"What are you?""You're free to go."
"I'm an otter."
"And what do you do?"
"I swim around on my back and do cute little human things with my hands."
Otters are rather funny-looking animals, what with their long, slender bodies, cute faces, and the way they crack clamshells on their bellies. But makes them even more adorable, is their playful demeanor. Otters often wrestle, slide and play with their food—actually, they mostly use those fun activities as a way to improve their survival tactics. But still, it's a fun way to do it!
When used in fiction, otter characters are usually Fun Personified. They are usually depicted as playful, energetic, kind-hearted, optimistic and laid-back, sometimes even mischievous. Otters spend a lot of time in water, so expect them to be good swimmers, who love to have fun in water. Sometimes this overlaps with Surfer Dude (but otters are usually much more clever, rarely The Ditz).
To recap, if an otter is portrayed in fiction with a joyous, playful or mischievous personality, it's this trope.
Note: This trope is not a list of all otter characters and otter mentions in fiction. It's a trope specifically about otters being playful.
- The 1969 film Ring of Bright Water features an executive (Bill Travers, of Born Free fame) whose life is transformed when he acquires a pet otter, Mij. This otter is rather mischievous and adventurous, which leads to many adventures.
- When Mercer Mayer created the Little Critter Spin-Off LC and the Critter Kids, one of the critter kids was a Surfer Dude otter named Slick Rick (no, not that Rick).
- Every book in the Redwall series features several otters. Usually led by one named Skipper, they tend to dress and talk like local Seafaring People, and have a penchant for using ambushes and javelins. The Redwall wiki describes them as playful.
- In the Winnie the Pooh book Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, the only new character is an otter named Lottie, who was described in a preview article as "feisty".
- The Treasure Tree is the name of a book showing the four personality distinctions of (roughly) Leader, Scientist, People Person, and Fun Guy. These are shown with the animals of, respectively, Lion, Beaver, Golden Retriever, and Otter.
- Ring of Bright Water again; the original autobiographical book by Gavin Maxwell, who also wrote a children's version called The Otter's Story. Incidentally, Mijbil turned out to be a previously unknown subspecies, now known as Maxwell's Smooth-Coated Otter, or Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli.
- Mudge, the Loveable Rogue in the Spellsinger novels, and (in later books) his family. In one book it's mentioned that one otter can focus on something serious for a while, but two or more otters is a permanent party.
- In Hector Hugh Munroe (AKA "Saki")'s short story, "Laura," the merry-hell-raising heroine is reincarnated as an otter, and continues to raise merry hell.
- Pip and Pop, the rather playful otter duo from Bear in the Big Blue House.
- Linda Smith's A Brief History of Timewasting has urban otters colonising London. Their natural cheekiness has developed into criminal behaviour such as pickpocketing and blagging money by claiming to be a neighbour who was locked out of the house.
- Jak and Daxter has Daxter who was turned into an Ottsel (half otter, half weasel). He's a funny, but somewhat annoying bumbling sidekick.
- Animalympics features among its athletes a Surfer Dude otter named Dean Wilson. Fer shyuuuure!
- The animated series version of Little Bear has a group of playful otters that shows up occasionally.
- Marlene of the Dreamworks Animation Madagascar franchise (as well as the spin-off TV series, The Penguins of Madagascar).