Desert Skull

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"(...I'm just a pile of bleached bones. I can't talk.)"

Whenever a show features or references a desert, savannah or other barren land, odds are good that a bovine cranium will be involved to set the mood.

Often accompanied by cacti.

Compare Ribcage Ridge, a sister trope.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • The opening scene of GUN×SWORD has Van looking down at an animal skull in the desert and questioning why the creature isn't still alive for him to eat.

Art
  • Shows up in many Georgia O'Keefe paintings.
  • Arthur Rothstein's photo series documenting the dust bowl in South Dakota included several of these. It was a scandal at the time because it was pretty obviously the same skull every time (the series was part of a government program documenting the drought). According to the photographer he was just moving a skull he found around the same small area to capture the shadows differently.

Film — Animated
  • The owl mariachi band from Rango stood on one of these while singing about Rango's journey.
  • On An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Tiger runs into a buffalo skeleton that seems to come to life when he's not looking. Turns out it's being manipulated by native mice, who then capture Tiger.
  • The Lion King: As Simba returns to the Pridelands, he finds it riddled with wildebeest skeletons to show how Scar's rule has ruined the land. At the end, as Simba returns to power, there's a brief shot of a skull being washed away by the rain, to symbolize the end of the old regime.
  • Cars featured a variation of this: since all animals in their world are also vehicles, in the desert surrounding Radiator Springs, there appear to be rusted-up car parts lying among the rocks and cacti.
  • Fantasia - the 'Rite of Spring' segment shows the last of the dinosaurs shuffling into the desert dust - after which the camera pans to and closes in on the skull of the mighty T-Rex.

Film — Live Action

Newspaper Comics

Toys, Games, Collectables
  • The Matchbox/Revell kit of the WW2 German Panzer III tank comes with a display base to mount the completed tank kit; it depicts a North African desert sand-dune, with the tank posed as breasting the crest of the sand. Just to emphasise the point this is an Afrika Korps panzer, there is a bleached animal skull to set artistically into the modelled sand.

Video Games

Web Comics
  • Coyote Ville has one in Ed, who can converse and interact with the rest of the cast.

Web Original

Western Animation

Alternative Title(s): Cow Cranium

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