Animate Beings



More Twists On The Original/Copy Relationship


Copies can be looked at according to their typical properties, the types of context they usually occur in, and the neighbours they normally associate with. This applies to all copies. But what about more specific aspects of say particular categories of copy practice that happen to lend themselves well to the service of humour, and so disproportionally contribute to that end? Thereby inflating their importance within copy humour in general, despite their representing a small backwater of the O/C relationship in practice?

A case in point is the practice of ‘animation’, whereby a copy is given added life and realism through the intercession of a human body (or part thereof). Copy animation is a particular and very specific feature of the copy world, and it is a source of dramatic effect in humour for two reasons. Firstly, animation focusses on the one category of copy that we always have time for – namely humans, or human alternatives. Secondly, animation has the power to turn this (otherwise lifeless) copy, such as a panto horse or hand puppet, into what appears to be a real living being. However, all of this only applies to a restricted area of copy natural history – namely specific areas wtihin the domains of entertainment and religion. Meaning that, in principle, jokes on animation are likely to be few and far between. Yet cartoonists love this little backwater, and the reason they love it is because animation hides a real human being inside the lifelike figure of the copy, and that provides the humorist with some interesting potential for denouement and other sleights of hand. A feature that allows the humorist to hide not only humans away (to suddenly reveal them), but to reveal other and alternative animators such as monsters, or the fictitious original of a fictitious copy, or a neighbour of the original (or the human animator) of the copy, and so on, as we shall shortly see.

For example, in the following cartoon, which is an absolute classic in terms of quality of ideas and presentation, we see what might be called an ‘Animation’ twist as the focus of what are actually four twists in total. But because there are so many twists in this cartoon, it is best to proceed with a step by step analysis before coming to any serious conclusions, and this means beginning with a twist that is neither directly to do with copies or indeed animation.



Twist One – ‘Animal like Human’

The first twist, where animals act as humans, is so familiar and so normal that we might overlook it altogether. But of course the idea that animals can behave like people does constitute a major departure from reality (whatever pet owners might like to think). Certainly, it is easy for us humans to see animals as people in their own right, and especially when those animals are the same size, walk on two legs, and generally resemble us as these two bears do in this particular cartoon. Nor is this just a matter of their physical appearance, because it is about their behaviour as well. After all, what could be more human than the act of complaining to each other? Furthermore, their complaint is justified. Being in a zoo is bad enough, but being in a children’s zoo, where they then have to suffer the additional indignity of having to wear bear suits, is clearly even worse. Because at least a wild animal might claim some semblance of dignity in a normal zoo, but in a children’s zoo, even their basic appearance as wild animals is utterly compromised, so as not to scare the kids. And Honeysett has used his drawing skills to emphasize the extent of this further indignity. The benign stupidity of the bear suit heads makes a fine contrast with the ferocity of the bear faces. (Look how Honeysett has arranged the two faces on the right of picture: they look in opposite directions, and could hardly be more different).



The ‘Animal Like Human’ twist, and its reverse, are a commonplace in present day cartoons and animations, as well as in numerous other parts of cultural expression. Which means that it is not enough to base all the hoped-for entertainment value of the joke on just that single twist. On the other hand, it most certainly is a twist that gives us a useful way of exploring new situations normally beyond our directly human reach, such as being a pair of bears in a kids zoo for example, and this can often lead to an unmined potential for other new twists. For example, in this particular cartoon, it allows the cartoonist to set up a situation where a further three twists can be created – two on displacement, and one on animation.


Twist Two – ‘Element Displaced to Neighbouring Context’

In the second twist, two wild bears have been moved from a zoo to a children’s zoo – and we know this because it says so in the caption. And because the main joke in the cartoon is about the angry bears, and their Disneyfied copies, we may look at these real bears as de facto originals of the copies in the picture, rather than just as bears per se. But does that mean we are looking at an Original/Copy twist in this case? Well, the wild bears have been moved to a children’s zoo, which is a twist, and the fact that we are looking at a pair of panto copies in the picture is merely a distraction at this point, because the displacement does not involve the copy dimension – two wild bears have been moved to a childrens zoo, and that is a pretty radical twist on its own.

