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The best fictional animals of all time

by Megan Hunt

Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re a fan of classic cartoons, fantastical worlds, or literary fiction, at some point in your life you’ve probably stumbled upon an animal character that’s every bit as compelling and interesting as their human counterparts. From mythological beasts to fictitious versions of our favourite pets, here are 20 animals that may not be real — although our affinity for them certainly is.

Snoopy

WildBrain / AppleTV+

Snoopy is so iconic that his alter ego is even named Joe Cool. When Snoopy isn’t serving as a World War I Flying Ace, being mistaken for the Great Pumpkin, or stepping in as the Easter Beagle, he’s enjoying a nap on his doghouse with his pal Woodstock — we can’t lie, we’re a little bit envious of his exciting life.

Hedwig

Warner Bros. / Heyday Films / 1492 Pictures

An entire generation grew up longing for a pet owl, and Hedwig is entirely to thank for that. Fiercely loyal, unquestionably intelligent, and, of course, super cute, Hedwig set the bar for pets high, and left us all the more sad that our Hogwarts acceptance letters never came (it probably just got lost in the mail, right?).

Pikachu

TV Tokyo / The Pokemon Company

We wish all Pokémon were real, but especially Pikachu. After all, as far as sidekicks go, you could do a lot worse than one with the potent ability to produce static electricity, while also being adorable and cuddly. It’s also worthwhile to note that, out of all the Pokémon (and let’s face it, all the fictional animals), Pikachu is the one with the best memes.

Cheshire Cat

Walt Disney Pictures

As far as fictitious felines go, Cheshire Cat is not exactly a feel-good character. With that infamous grin, an ability to appear and reappear at will, and questionable motivations, Cheshire Cat is actually sort of creepy at times. However, Cheshire does serve as a guiding force and source of support for Alice during her time in Wonderland, meaning that despite his fondness for mischief, he can’t be all bad.

Free Willy

Warner Bros. / New Regency Productions

It might fit squarely into the “family-friendly” category, but the 1990s classic Free Willy has an impactful message about animal captivity that should resonate with audiences of all ages. Long before the issue was splashed over headlines and major theme parks were committing to phase out orca captivity, Willy’s story was a reminder of both the inhumane treatment of captive aquatic mammals and the power that young people have to make positive change. That’s a lot of impact for one whale, and he’s definitely earned his spot on this list.

Spirit

Dreamworks Studios

Something that sets Spirit apart from the many other animated creatures that grace our television screens is the fact that he doesn’t speak. It may seem like a minor distinction, but the fact that we hear from Spirit through voiceover rather than by speaking to humans and other animals allows us to view the story as an animal’s journey, rather than a story where the humans happen to be walking on four legs.

Smaug

MGM / New Line Cinema

Fictional animals don’t need to be found in children’s media to be great — nor do they need to be good guys. After all, dragons are perhaps the most famous fictional creatures out there, and few are as powerful and memorable as Smaug, the main antagonist of The Hobbit. Whether you first encountered the greedy, fire-breathing reptile in the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel or on screen in Peter Jackson’s adaptations, the character is certainly one you would not soon forget.

Sparky the Fire Dog

Wikimedia Commons

It would be hard to find an animal, real or fictional, that’s had as much of a real-world impact as Sparky the Fire Dog. A mascot for the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Sparky has been used in schools and communities for over 70 years to help children learn about fire safety. He may not be real, but his effectiveness as an educator certainly is.

Ein

Bandai Visual Company / Sunrise

Anime fans have long known that one of television’s greatest animals is Ein, the hyper-intelligent corgi from Cowboy Bebop. From hacking computers with his mind to driving a car, Ein is a mightily impressive animal in the beloved original series, though viewers who prefer live action TV can enjoy seeing the two real-life corgis who play Ein on Netflix’s new live action remake, even if it is for one season only.

Bugs Bunny

Warner Bros.

Bugs Bunny may not be as cute as many other cartoon counterparts, and, at times, he’s a bit of an antihero, but that’s exactly what makes him so beloved. By focusing on creating a funny character, rather than an adorable or likable one, Warner Brothers produced one of animation’s most iconic and celebrated animals. Plus, comedy peaked with What’s Opera, Doc?, the Looney Tunes’ reimagining of Wagner’s Siegfried, and that’s got to count for something.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Videocraft International / NBC

The annual re-emergence of Rudolph on department store shelves or television programming means that it’s Christmas season once again, and that alone makes the ostracized reindeer great. Rudolph surprisingly originated as a retail marketing assignment, but he’s now a holiday icon, and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without him.

Buster Baxter

WGBH / PBS

Buster is a true gem of a character. Along with being a great comedic relief, he’s also a truly supportive, genuine friend to Arthur and his pals. On top of this, his adventures on Postcards from Buster was a wonderful educational tool to introduce children to communities and cultures across America and abroad.

Charlotte the Spider

Hanna-Barbera Productions / Paramount Pictures

There are two types of people in this world: those who cried when they got to the end of E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web as children, and liars. Charlotte’s altruism has served as a powerful lesson about friendship for generations of readers, and her heroism certainly earns her a spot on this list.

Okja

Kate Street Picture Company / Netflix

If Bong Joon-Ho’s 2017 adventure drama Okja didn’t make you at least consider going vegetarian, we don’t know what to tell you. Although super pigs may not be real, Okja is still six tons of CGI cuteness — and her story is a powerful condemnation of the very real horrors of the factory farming industry.

Gizmo

Warner Bros. / Amblin Entertainment

Sure, a Mogwai comes with a hefty set of rules to follow and the possibility of turning into a murderous goblin — but other than that, they make charming pets. Despite the destruction caused by his Gremlin peers, Gizmo deserves credit for saving the day more than once. He’s truly the adorable, trumpet-playing, mini-car-driving best friend we all deserve.

Perry the Platypus

Disney Television Animation

Original and clever, Phineas and Ferb remains one of Disney’s underrated gems. While there was a lot to love about the brothers’ summer antics, the true showstopper of the series was Perry, the boys’ pet platypus who moonlights as a secret agent. It’s a concept so zany that kids and adults alike will find themselves charmed by the silent, suburban platypus with a complex double life.

Paddington Bear

StudioCanal

One of the most pleasant pop culture surprises of the 2010s is the fact that not one but two Paddington adaptations were made — and both are incredibly well loved by critics and audiences alike. It makes sense, however, considering that since the character’s creation in the 1950s, the well-mannered, marmalade-loving bear has appeared in countless formats, from books to movies to toy store shelves. Frankly, he’s been an icon for over half a century, and it says a lot that he’s still resonating with audiences to this day.

Rafiki

Walt Disney Pictures

The average adult human will never achieve the same level of wisdom as a fictional mandrill. The Lion King’s Rafiki may tend toward the eccentric, but this ultimately only makes his sage advice stand out even more. While Timon and Pumbaa are fan favourites, Rafiki deserves credit for guiding Simba to his eventual victory against his uncle Scar.

Moby Dick

Wikimedia Commons

Moby Dick lived, as the kids say, rent-free in Captain Ahab’s mind. Considered one of the great American novels, Moby Dick’s eponymous whale is probably the most analyzed fictional animal — though inspired by a true event — in literary history. Much like Ahab, Moby Dick is still on our minds over a century and a half after the book’s initial publication, and will probably remain so for centuries to come.

Dory

Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures

From “speaking whale” to “just keep swimming,” the majority of Finding Nemo’s most memorable moments can be credited to Dory. As sweet as she is forgetful, Dory quickly became the world’s most popular regal blue tang, and the 2016 sequel based on her backstory only solidified her standing as one of Pixar’s most beloved original characters.

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