Haruko: Those slow motion scenes are really tough, huh?
Mamimi: Yeah, you have to hold your breath until they cut.
Haruko: You can get cramps from that, you know?
What? I thought it was a special effect! You're doing the slow motion?
An animated episode is in full swing. The action suddenly stops, the characters step out of character, and address an unseen figure. The view pulls back to reveal the action is taking place on an animated TV soundstage. Usually punctuated by a heated exchange between the animated director and the character.
This is a specific type of fourth wall
Many times, the "actors" who play the characters are very different from the characters themselves. Often, the dumb, inarticulate comedy relief will turn out to be a posh Shakespearean ac-tor
. A large, imposing character may take off his head, revealing himself to be a normal-looking guy wearing a costume. The Big Bad
may turn out to be a total sweetheart when not in character
Many times, the character's name will stay the same, but occasionally the crew will call them by the voice-actor's name.
Also used as a method of Lampshade Hanging
, as the character will often complain about some trite or hackneyed element of the scene
, and refuse to proceed. There's also the popular gag of having them mess up their lines or goof off, though obviously these Hilarious Outtakes
took just as much work to write, voice, draw and animate as the rest of the show.
This can be a throw-away gag, or it can be the plot of an entire episode
If the animated characters are interacting with live action humans / people, it's the Roger Rabbit Effect
If taken to a whole dimension, where characters in a writer's portfolio are reused across whole works (sometimes with different roles) like how a "real" actor/actress would, it becomes a Reused Character Design
Not to be confused with someone who acts in an animated manner.
Western Animation has its own page.
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Anime and Manga
- Alien Nine. The ending of the manga shows the main characters as this, as if to soften the horror of the events that preceded it.
- Excel♥Saga. Almost consistent throughout the entire series, in fact, running a coach and horses through the Fourth Wall. Some of the most prevalent highlights:
- Anime Director Shinichi Watanabe (a.k.a Nabashin) and original manga author Koshi Rikudo are quickly shown to not only both portray their real selves (Nabaeshin's connection to either side is questionable at best, depending on his scene however), and yet both in-canon with the Anime's story and relation to Excel Saga's characters.
- Misaki's insistence that the director to refrain from fanservicey camera shots of her, every character tenuously slipping in and out of awareness of being in an anime and unawareness of this same fact.
- The Great Will Of The Macrocosm herself, who exists as the Director's Reset Button for fixing the story, as the gaggy nature of the show routinely results in painting the plotline into a corner. And quite possibly at least 70 more examples, besides these.
- The final episode of Galaxy Angel's final season reveals that the characters we've been watching for the past three years were in fact actors filming a comedy based upon the real Angel Brigade, suggesting a link to the far more serious video game series. ...Only for it to turn out that the so-called "real" Angels never existed except as military propaganda characters, and in typical fashion for the show, things just get stranger from there...
- One anime example is FLCL, which used this gag more than once to great comic effect.
Haruko: Those slow motion scenes are really tough, huh?
Mamimi: Yeah, you have to hold you breath until they cut.
Haruko: You can get cramps from that, you know?
Naota: What? I thought it was a special effect! You're doing the slow motion?
- And then there's the "Manga Scene," (or rather, manga scenes), the second of which ends with a discussion on whether it was really necessary to do a second time.
- Done in the anime series Pani Poni Dash!, where the scene often pulls back to show that the classroom is a set on a stage, or the "cameramen" are obviously visible, or a stagehand accidentally walks into the "shot"; the "actors" are quite professional and never let on that they notice.
- At least one shot during the "crowded bath" scene in Puni Puni Poemi clearly shows the edge of the set and camera crew beyond it. Link.
- Puni Puni Poemi basically takes this trope and smashes the non-existent fourth wall with it. Twice because the first one was a blooper.
- Subverted in Amaenaide yo!!. In the Bonus Episode of the second season, we begin seeing Ikkou and the girls out on what appears to be another exorcising job. Then suddenly things turn into a soundstage and the cast give comments on making the show. Right before the episode concludes, an actual spirit appears in the studio, and Joutoko-baa reveals that it was all part of an elaborate scheme to lure out the ghost haunting the studio.
- The Adventures of Mini-Goddess has an episode where the characters think they have day off, only to find that the camera's running and they need to set up something to show. Another episode has them answering viewer mail.
- After The Movie was released, the creators of Fullmetal Alchemist produced an OVA in which the "actors" portraying the various characters get together after filming to celebrate the release of the film. The characters hang several lampshades, and one gag involving Gluttony not being an actor occurred at the end.
