Monday, February 21, 2022

Year of the Disney Tiger

On the first day of this month, family and friends around the world, especially in Asia, gathered to welcome the Chinese Lunar New Year. The year of the Water Tiger was ushered in with food, fireworks, gifts, and other festivities. According to, persons born under the Tiger sign in the Chinese Zodiac are “brave, competitive, unpredictable, … confident[,] … very charming[,] … well-liked[,]… [and] likely to be impetuous, irritable, and overindulgent.” Tiger people can be “stubborn,” “tough” judges, active workers, “express themselves boldly,” “high-handed,” “authoritative,” and keep their word. In addition, they have “indomitable fortitude, … be competent leaders[,] … will not make preparations…, but can handle anything that comes along.” From this description, those who are tigers have a spectrum of qualities. Similarly, there are Tiger characters in the Disney cannon who also have a broad range of personality traits. In honor of the Zodiac Tiger, this post will look at three of these animated striped felines and how they exhibit some of the behaviors of the Chinese astrological animal.

Tigger: Confident and Indomitable Fortitude

From the moment he meets Winnie the Pooh, Tigger exudes confidence. In response to the question, “what’s a Tigger?,” the bouncy cat isn’t shy in describing himself, stating at the end of his musical number that he’s “the only one!” The sentient plush is confident that he likes (only to strongly dislike) honey, assert that “Tiggers never get lost,” ice skating is what he does “best,” and that the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood love to receive his bounces, among others. 

Along with feeling confident in himself, Tigger also has indomitable fortitude. Even if it gets him into scrapes, the springy tiger is willing to pursue new things. To prove to Roo that he’s the best at bouncing up trees, Tigger exuberantly goes up and up nearly “bouncing clear out of the book.” A fear of heights paralyzes him, preventing the striped toy from going back down. While trusting the story’s narrator to help him back to the ground, this experience doesn’t deflate Tigger’s confidence. Nor does it influence him to be more thoughtful and careful. Instead, Tigger is ready to bounce (with his friends) into the next chapter of Pooh’s story.

Shere Khan: Very Charming and Irritable

His very name struck fear in the hearts of the denizens of the jungles of India. Yet upon his first appearance, Shere Khan is composed with a deceitfully calm voice. The villain of The Jungle Book intimidates (or at least would attempt to) by being charming. In trying to suss out if the “man-cub,” Mowgli is in Kaa’s coils, Khan subtly pressures the python into divulging this information by being polite and gracious. Later, at the conclusion of the vulture quartet’s musical number, the tiger issues applause and praises them. 

Shere Khan’s regal manners quickly dissolve however into irritation after Mowgli stands up to him and refuses to run. Enraged by the boy’s defiance, the big cat leaps at the child in an attempt to murder him, but is stopped by Baloo’s intervention. Khan unleashes his fury, first attacking the bear, next Mowgli, and then the vultures as each try to save the others’ lives. The striped feline’s irritability becomes his down fall. In his violent anger, Khan fails to notice a flaming tree branch being tied to his tail by Mowgli. When he does though, the tiger is confronted by his fear of fire, and attempts to run away from the fiery limb only to have it strike and burn him multiple times as he goes. 

Rajah: Bold Expression and Brave

As a loyal B.F.F., Rajah doesn’t hesitate to boldly express his dissatisfaction with suitors who fail to value and respect Princess Jasmine. He is unafraid to bite off the seat of Prince Achmed’s trousers or threaten to maul Aladdin (disguised as Prince Ali) if they will not leave the tiger’s royal bestie alone. While affectionate and supportive of Jasmine and her positions on love and marriage, Rajah readily reminds her that while she may not have experienced other friendships, he is still one of her “real friends.” He also will not let the unhappy princess run away without confronting her about it first. 

Coupled with his bold expression is Rajah’s bravery. If Jasmine encounters distress or danger, the courageous cat springs into action to protect her. At the sound of Prince Ali’s voice, the large feline extends his claws, has teeth bared, and directs warning growls at the unwanted visitor. Rajah’s biggest display of courage occurs when Jafar takes over Agrabah. After the wicked sultan turned sorcerer forces the deposed royal family to grovel before him with magic, Rajah rushes toward and lunges at the villain. While Jafar prevents the attack by magically transforming the big cat into a small kitten and subsequently placing him in a cage, Rajah readily came to the defense of his human family. 

Rajah, Shere Khan, and Tigger are only a few of several tigers that appear in Disney films and television shows. There are also many Zodiac Tiger characteristics that could be discussed. However, it’s interesting and entertaining to see that the big cats featured here in this post exhibit some of the same personality traits as the animal in the Chinese calendar. “Best wishes, wishing you happiness and prosperity.” 

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