The Uncanny Valley

15 Jan

So a friend I’m currently visiting has a deep, mortal fear of ventriloquist dummies and clowns. These are not actually uncommon things that freak people out, and furthermore, there is actually a theory about this. It is called the Uncanny Valley.

uncanny valley

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers.

Animators have long had to straddle this tricky nether region where something goes from really cute and cool to utterly creepy, back to cool.

We list a number of pictures to illustrate this concept agreed upon (more or less) by an incompetent commitee of intoxicated people.

Oompa Loompas. (although we had one abstention citing they are actually a huge sexual turn on):

oompa loopmas the uncanny valley

Ventriliquist Dummies

ventriliquist dummy uncanny valley

Baby Laugh A Lot. This is apparently a real commercial from the 70s:

Baby Secret:

Clowns. Like Pennywise, the clown from IT:

pennywise the clown

and THIS:

clown uncanny valley

Lady Elaine Fairchild from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (because come on, that was one creepy damn puppet)

Lady Elaine Fairchild uncanny valley

Polar express. Look, i know this is an awesome movie, but admit it, those characters are OFF and it’s kind of creepy:

polat express uncanny valley

Guy Fawkes masks. Which i believe is purposeful.

Guy Fawkes masks uncanny valley

Dancing baby. Isn’t thism, like, the first viral video of the internet?

Live grinch

Live grinch uncanny valley

The Dark Crystal:

dark crystal uncanny valley


Michael Jackson. Post black.

michael jackson uncanny valley

And a Michael Jackson marionette basically seals the deal

michael jackson uncanny valley


This video shows excellent examples. I will state that i don;t think the uneasiness is because of some basic fear of death, i think it’s a primal mistrust of something, like a predator, attempting to mimic your species but not quite achieving it. Or someone pretending to be your mommy or a trusted adult but who is not.

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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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