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[[quoteright:286:[[VideoGame/SuperSmashBros http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/unexpected-character_super-smash-bros-brawl_816.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:286:[[Franchise/MetalGear Who]] did [[Franchise/SuperMarioBros you]] expect?\\
[[Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus The Spanish Inquisition]]?]]

->''"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."''
-->-- '''Creator/MasahiroSakurai''' on the inclusion of VideoGame/WiiFit Trainer, ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros''

Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. TheHero, TheLancer, the EnsembleDarkhorse... no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a OneSceneWonder, someone who had succumbed to ChuckCunninghamSyndrome, or simply a LivingProp, or even someone from outside the franchise.

In video games, particularly {{Mascot Fighter}}s, Kart Racers, and other {{Massive Multiplayer Crossover}}s, this can also include characters from games that were obscure or [[NoExportForYou never left their home country]], or games whose genre puts them outside that game's purview. Ironically common examples of the latter two include characters from a nonviolent game (or with a nonviolent role in the game) appearing as combatants, or a pilot/driver stepping out of their machine and showing they're just as competent on foot, if not moreso.

Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales [[ColbertBump in the unexpected addition]], which is actually pretty sound business sense.

Due to the ease of slipping in outside characters in a Fighting Game (both in terms of mechanics and plot), GuestFighter can be considered a particularly common subtrope.

See also HeroOfAnotherStory.

''Remember, ExamplesAreNotRecent.''

* UnexpectedCharacter/LiveActionTV
* UnexpectedCharacter/VideoGames
** UnexpectedCharacter/WWEVideoGames