In other words, the original is simply an element of one context that has been displaced to a familiar and neighbouring context, and the copies, although a critical element of the cartoon, have nothing to do with this twist. So what is the link between the two neighbouring contexts? Is it based on the shared social purpose of zoos in general? Certainly it must be. However, the underlying link between the two zoos is based on the Adult/Kid relationship, and it is this more fundamental link that both forms the basis for the difference between the two types of zoo, and their proximity in terms of context. However, we are not looking at an example of spatial context here (as we were in the Art Gallery and Cafe cartoon). Rather we are looking at an example of a context connected to another through the Adult/Kid relationship. A move mirrored in the change from wild bear to bear suit, as we will consider more closely in a moment, but a move primarily based on the two generations of parents and their offspring. And the displacement is a forceful twist because the use of real bears in a children’s zoo has absolutely no licence in reality – they would attack and savage the children (and for the sake of arguement, yes, the suits would impede them, but not for very long). Which is why it will be interesting to see how this overall attack on the natural order can be justified when we analyse the legits…


The relationship between the two worlds of Adults and Children is a very common source of twists in the cartoon domain. Incidentally, in cases like this, where the Adult/Kid relationship is not immediately obvious, it is usually the direct involvement of the children that gives the game away (as we found in the ‘Money in the Meter’ cartoon, where the presence of a toy made it clear that the link was the Adult/Kid axis). Note also that the only reference to the adult form of the zoo in this example is in the caption.


Twist Three – ‘Copy Displaced to Neighbouring Context’

The third twist is also a displacement, and it does look like this time it is based on the Original/Copy relationship. Now, the use of a bear suit in a pantomime or children’s party is normal, but to displace it to the context of a children’s zoo is not. What’s more, the use of a copy in a place committed to the use of real animals goes against normal copy logic, and has all the characteristics of a displacement twist. But it is not a copy displaced to the context of its original because our original bear does not belong in a kid’s zoo – it belongs in the wild. In fact, to fit the description of a copy displaced to the context of its original, we would have to put the bear suit into the wild habitat of the real bear, which is very far from what we see here in this cartoon. So what are we looking at in this case?

Well, the displacement in our cartoon certainly concerns both a copy and its original. Indeed, both the original and the copy have been forcibly moved to a new and foreign territory in what can only be described as a double displacement (because neither the bear nor the bear suit belongs in a children’s zoo). However, at least the real bear has made a plausibly legitimate move to a neighbouring context, which is more than can be said for the bear suit copies. In fact we don’t even know where the bear suits come from, and we certainly don’t know how any of that relates to where they have ended up. As if they have just been parachuted into a foreign place, the kid’s zoo, where they then coincidentally meet up with their originals. Because it is not as if the bear suits come from the real bear’s zoo, and if they came from a kid’s party or Disneyland or even a pantomime, then that is not clear either (though these are at least more plausible origins). So yes, they do come from a child friendly context, and their likely origin fits in well with the children’s zoo, but there is no indication of a legitimate and explicit point of origin. However, it helps that the bear originals are there as well, because that means that both sides of the relationship are present in the same place.

All of which means that the displacement in question has been made from one context to a neighbouring context, both of which are ‘child friendly’, and if the panto bear suit is appropriate to a child friendly context, then maybe bear suits could be deemed appropriate to a children’s zoo using the same logic. (Especially if we accept the fait accompli of the real bears, which are so wild and dangerous looking that a pair of bear suits seems like a pretty good idea). So this turns out to be another case of an object in Social Space being displaced to a neighbouring context defined, not by the O/C relationship, but by the Adult/Kid relationship.


The effective suggestion made by this twist is that either kids like the inane and cutely smiling faces of panto bears, or that the adults in charge of the kids zoo think that they should. Meanwhile, no mention is made of a neighbouring context where the bear suits might have come from. But neither of these omissions are disturbing given the fact that we are happy to accept the basic logic that the bear suits and the children’s zoo go together because it’s all about the kids, even though we know full well that the reality of the children’s zoo is rather different. Note also that only two parts of the diagram are in blue, one of which is evident only through the caption, and that the left hand side is back stage.


Twist Four – ‘Copy Animation by Original’

The animation twist in this cartoon exploits a very specific aspect of Original/Copy practice. Namely that sometimes, a part or whole of the active human body is used to make a copy come alive, by the simple act of occupying the internal space of what then becomes a hand puppet or a panto suit. This practice of ‘copy animation’ is common in children’s entertainment, as well as in professional puppetry for adults, traditional dance and rituals where costumes represent animals and imagined figures, and other aspects of drama and theatrical entertainment.

In this particular example, the use of an original (the bear) to animate its own copy (the bear suit) not only goes against the norms of animation, where it is only us humans who can do the animation, but it also goes against the whole point of having a copy in the first place. After all, what is the point of using the copy when we have the real thing ready to do the job just close by? So the idea of forcing an original into its own copy denies both the practice and good sense of copy animation – all of which makes this particular example of the bears in bear suits a powerful twist.

But what kind of a twist is it actually? Has Honeysett displaced the original bear, and put it right inside its copy? Or is it a straight switch, with the human animator being replaced by the original of the copy? Or is this a new neighbour type of twist, where the human animates a bear suit, so the original of the suit, the bear, makes a new neighbour of the suit to replace the human? Or is it something completely new to science? Okay, the last question is entirely ironic given the paucity and indeed absence of a science of humour, but maybe one day we will be in the position of the other sciences, where say a new life form is found at the bottom of the sea, so that, for example, a new joke form is found in the cloud.

