Creature Design in AMPHIBIA
PART THREE OF FOUR
So if you're here and you haven't already, check out Part one and Part Two of our painstaking tour through the various animals (and sometimes plants) of Amphibia! Otherwise, it's time to dive into creatures from the final two seasons! We're actually a bit past the point at which the series introduced Newtopia, so before we look at more wildlife, we'll catch up with one of the last of Amphibia's major societal classes:
As previously discussed, most of Amphibia's frogs are humble, peaceful farming folk, while most toads that we've seen are members of a military force. Newts and salamanders, however, seem to enjoy what is both figuratively and literally Amphibia's richest lifestyle. The hub of their culture, Newtopia, is a dazzling coastal city with luxuries as familiar to us as museums, schools and even a shopping mall, all under the guidance of a royal family that's ruled over Amphibia for centuries. In fact, at the time of the series, the same single king, Andrias, has been ruling for several centuries.
If any of this sounds a little imbalanced, it's not long before there's a few hints that something is indeed fishy with this whole arrangement, and fair warning, we'll have to fully spoil it all by part four. Until then, we've just got a whole lot more bugs, birds, beasts, bug birds, and bug beasts to check out...
We'll start with some from the youtube-only shorts released between seasons; this one was just a quick little joke in which Anne said she could use a "big antenna" for her cell phone, which of course Sprig misinterprets, bringing a giant beetle with long, feathery feelers. It also has an interestingly fluffy thorax and huge, round abdomen, reminding me a little of a longhorn beetle, a little of blister beetles. It also has a stinger-like protrusion on its abdomen, something not present in any real beetle, though there are a few that can spray defensive chemicals from a small nozzle-like opening!
Another short has Hop-Pop walking viewers through one of his recipes, but he needs two of his live ingredients to wear each other out in a fight, only for them to join forces instead. While they're just a blue, spiky rhinoceros beetle and a reddish centipede, I really like the details of their designs, especially the centipede's tiny, glowing yellow eyes.
Love this one! The short begins with Anne helping out in the garden with what seems to be a whole infestation of nasty, screeching little pink moles, but they soon turn out to be part of one much bigger mole-beast! The fat, blubbery grey creature has these smaller moles as fingers, warts, and even one growing from its star nose, so do they eventually break off? Is that how this thing reproduces?! It's also interesting to me that these littler moles are blind, but the main body has such prominent eyeballs. It also has both squareish, grinding teeth and tusk-like incisors, which makes sense, considering it was going after vegetables!
Of course we get to see leeches! It's a pretty basic joke for the setting, with Anne warned about leeches in a small pond, somehow still not suspecting that they're probably ten thousand times larger than they are on Earth. Like all cartoon leeches, they have more lamprey-like throats ringed with dozens of teeth, but they're otherwise the most realistic leeches I've seen in any animated media; they're exactly the right shape, and their pale green-yellow underbellies with darker green, mottled backs are actually pretty close to the species I keep myself.
Most media assumes that leeches are black, but they really only look blackish depending on lighting!
The last creature from one of the shorts is a big, elephant-sized echidna, which as you can see gets a makeover that stops its violent rampage. It's interestingly enough the one "insectivore" mammal in the show with arthropod traits of its own; four red eyes and a set of small mandibles in addition to its toothed snout.
This red cardinal is a straightforward giant-size bird, other than the fact that it too has a second set of eyes, and it also a pale green, barb-tipped tongue.
At least one high-ranking official from Newtopia rides in a classy seashell carriage pulled by a gigantic blue land crab, which of course runs sideways at high speed! It's kind of interesting that newts are so tied to the ocean. Saltwater is dangerous to the amphibians of our world, but that's also probably because our amphibians are so tiny. I'd imagine it's not so bad if you're almost human-sized or more.
There are real insects known as "scorpion flies," but Amphibia's scorpion flies actually resemble hairy scorpions with fly wings and fly eyes! They also have no limbs other than their stinging tails and pincers, as well as large insect-like mandibles.
