Humans are human and animals are animals, right? In our day to day rituals we have no hesitation stepping on bugs or eating a beefy hamburger. We as human are the superior and animals are merely the creatures that fulfil our lives, whether it be in the way of food or entertainment or putting them to work, like a sniffer dog. However, the world of humans and animals can become intertwined, the way in which we see our animal’s changes and they begin to appear with human like qualities.
We call this anthropomorphism. The term ‘Anthro’ derives from Greek origin meaning ‘human’. The animals are given these human like qualities by us, the humans ourselves, to allow us to better understand, communicate and form emotional bonds with animals.
Giving animals personality traits like our own helps stimulate a reaction from within us so we can better engage with the animal and form a deeper connection. To form a connection with any other person we need to be able to communicate with them, so it’s obvious that we give animals voices so they can communicate back to us.
If you’d ever seen any Disney movie surely you would have seen this in action. Disney has made countless tales that feature an anthropomorphised character. Disney utilises the imagination to transport the audience to a world where animals are just like humans. They have the same emotions, the same struggles and same dreams and desires. The animal characters can completely replace the need for humans all together in some stories. For example, The Lion King is a retelling story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, though uses lions who are the king of the jungle as the central characters.
However, in the anthropomorphised world there is quite often a somewhat realisation or awareness that the humans are the ones to be feared. In Disney films the animal characters are the ones often we relate or empathize with the most and our emotional bond is strongest with and the humans are the monsters or evil that we are against.
Finding Nemo, the popular Disney movie focuses on a father and son fish relationship, like a single parent family. The story begins with very humanlike rituals such as first day of school and swimming lessons, even though they are fish and already swimming? Human children relate to this so it isn’t questioned in the film. Nemo gets lost while swimming and captured by a scuba diver and taken back to his aquarium. It is immediately known that the human is the evil, the ominous tone and its large daunting appearance transform the human into the villain. Nemo is kept hostage in the aquarium fish tank and his experience is shown to be unpleasant and frightening. The theme of being taken away and captured by someone is a frightening thought to most of us, however it being extremely common in real life we often don’t give it a second thought, like when we go and choose a new pet and drag it away from its mother.
Although the fish and humans both speak English in the film they cannot communicate, emphasising the real-life relationship between animals and humans where there isn’t verbal communication. There is often a theme to the anthropomorphised characters of these movies that they are not understood by humans and that humans often do not take the time to understand the animals.
Humans are social beings and require emotions and feelings in their interpretation of communication. We target animals for anthropomorphising as they are most similar to us, as they do action and we can gather some form of response, e.g. a cat sits in front of bowl signalling it’s hungry or a dog barking signalling play time and through film techniques like animation we can transform our animals into very human like characters and can communicate to the audience with these personality traits and allow us to understand and form emotional bonds.