(Illustration by Nick Wanserski)
A.V. To ZAn alphabetical survey of pop culture  

While some animals can be funny, not all animals can be Funny Animals. A trope that’s specifically defined by the existence of anthropomorphic animals that generally live as humans—homes, clothes, bipedal stance and all—Funny Animals are more Goofy than Pluto. Goofy’s got a hat and a voice, after all, while Pluto boasts both a wagging tail and penchant for bones. Thus, while everyone might agree that it’s hilarious when fez-clad monkey Abu coyly helps out Aladdin in the movie of the same name, in that movie only Iago really qualifies for Funny Animal status, despite his total lack of pants. All that being said, here are The A.V. Club’s favorite Funny Animals, from Ape to Zazu.

A: Ape, George Of The Jungle

The premise of George Of The Jungle is as dirt-simple as the animated series’ storybook aesthetic: What if Tarzan was as pea-brained as a man raised by apes ought to be? The average ape, that is—most intelligent inhabitant of George’s jungle is of the simian variety, a scholarly knuckle-dragger with the voice of Academy Award-winner Ronald Colman. (More accurately, Paul Frees doing an impression of Colman.) Despite the significant intellectual gap between them, Ape is a faithful second-in-command to Jay Ward and Bill Scott’s king of the jungle. Yet for all the authority in his haughty voice (later supplied by John Cleese in a pair of live-action feature adaptations), Ape never could keep his loin-clothed friend out of slapstick scrapes. But if that earworm of a catchphrase couldn’t get the job done, not even an egghead like Ape could get George to watch out for that damn tree. [Erik Adams]

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B: Bugs Bunny

Don’t we all wish we were Bugs Bunny? Hilarious, almost never rattled, and getting the best of everyone he encounters: Warner Bros.’ signature cartoon character is one for the ages. Bugs could spar off against Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, or Daffy Duck, and always end with a smiling fourth-wall shrug to the screen. Bugs benefited from classic animation directors like Chuck Jones, and of course, his vocal characterization by the unparalleled Mel Blanc, where he was the star in Blanc’s humongous collection of voices. Bugs’ laid-back wisecrackery made him an instant hit in his 1940 debut A Wild Hare, where he was a mashup of Clark Gable’s character in It Happened One Night and Groucho Marx in everything. He went on to star in more than 100 short features in which he gamely tackled horror, the medieval, Westerns, sci-fi, even the opera. Bugs is the cool persona we all wish we had, the one with the stunning comeback that most of us only think of the next day. No wonder he beat out Mickey Mouse to become the first cartoon character on a postage stamp in 1997. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Runner-up: Baloo, The Jungle Book

A character so agreeable he’s been voiced by both Bill Murray and John Goodman, Baloo The Bear’s lackadaisical attitude toward life makes him a lot of fun to hang out with, as do his musical tendencies. But he’d also do anything for a friend, which is why everyone wants him to be theirs. [Katie Rife]

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C: Chip

Together with his pal and/or brother chipmunk Dale, Chip was introduced to the cartoon world with a 1943 cartoon called “Private Pluto.” Though they looked and acted like real chipmunks then, they’d later adopt Funny Animal characteristics, with Chip ultimately copping an Indiana Jones-styled getup for the animated series Chip ’N Dale Rescue Rangers. While Dale is the dimwitted, bucktoothed one, Chip is the ’munk with the brain, a quick thinker who can be a little bossy. This has a tendency to wear on him a bit—even exaggerated cartoons need a break sometimes—but it’s his sense of responsible propriety (and occasional goofiness) that lands Chip a spot on this list. [Marah Eakin]

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Runner-up: Courage, Courage The Cowardly Dog

If we are to be judged by how we handle ourselves in times of crisis, then Courage is hysterical. Voiced to panicky perfection by Marty Grabstein, the darkly funny ’toon gets a lot of laughs out of Courage’s yelps and physical contortions in the face of danger. [Cameron Scheetz]

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D: Droopy

The term “hangdog” might as well originate from the sagging face, sorrowful voice, and dry wit of this Tex Avery creation. But just as Droopy’s greetings to the “happy people” in the audience contradicted his generally mild manner, so did his unassuming nature belie the chaos of his theatrical shorts. Surrounded by some of the wildest action MGM ever put on screen, Droopy is the calm in the eye of the storm, the counterpoint to frenetic cross-country dashes, gravity-defying reactions, and other outrageous sight gags. At least once a picture, he’s allowed to indulge in some Avery-style nuttiness, but those exclamation points are never as funny as the deadpan periods he dots throughout “Dumb-Hounded,” “Northwest Hounded Police,” or his cameo as a careless Toontown elevator operator in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. [Erik Adams]