If we look at a diagram of a normal sidestep twist (one with a new neighbour rather than a new copy), the fit seems suggestive. Particularly because an important characteristic of the sidestep is that it uses both of the expansions from the departure point of, in this case the copy, to make the resulting twist. So, as we can see from the diagram below, there are two expansions from the bear suit copy, one going to its original, the wild bear, and the other to its close neighbour, the human animator, and the combination of these two gives us the bear animator. This is similar to the General Montez cartoon, where the twist is the combination of a statue and an army, and the Giant Ball sidestep, where the result is a mix between a ball and the scale of the house.


Notice how three out of the four players in this animation twist are present front of stage, and that the fourth player needs no introduction as we all know how panto costumes are animated. Note how the second arrow connects the human animator to the bear animator to clarify that fact that the new neighbour twist is a combination of the two sides of the ‘equation’ that puts the animator together with the wild bear.

So, if indeed this analysis is correct, then we have finally found a good example of a sidestep to the original in the cartoon literature. And once the bear cartoon has been more fully considered, the hunt is then on for further animation cartoons to determine whether they also are examples of this twist, and if they are, then the issue of why animation lends itself to this kind of sidestep is of interest as well.


To summarise all four of the twists in the bear cartoon then, here is the collective diagram with the four in the same order as above, because that way, they seem to follow along from each other in a nicely sequential line of reasoning:

1) We start off with the bears complaining – an ‘Animal like Human’ twist,

2) About being relocated to a kid’s zoo – an ‘Element Displaced to Neighbouring Context’ twist,

3) Which is using panto fakes in place of real animals – a ‘Copy Displaced to Neighbouring Context’ twist,

4) Which (and this is the ‘last straw’) the bears are obliged to animate – a ‘Copy Animation by Original’ twist.





The Legits for the Bear Cartoon

The bear cartoon goes against a number of fundamental principles that themselves belong to three major domains of reality: notably, Biology, Copy Practice and Zoo Management. So how does Honeysett ‘get away with it’? What has he done to ensure that this cartoon has credibility, and how has he managed to avoid ridicule, or even worse, indifference? How in fact does he achieve that alternative sense that allows us to enjoy the humour without choking on its twists and turns? Well, let’s begin at the level of general legits that apply to all four of the twists, and then work our way in, twist by twist. 

The first general level of support on the side of our cartoonist is just the fact that as soon as we see a cartoon, we know and accept that things won’t be normal, and we are happy to give the humorist a ‘bit of slack’. So we overlook the means in favour of the ends, which in this case means turning a blind eye to inconsistencies for the sake of a joke that we want to enjoy. A form of indulgence often recognised under the more general term of ‘poetic licence’ whereby artistic endeavours are commonly accorded a generous margin for error and are entitled to a suspension of the kind of literal mindedness that can so easily and otherwise get in the way of creative requirements. But poetic licence is a limited resource, and in this case, hardly even begins to cover the radical set of twists we see in this cartoon, so although it might help a little, we must look again at what really supports this joke, and supports it in a way that not only satisfies us, but actually adds to the amusement as well.

We can also mention another source of support that again is general, but has some weight nonetheless. It comes from the convincing visual portrayal of an event that makes us believe it is actually taking place for real. After all, it is always that much easier to believe in a situation if we can see it before our very eyes. In fact, the ultimate expression of this type of legit is reality itself. Which is why we so often hear, when an anecdote seems to be falling flat, the defensive comment ‘Well, you had to be there’. Meaning that, by being there, the full force of the event would sweep away any doubts or questions, and we would accept and therefore enjoy whatever incredible or surprising thing had supposedly happened at that point – because it really did happen.

But having said all this, it is clear that both Poetic licence and Visual authority are not enough, on their own, to give a cartoon like this its legitimacy. So what else has the cartoonist done to stage-manage these four deliberate departures from reality?


Legit for Twist One: Animals as Humans

Bears normally shuffle around on all fours, making noises, and living far from normal human habitation. True, they look a lot more human than say a preying mantis or a fish, but they are basically wild four legged beasts, and still quite a distance from us when compared with say a chimp or a gorilla. But in the picture that Honeysett puts before us, the bears are standing on two legs and talking (a pair of features that just happen to be two of the fundamentally significant advances that gave humans their subsequent power over nature). The result is that the bears appear typically human on both the physical and the behavioural level. To which is then added the fact that they are complaining to each other – and really what could be more human than that?

