Taking realistic, semi-realistic, toony and Japanese animation style differences into consideration, below we have provided a list of 20 mustelids in animation we feel in our opinion deserve recognition for looking like (or close to) the species they were meant to represent. Although we do not need these characters to be perfect paragons of goodness, many of them were also given less typecast roles. Lastly, while some character species may not be confirmed, most within this list can still easily be identified by their distinctive features and country of production.
Due to limiting our list to 20, it is subject to change as more well depicted characters are discovered. We will also attempt to keep the species diverse. The order in which these characters appear do not reflect our rating.
#1 Okojo-san (オコジョさん)
Written in an absurd and humorous tone, the series features a male stoat with a leaf on his head, which serves as a visual aid in showing senses and emotion. The once wild Okojo-san escapes from a pet store and is found unconscious by college student Haruka Tsuchiya, who brings him home to the apartment complex where he lives. From there on he has to learn to adapt to the human world, facing eccentric neighbours, their pets and household items on a daily basis.
Proud and confident, Okojo-san sees himself as a tough guy and everyone or everything he meets as a challenge to be won, and rather than being portrayed as a little furred human, he displays typical behaviour of weasels on occasion, like caching large piles of food. A male ferret named Tatchin and a few other stoats show up to play alongside the main character, making this one of the few works of media where mustelids are truly allowed to shine in the limelight.
Although primarily in his white winter coat throughout the series, Okojo-san does have a summer and mid-phase coat. The word “okojo” means stoat in Japanese, and seeing one in ermine is regarded as a sign of luck. This may explain why so many stoats in Japanese media are primarily drawn in their winter coats.
#2 Rommel (ロンメル)
Rommel is a powerful, deep-voiced, male stoat strategist who leads the 7th Panzer Division. A tactical and forward planning leader, he is highly respected in the series. What is most interesting about his personality, is despite being a serious high ranking official, he is extremely permissive about being petted or held while in public view.
His name is likely in reference to the German general and military theorist Erwin Rommel (pun “Ermine” Rommel), who also commanded a 7th Panzer Division. Some feel it would have been more appropriate if Rommel had been a fox, in reference to Erwin Rommel’s nickname “Desert Fox”. We get it, but there are already a fair amount of foxes in animation. We are glad they decided to go with something different.
His semi-anthropomorphic anatomy is spot-on. He appears to always be in his ermine coat, and the creators did not neglect to include the iconic black-tipped tail of his species. His full character sheet.
#3 Pantalaimon (European pine marten form)
This British fantasy TV series is based on the book series of the same title by Philip Pullman. Pantalaimon is a dæmon, and is the companion of the heroine Lyra Belacqua in the series. He changes into many forms, one of which is of a European pine marten. Pantalaimon is the cautious and level-headed counterpoint to Lyra’s impulsive, inquisitive, and sometimes reckless character.
This form of Pantalaimon was given amazing detailed features for CGI. The makers of the series visited the British Wildlife Centre to film a European pine marten named Drogo. While there they studied the appearance and motion of the species. It is rare to find any species of marten depicted in animation, and it is nice to know they did their research to get the anatomy right. Pan’s fur appears darker in the series compared to the photo in the link above, and that is because they may have filmed Drogo while he was in his darker summer coat.
#4 Measley (left) and Weasel (right)
These two (larger than average) least weasels are mates and are quite the rambunctious sort. Nevertheless, most animals within White Deer Park are fond of them. They show concern for other animals in the area and offer to help when they can. Weasel’s mate Measley first appears in season 2, while their offspring Fido and Cleo appear in season 3. Admittedly, Weasel’s voice can be a bit obnoxious. Her voice actor for the Dutch version sounds much more natural.
This series had a habit of constantly changing its style, contributing to Weasel and Measley becoming more anthropomorphised than other animal characters by season 3. In some scenes, Measley was even given rodent buck teeth… Nevertheless, they were weasel-like enough in the first two seasons to make this list.
#5 Name Unknown
We actually found a wolverine in animation that has nothing to do with Marvel Comics.
Alas, this is a character with a mix of decent design and sensationalism. A group of travelers witness a wolverine attacking a bear more than four times its size. Once the bear escapes by throwing its attacker off, the bad-tempered wolverine then just randomly attacks the travelers. This wolverine is so overpowered, that despite its bulk, it has the ability to leap like a tiger and climb trees with the speed and agility of a squirrel!
