You may recall the scene from Stand by Me in which Gordie absently-mindedly enquires, "Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog... What's Goofy?" This query leaves his three pals utterly stumped; they simply cannot work out what species the dim-witted Disney stalwart belongs to.
If they'd chosen to continue this conversation - instead of popping out to embark on a tear-jerking coming-of-age adventure - they would have found that many other cartoon animals provoke the exact same question.
While the likes of Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig are kind enough to vaguely resemble the creatures they're supposed to be (as well as spelling it out in their names), there are many two-dimensional beasts that aren't. So, come with us as we attempt to solve the toughest genetic riddles of the animated animal kingdom!
(Let us know in the comments what cartoon's genetic make-up you don't have a clue about)
Ren & Stimpy
What we thought they were: An anorexic mouse and a red Tasmanian devil
Why their species was ever in question: Mainly because they're both extremely bizarre-looking individuals. On first inspection, Ren (left) appears to be either a rodent or a worryingly emaciated Siamese cat, while Stimpy (right) could be mistaken for a badger or some sort of wild dog, but is also the exact same shape as Looney Tunes' Tasmanian devil. Amusing, yes. Confusing, also yes.
What we thought he was: An intellectual bear
What he actually is: An intellectual aardvark
Why his species was ever in question: Aardvarks have long noses. That’s sort of their thing. Not only does Arthur not have a long nose, he doesn’t actually appear to have a nose at all. So, presumably the next series of his eponymous show will feature a hilarious neckless giraffe. Or perhaps a wacky no-horned unicorn? In addition to the nasal fiasco, his ears are smaller than your average aardvark's. And he dresses like a member of Vampire Weekend.
What we thought he was: Not sure. See Stand by Me excerpt above for proof of confusion
What he actually is: A dog
Why his species was ever in question: Largely because of his frequent on-screen appearances alongside Pluto. You see, Pluto most definitely is a dog. He walks on all fours, wears nothing but a collar and barks regularly. Goofy, on the other hand, swans about in a waistcoat and a pair of brogues, talking English and playing tennis. These are all classic human hallmarks. So, how - in any sane world - can these two be members of the same species?
Knuckles (from 'Sonic the Hedgehog')
What we thought he was: A fox whose favourite band is A Flock of Seagulls
What he actually is: An echidna (aka ‘Spiny anteater’)
Why his species was ever in question: Well, firstly because no-one apart from an echidna specialist has ever heard of an echidna. Even echidnas themselves are occasionally unsure as to what the hell they are. And secondly because, if you click its underlined name above, you'll notice these ‘spiny anteaters’ possess a much lengthier - almost aardvark-esque – snout than young Knuckles here.
Cyril Sneer (from 'The Raccoons')
What we thought he was: Lord knows. Toss-up between an alien and a pathetic elephant
What he actually is: An aardvark
Why his species was ever in question: Animators just can't seem to get aardvarks right, can they? Granted, the nose is correct here, but these creatures are also covered in fur and have tails. Cyril's body, however, appears to be as hairless (and tail-less) as a freshly waxed Bruce Willis. Either that or he’s made out of bubble gum. And if you can find a single aardvark that smokes a cigar, we’ll eat our –and your - hat.
What we thought they were: Mice? Cats? Some hellish cross-breed of the two?
What they actually are: ‘Generic Animal Creatures’
Why their species was ever in question: Because their species actually is in question. Yakko, Wakko and Dot were originally intended to be ducks, before a Warner Bros executive decided cartoon ducks had already "been done" and they were promptly changed to the ‘generic animal creatures’ you see before you. Seemingly based loosely on Mickey Mouse, the Animaniacs are unashamed fence-sitters in nature's cartoon kingdom.
Timon (from 'The Lion King')
What we thought he was: Some sort of ferret, probably. Or maybe a weasel
What he actually is: A meerkat
Why his species was ever in question: There are no glaring artistic errors for us to pick out here; Timon is, in fact, a fairly accurate rendering of a meerkat. The reason for his inclusion here, though, is that, in 1994, the meerkat was not hugely well-known outside of Africa. Consequently, the 'Hakuna Matata' vocalist had many 6-year-olds scratching their heads over his genetic epithet. Although, they probably wouldn't have used the phrase 'genetic epithet'. And if they did, they were probably well-educated enough to recognise a meerkat in the first place. Anyway, we're rambling.
Pete (from various Disney films)
What we thought he was: Either a bear, a wolf or a particularly large dog
What he actually is: A cat
Why his species was ever in question: Look at the size of the guy. He plays Goofy's boss in a number of Disney outings and manages to dwarf the anthropomorphic dog in every one. Aside from that, he's too nasty to be a cat. Cats are supposed to be laid-back, easygoing creatures, whereas Pete spends the majority of his time either insulting people or physically abusing them.