So what Honeysett has done here is to pull the bears further into the human domain, by contriving a twist that points in the same direction as the pre-established similarity between humans and animals. In other words, this pull is continuous with natural reality, whilst taking it quite a few steps further inside that reality, where it then becomes a fiction. A move that fits in nicely with what what might be called the ‘Principle of Alignment’, which is that ‘If the push is in the same direction as the normal flow of logic or observation, and the join between this reality and its altered sense is a smooth one, then no further legit may be required’. Or, to put it another way, if you can’t spot the exact point of the join between reality and fiction, then it becomes easier to swallow that fiction than it might otherwise be. A principle that humorists are particularly adept at exploiting… Not that this is difficult in this particular case, because bears really do resemble humans to a much greater extent than most animals, and we are always so happy to anthropomorphise the objects and beings around us given even the slightest excuse.


Legit for Twist Two on the Displacement of the Original

What justifies displacing these two bears to a children’s zoo where, on reflection, a catastrophe would likely be the headline result? Well, the narrative direction of the caption quickly takes us through this move, on our way to the main joke about the bears having to wear bear suits. The bears from the zoo have have a job to do, and it is just that now they have been promoted (or demoted) to the children’s zoo. A transfer from one zoo to another, and what could be more natural than that? In contrast, if they had been transferred to a museum, or a shopping mall, then that would have been surprising, and a move to account for in some way. But it is easy to accept a zoo to zoo transfer because both places involve living animals. Thus we find ourselves accepting the premise of a plausible transfer without serious question, and this allows us to enjoy the bears indignity and resultant indignation as a consequence.


Legit for Twist Three on Displacement of the Copy

How then does the cartoonist justify the copy displacement? What gives the idea of a panto suit in a kid’s zoo its plausibility? Well, it is actually quite easy to imagine a suit like this being used in what is basically a place for children, given the way that such zoos otherwise pander to our children’s supposed need for cute niceness and cuddliness. And the presence of the putative originals of the bear suits only serves to add justification to their placement, as better the costumes than the real bears. Though the twist is plausible enough without this, given the lengths that childrens entertainers go to to please our offspring. Nevertheless, it is a known fact that a real children’s zoo does not use panto suits in the place of real animals, and even though the animals in such a place are chosen carefully for their cuteness, docility, familiarity, and ease of ‘access’, it is certainly the case that they are real. So this obvious reworking of the normal practice in a children’s zoo has to be justified, and it seems that as long as we don’t look too closely at the situation, and just accept that it’s all just kids stuff, merely taken a tiny step further, then honour is satisfied, and the show can go on.


Legit for Twist Four on Copy Animation

So, how does the fourth and final twist, based on copy animation, achieve its vital legitimacy? What justifies the switch from human to bear animator inside the coverings of the bear suit? In particular, how does Honeysett smooth over the one fact that argues so strongly against the sense of this twist? Namely, that if the zoo really did use bear suits, then surely it would employ humans to animate them? Because that is certainly the traditional way of doing things, and for very good reason. Humans know what to do, and wild bears would likely run amuck, and kill a few kids in the process.

Here, it is the order of presentation that turns out to be the key to the justificaton of this twist. We look at the cartoon, see the bears complaining, and the first thing we do is read the caption. From what the bears are saying, we come to the first idea, which is that of ‘being in a zoo’. This is followed by the second point, which is the complaint, based on the idea of being in a children’s zoo. So our imagination is led from the normal zoo to the children’s zoo, and we follow the movement of the bears from the one to the other without protest. And the fact that the bears are now animating their copies, rather than just being bears in a normal zoo, then makes some sense because this is a children’s zoo, where wild ferocious beasts are only allowed if they have been transmuted into tame, cuddly, fluffy, cute animals. Which they now are. So again we see the principle of alignment in action here – the cartoon just makes the next logical step in a series of steps. Bears are transferred to a different zoo. However they are too wild to be okay with kids. So we use the more appopriate bear suits. Which as they are there already, the bears can animate themselves. End of story.

Except that the idea of a) moving a wild bear to a kid’s zoo and b) replacing the human animator with the aforesaid bear are both utterly ludicrous ideas. But do we pay much attention to this glaring attack on normal practice and meaning? No, we simply don’t. We go for face value, where the justification for the change in animation is based on the move from one zoo to the other, and where the bears then shoulder the burden of being cute by putting on Disneyfied suits to please the children. And this makes sense: we can’t have wild bears amongst our children, so some kind of protective measure is clearly needed in order to save the little darlings from the shock of such savagery. And what better way than by completely hiding their wild and dirty wild selves in a nice, cuddly, smiley, bear suit? Just the job – problem solved. So Honeysett has papered over the flaws by taking us speedily from one salient fact to the next, and then relying on our seeing that children’s zoos have different needs (a safe assumption given that this is common knowledge). Meanwhile, it is only be stepping back from the strong ‘narrative direction’ of the caption that we glimpse these other problems, and anyway, why bother to step back when it makes such good sense?