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'':
** No one had expected Robin to join the Straw Hats. Granted, she had helped Luffy and betrayed Crocodile, but it made her more of a wild card, and after the battle, she had disappeared. Then, just as the crew leaves Alabasta, Robin appears out of nowhere and requests to Luffy to join, to which he nonchalantly agrees. Added to that is that throughout the entire Baroque Works arc, Vivi had been played up as the potential next member of the Straw Hats, until she turned down the offer to stay behind and rebuild Alabasta right before Robin joined.
** Most people wrote Bellamy out as dead, and it's not hard to see why, seeing as his boss ''is'' Doflamingo and he went and pissed the guy off by losing to Luffy. Come chapter 704, not only is he still alive and still under Doflamingo's employment, [[spoiler:he's also a participant in the tournament for the Mera Mera no Mi]]. Also, the appearance of [[spoiler:Jesus Burgess]] was likewise something nobody could have seen coming. Later on, [[spoiler:the [[DeathByOriginStory supposedly long-dead]] ''Sabo'']] has shown up.
* ''Anime/{{Pokemon}}'':
** After the Advanced Generation series ended, it was general consensus that Wallace, Gym Leader in ''VideoGame/PokemonRubyAndSapphire'' and Champion in ''[[UpdatedRerelease Emerald]]'', was another addition to the many game characters that got AdaptedOut in the anime. To everyone's surprise, he shows up in the middle of the Diamond and Pearl series as part of Dawn's story, hosting a special Pokémon Coordinator tournament that bears his name.
** The Best Wishes series has Clair from ''VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver'' showing up. Sure, she and the majority of the Generation I-IV Gym Leaders show up at the Pokémon World Tournament in ''VideoGame/PokemonBlack2AndWhite2'', but that's more an optional encounter.
** Ash had Charizard rejoining his team, and not just for a big match like his previous returns, sticking around for the rest of the ''Best Wishes'' series. A couple of the other Pokémon Ash has captured could also qualify. For example, no one was expecting him to catch Muk, since in its debut, it actually received the least amount of focus out of all the Pokémon that appeared in that episode, only appearing briefly in a couple of scenes.
** The Mewtwo from ''[[Anime/PokemonGenesectAndTheLegendAwakened Genesect and the Legend Awakened]]'' is something of a double whammy -- few were expecting Mewtwo to return, but ''no one'' was expecting it to be a different individual altogether, due to the backstory (and the logistics thereof) of the first one. To quite a lot of fans, this was ''far'' from a pleasant surprise as a result.
** Clement's fourth Pokémon is Luxio -- something no one saw coming. First off, it's a 'Mon from a generation not being actively promoted, and secondly, it's not even in the Kalos Dex (all three of them!).
** Alain's full team reveal was also a case of this: his team is made up mostly of menacing- and tough-looking Pokemon like Tyranitar and Bisharp... and a Male Unfeazant.
** As one of the most popular Pokemon in the S/M, many assumed Ash would get a Rockruff. He did, but no one was expecting he'd get Kukui's Rockruff.
* ''Anime/GundamBuildFighters'':
** The series caught everyone off-guard with the first animated appearance of the ''G-Savior''. The Mobile Suit from the live-action movie that, for ages, many thought that Sunrise had went out of their way to ignore and even toss into CanonDiscontinuity. The series throws in Mobile suits that viewers thought would never get animated, like the Superior Gundam and Blue Destiny units.
** [[Anime/MobileSuitGundam00 Gundam Exia Repair II]] got in the series due to 00's five year exclusive clause having expired TWO DAYS before this episode aired.
** The series has a large amount of {{Continuity Cameo}}s from characters across the franchise's history. This has led to the series getting the FanNickname "Gundam Valhalla," a reference to [[EpilepticTrees the theory that these are actually dead Gundam characters who now get to live in a world at peace]].
* ''Anime/GundamBuildFightersTry'' continues this trend with the Winning Gundam revealed to be a modified [[Anime/SDGundamForce Captain Gundam]]. [[spoiler:And also, [[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam Domon Kasshu]].]]
* Continuing the ''Gundam'' examples, the manga ''MSV-R: The Return of Johnny Ridden'' features the return of yet another major character, namely [[spoiler:Yazan "I'm Gonna Violate You" Gable]].
* ''Franchise/YuGiOh''
** In ''Anime/YuGiOhTheDarkSideOfDimensions'', poor [[DemotedToExtra Bakura]], after having been left out of every {{filler}} {{arc}}, [[Manga/YuGiOhR spinoff manga]], [[Anime/YuGiOhCapsuleMonsters miniseries]], and [[Anime/YuGiOhTheMoviePyramidOfLight movie]] ever, finally gets to put in an appearance (and apparently as a major secondary character!). [[http://www.yugioh.com/news/sdcc-2015-panel Even the official website is surprised.]]
-->In addition to Yugi and Kaiba you will be seeing a lot of familiar faces on-screen characters previewed included Jounouchi, Honda, Anzu, and even Bakura[.]
** ''[[Anime/YuGiOhArcV Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V]]'' introducing alternate universe versions of [[Anime/YuGiOh5Ds Jack Atlas and Crow Hogan]] opened the floodgates of speculation on which other characters from past series would be brought back over the course of the show. The news that [[spoiler:Kaito Tenjo from ''ZEXAL'' would be appearing in the Xyz Dimension arc]] was not entirely unexpected by the fandom, but the presences of [[spoiler:Edo Phoenix and Asuka Tenjoin from ''GX'']] certainly were, especially the latter due to their OutOfFocus status in their home series.
* Who expected to see [[spoiler:Captain Ginyu]] return in ''Anime/DragonBallSuper''[='=]s adaptation of ''Anime/DragonBallZResurrectionF''?
** Or who thought that [[spoiler:Android 17]] would be a teammember for the Universal Survival Tournament?
* ''Anime/Danganronpa3'' has Chiaki Nanami show up as one of the main characters, catching many off-guard, seeing as in [[VideoGame/SuperDanganRonpa2 the second game]] [[spoiler:she was an AI who wasn't even hinted at being a real person]].
** It even manages to do this with a character from the same show, with the Side:Future character Chisa Yukizome showing up in Side:Despair as a teacher.
* [[spoiler:Charlotte's]] reappearance in ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagicaTheMovieRebellion'' as Mami's pet/familiar was the last thing anyone expected. After all, she [[spoiler:''killed and ate'' Mami]] in the series and died shortly afterward. This was almost certainly a [[AscendedMeme reference]] to the fandom's [[spoiler:CrackPairing of Mami and Charlotte]], but it was still unexpected because no one thought the creators would incorporate something so bizarre into the official production.
* The final episode of ''Anime/MahouGirlsPrecure'' surprised everyone with [[spoiler:an EarlyBirdCameo of ''Anime/KiraKiraPrecureALaMode''[='s=] Ichika Usami/Cure Whip in an honest-to-God canonical crossover.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The ComicBook/New52 revival of ''ComicBook/JusticeLeagueInternational'' has Godiva, a very minor DC superheroine mostly remembered for being in the ComicBook/GlobalGuardians, a really minor DC superteam.
* ''Comicbook/AgeOfUltron'', a RedSkiesCrossover, migrates Angela, a Creator/NeilGaiman exclusive character, who was previously part of the ''ComicBook/{{Spawn}}'' supporting cast, into the Franchise/MarvelUniverse.
* ''ComicBook/TrinityWar'': Nobody expected [[spoiler:the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3]] to show up as the series' ultimate villains.
* ''[[ComicBook/TheDeathOfSuperman Reign of the Supermen]]'': [[spoiler:Superman]], ironically, is this. The story was about four mysterious figures claiming to be Superman returned from the dead [[spoiler:except, not really]] and yet, when [[spoiler:the Cyborg Superman]] turned out to be the villain of the piece, [[spoiler:the real Superman emerged from the Fortress without his powers]] and saved the day. As though a god-like figure was in the machine.
* ''ComicBook/AvengersUndercover'' managed to shock ''ComicBook/{{Runaways}}'' fans with [[spoiler:the sudden resurrection of Alex Wilder.]]
* Fans of ''ComicBook/ArchieComicsSonicTheHedgehog'' were taken off-guard learning that Breezie the Hedgehog, a character from ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfSonicTheHedgehog'', was going to make her debut in issue #268, which began an adaptation of ''VideoGame/SonicTheFighters''. The appearance of DummiedOut character Honey the Cat in the same storyline? Not so much.
* ''ComicBook/SonicTheHedgehogMegaManWorldsUnite'' managed to surprise fans by revealing not only Sticks the Badger of ''WesternAnimation/SonicBoom'' and VideoGame/MegaManX, but also a number of various SEGA and Capcom video game franchises. One of them being [[spoiler:''Franchise/StreetFighter'', which has been licensed to UDON for over a decade.]]
* The Eleventh Doctor ''ComicBook/DoctorWhoTitan'' comics reintroduced NinetiesAntiHero Abslom Daak from the ''Magazine/DoctorWhoMagazine'' comics. A doubly unexpected character as he hadn't been used for many years, and also because he came from a completely different Franchise/DoctorWhoExpandedUniverse continuity with different rightsholders.
* It's safe to say that, before the leaks, no one expected Dr. Manhattan from ComicBook/{{Watchmen}} to appear in ComicBook/DCRebirth.
** A later Rebirth era event, ComicBook/JusticeLeagueVsSuicideSquad, has this to a lesser extent. While nowhere near as unexpected as Manhattan, the appearance of Legion Lillian Emerald Empress was rather unexpected, given that she is not one prone to being the problem of 20/21st century heroes in their home eras.
* ''ComicBook/PathfinderWorldscape'' is a MassiveMultiplayerCrossover event featuring several properties licensed by [[Creator/DynamiteComics Dynamite Entertainment]] yet two characters from the public domain characters with no relation to these properties will play a big part in the story: Fantomah and Thun'Da, both of which are extremely obscure comic book characters from the 40s and 50s respectively that few people would be aware of, let alone expect to be featured in a event like this.
* ''ComicBook/GIJoe2016'' stars such heroes as Roadblock, Scarlett, Snake Eyes... and ''[[HumongousMecha Skywarp]]''. Yes, a ''[[TokenEvilTeammate villain]]'' from an ''[[Franchise/{{Transformers}} entirely different franchise]]''. ItMakesSenseInContext; during ''[[ComicBook/Revolution2016 Revolution]]'', the team rescued him from a government holding facility, and he's working with them until they can restore his teleportation powers.
* ''ComicBook/NewSuperMan'' #8 ended with the mysterious prototype "Super-Man Zero" talking to a mysterious figure who boasted that, without him, there would be no super heroes. That man? [[spoiler:Ching Lung, the YellowPeril Chinese stereotyped supervillain that was on the cover of the ''very first issue'' of ''ComicBook/DetectiveComics''.]]

