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This Is Why Cartoon Characters Only Have 4 Fingers

Refinery29 logo Refinery29 3/30/2017 Christopher Luu

© Fox Fans of animation may have noticed that their favorite characters often have only four fingers. Maybe they chalk it up to tradition or didn't give it much thought, but the AV Club explains that there's a very good reason for it that goes back to the old days of animation. Before computers, you see, artists drew cartoons by hand. By sketching characters with only four digits, it saved time — and money. YouTube user ChannelFrederator breaks it all down in a 10-minute long clip that deep dives into your favorite toons.

Of course, not every character got the shortcut treatment. Animators drew human figures, like Disney Princesses, as realistically as possible (minus those huge eyes and tiny waists), so they have the usual five fingers. For more basic figures, like Mickey Mouse, animators worked mainly with circles. Not just for the iconic mouse's main shape, but for his hands and body, too. By drawing just a thumb and three fingers, it kept the circular pattern going. Walt Disney himself said, "Using five fingers would have made Mickey’s hands look like a bunch of bananas." And if Disney himself said it, who are we to question the decision?

Another reason a slew of your favorite characters, like the Genie, Mushu the dragon, and Winnie-the-Pooh don't have five-fingered human hands? They're not human. Making animals and supernatural beings too realistic takes viewers out of fantasyland, even if those animals are wearing pants. Refinery29 © Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy. Refinery29

It's not just Disney that does it, either. Other iconic animated characters, such as Homer Simpson and his brood, all the Looney Tunes, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Felix the Cat only have four fingers, too. And now that you know, you'll notice nothing but four-fingered pals every time you flip to a cartoon.

Check out the whole video, below.

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