Sliding Scale of Living Toys
In fiction, especially works aimed at children or set in worlds with a tenuous grip on sanity,
it's not uncommon for toys and other inanimate objects to be depicted as having minds of their own. They can think, they can muse, they can ponder, they can rail at their arbitrary existence
or gush about how perfect their lives are, and sometimes they can get up, move around and do things that you wouldn't expect them to do...though only while no one's looking,
in most cases.
Sometimes they're like little people, only shaped like teddy bears or toasters
; other times, they're prisoners of their plastic/fabric/metal bodies, totally incapable of doing anything but what their owner poses them to do. It doesn't matter if it's an action figure or a lawnmower or even an industrial washing machine: in a world of Living Toys
, anything is fair game.
A word of caution: if it's supposed
to have a mind of its own via Artificial Intelligence
or Applied Phlebotinum
, it doesn't belong here. A Ridiculously Human Robot
that can fit in your palm is still just a Ridiculously Human Robot
a Living Toy
Subtrope of Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism
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Level 0: Immobile, But Still Sentient
The toy has no capacity for movement, mechanical and electrical parts notwithstanding. Its life is shaped entirely by the people that play with it. As it must be a Living Toy
to fall into this category, this toy is at least capable of an internal monologue. It may also be able to communicate with other toys through some sort of ill-explained "psychic" connection.
Level 0 Examples
- The Velveteen Rabbit, before becoming real.
- Stinky the skunk in Kim & Jason.
- Johnny the Homicidal Maniac has a couple of these.
- First of all is Shmee, though in JTHM, he is just a toy. However, in the spinoff series Squee, Squee has a dream in which Shmee is alive and talks to Squee, saying that he is his "trauma-sponge" that works to free Squee of all his fears. And he does a, well, okay job...
- Native only to the original JTHM series, not any spinoffs, are the two Doughboys, Mr. Fuck/Mr. Eff and Psycho-Doughboy/D-boy. At first, you assume they only appear to speak due to Johnny's extreme imagination, but they actually have different personalities and goals. Mr. Fuck (ironically not the one with the word "fuck" written on him) wants Johnny to kill and use his victims' blood to keep the monster behind the wall at bay, thus giving the Doughboys more of the monster's power and sentience. Psycho-Doughboy instead wants Johnny dead so that he will stop giving them power and thus, both will die and stay inanimate. For a while, they become living beings and can move about, even after Johnny's death, but this doesn't last.
- Happy Horse from Good Luck Charlie.
- The book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is narrated by a China doll, Edward Tulane, as he describes the different owners he encounters (and the persons they assign him) after being lost by his original owner.
- The dolls in most of Rumer Godden's childrens' books.
- Emily from Soukou No Strain is expected to be psychic to some capacity, since the doll is only an outer shell for the Mimic, a device built for pilot-machine interface. Still, from her introduction on, she's shown to have mental capabilities outside the range of a regular Mimic, and she shares the senses and identity of the little alien girl, also named Emily. It's stated later on, when you learn their backstory, that "Sara didn't link with that Mimic — it linked with her.
- The Steadfast Tin Soldier in the original fairy tale. (Though it is suggested the troll might be a level 1 or higher.)
- The Mane Six are transformed into this type in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fan Fic Plushy
- In Legend of Mana, you meet a junkyard of former Level 4s, toys that were animated to fight in a great war. Now they're this. Legend of Mana has a pretty nasty backstory if you check your library, but this is front and center, and probably the most disturbing part of the game.
Level 1: Schrodinger's Toy
The toy is capable of moving on its own, but can only do so while not being observed
. There may be a danger of it losing the ability to move forever if it is observed out of position from where it was last left.
Level 1 Examples
- The Christmas Toy
- Also its spinoff series, The Secret Life of Toys.
- All of the toys in Raggedy Ann, both the books and the animated movie.
- The various types of Magical Gnomes in The Sims 3.
- The toys in the Russell Hoban book The Mouse and His Child and the film based on it
- Possibly Lil' Cal in Homestuck.
- In The Twilight Zone episode Five Characters in Search of an Exit.