There is plenty of resonance in this cartoon. Zoom in to inspect the ferocious bear head and its fatuous, ludicrous opposite, and see what a brilliant and iconic contrast these two heads represent. Because ‘urban man’ has not only reshaped the environment around him, forcing nature into the background, but has also reshaped our perception of that nature, dressing it up in the cuddly clothing of benign inanity in order to make it nice and comfortable for our delicate sensibilities. And as we can see in the over dramatised ferocity of the supposedly ‘real’ bear’s head, this need to separate Nature from Culture cuts both ways. Because real bears no more resemble the face on the left than they do the one on the right. Showing us that the process of anthropomorphism is one that has the power to exaggerate in both directions. And we can see how this happens. Because as soon as the cartoonists gets to work, the potential for dramatising the distance between Nature and Urban Culture becomes a temptation hard to deny. After all, it is as easy to make the bear seem more evil as it is to make it less so. ‘Easy’ because the average viewer’s fix on how a real bear looks is both vague and open to persuasion. The result is that we then get a double caricature that increases the dramatic distance between the plight of the bears and the demands of their human captors to the maximum effect. But it also stands on its own as an iconic representation of the two extremes of anthropomorphism, as well as of our subjective view of organic nature in what is a truly compelling pair of bear heads. So let’s just post that image again, as a fitting reminder of the powers of our imagination, in concert with the cartoonists hand, and add an illustration of a real grizzly bear (that is relatively objective) in the middle.




 By now I hope the reader might agree with this highly positive evaluation of the Bear cartoon. Because it certainly does represent a masterly knot of both twists and legits that together make a clean, novel and pleasing statement, with perfect visual presentation. This is indeed the kind of joke idea that every cartoonist is looking for in that eureka moment of inspiration, and it is exactly the kind of idea that immediately clicks into place as a classic in its own right. And despite its small bite size (compared to say a play, poem, or funny animation), this cartoon, along with its pithy caption, is a semantic morsel of some real sophistication.

Now here is another example of an animation twist, again involving that copy rich area, the film set, this time with a giant monster suit, and a real giant animator inside of it. Except that whatever the method employed to animate a giant monster suit might be in practice, it is certainly never animated by using a real giant. So how does the twist come to such a result? What is the creative pathway, whereby a normal animation turns into an abnormal one, so that we end up with a real giant animating what is effectively a much hairier copy of itself?


If we look at the diagram below, we see that the twist is a sidestep based on the link between a copy and its animator, and a copy and its original. But which is best? To give the O/C link the top slot, or instead put the C/Animator link in the top slot, as we have done here below? Well, one might answer that if we look at the relative importance of the two links, then the O/C link is surely a fundamental link, whereas the link between a copy and its animator is not, because the latter merely represents a highly specific detail of copy practice. Which is not to belittle, as it were, the specificity of copy animation, because it is actually a rich source of copy twists, and after all, humour finds its application at just such a level of detail and nuance. However, in the collection of animation twists considered here, the extension from the copy to the animator is given top billing, so why is this? Well, it is because the animation is the primary source of the twist and, as we shall see, the left and vertical extension may start with a copy, but it can also extend down to other kinds of neighbours, of which the original is only one kind of object or possibility.


One practical problem that this cartoon manages to solve is the issue of the hidden animator. Because how do we know what’s making the suit work if the animator is hidden away inside? The answer is to either catch the animator in the act of getting dressed, as in the bears cartoon or, as in this particular case, catch them in the act of getting undressed. So here, the animator apparently has ‘a blister on his heel’… so the foot has to be removed for modification. Well, how tiresome for the animator to have a blister, but how convenient for the cartoonist. Because in pulling off the foot, we get to see the animator for what it is. Namely, the giant that is actually the whole point of the cartoon.

Now, how do we know that this sidestep is not merely a case of the animator imitating the copy it animates? Meaning that the normal human animator takes on the principal property of the copy it sits inside, namely its giant scale, and so becomes a giant as well. Well, yes, that is certainly what effectively happens, but the sidestep involves two objects in social space, not one, whereas the copy imitation twists looked at in the previous section involves one or other of the original or the copy, and then attaches a property, such as ‘it runs in the rain’, onto that single object. Which might not seem like a major difference, but the difference between a copy and its neighbour and a copy and its property is a qualitative one. So why is it so easy to describe both the giant animator and the landscape that runs in the rain as imitation then? Well, imitation in the general sense applies to anything that is like anything else, which gives it a loose application to all kinds of twist, because it represents a simple logic that we have already articulated in our logic square (see reminder below), whereas the sidestep or the imitation twist on O/C is rather specific about which links and elements it uses, although both those twists are indeed based on this simple logic that we see here.



By now I hope the reader might agree with my evaluation of this cartoon. It is a masterly knot of twists and legits that together make a clean statement, entirely novel and pleasing, with perfect visual presentation. This is indeed the kind of joke idea that every cartoonist is looking for in that eureka moment of inspiration, and it is exactly the kind of idea that immediately clicks into place as a classic in its own right. And despite its obvious bite size, this image and its caption is a masterpiece of meaning, and a semantic morsel of some real sophistication.

