An Orphaned Reference is a scene or line that refers to something that has been cut from the final version. In milder cases, this only means that what was supposed to be a Meaningful Echo loses its additional meaning; in more severe cases, the lost background information can cause apparent Noodle Incidents, Plot Holes or Ass Pulls. Compare The Artifact. See also Dub Induced Plothole and Adaptation Induced Plothole; all adaptation and dub examples go there. Some video game examples may overlap with Dummied Out.
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Films — Animation
- In Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Nemo has a dream where he goes down to the pantry and sees a note on the ice box saying "You promised", before water bursts out and floods the house. Viewers watching the old VHS cut would make the connection that Nemo had just broken his promise to King Morpheus, but miss out on the double meaning because of a deleted scene while Nemo was awake where he promised his mother he'd stay out of the ice box and not eat the pie she'd baked.
- In Lilo & Stitch, Lilo is shown to enjoy taking photographs of the obese tourists who come to visit the island, which the audience is meant to assume is just part of her quirky personality. However, a deleted scene shows tourists asking her if she's going to "Hula dance" for them, and who all seem to have a very stereotypical and condescending view of Hawaiians. Then, in a surprisingly somber moment, she expresses frustration with the way visitors treat the actual natives of the island. The added context makes it clear that the photos are Lilo's way of dealing with white visitors, rather than a harmless quirk.
- In The Road to El Dorado, when Tulio asks why Chel would help him and Miguel steal from her own people, she says, "You've got your reasons, and I have mine." Originally, there was going to be a scene of her almost getting sacrificed to the gods, and then escaping. This is why she is seen being chased by the guards when Tulio and Miguel first meet her. This was cut out of the film for being too dark, but was left in some promotional media, like the tie-in book on tape.
- In the Rankin/Bass The Hobbit, the Elf King and the Dwarves argue about how the dwarves scared off a party of elves and stole their food. This happens in the the book, but they didn't add that scene to the animated film.
- In My Little Pony Equestria Girls there are references to a girl running against Sunset Shimmer during the Spring Fling and having something bad happen to her. Later after the climax, Rarity states she wants "an apology for last springs debacle." These plot points are one and the same.
Films — Live-Action
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has some milder ones:
- "Is that seriously the end of the story?" — Originally, this was Kim's response to Scott's flashback about how he met Knives on the bus (she dropped her books, he picked them up), later echoed by Ramona when she hears it from Knives. The flashback scene was cut in the final version.
- In an early, discarded version of Scott and Ramona's first date, Ramona was seen lighting a cigarette, saying she smokes only on special occasions. Scott was supposed to be echoing her after his battle with Roxy, when he says he only drinks on special occasions.
- In The Sixth Sense, when the protagonist realizes he's a ghost, there is an echo of the boy saying "I see people". The line "I see people" was not used in the final cut (he only says "I see dead people").
- Several in Monkeybone.
- Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News has two cameos as a next-door neighbor, wearing shirts that said "Lucky" and "Stiff"; one of the cameos was cut.
- The stain on Stu's Grim Reaper costume is explained from a deleted scene, that showed him stealing it.
- In the end of The Goonies, Data has a line about the Giant Octopus, which was cut from the film. It was included in the Disney version, however.
- An example of this trope is actually in the title of Batman Forever. The title seems odd to many audience members until they realize it is in reference to a line of dialogue that was in a deleted scene.
- Monty Python's Life of Brian originally had a whole subplot about King Otto, who was to have been A Nazi by Any Other Name. The only mention of Otto in the finished film is when his crack suicide squad show up in the final scene.
- In The Wizard of Oz, there's a scene where the Wicked Witch is giving instructions for her flying monkeys to intercept Dorothy's party, and she says, "They'll give you no trouble, I promise you that. I've sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them." This was in reference to a deleted scene where a bug called the Jitterbug stings the main characters, and they break into a dance number.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie scolds Roger for dancing for the bar patrons and potentially blowing his cover while "I'm out there risking my neck out for you". It's a fairly generic line, except that the immediate events don't warrant it; Eddie went from leaving Roger in the hidden room at the bar straight to his office, where he meets Jessica, and then back out to find Roger dancing. The line makes more sense when one considers the deleted scene (included in the comic version) that would have followed Roger's drop-off, where Eddie is caught snooping in Jessica's dressing room by Judge Doom and is sent to Toontown, where he is given a "tooneroo", a toon pig painted on top of his head. He goes back to his office to wash it off, which then segues to his encounter with Jessica.
