Created By: NyBatteri on November 28, 2011 Last Edited By: WaterBlap on March 1, 2017

Inanimate While Watched

An object the audience would expect to be inanimate is animate when not being watched.

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This is when an inanimate object — such as a doll, mannequin, or statue — or a subject in a picture becomes animate when nobody is watching it. This trope also includes anything else that is not animate, like an animal or anthropomorphized fungus. That is, Alice's doll looks and acts like a doll when she's looking at it, but when Alice isn't home, her doll can move around, talk, and interact with the world around it. For all intents and purposes, she's as human as any of the other characters... when there aren't people watching.

An object like this one may be a Dynamic or Static Character, a member of the Five-Man Band or a Monster of the Week. Some works may have these characters as most, if not all, of their principal cast.

Most Living Toys are this trope, though this trope is not exclusive to toys. A Plant Person may or may not be this trope, and it depends on whether he or she can only move when people (or certain people) are not observing it.

This can happen in the story in a variety of ways.
  • When in the presence of people. The toys are motionless under the bed regardless of whether someone can see them or know they are there.
  • When being observed. The toys can move under the bed when nobody is looking, but as soon as someone peeks under the bed, the toys become motionless.
  • When in the presence of people other than the main character. The toys are motionless in the presence of everybody except for Alice.
    • This may be because the character is an innocent (e.g. a child) or a sufficiently open-minded person.

Compare Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag when a similar situation happens for animals.

Has nothing to do with What You Are in the Dark, since this is not a metaphorical trope but a literal one. If the character is merely pretending to be inanimate when someone is watching him or her but can actually still move otherwise, see Nobody Here but Us Statues, Wallpaper Camouflage, or Stand-In Portrait. If the character is pretending to be someone else's image, see Mirror Routine.

For more or less obvious reasons, No Real Life Examples, Please!. This is impossible in Real Life.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kobato.: Ioryogi has to pretend to be a stuffed animal if anyone besides Kobato and Kohaku are present.

    Comic Strips 
  • Played with in Calvin and Hobbes. Whenever Hobbes is alone with Calvin, he appears as an anthropomorphic tiger, but when someone else appears he becomes a plush toy. The strip is ambiguous about whether Hobbes assumes his toy form in front of others or whether only Calvin can see his true form, or even if he's really alive or just in Calvin's imagination.

    Film 
  • Mannequin: The title character can move and interact with one person, but returns to her mannequin form when anyone else is nearby.
  • The Christmas Toy: If a human is present, the toys are made immobile. To a more extreme extent, if a toy is discovered while out of place, it becomes inanimate forever.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • In Emily Wants To Play, the black and grey doll will stop moving while you look directly at her. If you only see her in the corner of your eye, however, she will move in a very unsetteling manner.
  • In Blink you have to escape from a monster that moves very rapidly when you don't look. However, one game mechanic is that you have to blink from time to time.
  • In Stay Together, the mannequin monsters stop moving while a player sees them in light. If noone looks, or if the light is out they will keep moving.

    Western Animation 
  • Toy Story: Played straight in most of the films. It's an unstated rule that toys never move when someone is watching. This rule doesn't seem to apply with animals, as seen with Scud in the first movie and Buster in the second and third. The one time the rule was broken, thereby subverting this trope, was when the toys scare Sid into being nicer. (Woody even says "We'll have to break a few rules.")

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-173 is an inanimate statue while being looked at. Otherwise, it's an incredibly fast killing machine out to break some necks.


Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • November 28, 2011
    ladygem
    The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who. And you really, really don't want them to move.
  • November 28, 2011
    ParkourPaisho
    Pretty much every major character in Toy Story.
  • November 28, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    This is a prevalent trope in all children's stories that feature toys.
  • November 28, 2011
    Unknown Troper
    Video Games
    • Boos from SuperMarioBros are probably one of the most famous examples for modern youth. They're probably worse than ladygem's example because THEY TURN INVISIBLE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THEM!!! ... Anyone sure they are real?
  • November 28, 2011
    Nocturna
    This has a lot of overlap with Living Toys.
  • November 29, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • Mannequin. The title character can move and interact with one person, but returns to her mannequin form when anyone else is nearby.

