Animate even when they aren't plugged in.
"The boulder helped, too. He only had to push it a little. Mostly it crawled on its own. That was nice, but he wished it wouldn't moan so. Boulders shouldn't moan. Especially not in French. It wasn't fair to make him listen to it."
It's common in media to allow inanimate objects the power of motion. Sometimes this is done for plot reasons. Sometimes this is done to add an element of surprise or the supernatural to a work. Whatever the reason, this trope is for when typically inanimate objects are self animated in a work.
When this happens, it is always obvious to the viewer and to any characters aware of the process. Depending on the object and whether there's a Masquerade
going on, it might be obvious to everyone. Often objects that have this trope applied to them are anthropomorphized to a degree. Normally they are just given faces, but they may also be able to interact with their environment and hold things in ways that you wouldn't think a sofa would be able to.
How and why this happens varies from work to but there are some common variations. They were always animate to begin with, but they often have to maintain a Masquerade
. They were made animate
by the Power of Love
. They absorbed some kind of Applied Phlebotinum
, are Haunted Technology
, or A Wizard Did It
. (See also Instant A.I., Just Add Water
). They are transformed humans. They are possessed. Or simply Rule of Funny
There's actually a Japanese mythological phenomenon based on this, called Tsukumogami
, where objects come to life after a hundred years (one common example being the karakasa
Compare Companion Cube
, which isn't animate at all but which is treated as if it was. When they have a voice and fulfil a sidekick role to a bunch of humans, they're a Talking Appliance Sidekick
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Where to start with Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo? The main characters include egotistical confectionery Don Patch; the soft-serve ice-cream-headed Softon; walking jelly mold Jelly Jiggler, and Torpedo Girl. Non-main characters include hamburger men, the Dynamite Brothers, a green onion man (or is he garlic?), and talking fries and chocolate.
- Houshin Engi has supernatural humans, animals, and objects; one mischievous spirit turned out to be that of a biwa and was able to return to human form once she absorbed enough moonlight.
- Moe from Love Hina - see the Japanese example in Myth and Legend, below.
- Beatrice from the manhwa 13th Boy is a walking talking cactus with a face. He only talks and moves when around Hee-So Eun, the main character. Hee-So wonders if he's some sort of mutation. The truth is that Beatrice was given a heart by her first boyfriend Whie-Young Jang, who possesses a mysterious magical power. He did something similar to his friend Sae-Bom's stuffed rabbit Mr. Toe-Toe, though he is no longer "alive."
- Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo has several of the household items in Ureshiko's home be alive, thanks to her magic.
- In Servant × Service, the pink stuffed bunny that appeared every now and then turned out in episode 4 to be no mere Series Mascot, but the section manager himself! Who is apparently so shy that he had to resort to working via a remote controlled bunny....
- In Pandora Hearts, Oz the B-rabbit used to be a pair of ordinary stuffed toys. The Abyss gave the dolls a shared consciousness.
- Omamori Himari has Lizet who is actually a tea cup. To be priecise, she's a Tsukumogami, and object that became living after 100 years of use and love.
- Depending on the Writer, Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation has the ability to move on its own and can also grasp and hold things like a second pair of hands.
- Linus's security blanket in Peanuts starts stalking and attacking Lucy in one series of 1965 strips.
- The Brave Little Toaster
- Cars, only there's no need for a Masquerade as they are the only inhabitants of the earth.
- Toy Story
- Night at the Museum has the contents of the museum come to life in secret every night, though the Masquerade seems to have been given up by the sequel.
- In Beauty and the Beast, people are transformed into objects by a vengeful enchantress; they also pretend to be regular objects around strangers.
- Aladdin: Magic Carpet.
- Fantasia: Mickey the Sorcerer's Apprentice (no, not that one) animates some brooms to help him out. It does not go smoothly.
- Dumbo: Casey Jr., the circus train.
- Regular appliances became Transformers when exposed to the MacGuffin in the live-action movie.
- Eddie Valiant's gun and bullets, plus Benny the Cab, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- EVERYTHING in Toontown! Even the buildings had eyes, and sometimes mouths.
- Pixar's corporate logo is the titular lamp from their animated short Luxo Jr. It appears in the opening title of all of their films.
- The killer tire from Rubber.
- Merlin in Disney's The Sword in the Stone owns a whole house of animate furniture, most prominently the tea set with the insolent sugar bowl. He also magically animated a castle's worth of things to clean themselves.
