"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 (the most common example being a karakasa obake, or umbrella ghost).
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
The Luggage from the Discworld novels is made of sapient pearwood and runs around on a hundred tiny legs. This being Discworld, there is no Masquerade involved. People just naturally get out of the way of the box that could eat them.
Sapient pearwood Luggages see a fair amount of use in the Agatean Empire. However, the Luggage, the best-known in the novels, has been noted to be a little more aggressive than its siblings. Judging by some descriptions of The Luggage's trip around the Counterweight Continent, it can also mate and have children.
Discworld's trolls and gargoyles are implied to have originated when rocks and statues respectively became animate. The Power Of Faith can also have this effect, as shown in Pyramids when Dios's snake-headed staff becomes animated.
Horace the cheese from Wintersmith. He's a wheel of Lancre Blue, which has been established in other Discworld books as being abnormally lively for a cheese under normal circumstances. Since Tiffany Aching, who is very good with cheese, made Horace, he apparently achieved sapience and started hanging out with the Nac Mac Feegle, who are also small, blue, and belligerent.
A variant is seen in the novel Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls; the protagonist can speak to any inanimate object that has been handled by humans enough. Some of them have... unique... personalities, like the bomb that really, really wants to explode.
The title character of the Garrett, P.I. series has a painting of a woman named Eleanor that may or may not be inhabited by her ghost. He's the only one who can see it move (since he was the only one who could see her ghost to begin with) and often talks to it, although she never answers.
Garrett tends to invoke this trope facetiously, like when he describes tripping over furniture in the dark as if he's being attacked by a homicidal chair. With sixteen legs.
All of the characters in Lemony Snicket's book The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming (a Christmas Story), including the eponymous latke, a string of lights, a candy cane, and a fir tree. Lampshaded:
"This may seem like unusual behavior for a potato pancake, but this is a Christmas story, in which things tend to happen that would never occur in real life."
The quote from David Brin's Sundiver is not an example — the narrator is just very, very loopy at that point in the action.
In the Choose Your Own Adventure book Return to Brookmere, the protagonist is accompanied by a magical talking amulet named the Mouth of Mimulus.
The protagonist of Seanan McGuire's Velveteen stories has this as a superpower, though it only works on inanimate objects that have been made to look like living things. She can also modify them to an extent to give them weapons, i.e. a stuffed bunny rabbit growing claws and sharp teeth when she brings it to life to combat her enemies.
In Twisted all the living amusement park rides (except red coasters) began as ordinary rides that were destroyed or put into storage in the human world become living creatures in the Amusement Park Between. It's also mentioned that the stuffed animals won as prizes come to life, but never shown.
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.
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.
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.
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 of are rare. Also serves as a commentary to the effect that people don't really save things for that long anymore.
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.
In MOTHER, you start your adventure off fighting two possessed Lamps and a Baby Doll, and then you start to fight vehicles.
The fangame Mother: Cognitive Dissonance starts similarly. After making Alinivar go back in his cave to get a gold rock, there's a crash and his own piece of artwork comes to life to attack him. He then has to fight flowers after a second crash, and the objects only become weirder from there.
Same in Earthbound. Expect to fight coffee mugs, angry taxi cabs, circus tents, piles of puke, trash cans, exploding trees, stop signs, molecules, abstract art, and so much more.
Mother 3 isn't far behind its predecessors, with living yams (baked or otherwise), beans, musical instruments and suits of armor, a sword and a shield being animate on their own.
Mother 4 shows in its trailer one of your enemies is a living, brown Autumn leaf.
Chulip contains (among other things) a stone lion, a gravestone, an eggplant, and a telephone pole as characters. And yes, you kiss all of them.
Most of the shopkeepers and some of the potential townsfolk in Magician's Quest are anthropomorphic objects, for varying degrees of anthropomorphic. Shopkeepers include a wineglass, a dressing dummy, a lightbulb, and a barber pole. Townspeople include an anthropomorphic Russian Doll, a brownie townsperson and a watering can shopkeeper — although they may just be people with unusual head wear.
The Japanese legend that objects can become animate (see "Myth and Legend" above) is used in Touhou with Medicine Melancholy (a doll), Kogasa Tatara (an umbrella), Hata no Kokoro (a collection of masks), the Tsukumo sisters (a biwa and a koto) and Raiko Horikawa (a taiko drum). In these cases they were unused for a hundred years (hence the name of Kogasa's theme song, "Beware the Umbrella Left There Forever") and they manifest human bodies which are separate from the items they originally were.
In Journey, banners and cloth you'll come across largely resemble marine life, with rays, jellyfish, kelp and so on moving like the air was an ocean.
Banette used to be a doll that was thrown away by a child, and now seeks revenge. By extension, this also applies to its unevolved form, Shuppet.