- Star Trek: Generations had baddie Soran make a hammier than usual remark about Geordi's heart just not being in a conversation. Which made no sense on its own, but referred to a cut scene that involved him torturing Geordi by repeatedly stopping his heart. You can see the cut scene here. It also has Dr. Crusher saying "I removed the nanoprobe" (that Soran used to stop Geordi's heart), leaving the audience to wonder "what nanoprobe?"
- In National Treasure, there's a quick moment where one character is seen grabbing a knife. It was never put to use later; the production team was planning on it, but cut that element out (partly for ratings reasons).
- InThe Lord of the Rings, Faramir's lines "A chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to prove his quality," and "Tell him I send a mighty gift" were supposed to be Meaningful Echos of what his father Denethor says to him earlier, in Osgiliath. The scene in Osgiliath was deleted, though it can be found in the Extended Version of the film. Granted, Book!Faramir did say the first line at about the same point in the story and Book!Denethor did refer to the Ring as "a mighty gift" that Boromir would not have let slip by in Return, so the references are merely demoted to "shout-outs to the source".
- In the Richard Lester cut of Superman II when Clark sees General Zod taking over the White House, Lois tells Clark "You didn't know", only for Clark to reply "He knew". Clark is referring to Jor-El telling him about the Kryptonian villains, but those scenes were removed from the Lester cut.
- Three Men and a Baby has a deleted plot thread about Jack Holden (Ted Danson's character) appearing in a dog food commercial. This explains the cardboard standees of him that pop up in a couple spots in the final cut that inspired a famous Urban Legend.
- In Wing Commander, the Pilgrim is asked at one point about his pilgrim pendant, to which he replies that he doesn't have it anymore. The reason why he lost it is never explained in the movie. The reason for that is because a scene where he stabs a traitor with the pendant was filmed but cut from the final version of the movie.
- There's a deleted scene from Kung Pow! Enter the Fist where an old man writes "MOUTH" on the Chosen One's face. There's a scene or two in the final cut where this writing is still visible.
- The Viral Marketing for Iron Man 2 included a fake commercial for the Stark-Fujikawa subsidiary, which made little sense in the overall context of the film. This is because the character Rumiko Fujikawa (a Japanese businesswoman and one of Tony's love interests from the comics) was supposed to appear in the film, but was cut when the script was rewritten.
- In The Avengers, Banner's line that "you could smell the crazy on [Loki]" was supposed to set up a Brick Joke of the Hulk doing just that — Loki would use duplicates but Hulk would find the real one by his scent.
- In Four Rooms, Tim Roth's character is given five warnings: "Stay clear of night clerks, kids, hookers, and married arguments" and "Keep your cock in your pants." Over the course of the film he violates each of these... except the one about the hookers. They just never show up.note Other evidence (some of the animations during the opening credits, and a group of naked ladies fleeing the room at the beginning of the last segment) suggests a fifth story was cut out late in the game.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day they cut all the scenes of the T-1000's shapeshifting malfunctions before release. Only one was left in, after he neutralizes the Terminator and a single ripple of silver runs up his body, which confused audiences until the Director's Cut was released and explained what was going on.
- Dogma has Cardinal Glick place an odd emphasis on God being male, considering the final cut has nobody telling him otherwise.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane" Maria is wiped from time and only Alan remembers her. Chrissie pays Alan a visit after time has been altered and tells him they never had a daughter. Alan protests that Chrissie was at their house earlier and saw Maria. This refers to a cut scene earlier in the serial where Chrissie does indeed visit the house and sees Maria.
- When the first few hour-long episodes of Cheap Seats were cut down to a half-hour, a few references and jokes were left orphaned. Example: in the "Superdogs/Superjocks" episode, there was a warning in "What 2 Look 4" for an obscene number of dog-puns. The subsequent edits chopped out the majority of them. (there were still some groaners, but not enough to justify a warning.)
- The producer's cut of the Parks and Recreation episode "Halloween Surprise" includes a scene where Chris recommends that Ann try "dating herself" instead of getting involved with anymore men, but this was cut from the aired version. In the next episode, "Ben's Parents", Ann mentions that she can't date Chris because she is dating herself. Although she explains what she means, it comes slightly out of nowhere.
- This can occasionally happen on Wheel of Fortune, of all shows. Typically, the producers will edit out a cycle of turns if it doesn't affect the score or the puzzle (for instance, if all three players consecutively call wrong letters, hit Lose a Turn, and/or hit Bankrupt when they have nothing that they can lose to it). In some instances, host Pat Sajak has made reference to such turns — most often in the form of telling a player that a letter was already called, when the first such instance was edited out; saying that a player hit Bankrupt X amount of times; or making some comment conducive to finally uncovering a letter after several wrong ones were called, even though the home viewer only saw one or two at best.