- This is the basis for the Doll Code in The Doll People. If a human sees them move, or thinks they've seen them move, the doll is immediately put into Doll State, which renders them immobile for 24 hours.
- The Steadfast Tin Soldier in Fantasia 2000.
- The family of dolls in children's book The Dollhouse Caper immediately revert to inanimate form if observed. This makes it difficult for them to warn their owners about the robbery plot they've accidentally overheard.
- The toys in Enid Blyton's Amelia Jane stories are at this level.
- Gene Wolfe's (The) War Beneath The Tree. Supposedly, old toys self-destruct on Christmas night to make way for the new toys. The reality is somewhat more brutal.
- The titular toy dog in Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien is sentient all the time, but can only move after midnight.
Level 2: Toy Masquerade
The toy can switch between animate and inanimate at will, and may communicate with animals, babies, or generally anyone who can't betray their secret. Such toys need to hide their sentience in the presence of older humans, sapient races and even toys that fall on higher levels of the scale.
However, they are different from Level 1 toys in that they can
go out of their masquerade, but this is extremely rare if done at all.
Level 2 Examples
- Toy Story falls in this level except for that one scene in Sid's yard, in which case it's around Level 3.
- The Brave Little Toaster (mostly just appliances and household devices, but there's been at least one toy character in the trilogy.)
- The title characters in the British cartoon series "The Raggy Dolls", dolls that live in the reject bin of a toy factory. Each had a minor defect that mean they could not be sold and they spend their time forgotten in a bin having adventures. They are never observed moving so one assumes they are Level 2. Unusually for this trope, with the exception of one Very Special Episode referencing the plight of orphaned children in Romania of all things (Long Story), The Masquerade was a non-issue most of the time because they didn't really belong to anyone or spend much time interacting with humans or other toys.
- The Sanderson's toys in Chibi-Robo
- Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll". What keeps her from being level 1 is the fact that she verbally threatens people, though no one sees her move on her own.
- The lawn ornaments in Gnomeo and Juliet fall under this category, sometimes freezing into positions that would compromise The Masquerade when seen fighting.
Level 3: "Imaginary" Friend
The toy is fully animate, but observers will be unable to identify it as something other than an ordinary toy
. Only certain members of a sentient species can see these toys for what they are, and those members will usually fail to convince others that the toy is anything more than an imaginary friend.
Level 3 Examples
- Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes
- The clown toy from The Clown Story
- Sakutaro from Umineko: When They Cry
- The animals in Shoebox Zoo.
- Screwy the baseball and Darling the baseball bat from Everyone's Hero
- The toys on the Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins seem to be somewhere between Level 2 and Level 3. They come to life when around the titular Doc, but "go stuffed" when anyone else shows up on the scene.
- Chucky from Childs Play is this level (well, except for the "friend" part perhaps) for much of his movies, showing his real nature only to the boy. He has a tendency to start at level 2 and end up at level 4 though.
Level 4: I've Got No Strings
The toy is fully animate, and everyone around it can see that it is alive, but it is still quite obviously a toy, being made of wood, stuffed with cotton, etc.
Level 4 Examples
- Pinocchio, the Level Namer
- The sackdolls in 9
- The Doughboys mentioned earlier in Level 0, briefly become this right before they are destroyed for good.
- The eponymous dolls from Rozen Maiden. Jun is even a little shocked when he sees Shinku's and Hinaichigo's joints for the first time, despite being aware that they are dolls, because he's gotten so used to them behaving like normal girls.
- On a similar note, the Fantasista Dolls; living avatars of trading cards that happily interact with human society.
- The household objects in Disney's Beauty and the Beast including some toy-like Christmas decorations.
- Subverted, in that they were actually cursed.
- Toys in the sequel for The Legend of the Titanic.
- Toys in Noddy are this level, but some of them, like Noddy and Dinah Doll are Level 5.
- Tools in Handy Manny.
- Pokota from Himechan No Ribon but he hides away from anybody who doesn't know the secret.
- Kon from Bleach, a "modsoul" trapped in the body of a stuffed lion.
- A lot of the exhibits in Night at the Museum.
- Puppet Angel during the Angel episode "Smile Time" (though, of course, he was previously an animate being): "I'm made of felt, and my nose comes off."