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* An odd example from ''Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheSeries'' - the series finale "Black Rain" features none other than ''[[Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos Slender Man]]'' as a major character. This has caused some rather mixed reactions from reviewers.
* In ''Fanfic/JusticeSocietyOfJapan'', given how [[Anime/CodeGeass Lelouch Lamperogue]] [[ChekhovsGunman appears early on]] one would probably assume that Zero would be one of the first characters from that series to join the team. [[spoiler: WROOOOONG. Shirley Fenette joins instead.]]
* In ''FanFic/HorseshoesAndHandGrenades'', outside the {{Original Character}}s, all characters introduced are from Kamen Rider series. Hence it comes as a surprise when [[Series/HikoninSentaiAkibaranger Yumeria Moegi]] appears in ''A Month of Sundays'', having been fired and in search of a job.
* ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'':
** The fic delights in this (something helped by the author appearing to have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of Marvel and other canons) but in particular, [[spoiler: Jack O'Neill]] as the uncle of Carol Danvers? Harry befriending a young [[spoiler: Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar]] and [[spoiler: Diana of Themyscira]]? [[spoiler: Harry Dresden]] as a consultant for SHIELD, the mentor of [[spoiler: Bruce Wayne]] and later, [[spoiler: the apprentice of Wanda Maximoff]]?
** [[spoiler: Namor]], while very briefly alluded to once or twice, is one of the biggest surprises of all in chapter 71.
* ''FanFic/MegaManRecut'' has plans to include every Robot Master in the series, and many appearing Robot Masters were unexpected.
* In ''FanFic/MegaManDefenderOfTheHumanRace'', ''nobody'' expected the Mega Crew's leader to be Tiesel Bonne.
* ''FanFic/ImperfectMetamorphosis'' including [[ChuckCunninghamSyndrome PC-98 characters]] isn't unexpected, as many ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' fanfictions do that. What was unexpected was that nearly ''all'' of them show up eventually, including really obscure ones like Kotohime, Rika and Konngara (the former of which plays a major role). And it was ''really'' unexpected when [[spoiler:Rin Satsuki]] turns out to be a main character, as [[DummiedOut she was never in the games in the first place]].
* The first episode of ''FanFic/FantasyKaleidoscope'' looks to be a straight retelling of ''Perfect Cherry Blossom'', until going OffTheRails at the end with [[spoiler:the appearance of Sanae three games early.]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'' fanfic series, ''FanFic/FacingTheFutureSeries'', many readers were surprised to see [[spoiler:the return of the ghost half that Tucker wished for]].
* In ''FanFic/MyImmortal'', when Ebony is trapped in the past, [[Franchise/BackToTheFuture Marty McFly]], or rather, [[RougeAnglesofSatin morti mcfli]], shows up out of nowhere to bring her back to the present.
* In ''[[FanFic/SovereignGFCOrigins Origins]]'', a ''MassEffect''[=/=]''StarWars''[[spoiler:[=/=]''[=Borderlands=]''[=/=]''[=Halo=]'']] MassiveMultiplayerCrossover, a Holocron loaded with the Force ghosts of canon characters pops up -- ItMakesSenseInContext, but nobody saw that coming. Especially since the whole point was that "A long time ago..." had been taken extremely literally to the point where known ''Star Wars'' was considered ancient history.
* ''Fanfic/WeissReacts'':
** The majority of crossover characters originate from ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'', ''[[Franchise/ShinMegamiTenseiPersona Persona]]'' or ''Manga/{{Chobits}}''. Thus, almost nobody expected [[Manga/FruitsBasket Tohru Honda]] to fill in for [[OnlySaneMan Roman]] when he pulled a ScrewThisImOuttaHere due to the antics of the other staffers. Neo, Emerald and Mercury were unexpected, having been introduced long after the fic started. Franchise/{{The Slender Man|Mythos}} is also in the Reactsverse, calling himself Slen D. Man.
** {{Zig Zagg|ingTrope}}ed with the BadassFamily chapter- almost everyone called a [[Anime/CodeGeass Euphemia]] expy as one of Jaune's siblings, but nobody expected [[VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening Lucina]] to be one too.
* In one ''Literature/HarryPotter'' fanfic, Hermione reveals halfway through the story that she is actually adopted. Her real father is... [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Bruce Wayne]]. With no prior indication whatsoever that this was a crossover.
* ''Blog/{{Moonstuck}}'' having Changelings show up was somewhat unexpected, as the comic had started before they were introduced in [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic the show]]. The real shocker however was the BigBad being [[spoiler:Discord]], as not only was he the first character from the show other than Luna to appear, he also completely destroyed the common assumptions about the timeline (pretty much everyone had assumed that the comic was a metaphor for Luna's EnemyWithin struggle with [[SuperPoweredEvilSide Nightmare Moon]], not [[spoiler:Luna and Celestia finding [[EmpathicWeapon the Elements of Harmony]].]]
* The ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' fanfic ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8636392/1/Heian-Conglin Heian Conglin]]'' is basically a darker version of ''Jumanji'' where Ranma and Shampoo are the players. Early on, Tokyo is evacuated due the game's jungle occupying the whole city, Ranma, Shampoo and Happosai (a past player) are trying to win the game... And then [[spoiler:Pantyose Taro shows up from nowhere to demand that Happosai changes his name]].
* ''FanFic/{{Webwork}}'' has a couple of examples of this, as no one expected oneshot [[VillainOfTheWeek Villains of the Week]] like Nivor and Origami to show up.
* The ''ComicBook/PaperinikNewAdventures'' fan comic ''L'Ultima Terra'' has two:
** When Scrooge decides to form a superhero squad he summons the members of the (now disbanded) ComicBook/{{Ultraheroes}} (that is, Paperinika, Super Goof, Red Bat, Cloverleaf, Iron Gus, and Paperinik himself) And the Masked Whitewasher, an obscure and klutzy (yet surprisingly effective) superhero present in Italian Disney comics.
** After bringing his nephews to Grandma Duck so they'd be out of the line of fire when he faces [[BigBad Antares]], Donald makes a phone call to [[spoiler:his sister Della]] so she'd know where they are in case he doesn't survive.
* The ''Anime/{{Macross}}'' fanfic ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12079838/1/How-Roid-s-Plan-Could-Backfire-Horribly How Roid's Plan Could Have Backfired Horribly]]'' deals with the many ways Roid's master plan in ''Anime/MacrossDelta'' could have backfired due [[RealityEnsues one of the many holes in the plan working against him]], mostly due to factors present in the series itself. Then chapter 6 has the [[spoiler:[[Anime/Macross7 Protodeviln]]]] show up just to wreck the ''Sigur Valens'', and chapter 7 has [[spoiler:[[Anime/SuperDimensionFortressMacross Lynn Kaifun]]]] appear on Windermere and [[spoiler:talk king Gramia into a more peaceful policy that also repairs Windermere's economy]]. [[LampshadeHanging Roid actually wonders how the latter one happened]] ([[spoiler:Berger brought him there to have Kaifun talk Gramia into a new economic policy, [[PragmaticVillain as on the long term a relatively peaceful and economically powerful Windermere will give the Epsilon Foundation a much larger profit]]]]).
* ''FanFic/ThisBites'': Who would've guessed that Gin, Apis, her dragon Lindy, Mr. 5, Ms. Valentine and Ms. Goldenweek would've ended up being part of the Barto Club?
** Be honest. Did you really expect the [=CP9=] opponent for Cross during the Enies Lobby Arc to be [[spoiler: Hattori]]?
* ''Fanfic/PokemonResetBloodlines'' has trainers and Pokemon appear in different places and roles than usual. One notable example is the appearance of Solidad during the Battle Dome Arc, given that she debuted many arcs later in canon and as a Pokemon Coordiantor, not trainer.

* ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory3'' has the title character from ''Anime/MyNeighborTotoro'' as one of Bonnie's toys. He's visible in a lot of shots but he's also completely voiceless.
* Franchise/SuperSentai:
** Bio Hunter Silva, a villain introduced late into ''Series/ChoudenshiBioman'', completely faded into obscurity after the series ended its run. However, around 30 years later, he was added to the roster of a Super Sentai LegionOfDoom during ''Film/KamenRiderXSuperSentaiSuperheroTaisen'', and had something of a major role as well..
** In ''Film/KaizokuSentaiGokaigerTheMovieTheFlyingGhostShip'', one of the villains brought in is Baseball Mask, a simple MonsterOfTheWeek from ''Series/HimitsuSentaiGoranger''.
** Many fans were shocked when it was revealed that ''Film/KamenRiderXSuperSentaiXSpaceSheriffSuperheroTaisenZ'' would also feature other Metal Heroes outside of the three Space Sheriffs.
** After ''Film/GokaigerGoseigerSuperSentai199HeroGreatBattle'', people thought there wouldn't be a crossover movie, because they just had it early on. Cue ''Film/KaizokuSentaiGokaigerVsSpaceSheriffGavanTheMovie'', which brought back the Metal Hero franchise by bringing back Gavan!
** The later Super Sentai team up movies did this. [[Series/SamuraiSentaiShinkenger Kaoru Shiba]] showed up for ''Film/TokumeiSentaiGoBustersVsKaizokuSentaiGokaigerTheMovie'', and the ''Series/KyoryuSentaiZyuranger'' and ''Series/BakuryuuSentaiAbaranger'' teams show up in the crossover movie between ''Series/ZyudenSentaiKyoryuger'' and ''Series/TokumeiSentaiGoBusters''.
* The crossover film ''Film/HeiseiRiderVsShowaRiderKamenRiderWarsFeaturingSuperSentai'' has been dropping jaws with various returning characters. [[Series/KamenRiderDouble Shoutaro]] and [[Series/KamenRiderDecade Tsukasa]]? Awesome. [[spoiler: [[Series/KamenRiderFaiz Takumi]]]]? Wow, that's even better. [[spoiler: [[BackFromTheDead Kusaka]]]]? But... how...? [[spoiler:[[Series/KamenRiderX Keisuke Jin]]?!]] Holy... [[spoiler:''[[Series/KamenRider Freaking Takeshi Hongo]]?!]] This is gonna be the best movie ever!
* The film following that, ''[[Film/SuperHeroTaisenGPKamenRider3 Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider #3]]'', introduces the titular Kamen Rider #3, who is in no way shape or form Series/KamenRiderV3 - instead, he was a Rider introduced in a story written by Creator/ShotaroIshinomori back in 1972 and ''never'' had an appearance elsewhere.
* ''[[Film/KamenRiderGenerationsDrPacmanVsExAidAndGhostWithLegendaryRiders Kamen Rider Heisei Generations: Dr. Pacman vs. Ex-Aid & Ghost with Legend Rider]]'' has, like the title reveals, the video game character VideoGame/PacMan. Before you ask, yes, THAT Pac-Man.
* Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse:
** ComicBook/NickFury visits Tony Stark in TheStinger of ''Film/IronMan1'', offering to tell him about [[Film/TheAvengers2012 "The Avenger Initiative"]].
** Tony in turn makes a cameo at the end of ''Film/TheIncredibleHulk'', asking General Ross, "What if I told you we were putting a team together?"
** During the end credits of ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'', The Other tells his superior, "To challenge [the Avengers] is to court death." The camera then cuts to the superior, [[spoiler:ComicBook/{{Thanos}}]], giving a PsychoticSmirk.
** The stinger of ''Film/IronMan3'' reveals that [[spoiler:Tony was recounting the adventure to Bruce Banner, who dozed off about a minute in.]]
** [[spoiler:ComicBook/{{Quicksilver}} and ComicBook/ScarletWitch]] show up during the end credits of ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier'' as test subjects of HYDRA.
** ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy'' serves as this for the entire MCU. Only those who have read the comics and have the resources know them. Within the film, [[spoiler:ComicBook/HowardTheDuck makes a very unexpected cameo.]]
** Ulysses Klaue and Helen Cho in ''Film/AvengersAgeOfUltron''. The former because he is usually a ComicBook/BlackPanther / ComicBook/FantasticFour baddie - even if serves as {{Foreshadowing}} for the [[Film/BlackPanther Panther's solo film]] - and the latter because she is a completely minor, obscure PosthumousCharacter in the comics.
** ComicBook/SpiderMan in ''Film/CaptainAmericaCivilWar'', mostly due to the the rights problems compared Marvel and Sony.
** ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxyVol2'' has two major examples:
*** Early on, James Gunn revealed that a female superhero from the comics would be joining the team in the sequel. Most of the fan guesses were popular (or at least fan favorite) characters like [[Comicbook/MsMarvel Captain Marvel]], Phyla-Vell, or Moondragon. Very few people guessed that the female hero he was referring to was Mantis.
*** After all the secrecy surrounding the identity of Star-Lord's dad, it turned out to be '''Ego the Living Planet''' of all people.
** The Hulk and the Grandmaster showing up as a major character in ''Film/ThorRagnarok''.
* ''Film/{{Deadpool 2016}}'' features appearances from Colossus, Angel Dust and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, all three of whom have close ties to the ''Comicbook/XMen'' franchise, but none of whom are connected to Deadpool in the comics. And besides Colossus, the two ladies are unexpected for being rather obscure mutants - Warhead in particular was only included because the writers [[AwesomeMcCoolName liked her codename]]. The LawyerFriendlyCameo by [[spoiler:HYDRA agent Bob, made without name-dropping HYDRA,]] could also feel unexpected to viewers who thought [[Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse Marvel Studios]]' ownership of the organization he works for would prevent him from appearing in a Fox movie. Deadpool sure sounds surprised to see him.
* ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' includes both [[spoiler: Carol Marcus]] and [[spoiler: Khan Noonien Singh]] as major supporting characters, but it introduces both of them under fake names ([[spoiler: "Carol Wallace"]] and [[spoiler: "John Harrison"]], respectively) to hide their identities from savvy Trekkies who would already know them. Given that the film takes place in an AlternateUniverse version of the ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Original Series]]'' era, most fans could deduce that both characters would be around somewhere, but the revelation of their identities is significant because it suddenly makes it clear that the film is really [[spoiler: a loose WhatIf retelling of ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'']].
* Vernon suddenly shows up in a supporting role in ''Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2014''. He hasn't been seen or mentioned since [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 the 80s version]] (and wasn't even included in [[Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1990 1990 movie]] where April likewise was a reporter) and thought long forgotten, so it was a surprise to longtime fans.
* ''Film/SuicideSquad2016'' had several of these in its line-up. While characters like ComicBook/{{Deadshot}}, ComicBook/HarleyQuinn, and Captain Boomerang are either team mainstays or popular characters in their own right, there are also characters like the Enchantress ([[ComicBook/TheMightyThor not that one]]), El Diablo, and Slipknot, who are rather obscure and yet part of the main group.
* The advertising campaign for ''Film/BatmanVSupermanDawnOfJustice'' heavily played up the fact that Creator/JasonMomoa and Creator/GalGadot would be making their debuts as ComicBook/{{Aquaman}} and ComicBook/WonderWoman, respectively, and widely distributed publicity photos of them in costume. While viewers expected to see them, they probably ''didn't'' expect to see [[spoiler: Creator/EzraMiller in costume as ComicBook/TheFlash, with actual dialogue and screen time]]. And though he's only seen in a still photograph, most people probably didn't expect to get a look at [[spoiler: Creator/ChrisPine as Wonder Woman's old friend Steve Trevor]]. In Batman's nightmare vision, [[spoiler: a squadron of Parademons attack Batman's forces, and {{ComicBook/Darkseid}}'s Omega symbol can be seen burned into the ground; [[ComicBook/NewGods Mother Boxes]] also make a few appearances throughout the movie]].
* Among the characters in ''Film/JusticeLeague2017'', no one was expecting Commissioner Gordon (a vital element to Batman's lore, but not featured in ''Justice League'' stories due to the larger scale), Steppenwolf as the BigBad, and Deathstroke (since the plot involves an AlienInvasion).
* ''Film/RogueOne'' is a direct {{prequel}} to ''Franchise/StarWars: Episode IV -- Film/ANewHope'', so it shouldn't come as a shock that Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, [[spoiler: Princess Leia]] and [[spoiler: R2-D2 and C-3PO]] all make brief cameos. But absolutely '''no one''' expected Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor to run into [[spoiler: Doctor Evazan and Ponda Baba]] on Jedha. It's a very brief moment, but it's likely to catch most ''Star Wars'' fans off guard.