- Bleach had an example during the omake at the end of the Amagai arc, when Ichigo suddenly returns to Hueco Mundo, is jumped by Nel, and is told by Orihime to get into his Bankai, showing him a page of the manga. While Ichigo is still baffled, Orihime tells the camera that they'll be picking up where they left off from the manga.
- The start of the Amagai arc is another example, especially since it aired in the middle of another arc, and again with the new filler, where Ulqiourra sheaths his sword in the middle of a fight, and says "let me know when I'm needed on set". Actually, the writers have lampshaded this just about every time this has happened.
- The Naruto gang has commented multiple times in their omakes after their previews on the show.
- The omake for Episode 109 features characters preparing for recording a scene, with heroes and villains including one who's dead at that point in the arc sitting together in the same room.
- The Lucky Star gang are proven to be animated actors by Lucky Channel. Their names, personalities and relationships are the same as they are in the show.
- In the "outtakes" of the first volume of Magic Kaito, the characters are shown arguing after the scene has been cut. One of the crew workers comments in disbelief that Kaito and Aoko can't even get along in real life.
- Maria-sama ga Miteru has "Maria-sama ni wa Naisho", which are chibi outakes.
- The Omake chapters of the Fushigi Yugi DVD feature the cast going to an onsen as a reward for their hard work.
- The Pandora Hearts DVD omake are all introduced with the characters thanking the viewer for buying the DVD. Then the camera pulls back, and the characters and crew chat a bit.
- Characters in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo often talk about being actors and complaining about how much they get paid.
- The School Rumble OVA showed Tenma and Karasuma in the recording booth.
- Hello Kitty Fairy Tale Adventures portrays Kitty and her friends in-character, but the actual plots feature them as theater actors playing out the fairy tales. This leads to such amusing sights as a penguin wearing a blatantly obvious swan costume with its bill above his forehead.
- The Neon Genesis Evangelion music album Neon Genesis Evangelion Addition has a track entitled "After the End". This is in fact an Audio Adaptation where the Evangelion cast discuss how to make the show more popular while lampshading some criticisms of their own series. Highlights include Sentai, Motor Mouth Pen-Pen, and Hideaki Anno as Black Space God...well maybe, no official source ever confirmed it. The whole thing ends in a "sound only" version of Episode 1 where "The Beast" is sung a cappella.
- Black Butler did an OVA about this trope for the release of the Base Breaker sequel, which can be seen as Self-Deprecation due to the tongue-in-cheek way it pokes fun at the series. In it, minor characters from the first season return in roles as crew members, and the format of having the actors be completely different from their character is played with; while Ciel and Sebastian have essentially the same personalities as their characters, the mute Tonchinkan are played by a cheerful and talkative actor, and the quiet Big Bad is played as a bitchy diva who doesn't want to be there. The OVA ends with a trailer to the second season, beginning with scenes that didn't happen, and ending with scenes that completely throw a wrench in the format of the series.
- In an official Yu Yu Hakusho doujinshi written by the author Yoshihiro Togashi himself, it is revealed that Yu Yu Hakusho is in fact "filmed", and several of the actors possess drastically different personalities than the characters they portray, such as Kuwabara being a very calm and serious person who wears glasses. Older Koenma and Yoko Kurama are played by the same actor. Allegedly, Togashi wanted to make this the actual ending to the series, but was shot down by his editor.
- The Black Lagoon doujin R of Blacklagoon written by Rei Hiroe himself, the doujin shows What If? the manga was actually a hit TV show and it's characters were actors. Many of the actors are very different from their manga counterparts like how the Ambiguous Gender Hansel and Gretel are actually Twin girls, most of the cast are actual Mean Characters Nice Actors (Revy doesn't like kids but her actress does, Balalaika's actress likes the Twin actresses while her character hates Hansel and Gretel.) and have different personalities compare to their characters (Benny is Nice Guy and Nazi hater but his actor is a Hollywood Badboy and is friends with one of the actors playing a Neo Nazi.)
- In the Batman anthology "Black and White", a story by Neil Gaiman and Simon Bisley called "A Black & White World" shown Batman and the Joker working on a movie set, reading over their lines and commenting on the corniness of the dialogue, as well as the general way characters in comic books are treated and/or mistreated; the Joker comments that he never gets big dramatic splash panels like Batman, while Batman retorts that he is the one who gets to make all the big speeches. Oddly enough, Lobo is their director.
- A variation turns up in one issue of Astro City, where a device that brings movie creatures into the "real" world of the comic accidentally pulls in cartoon lion Loony Leo along with the movie monster the villain was aiming for. Leo helps the hero defeat the villain, and the hero convinces the audience to believe in him and prevent him from fading away. Leo then spent a few years as an actor before his career hit the skids.