As is the case with most depictions of wolverines, their aggression and durability tends to be greatly exaggerated for entertainment. One other complaint is that this wolverine should be plantigrade and not digitigrade. However, it is so rare to find halfway accurate wolverines in animation that we will make an exception.
Lulu is Princess Hildegard’s pet. Unfortunately, for such a good design, she hardly appears in the series at all; being completely overshadowed by other characters to the point where she is often in the background.
We believe she is based on a farm-bred American mink, because they are the only of the two species called “mink” that come in a variety of colours apart from the standard brown. What also gives it off are certain anatomical characteristics, such as the rounded head, wide muzzle, large nose and small ears.
#7 Iwashidani (イワシダニ)
Iwashidani is a member of the local construction association and Hakumei’s senior colleague (once she decides to join them). Hakumei teasingly calls him “Iwashi”, which apart from serving as a short form of his full name refers to a small fish akin to sardines; something that greatly annoys him. Despite his gruff demeanor, Iwashidani has one of the most nuanced personalities in the series. Not only does he care about and look out for his fellow coworkers, but as a close friend of her and Mikochi, he finds himself being put into a number of situations outside of his comfort zone. In a narrative that is mostly laid-back without any conflict, it is a rare treat to watch a character develop more than one key trait.
It is not often we see a species of weasel in animation that is not a “generic weasel” or stoat. A reasonable amount of effort was put into his species anatomy and fur markings. Generally, if an artist makes the effort to draw a weasel with five toes instead of the typical four seen on canids and felids, it is safe to assume they know their mustelids.
Both the animated series and the manga feature a number of lesser known species, among them several mustelids! The manga progresses much further than what has been animated so far, and introduces several Eurasian badgers, stoats, and an Asian small-clawed otter. It should be mentioned that Katen, the vice president of the association, is often confused for a badger due to several similarities, but we have identified him as a masked palm civet (a viverrid, not a mustelid). The manga is available to read online.
#8 The Otterton Family
Even though we do not see much of Emmitt Otterton, and nothing at all of the unnamed children other than in this photo, Mrs. Otterton is portrayed as a sweet wife who tries to be brave as she struggles to find her missing husband throughout the film.
Both Emmitt and Mrs. Otterton are quite small for North American river otters. In fact, Mrs. Otterton should have stood more than twice the height of Judy Hopps. We may never know why Disney decided to make adult North American river otters three-quarters the size of a rabbit, but they did capture the rest of their species’ anatomy well.
#9 Name Unknown
He appears in episode 11 teaming up with Mr. Smirre Fox, who tries to catch the geese. Not much “character” or personality to speak of given the limited screen time and role, but a representation nonetheless. While the species is not clear, it bears resemblance to the sable, American marten and Japanese marten in both anatomy and colouration.
This is a simple and family-friendly Dutch Christmas movie that follows a trio of animals headed by Fretje the ferret, on their quest to deliver their gift wishlist to Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) for Saint Nicholas Day. The trio face challenges from other animals and the city around them on their way to the steam ship where Sinterklaas resides. Despite Fretje briefly deviating from the mission once they reach the ship, the trio manage to find Sinterklaas, and bring their own titular Dierensinterklaas to all of their friends.
This movie is difficult to view outside of Europe due to heavy copyright restrictions. DVDs exist, and are locked to region 2. There are digital copy sources where the film may be watched anywhere in the European Union, as long as the purchase is made from the Netherlands.
The fluid animation, design and flexibility of this character is a great example of an animated ferret in a more toony style. One detail we especially appreciate about Fretje, is that he bounces about on all fours throughout the majority of the film, rather than walking on his hind limbs. He may be anthropomorphised, but his ferret traits are still apparent. He even makes “dooking” sounds when interacting with humans.
Luta is the pet of the main character Gerda. She does not know how to speak, and accompanies the girl in the first part of the film. In the following sequel, Luta becomes the companion of another character – the troll Orm.
Although no specific weasel species was given, Luta’s design is probably based on either a long-tailed weasel or stoat in winter coat. Since this is a Russian film based on the Danish 1844 story of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, it is likely she is the latter, since there are no long-tailed weasels in Eurasia.
#12 Mr. Badger
There have been many animated versions of The Wind in the Willows, but few capture Mr. Badger’s species as well as this. It is only a shame all the least weasels and stoats in this film looked like old, wrinkled shrews.
