The “Cute” Character

You think WE have rules of cuteness? Let’s take a look at the original purveyors of cute with this drawing from Warner Bros. How many rules did we get right? Certainly not all of them.

To sum it up: "Cuteness is based on the basic proportions of a baby PLUS expressions of shyness or coyness." Well put!




  1. first!

  2. Anime has some seriously hard-and-fast rules of cuteness too (huge eyes, tiny mouth, etc.) which would be interesting to compare these to.

  3. Meg- I think you’ve hit the nail on the head!

  4. javagirl says:

    They said “Fanny” !

    Fanny is cute!

  5. Damn… I thought I had some strict standards … cute down to a science… thats cool.

  6. Anime sucks

  7. Actually I remember studying something very similar in anthropology class. No joke.

  8. TeratoMarty says:

    I dunno, I find this formulaic cuteness too rigid. These rules would never produce a squooshy manatee or a sleepy elephant-seal or the sproing colt. There is more cuteness in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

  9. Crazy, my mom has this same drawing book. I used to copy the pictures from it.

  10. Crazy, my mom has this same drawing book. I used to copy the pictures from it.

  11. Crazy, my mom has this same drawing book. I used to copy the pictures from it.

  12. Crazy, my mom has this same drawing book. I used to copy the pictures from it.

  13. Crazy, my mom has this same drawing book. I used to copy the pictures from it.

  14. Crazy, my mom has this same drawing book. I used to copy the pictures from it.

  15. I have that book! It’s a “how to” book on animation, that I’ve had since I was a kid. I actually learned a lot about drawing from it.

  16. does it matter the baby is cute =)

  17. wow the original Rules of Cuteness! Although it really only applies to making cute animated drawings… and not real life. Not having a neck is severely un-cute.

  18. I actually have this book, and it’s not anime, it’s just Western animation.

  19. Tony James says:

    Maymee – it’s true – baby animals (especially mammals) are designed to provoke “awww” reactions from other animals. This is supposed to stop them from becoming lunch.

  20. I loooove the classic Warner Bros animation. My favorite short is “Feed the Kitty.” Marc Antony (bulldog) has some of the best expressions EVER.

  21. ‘fanny protrudes’…???

  22. /me tries to visuallize something which does not match to any of these rules and still looks cute. 🙂

  23. Erasmus says:

    non-sequitor video

  24. Russell Calabrese says:

    Just a note on the origin of the page.

    It’s not from Warner Bros.
    It’s from the Preston Blair Animation How-to Book published originlly by Walter Foster. It’s an excellent book and has been reprinted and is available for any of you out there who want some animation knowledge. I used this book quite a lot when I started animating myself.

    Cute Rules!!


  25. staranela says:

    no neck – check
    fanny protrudes – check
    high forehead – check
    short, non-skinny arms – check
    tummy bulges – check
    fat legs – check

    Hey, I knew sooner or later I’d be cute by someone’s standards!

  26. Laurie C says:

    Russell, you animated yourself? Cool! What kind of cartoon character are you now?

  27. I have this book too! I totally learned proportion from it. Well, this book an Mark Kissler of the Imagination Station.

  28. jenandcleo says:

    Cute. Borderline creepy, though.

  29. Good old Walter Foster. I still have his book on drawing horses.

    The late Stephen Jay Gould wrote a famous essay for Natural History magazine on the evolution of Mickey Mouse from a rather uncuddly, rattish type to the loveable* modern Mickey. And he manages to use the word “cute” only two times in the entire essay. (See:

    * (Not loveable to me. I hate Mickey and his squeaky voice. Give me Bugs and Daffy and Foghorn et. al. any time.)

  30. “Not having a neck is severely un-cute.”

    Actually I can think of loads of things that have little to no neck and have appeared right here on CO and are VERY cute… bunnys, hamsters, certain little birds and some types of dogs have very short necks unless they specifically stretched out and they are still cute. Give the no-necks a break… its not their fault. *g*

  31. Big feet are really cute sometimes: look at any puppy or kitten. So the rules don’t always apply. Interesting, tho.

  32. I think Meg’s Rules of Cuteness are better.
    The only thing I would consider truly cute in this drawing is the raccoon. It’s squeezable.

  33. Meh… I’ve always found most human babies to be ugly, ugly, ugly 80% of the time. Very little about these doodles is ‘cute’. The raccoon, maybe.

    I’ve always highly preferred Disney style to old Warner Bros style. Kitten Simba was cute. The fox and the hound (from the movie by the same name :P) were cute. Countless other Disney characters have been cute. I’m hard pressed to think of any old Warner Bros character that was ever cute (in my oh so humble opinion, in any case).

  34. “Baby animals (especially mammals) are designed to provoke “awww” reactions from other animals. This is supposed to stop them from becoming lunch.”

    Tony James: That expains why there is a veritable bloodbath in my brother’s aquarium every time there’s these small baby fishes present. Not enough “awww”-potential.

  35. PunkPenguin says:

    wow! i have this art book! it belonged to my sister who is 16 years older than me and i used to work out of it. blows my mind.

  36. Dickie Twinkles says:

    I can’t stop laughing at the word ‘fanny’ -immature- I’m British and it has a far dirty meaning here 😉

    ‘Fanny pack’ always provokes funny looks from Brits too XD

    Anyway, these rules work quite well but sometimes the opposite is true…such as fawns and foals with long gangly legs…bunnies with giant feet…the duck stretching it’s long neck going ‘ehn’ XD

    My guinea pig follows all these rules in this book XD

  37. For the record… I’m a midwestern American, I can’t remember anyone I’ve ever known using the word “fanny,” unless maaaaaaybe they were intentionally trying to sound foolish. It’s pretty much a dead word.