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E: Eeyore, Winnie The Pooh

Eeyore, being the cuddly, anthropomorphized personification of clinical depression, isn’t a “funny” animal, per se. With his gloomy voice, downtrodden expression, and that sad, tacked-on tail—not to mention the rain cloud that follows him around—Eeyore just can’t match the energy or enthusiasm of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. It doesn’t help that pretty much every house he has ever lived in was destroyed, in one fashion or another. But life isn’t always sunshine and honey pots, and everybody either knows an Eeyore, or is one themselves. [Katie Rife]

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F: Foghorn Leghorn

The Looney Tunes creators didn’t do a lot of direct parodies, preferring to go broader with their star characters by dreaming up a stammering pig, a kooky duck, a seductive skunk, and so on. But Foghorn Leghorn was actually an homage to (or rip-off of) somebody else’s comedy routine: Kenny Delmar’s blustery Dixie politician Senator Claghorn, first featured on Fred Allen’s radio show in the 1940s. Less than year after Delmar started doing Claghorn on the air, director Robert McKimson and voice-actor Mel Blanc cooked up their tall, cagey rooster character, who went over so well with movie audiences that he became part of the regular Warner Bros. animation rotation. A lazy, know-it-all chatterbox with a knack for talking his way out of trouble, Foghorn Leghorn built on the rudiments of his inspiration, such that now whenever a person speaks in a broad southern accent and punctuates sentences with “ah say” and “that is,” everyone assumes they’re doing Foghorn, not Claghorn. [Noel Murray]

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G: Garfield, Garfield

Naysayers like to shit on Garfield for his banal obsessions with lasagna and Mondays, but for kids reading the funny pages in the ’80s and ’90s, the fat orange tabby’s more basic qualities just made him easier to understand. Garfield’s blandness gives him a universal appeal, and Garfield is the most widely distributed syndicated comic strip in the world. (Numbers quoted in Slate in 2004 claim that 4 percent of the world’s population reads Garfield every day.) Creator Jim Davis has never made any secret of his crass commercial intentions for the character, and billions of dollars in books, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and plush toys with suction-cup feet bearing his visage are still sold every year. And while even Davis should have been embarrassed by the Garfield feature films, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is a classic seasonal child-traumatizer. Besides, without Garfield, there would be no Garfield Minus Garfield. [Katie Rife]

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Runner-up: Gogo Dodo, Tiny Toon Adventures

Every after-school cartoon series needs its resident lunatic, and Gogo Dodo fit the bill with blue-shoed perfection. Gogo is the sentient non sequitur of Acme Acres (in part because he actually lives in Wackyland, just beyond the town borders), the transplant student to Acme Looniversity, school of choice for this new generation of Warner Bros. characters. He most often functioned as a sight gag delivery system, a minor or supporting figure to the central narrative of an episode, but almost always with delightful results. He’s best described with his signature end tag credit: “It’s been surreal!” [Alex McCown]

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H: Hobbes, Calvin And Hobbes

A stuffed tiger that comes alive only in the mind of the boy who owns him, Hobbes walks the thin line between Funny Animal and imaginary friend. Hobbes is Calvin’s bookish, well-reasoned counterpart, the strong-minded support the occasionally reckless boy needs. Failing only at math and at proving to everyone who’s not Calvin that he’s a terrifyingly real tiger, Hobbes’ very existence is a bit of an enigma. If only Calvin can see Hobbes, then does Hobbes even exist? Numerous ebullient wagon rides would seem to suggest so—as would all the confidence Hobbes gives Calvin—but whether Hobbes is a stuffed tiger or a real, man-eating beast, well, that’s for the reader to decide. [Marah Eakin]

