Cats and dogs are great, but let’s be honest: the best pets are the ones you can’t find at the corner pet shop. The best pets are the kind that take a team of writers and animators to create. We’ve all wished Fido had crime fighting powers, wings to fly, the ability to change colors, or talked to us when we’re feeling down after a hard day. That’s what makes these pets so special. These are the fictional pets we always wanted, and what it took to create them.
10. Dino – The Flintstones
Dino is a “Snorkasaurus” in the Flintstones universe, but is actually a much smaller version of a real life Sauropoda with dog-like behaviors. In the season one episode, “The Snorkasaurus Hunter,” we flashback to when Fred and Barney first meet Dino. Oddly enough, he’s portrayed as being able to talk and perform regular household duties like cleaning and answering phones, but after this episode he’s restricted to his normal dog-like self for the rest of the show’s run.
Dino was voiced by 1960s actor Mel Blanc who also provided the voices for Barney Rubble, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, and countless other famous characters. But while his voice remained the same, when it came to the pet’s look the show wasn’t as consistent. Dino changed colors several times throughout the seasons (including going from black and white to color), but his main color was always purple.
9. Hobbes – Calvin and Hobbes
Hobbes is the brainchild of Bill Watterson, the American cartoonist who wrote and sketched the Calvin and Hobbes comic from 1985 to 1995. Discussing the creation of Hobbes, he told The Washington Post it didn’t take very long for him to settle on the famous tiger’s design: “I wanted something less conventional than a bear… But I probably spent all of five minutes thinking about it. Once I hit on a tiger, of course, it was great—cats and I have a certain rapport, so this was a very natural fit for me.”
He’s also been quoted saying Hobbes isn’t as imaginary as many adults think: “I don’t think of Hobbes as a doll that miraculously comes to life when Calvin’s around… [or] as the product of Calvin’s imagination. Calvin sees Hobbes one way, and everyone else sees Hobbes another way. I show two versions of reality, and each makes complete sense to the participant who sees it.”
8. Hedwig – Harry Potter
Believe it or not, Hedwig was the first character to be cast in the Harry Potter films. She (did you know Hedwig was a girl?) was played by seven different male Snowy Owls. This is because males have mostly white feathers, which is the look they wanted for Harry’s owl, while females tend to have a darker plumage.
Male owls are also lighter, which made it easier for Daniel Radcliffe to handle “Hedwig” during filming. He had to wear a protective glove around his arm to make sure the animal’s talons didn’t hurt him. After all, owls aren’t used to being kept as magical pets in the muggle world. In fact, it’s illegal to own one as a pet without the proper license, and even then they should be allowed to fly.
7. Dug – UP
Director Bob Peterson wanted to include something his own dogs do at home: “They’re sitting around, relaxed and panting. I sit next to them and pant with them. And then I suddenly stop and look in another direction and they do, too. When I relax, they relax with me. Then we do it again. Dogs have great senses of humor.”
For the rest of Dug’s quirks, the crew brought in dog behaviorist Ian Dunbar to fill them in on how the animals communicate and give signals. It’s clear when you watch the film that Dug is different. This is because the alpha dogs in UP were designed after bullets and missiles to appear more dangerous, but Dug was simply drawn as a mix between a Golden Retriever and a Yellow Lab. He’s also the only one of Muntz’s dogs that isn’t named after a Greek letter.
6. Gizmo – Gremlins
Howie Mandel, the well-known host of Deal or No Deal and judge of America’s Got Talent, provided the voice for Gizmo, but didn’t sing Gizmo’s signature song. Jerry Goldsmith, the songwriter, hired a thirteen-year-old girl to sing it since it would be too difficult for Mandel. However, if not for one very important change to the script, that song wouldn’t have happened.
Gizmo was originally supposed to turn into the antagonist of the film, Stripe the Gremlin, but director Stephen Spielberg decided to keep the characters separate since he knew fans would want the cuter and more cuddly version to have as much screen time as possible. He was right. The hype over Gizmo got Hasbro in trouble in the late 1990s. The popular toy company had to pay Warner Bros. a settlement and change the design of their newest toy, the Furby, due to its striking resemblance to the Gremlins character. But no matter how much of a resemblance Furbies bear to everyone’s favorite Mogwai, it just isn’t the real thing.
5. Pikachu – Pokémon
Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri has explained the name Pikachu breaks down into “Pika,” the sound the Japanese say an electric spark makes, and “chu,” which is the sound a mouse makes — roughly meaning, “electric mouse.” He didn’t expect much from the character at first. The original mascot for the game was supposed to be Clefairy, but Pikachu quickly became more popular. In fact, the character is so popular he now has his own currency.
In 2001, the island of Niue, off the coast of New Zealand, created a legal dollar coin with Pikachu’s face on the back to commemorate the game. That means Pikachu shares the same honor as George Washington, so we guess that’s one way to “be the very best, like no one ever was.”
4. Perry the Platypus – Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb co-founders Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh purposely chose and unusual species for the crime fighting pet. This allowed them to have more creative freedom since most people don’t know much about platypuses and thus don’t have any preconceived notions about how they should act. They also wanted to choose an animal kids couldn’t beg their parents for (it’s illegal to own a platypus in the U.S.).
For Perry’s signature sound, they hired Dee Bradley Baker, who’s famous for his various animal voices (Waddles from Gravity Falls, Appa and Momo from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and many different creatures from Adventure Time). There’s an ongoing YouTube contest to see who can do the best Perry the Platypus impression, but it’s difficult to even come close to Baker’s version.
3. Ghost – Game of Thrones
This is cheating a little bit since dire wolves aren’t exactly “fictional.” They existed as early as 200,000 years ago, along with saber-tooth tigers and Woolly Mammoths, and went extinct around 11,000 years ago after the last Ice Age. Due to that large inconvenience, the dire wolves in Game of Thrones were originally played by Northern Inuit dogs.
However, they were replaced by CGI after the first season to make them larger (dire wolves weigh between 110-175 pounds, whereas Northern Inuit dogs weigh an average of 95) and more of a threat. Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) adopted the dog that played her character’s dire wolf when she found out the pup needed a new home.
2. Pascal – Tangled
Pascal was based on a real chameleon owned by one of the animation artists working on the movie. She purchased her chameleon the same day the directors were trying to decide on a name for the character, and when she told them she named it Pascal, they asked if they could use it. Coincidently, the French name “Pascal” coincides with many other French-inspired aspects of the film.
For example, Mont St. Michel in Normandie, France inspired the design for the King and Queen’s castle. Early designs for Pascal ranged from a nutty squirrel to a purple and blue version of the chameleon, but they eventually settled on green because it went better with Rapunzel’s hair and clothing.
1. Toothless – How to Train Your Dragon
Toothless underwent a drastic change from page to screen. In the book series, he’s a small red and green, run-of-the-mill dragon, but Hollywood had other plans, and he was transformed into the black-scaled night fury seen in the movie. While planning how he would look and act, animators took the characteristics of their own pets and included them in the design to make him as friendly and charismatic as he is dangerous.
As far as his voice, that took a little more effort. According to Supervising Sound Designer Randy Thom, “Toothless was the biggest challenge for us in terms of the vocalization, because he had to have so much variety just within his own voice. [Toothless is] mostly a combination of my voice and elephants and horses, maybe a tiger here and there. It’s lots of stuff.” Good thing all of their hard work paid off.