  38. …OK, other than in the context of “fanny pack.” (D.T. has a point.)
    I never hear it by itself, though.

  39. Wow, this could double as my guide to finding the Perfect Date, I mean so many guys I’ve dated apparently are “cute!”

    (and poor, and drunk…)

  40. AuntieMame says:

    DAD: I said turn that thing down and get ready for school.
    SON: Hey!!!!!!! You ruined my record man, I just bought it.
    DAD: I don’t care what you just bought! You get your little fanny perpendicular and get ready for school!
    SON: I’m not going to school.
    DAD: What do you mean you’re not going to school.
    SON: Just what I said, I’m not going to school.
    DAD: And why not?
    SON: Cause I’m sick that’s why not.
    DAD: Sick. You’re sick all right. What’s wrong with you now, Prince Charming
    SON: I’ve got an earache
    DAD: Earache my eye, how would you like a buttache? Now get your little fanny out of that bed and clean up this room, it looks like a pig sty. You hear me?
    SON: (makes pig sounds)
    DAD: All right, that’s enough. That’s enough. You pushed me far enough, young man. You’re getting punished. Now stand up.
    SON: No!
    DAD: I said stand up!
    SON: Owwwwww! Let go of my hair man!
    DAD: Now young man, I have talked to you and talked to you and talked to you till I’m blue in the face and I’m done talking to you!
    SON: Good, does that mean you’re done spitting on me too?
    DAD: Shut up, I’m not done talking to you.

  41. These characters aren’t from Warner Bros. If anything they’re based on Disney characters…the pig is from the Three Little Pigs and Thumper from Bambi is the bunny. They’re still adorable though!

  42. little gator says:

    anyoen who thinks skinny arms aren’t cute never saw Rex in Toy Story.

  43. Wisefool says:

    My god. It’s a cute-spiracy.

    Dickie – I get the fanny pack thing. Took a sec for me to put it together. Poor American tourists.

    I have just realized that my guinea pigs are in fact totally neckless. I was going through the rules. They fall just short of cute though by drawing blood if I dare approach them sans lettuce. My rats have necks. They are somehow cuter.

  44. *adores AuntieMame for the extended Cheech & Chong quote*

  45. Well, at least this manages to explains why I find the design of all these characters terrible and hideous (aside from the fact it’s organic drawing): they do share some traits with babies…

  46. FlowerFox says:

    Umm… yes this is from Preston Blairs “original” publishing of the book… but it is NOT “warner bros”… Preston Blair worked for Disney for a while but mainly the pics on this page and the rest of the original book are from his time spent working with Tex Avery at MGM.

    Anyone interested can find the entire book on John Kricfalusi’s blogger where he haS been doing an online Animation Course from the original book.


  47. jellybean says:

    staranela, I guess both of us are considered cute by those standards, well I don’t have a high forehead, that’s about it.

  48. jellybean says:

    And this is from disney, the kitten is from aristocats if I’m not mistaken.

  49. Babyguru says:

    “Fanny Pack” makes you laugh;
    “Spotted Dick” makes us rofl.

    “Care for some SPotted DIck?”

  50. Dickie Twinkles says:

    Lol, good point about spotted dick XD

    You don’t know the torture I went through school with this name!

  51. SaraSoCute says:

    you could draw me based on that baby cartoon.

  52. Disney = maudlin
    CO = cute

  53. “You don’t know the torture I went through school with this name!”

    Uh-huh. Sorry, I’m skeptical, this being the internet & all, where one can call oneself whatever one prefers. *I* think is you’re putting us all on (or “having us all on,” as you please).

    That said, I’m prepared to believe that “Dickie Twinkles” really is your name (heck, I’m American; we’re brought up to believe any number of ridiculous things)… but only after some earnest convincing. I mean, “Theo” really is my name, so I suppose it’s possible.

  54. Robert M. says:

    I just wanted to use this post to ask a question I’ve had for some time… Who do you consider to be the cutest human character in animation? Any media – television, movies, video games, etc. – that use animation are permissible. And of course by “cute,” I mean in the pure sense of cute to which this site is devoted…

    My nomination goes to “Boo” from the Disney/Pixar movie Monsters Inc.

  55. Robert M — I can see why you’d say Boo. I personally prefer Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, though, for the same reason I like my pet predators. Adorable, lovey, yet hardly defenseless when provoked.

  56. Robert M.–I second your choice! Boo is absolutely adorable. Especially since her behavior, speech, mannerisms and movements were also amusingly realistic. Somehow, this made her all the more cute!

    As an aside, I have a good friend whose daughter could easily play Boo in real life. With her hair up in pigtails, the resemblance is uncanny!


  57. Yeah, I’ve seen these before. Personally tho I think our Real-Life Cutes here on this site beat any Warner Bros. characters all hollow.

  58. i just wanna say that this website is the bestest website in all the land! i can be having the crappiest day ever but the second i see some awesomely cute bunny or puppy, i’m over it!

  59. Honestly…..I think i had that book when i was little….i swear…atleast i had a drawing book with that page in it…..insane!

  60. Okay, I think this pretty much cancels out the “small feet” thing:

  61. Cool. =D This reminds me a bit of these similar instructions, here:

    They also use the word “fanny”. o_0

    I’ve always loved cartoon cuteness. I like zaniness, too. That’s why I’ve always gave my cute bunny doodles wacky lookin’ eyes close together. I made them cross-eyed, too. I’m weird.