- Supernatural has an episode in which a girl wished for her Teddy Bear to come alive. Supernatural, being what it is, the bear spent most of the subsequent episode drinking, watching porn and trying to commit suicide.
- The titular family in The Mennyms, who are human-sized dolls and very convincingly made, but have beaded eyes, yarn for hair and so on. But they are alive and do everything except eat. The books centre on their ongoing efforts not to have their status as dolls discovered by anyone outside the family.'
- The Commando Elite and the Gorgonites from Small Soldiers, which are sentient as a result of possessing advanced military-grade AI munitions and proceed to cause some very obvious havoc in the real world.
- The SCP Foundation has a set of LEGO-brand bricks which, when something is built from them, immediately becomes animate and possesses signs of sentience. Just... make sure that the kids building things aren't aware of [EXPUNGED]. Nobody wants to see that again.
- The residents of the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and its spin-offs are these, at least to the to the North Pole community. (Non-Misfit toys appear to be Level 2.)
Level 5: Seems So Real and Living
Like Level 4, they are fully animate and everyone around them can see that it is alive, and are still toys, made of wood, stuffed with cotton, etc. However, they seem so real to the viewers that they tend to forget this and view them as if they were actually living beings. Sometimes they get "toy" or "stuffed animal" reminders
to remind the viewers that they are in fact stuffed or toys, especially in the form of getting ripped.
Level 5 Examples
- Stuffed animals in Winnie the Pooh are this level, because the many of the viewers tend to forget that they are stuffed animals and sometimes treat them as if they are just as real as actual living animals like Rabbit and Owl.
- Some of the toys in Noddy like Noddy and Dinah Doll are this level.
- A lot of the exhibits in Night at the Museum, although some of them skirt Level 6 or beyond.
- Bob, a ventriloquist dummy, from Soap is a subversion to this, he is strictly an inanimate object but he talks so often and so life-like that often characters think he is real and he's more popular than the character who uses him.
- Reynardine possessing Annie's toy wolf in Gunnerkrigg Court. Can become Level 6 at will.
- Ted, John's teddy bear from Ted.
- Medicine Melancholy from Touhou.
Level 6: Real and Living To Everyone
The toy has somehow become a living being
, and no longer looks like a toy. Although these toys may be biologically indistinct from normal living beings, the fact remains that they were created and animated through unconventional means, like Love Imbues Life
or Applied Phlebotinum
Level 6 Examples
- Pinocchio, after becoming real.
- The Velveteen Rabbit, after becoming real.
- The Ghost of Martel, after becoming 'real' from the Innocence.
- All the toy figures in The Indian in the Cupboard series become fully human/real (but still miniature) when the magic key is used on the item containing them (a cupboard, a chest, and a car).
- SCP Foundation has an SCP that can possess toys and turn them into real, full sized versions of themselves. As you could expect from SCP Foundation, it's creepy. Imagine kid's beloved Teddy turning into real grizzly.
- Geno, from Super Mario RPG, a badass laser-blasting doll animated by a higher being from the Star Road after its destruction to assist in the recovery of the Star Pieces.
- There was an early 80's children's show called Today's Special that starred a mannequin that came to life as long as he wore his magic hat and didn't leave the store.
- In Life Size, Lindsay Lohan's character accidentally brings Eve (a Captain Ersatz of Barbie played by Tyra Banks) to life during a ritual meant to bring her Missing Mom Back from the Dead and subsequently has to deal with Eve's Fish out of Water status and Manic Pixie Dream Girl tendencies. In the end, Eve willingly turns herself back into a doll so that the things she's learned will carry over to all Eve dolls, giving them a much-needed cultural update and saving the entire line from cancellation.
- In the Xanth series, Omni Glot Grundy Golem was originally just a golem, made from clay and other odds and ends. The Demon Xanth grants his wish to become alive, which isn't examined in detail, but he's implied to basically be a tiny human from then on.
- In this Pirates of the Caribbean fanfiction and its sequel this happens to Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner respectively.
- The titular character from Barney & Friends is at this level, brought to life by a magic rhyme recited by the kids.