The Law of Cartoon Pants

There's a certain nudist streak that lurks in the hearts of cartoon animals everywhere. Shakespeare said it best: To pants or not to pants, that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the fur or to wear the bow ties and tiny hats of outrageous fortune. Some cartoon animals wear pants, some do not, and I've always found it difficult to navigate the difference. When is it alright not to wear pants? Should Donald Duck be ashamed of his nudity, or is bare nuked duck a thing of beauty? Who decides? Are there even rules?

Nudy toons come in a few varieties: pants but no shirt, shirt but no pants, and nearly nude (maybe just a tie).

States of Cartoon Characters Undress

No Shirt No Pants Nearly Nude
Mickey Mouse Porky Pig Tony the Tiger
SpongeBob SquarePants* Chip & Dale (Rescue Rangers) Yogi Bear
Crash Bandicoot Donald Duck Donkey Kong
Kung Fu Panda Winnie the Pooh Wally Gator

*SpongeBob is technically fully clothed, but with such a large sponge torso there is a vibe of shirtlessness.

Fashionable Fur

It's best to remember that animal cartoons are never really nude. Daffy Duck is fully clothed except when all his feathers are blown away or plucked off. Or a turtle is only naked without his shell. Feathers and furs counts as appropriate attire. Bugs Bunny always wears a rabbit fur coat, and it's only until he's skinned does he experience nudity. In the hierarchy of animal hide feathers are more clothing than furs, furs more clothing than scales, and scales are more clothing than bare skin. However, this doesn't explain Porky Pig who is technically the most naked of all then.

donald duck

Man Pants

The more human like the character, the more clothes they need to wear. So, Pluto who is a dog in all regards—behavior and biology—can be naked like a dog, whereas, Goofy who is perhaps the most man-like of the Disney characters must wear pants and a shirt. Cartoon animals that live in homes have to wear some level of clothing, whereas, cartoon animals that live in the wild can get away with the bare minimum. And notice Launchpad McQuack, one of the few ducks in animation to wear pants, Launchpad also has a more human build than most ducks. The awesome masculinity of Launchpad McQuack demands pants. This is why Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam also wear pants and are also so Consarnit! Because of those wild, manly hormones that need to be packed away in pair of pants. Men wear pants, unless they're Peter Griffin.

If it Walks Like a Duck

You know what they say, if it walks like a duck, it doesn't wear pants. The main thing to decide the pants level is actually the feet, and how funny those feet are. The funnier the foot, the more we have to see it. Duck feet being some of most hilarious feet in nature need to be shown. Same foes for pig feet. Chicken feet, too. A good rule of thumb is if the feet can be incorporated in some sort of southern style cooking or as a soup stock than the animal doesn't wear pants. This is probably because they're so tasty and tasty legs have got to be on display. Maybe, it's just hard to draw pants on a duck, but I really think deliciousness has to play some sort of factor.

Lions and Tigers and Bears

The more ferocious the animal is, the less clothes it needs to wear. Tigers are scary. A tiger with a neckerchief, less scary. By dressing terrifying animal up as Chippendale's dancers, animators emasculate them. Funny little bow ties are a way of neutering predators, turning them into lovable cereal box mascots or cheerful pic-a-nic basket purloiner. The only thing keeping Yogi and Boo Boo from total mayhem are hats and ties.

Women and Children First

Networks seem to demand more clothing on female and children characters, animals or not. For example, Yogi Bear's girlfriend, Cindy Bear, had to wear a skirt, while Yogi's crotch was free to the world. Or Gadget from the Chip & Dale had to wear more clothing than the others. No pants was obviously an option for the rest of the Rescue Rangers crew, but Gadget had to wear a jumpsuit, also known as, the maximum amount of clothing possible. Or take a look at the Shawn Bradley vehicle Space Jam and the introduction of Lola Bunny, a fully clothed female bunny. Making her one of the few clothed Looney Tunes characters. Likewise, The Tiny Toons were “tiny” versions of the adult Looney Tunes, and each character had their equal; Bugs Bunny to Buster Bunny, Daffy Duck to Plucky Duck, and so on and so on. Similar designs, similar personality traits, but clothed. The Tiny Toons mostly wore shirts or, at least, hats and shoes, whereas the adult Looney Tunes they were based on were nude.

Bugs Bunny

Which brings us to Bugs Bunny dressed as a woman. In the realm of cartoon anatomy, there is very little difference between Bugs Bunny and Lola Bunny. The only difference really is that Lola wears clothing. So, if Bugs dresses as a girl, he is as dressed as Lola and if he removed that clothing, he'd be as undressed. If there is no physical difference between a girl cartoon rabbit and a boy cartoon rabbit, and nudity is an entirely psychological concept in animation, then Bugs actually gets naked during these scenes. That inevitable wardrobe malfunction that reveals his true identity also reveals as much as it would be reveal if he was an actual girl bunny.

