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And the $50,000 prize for the Best Dog in Show goes to this rare Black-Feathered Quacking Retriever!
If you are a duck on the make, or a Rascally Rabbit trying to escape the hunters, or just a dog that thinks it's "cute" to wear a turkey costume (or, at least, has an owner who does), you have a good chance of turning into an Ass in A Lion Skin. This involves one animal (usually a Funny Animal) that attempts to pass as an animal of an entirely different species, not simply of a different style or level of reality -- Augie Doggie pretending to be Top Cat, but not Augie Doggie pretending to be Doggie Daddy, Scooby Doo, Underdog, Pluto, or Rin Tin Tin. Note also that the trope specifically excludes an animal dressed as or imitating a human being (or vice versa).
Though this is mainly an Animation Trope (the Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies series in particular were addicted to it), it also occurs in other fictional contexts. The disguise in question is usually Paper Thin, but is often remarkably successful, to the point that its removal may actually provoke a comedic BSOD -- "My God! You're not a fruit bat at all! You're a killer whale!"
The Ass in a Lion Skin has a Real Life counterpart in the phenomenon of "animal mimicry," in which a harmless milk snake may resemble a deadly coral snake, but in such a case, unlike its fictional counterpart, the mimicry is permanent and (probably) unconscious.
Compare A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. Contrast with Furry Confusion, which is about the bewilderment caused by differences in two individuals of what are supposed to be the same kind of animal; with I Am Not Weasel, the Inversion of this trope, in which the animal is taken for another species against its wishes; and with most of the entries on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism, which are about animals acting like humans. Not to be confused with a human whose ass is in a lion skin; that's Fur Bikini or Loin Cloth. When the filmmakers dress up an animal as a cheap way to put a "monster" on screen, that's a Slurpasaur.
The Trope Namer is, of course, the Aesop's fable of the same name "The Ass in the Lion Skin".
- The Cadbury Chocolate commercials, featuring clucking rabbits. A later commercial featured other rabbits making other animal noises (ribbits, barks, trumpetings, etc.), while a still later one featured other animals (donkeys, lions, etc.) with rabbit ears, clucking.
- An American Tail: Warren T. Rat (actually a cat himself) dresses as a rat to fool the mice into buying into his protection racket against the cats.
- The Jungle Book: Baloo disguises himself as an ape to try to rescue Mowgli from King Louie.
- Robin Hood: Robin, a fox in this version of the legend, disguises himself as "the spindle-legged stork from Devonshire" and as Nutsy, the vulture.
- Shark Tale: Lenny the Shark passes himself off as Sebastian the Dolphin.
- Rock-a-Doodle: The club that Chanticleer is playing at bans all cats, mice, dogs and birds from attending so that Edmond and his friends can't get in. So what does Edmond and the gang do? They sneak in dressed as penguins. And it works since the announcer told them to "bring your penguin suits (i.e. tuxedos)!" literally.
- In one Nu Pogodi short, the Wolf is thrown out of a TV studio when he tries to sneak in, and keeps re-entering in attempted disguises as other animals (e.g., wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and claiming to be a zebra, or dropping on all fours with a big bowl on his back and claiming to be a tortoise.) None of these work.
- While Pokémon are not animals per se, Team Rocket's Meowth often disguises itself as other species of Pokémon. This once backfired when Ash used his Pokédex on him, blowing his cover when it described him as being a Meowth.
- Aesop's Fables:
- The Chronicles of Narnia (The Last Battle): Puzzle the Donkey is put into a lion skin by Shift the ape (probably an allusion to the Aesop's Fable listed above), so that the poor ass can unwittingly function as the local Antichrist.
- In the Discworld story The Truth, there is a reward offered for a specific dog. One of the candidates presented, along with the massive range of dogs of the wrong breed, is a parrot with "DoG" written on it.
No, sir, I know that's not it. Because it's a parrot, that's why. You've taught it to bark and you've painted "DoG" on the side of it but it's still a parrot.
- Also, Quoth the raven tries to dress up as a robin in Hogfather.
- The "DoG" parrot turns up again in The Last Hero.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Grinch dresses his dog, Max, as a reindeer.
- Maus: The mice (Jews) wear pig masks to pass among the general population of pigs (Poles}.
- Happens a couple of times in Redwall. Brome the mouse and Jukka the squirrel both managed to pass for rats, in Jukka's case by shaving her tail and dyeing her fur. The hares Midge Manycoats and Tammo dress up to enter the Rapscallion camp; they end up looking like miscellaneous weird-looking creatures "neither wholly rat, ferret, or stoat, but definitely vermin of some sort", but since they're dressing up as Seers the otherworldly look actually helps.
Live Action TV
- On the Cloris Leachman episode of The Muppet Show, pigs take over the show and fill all the roles. Cloris comes out on stage while "Kermit the Pig" is making an introduction and states her belief that he's not Kermit the Frog, despite being green (not easy for a pig) and having the collar. What changes her mind? "Ribbit!" He didn't even have to hide his ears or snout.