When Anne goes overboard to help out the Plantars, she purchases an experimental chemical that "strengthens plants," and pours far too much into the family's garden. Though they're only one-off antagonists towards the end of a single episode, this is the first time we see the actual creation of monstrous fruits or vegetables, which feels like a more significant worldbuilding moment...and they're also a superb set of designs!
One little turnip just transforms into a funny little guy with a bi butt, while another turnip splits open like a giant, beaklike toothless mouth with a pair of tentacles in its "upper jaw" and a single pair of jointed legs. Meanwhile, a pumpkin sprouts more spider-like limbs and splits completely open like an "apple core," with a glowing green eyeball in its interior. A potato unsurprisingly evolved eyeballs all over its surface, and finally, an eggplant transforms into a delightful plant-based "xenomorph," with the entire fruit as the head!
Just when they all seem defeated, their remaining pieces merge together into a humanoid with carrot horns and a fanged, circular mouth.
It's just really cute.
I think this is the last time we see a distinct frog subspecies in "main-canon," a desert town of adorably teeny, tiny frogs played up as seemingly helpless, but get them angry enough to resort to violence and they turn out to be mercilessly vicious, with piranha-like teeth and luminous eyes. It's interesting that we've now seen three different frog or toad subspecies with a bloodthirsty flesh-eating streak, and that they all live relatively isolated from others of their kind.
These odd little creatures look exactly like chocolate eclairs, complete with dollops of cream down their backs, but with fat little caterpillar legs. I guess we can assume they also taste as good as they look, or at least they do to frogs.
This has to be the most classically badass and menacing animal ever depicted in the series; it's a massive, mostly black and blue predator, implied to be mostly feline but almost more wolf-like in appearance, hybridized with a scorpion! It has four luminous, yellow eyes, a pair of serrated, vivid magenta palps sprouting from its mouth, a lower jaw that splits open, insectoid hind legs and hairy, chitinous plates down its hunched back, extending into an incredibly long, swooping scorpion tail!
Very cute! A nocturnal creature with a beelike body, big pink insect eyes, a long neck and a long, conical proboscis that convergently evolved with a woodpecker.
Another late night noisemaker is a black and green ground beetle with appropriately large eyes for a nocturnal species, and big, spiny, clublike forelegs it uses to beat on fallen logs! It's a believable means of producing sound, such as a mating call, that doesn't directly parallel any one real insect, a very fun and original speculative adaptation.
Frogs apparently managed to invent coffee at some point, but they serve it (and possibly bred it?) inside the big, spherical abdomen of a very cool looking insect with a relatively small, round head and thorax. I really like the color contrast of its green-brown chitin and brighter green-yellow, circular eyes. It also has a round spigot-like mouth, smaller and shorter than usual but still a characteristic shared by various other tool-like insects in the series. Overall, it has the anatomical setup of a "honey pot ant," so maybe this is actually a "coffee pot ant??"
This has no official name, but this segmented worm is seen lurking in a rotting tree stump coincidentally shaped like Hop-Pop for a pretty funny gag. It has a long, thin, black body with a gaping, lamprey-like mouth, surrounded by additional black hooks joined in a bright green, umbrella-like membrane. A very threatening creature that reads distinctly as some kind of annelid.
Even Amphibia has truckers and truck stops! Of course the "truck" is another giant beetle, this one with a prickly, warty green design, glowing red eyes and pale mandibles that bend upwards, almost like a boar's tusks!
Not only do they have truckers and truck stops, but records and juke boxes! It's just that records are played by a small (by Amphibia standards) spider, using one of its legs as the needle.
In human mythology, a Roc is the largest bird that has ever existed, and that may very well be true of the "real" Roc in Amphibia, since we only see a brand new hatchling and it's already a good forty feet tall. A pretty fearsome looking bird, too, a little like a harpy eagle, with interlocking "teeth" along its beak! It actually hatches from an egg barely larger than a soccer ball, too, expanding to elephantine size in only seconds.