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I: Itchy, The Simpsons

Cartoon mice get to play, regardless of whether their counterpart cats are away. Itchy (he’s the mouse, not the cat—or the car) prefers “-play” as a suffix, as in gunplay, knife-play, bomb-play, mallet-play, rocket-play, stethoscope-play—the list goes on and on, just like The Simpsons and its Funny Animal show-within-the-show. Twenty-seven years after his Tracey Ullman Show debut, Itchy is one of the few Simpsons characters who’s remained more or less the same: He’s gained a Mickey Mouse-style origin story, a Walt Disney-esque creator, and an Ub Iwerks-type dispute over creator credit, but he’s still the bucktoothed sadist who appeared in “The Bart Simpson Show.” Itchy and Scratchy were conceived as an ultra-violent send-up of Tom and Jerry (among other cat-and-mouse duos), and they remain ultra-violent send-ups of Tom and Jerry, demonstrating that the one trait of their inspiration that they mimicked the best is their longevity. [Erik Adams]

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J: Julien, Madagascar

From the moment that the Madagascar animals first encounter King Julien leading his many followers in the annoyingly catchy “I Like To Move It,” that royal lemur pretty much walked away with the entire movie series (give or take some scheming penguins). Sacha Baron Cohen’s over-the-top portrayal helped, as the delusional Julien was constantly convinced he was being chased by the paparazzi and admired by the masses, followed around by toadies Maurice and Mort. Still, he leaves his followers behind to follow the Madagascar four to New York, and falls in love with a bear en route (naturally) in Madagascar 3, the Citizen Kane of Madagascar movies. Like the penguins, Julien’s popularity soon led to his own Netflix series, All Hail King Julien, where his vocalization was taken over by Danny Jacobs. And he’s still never met a dance song, or a tranquilizer dart, he didn’t love. [Gwen Ihnat]

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K: Krazy Kat, Krazy Kat

George Herriman’s offbeat creation is, in a very real sense, the wellspring for websites like The A.V. Club. The comic strip, which ran from 1913 to 1944, was one of the very first then-“lowbrow” cartoon creations to be treated seriously, with the passionate and critical eye brought to its pop culture now an everyday phenomenon. Thanks to the fandom of William Randolph Hearst, the comic survived despite middling popularity—Hearst was such an admirer, he gave Herriman a lifetime contract and complete creative freedom—and was often the sole reason the strip continued to run in Hearst papers. The florid, experimental panels, meta situations and dialogue, and gentle poetic spirit became the source material for legions of subsequent cartoonists (including a short-lived Krazy Kat animated show in the ’60s). Its influence can be seen in the ramshackle American southwest backdrop of Chuck Jones’ Wile E. Coyote cartoons, to the oddball cast and landscapes of everything from Calvin And Hobbes to Bloom County. That a simpleminded cat and his unrequited love for an exasperated mouse can still resonate so strongly, more than a hundred years since its creation, is testament to the power of Herriman’s work. [Alex McCown]

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L: Lowly Worm, The Busy World Of Richard Scarry

An anthropomorphic worm clad in a Tyrolean hat, tube shirt, and one red shoe, Lowly Worm was created by Richard Scarry. Though he only speaks in rudimentary sentences in Scarry’s many books, he’s a real chatterbox in the animated versions of the tales, including The Busy World Of Richard Scarry and Busytown Mysteries. As Huckle Cat’s best friend, Lowly is a bit of an enigma. He attends elementary school, but he also drives a helicopter car that looks like an apple. He also once broke his leg, something that’s pretty weird considering Lowly doesn’t really have a leg. Either way, Lowly’s a great character, all nattily attired and up for anything. Scarry’s widow even said that Lowly was her late husband’s favorite creation. [Marah Eakin]

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M: Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse is the Funny Animal that started it all. Mickey was one of the first and favorite creations of the Walt Disney company, which still uses a short clip from the 1928 Mickey debut Steamboat Willie at the start of its productions. Since that debut, Mickey Mouse has become a bonafide pop-culture icon, with everything from his own classic line of wristwatches to various versions of a Mickey Mouse Club. On-screen, his appearances have mostly been limited to shorts, with a few cinematic standouts like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in 1940’s Fantasia or 1947’s inspired version of Mickey And The Beanstalk, during the era when he was voiced by Disney himself. Later efforts like 1999’s Once Upon A Christmas and The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series didn’t really do the character justice. Recently, however, Disney has gone back to the Mickey Mouse well with a series of excellent shorts: While they evoke the nostalgic Mickey of decades past, they embrace the manic sensibilities of today’s animation, resulting in one of the best new products on the Disney Channel, breathing new life into this classic character. [Gwen Ihnat]