    Live Action TV
    • Kolchak The Night Stalker episode "The Trevi Collection". Mannequins controlled by a witch only move when Kolchak isn't directly looking at them.
  • November 29, 2011
    TheBlankMage
    Ioryogi in Kobato, who has to pretend to be a stuffed animal if anyone besides Kobato and Kohaku are present.
  • November 29, 2011
    nitrokitty
    I would think it would also involve hiding from monsters that rely on movement. I know I've seen some, but can't remember.
  • November 29, 2011
    chelonianmobile
  • November 29, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In The Christmas Toy not only are the toys made immobile by the presence of a human, if a toy is discovered while out of place it freezes into non-animation forever.
  • November 30, 2011
    jate88
    They're not the same thing but I think this has connections to Offscreen Teleportation and Stealth Hi Bye.
  • November 30, 2011
    Generality
    This is highly common with all forms of Animate Inanimate Object. See also Creepy Changing Painting.

    In addition, I'm pretty sure this has been YKTTW'd before, but I can't remember the title.
  • May 23, 2014
    DAN004
    In Kagerou Project, this is Mary Kozakura's eye power: being a quarter Medusa, she can paralyze people who look directly at her eye. If she turns her sight away, said victim can move again.
  • May 23, 2014
    Generality
    There have been at least three YKTT Ws for this concept that I can recall. The problem seems to be that no one can agree on a good name. However, Weeping Angel Artwork is related.
  • May 25, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Real Life:
    • The game "Red Light Green Light." Whoever is "it" has his back turned and says "green light." The other players advance forward towards It. It turns to the other players and says "red light." The other players have to freeze in place, and if It catches any of them moving they're out or have to go back to the starting line.
    • Deer are very good at not moving when they see you see them.
  • May 26, 2014
    Lavalyte
  • May 26, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    There's an international game called Statues that details this exact kind of thing.

    Maybe call this Playing Statue Game? it's obvious from it's name, you can imagine what a "statue game" would be about.
  • May 26, 2014
    KTera
  • May 26, 2014
    WaterBlap
    Observation Ultimatum? Because, according to Merriam-Webster, "ultimatum" means (paraphrasing) a final condition whose rejection will cause a resort to force or other direct action. Or Vigilance Ultimatum, since to be vigilant means to be "alertly watchful especially to avoid danger". Or, perhaps to be more clear, Inanimate Objects Observation Ultimatum?
  • May 26, 2014
    DAN004
  • May 26, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^ Water Blap

    You realize you're misreading the definition right?

    that's condition as in demand. not condition as in "(current) status/situation".

    An example of ultimatum is Join Or Die. This has nothing to do with demands...

    anyway, Playing Statues Game for me. A children's game with international variations can't possibly be a bad name.

    K Tera

    I thought slender kills you immediately if you stare at him? also, if i recall, he's perpetually on the move.
  • June 1, 2014
    WaterBlap
    ^Unnecessary sarcasm, but O.K.

    Inanimate While Watched works for me.
  • January 20, 2017
    WaterBlap
    So nobody put any of the examples up? Also, if OP doesn't return, I think this would be Up For Grabs, right?

    Please give bombs or hats, suggestions, or comments. Feel free to weigh in on the name.

    Vote Tally on Names:
  • January 20, 2017
    IniuriaTalis
  • January 20, 2017
    PaulA
    • In the Chronicles Of The Kencyrath story "Bones", Jame is stalked by animate skeletons that only move when she isn't looking at them.
  • January 21, 2017
    WaterBlap
    Updated the description since this wasn't getting hats or even bombs (and there were no potholes or other links in the original). Added the No Real Life tag because even the original was about objects moving when they weren't being watched and people were suggesting examples in which animate creatures just stopped moving.

