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Chasing A Butterfly
Children - and childlike, innocent (although not necessarily small) beings - are curious and easily distracted. So when a cute, small creature, like a butterfly, passes by them, they will follow it out of curiosity. The small animal will either ignore them, or will be scared and flee.

More often than not, following the critter will lead the characters away from their parents / guardians and into the proximity of some form of danger: a trap, a predator, or even the critter's parent. Alternatively, the critter itself may be revealed to be dangerous. Usually, the guardians arrive just in time to save their child, but that's not always the case.

Related to Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!, Straying Baby and Follow the White Rabbit. Pretty Butterflies are a common choice, so are Frogs and Toads, but it works with any other small and non-threatening creature, or even some pretty, moving inanimate object.

Unrelated to Butterfly of Doom, Schrödinger's Butterfly or Butterfly Of Transformation.

Examples

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  • A DirecTV Slippery Slope ad uses chasing butterflies while high on poisonous berries as the endpoint.
    When your cable's on the fritz...you chase imaginary butterflies into something highly illegal. Don't chase butterflies into something highly illegal. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV.

Anime and Manga
  • Mei, the younger girl from My Neighbor Totoro tends to do this. First she chases the soot sprites all over the house; then she gets lost when she follows Chibi-Totoro into the woods. Although she enounters a monstrous creature (the titular Totoro), fortunately he is a Gentle Giant, so the danger part is averted.
  • Happens in a chapter of the Japanese-only Neptunia manga, with a de-aged Uni crawling after balloons. Neptune soon catches up with her, but this causes her to cry, and causes more mishaps.

Eastern European Animation
  • In the Hungarian short Pangea The Neverending World, Rexy, the baby Tyrannosaurus rex chases a butterfly, which leads him away from his nest to a ravine he almost falls in. He is also attacked by a Spinosaurus.
  • The titular character of Vuk The Little Fox, as a young predator, tends to chase after everything he sees. He almost falls off the cliff when he attacks a lizard while his uncle is asleep.
  • The title character of Süsü, a sárkány is a Gentle Giant dragon with a childlike personality, who quite obsessed with butterflies; he loves to run after them, even though he never catches them.

Film Animation
  • Happens twice with the main character in Bambi; first with a butterfly, then with a frog. In neither case does it lead to danger.
  • In Brave, a young Merida follows the wisp-o-willows into the forest, where she is attacked by Mor'du the bear.
  • In The Land Before Time, Littlefoot and Cera chase a frog before their first encounter with Sharptooth.
  • In The Lion King, Simba, while waiting in the gorge, chases a chameleon, practicing his roar on it. Then the stampede arrives.
  • At the beginning of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Baby Alakay (who would later grow up to be Alex) chases a butterfly to the edge of the animal reserve, which leads him to get captured by a pair of hunters.
  • In Tarzan, Kala and Kerchak's baby follows a frog, which leads him to Sabor the leopard.
  • At the beginning of Dinosaur, a baby parasaurolophus chases after a winged lizard, which leads him to a Carnotaur that starts chasing after the other dinosaurs.
  • Pixar's WALL•E: WALL•E notices a glowing red dot near his home, which seems to dart away from him tantalizingly. The lonely robot pursues the curious dot to a barren area, until he discovers that it's a targeting light for a landing spacecraft. WALL•E did well to dig himself into a bunker before the landing rockets melted him into slag.

Film Live Action
  • In the opening scene of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a little girl follows a Compsognathus, only to be attacked by a whole flock of them.
  • Symbolically in Young Frankenstein, when the Creature is enraptured by the Frankenstein family lullaby, he idly snatches at the air as if trying to grab invisible butterflies.

Literature

Video Game
  • In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Felicia's Victory Pose has her Failed Attempt at Drama interrupted by a butterfly passing by and she promptly chases it.
  • Fatal Frame has Mayu in Fatal Frame 2 Crimson Butterfly. She chases after butterflies all the time, and then she "gets lost." This leaves you alone. The butteflies are the souls of dead sacrifices, so her following them never bodes well.

Web Animation
  • The Death Battle between Felicia and Taokaka begins with Felicia engaging in this activity, leading to her accidentally bumping into Taokaka. The fight later pauses for a bit when the butterfly floats by the two Cat Girls, leading to both of them chasing after it.

Western Animation
  • The whole premise of the "Mindy And Buttons" shorts of Animaniacs. Mindy follows a cute critter, oblivious to danger, while Buttons tries to rescue her.
  • In the short Big Buck Bunny, the titular Gentle Giant rabbit chases after a butterfly, only to be attacked by a trio of literal Screwy Squirrels.
  • The Family Guy episode "Extra Large Medium" has Chris chasing a butterfly with Stewie on his back and the two end up getting lost in the woods.
    Stewie: You just had to chase that butterfly!
    Chris: Yes, I had to. I came here to explore nature!
  • In the Disney short Goliath II, the titular baby elephant follows a butterfly, only to be attacked by a tiger and a crocodile. He later chases a pair of snails and falls down a hole.
  • This is how Baby Herman crawls into (and out of) danger in the Roger Rabbit Shorts. In Tummy Trouble he chases a milk bottle that rolls off a cart; in Roller Coaster Rabbit it's a red balloon; and in Trail Mix-Up it's a beaver.
  • Brattus from Mr. Bogus is sometimes prone to this trope, which leads to Bogus trying to keep his younger cousin out of trouble.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Three's A Crowd", Pinkie Pie follows a balloon that floats away off screen. We don't see her again for the rest of the episode...
  • In the Talespin episode, "A Bad Reflection on You, Part One", a baby bear tries to catch a butterfly that lands on the flower of her windowsill. This, of course, leads to the baby bear falling out the open window of her apartment. It's a good thing Baloo and Kit were there to save her in time.

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