Here now are some other examples of the animation twist, beginning with another masterpiece, this time from Mad Magazine. This time, the cartoon is multi frame, and features the insouciant matador, and the angry bull at the corrida in the plaza de toros somewhere in Spain.




The two surprises that make up the initial denouement of this cartoon are the result of two different copies being displaced to the context of the bullfighting arena, where they are then revealed through the usual technique of partial undressing, this time apparently due to the need to take the applause from the crowd. Here then are the two schema for the two displacement twists, (‘Copy Displaced to Context of Original’). The bull is revealed as a fake taking the form of a bull panto horse (with two normal human animators inside). Then the matador is revealed as a fake as well – he is not a matador, but a matador suit. Note that we are looking at a different and additional twist as soon as we realise that the matador then turns out to have a bull as its animator, because these two twists are quite distinct: the matador becoming a copy is one thing; the animator being a bull, not a human, is quite another. But let us consider the two displacement twists first, before then going on to consider the special case of the bull animator…


The first thing to note here is the introduction of a new practice in the creation and use of the diagrams: namely, the use of brackets to show that the presence of an object is qualified in some way. For example, the brackets around the ‘(Real Bull)’ are there to show that the bull is present in the weakened sense of appearing to be there, until we realise that it is not, and actually it is a panto horse type copy. In turn, this is a recognition that copy duplicity is being exploited by the cartoonist to engineer a deception and ensuing revelation, because what the brackets are really telling us is precisely that: it may seem to be there, but in fact it is going to turn into something else (a copy, or an alternative meaning via a pun, or a reflection in a mirror are just some of the possibilities here).

Now let us consider the whole sequence of events – a sequence that consists of two sets of twists, the second pair leading on from the first.


The point of this cartoon is the double switch. A bull becomes a human, and a human becomes a bull. But to get to there takes two displacement twists, and one animation twist. So let’s start with the first pair of twists, which exploit copy duplicity. Here, the pair exploits the fact that we can’t tell the difference between a bull and a matador on the one side, and their copies on the other, because in a drawing they look the same. So we judge on context and are quickly proved wrong. But the denouement is staged nicely, with the first revelation (the bull is a panto horse), being played out to its full, before the second one then comes along (the matador is a bull) to flip things the other way. (Note that in the bear cartoon, the confusion between the copy and its original (copy duplicity) are not exploited, and both are given equal billing in the picture).

The confusion caused by the paired copy displacement twist yields a double whammy in terms of the two revelations, one following the other in quick succession, to give added value to the joke. One revelation is already good, two is better still, and then the double switch that we find in this particular bullfight is absolutely first class, because the revelations work in opposite directions to somehow restore the status quo. Which gives us back our two antagonists in what is a pleasing balance – yes, they just happen to be the other way around now, but the symmetry of the two adversaries is maintained to our satisfaction, and both sides are equally surprised by the double denouement.

But the humour in this cartoon does not stop there, because it turns out that there is a new animator in town. For now we have a twist on animation itself, where the matador is not only revealed as a copy, but in the place of the normal human animator, there is now a bull. So let us look at this ‘human animated by bull’ situation in more detail.


The elements in brackets are all present in the complete drawing sequence, whilst the two elements that make the joke have been encircled in blue to show their position in the twist dynamic. These two complete the pattern of reversal between the starting point of the bull and the matador. This extended version is useful because it shows the start off point, with its two contextual neighbours, the matador and the bull, then the two copies that are used to flip our expectations in a double displacement twist, and then the final, and necessary animation twist that gives us a bull animating the matador suit. Necessary, that is, because without this final twist, we would be unable to achieve the symmetry of the double flip, given that otherwise we have to cope with the asymmetry of the human always doing the animation, and that would spoil the show. Anyhow, this extended version has been collapsed to show the essential elements under scrutiny here below.


So the thing that makes this an animation twist is simply the fact that the animator has been switched from a human to a bull. A twist for which one of the two links is that between a copy and its copy neighbour – the two suits in this case, and the other link being between the copy and its animator – the human suit and the bull animator. But the whole twist takes its inspiration from the original set up of the two context neighbours confronting each other in the bullring, because the bull animator has to come from the original bull for the animation twist to work properly in this case.

This twist compares with the animation twist in the Bear cartoon, except that it goes one step further. So in the Bear cartoon, the bear animates its own bear copy, but in this cartoon, we reach even further into our imaginations, where the bull animates not its copy, but the animator himself. That is, we have now moved from humans animating animals (which is normal), to the Bear cartoon, where animals animate animals, and then on to the Bullfight cartoon, where we see a complete reversal of our starting point. Which means that we have moved from a place where Humans animate Animals, to a place where Animals animate Humans. Can we go further still though? Well, the only other immediate possibility within this frame of reference is the idea that humans could animate humans, as when the spy pulls off the plastic face and head of a familiar figure, to reveal his own self underneath. But this particular twist (on identity change, just like the displacements in the Bull Fight cartoon) appears to be less common in the cartoon literature, perhaps because it is less radical than say the ‘human to animal’ or reverse option.

