“Cosplay” is simply a fancy word for dressing up as a fictional character, which has been going on for quite some time. Purists will say that public cosplay had its roots in science fiction conventions of the 1930s, though others might argue that it’s been going on in festivals and religious gatherings for thousands of years.
The custom of the ancient Greeks dressing up as gods, demigods, and heroes in Greek theatre goes back as far as recorded history, and indigenous cultures dressing up as characters from their myths goes back even further.
However, in modern times, the popularity of cosplay has exploded, with huge numbers of fans dressing up as their favorite comic book, movie, and cartoon heroes.
Japan and the United States seem to be the forerunners of this trend, and cosplayers from around the world have expanded their horizons to include characters who aren’t ordinarily represented.
Specifically, in the cartoon world, which has some overlap with other movies and comic books, the pantheon of characters grows yearly with more and more content from brand new shows.
This, coupled with cosplayers exploring more rare, less popular, or obscure characters, means that there’s a solid chance that at any cosplay event, you may very well see characters you’ve never seen cosplayed before.
Got a hankering for Hey, Arnold! characters? Love Proud Family? Prefer old school Hanna-Barbera characters like Blue Falcon and Space Ghost? When’s the last time you even heard of Dirk Daring from Dragon’s Lair even mentioned?
Here are the 25 Cartoon Characters Who Are Impossible To Cosplay (But Fans Pulled Off Anyway).
Of course, Garfield is a household name and a veritable franchise of its own, with comic strips, TV specials and series, movies, toys, and books infiltrating the culture since the late '70s.
However, surprisingly few people choose to dress up as the character.
This may be because he’s chubby, or maybe it’s just difficult to costume as a giant orange cat with humongous eyes.
This woman goes for specific Garfield accents and tries to stay on the alluring side. She’s pretty, orange, and is totally hating Mondays. It completely works, she even has a lasagna.
23 Fairy Godmother from Shrek
Shrek seemed like a hit that came out of nowhere, with a brand new character that lampooned Disney characters and the entire genre of the fairy tale.
This meta-perspective was a hit with adult audiences, and kids absolutely loved the misunderstood Ogre.
The Fairy Godmother appeared in the second movie and was much less an ally to the protagonist as she was a hard-nosed corporate edged villain. There was no bippety-boppety-boo about her— she was all business.
This woman nails the essence of the character in a costume that seems theme-park ready.
22 Space Ghost and Blue Falcon
The Blue Falcon was technically a powerless superhero who relied on his gadgets and physical prowess, similar to Batman or The Blue Beetle.
Though he was technically the hero, it was his sidekick Dynomutt, The Dog Wonder that got first billing in the cartoons that debuted in the late ‘70s.
Space Ghost is an older character who premiered in the mid-‘60s and found an audience with pop culture, appearing in several series culminating in an irreverent tongue-in-cheek “talk-show” version in the '90s.
In his original cartoon, he could shoot different rays from his wristbands, fly, and become invisible at will.
Since both are Hanna-Barbera characters, it’s fun to see them as a duo.
21 Dirk the Daring and Princess Daphne from Dragon’s Lair
Dragon’s Lair was a revolutionary arcade game that debuted in 1983, the hey-day for arcade video game culture.
It set itself apart by using actual animated sequences from Don Bluth, famous for full-length animated films such as The Secret of Nimh and An American Tail.
Dragon’s Lair followed accident-prone Dirk Daring in his quest to rescue Princess Daphne from the clutches of the dragon in an evil wizard’s castle.
As a notorious quarter-eater, players had to watch the screen for flashes of light to navigate the joystick in one direction or another.
Do it right, you get to the next sequence. Do it wrong, and you watch Dirk perish haplessly.
This couple nails it.
20 Vanellope Von Schweetz From Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck it Ralph was another surprise hit from Disney. The story focused on the behind-the-scenes lives of playable video game characters.
In the movie, Ralph becomes disenchanted with always being looked down on as the villain and longs to be the hero of the video game for once.
Vanellope Von Schweetz, voiced by the plucky Sarah Silverman, teams up with Ralph to help him earn the medals and respect that he so covets. Vanellope has a glitch that causes her to teleport from time to time, which is both an obstacle and an asset throughout the story.
Entirely a work of historical fiction, Don Bluth’s animated movie focuses on the real-life legend of the Grand Duchess of Anastasia Nikolaevna, a woman who claimed that she survived the execution of the Russian Romanov royal family of Tsar Nicholas the II.
Her claims were never definitively proven, though it fueled speculation from history buffs.
However, the legend was enticing enough to spawn many books, and in this case, a full-length animated cartoon that took major liberties with the truth, complete with the recasting of Rasputin as an evil sorcerer. Meg Ryan played her voice.
This cosplayer adopts the look of Anastasia in her ballroom attire, matching the animated version perfectly.
18 An Archer Ensemble
Archer is a super-spy in the same vein as James Bond or Napoleon Solo, but with a hilarious irreverent twist.
Though super-competent as a spy, Archer is a horrible human being, womanizing at every turn, and is likely to get more upset at his spilled margarita than the dozens of bullets flying at him from every direction.