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N: Norbert Foster Beaver, The Angry Beavers

Norbert’s humor is arguably second to his handsomeness—he’s the all-American blond with a great head of hair from Nickelodeon’s The Angry Beavers—but subtle suits him, allowing him to absorb some of his brother Daggett’s off-the-wall comedy. Take for example the quirk he has of mispronouncing words, a simple gag that only adds to his charisma. But it is his sarcasm and knack for inventive sing-song insults that makes him the funnier of the two bachelor brothers. Take for example this ditty from from season three’s third episode, which is sung after Dag pukes: “Ohhhh here it comes and it’s my crumbs it’s kind of crummy, not too yummy. It’s everywhere it in my hair, but I don’t care cause I’m a bear with underwear. So don’t ya stare, I’m in my wear and Dags blowin’ chunks, which up to now is in a cow! A la la la!” [Becca James]

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O: Opus The Penguin, Bloom County

Berkeley Breathed very consciously designed his Bloom County strip in the mold of Doonesbury, Peanuts, and Pogo, intending to bring more topical humor to the newspaper comics page via a motley assortment of broken adults, precocious kids, and talking animals. Very quickly though, the cartoon’s larger cast of fauna gave way to one breakout character: Opus, a literally wide-eyed penguin whose naiveté and boyish sense of optimism made him an immediate fan favorite. Opus was so popular that even after Breathed retired the strip (before bringing it back recently), he featured the penguin back in nearly every major project he subsequently attempted, from the children’s books A Wish For Wings That Work and Goodnight Opus to the Sunday-only strips Outland and Opus. Breathed learned the lesson that so many other newspaper cartoonists haves grasped before him, that it’s easier to sell satire to the American people if it comes with a healthy side of cute. [Noel Murray]

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P: Plankton, SpongeBob SquarePants

It’s unfortunately easy to forget that most of the characters on SpongeBob SquarePants qualify for this A.V. To Z, probably because the eponymous undersea pineapple dweller looks more like a kitchen project than a porous multicellular organism. And that’s just the type of slight that would send microscopic Bikini Bottom tyrant Plankton into an apoplectic fit. Given bellowing life by SpongeBob writer-actor Doug “Mr. Lawrence” Lawrence, Plankton is the show’s perennial comic MVP, an aquatic Napoleon who’s married to a computer and singularly obsessed with a rival restaurateurs’ secret recipe. (And now that we’ve typed all that out, it makes even more sense why SpongeBob doesn’t immediately scream “Funny Animals.”) [Erik Adams]

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Runner-up: Pogo

The two most influential funny-animal artists of the 1950s and 1960s were Carl Barks (creator of the expanded Donald Duck universe), and Walt Kelly, whose newspaper strip Pogo commented on the social issues of the day via the animals who populated the Okefenokee Swamp. Though Kelly came up with a variety of kooky characters (some of them overt political parodies), Pogo’s heart was in its titular possum, a sweet-natured fellow who always remained the level-headed observer of the madness all around him. [Noel Murray]

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Q: Quick Draw McGraw

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were ahead of the curve among animation impresarios in making the movie from theatrical shorts to television cartoons. In 1959, a year after finding massive success with the syndicated The Huckleberry Hound Show, Hanna-Barbera combined their increasingly popular “limited animation” style with the TV Western craze, and created Quick Draw McGraw, a brave-but-dimwitted horse in a cowboy hat. Voiced by Daws Butler and mostly written by Looney Tunes genius Michael Maltese, Quick Draw fought crime as a sheriff alongside his Mexican burro deputy Baba Looey, and sometimes went in disguise as the Zorro-esque El Kabong. As the Hanna-Barbera cartoon family grew, Quick Draw always remained a part of the larger cast, even if he eventually became less popular than characters like Yogi Bear or Scooby Doo. He was a horse with a big heart and a small brain—as lovable as he was preposterous. [Noel Murray]

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R: Rocket J. Squirrel, The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show

A naive Boy Scout type in an aviator helmet, Rocky The Flying Squirrel represents all-American optimism in that most Cold War of cartoon series, The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. Despite being saddled with his dim-witted sidekick Bullwinkle the moose, Rocky always foils the schemes devised by shifty Russian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale using his “Jet Age” flying skills. (Yes, it’s usually by mistake, but the good guys have to win, right?) With The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show still occasionally airing in syndication 50 years after its original run ended in 1964, Rocky and Bullwinkle will continue to influence generations of animators. [Katie Rife]