Here is another cartoon on animation, and this time it features an animator significantly lighter and smaller than the usual human body.



An animator is often, as we have seen, a whole human being, but something as small as the human hand can animate a copy such as a puppet or a ventiloquist dummy. So in this cartoon, we find that just the ‘animus’ of the hand is left to show us there was anything there at all (if ‘animator’ = human, then let ‘animus’ = part of human). For without that sign standing up on the sand telling us that this is no ordinary Punch and Judy show, along with the defining context of the stripy box tent and drapes, this cartoon would fail. Fail because when the copy is absent, and all that’s left are a set of fingers and a palm, it is no longer clear that there was ever a copy there in the first place. So the defining context saves the day (and in this case, the caption helps too) – and we see this quite often in cartoon humour, where an absence is shown to be just that through the agency of the situation that surrounds it.


The sign makes the claim that this show is the first one of its kind. This is because the idea of an ’All-Nude Punch & Judy Show’ would normally strike the average onlooker as rather strange. But we are prepared to accept it on a first time basis, as an experiment and as a novelty, because that at least makes reasonable sense. The sign standing on the beach, which is really just a caption cleverly packaged within the picture itself, also provides us with the legit. The fingers dancing around may look rather silly and pointless (no wonder the audience looks baffled), but the logic is clear. Undress the copy, and what lies underneath is the naked body. Which in this case comes down to the animating agent of the hand inside the puppet. So the removal of the hand puppet copy is justified by introducing a new and invented copy context (the ‘All-Nude Punch & Judy’ show) in order to make the idea of the hands, stripped of their all important copy covers, nevertheless a logical development that we are being asked to accept.

What if we used the same trick with a whole nude animator (instead of just a pair of hands) inside the panto suit of a horse? Would that work as well? It would have to be a pair of animators in this case, but the problem here would be that although our hands are normally bare, our bodies are not, and the two people inside the panto horse would normally be fully dressed inside their costume. So stripping off the horse would result in a pair of fully clothed figures, entirely at variance with the idea of an ‘All Nude Panto’, meaning that as a joke, this whole idea would be a non starter. And all because of the particular practical detail that ensures we keep our hands generally free of clothing (due to the practical advantages of avoiding gloves that compromise the freedom and tactile powers of the fingers). On the other hand, when it does all come together, as with the cartoon above, the result is at least arguably amusing – and we get to see a bunch of silly fingers dancing around on stage.

One small point about the idea of the ‘copy neighbour’ and its identity is worth making here. As we can see from the twist dynamics, the logic begins with idea of the Punch & Judy show – the primary context of the whole cartoon. But the diagram features the hand puppet and its nude sidekick (as two copy neighbours), and ignores the two neighbouring contexts of the two kinds of puppet show that act as the basis for this animation twist. A small point admittedly, but without it, the description is not quite accurate.

So, having considered a range of twists on copy animation, we are now in a position to summarise their variety at an abstract level. Here are some of the possibilities exemplified in the cartoons already considered, with an added extra category of an example not yet found in the literature.



The first category is what we normally find in areas of entertainment such as theatre, carnival, puppetry, ventriloquism, and is entirely familiar to us. Which is not to say that this, the very process of animation, is not intrinsically funny. Because we all know how intriguing it is when, as children, we first see a puppet apparently come to life, all on its own. True, as adults, we know a thing or two, and have been there too many times to be particularly impressed or amused by such copies (unless they manage to surprise us with a new angle that is). But despite this familiarity, it is still a twist, and this raises an interesting question about how we define normality. Because how do we distinguish between the new twists of humour, and these apparently naturally occurring ‘old’ twists in that case? And for that matter, is it the case that all naturally occurring twists are man-made? Or can they occur due to the actions of non human Physical Space as well?

For example, could we call fulgurite – the intriguing patterns of hollow tubes of fused glass made when lightning strikes sand – a naturally occurring twist? Well, in terms of the logic of physics, presumably not, because Physical Space does not have expectations that can then be challenged; and twists are all about what we expect. But what about fulgurite in terms of human experience (where does it belong in Social Space)? Well, it does seem to be something odd, and indeed unusual and unexpected. Not funny exactly, but unfamiliar and bizarre certainly. So does this mean that a twist is something that can be measured by its degree of familiarity then? It does look that way at least. A possibility borne out by the observation that what seems like a dramatic twist for the children, in the form of a panto horse or puppet, is no longer a twist at all for the parents. Well, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is putting it rather strongly, but familarity breeds indifference seems about right here: a twist has to carry an element of surprise or novelty for it to be effective, and without this novel element, it is merely something normal, and unregarded.