- Screwy the baseball and Darling the baseball bat from Everyone's Hero.
- At the end of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Miss Price casts the Substitutiary Locomotion spell on an old armory. The result? Animate suits of armor beating up the Nazis. It's exactly as awesome as it sounds.
- Everything in Mr Toads Wild Ride. Even the water!
- A rope walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, "I'm sorry, but we don't serve ropes here." So, the rope leaves. He meets another rope, who says, "I can get that bartender to give me a drink." The second rope enters the bar and orders a drink. The bartender says the same thing he said to the first rope, and the second rope leaves. The first rope is waiting outside for her, and when she leaves, the two ropes see a third rope, who says, "I can get that bartender to give me a drink." The first two ropes tell him, "No, they don't serve ropes there." However, he undoes his ends and ties himself into a knot, and then enters the bar. The bartender looks at the third rope and asks him, "Are you a rope?" He replies, "No, I'm a frayed knot."
Live Action TV
- The Nestene Consciousness' Autons from Doctor Who. Dime store mannequins are the most famous type, but they can be made to resemble any object made of plastic, including an evil doll, a man-eating trashcan, or a comfy chair of doom.
- Or its most impressive accomplishment: real people.
- Also from Doctor Who, the Weeping Angels as a special example, in that they have always been animate, but can only move when no one is watching them. They most frequently take the form of ultra-creepy statues, but anything that holds the image of an angel can become an angel if one of them is close. So a photograph, a TV screen, or even a sketch might come alive. Don't put them near other statues.
- This seems to be a feature of Time Lord technology. In their earliest days, they created the living metal validium; the Hand of Omega, a quasi-sentient stellar manipulator; and the Moment, the galaxy eater, a weapon so powerful the operating system became sentient. Their most famous examples of living technology, however, are the TARDISes, Living Ship time machines.
- Inverted in Soap: Bob is strictly a ventriloquist doll but often characters will forget and talk to him like he's a separate character from Chuck, the one who controls him. The Only Sane Man, Benson, is one of the few who never gets confused.
- This is the entire premise of the Bryan Fuller show Wonderfalls, though only the main character can see them.
- An episode of Haven has machines start acting on their own and killing people. Turns out they were all repaired by a Troubled mechanic who is unaware of his "uniqueness".
- Another episode has stuffed animals and people come alive.
- Sesame Street 's Elmos World segment has a side table drawer, window shade, computer and TV that prance around and interact with Elmo.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a race between a wash basin, a water closet pedestal, a sofa, Joanna Southcott's box, a hat stand and a lamp. Affected in stop-motion animation as opposed to the form Terry Gilliam employs.
Myth and Legend
- The Greek myth of the musician, poet and prophet Orpheus, who was taught by the god Apollo to play music so beautifully that he could tame animals, soothe stormy weather, and bring inanimate objects to life.
- The myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, told by Ovid, which makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.
- According to a Japanese legend, objects that have been abandoned for a hundred years (teapots, umbrellas, etc) can come alive, and are known as tsukumogami. Fridge Logic waves away some problems by explaining electricity repels such creatures, hence modern examples are rare. Also serves as a commentary to the effect that people don't really save things for that long anymore.
- Wizards (and Clerics with the Chaos domain) in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 can cast the spell animate object.
- In the role-playing game In Nomine, one class of angels, Kyriotates in the service of the Archangel of Lightning, can possess inanimate objects.
- Promethean: The Created is based on this trope. Prometheans are formed from dead body parts, machines, or other things and come to life. For many the goal is to become human. For others...
- Nobilis takes an animistic view of the world: everything in the world has a spirit, whether it is a cloud or a rock or whatever. Normal humans live in a reality like our own and cannot normally see these spirits, but if they switched their perspectives around they'd see all spirits ever at the same time. Unfortunately, this would be really bad for them and their sanity. While seeing reality as it really is might be correct, it does not make for a very functional existence.
- The Duston archetype in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG are living dust particles.
- Circuit very much Humanizes internal computer parts.
- Sexy Losers takes this in a disturbing direction. Blowup dolls have minds and can remember everything that's been done to them. A fairy occasionally shows up to animate them as full humans, whereupon they usually a): kill themselves, b): kill their former owners and / or or c): become prostitutes and remain as objectified as before, since they lack the education and skills to make decent lives for themselves. This being Sexy Losers, all three of those fates are Played for Laughs.
