From Adventure Hour!:
To use animals as loyal pets, make them friendly, smart, or powerful, but not all three.
Let’s give some meat to these words:
- Likes owner, likes strangers, empathetic.
- Opposite: Jerk, doesn’t care, needs to be motivated
- Independent, adaptable, courageous
- Opposite: Clumsy, afraid, needs to be told what to do
- Skilled, effective, dangerous
- Opposite: Weak, helpless, needs protection
Now, to use Disney pets as examples.
Flounder (from The Little Mermaid) is lovable and huggable, but not all that smart or effective. He causes trouble by sticking his nose in places he shouldn’t and often swims away from danger. That said, he is very empathic and often comforts Ariel when she’s feeling down.
Archimedes (from The Sword in the Stone) knows a lot and knows that he knows a lot. A jerk to others, Archimedes often needs convincing and protection in order to come along on adventures or help out. That said, he often brings knowledge to the table that Wart doesn’t possess.
Scud (from Toy Story) is Sid’s angry guard dog. He is brutal and terrifying, friendly to no one, and easily tricked. If you could coax, manipulate, or befriend him, you’d have a dangerous ally.
Friendly and smart (but not powerful)
Abu (from Aladdin) is a tricky little fella. He is reluctantly friendly at times (has to be convinced to give his bread to starving children) and greedy (grabs the world’s largest ruby), but also charming in his own right and sneaky (grabs the lamp from Jafar). He is near-useless in a close fight, but can distract fruit stand merchants and make goofy faces like no tomorrow.
He’s a roguish skill monkey.
Friendly and powerful (but not smart)
Groot (from Guardians of the Galaxy) roars loud and makes endearing faces at folks, but can’t enact a plan to save his life. He’s like a gun that Rocket needs point in the right direction for him to be effective. The only things he does understand is friendship, when his friends are in danger, and how to say “I am Groot.” He’s fairly reckless in order to help others.
He’s a big, friendly giant.
Smart and powerful (but not friendly)
Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch) knows how to manipulate machines, drive vehicles, hack ship schematics, and fire laser guns. He’s got many limbs and sharp teeth and is virtually indestructible. But ask him to make introductions for your party and you’d better just leave town. He’s destructive, he can’t play nice with others, and can barely be tolerated by anyone. Thank goodness Lilo loves him for else he’d be a goner.
He’s a trouble-making wrecking ball.
Making them dynamic
Pets aren’t usually the main character, but when they undergo a change, it can be a nice moment. What’s the easiest change? Just give them what they don’t have.
Friendly and smart: Become powerful. Abu becomes a large, imposing elephant for the last acts. And then is changed back to a monkey at the end because… marketing?
Friendly and powerful: Learn. Groot learns something. “WE are Groot.” One emotional plot point just by changing one word. Told you pets are great. But then, smart Groot is too powerful, so we gotta Nerf him back to seedling Groot.
Smart and powerful: Soften up. Stitch learns to not be a jerk. “Ohana means family…” etc,. He gives someone a hug. The ugly duckling story makes him weep. Boom, story.
Take a pet from another movie or show. Are they friendly, smart, and/or powerful? How so? Do they change? Examples to play with:
- Jake the Dog (from Adventure Time)
- Toothless (from How to Train Your Dragon)
- Donkey (from Shrek)
- Cerberus (from Hercules)
- Iago and Rajah (from Aladdin)
- Pluto (from Mickey Mouse)
- Rufus (from Kim Possible)
- Sven (from Frozen)