It is very common in many media works to have shows within them
, but a little confusion can happen in drawn/animated works.
A cartoon character is watching TV, and the show is a news show, or a soap opera, or a game show, these shows will be considered live action since they generally are in real life, but they are still animated since the whole world is, the point is, for the audience, the show within a show is animated, however, for the characters, that show is live action, after all, it has real characters and the characters themselves sometimes appear in them.
But the real confusion is when a cartoon character is watching a cartoon, if everything in that world is animated, how can you tell if something there is live action or animated?
Ways to explain/avoid this trope:
- The cartoon inside a cartoon has stuff that can never happen in the "real world", like talking animals or cartoon physics.
- The cartoon inside a cartoon has an Art Shift
, like western-styled cartoon characters watching a anime-styled cartoon.
- And also, use Medium Blending
, like if the cartoon is CGI, the cartoon inside a cartoon is hand drawn.
- Or even use Medium Blending
for live action, the world is animated, but when the characters are watching a live action show, it is really live action, is confusing to think how can live action media be filmed in an animated world.
- Recursive Canon
is used, if cartoon characters are watching their own show, no matter if they say it's animation or live action, both are acceptable.
- Or just don't care, and have the characters expose if what they're watching is live action or animation.
- 101 Dalmatians has the characters watching TV several times. Among the shows seen are an animated commercial drawn in the stylized manner of the time and an old Classic Disney Short (the Silly Symphony "Springtime") from the studio's rubber-hose period. Further differenciation of the TV images is done by making them Deliberately Monochrome.
- At one point in Chicken Little, characters in a theater watch actual footage from an Indiana Jones movie. So not only are they watching something less cartoony than themselves, but also inhabitants of a World of Funny Animals are watching human beings.
- Subverted in WALL•E where live-action videos are shown from the past, but it is explained that humans themselves became cartoonish as a result of living in outer space.
- Rice Boy (and all the comics in Overside) is inhabited entirely by Cartoon Creatures and Machine Men. One of the Machine Men, named The One Electronic, has a monitor for a face. The images on T.O.E.'s face aren't drawn by Evan Dahm; instead, they're an assortment of photographs, panels from other comicbooks, and stills from live-action and animated films. They're all black-and-white, to distinguish them from the rest of the art (which is very colorful).
- When Terrance and Phillip first appeared on South Park, they were meant to be cartoon characters, so they had simpler designs and more stylized animation than the show's already Limited Animation. Eventually they were Ret-Conned as live actors, their appearance explained as being from Canada where everything was limited, the top quote is the Hand Wave for this confusion.
- This was a problem in the early seasons of The Simpsons with the "Happy Little Elves" cartoon, which was more crudely animated than the main action. Audiences had trouble telling the difference between the Stylistic Suck of the Show Within a Show and the crude animation of the main show, and the Elves were Put on a Bus. The Itchy & Scratchy Show, on the other hand, thrived by using many of the animation tropes not used on the main series (such as Wild Takes and Funny Animals), and by Crossing the Line Twice with its over-the-top violence.
- The Brown Hornet segments on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids were noticeably more cartoony than the main action.
- On Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Leonardo watches Space Heroes, a cartoon based on Star Trek: The Animated Series, done in the same Limited Animation style, in contrast to the Animesque CGI used for the main action.
- The phone segment at the end of The Magic School Bus episodes features the show's "producer" answering questions about what could and couldn't really happen. The producer is also a cartoon character (voiced by Malcolm-Jamal Warner) and the show is apparently live-action within his universe. For example, we sometimes we see him on the "set" or see the characters represented as actors.
- When The Angry Beavers watch a B-movie on TV, it is drawn in a more realistic style and in black and white. Things get interesting in the Halloween Episode, where they meet some of the actors from the movies, still drawn in the same style and in black and white.