- Whether she was actually fooled for any length of time is another matter, as revealed in the end, when Kermit and the others made their escape;
Kermit: Who ever thought that someone would be holding a hog-calling contest next door? It was amazing, it was bizarre...
Cloris Leachman: It was easy. I'm from Iowa.
- A Sesame Street sketch featured William Wegman's dogs dressed as different kinds of animals. "It's Kermit the Dog!"
- A more recurring incident was with Gladys the Cow, who liked to pretend she was another animal. In one scene, she got some horses to pretend they were cows.
Myths & Legends
- One version of the Trope Namer goes as follows: An Ass, having put on the Lion's skin, amused himself by terrifying all the foolish animals. At last coming upon a Fox, he tried to frighten him also, but the Fox no sooner heard the sound of his voice than he exclaimed, "I might possibly have been frightened myself, if I had not heard your bray."
- The moral of the story is often quoted as "Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away"
- In 30-Second Bunnies Theatre rabbits re-enact popular films. Thus, a film like Jurassic Park will feature a T. rex wearing bunny ears.
- There was a cartoon in the Wall Street Journal or similar paper during a recession, in which the boss of the New York Stock Exchange arranged to have a bear dressed as a bull so he could claim that it was a bull (i.e., rising) market as opposed to a bear (falling) market.
- The Far Side had one with a polar bear with a Paper-Thin Disguise -- a penguin's beak -- pretending to be a penguin.
- A Running Gag in Peanuts involved Snoopy imitating other animals, most often a vulture.
- This political cartoon by Thomas Nast, in a Shout-Out to Aesop, depicts The New York Herald as an ass in a lion-skin stampeding the "foolish animals" of the press, including The New York Times (unicorn), The New York Tribune (giraffe), and The New York World (owl). A skittish fox, representing the Democratic Party, has edged onto a reform plank near a gaping pit, by which the trumpeting elephant, symbolizing the Republican vote, lumbers. (This is probably one of the original sources, incidentally, of the depiction of the G.O.P. as an elephant; Nast also popularized the Democratic donkey.)
- Purr Tenders, a strange toyline about a gang of cats who realized they were the only animals who weren't getting adopted from a shelter or something, so they disguised themselves as other animals (i.e., dogs, parrots, uh, mice...)
- There's a range of Winnie the Pooh cuddly toys with the characters dressed as different animals -- Pooh in a bee costume and Eeyore as a butterfly, for example.
- There're even a few where everyone who isn't Tigger, is dressed up as Tigger. Presumably, this is to coincide with The Tigger Movie.
- In Kevin and Kell many characters have used make up, costumes, and/or parts of other characters to disguise themselves as members of other species. For starters, Corrie had gone a long while disguised as a wolf named Dale. Kell has disguised herself as a rabbit and shortly after as a feline. George Fennec spent a small while disguising as a rabbit despite disliking rabbits since he was always been confused as one his whole life. And at least three non-rabbits spent Easter disguised as the Easter bunny.
- And this occasionally pops up as Halloween costumes for kids. Kell noted one time that a child was using a...less-than-fresh pelt. (In fact, this is eventually where Corrie's "Dale" pelt went: into Coney's dress-up box.)
- One storyline ends with a group of jackals being tricked into and then trapped in the Rabbit Warrens, where they have the option of either dressing up as and pretending to be rabbits in the hope they can find their way out, or spurn the disguises and probably be torn apart by virtue of the fact they are outnumbered hundreds to one. The final panel reveals at least one jackal got so "into character" that he wound up an old man, happily married to an equally elderly rabbit lady, father of countless litters... and with her still oblivious to the truth of her husband's species.
- One of the main characters in Mike Witmer's Pinkerton is Steve, the guinea pig trying to pass himself off as a moose (complete with glued-on fork-and-spoon antlers).
- In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Snoopy is tapped to perform the parts of all the animals in the Christmas play, including a sheep, a cow, and a penguin. (He gratuitously adds a vulture.)
- It happens in a number of Classic Disney Shorts:
- In "The Fox Chase" (1928), Oswald The Lucky Rabbit flushes a skunk out of a log. Oswald and his hounds flee into the distance -- and then we see that the "skunk" is really a fox in disguise.
- In "The Moose Hunters" (1937), Goofy and Donald digsuise themselves as a cute lady moose doing a peek-a-boo dance in order to lure a male moose to his doom. Too bad they attract two males...
- In "Three Little Pigs" (1933), Zeke the Wolf disguises himself in a sheepskin, becoming a literal Wolf In Sheep's Clothing.
- In "The Golden Eggs" (1941), Donald disguises himself as a chicken to get some eggs from a rooster.
- Mandy of Grim Adventures fame once entered Irwin in a dog show. He'd been infected with lycanthropy, and his wolf form made for a passable wolfhound.
- In The Little Drummer Boy, Baba the lamb pretends to be a lion, a frog, and a hog; Joshua the camel pretends to be an alligator and an elephant; and Samson the donkey pretends to be a caribou.