* Used towards the end of the ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' series. Arbon and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting WhatHappenedToTheMouse
* ''Literature/TheChroniclesOfNarnia: Literature/TheLionTheWitchAndTheWardrobe'' had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas [[DeusExMachina pops up out of nowhere]] to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
* [[Literature/SherlockHolmes Sherlock Holmes and Watson]] (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a ''Literature/FinalDestination'' novel in VictorianBritain.
* ''Literature/GauntsGhosts'' likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been PutOnABus to play major roles much later. [[spoiler:Sanian]] reappears in ''Sabbat Martyr'', [[spoiler:Sturnn]] reappears in ''Traitor General'', and [[spoiler:Agun Soric]] reappears in ''Only In Death''. It also works in reverse for [[Creator/DanAbnett the author]]'s other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in ''Literature/{{Eisenhorn}}'' and ''Literature/{{Ravenor}}'' respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
* Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's ''Literature/{{Ivanhoe}}'' would ''not'' have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases).
* In ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'', Creator/GeorgeRRMartin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
* ''Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse'':
** ''[[Literature/StarWarsAhsoka Ahsoka]]'': The book has seven sections with grey pages. In one of them, [[spoiler:Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a surprise appearance meditating on Tatooine. Another shows Anakin Skywalker just before he first met Ahsoka.]]
* ''Literature/WordsOfRadiance'' (second book of ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive''): While having humans travel from Shardworld to Shardworld is a known event, having [[spoiler:Nightblood, the TalkingWeapon from ''Literature/{{Warbreaker}}]] do so is quite another thing.
* In the fifth book of ''Literature/VenusPrime'', Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable PompousPoliticalPundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be [[spoiler:William Laird, the ''leader'' of the Free Spirit]].
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'':
** Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the ''[[Literature/WarriorCatsOmenOfTheStars Omen of the Stars]]'' finale ''The Last Hope'', such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
** When ''[[Literature/WarriorCatsDawnOfTheClans Dawn of the Clans]]'', a {{prequel}} series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few [=WindClan=] battle strategies in ''Battles of the Clans'') showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in ''The Sun Trail''.
** The ninth Super Edition. Usually Super Editions star major characters, and are always about leaders or medicine cats. The ninth Super Edition was revealed to be ''Hawkwing's Journey'', focusing on a cat nobody had ever heard of. It turned out later that he had previously appeared in a novella, ''Ravenpaw's Farewell'', as a [=SkyClan=] apprentice who shows up one time and speaks one word.
* The {{Whoniverse}} book ''Literature/TimeLordFairyTales'' pulls this off twice by springing a surprise character on the reader well after a story is underway and the protagonists' plight has been established; moreover, they go on to play supporting roles in the action, albeit important ones. In "Helena and the Beast", it's [[spoiler: the Twelfth Doctor]]; in "The Grief Collector", it's [[spoiler: the Tenth]]. Also, while many familiar Whoniverse villains turn up in these {{Twice Told Tale}}s, the presence of [[spoiler: The Nimon, from one of the classic series' campiest serials]] in "Jack and the Wormhole" will likely surprise those who don't remember their televised appearance and recognize the new story's similar setup.

* Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Music/DefLeppard, Music/SystemOfADown, Music/LinkinPark and... The Pretty Reckless?
* Mass-artist compilations fall into this from time to time.
* In a media crossover-example, {{Rhythm Game}}s probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with ''[[VideoGame/RockBand Rock Band 3]]'' ("Music/TheDoors, Music/LynyrdSkynyrd, Music/EltonJohn and... Phoenix?"[[note]]The band's logo was used on the back of the case alongside names like Music/{{Queen}}, Music/JimiHendrix, Music/TheWho and the Music/{{Ramones}}[[/note]]).
* One such example is ''VideoGame/JustDance'', in which Top 40 tunes by artists such as Music/KatyPerry, Music/OneDirection and Music/NickiMinaj co-exist alongside the likes of the {{Tetris}} theme, the William Tell Overture, and the [[Music/{{Vocaloid}} Hatsune Miku]] [[CoveredUp cover]] of Ievan Polkka.
* Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of Music/{{Paramore}}, Rivers Cuomo of Music/{{Weezer}}, and Music/TaylorSwift.
* Music/KanyeWest's albums usually have at least one.
** ''The College Dropout'' had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
** ''Late Registration'' had both Mac and Foxx, but also included Music/LupeFiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of Music/Maroon5, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Music/JayZ was feuding with him at the time, Music/{{Nas}} on "We Major".
** ''Graduation'' had Chris Martin of Music/{{Coldplay}}.
** ''808s and Heartbreak'' had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and Music/LilWayne.
** ''My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'' had Music/EltonJohn, Music/LaRoux, Fergie (of Music/TheBlackEyedPeas), Creator/ChrisRock, Music/NickiMinaj and Music/BonIver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
** ''Watch the Throne'' had [[PrecisionFStrike fucking]] Music/OtisRedding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of LaRoux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
** ''Cruel Summer'' had most of its' supporting cast like this - Music/RKelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
** ''Yeezus'' had King Louie and Assassin.
** Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with Music/ThirtySecondsToMars, KatyPerry or {{Music/Madonna}}.
* Music/JayZ and Music/LinkinPark collaborated for the ''Collision Course'' mash-up. Few could've expected one of the biggest rappers in the world working with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
* Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Music/{{Drake}}, 2 Chainz, Music/KendrickLamar and... Florence Welch (of Music/FlorenceAndTheMachine).
* Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Creator/TinaFey.
* Music/CobraStarship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured ''Literature/GossipGirl'' star Leighton Meester.
* Music/{{Drake}}'s "All Me" includes an introduction by... Creator/AzizAnsari.
* Music/NineInchNails turned some heads when the guest list for ''Hesitation Marks'' included Lindsey Buckingham of Music/FleetwoodMac.
* For some appearances in 1994 (including on ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'') Music/TomPetty's drummer was Music/DaveGrohl, previously of Music/{{Nirvana}}. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
* Music/TechN9ne and [[Music/SystemOfADown Serj Tankian]] had a very unusual - if compelling - collaboration.
* Music/WithinTemptation's album ''Hydra'' featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.
* Music/QueensOfTheStoneAge had [[Music/TheStrokes Julian Casablancas]] guest on ''Era Vulgaris'' and [[Music/EltonJohn Elton FREAKING John]] [[WTHCastingAgency of all people]] appear on their newest album.
* ''Film/TheHungerGamesMockingjayPart1'' soundtrack, curated by Music/{{Lorde}}, features mainly mordern female electronic/pop vocalists such as herself along with Music/{{CHVRCHES}}, Music/CharliXCX, Music/ToveLo, Music/ArianaGrande, Bat For Lashes, Tinashe, HAIM, and... Grace Jones? Also rappers [[Music/ATribeCalledQuest Q-Tip]] and Pusha-T appear in Stromae's "Meltdown" alongside Lorde and HAIM for an odd-yet-compelling collaboration. Also featured, perhaps most surprisingly of all given Lorde's feud with Diplo at the time, was Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande with "All My Love".
* Few could've expected Music/TaylorSwift and Music/KendrickLamar to ever collaborate on a song together, but indeed they did in former's song "Bad Blood".
* Music/GaMetal has remixed some pretty weird songs, for example, there's a medley of tunes from ''VideoGame/BionicCommando'' and, even stranger, the FinalBoss theme from ''[=McDonald's=] Treasure Land Adventure'' of all things. Fittingly, the latter one was done as an AprilFoolsDay special, but it is a real song.