- In the Doctor Who story "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances", when Captain Jack arrives at the climax, the Doctor shouts to him "Change of plan!", but they never actually made a plan. In the script book, Steven Moffat explains that the plan was in an earlier draft of the script and got cut because it was slowing the episode down.
- Ruddigore: Originally in the second act, Old Adam was to have changed his name to Gideon Crawle when he turned evil along with his master. This change of name was undone, but one reference to Gideon Crawle inexplicably remained.
- Shakespeare had to deal with it (or at least his literary executors did): In the First Folio there are various references to things which were changed from the original "final" texts. For example in Henry IV there's a reference to Oldcastle in the stage directions, which is the name Falstaff first had until some descendants of the real Oldcastle complained. There's also a punny line that only works with the name Oldcastle.
- Due to time constraints, many stage productions of Sweeney Todd cut the second part of the contest scene between Todd and Pirelli, where they compete to pull a person's tooth quickly and cleanly. However, few if any productions alter Todd's line before the contest, that he "can shave a cheek and pull a tooth with ten times more dexterity" than Pirelli.
- In the finale of Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey and Seymour (now part of the plant) sing, "We'll have tomorrow!" This was the title of a Cut Song.
- In Gypsy, while most of the music and lyrics of "Rose's Turn" are based on or allude to earlier numbers, the "Momma's talking loud" section is a reference to the Cut Song "Momma's Talkin' Soft."
- In the second act of Lady in the Dark, Liza picks up a book on astrology Allison had left for her, and starts hearing voices mocking her: "Astrology! The stars! And you're clutching at it! Helplessly! You're clutching at anything!" The third Dream Sequence soon ensues, and Liza was originally to have defended her indecisions in a Western Zodiac-themed Cut Song.
- In "Wonderful Music" from 110 in the Shade, Lizzie ecstatically sings, "Now I'm no longer alone" on a soaring phrase that seems to have been inserted to cover a modulation. In fact, it derives from one of the show's many Cut Songs, File's "Why Can't They Leave Me Alone?"
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a scene deleted after the show had been up and running for a while that resulted in this. Willy Wonka's introductory song "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen" has the lyrics "Beyond this door's a factory/Begat from just a bean". Originally, the phrase "just a bean" — referring to the humble cacao bean that serves as the first ingredient in chocolate — turned up in the Opening Narration of the animated prologue "Creation Overture", so the lyric was a Meaningful Echo further strengthened by the audience realizing that the offscreen narrator was actually Mr. Wonka. "Creation Overture" was cut when the show had its first major cast change, so the echo is now lost.
- The Ring of the Nibelung: Drafts of The Young Siegfried had Alberich bringing a horde of Nibelungs with him to claim the Ring after Fafner's death, and Siegfried, once he emerges from the cave with the Ring, using its power to order the Nibelungs to disperse (as Alberich does in Das Rheingold). Wagner ultimately decided not to include a Nibelung ensemble in Siegfried, but this helps explain Hagen's otherwise mysterious explanation in Götterdämmerung that the Nibelungs have become slaves to Siegfried.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion there's a quest hook that can be added to your list about the Black Horse Courier needing more staff. The quest itself was never added to the game.
- There are also references scattered in odd places (a journal entry here, a sign there) of a town called Sutch, near Kvatch. Sutch never made it into the final game, but not all references of it were scrubbed before launch.
- In Portal 2, while fighting Wheatley, he will comment that he didn't expect you to survive up till then because all the others he tried to escape with died. Word of God says that this was a reference to a subplot that was ultimately dropped, but they kept the line because they thought it sounded fitting and might incite curiosity into what happened while Chell was asleep.
- In Escape Velocity Nova, the Universe Chronology included in the bundled documentation mentioned something called TCTLIDS being discovered and used to create a Fantastic Drug called FATE. The game's FAQ reveals that TCTLIDS was supposed to stand for "The Creature That Lives In Deep Space" before being removed from the Nova universe during its development.
- The eighth Episode of Umineko no Naku Koro ni makes a reference to Land of the Golden Witch, an arc which was supposed to be the original Episode 3 of the series. When the author saw that everyone found both Legend and Turn to be too difficult, he scrapped Land and released Banquet of the Golden Witch instead. In-universe, Land of the Golden Witch is the third message bottle from Rokkenjima that was never found.
- "It's a miracle we survived that blast" says Optimus Prime in the episode The Key to Vector Sigma, part 1 of The Transformers, in reference to an explosion that was cut from the finished episode.