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Fictional Talking Animals: Can They Be Trusted?

Mister Ed

We have a complicated relationship with animals. And to be clear I am speaking of non-human animals, since Jiminy Cricket did explain quite rightly that we are all human animals. And I’d like to talk to you about a subset of non-human animals: fictional animals.

Seeing the T.G.I.Friday’s-sponsored trailer for the Doctor Dolittle reboot starring Kevin James (being released in this country as Zookeeper) started me pondering our relationship to fictional animals. They, much like people who work at information desks in shopping malls, appear to come in three categories: Helpful, Sinister, or Silent.

Leaving the Silent type to David Attenborough (and, admittedly, Aardman‘s Gromit), we can see very quickly that the remaining two categories cover just about every known talking animal. In the Helpful category, we have The Cowardly Lion, Hazel from Watership Down and Bugs Bunny. In the Sinister category, we have the Big Bad Wolf, Napoleon from Animal Farm, and that AFLAC duck.

[ad#longpost]It’s easy to see why Kevin James in Dolittle 6 or James Marsden in Hop or any other protagonist might freak out when first faced with a talking animal. There’s the inevitable questioning of one’s sanity that comes first. After that dissipates, then there’s the ultimate fear: is this talking animal Sinister…or not? Considering everyone has a zombie plan, I think a talking animal plan might be in order as well. And I would urge caution for the following reasons.

Sinister is what I consider to be the default–through no fault of the animals–because of the Judeo-Christian tradition. This states that a talking snake brought hard work to men, monthly cycles to women, and death to everybody. But here’s a bonus, said Mr. Sinister Snake: Knowledge, which will help you know just how crap your new benefits are. No extra charge!

So, you can see that a Sinister animal is not one to be taken lightly. In fact, you might be thinking: wait, some animals are neither Sinister nor Helpful but instead simply Funny. That’s a fair point…but consider this. Animals that are not inherently Helpful should be considered full-on Sinister. Even jazzy and fun King Louie from The Jungle Book wants fire. But I tell you this: he doesn’t want to just be like mankind, he wants to use fire to be the orangutan world’s answer to a Bond villain. Where you see Prometheus, I see Blofeld.

Another example? Certainly. Garfield is a fun-loving pasta-consuming cat and seems to love a bit of mischief. Consider this, though: he can communicate with other animals seemingly through telepathy. I ask you the most serious question you should ponder this week: Would you trust a cat with telepathy?

So I urge you: when formulating your talking animal plan, treat them as Sinister until proven otherwise. And even then, you might want to keep one eye on them. Kevin James’ character in the upcoming film appears to trust the Helpful animals implicitly, going so far as to crucify a Flo Rida song with them. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the animals turned Sinister at the end and wound up grilling him in a Wicker Man-esque ceremony. Granted, if that were to happen, I would see it twice. And admit it: so would you.