Though a lot of cosplayers play Archer, not many choose to go as much of the accompanying cast.
We don't see much of Dr. Krieger (similar to Q) or his robotic bride “companion,” or even Cheryl Tunt, who works as support staff.
These cosplayers recreate the look of the stylized animation and remarkably embody their characters at the same time.
17 Chuckie from Rugrats
As another weird cartoon TV hit from the ‘90s, Rugrats focused on the lives of babies and toddlers that, though seemingly pre-verbal from an outsiders perspective, could communicate with each other with a full vocabulary in adventures almost completely separate from the adult world.
Earning multiple awards in its 13-year run, Rugrats was a huge hit for Nickelodeon. One of the main characters was Chuckie, a red-headed toddler with glasses and a blue t-shirt.
This cosplayer ages and gender-bends the role, created a unique interpretation of the character.
However, fans who know the series could take one look at her and know that she's playing Chuckie.
16 Juggernaut from X-Men
Juggernaut is a Marvel comic book character who also appears in many different animated incarnations.
As a character, he's very similar to the Hulk in his ability— possessing god-like strength and invulnerability, with a reputation for being almost unstoppable. Unlike the Hulk, though, he's always a villain and suffers no loss of his reasoning ability from his strength.
A live action version of the character is most recently seen in Deadpool 2.
Juggernaut is difficult to cosplay effectively because of his sheer size and musculature. His unique headpiece, which resembles an inverted bowl or shell, also makes it hard.
Though this cosplayer wouldn’t pass muster on a movie set, his costume is inventive and resourceful, and at a glance, he is unmistakably Juggernaut.
15 Wendy Corduroy From Gravity Falls
Gravity Falls is one of the more recent TV series offered by Disney, first airing in 2012. It focuses on the adventures of 13-year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are on summer vacation in the small town of Gravity Falls.
They help run their grandpa’s novelty store The Mystery Shack. When they uncover a weird journal in the woods, they become aware of all of the paranormal goings-on in the neighborhood.
Wendy Corduroy is a redhead who works at The Mystery Shack. She's also the character who Dipper has a major crush on.
Fans of the show would have no trouble identifying this cosplayer as a spot-on Wendy.
14 Teen Titans
The Teen Titans are arguably a “B” level DC superhero team, consisting of Robin (sometimes Nightwing), Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Raven.
In the comic books and animated series, the Teen Titans are taken seriously and have adventures similar to The Justice League.
Teen Titans Go!, however, is a comedic variant that caters mostly to younger children and uses a largely Japanese style of animation and is loaded with jokes, visual gags, and absurdist humor.
These cosplayers ace the look and feel of the animated style of the show, particularly Cyborg. The use a stuffed toy as their shape-changing Beast Boy is also adorable.
13 Helga Pataki from Hey Arnold!
Hey, Arnold! was another unusual hit from the ‘90s. It focused on a nine-year-old boy in the city who lived in his grandparent's boarding house and had an eclectic group of friends.
Part of Arnold’s group was Helga Pataki, a character who relentlessly bullied Arnold but also harbored a secret crush on him.
Helga’s animated appearance encapsulates “the awkward years,” with her unibrow, lanky limbs, and the giant pink bow in her hair.
This cosplayer fearlessly goes for the unusual look and seems ready to dish out a fresh round of insults at Arnold.
12 Hawkgirl from Justice League Unlimited
It’s not so much that Hawkgirl herself isn’t cosplayed, it’s just that this specific version of Hawkgirl from the animated series Justice League Unlimited isn’t seen very often, especially at this level of detail.
Look at those wings-- she really looks like she can take off in those things.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s continuity is one of the biggest messes in comics, with a garbled history that DC seems to make worse every time they "fix" it.
Luckily, in Justice League Unlimited, they go for the version where she’s a space cop from planet Thanagar, and as such, she's portrayed as a fierce warrior who fights with an electrified spiked mace.
This costume looks TV-ready and extremely impressive.
11 La Cienega Boulevardez from Proud Family
Proud Family aired for three seasons starting in 2001 on the Disney Channel. The animated series featured the main character of Penny Proud, a 14-year-old girl who’s a straight-A student and a gifted singer.
Her longtime nemesis but sometimes friend La Cienega Boulevardez is someone who adults admire. While many grown ups view her as a good kid, she is secretly mean to Penny when they are alone.
La Cienega is pretty and popular, which makes it all the more frustrating. Her name is a play off of La Cienega Boulevard, which is located in Los Angeles. To add to the reference, her mother’s name is Sunset.
This age-appropriate cosplayer pulls off a great La Cienega.
10 Koffing and Weezing from Pokémon
How many characters and creatures from Pokémon can you name? If you're a casual fan of the show, maybe about 20 or so if you have a good memory. If you play any of the games, probably quite a few more.
Koffing and Weezing showed up quite a bit through the course of the animated TV series, and had quite the unusual look, one that seems difficult to cosplay, mainly because you need two and a half heads to pull it off.
They are levitating pod-heads filled with poison gas, so not your typical “weird baby animal” type of Pokémon.
