The Muppets are full of creatures that aren’t readily identifiable. That’s part of the fun, I suppose…getting to spend time with expressions of pure imagination. Remember the backlash when Gonzo was revealed to be an alien? People were actually disappointed that the guy we had always wondered about turned out to be something so…mundane. Sometimes it’s better not to ask a lot of questions. But there is one identity that needs to be discussed. We need to talk about Animal. Not because it’s a big question…but because it’s an answer that everyone gets so wrong.
A few years back, I was on a Muppet discussion board, and someone asked “Is Animal a monster?”. It’s a valid question…certainly his behavior is not dissimilar to Cookie Monster, or any of the countless others with unbridled appetites. And most of the responders to this question said things like “Definitely”, or “I’ve always assumed so”. But I disagree.
If you look closely, you’ll see a lot of orange skin around his face. The skin is hairy, certainly, but at a similar level to shaggy facial hair. If you gave Animal a shave and a haircut, underneath you would find a character that looks like Ernie’s lanky, red-headed brother (not to say that all orange-skinned people must be related—that’s not cool). My belief is that Animal is as “human” as any of the other non-specific animal characters are.
I can see where the confusion comes from. Animal’s design from “Muppet Babies” can only lead to more head-scratching. Giving him a completely furry pink face is hugely inconsistent with what I fully believe they were going for with the original Muppet…but I suppose presenting a baby-faced orange kid with sharp teeth may have been too subtle.
And certainly Floyd’s habit of putting him on a leash is significantly stranger if you think of them as two (sort-of) humans. But ultimately, I think he was intended to be just a wild-and-crazy guy…certainly not a monster.
Now that we have a new Muppet Show coming, I hope this issue is addressed. I can envision an episode where the guest star is some wholesome pop star (maybe a Taylor Swift-type) on whom Animal develops a crush. Somebody (probably Miss Piggy or Sam the Eagle) suggests that a nice girl like her wouldn’t want anything to do with a miscreant like him. So, he undergoes a makeover, and perhaps a behavioral over-haul courtesy of Dr. Honeydew, and becomes a clean-cut nerd (come on, he’s voiced by the same guy who does Bert—the possibilities are there). Nerdy Animal has a duet with the girl. However, at the end the girl talks about how disappointed she is that she didn’t get to meet Animal, as she’s a huge fan. This causes Animal to snap back to his old self, with Kermit doing the old “We’ll see you next time on the Muppet Show” as Animal chases down either Sam or Piggy (depending on who filled his head with nonsense in the first place), all while Floyd tries to hold him back via his necktie just as he used to with the chain. You’d watch that, right?
But I digress. My fanboy wishes aside, more than anything I just want to set the record straight. He is not an animal…he is ANIMAL, a (sort of) human being!