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* Wrestling/{{WWE}}'s annual Wrestling/RoyalRumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g. Wrestling/HonkyTonkMan in 2000, Diesel\Wrestling/KevinNash in 2011 and 2014), there are bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g. Wrestling/JohnCena in 2008, Wrestling/{{Edge}} in 2010), and every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g. Wrestling/BethPhoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014). Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g. Wrestling/JerryLawler in 1996 and 2012, Wrestling/MichaelCole in 2012, Wrestling/{{J|ohnBradshawLayfield}}BL in 2014). One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was ''Drew Carey'' in the 2001 match. However, arguably the most shocking (or at the very least, surreal) entry, despite the countless rumors, reports, and even a statement from the Wrestling/{{TNA}} website all but outright telling us it would happen, was the debut of [[spoiler:Wrestling/AJStyles]] at the 2016 Royal Rumble in Orlando.
* Intense Wrestling Inc was the only promotion operating in [[Wrestling/JillianHall Macaela Mercedes]]'s hometown of Cincinnati Ohio. It announced ahead of time that IWI would be booking talent from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. So when she made her debut near the end of 2002 and was matched against La Tigresa, a wrestler she knew nothing about besides being from Puerto Rico, she was caught off guard. Even if they had mentioned wrestlers from Puerto Rico, Tigresa wouldn't have been on most people's radar stateside, given women's wrestling had virtually vanished from the island following her arrest four years prior for a smuggling case that was expected to keep her behind bars for decades.
* 9/19/2016, WWE on ESPN live in Bristol Connecticut...with Adam Cole? ''Wrestling/RingOfHonor World Champion'' Adam Cole?