Did I mention that frogs call the desert "The Dry Swamp?" How adorable is that?? One major "Dry Swamp" predator is, unsurprisingly, a giant sand-dwelling worm, though it's quite different looking from your usual Dune or Tremors knockoff. Striped a muddy green and grey, with shark-like double rows of teeth, its back is also covered in tufts of what are either symbiotic grass or false grass, presumably allowing it to camouflage itself as a patch of scrappy greenery in the sandy wasteland.
Interesting how consistently beetles are used for larger vehicles. This one pulls an entire caravan through the desert, a warty looking greenish beetle with paler green markings and a very small, flat head. It reminds me most of a huge dermestid beetle, or perhaps another fungus beetle?
A smaller, flying beetle used by the caravan travelers closely resembles a stag beetle, but its pale blue eyes are situated on prominent stalks, almost like a hammer-headed fly! We also saw quite similar, but far smaller beetles referred to as "burrowbugs" in another episode, so we can probably assume they're related species.
This creature is seen only for a quick reference to the travel game "punch buggy," a mostly American, mostly obsolete practice in which children punch each other in the shoulder every time they see a "bug" or "buggy" car, a much rarer sight these days. I can't imagine how this joke was translated to any other language, but the "punch bug" is pretty funny; an insect with a big, chitinous red fist for a head, with a pair of comical stalk-eyes sticking out. I like how the fingers and thumb of the fist are colored and textured a lot like a lobster's claw, too.
At first appearing for only one episode, it turns out that olms are the "final" known amphibian race, but quite a bit different from their fellow newts, toads or frogs, and quite a bit different from the tiny, toothless olms of our own world as well; they're bigger than even almost any wild animal in the series, they have jaws full of sharp teeth, bulging lumps of flesh where their eyes should be, bioluminescent external gills and even longer, more wormlike bodies than their Earth counterparts. The first two we encounter also just happen to be a brother and sister sharing one body, a head and forelimbs at each end, but we learn later that this isn't normal for their kind. The fact that Lysil and Angwin live by themselves in a tunnel system where they devour intruders isn't typical Olm behavior, either, but we'll get more into the Olms for part four.
LYSIL AND ANGWIN THE OLMS
I really like this odd, simple creature! A dark green, limbless, spiky worm made up of large, spherical segments, its only facial features are four small googly eyes, a cartoonish little jagged mouth, and two extremely massive, curved green mandibles that drip with green mucus! It's pretty big, just momentarily shown chomping at passersby from a ravine. Very "video game enemy" vibes, and impossible to place with any one animal group, though it's quite possibly a highly adapted insect larva. Lacking any legs, even vestigial ones, would place it most likely with flies and gnats!
These are just cute, fluffy white sheep, but with fly-like wings, small antennae and extremely huge, protruding yellow eyeballs. There are actually several true bugs, particularly species of aphid and scale insect, which produce a wool-like fluffy coating of wax!
The second bull-like beetle in the series, but quite a bit different and quite a bit more threatening; it has a wingless blue body and a huge, bulbous black thorax that extends over its head, hiding its eyes, with a skull-like marking and a pair of massive horns! It really has an almost Giger Alien vibe to it, doesn't it? The almost ghoulish little mouth under the thorax is just wonderful.
How funny is it that peacocks in Amphibia are the same gigantic, fanged, terrifying predators as so many other birds and they're still kept on purpose by rich people???
The whole existence and production of Amphibia, like the concurrently airing Owl House, spun off directly from the crew of Gravity Falls, which I also did some brief posts about such as this one!