- My Milk Toof is about two walking, talking milk teeth.
- Perry Bible Fellowship loves this trope, often taking it to dark and scary places.
- The Order of the Stick, while not featuring them as major characters, did bring us a brief intermission starring anthropomorphic movie snacks.
- The Fourth has ghosts possessing swords and plant pots.
- The first generation of the robots in Gunnerkrigg Court seem to be this; Kat's analysis of them has difficulty determining what their power source is, or even how their moving parts (of which they seem to have comparatively few) connect. Later generations of them work on more conventional robotics principles.
- Adventure Time has BMO (pronounced Beemo), Finn and Jake's sentient video game console.
- In a Darkwing Duck episode, Megavolt gained the ability to turn machines into sentient beings.
- In another, Bushroot figured out how to imbue plants with intelligence.
- South Park: Towlie and Mr. Hanky.
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Rat Talisman is treated as a useless power because it can't be used to fly or shoot fire. Its applications have ranged from Living Toys by animating Jade's Gnomekop and Supermoose, both of them proving quite useful in battle. When Jackie is cursed to become a wooden puppet, the Rat saves the day by allowing puppet Jackie animation so he can still fight back and reverse the curse. It even one-ups the Living Statue: it doesn't make the statues of the Chinese war hero Lo Pei and a Mesoamerican deity come to life, it actually transforms the statues into living copy-versions of Lo Pei and said deity, complete with all the deity's powers intact.
- Frosty the Snowman! The magic hat gives him the ability to animate (although it's partly also the Power of Love).
- Numerous objects in The Ren & Stimpy Show, including nipples.
- Played for Laughs in many Flip The Frog cartoons where inanimate characters frequently come alive to be involved in various gags.
- The Sushi Pack, along with The Legion of Low Tide and The Fried Food Fighting Force are all humanized versions of various food stuffs (sushi for the Pack and Legion, fried foods for guess who.
- Blue's Clues! Sentient salt and pepper shakers, shovel and pail, side table drawer...
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force has the titular crew, Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad. Exactly what they sound like.
- In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: B.R.I.E.F.S., there was Mr. White, a living pair of underwear (with a bad attitude and a Brooklyn accent) hired by the Delightful Children as a hit man to go after Numbuh One. But he had a Heel-Face Turn at the end.
- Veggie Tales is about the adventures of animate produce. The show also features a living computer as a series regular and there's been at least two Living Toys and a living music box.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes has this as part of its Bait-and-Switch Credits in season 2. The series proper has some examples, including Bill the Ball and an unnamed sock.
- Regular Show has Benson, a walking, talking gumball machine.
- In the episode of "Prankless", Gene, the manager of East Pines park, is a walking, talking snack vending machine.
- Speaking of gumballs, The Amazing World of Gumball has sentient cacti, balloons, clouds, potatoes, bananas, toast and so on. And that's just among the main characters; everything in Elmore is alive and anything can also become anthropomorphic.
- The Heart of Jong from Xiaolin Showdown, which can bring otherwise inanimate objects to life.
- An episode of Kim Possible (which dealt with Kim having to deal with learning how to drive), many of the appliances and a car in the episode possessed the ability to talk and move on their own. Justified in this case, as it is heavily implied that they possessed advanced AI created by the scientist that Dr. Drakken kidnapped.
- In Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, Kate Corrigan and another BPRD agent encounter tsukumogami, including an umbrella, a teapot, and a sandal. Amusingly, Kate doesn't even bat an eye at them, until they start attacking.
- An early Looney Tunes short, Naughty But Mice, had an electric shaver.
- Dora the Explorer loves this trope so much. Sentient backpacks, maps, rollercoasters, cars, trees, leaves, suns, clouds, stars, trains...the list goes on and on and on.
- Goof Troop sporadically contains examples. Some, like the evil magic hat that is capable of hexing people in "Talent to the Max" and the self-playing instruments in "Dr. Horatio's Magic Orchestra", are important to the plot. Others, like the truck with a face in "Where There's Smoke, There's Goof" and the bullets with faces in "Gunfight at the Okie-Doke Corral" are only there for joke purposes. And none of it is ever explained despite being notably uncommon.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Discord evokes this in Keep Calm and Flutter On by making the candles dance and having various bits of tableware wreak havoc on the ponies.