"Something about that doll there on the desolate plain struck a note of terrible sadness in Sister's heart. Where was the child to whom this doll belonged? Blown away with the wind? Or buried and lying dead under the earth?"
Whenever a movie wants to add pathos to an evacuation or war scene, expect a shot of an abandoned toy, usually a doll or stuffed animal. Teddy bears and bunnies seem to be the most popular, and the more worn and tattered the better.
In evacuation scenes, the toy is supposed to represent the loss of innocence a child has suffered. In aftermath of war scenes, the doll is supposed to scream "KIDS DIED HERE!" without having to actually show a kid's corpse. That said, a really gutsy director may combine the doll with a Dead Hand Shot and show the child's hand still clutching the doll without showing the rest of their dead (and presumably mangled) body.
When used well, can undermine the A Million Is a Statistic effect.
With an adult character, it may be some other Iconic Item.
See Also: Infant Immortality, Hide Your Children. A related (but gorier) trope is the Dead Hand Shot.
Used to a very memorable, but rather confusing effect in a Volvo commercial. While it would probably have made a very effective PSA for buckling your seat belt, what's mostly forgotten these days is that it's a subtle boast from Volvo about the company's having invented the three-point seat belts which are now standard in very nearly all vehicles.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, the cause of the Ishval rebellion genocide was the "accidental" shooting of an Ishvalan child by an Amestrian officer (though it was really done on purpose by a shapeshifting Envy), after a lot of tension between the Amestrian government and the Ishvalan people. When this is said in a voiceover, we're shown a small, limp and bloodied arm (the rest of the body is offscreen) with the token teddy bear next to it.
Also, in Fullmetal Alchemist:Conqueror of Shamballa. The doll usually appears in piles of debris from a collapsed building, so that we know that a child has been killed without actually showing a crushed, mangled child, for obvious reasons.
In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Nanoha puts on a mask of professionalism while helping assess the damage on their HQ after an enemy attack. The mask cracks when she finds the stuffed rabbit she gave Vivio laying burnt among the wreckage.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz explains the origin of the bear, showing that it belonged to a little girl Heero befriended and later accidentally killed, becoming his My Greatest Failure. The manga prequel Episode Zero re-creates the scene from the opening, but this time with Heero in the background at a makeshift grave for the girl and preparing to kill himself.
In episode 36, "Sanc Kingdom's Collapse", a teddy bear is shown being burned during the attacks.
Used thrice in the 2001 Cyborg 009 TV series. Once at the beginning of the Greek Gods arc (Francoise sees a doll in between the ruins of a city destroyed by the Gods), another right before the 'big revelation' in the Psychic Assassins arc ( Lina finds a doll in the rubble and pets it as she explains her backstory to 009, before saying that the enemy she and her friends fought was Black Ghost), and another time during the Little Visitors arc, when the invaders blow up Shanghai; then they rewind time and do it again.
One of these shots shows up at the end of the Arabasta arc on One Piece, confusingly enough, at the site of a battle where there shouldn't have been a bunch of children running around for months.
In Noir, we see Altena as a child wandering a torn-up battlefield with her doll. When a soldier rapes her, all we see is the dropped doll on the ground.
The Dragon Ball Z movie The History of Trunks features a plush bunny of empathy, found by Trunks in a city that's just been destroyed by No.17 and 18.
In Rozen Maiden Traumend, when Shinku and Hinaichigo are ambushed at home, Jun and company return to find the living room overturned, the sliding glass door shattered and Shinku's Detective Kunkun plushie on the ground. Suigintou's N-Field is also filled with broken and abandoned dolls, although that's a manifestation of her own insecurities about being a (literal) broken doll herself, rather than the dolls belonging to anyone.
Subverted in Shin Hakkenden in one of the planets. Shu comes across a rebel commune and finds the doll. Coming to conclusion, he spurs into action. It isn't several episodes later that he discovers that people actually evacuated the commune and the general disorganization was either deliberate or since they were rushed by time. Either way, everyone lives.
In the animated movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki, Yupa comes across a doll in the ruins of an old city. Upon picking it up, it crumbles to dust in his hands. The human skeletons are in a similar state, due to the poisonous atmosphere of the creeping jungle.
A teddy bear and a small shoe are shown in Kurtis's Flash Back in Makai Senki Disgaea anime. To nail it deeper, it's the first thing he sees when he wakes up.
Berserk plays it Up to Eleven: Kentaro Miura shows us not only kid's knight-doll, but also the doll's killed little master. Doll is buried along with him.
In Code Geass, we see one plushie lying near a dead body during the massacre of the Japanese.
In the manga version of Barefoot Gen, there's a scene where a group of Japanese women, one holding her young daughter, choose to jump off a cliff onto the rocks rather than let the American soldiers take them away. After the little girl's mother grabs her and jumps, all we can see is the girl's doll on a blood-splattered rock.
An early episode of Hellsing shows the decimated home of a family slaughtered by vampires, who mostly used their blood to paint creepy symbols on the walls. The dead child isn't shown, but is referred to later. A beaten-up teddy bear is shown, presumably to take her place.
The first opening sequence of Gundam 00 shows a doll amidst the ruins of war in the Middle East.
The first episode of the second season of Strike Witches opens with a close up of a dirty, beat-up doll as scraps of paper are blown past by the wind.
The movie also opens with a shot of a dirty, ragged doll lying in a street before a spider Neuroi's leg punctures it.
Also, in Kiddy Grade, during one of the flashbacks of their past, it shows a doll after the city has been ruined. (In my opinion, the doll looks a LOT like Ponyo.)
In Season Three of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, one episode begins with a young boy showing off the Duel Disk he carved himself out of a block of wood in order to protect his grandfather from the Supreme King's army. Guess what hits the ground at the end of the episode during a Village Massacre Discretion Shot?
Neon Genesis Evangelion: While not related to a child's death, the doll from Asuka's backstory is probably the saddest and creepiest subversion of this trope ever.
Sorta used in Street Fighter IV: The Ties that Bind. There's no warzone on sight, but there is a lonely doll seen sitting on a fireplace in the Masters family's Big Fancy House... and it appears when Ken learns that his pregnant wife Eliza has been kidnapped by Crimson Viper. For worse, Viper does mention said doll's presence to get even more under Ken's skin.And even more: the doll was bugged, and that's how Viper found out where Ken and Eliza lived.
In Attack on Titan, a little girl drops her doll as her father carries her away during the evacuation of Trost.
In Sin City - To Hell and Back, a drugged soldier hallucinates that an actual child's corpse is a large doll, in a bit of a reversal of the trope.
"Just this once, I'm actually thankful for the drugs."
Done in an issue of X-Men, to show that a decimated alien planet, despite being described as the harsh cradle of a Proud Warrior Race Guy race, still had kids who played with toys.
Done in the final issue of Blackest Night: The Flash to imply that Owen — Captain Boomerang Jr. - had fed innocent children as well as bad guys to his zombiefied father Digger in an effort to get him back.
One of these is done in the propaganda film Lex Luthor used to brainwash Captain Marvel in Kingdom Come.
Done in a flashback in Secret Six when Jeanette describes the abduction of young girls by Countess Bathory.
Used when Thor visits New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Thor Volume #3.
In his origins for Red Lanterns creator and leader Atrocitus is ahown picking up his daughter's doll after she dies. This image also appears as he also finds the doll of a girl who's being hunted.
In the Soviet Animated Adaptation of There Will Come Soft Rains, the family, having been reduced to ashes by nuclear radiation, is poured out of their beds by the house going through its morning routine. This is especially creepy in the children's room, where the little girl's doll is buried by the growing pile of her ashes.
Films — Animated
The aftermath of a Hun attack in Disney's Mulan. What makes it worse is that, earlier in the movie, the Big Bad is holding the doll (his hawk stole it as GPS Evidence) and, as part of his justification for attacking the village, remarks that "the little girl will be missing her doll. We should return it to her."
Early in the film 9, our protagonist is wandering the devastated city all alone, and he stumbles across a rusted, ruined car with its door open. A teddy bear is sitting on the ground right outside of the open door— foreshadowing of what he's about to find when he looks inside of the car.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po finds a little panda doll in the remains of the Panda Village, although it is imlied that it was his. In the end of the movie, the doll is seen again in a crate of vegetables Po brings home.
In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, when Lucian brings Lindsey into the destroyed city, there is a porcelain doll's face still visible on the street.
Films — Live-Action
During the evacuation scene in Star Trek: Generations, a ratty stuffed bunny is shown abandoned on the deck of the Enterprise. As if that weren't enough, the film then gives us a long shot of the little girl who dropped it, reaching back for it in vain as she is whisked away.
Heartbreakingly utilized in Die Hard 2, in the crash site of a plane of innocents.
When the titular Dantes Peak starts getting pissy and the town's all getting shaky, one of the many shots during the panic is of a rather over-sized stuffed rabbit falling out of a windowsill in someone's house, while the panicked family flees out the front door.
Aliens features Newt's sad little doll's head sinking into the water as a pathos-estic metaphor for her loss.
In Déjà Vu, the camera follows a little girl and her doll for a while, until she drops it overboard, the doll hits the water, and the ferry explodes.
Heroic Trio II had the evil government trucks run over the piece of chicken the little girl had just bought at her family's request. It was a bit of a Narm, but I guess, in China, missing a meal is kind of a big deal.
Early in the 1930s film Things To Come, we see a small child riding a tricycle, just moments before a huge war breaks out. Afterward, as the camera examines the extensive damage, the broken tricycle is shown lying on its side in the rubble.
In Downfall, a Nazi blows himself and his family up with two grenades. We see the explosion from outside and a doll hit the street below.
Severely subverted in The Emperor and the Assassin in which Zhao arrives at the ransacked town too late and finds small drums and other children's toys littered across the ground. Upon further inspection, she proceeds to find the kids as well, buried alive.
In the film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a young Benjamin Barker is shown giving his infant daughter Johanna a porcelain doll before being arrested on a false charge. When he returns years later under the alias Sweeney Todd, he is taken to what was once his family's home, where he discovers that his wife was raped and poisoned herself after he was transported. His daughter — now 16 — is the ward of the man who raped his wife. To show the symbolic "death" of his family, he finds the doll, now filthy and decaying, in Johanna's crib.
A Day Called X had this when a school in Portland, Oregon is evacuated ahead of a Soviet air raid.
Early in Titanic, a doll's face can be seen in the sunken wreckage. We later meet the little girl (in flashback) holding the doll.
Truth in Television: During his first exploration of the Titanic's wreak, Bob Ballard and his crew came across a china doll's head in the debris field. The initial shock (for an instant they thought they were looking at the face of a corpse) faded pretty quickly, but the crew remained deeply disturbed by it. In his book on exploring the Titanic, Ballard wonders if the owner of the doll escaped, or whether she clutched it to her chest as the water rose up her legs...
In the History Channel's hypothetical documentary Life After People ("What would the Earth be like if all of humanity suddenly vanished?"), footage showing the abandoned city around Chernobyl included several shots of a forgotten doll lying in the ruins.
Another episode, featuring the abandoned "Battleship Island", showed the ruins of a playground. For maximum effect, they even threw in a ghostly-like echo of children laughing.
The Assignment, in which, after the car gets blown up, we see a doll flying through the air, although it turns out the family who were getting into the car used the explosion as a cover to go into witness protection.
The comedy One Crazy Summer has a character called Ack-Ack (he's a sort of military brat) discover a mangled doll on a beach being used to test munitions. "Do you realize that for every lost doll there's a little girl with a broken heart?" His Casanova Wannabe buddy George can only say, "Are you sure you want to be a Marine Acky? I just can't see you having a killer instinct."
A plot point in the original Planet of the Apes film, when a human-child doll that can, like, talk, man! freaks out some of the ruling class apes.
This is perfectly logical, because as is well known, toys of talking animals freak all humans out.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day shows "judgement day" (a nuclear attack on Los Angeles and many other major cities around the world) at the start of the film. At a playground with burning rocking horses. Subverted though: We get to see the bomb go off complete with the burning children in what's been praised by scientists to be the most horrifyingly-realistic representation of a nuclear attack ever committed to film.
The page image is from Full Metal Jacket, where it turns out the stuffed rabbit doll, found in a deserted, bombed-out Vietnamese city, has been used as the bait in a booby trap.
In Seven Days in May, after the President's aide is killed in a plane crash on the way back with the crucial evidence of the plot, a Spanish policeman sifting through the wreckage discovers a singed child's doll.
A doll is shown in the rubble of a London neighborhood struck by a Nazi rocket in Operation Crossbow.
While we don't actually see the death of the titular character's family in Mad Max, we see one of his wife's shoes lying in the road, while his infant son's toy ball rolls away along the road.
The Gate subverts the Creepy Doll trope to instead play this one straight. At the beginning of the movie, the Kid Hero has a nightmare about being lured into his treehouse by a creepy doll's mechanical voice, which is then struck by lightning. Much later, after the hellgate's been opened and the world's on the edge of destruction, he comes upon the same doll in the midst of his now-wrecked house. Given the events so far, it'd be no surprise at all if it tried to attack him. Instead, he just holds it as he stares out the window at the stormswept sky, and then lets it drop to his feet as he cries out for his fallen friend and sister.
Gorgo (riffed on by MST3K) has a shot, when the mother monster comes into London, where a little girl, running running away with her mom, drops a little doll, which gets trampled on by runners behind her. Mike and the Bots don't let this go as easily as the movie does: "Now they bring in tanks to trample the doll!"
In The Losers, we get a shot of a burning teddybear in the wreckage of an helicopter which was shot down by the military and happened to be carrying 25 children to safety.
The Film of the Book of The Stand does this twice. A doll probably belonging to Campion's daughter is shown on the road after the evacuation scene, and later, during the Crowded House song montage, there's a shot of a teddy bear in the surf on a beach.
This◊ shot from the beginning of Poltergeist II: The Other Side, showing the doll as well as an overturned baby carriage in an abandoned neighborhood.
Oz: The Great and Powerful - Oscar goes to "China Town," and finds a doll that's been torn to pieces. This is followed by finding another doll that has only had its feet and legs torn off, and this doll is alive. The whole town is populated by China dolls.
Final Destination 5 has Olivia fall victim to deadly laser eye surgery. She clutches a Teddy Bear that falls to the floor and is itself charred by the laser.
The Quick and the Dead. Several shots in the flashbacks to when the protagonists family was murdered when she was a little girl. She was carrying the doll, of course, but it goes flying from her hands and trampled on by the horses of the outlaws.
In Quick, the toy silver cube Jeong's daughter was playing with is seen laying next to the wrecked car in the aftermath of the car crash.
The Painted Veil plays with this one; Kitty finds a doll in one of the beds in the house where she and Walter are staying. Walter informs her that the previous occupants of the house, including the little girl, died of cholera, and that the little girl probably died in that bed. Kitty drops it. (Possibly made less effective because it's a Creepy Doll.)
An Lampshade Hanging of the trope occurs in an Artemis Fowl book, where Holly points out that the crew making a movie about the goblin rebellion of the second book had to add a burned doll to make a shooting scene more tragic.
An interesting variation is seen in Garth Nix's short story "Charlie Rabbit". Two children trapped in the rubble of their home after a bombing manage to alert rescuers to their presence by using a toy rabbit. (It was a singing toy. They used their flashlight batteries to power it and the noise attracted a rescue team.)
Subverted similarly to Avatar in Squire, the third book in Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small quartet. Kel finds a child's doll in the ruins of a village attacked by bandits, but the little girl turns up a scene or so later to get it back. (Her baby brother, however, is dead.)
Subverted differently in the fourth book in that series; Kel finds strands of Meech's doll's hair throughout the forest as she's trying to rescue the refugee kids from getting their souls trapped in giant killing machines in a "Hansel and Gretel" sort of way.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Guns of Tanith, when Kolea and Varl's companies make it to the habs, they find, occasionally, evidence that people had lived there, including a child's toy lasgun.
In Traitor General, in a deserted village, Curth finds a doll in an empty cot. She starts to cry though she despises it; Criid comes to comfort her, sees, and starts to cry herself. Which lets Curth collect herself trying to comfort Criid.
Played interestingly in one of the books when Larkin enters a hab building strewn with signs of Chaos. Among other desecrations, he finds a bunch of dolls, mutilated and crucified on the wall. He spends some time contemplating this, until he notices that not all the little figures on the wall are dolls. This is as close to Black and White Morality as 40K will ever get.
Not exactly a toy, but the same idea. In Germinal by French author Émile Zola, after the big disaster in the coal mine, he zooms from telling the epic proportions of the tragedy, and tells of an old mine horse, free from his harness after all these years, roaming the narrow tunnels, maybe in search of the green pastures he can dimly recall from his youth. Aww... ouch... Disaster is personal again.
In Swan Song, by Robert R. Mc Cammon, Swan abandons her cookie monster doll before she rushes into a Kansas fallout shelter. Then, after the nuclear strike happens, a New York bag lady has an out-of-body experience where she visits the remains of the fallout shelter and finds the cookie monster doll.
Live Action TV
In the first episode of The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes wakes from a coma and looks around to see a disaster zone. He sees through under a car of a teddy bear and a child, possibly the bear’s owner, picking it up. Grimes go to see if the girl needs help only to discover she’s a zombie, or “walker and is forcedput her out of suffering before he could be infected with the same disease.
One of the most Tear Jerker examples is the Silent Credits from the Doctor Who serial Earthshock. Adric has just died - and the viewer is treated to his broken Maths Excellency badge in place of the usual credits.
In "Day of the Doctor", a burning soft toy is seen on the ground during the Dalek's attack on Gallifrey.
A joke made by Lister in Red Dwarf references this, where he claims that since the only things that survive air crashes are children's dolls, the entirety of Starbug is made of that material.
In Drop the Dead Donkey, set in a newsroom, one of the less moral reporters has a teddybear he takes to war torn areas as a prop. "I've won four awards with Dimbles!" note Named after Richard Dimbleby (BBC journo and newscaster).
He also has a bloodstained shoe.
And a Raggedy Ann doll.
The 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries contains an evacuation scene where the Colonial Fleet must abandon a number of ships that don't have FTL (faster-than-light) jump drives. As the rest of the FTL-equipped ships jump away, the viewpoint switches to the interior of a botanical ship, where a young girl sits playing with her teddy bear. Immediately afterward, Cylon Raiders jump into view and launch nuclear missiles at the ships, destroying them.
The extended version of the episode "Razor" contains a flashback to Helena Cain's childhood during the First Cylon War, in which she and her younger sister Lucy are attempting to escape a building under attack by Cylons. Her sister becomes unable to run when she trips over some rubble and is injured, so Cain leaves her behind and hides in a container. When the Cylons leave and Cain returns to where she left her sister, she finds only Lucy's doll.
Firefly, "Bushwhacked": One of the trunks on the abandoned ship contains a child's doll. Subverted a few moments later when they show the mangled corpses anyway.
Subverted and mercilessly mocked in The Wire, when the reporters make fun of a photographer who always plants a burnt doll at the scene of a fire before taking his pictures.
Used in the second season of Breaking Bad, where the first shot of the first episode is of a burned pink bear floating in Walt's pool. Over the course of the season we see more of the surrounding scene of carnage (a floating eyeball, bloody glasses, bodybags in the driveway, etc.) until we learn in the season finale that Walt's actions throughout the series have indirectly caused two planes to collide in mid-air above his house.
An early episode of Casualty, in which a girl dies after suffering a severe asthma attack, ends with a shot of a picture drawn by the child.
In the German series Jokehnen, set around World War II, a German father who was in Russia brings his young son a gift, a teddy bear. But the boy remarks that the bear is patched... not speaking out loud that it obviously belonged to some other kid. (At least we can assume that the father just found the teddy bear somewhere.)
In The Pacific, the Marines are seen toying with a Japanese soldier while he's hip-deep in water that's filled with the corpses of other Japanese. One of the main characters becomes disgusted and Mercy Kills him. He later finds the man's pouch, which has photos of his family and a small doll.
Early on in episode 10 of the 2009 V re-imagining, a burnt, broken doll is found in the wreckage of a V shuttle shot down by the protagonists. Later revealed to be a possible subversion, though, since some already-dead skeletons had been planted on the ship by the Vs.
In Ghost Adventures, the group who broke into Letchworth Village to explore found a lot of children's toys.
Hoarders, season 1, episode 2, called "Patty & Bill." A Kansas woman's hoarding has taken over her entire house. When we learn that her children were taken away as a result of her unsanitary living conditions, we're treated to this shot◊ of the tire swing hanging from a leafless tree on a cloudy day.
In the "What Sank Titanic?" episode of Curiosity, a young mother who is separated from her daughter gives up searching for her only when she finds her doll. Ultimately subverted when she reaches the boat deck and spots her daughter already in a lifeboat.
Mission: Impossible: In "The Wall", a family attempting to escape East Berlin in caught in no mans land. The little girl drops her rag doll. The East German officer casually steps on it and grinds it into the mud.
Happens in the Kasabian video for Cutt Off.
A twisted bicycle is seen in the rubble in a war-ravaged town in the video for Michael Jackson's "Earth Song".
To add to the poignancy of this scene, the little girl who owned the bicycle is seen in a flashback, running up a hill.
The final verse of Nena's anti-nuclear song 99 Red Balloons has the song's narrator standing in the ruins of a nuked city when they find one of the balloons which triggered the war in the first place. Thinking of their friend (who has evidently been killed in the holocaust) they let the balloon go.
May by unrelated, but the fragility and discardedness of the main character Pink in Pink Floyd's The Wall is represented in the album artwork ((and The Movie based on the album) by a beat up doll laying in a corner.
An adventure in Deadlands: The Wasted West (a post apocalyptic Western) invokes the Empathy Doll Shot for a completely different task: The ghost that the party is hunting is an absolute bastard. Read the following spoiler at your own risk. The ghost is of a child molester, who felt no shame unlike the other ghosts the party had already dealt with. The adventure has a note from the editors that reads "We can't show what he actually did, so you'll have to put up with showing dolls."
Early on in Half-Life 2, Dr. Freeman comes across the rusted and busted remains of a playground, complete with the sad remains of a plastic doll that makes sad little talking doll sounds when you throw it at a wall.
When you enter the playground, you hear brief echos of children's laughter...
In Final Fantasy X, two children are shown playing with a ball just before their peaceful port town is attacked and destroyed. After watching the town reduced to splinters, we see the ball float past in the water. And seeing as it's sunset at the time, the water appears blood-red.
Resident Evil has a couple, believe it or not. In amongst the wreckage of Raccoon City you can find children's toys, which hints that they became victims of the outbreak, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has an area in the alley decorated with sidewalk chalk, a sandbox filled with toys, and spatters of blood.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert has a cutscene showing villagers fleeing a Soviet air raid that ends with a long zoom in on an abandoned teddy bear with a bullet hole shot through it. To make this one worse, it's a Victory cutscene from a Soviet mission. The player was the one directing the air raid. Not at all helped by the fact that the Briefing, where you are given the order by none other than Josef Stalin himself, there is a slideshow of the aftermath of a chemical gas (possibly SARIN) attack. And since it was the first mission, it was an easy mission, with not much fighting back. Gives the player a warning though: If you wanted to play the good guys, put the Allied Disk in your CD drive right now!
A variant of this trope appears in Modern Warfare 1. After the end of Sgt. Paul Jackson's campaign, in which your aircraft is downed by a nuclear bomb, and just before your death after crawling out of the wreckage of your helicopter, it is possible to make your way to a ruined playground a few feet ahead of the downed craft, where the player can hear the faint echoes of children playing.
Similarly, while moving through the remnants of Pripyat, Ukraine, you can hear echoes of children playing in the background.
The standard trope also occurs in teddy bears found throughout the Call of Duty and Modern Warfare series. To name one for this page, one can be found lying around an apartment in Pripyat in MW1.
There's also one in the house where you find the informant.
In a slight variation of this, a World of Warcraft quest requires you to retrieve three pieces of a child's doll from a haunted village, recombine them, and deliver them to the ghost of a child in a house on the edge of town. It's part of a larger quest chain, which later suggests that the girl was slaughtered, along with the rest of her family, by her father, Captain Redpath, or agents of his, who had been turned against the people of the village by a Scourge death knight. At the conclusion of the quest, you alter history by defeating Redpath the Corrupted, cleansing his spirit and allowing him to reunite with his daughter.
After you do the Fall of Theramore scenario in World of Warcraft a new graveyard is visible near the ruins. One of the markers close to the road has a doll leaning against it.
Used in Beyond Good & Evil when Jade returns to the ruins of her lighthouse and discovers that her children have been kidnapped. While there are the debris of lots of toys lying around, the doll is the one the camera specifically focuses on.
This happens commonly in Fallout 3; as you wander around the Capital Wasteland, you come across toys, dolls, teddy bears, and rusted and bent playgrounds on a regular basis. Made even worse when you go into a house to explore and find what is clearly a child's bedroom due to there being toys on the floor, and laying in the bunkbeds are a couple of blackened skeletons.
Invocation of this trope is defeated on realization that the children in the game are unkillable without game mods and that their toys make handy ammunition for the Rock-It Launcher.
Valkyria Chronicles uses a rather predictable one to herald the beginning of a certain character's acceptance of the game's downtrodden minority. (The doll in question belonged to a child of said race.)
Xenogears has an entire child's room that was blasted to pieces in a war 500 years ago. Not only is there a doll (that you find a secret item near) but a rocking horse. The characters muse on what happened as it sqeuaks back and forth.
That's not all. If you examine the cabinet, you'll get a message that says "Found a child's memory from long ago. But no one could take that way."
In Dead Rising, one of the first stores you encounter is a toy store (in surprisingly good condition). Migitated by the fact that while the storyline is certainly a dark and serious affair, the over-the-top gameplay allows you to use nearly anything as an Improvised Weapon to hilarious effects.
The trope is played more straight when Adam is first encountered, recounting how he set the kiddy coaster in the area running wild to help scare away the zombies after his audience was eaten when the undead were let into the mall. Frank glances into the car passing by and sees two blood-splattered dolls propped up on the seat.
Guild wars: Prophecies has an extra-emotional version. Near the ruined starting town, you can find several child toys. The labels on these items clearly show them to belong to Gwen, a cheerfull little girl that followed you around in the tutorial, before the kingdom got razed (Gwen in shown in the cutscene when the kingdom gets nuked).
After much speculation from players about her fate, the trailers for the Eye of the North expansion (not coincidentally, it is abbreviated as GW:EN) finally showed she was Not Quite Dead after all.
Dragon Age: Origins has one in the Alienage mission, where you find a doll in one of the apartments where the elves were kept. The rest of the room only drives the KIDS DIED HERE point even deeper.
Subverted in Ace Combat Zero. One still-frame cutscene shows a child slightly dragging a bunny rabbit on the ground behind her while soldiers and tanks march by. The narration talks about the successful invasion of that city, but the child is still alive and has a good grasp on her doll.
In Barrow Hill, one of the piles of ashes (that used to be people) found near the gas station is right next to a coloring book and crayons. Note that the closed-circuit video of the attack that created these ash-piles doesn't actually show the child it belonged to.
Possibly invoked in Plants vs. Zombies - there's a pink tricycle in the corner of the backyard level.
In Mega Man Zero 1 the La Résistance base is stormed by Neo Arcadian Forces. While the bodies of a few resistance solders are found, if Zero enters the hallway where Alouette is usually found, only the stuffed animal she always clutches will be lying on the ground. Once the threat is taken care of, she reclaims her lost companion.
Taken to a borderline sadistic extreme in Onimusha 2's opening cutscene, where Nobunaga decimates the population of an idyllic village shown to be inhabited by, among others, a baby playing with a rattle. After the slaughter, the rattle is shown laying in the dust with Nobunaga's pet snake not only coiled around it but gleefully shaking it back and forth in a macabre mockery of the "playing" motions the child had been making. The snake consummates the horror by squeezing the rattle even tighter, eventually breaking it in half.
In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, a burned out alleyway in the recently-invaded Seoul contains a squeaky teddy bear. It can be thrown to distract enemies.
Mass Effect 3 uses the toy model of an Alliance Trident fighter to illustrate the consequences of death when the Reapers invade. In the "Take Back Earth" trailer, a young girl is seen playing with the toy in a sunflower field, then witnesses a Reaper ship touching down behind her - a few seconds later, Shepard and Ashley come upon the (now burned-out) field and find the charred toy. The game itself opens with a different child playing with the same toy just before the initial attack.
In Halo: Reach, "Exodus", the level opens with you approaching a city under siege by the Covenant. You take control just as you enter a plaza covered in dead civilian bodies. In the middle, you can find a small teddy-bear backpack, obviously belonging to a child. You don't find any children bodies, but here's some Fridge Horror for you: the majority of the enemy forces in the city are Brutes.
In Agent Stone's storyline in Twisted Metal Black, Calypso gave him the bloodied teddy bear in the asylum. It belonged to a girl whom he killed, along with her mother and his target in a rage and his anger cost the girl her life.
Silent Hill 3's theme park mascot, Robbie the Rabbit, appears several times as a statue (or costume) or a stuffed doll, often bloodied, possibly representing Alessa/Heather's innocent childhood corrupted by the influences of Dahlia and Valtiel.
In Draconia Chronicles, Raz's entire tribe has been killed by a devastating landslide, triggered by volcanic fallout. When she tries to inform the princess about it, her advisor dismisses the event as "unimportant". Raz tearfully regards the doll she salvaged. Then hauls off and smacks her one.
In The Demon Archives, Tenzin's HUD zooms on a doll lying in the street as his military squad searches a seemingly empty town for its missing inhabitants, who turn out to have all been recently slaughtered by the Big Bad.
Played straight in ReBoot the first time it is used, subverted or parodied on every subsequent appearance. The doll becomes a running gag—in one episode Enzo takes advantage of its indestructibly when he jams it into an airfoil on the User's fighter jet, causing it to spin out of control and explode in a fiery crash (the doll comes through with nary a scratch, of course.)
Subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender "Jet". When a town gets flooded, we're treated to a somber shot of a doll floating in the aftermath. Shortly after, the doll is picked up by its owner. Turns out the town was evacuated in the nick of time, and no one drowned.
In "Graduation", the Grand Finale of Kim Possible, Kim's house is destroyed by an alien attack robot. Just to drive the point home, the machine puts its spike-shaped foot through Kim's beloved stuffed animal, Pandaroo, in a combination of symbolism and a Continuity Nod. Of course, given the hyper-compressed (okay, rushed) nature of the episode, the loss of the house and Cuddle Buddy are not mentioned for the rest of the story.
Used during the Hulk Vs.. Wolverine animated movie with a teddy bear after the Hulk's rampage.
Used as a Tear Jerker in an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Two clone troopers come across an orphaned Twi'lek girl, and she leads them to her house. She sees her doll, picks it up, and starts crying uncontrollably.
As mentioned above, Tintin finds a teddy bear in the wreckage of a plane in Tintin in Tibet. In the TV series though, the scene is complete with sad music and a reaction shot where Haddock sheds a single tear of empathy. Through his snow goggles.
A stuffed rabbit doll is stomped on by Toad Soldiers in the intro to Bucky O Hare And The Toad Wars, spelling out quite clearly before the show starts who the villains are.
In the Motorcity episode "Vendetta," Mike Chilton finds one of these after he remembers how he was unable to save a building from being torn down by Kane, even though he was able to save its residents.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated mocks this trope, much like The Wire above, in the episode "The Night the Clown Cried: Part 2". When the local reporters of Crystal Cove go to cover a recent rampage by Crybaby Clown, the town's slimy publicist J.R. Kippel plants a teddy bear amid the ruins of a destroyed building so it'll make a more dramatic photo-op and sell more newspapers. Considering the sheer number of Shout Outs and Parental Bonuses in this show, it may very well be an intentional Shout-Out to The Wire.
Early in World War I, in which Germany violated Belgian neutrality to get a jump on the French, one war correspondent saw a rag doll lying in the middle of the road, its head crushed flat by the wheels of a gun carriage.
"The Guns Of August" by Barbara Tuchman, p. 258, near the end of chapter 13.
Pictured above is a scene taken from the fallout-poisoned vestiges of Pripyat, Ukraine, site of the Chernobyl accident.
There are hundreds of dolls like this in Pripyat, but many experts about the area agree that most of them did not belong to people affected by the disaster. Most of the girls of Pripyat brought their dolls with them when they were evacuated, so most of the dolls left in the city were brought there by photographers trying to invoke this trope.
The Auschwitz museum dedicates entire buildings of the former death camp to displaying articles of daily life confiscated from the prisoners, making their stories much more personal and visible. At least one case contains a rag doll. A particularly touching example is a room full of countless shoes that nonetheless demand the viewer imagine scores of feet; children's shoes are clearly arranged toward the front.
The exhibits at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima include a small boy's burnt tricycle, which was initially buried with its owner in the family's backyard. Both were dug up in 1985, the child's body being transferred to the family grave, while the tricycle was donated to the museum.
After every natural disaster, there is an inevitable shot of something belonging to a child - a tricycle, a doll, a Doraemon toy. Perhaps the most poignant recent images were from the school which lost 80% of its students - a photo of school bags and another of children's bags still in their cubbyholes.
Some man-made disasters, accidentally or intentionally, can sometimes show this... especially if children were among the injuried and/or deceased. The American program, Seconds From Disaster, shown real-life footages of example of this, like a stuff animal being found following 1992 crash of the El Al Flight 1862 in Amsterdam that killed 43 people, including children at an apartment complex.
This shot◊ from a Gallery called "Postcards from Hell: Life in a Failed State"
It's common for makefits memorial sites, especially if a child was killed, to have stuff animals as part of the tribute.
This was the case following the Sandy Hook Shootings, where the 26 people were shot and killed at the school: 6 adult women and 20 children.
The Sunday after the Oklahoma City bombing (in which 19 children were among the 168 killed), a political cartoon depicted a solitary teddy bear sitting in a corner and crying, presumably orphaned by the disaster.
One of the most famous pictures from the Titanic wreck is that of a doll in the wreck.
This trope is often inverted in real life, where a stuffed animal in taken to the scene of a disaster to comfort a child rather than mourn them: Many emergency vehicles often equipped with teddy bears, blankets and other cuddly things to help calm and comfort young survivors.