Rotom can possess objects, as revealed in Pokémon Platinum, where it can possess a washing machine, a lawnmower, an oven, a freezer, and a table fan. Specifically, it possesses technology that uses a special kind of motor. The aforementioned objects are specially prepared for research purposes.
Voltorb is also implied to be a Pokeball turned sentient, through an unknown cause.
Its SoulSilver Pokedex entry specifically states that it was discovered when Pokeballs were invented. An entry in another game says its components are not found in nature.
Shedinja is the discarded exoskeleton of a Nincada after it evolves into Ninjask. Exactly how it is animated, especially considering the former occupant still lives, is not explained.
A few more that are based on inanimate objects, yet are not implied to have been animated by outside forces, include Magnemite (magnets), Gardevoir (possibly anesama ningyou, a style of paper doll), Bronzor (a bronze mirror), and Bronzong (a bronze bell). Black and White have many more, including Trubbish (a garbage bag), Klink (a pair of gears), Munna (a Japanese form of incense burner), Darumaka (whose line is based off daruma dolls), Litwick (a ghostly candle, which evolves into a lamp, and then a chandelier), Honedge (A sword possessed by an ancient spirit, that evolves into two swords and finally a BFS with a shield) and Klefki (an animated key-ring fairy).
The Hag from Thief: Deadly Shadows animate statues with her magic.
The majority of enemies in zOMG are this. In fact, they're even called the Animated.
In Super Meat Boy, the ground in chapter select screen has a face which gets progressively creepier as the chapter number goes up.
A large chunk of Banjo-Kazooie's supporting cast is made up of these, all possessing Rare's now-trademark "googly eyes". This was toned down a lot for the sequel, Banjo-Tooie, and in the third installment, Nuts & Bolts, there are no characters like this at all.
Conkers Bad Fur Day brought back this style of character and deconstructed it, showing what life for a living, googly-eyed piece of cheese or sweetcorn must be like.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon also has the Possessors, which can turn a normal object (mostly non living ones) into this. Like frozen ponds, clocks, suits of armour and staircases. Yes stairs, which then roar at Luigi before lunging at him.
In Mole Mania, Muddy Mole fights the sun as the World 2 boss and, Crazy Awesome that he is, KILLS THE SUN. Muddy also fights Funton, an animate 100-ton weight who occasionally jumps sky-high and delivers a damaging tremor if you're foolish enough to stay underground when he lands.
Grimoires Weiss, Noir, and Rubrum in NieR are all ancient books that are capable of speech and float around on their own. Weiss lends help in the form of magic attacks (and British-accented snarky commentary) to the main character. On the other hand, Noir and Rubrum are mustache-twirlingly evil and bugfuck insane, in that order.
The King of Red Lions in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, a sentient boat that recruits Link in his plan to defeat Ganonforf in exchange for helping the boy rescue his sister. In reality, the boat itself isn't sentient so much as it's being possessed - by the king of the long-lost nation of Hyrule, no less
Fallen London has Polythreme, where everything is animate. Not nearly as much fun as it sounds. Most things in Polythreme don't enjoy being animate, and may attempt to take it out on the humanoid inhabitants if they get the opportunity.
The Wise One in Golden Sun is revealed in the third game to be a sapient, Psynergy-capable Philosopher's Stone, making one of Isaac's unseen comments in the first game Hilarious in Hindsight.
By adding the adjective, "live" or "living" to any noun in Super Scribblenauts, the conjured item gains the abilities to move, hold objects, attack people and objects, etc. regardless if it would have been animate or not without the addition word.
"The evil lawn mower has sucked you into its whirling blades! Your body is reduced to a thin slime."
The gyroids◊ in the Animal Crossing series are statues which move and make noises when interacted with (and if you have some in your house, they'll "dance" along to any music you have playing). Lloid falls under this trope, since he appears to be sentient (he runs the auction house in City Folk and collects donations for public works projects in New Leaf). There's speculation among the fanbase that the villager Coco is also a gyroid due to her hollow-eyed and -mouthed appearance, but officially she's a rabbit.
Napple Tale features create-able "furniture paffets" — living chairs, streetlamps, ceiling fans, etc, that are installed around the Hub Level, Napple Town, based on townsfolk requests.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam makes up for not having cockpit shots of the pilots by having their Mobile Suits emote far more in cutscenes than they do in the source material. This is kept sensible, though, with the Mo Cap Mecha having more dramatic gestures than the models with buttons and leversnote Although technically speaking, these mobile suits shouldn't be able to turn and look as precisely as they do at all, nor would a Newtype pilot need them to... mostly. Elpio Puru manages such feats as making her Qubelay Happy Dance or flail its arms in frustration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.