- Repeatedly used in Dykes To Watch Out For. In an early two-part series, the characters threaten a walkout to gain creative control of the strip. The trope that they are actors in the comic's world is used several more times. The book The Indelible Alison Bechdel featured a long sequence in which the characters are portrayed as both actors and as the staff and managers of DTWOF Inc., with author Bechdel portrayed as a 'staff writer' chained in the basement and humoured in her 'harmless delusion' that she creates the strip.
- Used sometimes in Cherry Comics. Perhaps most strikingly seen in "Cherry Gets it in the End (and Mom Does Too!)" from Cherry #12, where Cherry starts to undo the zipper on her boyfriend's pants so that she can perform fellatio on him. All of the sudden, a male voice yells "CUT!" and the panel pans out to show Cherry and her friend on a set and surrounded by a film crew. The director states that there has been a couple of script changes, much to Cherry's confusion.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit was entirely about Animated Actors in their off-screen lives, as well as on-studio.
- Pixar used to play faux-Hilarious Outtakes (or is it Hilarious faux-Outtakes?) during the credits of their movies, complete with falling boom mics, backdrops, flubbed lines, and crew members. They stopped the practice and switched to other credit bonuses when they thought it was becoming too predictable.
- The Danish animated film Terkel In Trouble had semi-interviews with the actors, with most or all of them Playing Against Type.
- An interesting example is Aki Ross, the protagonist from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Hironobu Sakaguchi intended for Aki to appear as a digital "actress" in multiple feature films. Aki's career was tragically cut short by the box office failure of her debut film, the aforementioned Final Fantasy, and the subsequent bankruptcy of Square Pictures. However, before the latter was finalized, Square produced a demo for the Animatrix project featuring a PVC-clad, short-haired Aki acrobatically dueling a sentinel from the Matrix films.
- Most bizarre was her layout in FHM, the point of which (other than the obvious) was to trick people into thinking it was a real person, thus showcasing the amazing advances in covering up a complete lack of movie with awesome visuals.
- The Movie's DVD release included a faked blooper reel. While some of the bloopers could never happen in real life (Such as crashing their ship and emerging with shrapnel sticking out of their heads) others were more realistic, with the characters spoiling takes by sneezing or corpsing.
- The second disc of the DVD has an opening where Aki is filming a scene on set with both acutal people and other CGI characters working and talking with each other. IIRC, the Big Bad is seen having a civil conversation with one of the alien monsters he's trying to destroy in the film. And then there's the "Thriller" Easter Egg where the characters dance to the hit song for... some reason.
- A special feature on the Kaena: The Prophecy DVD had the female lead, Kaena, being interviewed in regards to the many demands of her role, such as the physicality (it only seems to play in French, though).
- Wreck-It Ralph does this with videogame characters. The title character is an arcade villain dissatisfied with doing the same routine for 30 straight years, even going to Bad-Anon meetings with other villain characters. When he decides to try his hand at being a hero, he abandons his game, causing his character sprite to disappear from the arcade machine. Off hours, most videogame villains are decent people, and if anything are victims of Fantastic Racism, often distrusted and disliked by the other characters in their games. The only characters in the film who avert this are the Cy-Bugs, who can't tell the difference between game time and after-hours like the other characters can, and this makes them especially dangerous...
- In the animated Garfield movies, Garfield, Odie, Jon and other comic strip characters live in Comic Strip Land, working at Comic Studios, where comic strips are filmed and transmitted to the real world via satellite. Strangely, this doesn't apply to their superhero counterparts, who live in another universe entirely and are seen as fictional in Garfield's world.
- Resident Evil: Degeneration as a series of "outtakes" on the DVD, which are actually just scenes from the film but with different dubbing. They mostly joke about how poorly they're paid apart from Leon's voice-actor who got "more pay".
- The Lego Movie's Behind the Bricks featurette shows that not only are the characters aware of the movie and their voice actors, but also the fact that they're, well, lego figurines. (Wyldstyle: "Or as they should be called, people.")
: The directors were great, Phil and Chris, really talented guys. ...Big, though. Like, they towered over us. Basically freaks. Wyldstyle:
They just would pick us up, and physically move us across a set. It's not cool! I mean, it's not like I'm a prop or something.
Film: Live Action
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured Baby Herman, a hard-drinking, smoking, sexually-harassing animated actor who, because of his looks, played innocent-baby parts. In fact, this is the film's whole gimmick: all cartoon stars exist in the real world. One notable instance is a scene where the penguins from Mary Poppins (released a couple decades after the movie is set) work in a bar, implying they had to rely on menial jobs until they got their big break in Poppins.
