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There's a problem that arises in stories featuring reasonably anthropomorphic animals, both of the plain old talking and funny varieties. Many writers want to include romantic plots or subplots in these works. For human characters, a kiss often serves as the closure to a Will They or Won't They? arc.
The problem arises from the fact that, unless you're writing monkeys and apes (or fish, we suppose, but there are usually No Cartoon Fish) most animals just don't have the facial structure required for a human-type, lip-to-lip kiss. So having animals "kiss" like humans isn't necessarily plausible. So what do writers do?
Well, usually one of two things:
- Ignore it. Anatomy? What anatomy? For the purposes of the work, a duck's bill can become just as pliant and squishy as human lips so that Donald and Daisy can have their smooch. Funny Animals, or just those in less-realistic works, tend to get saddled with this option.
- Come up with an alternate gesture with the same meaning. After all, real-world animals do have ways to express affection, so why not? Common choices for this one include: Licking (like dogs), rubbing noses/snouts, bumping foreheads, or crossing necks (which can also substitute for a hug). Works with Talking Animals, or more realism, tend to use this. Alternatively, it might just be more whimsical.
Compare Fantastic Arousal, for less... innocent situations.
Examples of Type 1:
- In Pokemon, Psyduck Kisses Snorlax in the episode "Wake Up Snorlax".
- Donald Duck, as well as many of the McDuck clan as writ by Don Rosa. Birds deserve to kiss, too!
- In The Swan Princess, Lt. Puffin manages to give a kiss to the back of Odette's hand. The tip of his beak kind of... folds back.
- Chicken Run makes heavy use of the Almost Kiss because the animators weren't sure how to animate chickens kissing. The kiss at the end is staged so that the beaks are hidden from view.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has actually shown both variants of the trope. Spike fantasizes about kissing Rarity in "A Dog and Pony Show" and is kissed on the cheek twice by Rarity in "Secret of my Excess".
Examples of Type 2:
- Catnapped! has Catgirl Chuchu impart a quick lick on the cheek to Yasuo after he saves their world. Just in Time, no less.
- Oddly enough, in Elf Quest, the obviously humanoid elves are never shown kissing, even though the comic has some rather explicit sex scenes. Word of God states that elves do not kiss.
- In Warrior Cats the cats often rub their faces together or wash each other as a sign of affection. Which is pretty much what cats do in Real Life, so it works pretty well.
- Dinoverse: Bertram and Canadayce, in the bodies of short-beaked dinosaurs, spontaneously try a kind of beak-locking gesture from which Canadayce can tell that Bertram's eaten peppermint. Although Bertram had a crush on Canadayce he didn't feel anything from the kiss - dinosaurs, not surprising - and it's not until they're human again and she can kiss with lips that he's actually affected. In other books with beakless dinosaurs there is face-nuzzling. A dinosaur does this a lot with a girl in a dinosaur's body; when the dinosaur ends up Sharing a Body with another kid, this happens.
He leaned in close and brushed his lips with hers. The part of him that had once been an Acrocanthosaurus didn't understand this odd custom.
But it felt certain it could grow to like it.
- Not animals, but in the future world of the Xenogenesis series, humanity has been altered by aliens, and as a result adults feel extreme discomfort if they make skin-to-skin contact with one another. Because of this, stroking someone's hair has become the default gesture of affection.
- Also not animals, but there are a lot of lipless aliens in Animorphs. Andalites kiss by stroking each other with their palms. Hork-Baijir kiss by touching their foreheads against each other.
- For the dragons of the Age of Fire verse, a crossing necks is the equivalent of a kiss, while folding wings over another is a hug.
- The Kantri of Tales of Kolmar have rigid faceplates, but have affectionate gestures similar to the above dragons, as well as twining together and touching faceplates.
- In Sandra and Woo, Woo and his Love Interest Lily are portrayed rubbing palms. Since raccoons' palms are supersensitive, the author thought it would be a neat alternative.
- In Mass Effect 2, kissing is a problem for female Shepard and her optional alien Love Interest Garrus, as his species doesn't really have lips and swapping saliva could lead to a fatal allergic reaction for both of them. They settle for a Headbutt of Love instead. Fanart has fun with this.
- The Lion King uses the "crossing necks" variant, for both romantic and familial affection.
- The sequel does, at a couple points, have Kovu and Kiara kiss like humans, both on the cheek and on the "lips."
- In WALL-E, a robotic "kiss" is more like a static electrical shock.
- In the Animaniacs movie, Wakkos Wish, Yakko rubs noses with Dot. As above, it's a sign of familial affection.
- According to Word of God, Gargoyles stroke hair, horns and brow ridges rather than kiss. Angela and Broadway's kiss was explained as Angela being raised by humans and Broadway having seen a lot of movies.
- Which doesn't explain the flashback of Demona kissing the petrified Goliath goodbye before leaving Castle Wyvern in the City Of Stone arc.
- Elisa and Goliath share a very human kiss at the end of season 2. Admittedly, it was more like she kissed him and he was too surprised to really respond ... but that didn't stop him from having a very goofy grin on his face after.
- The horses in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron mostly use nuzzling or neck-crossing. Spirit also gives Little Creek a "hug" by putting his head over Little Creek's shoulder near the end.
- The ponies on My Little Pony comfort each other by nuzzling and licking.
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Hearts and Hooves Day", pony couples are shown performing Eskimo kisses.
- Belle and the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast never kiss, but the Beast frequently runs his hand through Belle's hair. He also does this as a human prince before he and Belle have their first kiss, which seems to reassure an understandably floored Belle that he is the Beast.
- Lampshaded on The Penguins of Madagascar in the episode "The Falcon and the Snow Job." After rescuing Kitka (the Girl of the Week falcon), Skipper goes in for the big kiss, only to be interrupted by King Julien mocking them (and making pecking gestures with his hands):
"Mmm.. Peck Peck. Pecky, love peck.. (I'm trying to kiss but I got no lips)... Peck...No, wait! I'm getting good at this pecking."
- Though a frame by frame shows that the animators know how to animate CGI penguin kisses by when Private kisses the Peanut Butter Winky in "Skorca."
- Hans the Puffin in Huffin' and Puffin:
Hans: You should know I kissed your sister. On the lips!
Skipper: I don't have a sister. And if I did, she wouldn't have lips.
Hans: Then who did I kiss? <fishsmack>
- Jimmy Two-Shoes: Cerbee and Jasmine kiss by licking.
- Dog owners often refer to their dog licking a face as getting "kissed", more so for small breeds. Cats nuzzling their owners is also often said to be this.
- Among sociable mammals, such as chimps, baboons, or rats, mutual grooming can serve a similar function to human kissing.
- In fact, the male Crab-eating Macaque will groom the female so she'll agree to mate.
- Puffins 'kiss' using a process called 'billing'. Basically, they rub both their beaks against each other in a way that is similar to kissing. Awwwwww.
- Inverted by 'kissing fish'. What looks like a kiss is acutally two males fighting for dominance and the right to breed with local females.