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"Kids love survival novels because they identify with the characters and feel powerful and independent right along with the protagonists; the treat here is that the characters are animals. And they act like real animals. These are not the usual talking animals in fetching outfits -- nothing in this book seem impossible for real-life cats and dogs." -Katherine Olney (Common Sense Media) on The Incredible Journey

Ordinary animals in fiction who are significantly intelligent compared to any real animal. Not necessarily the talking animals. Not the speech-impaired animals. Just the wild and domestic animals encountered in stories where humans are the main characters. Such characters can frequently clearly understand everything humans say, understand human emotions, read, figure out how to solve problems on their own, and so forth. This is also for cases in which the animals can talk to each other (so the audience can hear them) but are common animals in the eyes of any humans in the film.

Beyond that, they will, if they belong to a human, also circumvent their natural instincts in order to aid or protect their humans.

Nearly Normal Animals don't talk (though Largely Normal Animals can talk to each other) and are usually quadrupedal if they are that way in real life. They are very much animals, particularly when it comes to instincts, priorities and motivations and they very rarely wear clothes. Like many speech-impaired and talking animals, Nearly-Normal Animals lack hands and walk on all fours, negating the possibility of performing many human tasks and behaviors.

Nearly-Normal Animals come in three types: largely normal, mostly normal, and almost normal.

Largely-Normal Animals (LNAs) clearly have thought processes and often human-level intelligence but don't talk freely with humans. These animal characters may talk to each other, essentially having their own language, but humans won't understand them. That is, unless they can talk to animals or if the language is able to be learned. Their thought processes and personality is still very much like that of whatever animal they are. Many of them are able to make human-like arm and hand gestures and some can even grasp objects as if they have opposable thumbs. A few LNAs can sometimes act like the more anthropomorphic Civilized Animal or Funny Animal when required by a joke.

Mostly-Normal Animals (MNAs) have clear thought processes as well as a few human and/or some or several doglike characteristics (greater frequency of uttering sounds, human-like expressions) that still don't detract from their animality. Like Level 3, but unlike Level 1, they don't talk Animal Talk. Their thought processes and personality is still very much like that of whatever animal they are. These animals usually don't go beyond being able to make human-like hand or arm gestures sometimes. They stay on all four legs if they are four-legged animals. This is the level between Level 1 and Level 3.

Almost-Normal Animals (ANAs) have very few human and/or a few doglike characteristics (e.g., greater frequency of uttering sounds, human-like expressions) that don't retract from their animality, but they allow an audience not well versed in the way of animal behavior to understand what's going on in the animals' minds. Can be merely a result of Did Not Do the Research or completely intended. They don't make human-like arm or hand gestures and they stay on all four legs if they're four-legged animals.

This is the low end of the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism. The next step up is Partially-Civilized Animal.

Related to Amplified Animal Aptitude. [LNAs] are often but not always Intellectual Animals.

See Speech-Impaired Animal and Talking Animal for [LNAs] that can talk freely with humans.


Examples of Nearly-Normal Animal include:

Largely Normal Animal:

Anime and Manga

  • Ein from Cowboy Bebop. He is smart enough to read, play chess, figure out stuff Spike and Jet can't and even hacking. Problem is, he's otherwise a totally normal dog -- he just has human-like intelligence -- and thus he can't speak, only bark and point out stuff.
  • The cats in Chi's Sweet Home


Comic Books

  • Hot Dog of Archie Comics would act like this in his own title, where he was revealed to have a high-tech super-structure underneath his common dog house. The series didn't last long.


Disney and Pixar


Film - Animated


Film - Live Action


Literature


Live Action TV

  • The titular kangaroo of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo not only showed a remarkable understanding of English, but would often imitate human behaviors like playing a piano or the drums.
  • Lassie can not only understand, but also bark in some sort of code that humans understand to mean Timmy in a Well.


Newspaper Comics

  • The four-legged Garfield in the earlier comic strips.
  • The four-legged Snoopy from the earlier Peanuts comic strips.


Webcomics


Western Animation


Video Games

  • Mabari war hounds of the Dragon Age series are said to be smart enough to talk, wise enough not to. They're certainly able to understand what people say and Hawke's mabari was able to learn to play cards. Dwarven enchanter Sandal even seems to have figured out how to speak "mabari speak."


Mostly Normal Animal:

Disney and Pixar


Film - Animated

  • The equine cast in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron have some slightly doglike behaviour and expressions. They have human eyebrows and visible, white sclera. The narrator is a horse, and the horses have a sense of humour and can plan ahead. At least some individuals also have romantic love, although Spirit's home herd seems to follow the normal stallion/harem order.
  • Dragon the cat from The Secret of NIMH, as in the book.
  • The hawk from Rango


Film - Live Action

  • The penguins in Mr Poppers Penguins
  • Azreal in The Smurfs. He bangs his head on a table (in a way that only a human could) in one scene, and aside from that looks like a normal cat (to the point where he looks like motion capture of a real cat in the CGI scenes)


Literature


Western Animation

Almost Normal Animal:

Anime and Manga


Disney and Pixar


Film - Live Action

  • The otherwise completely normal moth that Gargamel saw in The Smurfs is able to carry out his order to send a swarm of moths. His order backfired and the moth sent a swarm of flies instead, but still.


Literature

  • In the book Indian Paint, the horses were almost normal, and completely unable to talk. This is particularly interesting because part of the book was told from the point of view of one of them.


Western Animation

  • Many of the animals in The Simpsons. Snowball II the cat and Santa's Little Helper the dog are normally this type.
  • Many non-anthropomorphic animals in SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • The animals beside the monkey in Chuggington.
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