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action focuses on the backstage lives of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other Looney Tunes.
Live Action TV
- In the episode "Nasty" of The Young Ones, Alexei Sayle, during his monologue (which usually broke the fourth wall anyway), mentions that the other actors probably talk about him behind his back. Cut to backstage, where the other four are playing cards, still in costume but not in character:
Adrian Edmonson (Vyvyan): I hate him.
Nigel Planer (Neil): He drinks like a fish.
Rik Mayall (Rick): Yes, he's got no talent.
Christopher Ryan (Mike): Alexei who?
- In one extremely strange episode of Power Rangers RPM, the action is paused to take viewers behind the scenes into the making of an episode- but everybody is (sort of) still in character. One segment involves Scott and Tenya 7 practising their moves and explicitly stating that they do this so neither of them get hurt. Scott might not want to hurt Tenya cause he's The Hero, but in character, she would kill him.
- An episode of Dinosaurs dedicated to everyone acting really strange after finding a mysterious "plant" ended with shooting concluding and Robbie walking off set to deliver a PSA... about how if people talked about these things in real life, they wouldn't have to do these PSAs.
- The Late Show with David Letterman: Dave has interviewed Beavis And Butthead (and punched Beavis) and both Peter Griffin and Optimus Prime have presented Top 10 lists live on stage.
- Bloom County sometimes used this— on at least one occasion the strip came to a screeching halt mid-panel because Opus hadn't received that day's script; and in one storyline all the "actors" went on strike.
- Ink Pen: Based around a temp agency for Animated Actors.
- Pearls Before Swine uses this trope liberally.
- Very common in The Muppets productions.
- The Jim Henson Hour episode that ran the original Dog City included a "Making Of" segment which revealed, amongst other things, that the stunts were done by cats in dog costumes.
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance has a Hilarious Outtakes segment wherein it's revealed that the various characters apparently did their own voice acting. Even during evil ninja attacks!
- After Jade Empire ends, the characters Dawn Star and Sagacious Zu talk about their careers and how they landed their roles in the game. Dawn Star talks about her past in "dancing," while Sagacious Zu talks about being typecast as the mysterious loner.
- The Hilarious Outtakes reveal this: the end credits of the '90s Sierra Adventure Game Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist were broken up into chunks, alternating between real credits, and then scenes where the actors got out of character and complained go the game's director. Interestingly enough, the "actors" playing the characters had different names than those of the characters' own voice actors.
- Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard's plot involves a corrupt CEO's plan to kill off a video game character that he can't simply fire because he has a lifetime contract.
- All but directly stated in the massive fourth wall break at the end of Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. The characters start discussing the Cliffhanger ending and talk about the team that made the game; a not-so-subtle (but funny) way of hiding the credits.
- The first Splinter Cell game had an extra with the computer generated "Sam Fisher" being interviewed in the game's live action production office, claiming that he'd originally been hired as a Special Forces consultant and Mo Cap artist ("all those splits... ow.").
- Rival Schools: United by Fate had an unlockable Hilarious Outtakes video featuring the fighters as actors.
- All arcs of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has a "wrap party" featuring all the characters except Keiichi (who absence Rika Lampshades is just because he doesn't have a character image), including Satoko wondering that the point of the ending was, and if it pissed the player off.
- Parodied and Subverted, like everything else in the first after game Tea Party of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the spiritual sequel of the above. After the series of grisly murders and the bad ending, Battler finds himself completely confused and sitting around with the other murder victims, who are cheerfully having tea and snacks, complaining about how they died, and insisting on how the Witch killed them. Battler refuses to believe in this conclusion, all the victims rapidly revert back to their state of death, the witch Beatrice reveals herself, and whisks Battler away to Purgatorio, where the two begin their logic battles that sets off the remaining episodes.
- This is in fact a Meta Twist to those who expected something similar to Higurashi.
- Meta example: The Japanese voice cast of the BlazBlue series host a radio show on Nico Nico Douga, in which they speak as themselves, but are represented in the videos as their respective characters.
- Except for Daisuke Ishiwatari, who is represented by Sol Badguy.
- In Poker Night at the Inventory, Max and Strong Bad occasionally discuss Telltale Games, who made episodic adventure games for both franchises (as well as Poker Night); Max is happy with his games, Strong Bad is not. Also played with for the Heavy Weapons Guy, as Tycho recognizes him as a video game character while the Heavy himself seems to be unaware.
- While it doesn't occur in the actual game, Borderlands has the Claptrap web series of ads, depicting the characters as actors on a set with a Claptrap as the temperamental director.
