Take the 2-minute tour ×
Movies & TV Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for movie and tv enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Real coconuts are either green or yellow (there may be other variants I'm unaware of) not brown. Why are they always colored brown in cartoons?

Edit for background:

Growing up in a tropical country with coconut trees an everyday sight, this has bothered me from a young age. The sight of brown coconuts has always been visually jarring to me, to the extent that it reduces the enjoyment of otherwise good/funny cartoons.

I know the first cartoons were intended for a Western audience who would not have been aware of the inaccuracy.

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Buy a coconut in the supermarket. What's the color?

The "nut" is most likely brown and hairy. Sure, it's not like they appear when still on the trees, but who knows?

IMO it's all about being recognizable (and also knowledge) to some extent.

In a similar way, if you see Bananas in a cartoon, they're yellow. Tomatoes are red, apples are typically red, etc. even though these things will most likely have a different color or more variation while still being on a plant.

I think you could even go a bit further and compare this a bit to space fights in fiction: Explosions, sounds, pew-pew-pew, etc. yet you shouldn't hear anything. It's about what people know and recognize, it's not about what's realistic.

Edit:

If you want to, you could even consider brown coconuts to be stereotypical coconuts! :) As a different example, what's been the last time you saw some Bavarian in a (non-serious) cartoon (e.g. looney toons)? Chances are high, he had some traditional costume on, at least some lederhosen. I'm from Bavaria, and I've never worn a lederhosen (since being like 3 or 4 years old; didn't have the choice!). Yet as some caricature I'd most likely have one on me - not to forget a Mass of beer in my hands.

share|improve this answer
    
Well, growing up in a tropical country, I know. That's why it bothers me so much. I see your point about the supermarket (though here we still get the green ones), but I don't think bananas, tomatoes, and apples can be compared. In those cases, the fruit pretty much look as they do on the tree. –  jcm May 1 at 6:26
    
They're typically edge cases, yes. :) But from my experience it's very seldom to see yellow or green apples for example. –  Mario May 1 at 6:48

Coconuts brown as they mature, so it's not always an inaccurate depiction.

Cartoons rely on a certain visual "shorthand" for many things that fly in the face of common knowledge, but are subconsciously accepted as part of the cartoon world or the larger entertainment or cultural zeitgeist. Most of us are aware that cars can't possibly operate like they do in cartoons, even without ever having seen or been in a car; likewise, while the yellow/green is obscure trivia to some, most of us can generally guess that coconuts are not perfectly spherical, bang-on-head openable bowling balls that produce a xylophonic bonk in the process. Yet we accept these depictions for their simple, distinct characterization. The purpose of such characterization is usually to set up a "gag" that would be diluted by excess realism or veer terribly off-point with footnotes and explication.

Early black and white cartoons without sound effects may have used solid blacks to depict coconuts over other melons or simple round objects. Brown may have been a logistical choice when going to color, with green possibly reserved for melons, etc.

share|improve this answer
    
Not sure I've ever seen a bunch of brown coconuts on a tree (and I pretty much see coconut trees everyday), and I've definitely never seen brown, hairy ones on a tree. I get your point about the shorthand though. –  jcm May 1 at 6:35

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.