehog is known for his bright-blue fur and super-fast speeds.

Real hedgehogs are brown in colour and covered in prickly spines. And even though hedgehogs can run a few miles per hour, they’re not known for breaking the sound barrier.


Pumbaa’s love for eating insects isn’t a typical warthog trait.

Disney/iStockBoth have similar snouts.

One half of “The Lion King” comedic duo, Pumbaa is a warthog with a passion for eating insects with his buddy Timon, a meerkat.

Real warthogs are grazers who eat plants and roots and battle against insects from biting their skin. They rely on birds to eat those insects and will hide in the mud to escape the biting bugs.


Without his human clothes, Puss in Boots is similar to a house cat.

DreamWorks/iStockHe looks like a real-life house cat.

Fairytale character Puss in Boots from the “Shrek” franchise is a “Zorro”-esque, sword-wielding orange cat.

House cats don’t usually have enough energy for sword fighting all day. They sleep an average of 15 hours each day.

However, if you remove Puss’ boots, sword, and dynamic personality, he looks just like a cuddly house cat.


Jiminy Cricket is a great conscience, but not really a great cricket.

Walt Disney Pictures/iStockThey don’t have much in common.

Jiminy Cricket serves as Pinocchio’s tiny conscience with a big personality. Outside of his name, Jiminy isn’t much like a cricket at all.

He doesn’t have antennae or long legs for jumping. He teaches Pinocchio how to whistle, but he doesn’t chirp like a real cricket.

Jiminy’s much better at being a conscience than he is at being a real-life cricket.


Sven is nearly identical to real reindeer.

Walt Disney Pictures/iStockThey both have similar colouring.

Trusty sidekick and comic relief, Sven the reindeer from “Frozen” is a close representation of reindeer.

With his dark to light gradient fur, large antlers, and fuzzy hooves, Sven’s characterization is spot on.

However, Sven doesn’t really act like a reindeer. It would be unusual to see a reindeer separated from its herd and they don’t tend to have dog-like personalities.


Mr. Fox is a fairly close animated version of the real animal.

20th Century Fox; RT Images/ShutterstockMr. Fox shares a lot of the actual animal’s physical characteristics.

Wes Anderson’s sly “Fantastic Mr. Fox” protagonist shares many features with the real-life red fox he was based on.

Red foxes are mainly found across the Northern Hemisphere, and they are the largest species in the true-fox genus.

According to National Geographic, the breed is known for being resourceful, a trait that Mr. Fox also shares, and tends to easily adapt to human environments.


Judy Hopps is a little more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than most rabbits.

Disney; Nigel Dowsett/ShutterstockJudy Hopps’ round face and huge eyes are a little different from a real rabbit’s.

“Zootopia” is full of civilized animals big and small, including Officer Judy Hopps.

The cartoon European rabbit is certainly a little more rounded out and humanized then her real-life counterpart. However, Judy does have the rabbit’s characteristic long ears and short, fluffy tail.

In the wild, European rabbits tend to be fairly social animals, a trait Judy also shares, and they are known for being territorial, which could explain Judy’s passion for protecting Zootopia.


Real panda bears tend to munch on bamboo, unlike Po, who usually has a taste for dumplings.

DreamWorks; GettyPo shares some physical characteristics with real pandas.

Kung-fu fighting, dumpling-loving panda Po isn’t an exact replica of his real-life counterpart, but he does share some key features.

The giant panda is native to China and is characterised by its black and white fur, and particularly, the black circles of fur around its eyes.

Actual pandas eat a diet primarily consisting of bamboo, not dumplings, so Po would probably have a hard time with that. But, like Po, they do eat a lot – typically between 26 and 84 pounds of bamboo a day.


Pascal from “Tangled” was originally supposed to look more realistic, but the animators went for entertainment value over authenticity.

Disney; Eugen Haag/ShutterstockPascal does change colours like a real chameleon.

Rapunzel’s sassy but loyal sidekick most closely resembles the veiled chameleon breed. Pascal has the ability to change into different vibrant colours, like actual chameleons, and he also has the spiky head and swirly tail of his real-life counterpart. But that’s about as far as their physical similarities go.

According to an interview with the Los Angeles Times, supervising animator Lino DiSalvo said that they planned to make Pascal more realistic-looking, but the original design “wasn’t giving off the right vibe for a princess movie.”

“He’s very expressive; we pushed his shape and his face. Once we found the character, we were off and running,” DiSalvo said.


Like Emperor Kuzco, llamas are native to Peru.

Disney; Iryna Savina/ShutterstockKuzco doesn’t look exactly like a real llama.

Emperor Kuzco from “The Emperor’s New Groove” was turned into a llama by his evil advisor Yzma, which is fitting seeing as the film takes place in Peru where llamas are plentiful.

Although Kuzco’s llama form does share the characteristic long neck and snout with the actual animal, he doesn’t look all that realistic. That may be because he spends most of the movie standing and sitting in very human-like manners.