Incidentally, religious observance may also feature animation as part of its makeup. For example, masks and costumes are common in rituals and dance (as are all the crafted copies that make up effigies/statues/dolls/icons et al, but these are not examples of animation). Here the aim is not to amuse, though that may be included infrequently, but rather to dramatise other, more religious qualities, such as sanctity, awe and admonition. The figures come to life, and promulgate mystical experience and belief, as well as no doubt being entertaining to some extent. But then the whole concept of the twist goes well beyond the limitations of humour, applying to many other aspects of both religion and the arts, so we should not in the least be surprised by this.

The next three categories of animation twist are familiar to the extent that we have already examined some cartoon examples of them above. Whilst the final category proposes a possibility that might exist, though no example has been found, as yet. But first, let us look at the four examples of the three types of animation twist that we have looked at so far, and this time in one place, in order to compare them.


In most of these examples, it is the animator that changes. Changes, that is, into the original of its copy (such as the bear suit revealed as a real bear) or, alternatively, into the original of its copy neighbour (such as the matador revealed as a real bull). But in the case of the nude puppet show, the copy is removed altogether, so this is a rather particular example, where the animator stays, and this time, it is the copy that changes (in this case by being removed from the scene entirely). Another possibility that derives directly from the idea of an animator without its copy (the Nude Puppet again) is the copy without its animator. So the panto horse is revealed to be its own autonomous entity, without the need for an animating agency, prancing around, maybe half undone so we can see the space inside? Well, maybe. Or could we imagine it to be like a magicians trick, showing itself to be empty of its (now cleverly disappeared) normal human. But then that is a serious twist, and is not intended to be laughed at (not the HAHA reaction, but the AH.. reaction as Arthur Koestler might have said).

From the diagrams above, it is clear that the number of elements present in these cartoons is open to some variation (from all four, through three, to just two). But the minimum is surely going to be two, because the copy and its animator always belong together, whatever the animator then turns out to be as a result of the twist. Having said that two is the minimum however, we find that the Nude Puppet Show cartoon has only one element visually present, but then after all, we find that the context of the puppet show, along with the sign, gives us the extra information we need to make sense of it all. And at the other end of the count, all four elements may be present, as with the Bull Fight cartoon, because all four are essential for the double copy revelation twist to be appreciated. So is there a pattern worth noting at this point? Well, in general terms, both copy and animator are likely to be present, whilst the normal animator is usually absent because animation twists work by replacing the human agency with a different one. Two elements is in any case the usual number in an animation twist. But if we look at the Bear and Giant Foot cartoons, which both employ the same type of twist, we find that they differ in the number of elements shown. However, this is simply due to the fact that other kinds of twists are involved in the Bear cartoon, so adding more elements to the dynamics. So there is nothing anomalous about this variance in numbers after all.

Now, what about the final category above, in our list of boxed possibilities, where a copy animates a copy? How would such an idea work in practice? For example, if we put a panto horse inside a panto horse, and then reveal this in frame two of a cartoon, is this going to amount to anything more than just a variant along the familiar lines of a Russian doll? Because apart from the practical difficulty of making it clear that the animator is itself a panto horse (fortunately, panto horses don’t look like the real thing), we then have the whole problem of justifying this unlikely practice in some clever and tortuous way. There is also a further problem here. Because if the copy is to animate its copy, then what animates the animator? Clearly, a human being is the most likely answer here, in which case the whole twist fizzles to a stop, to leave us with two layers of copy, along with the usual human (doubtless sweltering inside the double layer), and with not much else to show for it. Unless, that is, the cartoonist has supplied us with some ingenious legit to smile at instead. Nor is the situation helped by the very limited field of examples in the copy animation compound: animated doubles are normally only found in pantomimes, or on the stage, or in puppet shows and certain religious events. But then, perhaps we could go outside this compound, and imagine a teddy bear being animated by another teddy bear? (And although the teddy bear is a copy not normally animated by a human, it may sometimes be animated by internal, battery driven, toy mechanics and motor). Teddy bears don’t split though – because they are not normally animated – so how would this twist reveal itself in the first place? OK, then use a copy that does open up. But then we are back to the animation copies, unless other copies that split for some reason exist as well – such as some bed time animals that open up to reveal pyjamas inside? All of which suggests that the challenge remains, and that in some very specific area of human practice, there lurks a copy animating a copy in such a way that it is definable as humour, though my guess is that it will be the legit, rather than the twist, that makes the result into a viable cartoon.


Meanwhile, being conscious of many unanswered and unposed questions about the body of work already posted in this website, I am waiting optimistically for reader feedback to set me right, and expand things that I have failed to cover properly (names of contributors will be acknowledged on the site).