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Sealed Army in a Can
Hmm, what's this? Want to Take Over the World? Cause mayhem? Have you considered the Sealed Army in a Can? Guaranteed to provide decades of destructive entertainment, try it today!

The Sealed Army in a Can is an army that was so powerful that it was impossible to destroy them and the best that could be hoped for was sealing them away, usually at great cost. With works that employ this trope you can invariably expect that the Big Bad's master plan will revolve around awakening this army to do his bidding whether it be to Take Over the World or just break things. Often times you will get the Sealed Evil in a Can thrown in with them as a nice bonus. Like the Sealed Evil in a Can the fact that they were sealed away may have weakened them to the point they can be destroyed or technology has advanced to the point where it can get the job done. Or not.

Unlike a real army that is composed of individuals, the sealed in a can variety don't seem to have any sentience and will often mindlessly follow whoever freed them.

Can sometimes be used as Sealed Good in a Can for a really Big Damn Heroes moment; see also Awakening the Sleeping Giant. In these cases they may not be quite as mindless. For several unique characters (often in separate "cans") see Sealed Cast in a Multipack. For a single character in multiple "cans", see Sealed Evil In A Six Pack.

Sub-trope of Badass Army except more so (otherwise, what's the big problem?).


Examples:

Anime
  • Hellsing: Alucard has the ability to summon people he's drained as familiars. Towards the end, he summons everybody he's ever eaten, ever just FYI Alucard is The original Dracula; He's been around since the Crusades (back when he was "Vlad the Impaler"). Think about that for a minute.
  • Capone "Gang" Bege of One Piece has this as his power, where he seals an entire army in himself. This allows him to brazenly stroll into a battlefield alone and still wind up with superior military force once he ejects them.
  • There also is an example in the Naruto Manga where it's revealed that Zetsu, given a sufficient amount of chakra can spawn an army of 100.000 clones of himself.
  • In Fate/Zero, this is the Noble Phantasm of Rider.

Comic Books
  • In Rom Space Knight, Rom's preferred weapon, The Neutralizer, banishes his enemies into Limbo. Thus some Dire Wraiths stole the gun, and later captured Rom, in the hopes of finding a means of returning the many Dire Wraiths he banished and thus create an big renewal of their forces.

Film
  • Lord of the Rings: In a variation on this trope Aragorn gains control of a ghost army of oathbreakers bound to serve the king, in both the film and the book The Return of the King and uses it to save Minas Tirith. Different from most examples in that they retained their sapience and only agreed to serve him in the battle because he, as rightful heir to the throne, promised to accept it as fulfillment of their broken oath and thus make it possible for them to finally pass on.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • In the second movie the mummy returns and attempts to gain control of the Army of Anubis. Cutting off their heads is the only way to kill them, not that it helps since more will show up anyway. They can only be sealed away, not destroyed.
    • The Dragon Emperor's Army the Terracotta army in the third movie, although the heroes get access to another Sealed Army in a Can in the form of his many dead slaves. They aren't exactly superior combatants, but they hold their own.
  • The Golden Army from Hellboy II. An army of 4900 (More accurately, 70 times 70 soldiers) invincible, untireable, clockwork warriors, to be precise. They're controlled by a MacGuffin that was split into three pieces to prevent it from ever being used again.
  • The buried alien army in The War of the Worlds remake.
  • The Mahou Sentai Magiranger movie has an evil army that would be unleashed if Groom no Bridon marries someone pure and good, so he kidnaps the red ranger's Love Interest.
  • Babes in Toyland (a/k/a March of the Wooden Soldiers) features an army of toy wooden soldiers that were built outside specification (100 wooden soldiers each six feet tall, instead of 600 wooden soldiers each one foot tall). They come in handy defending Toyland from the boogeymen.
  • Bane creates a good version of the Sealed Army In A Can in The Dark Knight Rises when he traps almost the entire Gotham Police Department in the sewers.
  • In Immortals, Hyperion uses Epirus Bow to unleashed Titans for total destruction.
  • The Titans from Hercules fulfill this role when Hades sets them free to help him take over the cosmos.