- According to this interview, this is actually how Shigeru Miyamoto explains the Go Karting with Bowser phenomenon that's so prevalent in the Super Mario Bros. series and spinoffs.
"It's more like [the characters are] one big family, or maybe a troupe of actors."
- In Jak 3: Wastelander there's an option to view the character models and listen to each character talking about their experiences making the game. Daxter was asked to lose weight for the role and did so by cutting off part of his tail, Baron Praxis wants to hook up with Ashelin, and Jak is hoping to do some dramatic work to show his sensitive side, plus he's working on his own sitcom. Also, when Jak dies Daxter will occasionally give you a little speech, either mocking you, or...
Could we, ah... try that again? Alright, places everyone!
I'm glad I'm not your stunt double!
This is what happens when they drop my name from the title.
Alright, cut! Where's the director? I can't work like this.
- Also displayed in the credits of Jak 2 and 3 as the characters talk about their work on the game.
- Implied in the first cutscene of When Tails Gets Bored:
Tails: Back to the script - Oh, I know!
- Episode 10 of Bowser's Kingdom is an episode where Geno hosts a interview show with the cast from said series.
- Played with in episode 3 of Girlchan in Paradise!!; Kenstar accidentally says someone else's line and remarks on it and Green Guy is enraged about being killed off, but it's clear that the voice actors, not the characters, are the ones who are talking.
- Sam Sprinkles, from Zebra Girl, is a deconstruction of the trope, as he's a Funny Animal rabbit actor from a parallel universe which seems to exist mostly to create cartoons for the main universe of the strip. After his show was canceled, he became a homeless, manic-depressive alcoholic. Of course, his experiences as an actor have left him impossibly Genre Savvy.
- Implied a couple of times in Sluggy Freelance, with the implication that the characters are themselves but also acting their parts (though in the story at large, they're not). The biggest use of the idea was in "Sluggy Freelance, where are you?" where a number of guest artists teamed together during Pete Abrams's "paternity leave" to draw a filler story in which the original cast had gone missing and characters from other comics were hired to act their roles.
- Used constantly in In Wilys Defense. The author decided near the end of the first "season" that his webcomic was a TV Show and stuck with it in every breach of the fourth wall from there to the end.
- Done a few times with Sore Thumbs.
- City Face. The commentary below each page speaks of the characters like actors playing roles. And the Shout Box below these pages featured commentary from these in-universe actors rather than from Real Life readers.
- Gunnerkrigg Court features a number of chapter-ending bonus pages with Tea, the secondary narrator, explaining background details to the audience. At the end of Ch 38, the bonus page shows Tea reading her scene's script and questioning the off-screen director. "This is what we're going with? You sure?"
- The premise of Greystone Inn is that comic strips are produced like television shows, a la Roger Rabbit. The webcomic follows the behind-the-scenes business of the fictional syndicated comic of the same name, of which we are shown very little.
- Checkerboard Nightmare follows the titular character (usually just called "Chex") throughout his comic book adventures. While the series is mostly a No Fourth Wall story, there are moments where even that premise is broken and they step out of "character" to talk about production of the comic... which itself is about the characters sitting around talking about the comic.
- Red vs. Blue has the PSAs that feature the characters talking as if they are acting. This tends to be limited to the main cast, the Reds and Blues, and doesn't feature other characters like the Freelancers or any of the AI.
- El Goonish Shive: In an EGS:NP strip Tedd (who is 17 in-story) claims to be twenty-one outside of continuity due to Webcomic Time, creating a sort of Animated Actors Dawson Casting.
- The Order of the Stick #227: An expository flashback ends and we cut back to the main cast taking a break. When Celia points out that the flashback is over everyone rushes to get ready. Elan complains that they're supposed to get a 2-panel warning and Vaarsuvius states that he well be calling his agent as soon as the story arc ends.
- In a few strips of Dark Legacy Comics, Keydar the rogue is shown to be the cartoonist. In two strips, Donald draws the strips instead.
- The Cartoon Chroniclesof Conroy Cat takes place in a world where all toons are actors, and the titular character's many jobs involve working behind-the-scenes of several cartoon series.
- Shadowgirls did this once, giving a behind-the-scenes tour guided by Lindsey.
- MegaTokyo frequently features its own characters in non-plot-related comics, both the serious and the parodies. Notable examples are Seraphim's Corner, Full Megatokyo Panic, Circuitry and unMod.
- MS Paint Masterpieces uses this in Fourth Wall breaking fillers with DisgruntledFerret interacting with the cast. Hilariously done with Metal Man taking over the strip from DisgruntledFerret in a massive show of hubris.
- The bygone Inc'ed was all about the lives of actors in a comic strip.