    Please feel free to comment!

    Here is the previous description (for the sake of easier access):
    • A doll, a mannequin, a statue, or a piece in a picture would move around and speak like a human being, but when someone is watching it, it suddenly stops whatever it is doing, pretending to be a normal object. Sometimes, innocent children or sufficiently open-minded individuals could interact with it, but not others.
  • January 21, 2017
    Malady
    Tattletail: Mama Tattletail can't move while being watched in the dark, but can attack if lit by the flashlight while being watched.
  • January 22, 2017
    CactusFace
    @Tattletail: If you light the flashlight at Mama it will automaticly went out. She attacks if you, or Tattletail, make a noise while she watches.

    Video Game
    • In Emily Wants To Play, the black and grey doll will stop moving while you look directly at her. If you only see her in the corner of your eye, however, she will move in a very unsetteling manner.
    • In Blink you have to escape from a monster that moves very rapidly when you don't look. However, one game mechanic is that you have to blink from time to time.
    • In Super Mario World, and many games after this, if you look at Boos they will cover their face and stop moving. This, however, does not count for Boo circles, though they don't move directly at you.
    • In Stay Together the mannequin monsters stop moving while a player sees them in light. If noone looks, or if the light is out they will keep moving.
    • Inverted in Corpse Party Blood Covered: If you look directly at the ghosts of the children, you will be unable to move. They will use this advantage to murder your character in a very gruesom way.
  • January 23, 2017
    longWriter
    The Muppet Show: In one sketch, Fozzie is pretending to be a work of art in a gallery, but there's a table right in front of his "painting" frame at which a police officer is trying to have a light lunch consisting of a sandwich and an apple. Fozzie repeatedly tries to steal one or both items of food, but he can't move while the officer is looking at him, lest he break the masquerade. It gets broken anyway, and then the officer joins Fozzie in pretending to be art and stealing Rowlf's lunch, instead.
  • January 23, 2017
    WaterBlap
    I changed the name to the one with the most votes. The old name was kind of confusing.

    I don't know about the Muppet example. It's a puppet, but In Universe they're all puppets, aren't they? And the character can move while being watched, only he's keeping himself from moving.

    I'm also not sure about the Corpse Party example. Is the player character an object that normally we'd expect not to move?
  • January 23, 2017
    longWriter
    ^ It looked like a couple examples here are about characters staying still so as to be stealthy; should those be removed?
  • January 23, 2017
    WaterBlap
    ^ Yes, and I would appreciate it if someone could do that or at least point them out in the comments. I didn't filter everything very well (or couldn't, in the examples where I'm not familiar with the work) and may have made a few mistakes. If it's "When in the presence of people other than the main character," though, I think it should fit because Tropes Are Flexible and this tropes is essentially when an inanimate object acts like it's inanimate while being watched.

    With the Muppets example, for example, the character is "animate" In Universe but pretending to be inanimate to be stealthy, which I think is significantly different.
  • January 28, 2017
    TonyG
    ^^Characters pretending to be inanimate is covered by Nobody Here But Us Statues.
    • Toy Story: It's an unstated rule that toys never move when someone is watching. This rule doesn't seem to apply with animals, as seen with Scud in the first movie and Buster in the second and third. The one time the rule was broken was when they scare Sid into being nicer. (Woody even says "We'll have to break a few rules.")
    • Played with in Calvin And Hobbes. Whenever Hobbes is alone with Calvin, he appears as an anthropomorphic tiger, but when someone else appears he becomes a plush toy. The strip is ambiguous about whether Hobbes assumes his toy form in front of others or whether only Calvin can see his true form, or even if he's really alive or just in Calvin's imagination.
  • January 28, 2017
    WaterBlap
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=6073a0ugu351f0w19hcb1qrn