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Detail-Hogging Cover
Guess which one is actual footage.

In animated works, pictures by definition have to move, which means that the more detailed a given frame is, the more time and effort it takes to produce, and the more visible any mistakes made in color shading or lighting will be. As a result, even in the most well-crafted animated works, frames of actual animation footage may intentionally leave out subtle details to make the end result animate more smoothly.

Covers, however, and other kinds of art that are not part of the actual footage don't have that problem. They are just one static picture, and the production company can afford to invest more effort in them. Take the page picture, for example: The top part is a frame taken during the actual movie, and the bottom is the exact, same scene redrawn for its inclusion in The Merch. Colors are brightened, textures are defined, surfaces are given depth, and extras are drawn in everywhere. Bonus points if the box cover is sparkly or "metallic" in some way so that it shimmers in the light.

Disney defined this style for their home video releases of the Disney Animated Canon to such an extent that similarly detailed covers for other traditionally animated movies not from Disney end up falling into the All Animation Is Disney trap as a result.

This can also apply to comics when comparing the interior pages to the cover: The interior pages require the artist(s) to distribute their efforts across multiple panels, whereas the cover art is created separately, so the cover artist(s) can invest a greater amount of effort and detail.

For manga, the poster-like artwork between the chapters proper are called Splash Pages, whereas the anime equivalent (just before and just after commercial breaks) are called Eye Catches, respectively. Bonus Material art is often more detailed as well. Most Mecha have 'mechanical designs' and 'animation models' where the latter is a simplified-for-animation version of the former.

This also applies to a lot of video game box art and advertising from the 1980s, especially before it became possible to capture high-quality gameplay images off a TV.

Remember Tropes Are Not Bad. This is simply a result of limitations with even the best animation.

Compare Action-Hogging Opening, Animation Bump, Limited Animation, Covers Always Lie.

Contrast Minimalistic Cover Art.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Many comic book covers from the 1980s onward are basically ten years ahead of the interior in terms of color complexity.
  • The covers of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comics are near-photorealistic renditions of the actors, while the actual comics are much less detailed and much more stylized. Though there are also variant covers drawn by the interior artist, which give a more realistic image of what's inside.
  • The covers of newer Monica's Gang comics are more beautiful and well-detailed in terms of tracing and shading than anything you will find inside it.

    Video Games 
  • The Mega Man 1 box art for the NES and the cover of the PC version of The Secret of Monkey Island, both of which feature far more advanced graphics than the actual games do. Interestingly as both series developed and graphics improved, Mega Man was made to look more like the in game graphics and the Monkey Island characters were made to look more like the cover art.

    Western Animation 

    Webcomic 

Deranged AnimationAnimation TropesDisney School of Acting and Mime
Covers Always LieCover TropesEvil Overlooker
Demon HeadGraphical TropesDinner Deformation
Animated FilmImageSource/Animated FilmsDisney Villain Death

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