Literature
  • One of these were found under the Long Man in Lords and Ladies. They're supposed to wake up in time for some final battle when a wolf eats the sun.
    • Interesting Times has Rincewind discover the "real" Red Army, and use it to save the revolutionaries.
    • In Making Money, the four Gold Golems comprise one of these. Especially since "gold", in this sense, is a number meaning "one thousand".
  • In Fate/Zero, Alexander the Great, A.K.A. Iskander, can summon a regiment of his former army at will as his Noble Phantasm. They all manifest as lesser Heroic Spirits, and some of them are genuine Heroic Spirits as well. He uses it to kill 80 Assassins in approximately an eighth of a second. Later, it's destroyed by Gilgamesh blasting all the soldiers and disrupting it.
  • In The Dragon in the Sword, by Michael Moorcock, the Eternal champion manages to get access to one of these, composed of all the heroes throughout eternity that fell. (It's implied that they're ones who tried to stop fighting). Each one is described as being as skilled as Erekose, who is able to take on 6 mooks without too much trouble. They take on the concentrated might of all of Chaos.
    • Dorian Hawkmoon's Sword of the Dawn, able to summon the savage warriors of the Legion of the Dawn apparently at will and for as long as its wielder remains conscious, may also qualify.
  • The Horn of Valere from The Wheel of Time. Whoever blows it can summon the Heroes of the Ages to fight for him. Of course, everyone wants it.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Door into Summer he mentions in passing that the USA was able to win a war against Russia because of reserve troops kept in suspended animation.
  • The good version is found in The Tower of Geburah. Five hundred of the best knights of the realm, awakened and ready to kill the hordes of bad guys.
  • A variation appearing in Perry Rhodan lays the groundwork for the eponymous subplot of the "Orbiter" arc. After driving the Hordes of Garbesch out of the Milky Way Galaxy, the defenders' high commander orders the creation of a secret installation (spread over planets of a handful of solar systems) equipped with everything needed to quickly raise an army of customized clone warriors and equip them with weapons and starships in the event that the invaders should ever return. They never exactly do, but 1.2 million years later — which is to say, in the series' then-present —, the misinterpretation of a series of "space quakes" and an automated scoutship's encounter with and capture of a small group of the worst pirates at the time lead to the systems being activated and the army of clones resembling just those pirates quickly force-grown to drive away...the current humanoid inhabitants of the galaxy, it turns out. (Thanks to a combination of factors actual violence never breaks out, but things do get quite tense and awkward for a time — the clones come pre-programmed with remarkably high ethics, but also won't take "no" for an answer.)

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: seen in season 7 when Buffy & co. have to fight the uber-vamps sealed beneath the Hellmouth.
  • Angel: A subversion is used where Eldritch Abomination Illyria attempts to conquer the world by raising her invincible demon army that has waited underground while she was sealed away dead. However, it has since crumbled to dust due to the passage of time.
  • Used a number of times on Doctor Who.
  • Played with an interesting twist in Power Rangers Ninja Storm. In the finale, it turns out that, unbeknownst to either the audience or the Rangers, the heroes haven't been killing the Monsters of the Week, they've been sealing them. And the Big Bad was keeping track of the exact number of monsters the can could hold, as when it went one over, it would let them all out at once.
  • At any given time the majority of the Wraith are in hibernation, as the human populations they feed on couldn't support all of them at once. However, when those currently awake find out about the 6 billion humans available on Earth they begin waking the rest up.
  • The Season 2 finale of Supernatural has an agent of the show's Big Bad open a doorway to Hell and unleashing an army of demons.

Multiple Media
  • The Bohrok swarms in BIONICLE. In a mild subversion of the trope, they didn't follow the commands of those that had released them, but their sole operative (demolishing the island of Mata Nui and everything that gets in their way, then going back to stasis) was put to good use both by the villains and the good guys at different points — first when Makuta Teridax unleashed them to terrorize the Matoran people of Mata Nui, and then when the Matoran released them again to fight against the Makuta's real army.

Mythology
  • Jason was given the task to sow a field with dragon's teeth, which sprouted into a huge, invincible army. However, he defeated them by throwing a stone into the army, causing them all to kill each other in an escalating brawl. There's probably a message in that somewhere.
  • The Myrmidons in The Iliad were ants who would turn into warriors and provide Achilles with an invincible army.
  • There is a Polish legend that says an entire army of knights is slumbering under the Tatra mountains, and will awaken when Poland is in dire need of them. In some versions of the legend, an old Polish king is slumbering with them.
  • The same functional legend for the Irish Fenians, who sleep under certain hills in Ireland.

Radio

Tabletop Games
  • The Necrons from Warhammer 40,000 are a variation in that they can't be controlled and their only goal is to eradicate all life from the universe. Additionally, unlike most sealed armies they can wake up anytime they want and will voluntarily seal themselves away for centuries at a time to wait for victims to make themselves available.
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure OA6 Ronin Challenge. Underneath the city of Tempat Larang is an army of 500,000 infantry.