Llamas are said to be gentle, shy, and friendly, which is a bit ironic seeing as Kuzco is known for being arrogant and ruthless. However, it is fitting that the protagonist learns how to be a better emperor, friend, and all-around person throughout his journey as a llama.


King Julien has the characteristic striped tail of a ring-tailed lemur.

DreamWorks; GUDKOV ANDREY/ShutterstockKing Julien doesn’t act like a real lemur though.

Although the sassy King Julien from “Madagascar” does share some key physical attributes with real ring-tailed lemurs – namely his striped tail, yellow eyes, and pointy ears – his behavioural traits aren’t exactly based in fact.

In the film, Julien is depicted as the king of the lemurs of Madagascar – the native land of actual lemurs – but in real lemur groups, the females are dominant over the males.


Donald Duck is based on the largely domesticated Pekin duck.

Disney; Andi111/ShutterstockDonald’s features are more human-like than duck-like.

Mickey Mouse’s friend Donald doesn’t look all that much like the Pekin duck he was moulded after. However, he does have the orange bill, fluffy tail, and webbed feet of the real bird.

Unfortunately for Donald, the domesticated duck breed is largely used for meat in the US, but he seems to have stood the test of time.


It would be really cool (and slightly terrifying) if they could, but real elephants can’t fly like Dumbo.

Disney; Pfaffenbach/ReutersDumbo’s ears are much larger than a real elephant’s.

Disney’s flying elephant, Dumbo, is said to be based on a real African bush elephant named Jumbo born in 1860. However, the real elephant only inspired Dumbo’s life story, not his physical features or skill of flying.

The biggest difference between Dumbo and his real-life counterpart is, unsurprisingly, his ginormous, wing-like ears. Generally, African elephants have larger ears than Asian elephants, but Dumbo’s are certainly overexaggerated.

That said, no real elephant has ears big or strong enough to allow them to fly.


Real great-white sharks aren’t “vegetarians” like Bruce and his friends.

Disney/Pixar; Barcroft Media/Getty ImagesThe animators did get Bruce’s teeth right.

Bruce, the “vegetarian” great-white shark from “Finding Nemo,” closely resembles actual sharks. One quality, in particular, that the movie got right is Bruce’s multiple layers of teeth.

However, you’re not likely to come across any fish-friendly great-white sharks in the ocean, and you’d also probably never see three different breeds of sharks socialising and hunting together as you do in the film.


A recent, animated version of Michelangelo was based on a box turtle.

Nickelodeon; Simply Photos/ShutterstockNone of the teenage mutant ninja turtles closely resemble real turtles.

Although in the original comics the turtles were based on red-eared sliders, on Nickelodeon’s latest TV adaptation “The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” each lead is based on a different breed.

Michelangelo is supposed to be a box turtle, largely due to the breed’s natural orange markings, which match Mickey’s mask.

Of course, none of the teenage mutant ninja turtles look very similar to their real-life counterparts, and their pizza-heavy diet isn’t authentic – they are mutant, after all.

But the animators did take the time to do little things like match their iconic masks to a turtle breed with similar natural colouring.


Chipmunks do chirp, but they can’t sing like Alvin.

Universal Studios Home Video; MaryShutterstock/ReutersThe cartoon version of Alvin and the Chipmunks is far from an accurate depiction of the animal.

Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are all based on North American breeds of chipmunks.

Alvin shares some physical traits with his real-life counterpart, including his size and pudgy cheeks, but the animated chipmunks are definitely loose interpretations of the actual animal.

Although chipmunks do communicate with a shrill, bird-like chirp, the real animals probably wouldn’t be able to become hit singing sensations as the chipmunks do in cartoon form.


BoJack may resemble a thoroughbred horse, but his personality is much more human-like.

Netflix; acceptphoto/ShutterstockBoJack doesn’t have that much in common with the famous breed of racehorses.

The animated, self-loathing thoroughbred, BoJack Horseman, does share quite a few physical characteristics with the actual horse breed, including expressive eyes and slumped shoulders.

However, the fact that BoJack walks upright and wears human clothes does distract from these similarities.

On the show, BoJack is a washed-up actor in his 50s. In real life, thoroughbreds are largely used for racing, retire between 4 and 10 years old, and live to be 25 or 28.


Perry is nothing like a real platypus.

Disney; worldswildlifewonders/ShutterstockIt’s odd that Perry is even in the US, since platypi are only found naturally in Australia.

Perry the platypus, or Agent P, from “Phineas and Ferb” was a relatively unusual pet for two teenage boys living in America to have.

The species is only native to Australia, and platypi generally spend more time in the water than Perry ever seemed to.

The cartoon platypus doesn’t closely resemble the real-life animal, but most-noticeably, platypi are generally brown, not teal.

It’s also interesting that Perry is a skilled secret agent seeing as platypi generally move awkwardly on land.

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