* Occasionally the long-running ''Franchise/{{Transformers}}'' toy franchise will have a release that up and surprises everyone:
** One very surprising release was a character named Heatwave in the "Hero Mashers Line." Heatwave shares a name with a ''WesternAnimation/TransformersRescueBots'' character who was on shelves at the time, so the Hero Masher instead being directly based on an obscure, Collector's Club-only character was completely unexpected.
** Less a "character" and more an "unexpected homage" but Rollbar's robot mode in the ''Film/TransformersAgeOfExtinction'' is very clearly based on X-Brawn from ''Anime/TransformersRobotsInDisguise'', a character who has had no representation of any sort for over a decade.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* [[Creator/PatrickRothfuss Viari's]] return in the second half of ''WebVideo/AcquisitionsIncorporated'' season 8 came as a huge surprise to everyone except himself and [[DungeonMaster Chris]]. Firstly, he was explicitly PutOnABus and replaced by a new intern in the first game of the season. Secondly, there have never been more than four players at an ''AI'' table before (in fact, said table is physically designed for four players)--much less two interns at once. Lastly, the mid-season recap [[RedHerring foreshadowed]] the return of ''Aeofel'', the series' original intern, making no mention of Viari at all.
* ''WebAnimation/DeathBattle'' occasionally brings in little known and unexpected characters to fight for their lives. Two of the more notable examples being [[ComicBook/BuckyOHareAndTheToadWars Bucky O'Hare]], coming from a fairly obscure comic and cartoon series from the 70's/90's and took on [[Franchise/{{Star Fox}} Fox McCloud]], and [[WebAnimation/{{RWBY}} Yang Xiao Long]], who is from a web animation series running from 2013 which is growing in popularity but still fairly small and she took on [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII Tifa Lockhart]]. [[spoiler:Yang defeated her more popular opponent. Bucky wasn't so fortunate.]]
* The AbridgedSeries ''WebVideo/MyLittlePonyTheMentallyAdvancedSeries'' shocked many fan by having [[spoiler: the much anticipated ''Discord KilledOffForReal before the events of show'']] and replaced with Breezen, an obscure one shot villain from Generation 1 of the show. [[note]] WordOfGod is that this was to both show his version of Celestia as more ruthless and efficient, by finishing him off a thousand years ago, instead of imprisoning him and because he feared all the hype for his version of Discord would lead to HypeBacklash either way. [[/note]]
* ''WebVideo/SuburbanKnights'':
** [[spoiler:WebVideo/ThatDudeInTheSuede]], for being away on a mission for two years prior to filming this, and secondly because [[LyingCreator he denied being in it in the first place.]]
** In universe, everyone's surprised when WebVideo/TheCinemaSnob chooses to cosplay Franchise/IndianaJones, considering that he's not exactly who one thinks of when the topic is 'fantasy'. Snob justifies it by saying that [[spoiler:[[Film/IndianaJonesAndTheKingdomOfTheCrystalSkull surviving a nuclear explosion in a fridge]]]] counts as fantasy. Likewise, they're surprised that the very tall Handsome Tom chose the very short Film/{{Willow}}.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The addition of Franchise/SpiderMan to ''WesternAnimation/TheAvengersEarthsMightiestHeroes'' might have caught some viewers by surprise, since he rarely makes guest appearances in other Marvel characters' cartoons. (The previous time he had a speaking role in someone else's show happened over 30 years earlier, in ComicBook/SpiderWoman's animated series.) Additionally, none of the previews or trailers for the second season showed him, at least not before the season began. It seemed even more unexpected for [[spoiler:Spidey to become a reserve Avenger]].
** From the same series, Wolverine. The X-Men had been hinted at, with several Superskrulls having characteristics of them, but seeing as the movie 'verses were separate, him appearing alongside Spidey in the same ep was pretty big. Despite WolverinePublicity.
* ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' gave ADayInTheLimelight to many C-list DC heroes, some of whom had never had a televised appearance before. Things began getting weird in Batman's Strangest Cases, when the Franchise/ScoobyDoo gang show up, but the concept wasn't entirely new. Then WesternAnimation/SpaceGhost got his own cameo. For reference, after DC acquired the rights to Space Ghost, he was only used in a single short-lived series in 2005, and the character is only otherwise known for his SelfParody [[WesternAnimation/SpaceGhostCoastToCoast talk show]].
* In the animatic preview for the plans for ''[[WesternAnimation/CodenameKidsNextDoor Galactic Kids Next Door]]'' released on [[AprilFoolsDay April 1, 2015]], no one expected [[spoiler:Lizzie, Numbuh One's former girlfriend,]] to appear, and certainly not as [[spoiler:Numbuh Vine, the alien who sent out the warning about the G:KND's plans.]]
* Amongst the characters seen on ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeagueAction'' are Space Cabbie (an obscure Silver Age character who's ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin), ComicBook/JohnConstantine (a traditionally very much unkid-friendly character prone to swearing, chain smoking, and screwing people over), ComicBook/SwampThing (whose stories ever since Creator/AlanMoore's run are also very unkid-friendly and who Constantine spun off from), ''[[ComicBook/BatmanAndTheOutsiders Outsiders]]'' foes the Nuclear Family, Carmine Falcone (though time travel was involved in that one, but still he's a foe from Batman's [[ComicBook/BatmanYearOne in-universe]] [[ComicBook/TheLongHalloween early years]] and a normal mafia don, which is normally outside of the League's greater purview), ''ComicBook/HouseOfMystery'' host Cain, Dex-Starr ([[YouGottaHaveBlueHair a blue-furred house cat from Earth]] who's a member of the Red Lantern Corps), and obscure villain Brother Night.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'':
** [[spoiler:[[WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender Iroh and Zhao]] appear]] in the Spirit World in season two.
** Book Four's greatest irony is that it is [[spoiler:Zaheer]] who helps Korra to recover from her past traumas. Not to mention the unexpected return of [[spoiler:Hiroshi Sato]]. Apparently, Book Four is full of {{Heel Face Turn}}s.
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'':
** Derpy Hooves appearing as Rainbow Dash's replacement in "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E10RainbowFalls Rainbow Falls]]". One of her previous appearances had sparked off a massive controversy and InternetBackdraft that resulted in the character being absent from season three and all the released episodes of season four up to that point, leaving most of the fanbase to assume that she had been removed from the show completely. Compounding the surprise is that aside from one or two extremely vague hints from the staff, ''none'' of the show's promotional materials so much as hinted that the character would be returning.
** [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E14TheLastRoundup Cherry Jubilee]] of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates in "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E24EquestriaGames Equestria Games]]".
** The [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E25TwilightsKingdomPart1 season 4]] [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS4E26TwilightsKingdomPart2 finale]] features Tirek, the BigBad of the G1 TV special "[[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyTVSpecials Rescue at Midnight Castle]]", as the main antagonist. What makes him so unexpected is that Hasbro had lost the trademarks to many of their G1 characters (besides Applejack and Spike and some others), and that the showrunners had explicitly avoided using creatures that looked too human (besides [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirls that spin-off]] [[HumanityEnsues about humans]]).
** Similarly, season 5 has an episode featuring ''the Smooze'', of all creatures. Though unlike Tirek (who is, if possible, even ''more'' evil here than he was in the original), this version of the Smooze seems to be comparatively harmless.
* Since ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerbStarWars'' is presented as a LowerDeckEpisode of ''Film/StarWarsANewHope,'' you probably be surprised to discover that there's a Darth Maul {{Expy}} in the cast. Especially when said character turns out to be [[spoiler:''Ferb,'' albeit being influenced by a MirrorMoralityMachine]].
* Did anyone expect to see characters from the Creator/HannaBarbera ''Moby Dick'' cartoon, ''WesternAnimation/DynomuttDogWonder'', ''WesternAnimation/CaptainCavemanAndTheTeenAngels'', ''WesternAnimation/SpeedBuggy'', ''WesternAnimation/{{Jabberjaw}}'', ''WesternAnimation/TheFunkyPhantom'' and ''WesternAnimation/JonnyQuest'' show up in ''WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooMysteryIncorporated''? Hell, the protagonists of the ''Moby Dick'' cartoon are said to be the children of characters from ''WesternAnimation/Sealab2020''!
* In the GrandFinale of ''WesternAnimation/SpiderManTheAnimatedSeries'', Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met [[spoiler:Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then, her role basically going to pre-Black Cat Felicia Hardy.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Ultimate Spider-Man}} Web Warriors'' (which airs on Creator/DisneyXD) an episode featured [[Series/{{Jessie}} Jessie Prescott]], a character from a Creator/DisneyChannel ''live-action'' show.
* [[spoiler:Darth Maul]] in ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsTheCloneWars''. Almost everyone, in-universe and out, believed that he was dead after [[spoiler:his [[HalfTheManHeUsedToBe bisection]] in ''Film/ThePhantomMenace'']]. [[WordOfGod Filoni]] even [[LyingCreator said in a Behind the Scenes video]] that they deliberately made [[spoiler:Savage Oppress a SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute of Maul explicitly so they ''wouldn't'' bring him back.]] Also, Darth Bane, who appears as a vision in "Sacrifice", given that he was from the Old Republic era in the ExpandedUniverse and therefore dead.
* The sequel series, ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsRebels'', featured the equally-unexpected return of [[spoiler: Grand Admiral Thrawn]], a popular [[Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse EU]] character who had previously been stricken from continuity after Disney's buyout of the Star Wars franchise.
** Kalani the Tactical Droid was also unexpected, as it was assumed he had been destroyed in the Lost Reels of ''The Clone Wars''.
* ''WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2012'' has its interpretation of Lord Dregg, who replaced the Shredder as the main antagonist in the last two seasons of the [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 1987 show]]. Since not many fans were fond of Dregg, it is surprising that the people behind the Nickelodeon series would even think of bringing him back.
* When ''WesternAnimation/UncleGrandpa'' showed up to help ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'', that itself was kind of unexpected- even if it wasn't canon. But at the end, he pulls out a checklist of other Cartoon Network protagonists he's visited across the multiverse. Smack-dab in the middle of the list? ''The SwatKats.'' Who aren't kids (though Chance/T-Bone is a bit of a ManChild), are [[VigilanteMan vigilante fighter pilots]] who take their crime-fighting work seriously, [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking and were created prior to anything else on the list]] by Creator/HannaBarbera for Creator/{{TBS}}, ''not'' Cartoon Network. Their appearance on the list is most likely explained by the fact that Steven's creator, Rebecca Sugar, has admitted to watching the show back in the 90s.