Cartoons are loaded with animals. They’re also loaded with lies! It’s true. Uh… I mean it’s true about the lying part, that there are lies. Anyway! Kids’ books, animated shows, toys, breakfast cereal boxes, restaurant activity mats, you name it, they are all filled with breathtaking inaccuracies about the Wild Kingdom.
“So what,” right? We all know that they’re filled with fantasy and artistic license. But at what point exactly do we know this? When we were little grubby grenades of youth ourselves, did we really think about it? We were being kids, learning and having fun using orange crayons to color in cute crocodiles. We knew they were super friendly because their mouths were so gigantic when they smiled, right?
I’m not trashing cartoons in any way—I love them! Probably too much. Waaaaay too much. And I’m in no way suggesting some kind of reform, like an Honesty in Cartooning Act. Frankly, I don’t want to live in a world without cartoons and the thought of “accurate cartoons” makes me want to throw up in my mouth.
However, there’s an interesting side-effect that can occur in life because of these brightly-colored characters we grow up with. I’m saying “we” because I’m really hoping that it wasn’t just me. There’s a point when you start to learn, for real, about some animals. Animals that have even helped to teach you the alphabet by representing a letter.
|The opossum goes “Hhhhhhhhhgh!”
||The first time I saw a one of these I said something like: “Holy sh#t!!! Radiation-mutated rat from New York!!!” The person I was with laughed and told me it was an opossum. I wanted to say something about the fact that I’d thought they were cuter, like in cartoons, and not so… mutant-rat looking. I may or may not have asked some supremely dumb question about why it wasn’t hanging from its tail in a tree. Ehem. Or something.
|Kiss your picnic basket and your ass goodbye.
||Winnie the Pooh, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Fozzie, the Berenstain Bears, Care Bears, take your pick. I don’t have a clear recollection of when this reality hit me upside the head because even now I have to actually force myself, with great difficulty, to think of any of these characters being associated in any way with the beast shown here.
|Hippo: “NOM!” Widlebeast: “Ohsh#t-ohsh#t-ohsh#t!”
||I can chant the advertising jingle for the kids’ game Hungry Hungry Hippos, a fun board game set with goofy plastic hippos with levers to make them gobble up marbles. When I was about 20-years-old I saw a show about the hippopotamus. I was horrified. I tried to reconcile pictures in my head of the ballet-dancing hippos of Disney’s Fantasia with the documentary commentary, “one of the most aggressive and dangerous creatures in the world” and “it can easily outrun a human.”
|Do NOT mess with George. Just hand over the red balloon and run!
||I’ve loved Curious George since I was little. All my boys have, especially my youngest. So I recently got curious myself and hit the internet to see what George was. I read that one primatologist concluded that he’s an ape. That no tail plus knuckle-walking rules out all monkeys and narrows down the field to chimps and gorillas. At which point, all the daring episodes of Chimp Eden I’d ever seen came crashing down on me. And I had to shake off a picture of The Man in the Yellow Hat appearing on Oprah after massive reconstructive surgery to the remnants of his face. (Shudder!) I shrugged it off and popped on the TV, Lucas and I laughing as George constructed the worst tree house in the universe. Hilarious!
These were just some examples when the real Circle of Life was brought home to me. I’d like to think I’m not a moron. I tell myself that these mistakes and misconceptions are perfectly understandable when you compare the super boring detachment of school textbooks against the sparkling, sound-effected allure of Saturday morning cartoons. There’s no contest! Those books were made by people who may not have even studied animals in their actual natural habitats, and definitely didn’t color them in with orange crayons like the people who make cartoons do.
Our Facebook Habitat
Don’t worry. Facebook can not easily outrun a human.
There are some pictures here that are way more misleading than cartoons. Enjoy.