WAX MUSEUM MONSTERS
The entire Amphibia episode "Wax Museum" is a Gravity Falls "crossover," sort of, with a frog equivalent to Grunkle Stan and the Mystery Shack, though "Curator Ponds" is a lot more villainous than Stanford Pines, his wax monsters all very real creatures imprisoned against their will. We don't get good, long looks at all of these monsters, but they include:
-A blue serpent with external gills, almost like one of the olms, but with big yellow eyes and no limbs at all...almost like a caecilian?
-A gorgeously designed mutant frog with mis-matched mammal-like arms and legs, a huge anglerfish-like mouth, bulging, glowing eyes, and even more eyes on both its bear-like left arm and on the tumorous lump sprouting from its head!
-A large, almost bearlike rat creature with bat wings.
-Frog versions of the Gravity Falls gnomes, including one that can only say "Shmebulock."
-A two-headed love dove, one male head and one female.
-A huge beast consisting of a scaly green head with two burly legs, a glowing illicium (lure), fishlike fins, a tusked underbite, and eyeballs almost popping from their sockets.
-Finally, Air Bug, the Bugball Playing Bug, which is a green mantis dressed in a more Earth-like sports jersey.
Some of these are more obviously "abnormal" for Amphibia, but others seem fairly typical of its wildlife, and the serpentine creature seems like it would simply be another species of amphibian itself. It's fun to imagine what exactly makes some of them unbelievable or "freakish" to the setting!
It takes a surprisingly long time to ever see giant-sized ants in Amphibia, but they're a fair bit more original than any others I can think of! A hazard to the citizens of Newtopia, these huge ants live in a colony connected to the sea, and their exoskeletons are even encrusted with coral, sponges and barnacles! The queen is an especially unique design, more monstrous and alien looking with a bloated, wormlike body, ten legs, and bioluminescent green corals forming a set of huge horns or antlers.
More crustacean-based transport! Frogs and toads use beetles, but Newts use crabs! This giant hermit crab drags a tour bus around the city, and we can probably assume other buses and bus-sized transports are built similarly.
A crocodilian in Newtopia's sewers has a fairly distinct design; much fatter and chunkier than any of our world, besides the fact that it's also many, many times bigger. It's another animal with barnacles on it, too, so we know it lives in saltwater.
These insects have big, spherical abdomens with luminescent underbellies, but they don't quite resemble fireflies; with their large eyes, long thin wings and spiny, thin legs, they almost remind me more of swollen damselflies.
Love these! They're blue beetles with cute weevil-like snouts and big, round, glowing orange eyes, which oddly enough behave more like a pack of dogs and are even used as security hounds by a Newtopian university. It's hard to say whether they were given spiked collars, or what appear to be spiked collars are a natural part of their anatomy.
The second, final venus fly trap in the show is a much tinier specimen than the one from Toad Tower. This one's trap opens side to side, more like the real thing, with a second little toothy mouth at the center.
ANOTHER FLY TRAP
One of the last mammal-insect hybrids in the series are exactly like our own beavers, even in size, but they've got segmented underbellies and cute little antennae. Not much to say otherwise, except the trivia I can offer that real beavers are among the only mammals with a species of beetle as fur-dwelling parasites!
Amphibia's stingrays look a lot like our own, but they're a lot larger, faster and athletic enough to do tricks, like trained dolphins, at Newtopia's aquarium. They have sharp spines down their backs, menacing glowing eyes, and their hilarious stingray smiles can spread open into a huge, round throat packed with needly teeth! This last feature is their most significant deviation; real stingrays have flat, crushing plates in their throats, their entire body shape specialized to vacuum prey such as snails, crabs and mussels off the sea floor and grind through tough shells.
If you ask me, the expanding mouths and sharper teeth of Amphibia's rays would be better suited to preying on soft-bodied animals, and I don't doubt the oceans of this world have some very large, very formidable mud-dwelling worms.
Just seen for a moment, a "flamethrower" in Amphibia is, of course, another domesticated insect, and it's yet another with a tubular face. It also has bulging red eyes, a prickly shield on its thorax and a huge, grublike brown abdomen, an overall pretty threatening looking creature, which still looks closely related to the spray bottles, car horns and so many others we've looked at. I think we just have to assume these all belong to their own special taxonomic group of some sort.