Video Games
  • The Spirit Army from Mortal Kombat. Resurrecting it was the villains' plot for Deadly Alliance, and it was completely and totally destroyed in the opening of the following installment, Deception.
  • The Chimera from Resistance are a bit of a variation in that they aren't sealed away, the means by which they get more soldiers is.
  • In Loom, the Archbishop Mandible has a grand plan to release an army of dead from the afterlife. This turned out to be not such a great idea.
  • The Terracotta Army is available as a wonder in Rise of Nations, that grants a bonus of troops (unsealing a platoon?) after a while in the game during the campaign in another territory, and generates one light/modern infantry at regular intervals based on the number of existing infantry when present in a match.
  • The second to last scenario of Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath involves activating an army of cyborgs Kane has hidden away, and the last mission involves using said cyborgs to storm a massive GDI Complex.
  • The Darkspawn from Dragon Age are another example. While straggling warbands occasionally roam the surface, the only time they seriously gather in massive numbers to wage war on the surface is when they are rallied by an Archdemon, thus beginning a new Blight. As such, the Grey Wardens make it their top priority to locate and slay the Archdemon as soon as possible, removing its guiding influence on the mindless Darkspawn and forcing the horde to retreat underground into the Deep Roads. Once underground again, they resume their endless war against the Dwarves, rebuild their numbers and begin searching for another Old God to corrupt into a new Archdemon, thus repeating the cycle all over again.
  • The Myrkridia, a terrifying race of Always Chaotic Evil humanoid monsters in the universe of Myth and its sequels, were sealed in a small artifact call the Tain. Various plotlines involved Myrkridia getting out of and/or the protagonists (and their armies) being trapped in it.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, the Prince has an entire Sealed Army in a Can.
  • It's heavily implied that this happens to the Iron Legion of Xylvania in Battalion Wars when the Solar Empire uses its super weapon to defeat them.
    • Confirmed in the last leg of the game in which you have to fight the ressurected Iron legion with a battalion of somewhat more modern troops
  • There's Mr. House's Securitron army hidden in Fortification Hill in Fallout: New Vegas, the door to which can only be opened by the thing you were mugged for at the start of the game.
  • The Minion Hives in Overlord 1 & 2 have to be recovered to grant the Overlord a replenishing supply of various forces.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order is cast in an Alternate Timeline where Nazis rule the world. Where did they get the technology to build their robot army? Apparently, they found a cache of technology that is on par with Thule technology and twice as durable. This becomes heavily ironic, because (AND THIS IS A BIG SPOILER) Not only was the technology designed by Jewish scientists, but the reason why their technology was hyper-advanced was because their scientists took a binding oath to God that they would never apply their technology to real life, and would only use it to help other scientists design even more advanced technology with the sole intent of understanding the universe; no civil wars, no sabotage, all discoveries are shared between all scientists in the project, and nine thousand years to build and evolve their tinkertoys in secrecy equals pure human potential. That means that their religion is SUPERIOR to the Nazi's philosophy, and yet they've been denounced as inferior by the Nazis the entire series, even after discovering what they're capable of.

Western Animation
  • While it's only described in detail on the film's accompanying website and in the artbook, the Warriors of Tenshu from Kung Fu Panda practically scream to be used in this fashion as a Badass Army for the heroes. Here's hoping the repaired Urn of Whispering Warriors does show up in a sequel...
  • The Cauldron-Born from The Black Cauldron and the original story.
  • In Conan The Adventurer, most of the Serpentmen are still sealed in the Abyss along with their demon-god Set. The heroes' Starmetal weapons can send the remaining Serpentmen to Set's side in the Abyss as well.
  • Transformers Prime Airachnid found an army of huge Insecticons in stasis pods underground, and uses them to wreck havoc on the Decepticon warship.
  • Martin Mystery had an episode when the team had to stop the revival of an evil Chinese emperor. In his tomb they even found an army of Terracotta warriors facing towards the tomb, while the ones of the other one face away, to better defend the Emperor from attack. The reason for this is the army is there to prevent the Evil Emperor from rising once more.

Real Life
  • The Terracotta Warriors are, according to legend, one of these.
  • The Russian Navy is this, sealed away by its lack of any ports that don't freeze over except on the Black Sea where it is bottled up by Istanbul controlling the mouth. As a result several naval powers have had sort of a standing This Means War! on any attempt by Russia to conquer Istanbul, going back several generations.
  • Some strategic nuclear missile silos are estimated to be able remain functional for decades if not centuries without maintenance. A silo in Russia was recently discovered to have not only survived for two decades of abandonment, but was also able to keep the critical launch systems powered for all that time. The nukes themselves however have markedly shorter shelf life, as modern thermonuclear bombs require a can only maintain functionally for a maximum of ten years without having the tritium changed.


Savvy Guy, Energetic GirlEnsemblesSealed Cast in a Multipack
Phantom ZoneSealed Index in a CanSealed Badass in a Can
Screaming WarriorCombat TropesSecond Hour Superpower
Schoolyard Bully All Grown UpVillainsSealed Evil in a Can

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