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Pet Sins April 2000

European features in cartoon animals

Flounder Sigh, biologically inaccurate, anthropomorphic features have found their way into animal characters. Worse, these features are usually undeniably European.

Animal characters who have a 'special' place in the story are given unnatural human European characteristics such as blue eyes. For example, there is blue-eyed Flounder in Disney's Little Mermaid.

In Disney's Mulan, the heroine's faithful steed also has blue eyes. In Lion King, Simba's love interest is a lioness with blue eyes. A similar phenomenon appears in Dreamwork's "Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron": the equine love interest of the main horse character is a blond-maned, blue-eyed mare. It's not a stretch to say that this coloration choice in an animal character follows the cliched tradition of casting the blond hair-blue-eyed human woman as the hero's love interest.

Now we all know that blue-eyed fish, horses and lions are quite commonplace ;-)

Vultures from The Jungle Book Lion King also features a villainous lion with green eyes. Disney's Jungle Book has a vulture with long blond hair and another with long red hair. The vultures play a significant role in the story by serving as commentators. In other words, they are presented for the audience to identify with. Even stories set outside of Europe, with no human European characters, still somehow end up being about white people.

Thundercats, a cartoon series about a superhero force of humanoid cats, also clearly marks its key characters with white European features. Cheetara is a blond and Lion-O is a redhead. Blue eyes are also present in at least one of the characters.

Though we may think our children are watching an innocent little cartoon about cute animals far from the human world of unequal social access for different races, those animated characters still really represent white people. Children are not blind to such things. The process by which children of color are made to feel unrepresented and unimportant starts at an early age.


Comment from 'Shawn S'
I personally always felt like Panthro was the "minority" African-American of the show. Panthro = Black Panther??? Perhaps because the voice actor might've been African-American too?

Comment from ' Anonymous '
The voice actor was Earle Hyman. He is African American.