Yeah, we'll include things that technically aren't real in-canon. Why not?? Phonemo comes from a Halloween special divided Simpsons style into three shorts, each a different scary story told by a different character. Anne's tale revolves around a viral internet video in which a crowd of people fawn over a cute, baby animal, but it's impossible to tell just what kind of animal it's even supposed to be, and a rumor circulates that anyone who watches the video might disappear.
THE SCREEN FIEND
It turns out that victims of the curse not only disappear, but join the crowd in the video, and that the little critter is really some sort of malevolent entity that wants to be adored. Of course it not only emerges from the phone, but grows into a bigger, nastier raccoon-like demon, with glowing eyes stylized like "play" and "stop" buttons! It's a concept that feels typical of modern creepypasta, yet it's still original and unique enough that it could easily stand on its own as such. The ambiguity of the animal itself even makes me think of old stories like Tailypo.
The second Halloween story is about a frog who may or may not actually be the devil, which is cool, but doesn't give us a "monster species" to really analyze. Luckily, we do get a brief look at this very nice venomous snake, with three big eyes, a second fanged snake in its mouth, and a big fuzzy scorpion stinger on its tail. There's no indication as to whether Hop-pop invented this animal for his story, but there's no real reason to think he did. It isn't any more messed up than anything else in his biome.
The third and final Halloween story is told by Sprig, who swears it was something that really happened to him; a terrifying encounter, deep in the woods, with a reclusive figure wearing the sewn-together skins of murdered frogs. Kid's Halloween specials always get some wiggle room to be darker and more gruesome than the rest of a series, and they really took full advantage of that here, including the reveal of what the Seamstress really is:
A glass frog! Apparently ashamed of her appearance, her bones and organs are even clearer through her transparent skin than the real animal, and she's also a much taller, lankier creature, with a long neck and eerie pinkish eyes. Real, proper skin is all she wants, but no matter how many intruders she butchers, she's just never satisfied.
Did sprig invent the Seamstress? Maybe, but we've already seen other hostile, even cannibalistic frog species, and he refers to her as a glass frog, which tells us that they're already a known species in Amphibia. Then again...they could just be a rare and reclusive enough race to unfairly inspire this kind of fear and rumor around Amphibia. We may never know!
This is technically just a joke moment for the Halloween special, but the whole reason they were locked indoors and trading scary stories is that they were hiding from the yearly "blue moon," which frogs believe will transform them into monsters. So, we get a final bit where Polly is exposed and turns into a tusked, hairy werewolf sort of creature. Probably not canon, but if it were, it still wouldn't be any weirder than some of the magical forces in the series.
BLUE MOON POLLY
These are some of the coolest designs in the series! Able to float through solid matter, their veins and eyeballs are visible through their luminous, pink and blue, gelatinous bodies, and they come in myriad blobby, tentacles shapes reminiscent of protozoa, jellyfish, deep-sea worms and planktonic crustaceans. Some of my favorites include the one resembling a single, squidlike tentacle with three eyeballs in its sucker-pad "head," the one-eyed ray-shaped creature with the knobby tail and the egg-shaped one, another cyclops, with four pincer-like jelly limbs.
These mysterious entities dwell in crypts beneath Newtopia's castle, and the only defense against them, like so many "ghostly" things, is exposure to sunlight. In this case, direct natural light simply solidifies their bodies, stripping their phantasmal powers and even their ability to feed, since they rely on dissolving organic matter they surround with their protoplasmic forms!
We never know what these creatures are called until a single subsequent appearance and a brief mention by King Andrias, but it ties in with the ultimate twist of the series.
It's another perfect point to end on, too. In part four, we'll take a look at inorganic entities, a little more about the olms, another several dozen animal species and the true nature of Amphibia's civilization!