Or, maybe, animators just skipped the day of art class where they learned pants, and went straight to the nude animal figure drawing. Lazy, filthy bastards.

  • PinkSith
    Comment from: PinkSith
    03/03/11 @ 10:06:04 am

    Except Bugs in drag had boobs. Having watched 3 seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag race I start to wonder if Bugs tucked or didn’t tuck.
    It’s such a double standard for girl cartoon characters versus boy cartoon characters. I want equality now! Make Daisy Duck that off that damn dress!

  • Jennifer Joseph
    Comment from: Jennifer Joseph
    03/03/11 @ 11:16:40 am

    This is so true! Bugs Bunny is strips for the world but it’s okay because he’s male. I love your wide range of examples for cartoons…Chip & Dale! :)

  • Brian
    Comment from: Brian
    03/09/11 @ 09:11:10 pm

    Donald Duck doesn’t wear pants, yet when he gets out of the shower he always wraps a towel around his waist…

  • DeeDee2Di4
    Comment from: DeeDee2Di4
    03/16/11 @ 07:00:46 pm

    ^ Brian, that’s so he doesn’t drip on the floor.

  • Pino
    Comment from: Pino
    06/25/11 @ 12:54:45 pm

    So where would the 1980s animated series “Alvin and the Chipmunks” fit on your scale? These (male) chipmunks have humanlike mannerisms, and their shirts are so long they don’t need to wear pants.

  • bman (The Underfold)
    Comment from: bman (The Underfold)
    08/15/11 @ 08:20:03 am

    Ha! This is great. Thanks!

  • Dinos4Ever
    Comment from: Dinos4Ever
    10/25/11 @ 05:58:23 pm

    I agree. I’m no perv, but why the hell do female character have to wear clothes, while us males are bare to the world. Technically, neither are nude, as long as they both have their fur. Make Lola take off her cloths, just don’t make her so busty. Or do, and just don’t draw nipples. Need I remind anyone of the first ep. of the original Thunder Cats? NONE of them wore clothes, and it still airs to this day.

  • Harold Roane
    Comment from: Harold Roane
    06/29/12 @ 10:34:30 am

    Ever notice Mickey Mouse wore shorts and shoes but no shirt? Minnie Mouse wears a top and bottom with high heel pumps. She has no hair but a large bow. Porky pig wore a top but no pants and his girlfriend Petunia wore a top and a skirt or full dress. She has long hair. Donald Duck wore a sailor top but no pants and Daisy Duck wore a top but no bottom and has no hair but a hair bow. Mickey Mouse could talk but his dog Pluto could not. George Jetson’s dog could talk but their cat could not. Donald Duck also had Pluto as his dog and Goofy could talk even though Goofy was a dog who had Pluto as his non-talking pet dog. Pluto really got around. Change the P in Pluto to a B and you got Bluto, Popeyes arch enemy.

  • skrolnik
    Comment from: skrolnik
    12/15/12 @ 02:06:00 pm

    Cleo from the Cadillac Cats (aka the GOOD half of the Heathcliff cartoon) got away with just a pair of legwarmers, but to be fair, it WAS the 80s.

  • Dex (@Dex1138)
    Comment from: Dex (@Dex1138)
    12/17/12 @ 09:51:37 am

    Just have to point out, Spongebob wears a shirt and tie most of the time. He just has a large torso so you might miss it.

  • rebecca
    Comment from: rebecca
    05/08/13 @ 01:25:01 pm

    Finally someone is shedding some light on this situation!!

  • C Dog Cat
    Comment from: C Dog Cat
    12/12/13 @ 08:16:13 pm

    That Minnie Mouse was one hell of a broad. But, I’ll shoot it straight to ya’. If she backtalked me like that Wilma, it’d be ‘POW!’ Straight to the moon! Actually, I would whip her with a rusty emo belt in front of her parents, because that’s acceptable. Women!

  • Syl
    Comment from: Syl
    01/29/16 @ 11:19:07 am

    I am still traumatized by the sexification of the female Chipmunks in The Squeakquel - we won’t discuss why I paid full price and made the BF go with me to this - but a full Beyonce wardrobe was given to those little feather shaking tartlets. I really don’t want to see ducks in bikinis or thigh high boots. Fifty Shades of Quack. Wrap em in a full gas station jumpsuit if you ask me. Monkey covering eye emoji here. I can’t handle any more cartoon PTSD. (Also I tweeted your article. Cause, why not.)