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Runner-up: Raphael, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Leonardo led, Donatello did machines, Michelangelo was “a party dude”—but no one can agree if Raphael is “cool, but rude” or “cool, but crude.” Whatever the correct answer is, it makes him the most complex hero in a half shell—and the funniest to boot. [Erik Adams]

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Runner-up: Raymond Smuckles, Achewood

If it’s a tired truism to claim that every generation gets “the version of _____” it deserves, it’s no less true that every generation would be a bit better off if it had a Raymond Smuckles to hold court over its time on the world-historical stage. In equal parts brilliant, a blowhard, a friend, and a fool, Achewood’s resident head honcho is rarely without a strong drink and an even stronger opinion. He’s a cat with an enormous bank account and a just-noticeable gut, a feline attuned to fleeting fads and the exploitation of same. And while his business schemes don’t always pan out (cell phone nuts, anyone?), his loyalty to his friends and surprisingly deep well of empathy and affection in times of trouble have steered him through channeling Albert Einstein, the Great Outdoor Fight, even some dark times in rehab. Just don’t bring up his predilection for watching ladies sitting on cakes—some things a dude just keeps under the brim. (The unofficial co-runner up in this prize is Ray’s best friend, Roast Beef, but thanks to the niggling technicality of Beef’s real first name, we’ll just give him a shout-out right here.) [Alex McCown]

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S: Snoopy, Peanuts

Charles Schulz became one of the most respected newspaper cartoonists in America almost from the moment his strip Peanuts debuted in 1950, but his peers thought Schulz had gone off the rails when later in the decade he started drawing his dog character Snoopy as a biped with a rich fantasy life. As it turned out, that radical break from the “reality” of the strip was largely responsible for exponentially expanding Peanuts’ popularity. Whenever Snoopy was front-and-center, the comic leavened its melancholy depiction of childhood with dashes of pure whimsy. The daydreaming beagle gave its creator an excuse to comment on whatever his obsessions might be at the time, be it WWI aviation, ice skating, tennis, novel writing, or college campus life as seen through the eyes of “Joe Cool.” Plus, from a marketing standpoint, Snoopy was cheerier than his owner Charlie Brown, and thus easier to slap onto toys and bedsheets. For the most part, Peanuts was narrowly focused on handful of moody kids in a small exurban neighborhood, but Snoopy’s adventures ranged from Petaluma to France—even if he never actually left the top of his doghouse. [Noel Murray]

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T: Tigger

Winnie The Pooh’s boisterous friend, taken straight from A.A. Milne’s books, adds a jarring dose of energy to the Hundred Acre Wood. Tigger likely had equal numbers of fans and detractors, but you can’t deny that he also had a fabulous theme song, and was excellent at livening things up when Eeyore was in one of his usual doldrums. Tigger’s distinctive voice was courtesy of ventriloquist Paul Winchell, who went on to personify other famous cartoons and kids’ characters such as Wacky Races’ Dick Dastardly, The Banana Splits’ Fleegle, and Smurfs nemesis Gargamel. But it’s Tigger’s debut in 1968’s Winnie The Pooh And The Blustery Day that most associate with that raspy voice. Tigger may be hard to manage, but he’s also fiercely loyal, someone you’d totally want to have your back while hunting Heffalumps and Woozles. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Runner-up: Timon, The Lion King

Voiced by Nathan Lane in the original Lion King, the meerkat half of one of Disney’s most beloved comedic duos thinks he’s smarter than he really is, which is why it’s a good thing his pal Pumbaa is such a simple creature. Together, though, they make it work. [Katie Rife]

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U: Underdog, Underdog

Though Underdog truly nabs the “U” title due to a general lack of U-named animals, he’s a pretty good candidate all the same. The heroic alter-ego of the meager Shoeshine Boy, Underdog is the rhyming superdog the world needed in the mid-’60s.With his droopy uniform and oversized cape, Underdog is more comedic than imposing, especially considering how much collateral damage he generally incurs while attempting to save the day. Still, he’s imbued with the powers of supersonic flight, X-ray vision, atomic breath, and ultrasonic hearing—to name a few—and more often than not, Underdog not only saves the day but gets the girl, that poor Sweet Polly Purebred. [Marah Eakin]

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V: Vlad Vladikoff, Horton Hears A Who!

