Masterplots Theater: Z is for Zoomorphic

Z Masterplots Theater-6Welcome back to Masterplots Theater on this the very last day of the A-Z Challenge! Yippee! We made it! And as happens every year, we get to Z and go, “What the heck are we going to write for this letter?” Of course, now that I think of it, we could have picked zombies, but I already talked enough about zombies in X is for X Meets Y. So the word of the day is *drum roll* ZOOMORPHIC!

What the heck does that mean?

Zoomorphic: “Having the form of an animal.” — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Great! I get to talk about all my favorite animated movies where the characters are animals. And then I read this:

Zoomorphism: “Art that imagines humans as non-human animals.” — Wikipedia

Oh wait, that’s the opposite of this:

Anthropomorphism: “The attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities.” — Wikipedia

Right. So that means most animated animal films, such as FINDING NEMO, ICE AGE, THE LION KING and RATATOUILLE are actually anthropomorphic. Darn.

So I went back to the drawing board, aka Google, to research stories where humans take the form of animals, but then remembered that Robin already wrote about the Metamorphosis masterplot. So you know what? We’re just going to go with the basic definition of zoomorphic (“having the form of an animal”) and talk about movies with animal characters that act so much like humans that we can pretend they’re humans in animal form. Okay? Because Z is a difficult letter and we can cheat a little.

Zoomorphic Plot Notes: 

The defining element of this somewhat made-up masterplot is that the characters are animals that act human, so much so that they talk like us, walk on two legs, and wear clothing. In this way, FINDING NEMO does not fit in this category, but FANTASTIC MR. FOX does.

The setting resembles human civilization, with the animal characters living in houses and cities, getting married, having jobs, and even establishing organized leadership such as royalty or government.

Probably the most significant characteristic of this plot is the moral issues it addresses. The animal society mirrors human society, including all the problems and -isms (racism, sexism, classism) that we deal with.

Common masterplots that zoomorphic stories fit into are Rite of Passage, Quest, Adventure, and The Fool Triumphant.

Example to Study:

ZOOTOPIA! Because it’s my new favourite film and a perfect fit for this masterplot:

Zootopia-Poster· CHARACTERS: They are all animals who talk, have human-style relationships, and work people jobs. They also wear clothes, and there is a hilarious scene in a nudist yoga centre that makes light of this.

· SETTING: Zootopia is a modern city with houses, businesses, roads, transit, technology and government. Heck, the bunny protagonist even has a smart phone that she uses to call, text, listen to music and take photos. It doesn’t get more human than that! 

· MORAL ISSUE: Racism. Because what better way to send a “we should all live in harmony, no matter our differences and our history” than to put a bunch of very divergent animals together in the same city, some of whom used to be “prey” to the others.

· MASTERPLOT: Zootopia falls under the Fool Triumphant category because 1) the protagonist (Judy Hopps) is a bunny that nobody expects to succeed because bunnies aren’t supposed to be police officers, 2) she’s up against the Establishment (police force) who discriminates against bunnies, 3) she gets a name change when she passes cop training and becomes Officer Hopps, 4) the film sheds light on a serious moral issue through comedy, and 5) the disregarded protagonist exposes the establishment as the true fool, and everyone lives happily ever after. 

Future Research:

Stories that fit my Zoomorphic Masterplot criteria: FANTASTIC MR. FOX, MICKEY MOUSE and DONALD DUCK films, THE SECRET OF N.I.H.M., and REDWALL.

And that’s it! The April Blogging A-Z Challenge is finished! Thanks for being part of Masterplots Theater. We sincerely hope you enjoyed the show.


Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

30 thoughts on “Masterplots Theater: Z is for Zoomorphic”

  1. This made me think of “The Wind in the Willows,” where there is an entire animal society, which only occasionally runs into the human society and doesn’t seem to be hunted or used as pets or any such thing. (And it made one wonder about the size of the animals, given how Toad could wear a washerwoman’s clothes. Are the people small or the animals large?)
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Absolutely LOVE this genre. My favorite might be An American Tail, such charm to the characters. Also, must mention the book Watership Down, a classic that I read about 40 years ago – I think I’ll read it again.
    Took my grands to see Zootopia. We loved it and will certainly see it again. Wonderful story.
    Thank you, Robin and Heather, for an amazing exploration of books in all their plotted glory. I’ve added at least 50 books to my list of I-must-read-this.

    1. That’s fantastic! Thanks, Sharon.

      I have a fuzzy memory of An America Tail from when I was a kid. But from what I can remember, yes, definitely a Zoomorphic story! I’ll have to watch it again. 🙂

  3. Well, if they ever filmed my Princelings series you could include that 🙂 I’ve enjoyed your Masterplots greatly, although I’ve missed out far too many. Plenty of time to come back, and I have you on my Pinterest board, so I can’t lose you now!
    Congrats on finishing your A2Z – and in such style!

    1. True, MG stories definitely employ the Zoomorphic masterplot a lot!

      So glad you enjoyed the series, Sarah. It was more work than we expected, but we learned a lot and it seems like our readers did too, so it was worth it. 🙂

    1. I wrote animation for years, but still watch anything that comes out of the Pixar brain trust with absolute awe. Also, remember that animation is a team project – there are writers, editors, producers and directors all honing that script to make it shine.

  4. J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird’s A to Z Ambassador Team.
    Have you enjoyed the challenge? Did you hop to other blogs? The end of the alphabet here! Reflections sign up is May 9– mark a calendar.
    My blog’s giveaway is still going. I’m encouraging everyone to visit more stops.
    Any post that mentions Zootopia is all right with me! Good job on fudging this to perfection.

    1. Hi J! Robin and I did enjoy the challenge, and we visited a lot of blogs the first couple weeks, but we got strapped for time the last two weeks and didn’t visit as much as we would have liked to. There are just soooooooooo many blogs and not enough time. But Robin will write all about that in the Reflections post on May 9th. Until then, we’re taking a much-needed week off! 🙂

  5. Congratulation on tinishing the challenge! I had no doubt about it 🙂

    I’m not very fond of zoomorphic stories. Usually I prefer humans to b humans and animals to be animals and I think they give their best (alone and together) when they respect their nature. But this said, I think there are very good examples of this plot that really work.
    ‘Watership Down’ is one of my very favourite, but I really enjoyed ‘Animal Farm’ too.

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Glad you never doubted us. 🙂

      I have a very fuzzy memory of Animal Farm, and Watership Down is a series I’ve never read. I’ll have to reclaim my childhood and check it out.

  6. Is anthromorphic the characters in comic books like Sonic the Hedgehog, but once they become live as In a movie, it that when they turn zoomorphic? Thank you for a wonderful educational series. I’ll have to go back and read the ones I missed and take notes. ;). Spent so much time roaming, didn’t have time to read them all.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the series, Robin! As for your question, I’m kind of making of my own definition of a Zoomorphic plot, but it’s really just animals who act human, whether in books or film, rather than animals who talk but otherwise still act like animals.

We love comments and questions.

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