One of the reasons Barack Obama has captivated the world is the charisma he embodies. With the notable exception of his political gaffe over the weekend, Obama is good-looking, graceful and a wonderful orator — so no wonder artists from to Shepard Fairey want to capture the way he looks, moves and speaks.

Things started to go pear-shaped, however, when the waxwork sculptors and animatronics experts got involved. Their goal was much more ambitious: to build life-size replicas that distill the glamour of the real Obama. Some of the results are impressive. Others are downright terrifying.

The human brain is surprisingly good at picking up any jarring errors in someone’s appearance. This alchemy of recognition occurs in the fusiform face area in the brain’s right temporal lobe. (Here’s a great test to determine how good you are at recognising faces.)

In 1906, German psychologist Ernst Jensch — and later, famously, Freud — theorised our recognition of “wrongness” as the “uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche” — literally, the un-home-like). Jensch described the uneasy feeling of simultaneous familiarity and strangeness we get when we can’t tell whether something is lifeless or animate.

In 1970, Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori went on to graph hypothetical emotional responses to increasing degrees of anthropomorphism. As artificial representations of humans become more realistic, they reach a point where they stop being endearing and become creepy. Mori dubbed the sharp dip in our affections the “uncanny valley”.

Yea, though we walk through the shadow of the uncanny valley of Obama, we shall fear no evil, for beyond lies the Glade Of Hilarity. Here, the figure stops being repulsive and becomes bathetic. Like fan art, the Glade Of Hilarity is impelled by a desire to perfectly emulate the real Obama. This makes its clear failure to resemble Obama whatsoever embarrassing and almost endearing.

Come, take my hand on a tour of Obama-themed mannequins…

Madame Tussaud’s Barack and Michelle:

Madame Tussaud’s Obama waxwork, which can be seen at its Washington, DC gallery, was actually first unveiled in February 2008, when Obama was still contesting the primaries with Hillary Clinton. Presciently, it was posed behind a replica Oval Office desk, flanked by Bill and Hillary on one side, and JFK and Jackie on the other. (Do you reckon Madame Tussaud’s votes Democrat?)

Michelle Obama got her own waxwork once Obama actually got to the White House. Its skin is paler than the real Michelle’s, but on the whole, these are impressive likenesses.

Parisian Obama:

On 29 June, the Musée Grevin in Paris unveiled this statue, which will enjoy an eternal waxen summit with the likenesses of Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. (No word on whether the Putin waxwork is shirtless.) Although, like most waxworks of busy international leaders, this was sculpted purely from photos, they did a passably good job. We’re not in the valley yet…

Terrifying Blackpool Obama with teeth:

This waxwork was recently unveiled at Louis Tussaud’s in Blackpool, England, which has a kind of “so bad it’s good” reputation as one of the world’s worst wax museums. (Even its Michael Jackson manages to look unrealistic.)

Online observers have variously compared this Obama to Jacko’s dad Joe, OJ Simpson and “Tony Blair with a tan”. This last is probably most apt, as it recognises the most terrifying thing about this waxwork — its vicious, gnashing teeth. For me, it resembles Pennywise the clown from the movie that haunted my childhood, Stephen King’s It.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown:

The Horror Of Disney World Animatronic Obama:

“They’ve made me better looking!” was Obama’s diplomatic response upon viewing this monstrosity. No Barack, they made you into a zombie! This … thing … is now the star of the animatronic Hall Of Presidents attraction at Walt Disney World. The worst part is the painstaking attention to detail the Disney people put in: modelling the figure’s movements on Obama speech videos, and even getting the actual president to record the words it emits.

Video of Disney World Obama:

Once, children would scream and drop their lollipops in fear when Abraham Lincoln creaked to his feet to re-enact his famous speeches. Now they have to watch this implausibly pale, ghostly thing with sunken eyes vowing to serve the American people. Pyschiatrists: how are your booking sheets looking in, say, 20 years?

Obama Garden Statue:

“Wassup you guys? It’s me, Barack, just takin’ time out from runnin’ the free world to chill in your back yard on this garden bench sold separately from Home Depot for $60.” The eBay vendor of this fibrelass and resin statue adds, “So life like people will stop in their tracks wanting an autograph or photograph with him.”

Well, not really, but he does have a certain quirky charm: we get that he’s meant to be Obama, but he doesn’t look enough like the president to unnerve us. This is the politically aware person’s equivalent of those statues you see at McDonald’s restaurants, posed on benches so customers can cuddle up to Ronald McDonald. We’re out of the valley, folks!

Hilariously bad Italian waxwork:

Upon erupting into laughter at the sight of this waxwork, I realised I had entered the Glade Of Hilarity. It lives at Rome’s wax museum, the Museo Delle Cere, and it reveals what happens when sculptors can’t see the forest for the trees. Individual parts of this waxwork’s face do, indeed, resemble the corresponding bits of Obama’s face. But put together, the result is farcical.

Hilariously bad random Obama waxwork:

I’m not quite sure where this one is from, but it hardly looks like Obama at all. Although it appears carved from a redwood log, it actually reminds me more of actor JK Simmons, who plays Peter Parker’s editor J Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies.