Forgot to Feed the Monster

(Yes, that is a Bee Bee Gun.)
Mr. Burns: This calls for the League of Evil! [opens sealed vault to reveal skeletons]
Mr. Burns: My league! My beautiful league! All dead.
Smithers: Even monsters need air, sir.

In comedy works, it sometimes happens that a character will attempt to summon their minions, reveal a surprise character/animal/pet, or use a creature-based attack, only to have said minions/mooks/critters show up dead or incapacitated. Why? Because the character forgot to feed them or otherwise pay for their upkeep.

This trope is frequently a parody, is almost always Lampshaded, and is often used as a form of Deconstruction applied to other tropes, such as Zerg Rush, We Have Reserves, Summon Magic, and animal-based weapons or Death Traps such as Bee Bee Gun or Shark Pool. When it happens, it's usually to the Miser Advisor, Jerkass, Cloudcuckoolander, or The Ditz characters, as they're presumably the kinds of people who would be too flaky or too cheap to feed the minions. The Butt Monkey or Cosmic Plaything may also suffer this fate as a natural consequence of the universe screwing with them. When it happens to an Evil Overlord, it can be a result of incompetence on the part of the Minion with an F in Evil.

Compare It Works Better with Bullets, For Want of a Nail, and Reality Ensues. Contrast Infinite Supplies, Offscreen Villain Dark Matter, Perpetual-Motion Monster. A subtrope and subversion of Crazy-Prepared.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • A bafflingly dark M&Ms ad had a man realizing that his girlfriend never opened the gift that he had gotten for her, and after rushing to the closet and tearing it open he watches the anthropomorphic M&M inside choke on its last breath.

    Comic Books 
  • There was an incompetent Mad Scientist Dr. Fishtein in Gorsky and Butch. All his death traps involved some kind of predatory fish, always dead because he kept forgetting about water...
  • Defied in the miniseries Thessaly: Witch for Hire. The title witch is revealed to have captured or enslaved several monsters over the centuries. When her would-be suitor Fetch accidentally makes her a target for a seemingly invulnerable beast, she decides to let most of these monsters go because she doesn't expect to survive her encounter with the beast, and thinks it would be cruel to let her assorted captives die.
  • In one Daredevil story arc, the hero ends up in an old mansion converted into a gigantic house of DEATH. At one point, he gets thrown into a tube and ends up in a pool... which, due to lack of maintenance, featured a half empty base, and a suffocating shark.
  • The comic book adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis features this (somewhat surprisingly, given the franchise's general use of Durable Deathtrap)— Indy and Sophia fall into a pit of alligator skeletons, prompting Sophia to remark that it isn't really much of a deathtrap anymore.
  • The Mane Six get a warning about a giant monster in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW). They eventually encounter said monster's remains, noting that the Evil Overlord forgot to feed it.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, this serves as the basis for the classic "Bag Wars" arc. Brian, while checking the list of what his character is keeping in his bag of holding, discovers a complement of hirelings he had placed in there and forgotten about. When he investigates, he discovers that the hirelings have used the resources of the bag to build a keep and declare themselves an independent nation. Writer Jolly Blackburn claims this storyline was inspired by an actual incident in one of his games where a player hid hirelings in a bag of holding in order to smuggle them into an enemy stronghold and then forgot about them.
  • In Wormy, the "Siege of the Iron Keep" wargaming set that Wormy had ordered took four months to be delivered. Unfortunately, the enclosed playing pieces had only been provided with six weeks of rations.

    Fan Works 

    Literature 
  • In the Discworld book Wintersmith, Roland and the Nac Mac Feegle travel to a disused Underworld to rescue the Summer Lady, and find the skeleton of a three-headed dog that had apparently starved to death.
    • In Sourcery, there's a sequence where the Grand Vizier attempts to find a way of killing/torturing Rincewind, but keeps being told there's something wrong with the device. For example, when he suggests throwing Rincewind in a cage with a tiger, he's told the tiger is ill.
  • Overlaps with Buried Alive in Poe's short story "The Premature Burial"
  • Subverted in the H.P. Lovecraft story The Dunwich Horror, where the monster escapes from its prison when its brother, Wilbur Whateley, fails to return to feed it after being mauled to death by a guard dog.
  • In a variant, one of the Magic The Gathering tie-in novels had an ancient (and slightly senile) wizard summon up a vicious unnatural horror he remembered from his youth - only to get a heap of dusty bones. This prompted him to think something along the lines of "Has it really been so long?"
  • In Good Omens, the angel Aziraphale finds a dead bird lurking in his old, disused magician's coat. Oddly, it's the demon Crowley who restores the bird's life and sets it free.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played straight in the fifth season of Angel, when Illyria returns to Vahla'hanesh to get her demonic army. She's been dead so long they have all crumbled to dust.
  • Any time GOB performs an illusion involving animals in Arrested Development
  • One episode of Horrible Histories covered Tudor medical treatments. One of them involved covering live spiders in butter and feeding them to the sick victim. They were about to try it, but couldn't, because they forgot to feed the spiders.
  • One woman on an episode of Fatal Attractions was attacked by her pet tigers because she could no longer afford to feed all of them and had to resort to scrounging for roadkill.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Howard is preparing to do a magic show when he finds an old trick in his closet involving a metal tin and a live dove. When he opens the tin, feathers fly out and the sight makes him retch.

    Video Games 
  • One of the bosses of that long-forgotten NES game Monster Party apologizes when you enter its room: "Sorry, I'm dead." Lets Player DeceasedCrab takes his name from this boss.
  • Keeping your pet(s) fed in NetHack is important (and fortunately quite easy). Feeding them treats will train them to fetch. Also, being separated from your pet(s) (on a different level) for too long will lead to them going feral. A possible YASD is being killed by a former pet.
  • Averted in Nintendogs: If you neglect to feed your dog, eventually it will simply "run away." But it returns no worse for wear (if a little dirtier) soon afterwards.
  • In The Sims and its sequels, it is possible, albeit difficult, to starve your Sims to death by neglect. The difficult part is because the poor things will try anything to feed themselves until the fridge runs out of food and they're too broke to order pizza, unless you intentionally trap them in a room with no doors. Attempt this on a child, however, and a Social Services worker will come to take them away.
    • Dogs and cats in the games are treated like infants/children or infants, toddlers, and children depending on what version you are playing (apparently Child Services doesn't care about teens), but fish and other small animals can be starved if you forget to feed them.
    • In The Sims Medieval YOU can forget to feed the monster! Specifically, there's a huge tentacled beast used to execute Sims, and Spies and Knights are frequently assigned "Feed The Beast" as a responsibility. Sadly, they can only throw meat in, not Sims. And if they do literally forget to do it, the monster doesn't seem to suffer any ill effects. On the other hand, there is a quest where you have to cure the Beast of an illness.
  • As of 2012, herbivorous animals in Dwarf Fortress need to graze in a pasture, or they will starve to death. The mechanics of this are still pretty wonky, and several larger animals literally cannot eat fast enough to keep from starving. So much for your army of war elephants.
  • In Mass Effect 2, the captain's cabin on the Normandy 2 features a huge aquarium that you can fill with fish. And if you forget to feed them between missions, you'll be refilling it with fish, over and over and over again.
    • This problem is cured in Mass Effect 3, wherein you're able to purchase an automatic fish feeder for your aquarium.
    • Back in 2, Kelly Chambers will do it for you if you ask nicely.
  • Bonetail of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is subverts, in that despite being reduced to a fossilized skeleton after a millenium of neglect, he is still an undead beast and the most powerful enemy in the game.

    Web Comics 
  • Averted here. No way will Hades ever forget to feed this adorable three-headed puppy!
  • Used twice in Eight Bit Theater — first when Bikke tries to attack the Light Warriors with his pirate minions, only to discover that they are all dead or dying of scurvy because he was too cheap to buy supplies. Later happens to Thief, who forgot to feed his lawninja.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: In Beeman's interlude, here. "Wait, how long ago did I load this?"
  • A variation in The B-Movie Comic: The Big Bad of the second movie sends sharks with Frickin' Laser Beams after the heroes, only forgetting that a shark can only live underwater...
  • Chainmail Bikini plays with this. On the one hand, besieging the goblins' cave and starving them out so you can sell them trail rations is a perfectly good Take a Third Option. Too bad the quest is to "recover the pigs stolen by the goblins," and they were being kept in the cave. Of course, it took Marcus to point this out to the GM...
  • O tries to invoke this in a Commissioned strip, to deal with a player who keeps his familiar in a sack and never makes any reference to it except when it's currently useful. He's talked down to the familiar having just run away due to neglect.
  • Also used dramatically in The Dementia Of Magic: When Matt sees all sorts of dying monsters in the dungeon, he correctly guesses the evil sorceress that has been harassing and taunting him is not that competent.
  • The Dreadful does this in #059.
    Liz: Wow, I forgot I had this fairy in a bottle thing.
  • Dark Legacy Comics: The Ditz tries to keep a turkey safe just before thanksgiving, so he builds a wall around it and guards it for a week.
    Krom: Dude, you know you have to like, feed those things, right?
  • Subverted in The Order of the Stick, as Evil Overlord Xykon responds to his minions' complaints of not being paid/fed/whatever by killing them and raising them as zombies. Because they're just as strong, and cheaper to feed.
  • Penny Arcade once demonstrated the trope with a Pokémon.
  • As did VG Cats.
  • Inverted in Sluggy Freelance, where failure to give Satan's feline offspring milk on a daily basis results in them becoming extremely dangerous, and they're otherwise docile. The entire plot of the first K I T T E N all started because one of their caretakers switched from the real deal to a soy-based substitute; the sequel involved a government conspiracy depriving the town of milk so they could reproduce the conditions of two years ago.
  • In one story arc, Bruno the Bandit is planning to kidnap a girl for ransom and begins to reflect on the first time he tried something like that only to come to a sudden realization. Cut to them in the attic observing the Bound and Gagged skeleton of Bruno's first ransom attempt.
  • In Drowtales, Kiel'ndia has been feeding her friend Naal'suul, who succumbed to her demonic taint earlier in the story, for years in her hiding place under their old school. When she runs off to another city for a few chapters she gets back and realizes Naal hasn't eaten in days, so she promptly heads back to fix this. When she gets there Naal attacks her and then goes on a rampage. Ironically, this ultimately saves Kiel and possibly the entire world, as it results in Naal being present when Kiel's "Big sister" Kharla'ggen loses control after she's forcibly merged with a Demon God and is this close to mind-controlling Kiel too before Naal jumps in to try and eat Kharla, ultimately leading to both her and Kharla's demise.

    Web Original 
  • We do not know what a certain reviewer wears on his head, but apparently it gets cranky when he forgets to feed it.
  • In The Thrilling Adventure Hour episode "Sarcophagus Now", Frank and Sadie Doyle visit an ancient pyramid where, among the death traps, is a room with hundreds of snakes. It would be quite frightening, were it not for the fact the snakes have been dead a very long time.
    Frank: I don't know who thought they were being clever loading a place up with snakes, but they never had a goldfish nor a guinea pig for a pet. You have to feed animals, Ancient Egyptians! Oh, also they will not live to be thousands of years old even if you do feed them!

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy loves this trope.
    • In one instance, Peter reveals he'd been saving a pony for an easy way to cheer up Meg when needed. Opens the closet, sees its skeleton.
      Peter: Uh that's right, ponies... ponies like food, don't they?
    • A similar thing occurs in another episode where he stashed party balloons, streamers, and a clown on the chance where he was finally right about something.
      Lois: You were right, Peter.
      Peter: No way! I finally get to do this!
      (pulls on a rope which drops balloons and confetti and unrolls a banner that says Peter's Right)
      Peter: I had that set up fifteen years ago. Hey where's the clown?
      Lois: We have to do something about the FCC. Pack your bags, Peter, we're going to Washington DC.
      (skeleton with a clown nose and a rainbow afro wig falls from the ceiling)
      Peter: Oh, there he is.
  • In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Jon digs a top hat out of a trunk while mentioning that he hasn't practiced the trick in 20 years. He then reaches into the hat and pulls out a rabbit skeleton, to which Garfield remarks, "Maybe you should've fed the rabbit."
  • The Simpsons has done this at least twice.
    • Most notably with Mr. Burns' League of Evil. Once he actually killed his minions by leaving them behind a secret door for too long.
    • Disco Stu's, er, aquarium-shoes.
      "Uh, your fish are dead."
      "Yeah, I... can't get them out of there."
  • The Venture Bros.
    • The Monarch had a trap in his lair which consisted of releasing a horde of "man-eating butterflies"... except he forgot to feed them, so Brock just had several hundred dead butterflies dumped on his head. The Monarch then berates his henchmen for the mistake.
    • On a related note, at one point Dr. Venture is going through his mail, and opens a package containing a coiled cobra, poised to strike, and the words "Die, Dr. Venture!" written in blood. After a moment, the snake crumbles into dust, at which point he checks the postmark, realizing a) the package has been on his desk for years, and b) "I really have to get my shit together."

    Real Life 
  • Neglect has led to the death of many a beloved pet (or even child) in Real Life, for reasons ranging from forgetfulness to addiction to malice. Since this is neither funny nor relevant, please refrain from adding examples.
  • There's a classic riddle about a man who is given the choice of taking his chances with cannibals, or being thrown into a pit full of lions who haven't eaten in a year. He chooses the lions and escapes, because the lions have obviously died at this point.
  • Admit it; you've had a virtual pet that you left alone for ages and came back only to find it was dead, diseased, and surrounded by its own crap. Tamagotchis can take care of themselves.