Out of the 5 other badger species and 2 of their distant relatives, more than half of the badgers that appear in animation are Eurasian badgers.
#13 Kesha (Russian: соболя Кеши)
Kesha the sable was the mascot of the V Winter Spartakiad of Peoples of the USSR in 1982 and 1984, and become one of the most recognisable symbols of the era. In the year 2000, Kesha became the mascot of winter Siberia in Altai Baranul. In 2004 he once again became the mascot for the Olympic Winter of Krasnoyarsk in the Games of the Peoples of Siberia.
There are many amazing quality trinkets of this stylised sable character representing the Spartakiad of Peoples of the USSR. Learn more about Kesha and his creator at the Kasyanovsky House.
#14 Name Unknown
This wolverine appears to either have a cold, or dealing with allergies; as he sneezes a lot throughout the episode. He also appears to have trouble seeing well.
Considering we rarely see an actual wolverine in animation, the animators did a decent job capturing the anatomy and movements of this character’s species.
#15 The Otters
These sea otters live in the fictional Marine Life Institute of Morro Bay, California. Many of them appear in the film, and they are all portrayed very well. A few even escape their exhibits and come up with a plan to be reunited with their loved ones still in captivity.
#16 Wooster Q. Weasel, alias T.C. “The Creeper”
T.C is a male long-tailed weasel who is the main antagonist of the Animalia series. Not much is known about his past other than he was once a decent ruler of Animalia, and friend of the current ruler, Livingstone T. Lion. Something happened along the way which caused him to become an oppressing tyrant. After being banished from Animalia, he became obsessed with revenge and overthrowing his old friend to once more become ruler of Animalia. Unlike most cartoon weasel villains, T.C. is well-spoken, very intelligent, cunning, and manipulative; using these skills to his advantage.
The animators captured his long-tailed weasel anatomy and movements very well. However, there is one issue—mainly their decision to give him almost bird-like hind paws, which do not seem to match the same style or level of detail as the rest of his body. Despite this minor issue, he looks more than decent to make this list.
#17 Dr. Madge Honey Badger
Madge is a female honey badger who is assigned by Mayor Lionheart to research the condition of the 15 savage mammals at Cliffside Asylum.
The image we have of her is Disney’s concept art shared on Fandom, since there does not seem to be any decent screencaps available that show off her details. Disney managed to capture the look of a honey badger quite well with this character, and it is only unfortunate she was not given a larger role in the film.
Badger is a young female American badger who is disabled, and must use crutches to move about. Despite this, she is still capable of climbing. Though afraid of public speaking, Badger is kind, intelligent and helpful. Although it is not officially stated on the show, according to the official Nelvana character description of her, Badger has cerebral palsy. She appears in several episodes. Both her mother and father appear in the series as well.
American badgers in animation are rare compared to Eurasian badgers. It is also refreshing to see a mustelid character bringing attention to youth with disabilities; giving children with special needs a character they can relate to and be inspired by.
#19 Pantalaimon (stoat form)
This British fantasy TV series is based on the book series of the same title by Philip Pullman. Pantalaimon (or simply Pan) is a dæmon, and is the companion of the heroine Lyra Belacqua in the series. He changes into many forms, but among his favourite is a stoat.
This form of Pan is depicted quite well for CGI. As a stoat, he appears to always be in ermine. According to a 2007 interview with Mr. Pullman, Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine portrait was one of several inspirations behind the creation of dæmons; perhaps even the very inspiration behind this form of Pan.
For the record: Yes, we are also aware of Pantalaimon’s amazing wolverine form, but we do not want Pantalaimon to dominate our top 20 list.
#20 Names Unknown
These two American martens appear in this educational children’s series that teaches biology, zoology, and ecology. Each episode typically starts off as live action, then turns into animation, as the two Kratts brothers put on suits to share the powers of the animals they are studying, to save them from certain threats. This series is surprisingly informative for its targeted audience, which is nothing short of a rare gem. The animation is very simple, but pretty accurate in regard to anatomy and fur patterns all things considered.
Although they call the martens in this episode “pine martens”, they are referring to the American marten and not the European pine marten. This cartoon series also feature many other mustelids, such as the Asian small-clawed otter (S3E13 – Slider, the Otter), black-footed ferret (S3E3 – Bandito: The Black-Footed Ferret), honey badger (S1E10 – Honey Seekers), and many others.