This cosplayer wore one head and crafted another, giving him a pretty good likeness.
9 Animal Man
Not many people know about Animal Man, a DC character who had a popular run in the comics in the late ‘80s-‘90s. A comedic version of him was featured in a series of animated shorts for DC Nation on the Cartoon Network.
Animal Man had the power to absorb the proportional powers of any animal he was near.
If he was near an ant, he could lift a car and run forty miles an hour, as if an ant were his size. The powers expired after about an hour and he would have to recharge.
This cosplayer bases their outfit on the late '80s version of the character, which features a leather jacket over the orange spandex. The gender swap is also an interesting twist.
8 Demencia from Villainous
Cartoon Network adopted the Mexican show Villainous for its web series platform, earning a pretty encouraging reaction from fans. Because of this, chances are high that it may be adapted into a regular animated series for the channel.
The show focuses on the evil genius Black Hat and his minions trying to sell evil gadgets and inventions to other villains.
Demencia is an assistant in the organization and dresses up as a lizard, with some indication that she can also cling to walls. She’s a true believer who will do anything for the team.
This is a great outfit that does amazing service to such an obscure character.
7 Butterfree, Metapod, and Caterpie from Pokémon
Back in the world of Pokémon, we have the creative choice of representing all three stages of the evolved life-cycle of one Pokémon.
This little creature starts out as a Caterpie (pictured on the right) and resembles a caterpillar. When it is ready to go through metamorphosis, it turns into Metapod – which is like a hardened cocoon or chrysalis (pictured center).
After a sufficient time, the winged Butterfree bursts forth from Metapod and represents the final version of its life-cycle.
These clever cosplayers designed costumes that are remarkably similar to the cartoon versions, and can rest well knowing that their choice of cosplay is pretty unique.
6 Lila Sawyer from Hey Arnold!
As another character from the Hey Arnold! series, Lila Sawyer is Arnold's main crush who lives in a farm community not far away.
Unfortunately for Arnold, though she's aware of his feelings, she doesn't share his affections and regards him as mostly just a friend. She's mainly a sweet girl and even tries to help Helga out with her crush on Arnold by teaching her to be more like her.
Lila almost always has a bemused smile on her face and has an appearance similar to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, with a smock-like dress worn over her blue blouse.
This cosplay is a total ringer for Lila.
5 Mr. Knight AKA Moon Knight
Moon Knight is a bizarre Marvel character who has recently become revitalized by his own comic book line and a re-imagination of his character.
Initially seen as kind of a Batman knockoff, traipsing around town in a cape at night and beating up criminals, he is notably different by dressing all in white— which makes him an easy target.
Writers evolved the character by making him clinically insane and giving multiple personalities. One of his personas is Mr. Knight, who dresses in an all-white suit and wears a feature-hugging face mask.
Moon Knight recently appeared in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man.
This cosplayer looks ready for his close-up.
4 Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde from Zootopia
Zootopia represents another big hit for Disney (seriously, is a Disney movie ever not a hit?) about a city of different kinds of animals living together in a community.
The main characters are Judy Hopps, a rabbit that wants to become a police officer, and Nick Wilde, a fox who makes his living as a con artist.
Eventually, the two characters learn how to work together to get the job done.
These two cosplayers portray Judy and Nick flawlessly.
They even have two character's playful relationship down.
3 Jem & The Holograms & The Misfits
If you grew up in the ‘80s, then you might know the theme song to the animated show about an all-girl rock band, Jem & The Holograms. As the song lyrics go, “Jem is truly outrageous, truly, truly, truly outrageous.”
Filled with '80s pop imagery and a fluorescent rock-band look that was popular at the time, Jem & The Holograms was a big hit that producers have of yet failed to rekindle.
Jem, the lead singer of the band, had a nemesis in a rival band, The Misfits.
Though plenty of people have cosplayed Jem, it’s not often that we see the less popular The Misfits. These girls do the costumes justice.
2 Tom & Jerry
Similar to Garfield, Tom & Jerry are by no means obscure characters. In fact, outside of Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse, they are probably among the most recognizable characters around and have been chasing each other and causing mayhem since the ‘40s.
The problem is that unless you're wearing theme-park style full furry costumes, how do you go about cosplaying them both?
This couple goes for a simple approach, wearing the colors of their torsos and headdresses that give a hint of the character.
Put together, your brain fills in the blanks and you can see it-- it's definitely Tom and Jerry.
1 LEGO Batman
Of course, one of the most popular superheroes of all time is going to be cosplayed all over the place. Batman is someone we've seen cosplayed all over he place. However, this cosplayer takes it up a notch and instead decided to go with LEGO Batman.
The LEGO Batman Movie made a big splash a few years ago as a hugely successful animated movie, giving Batman a light and comedic treatment to juxtapose against the darker live-action movies.
Cosplaying LEGO Batman takes a lot of work, as you literally have to turn yourself into a life-size blocky LEGO character.
This guy does a great job. He also scored a photo op with The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik.
What do you think of these cosplays? Do you know of any other cartoon characters who are impossible to cosplay? Sound off in the comments!