->''"If I were an agent repping a vfx company, here’s a one-side transcript of what the start of negotiations might sound like: “Look, my client’s work is the anchor of your worldwide marketing campaign. They’re the real star of the movie. They’re not? Who is? [[Film/ManOfSteel Henry Cavill]]? [[Film/PacificRim Charlie Hunnam]]? Nice TV actors, but they’re not opening your movie. The only thing opening your movie around the world is my client’s visual effects. We are making you millions. You need to pay accordingly."''
-->-- '''David S. Cohen''' of ''Variety'', "[[http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/guilds-nah-heres-who-the-vfx-biz-needs-1200332216/ Guilds? Nah. Here’s Who the VFX Biz Needs]]"

He's got style. He's got personality. He's got top billing in all the posters. He is undeniably the best character in the whole damn movie. He is...''a [[SerkisFolk big budget]] [[RogerRabbitEffect special]] [[{{Muppet}} effect]]?''

That's right, folks: You don't need to be a human being or even technically ''alive'' to be the star. With a big enough budget, a little imagination and some talent to provide a memorable voice ([[{{Vocaloid}} though this may not be the case for much longer]]), you can take a prop and turn it into a ''character''.

This trope is all about movies that not only employ such special effect characters, but ''put them in the spotlight'': if you can take the {{Muppet}}s, SerkisFolk or [[RogerRabbitEffect Toons]] out of a movie without affecting the plot line or core cast, then it's not this trope.


[[folder: Film ]]

