That's what I'm talking about.
Disney does something in the extreme something that a lot of writers simply don't. It's a small thing, and in the narrative of the broader story, probably worth dropping. But it's inclusion adds an indescribable element in stories that is, quite genuinely, a delight.
That is, of course, highlighting a non-human character's personality. Anyone who spends any time around animals know that each animal has its own personality. Even solitary animals will vary significantly from one another. Taking note of these small quirks of personality in your non-human characters can elevate your story significantly. It can be an opportunity for levity in an otherwise bleak tale. Or the source of heartache for a character. It might even be the whole inciting incident à la Jon Wick.
No word of a lie, the animals are often my favourite part of a Disney film. They also happen to be some of my favourite memories from books. I still remember, more than many of the actual characters from the books, Sparhawk's grumpy roan warhorse Faran. Mentions of the horse's personality were one or two lines here and there, but they provided some much needed smiles, and a long-lasting impression.
Also, I dare you to tell me that Maximus wasn't the best part of Tangled.
Personalities of non-human characters and how they interact with the world and the rest of the cast can also impart important information about the people in your story. That cat on the space salvager's ship? It's ornery as fuck, hisses and spits at the crew, despises being touched and will scratch anyone who tries. But the mechanic, well, he loves that scraggly arsehole anyway, and tolerates her temper with affectionate good humour. That tells you a lot about who the mechanic is.
It's a small thing, writers, but including a non-human character in your cast can really help flesh out your characters and the world in which they live. And, like Faran did for me, they can paint a smile on a reader's face.
Ignoring this will not break a story and make it bad. Not in the least. It's really just a small thing. But this little, tiny, non-essential thing has the potential to elevate a story immensely.
Do you notice the non-human characters in the books you read? What is your favourite, and why? Let me know below. I'm interested.