Five Unlikely SFF Interspecies Friendships

Science fiction and fantasy stories are full of wholesome friendships that have been forged between different species. To name just a few of the most iconic examples, there’s Elliott and E.T., Chewbacca and Han Solo, and Merry, Pippin, and their buddy Treebeard. While these particular friends might have very different backgrounds, their shared connection and desire to help one another makes sense right from the start.

But some interspecies pairings seem far more unlikely, be that because of how physically and mentally different the characters are or because their respective species view each other as enemies or existential threats. Here are five of my favorite unlikely SFF friendships—all of which, coincidentally, happen to be animated.

Spear and Fang (Primal, 2019– Present)

Jurassic Park showed us that coexisting (or let’s be real, attempting to coexist) with dinosaurs wouldn’t actually be all that much fun, but Primal paints an even scarier picture. In the show’s anachronistic setting, the dinosaurs don’t start out in labs or behind bars, and instead roam freely alongside Neanderthals and other Ice Age animals.

In the first episode, a pack of vicious horned T-Rex’s slaughter the wife and children of a caveman (Aaron LaPlante) and then the hatchlings of a mother T-Rex. Following the logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the grieving man and dinosaur team up to take out their common foe. Primal features almost no dialogue, so our protagonists’ names are never spoken in-story, but according to the title of the first episode, they’re called Spear and Fang.

The unlikely duo know that they’re better off together than on their own, but their alliance can be difficult at times—Fang can be a little greedy with her food, for instance. Despite this, it’s not long before their partnership goes from one of convenience to one of genuine affection. Spear never treats Fang like a pet and Fang never treats Spear like a snack; instead, they’re equals with trust, respect, and love for one another.

While Spear and Fang’s bond is the emotional heart of the show, it’s also pretty cool (in a pulpy kind of way!) to see a caveman riding on the back of a T-Rex.

Hiccup and Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon, 2010)

How to Train Your Dragon is set in a world where humans and dragons are mortal enemies, so Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless (Randy Thom) don’t exactly get off on the right foot. Hiccup plans to cut out the dragon’s heart to prove himself as a Viking, but he can’t follow through and lets the Night Fury go. The only issue is that being shot out of the sky injured the beast’s tail, leaving him grounded and vulnerable.

Hiccup returns to feed the now stranded dragon and a tentative friendship between the two starts to blossom. John Powell’s gently building “Forbidden Friendship” provides the soundtrack for their growing connection, which is solidified when Hiccup reaches out 90% of the way to touch the dragon’s nose and then Toothless chooses to close the 10% gap. 

Although their friendship is established at this point, it is definitely deepened during their first flight together. Staying in the air requires Toothless and Hiccup to not only trust each other, but also to innately understand each other. The combination of the visuals of them flying, the exhilarating “Test Drive” score, and the emotional resonance of the two working in sync makes this scene a highlight of the whole movie.

Gary and Avocato (Final Space, 2018–2021)

Gary Goodspeed (Olan Rogers) is the sole prisoner aboard a spaceship called the Galaxy One, and five years alone with only AIs to talk to—there’s H.U.E. (Tom Kenny), who he likes, and KVN (Fred Armisen), who he hates—has left him desperate for companionship. When he unexpectedly bumps into a little oval-shaped green alien (also voiced by Olan Rogers), he immediately befriends him and calls him Mooncake. However, his new buddy is being hotly pursued.

Enter: Avocato (Coty Galloway), a ruthless Ventrexian bounty hunter. Essentially, he’s an anthropomorphic cat, but he really doesn’t appreciate the feline comparisons. Avocato is intent on capturing Mooncake, who he claims has the power to destroy entire planets. Circumstance forces Gary and Avocato to work together and although they’re initially hostile to one another, they quickly start treating each other as friends.

Many of Gary’s friendships begin on shaky ground—he has a knack for winning over reluctant people—but the brotherly bond he develops with Avocato remains one of his core connections.  

Hogarth and the Iron Giant (The Iron Giant, 1999)

When nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) first sees the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel), a 50-foot-tall robot from another planet, he understandably runs away. But his curiosity soon wins out and when he realizes that the Giant is actually good-natured, he does what any kid would do: befriends the behemoth!

Although it’s very cool to have a big robot as a friend, it does come with a few obstacles. It certainly isn’t easy keeping the Giant fed (he eats a lot of metal) and hidden (especially from federal agent Kent Mansley, voiced by Christopher McDonald). But most challenging of all is the fact that any time the Giant’s programming believes he is under attack, he essentially turns into a weapon.

The Giant has to actively fight his automatically triggered defense mechanism (with a deleted scene
revealing his dark past of being part of a legion of planet-destroying robots). It would have been easy for the Giant to give in to his lethal programming, especially when confronted with the worst of humanity (I’m looking at you, Mansley), but his friendship with Hogarth gives him the ability and strength to choose to be a hero, rather than a villain.

To some people, The Iron Giant may just be an animated movie about a big hunk of metal, but I think it has a hell of a lot of heart.

Lucille and Francœur (A Monster in Paris, 2011)

Imagine being a little flea living on a monkey, just minding your own business, when suddenly you’re supersized and possess a beautiful singing voice. That’s the unfortunate situation a flea finds himself in thanks to a scientific blunder in A Monster in Paris, with his voice being provided by Matthieu Chedid in French and Sean Lennon in English.

Every Parisian he encounters flees in terror at his nightmarish appearance and he winds up in an alley behind a cabaret club singing of his woes. The club’s resident chanteuse, Lucille (Vanessa Paradis in both the French and English versions), overhears him and although like everyone else she’s initially frightened of his monstrous form, she gives him a chance. Lucille names him Francœur, lets him live in her dressing room, and dresses him up to help him pass as a human so that he can sing on stage.

Although Francœur’s entry into human society wasn’t exactly a smooth one, he finds a better life than he ever could have imagined on that monkey’s back thanks to his friendship with kind-hearted Lucille.

Have you got any examples of unlikely interspecies friendships that you love? Be they animated or live action, drop your favorites in the comments below! icon-paragraph-end

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