- In the Tex Avery cartoon "Little 'Tinker," near the end B.O. Skunk tries to woo a female by painting his fur like a fox. The girl fox he meets turns out to actually be another skunk in disguise after they fall into a creek and their paint washes off. Cue Crowning Moment of Heartwarming as they kiss.
- "The Counterfeit Cat": A cat steals a headpiece of a dog to deceive the bulldog who's guarding the canary he's after.
- Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies:
- "Bedevilled Rabbit": Bugs pretends to be a monkey and a Tasmanian she-devil to escape the Tasmanian Devil.
- "Dog Pounded": Sylvester the Cat dresses in a dog suit in an attempt to cross the city dog pound and eat Tweety.
- Near the end of the same short, Sylvester paints a white stripe down his back, managing to purloin Tweety. The stunt works (a little too well, as Pepe LePew appears out of nowhere and starts hitting on him in standard Pepe fashion).
- "Double or Mutton": Sam the sheepdog disguises himself as a sheep stolen by Ralph the wolf.
- "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!": Bugs pretends to be a duck; Daffy pretends (briefly) to be an elk and a fiddler crab.
- "Duck Soup to Nuts": Porky briefly attempts to prove to Daffy that he is an eagle.
- "For Scentimental Reasons": As in a number of other Warner Bros. shorts, a black cat (later christened Penelope Pussycat) disguises herself as a skunk to frighten away her persecutors; this, of course, backfires spectacularly when it attracts Abhorrent Admirer Pepe le Pew.
- "Foxy By Proxy": Bugs disguises himself as a fox to mislead a pack of hounds.
- "Rabbit Fire": Bugs pretends to be a duck; Daffy pretends to be a rabbit and a dog.
- "Sheep in the Deep": Ralph the Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog disguise themselves as sheep and as each other.
- "Tom Turk and Daffy": Tom dresses Daffy as a turkey to divert Porky Pig from himself.
- "You Were Never Duckier": Daffy dresses as a chicken to win a poultry contest; Henery Hawk and his father dress as a duck and a chicken to do the same.
- "Roughly Squeaking": Hubie and Bertie convince a cat he's actually a lion and put on the disguise. They also convince him that lions hunt moose and disguised a dog as a moose.
- In the DePatie-Freleng Misterjaw cartoon "Show Biz Shark", the eponymous shark disguises himself as a porpoise to sneak into show business.
- In Olive the Other Reindeer, Olive the dog is constantly trying to convince people she's a reindeer. No one believes her.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Got Game?", Perry the Platypus dresses up as a dog (i.e., he wears an earband and fake tail) to infiltrate a pet shop where Dr. Doofenshmirtz has been shopping, and ends up being bought by the doctor, who is unaware of Perry's disguise.
- In an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bullwinkle was in hiding and he hid out on a mink farm. When the criminal went to the mink farm, the moose hid in a mink pen and pretended to be a mink by squeaking and hopping on all fours.
- In the Scooby Doo, Where Are You? episode "Jeepers, It's the Creeper," a baby chick is laboring under the delusion that it is a dog.
- Tom and Jerry:
- "The Brothers Carry-Mouse-Off": Tom disguises himself as a female mouse, complete with eyelashes, pink bow, and perfume, because of course, nothing's sexier than your equivalent of the 50-foot woman. It works... too well. He attracts every male mouse in the vicinity. Rather than take advantage of the feast at his feet, he runs off when they start fighting each other. Just when he's safe from that, he finds that his zipper's stuck... and he's being noticed by cats now.
- "Jerry and Jumbo": A baby elephant paints himself to look like a giant Jerry just to Mind Screw with Tom.
- "Jerry's Nephew": Jerry disguises himself as a baby chick to smuggle his nephew Dinky out of a hen-house.
- "Little Runaway": To capture an escaped baby seal, Tom disguises himself as a seal. He is then mistaken for the escaped seal and captured.
- "Puttin' on the Dog": Tom disguises himself as a dog to catch Jerry in a dog pound.
- In the Wallace and Gromit short "The Wrong Trousers, the notorious rooster bank robber Feathers McGraw is really a penguin with a red rubber glove on his head (whence the page image).
- In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Vixen pretends to be a dog, even to the point of chasing a cat.
- Ren and Stimpy:
- "Dog Tags"
- "Fire Dogs": Ren paints himself and Stimpy as Dalmatians.
- "Monkey See, Monkey Do": Ren and Stimpy dress as monkeys.
- Later in the episode, Ren disguises himself as a hippopotamus and Stimpy disguises himself as a tickbird.
- In an episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Heffer needs to bring an elk home to his family as a Rite of Passage. So he goes to the most logical place to find an elk: The Elks Club. Only, he can't get in, being a steer and all. So he takes branches and ties them to his horns to create antlers.
- One episode of Slacker Cats had Buckley, a house cat, disguising himself as a full-grown tiger by painting himself the correct colours so he could feel brave enough to fight rats. Then the zoo caught him...