Arrested Development’s Will Arnett now has quite a voice-over career, most famously with his recent hilarious turn as The Lego Movie’s Batman. But in one of his first such efforts, his voice is almost unrecognizable. Arnett played Vlad, the evil vulture in 2008’s underrated Horton Hears A Who!, sounding like the vulture version of Boris Badenov. An unnamed eagle in Dr. Seuss’ book, Vlad really comes into his own in the movie, offering Horton’s most exciting adventure sequences as the benevolent elephant (voiced by Jim Carrey) tries to save the Whoville speck from Vlad’s menace. But even this bloodthirsty vulture turns it around in the end, when he’s impressed by Horton’s efforts to mend fences with the Sour Kangaroo. Note: This Vlad is not to be confused with Vlad the rabbit, who bakes cookies. [Gwen Ihnat]

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W: Wile E. Coyote

Among animals that make us laugh, Wile E. Coyote is a rare breed, indeed. His seemingly inexhaustible inventiveness (not to mention bottomless bank account) has been directed toward one end: chasing the Roadrunner. Both a Sartrean allegory on the nature of existence and a great chance to see a creature fall off a cliff over and over again, his exploits are the stuff of animated legend. Thanks to the good people at Acme, he’s never without the means to bring about his outsize death traps. And thanks to the vagaries of fate—combined with a surprising lack of awareness about when to stop running toward a looming canyon—we’ll never have to worry about him catching the bird. Truly, he wouldn’t know what to do with it were the chase to suddenly cease; the look of excitement, rekindled every time he cooks up a new scheme, drives this home better than any stick of dynamite could. And thank God for that: his perpetual loss (fine, almost-perpetual loss) is our ongoing gain. [Alex McCown]

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X: X-Bugs, Peter Porker

A year after DC comics introduced the all-animal superhero series Captain Carrot And His Amazing Zoo Crew!, Marvel followed suit with the one-shot comic Marvel Tails, featuring the adventures of costumed critters like Spider-Ham, Captain Americat, and Hulk-Bunny. That idea was later spun into an ongoing title, Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham, which was more a specific parody of the Marvel universe, as opposed to Captain Carrot’s general riffs on superheroing. Ergo: the X-Bugs, a collection of mutant insects with such not-so-clever names as “Wolverine-Bug,” “Colosso-Bug,” and “Professor X-Bug.” As with most of the Peter Porker characters, the X-Bugs weren’t much more than a simple joke, but they were an adorable one—especially for anyone who’s ever wanted to see Cyclops, Storm, and Nightcrawler with tiny antennae. [Noel Murray]

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Y: Yogi Bear, The Yogi Bear Show

It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people didn’t believe that bears could be funny. Back before Baloo and Fozzie Bear were yucking it up to widespread acclaim, Yogi Bear was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Introduced to American audiences as a supporting player in Hanna-Barbera’s The Huckleberry Hound Show, Yogi broke through in a big way, becoming one of the groundbreaking animation house’s signature creations, eventually headlining many, many shows of his own. So what’s the appeal? Channeling the friendly, blue collar demeanor of The Honeymooners’ Ed Norton, Yogi was an everyman (or, everybear, rather), chumming it up with his fellow creatures and always coming up with quirky schemes to get his hands on some pic-a-nic baskets. He’s the kind of charming, good-natured character you’ d be happy to throw back some beers with, that is, if alcohol were permitted in Jellystone Park. [Cameron Scheetz]

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Z: Zazu, The Lion King

Timon and Pumbaa get the lion’s share of the attention, but Zazu is the wittiest among The Lion King’s cadre of comic relief. As both the majordomo of Pride Rock and the unofficial court jester, Zazu is often the butt of the joke, getting pounced upon in hunting practice and being forced to sing humiliating ditties. Through it all, the prim hornbill holds his beak high and somehow remains endearing, despite his tendency to nag Simba and Nala about their budding romance. All credit goes to Rowan Atkinson, whose sputtering yet refined vocal work give the bird the feel of a much chattier Mr. Bean, continually fumbling into threatening situations and just barely squawking out alive. Plus, if you love puns, Zazu is more than happy to gussy up a fairly rote morning report with some animal-centric wordplay. [Cameron Scheetz]

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