The green robot smilies are incredibly irritating, IMO.
I'm open to suggestions of other SMS apps that have different emoticons as well, but the few I've looked at seem to just skin the standard SMS app, emoticons and all.
From what I've been able to glean - No, it's not possible via any built-in settings in the stock Messaging app.
Handcent SMS, however can disable all smiley icons so all you see is the actual text - the punctuation characters. To do this in handcent press MENU > SETTINGS > CUSTOM STYLE > BUBBLE SETTINGS
Move thru the list of options shown on the bottom (contained within a tab with an arrow) until you see DISABLE SMILEYS. Click that and when prompted SAVE your settings.
If you are willing to root your phone, it is possible to change this. You can go into the mms apk and change the PNG files of the Smileys to whatever you like. Then you recompile the apk, push it to your phone, and restart. If you are running cyanogenmod or any other theme that uses a theme system, this change is possible using this too.
If you want eyecandy then try Handcent SMS.
I just had to figure this out for my girlfriend's phone yesterday because she also doesn't like the standard Android smileys.
After installing Handcent, Go to "Settings" --> "Application settings" --> "Smileys & emoji settings" and there under "Smileys settings" you can choose which type of smileys to use.
So switch from "System default" to "Handcent" then you get the non-Android smileys :)
Seems except of installing third party software like Handcent or probably changing some apk files manually or some other magic for normal users, there is no way to do it. I can't believe it, it is total fail from Android to not have options to disable these smileys. No matter if their look is irritating or not :)
I had this annoying problem on my Galaxy S4.
If you don't use the - , as in smiley :) or sad :( then it won't convert it to an emoticon or create an MMS.
If you use the menu when in the messaging app (in a thread) and hit the "Insert Smiley" you get a list of the text to emoticon translations. Just don't use any of the exact text sequences and it won't recognize and then convert them!
Way too simple.