* The vast majority of movies by Creator/RayHarryhausen. Creator/RayHarryhausen treated each monster as a character in and of itself, giving them operatic deaths when he could. Special mention goes to:
** ''Film/MightyJoeYoung'' - Joe is the star of the film, after all.
** ''Film/TheBeastFromTwentyThousandFathoms'' - Although the human characters are reasonably interesting, too.
** ''Film/TwentyMillionMilesToEarth'' - A movie where to many audiences, the monster is the most likable character.
** ''Film/FirstMenInTheMoon''
** ''Film/TheValleyOfGwangi''
** ''Film/ClashOfTheTitans'' - ''Also'' starring LaurenceOlivier, but [[MoneyDearBoy he didn't much care]]...
* ''Film/ShortCircuit'' features Johnny 5, an animatronic robot, as the lead character.
* The infamous film version of ''Film/HowardTheDuck''.
* ''Film/{{Dragonheart}}'', where SeanConnery voices a CGI dragon.
* ''Film/WhoFramedRogerRabbit''.
* The live-action ''Film/{{Transformers}}'' movies are mainly a [[IncrediblyLamePun vehicle]] to show off a whole set of special effects characters. Some critics actually claim they didn't do this ''[[TropesAreNotBad enough]]'': Who came here to see a bunch of humans we don't actually care about? [[JustHereForGodzilla Give us the robots]]!
* The live-action ''Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles'' movies.
* The live-action ''Film/{{Garfield}}'' movies.
* ''Film/SpaceJam'' and ''Film/LooneyTunesBackInAction'', which merge live action and animation in much the same way as ''Film/WhoFramedRogerRabbit''. The credits for both films ''actually use'' "Bugs Bunny" as part of the starring role.
* The live-action ''Film/AlvinAndTheChipmunks'' movies.
* The live-action ''Film/ScoobyDoo'' movies
* The live-action ''RockyAndBullwinkle'' movie
* The live-action ''Film/{{Casper}}'' movie, and its sequels. Creator/RogerEbert even described the first one in his review as "a movie that essentially stars computer programming".
* ''Film/ETTheExtraTerrestrial''
* Andy Serkis has played three of the most famous examples:
** Gollum in Creator/PeterJackson's film version of ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'', particularly in ''The Two Towers''.
** Film/KingKong in the [[Film/KingKong2005 2005 remake]].
** Caesar in ''Film/RiseOfThePlanetOfTheApes''. The trailer even said "From Weta Digital: the Visual Effects Company for ''Film/{{Avatar}}''"
* Pretty much any {{Kaiju}} movie qualifies as this.
** ''Franchise/{{Godzilla}}''. Both the original Japanese version (who was played by a guy in a rubber suit... as well as an animatronic head used for close-ups in later films) and the CGI versions of the [[Film/{{Godzilla 1998}} 1998]] and [[Film/{{Godzilla 2014}} 2014]] American remakes.
** The titular stars (yes, there were two of 'em) of ''Film/{{Rodan}}'' were played both by guys in rubber suits and by large puppets.
** Film/{{Mothra}} herself is an animatronic puppet. Though, later films also use CGI for the flying scenes.
** Baby Irys was an animatronic puppet... and the main villain of the film ''Film/Gamera3AwakeningOfIrys''. Irys' adult form uses a mixture of "guy in rubber suit" and CGI for the flying scenes. Gamera himself is also this trope.
** ''Film/KingKong'' . Possibly the originator of the trope, to the point where Fay Wray was initially told that she would be appearing with the "tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood".
** A borderline example in ''Film/TheHost'', where the human characters are given far more screentime and rich backstories. On the other hand, the director treated the monster like any actual actor, overseeing every motion it made and taking an active hand in developing its performance. Presumably, this monster-as-actor idea is part of why the effects team named the monster "Creator/SteveBuscemi".
** ''Film/PacificRim'' is well aware that you came for the giant robots fighting giant monsters, and while it will offer you a genuinely engaging plot, most of it works to get the actors from one huge robot fight to another.
* All the movies starring Franchise/TheMuppets.
** The policy of working with Muppets is that one has to treat them as legitimate people, to the point that many Muppeteers don't break character during the outtakes of the production.
** In the 2011 movie, the Muppets get their own promotion interviews with the media.
* ''Film/{{Labyrinth}}'' qualifies; the bulk of the characters are realized with puppets.
* ''TheDarkCrystal'' is the first live-action movie with no human cast. Every character, however big or small, is a puppet. This adds to the viewer's immersion in Henson and Froud's WorldBuilding.
* The ''Franchise/StarWars'' prequel trilogy has Jar-Jar Binks, Jabba The Hutt, and Yoda, along with many CGI supporting characters. (Yoda, of course, was always a special effect; he just didn't become a CGI special effect until the prequels.) In fact, there are points in which live actors are the ''exception'' rather than the norm.
* Christopher Johnson in ''Film/{{District 9}}''.
* ''Film/{{Avatar}}''
* ''Film/{{S1m0ne}}'' is an in-universe example.
* The makers of ''Film/GhostRiderSpiritOfVengeance'' seem to [[http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/16/idUS220754507020120216 describe ]] the movie as such while trying to downplay the role of the movie's actual star Nicholas Cage.
* Variation: The film ''Battle of the River Plate'' included acting credits for the ''warships'' involved in filming it.
* ''Film/{{Ted}}'' co-stars a living teddy bear (done in motion capture) voiced by Creator/SethMacFarlane.
* The trailer for the remake of [[Film/TheDayTheEarthStoodStill2008 The Day the Earth Stood Still]] made it clear that the special effects had the starring role, not KeanuReeves.
* The laid-back stop-motion monster in ''FleshGordon'' is the best part of the picture -- even better than the sex.
* Rod Taylor and Guy Pearce are leading men who found themselves playing second-fiddle to their respective [[TheTimeMachine time machines]].
* Though the ''Film/InspectorGadget'' films were critically panned, the best thing about them is how they seamlessly blend CGI and practical props (courtesy Stan Winston Studios) and bring the Inspector's gadgets into real, three-dimensional life, showing how they might look in the real world.
* ''Film/DarbyOGillAndTheLittlePeople'': Disney's publicity department was advised to treat the character of King Brian not as an actor enhanced by special effects, but by a "real" leprechaun. Walt Disney even went as far as to make an episode of [[Series/WaltDisneyPresents his television show]] in which he went to Ireland to convince Brian to appear in the film.

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''Series/{{Alf}}'': By all accounts, the puppet was treated better than the human actors.
* ''MaxHeadroom''. The title character was played by Matt Frewer with lots of prosthetic makeup, bluescreen and editing.
* The majority of ''LazyTown's'' main cast are puppets.
* ''Series/SesameStreet'' and ''Series/TheMuppetShow'' would be nothing without their Muppet casts.
* The Jim Henson Company puppets of ''Series/{{Farscape}}'', two of which were in the main cast, went a long way in giving the show its distinct visual style and set it apart in a genre mostly populated by RubberForeheadAliens.
* ''WesternAnimation/BluesClues'': The only real character is a single guy standing in front of a greenscreen talking to himself. Everything else is animated except the Thinking Chair, the letter, and the notebook.
* ''Series/SeaQuestDSV'' had Darwin, an animatronic "talking" dolphin so realistic viewers couldn't tell the difference.

[[folder: Theater ]]
* In the stage version of ''Film/ChittyChittyBangBang'', the car takes the final bow. One wonders what the actual actors think of this.
* ''CarTalkTheMusical,'' with its mammoth talking car prop.
* WarHorse, though the story and other performances are perfectly good, is most famous for the magnificent horse puppets, and Joey the horse is ''at least'' a deuteragonist, if not quite the full protagonist of the story.