Obi-Wan Kenobi: That's no moon... It's a space station!Characters traveling in an unfamiliar area choose to stop at a landmark. They discover that it's not terrain, it's something, and much bigger than that something has any right to be. A common Subtrope of this trope includes finding out the hill, island, or entire world you're on is a giant turtle, or that a mountain is a sleeping Giant / Troll / Earth Elemental, or that the asteroid cave you're hiding in is a giant space slug, or that it's still just the kind of place you thought it was, but alive. For ships/stations that may literally be confused with moons (or planets), see Planet Spaceship. See also Big Dumb Object and Dyson Sphere. If it's a real-world location, may overlap with Weaponized Landmark. Whatever the actual object turns out to be the discovery of it can often lead to an Oh, Crap! moment. Contrast No Mere Windmill, Genius Loci. And just to note, Vulcan doesn't have one.
Han Solo: It's too big to be a space station!
Luke Skywalker: I have a very bad feeling about this.
Han Solo: It's too big to be a space station!
Luke Skywalker: I have a very bad feeling about this.
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Anime & Manga
- Hellstar Remina has a citizen yell this phrase when Remina (the planet) begins nearing Earth.
- Digimon Tamers has a forest that turns out to be Xuanwumon of The Four Gods.
- Digimon Savers takes it a step further with El Doradimon, which — much as its name suggests — houses a forest and a full-functioning city on its back.
- Taken even further in Digimon Xros Wars with KingWhamon, who makes himself look like an island!
- In Dragon Ball Z:
- Freeza briefly mistakes Goku's Genki Dama for one of Namek's three suns. The second he figures out it's not, he freaks out.
- The Big Gete Star in The Return of Cooler.
- In Dragon Ball Super unlike most examples it's not a sense of danger, it later turns out the "planet" they were fighting on was the final Super Dragon ball.
- GaoGaiGar FINAL features a case of That's No Sun. Upon arriving to the Trinary Solar System and the Repli-Earth, the GGG eventually discovers that the system's "Sun" is actually Pisa Sol, the 11 Masters of Sol's regeneration machine.
- Girls und Panzer: "Is that a gate, or a wall?" No, just a Panzer VIII Maus...
- The moon of Endless Illusion in GUN×SWORD is actually a monitoring station for the prison planet below. Pulling it closer is a key part of activating the Claw's "Birthday" system.
- InuYasha has both a cave that is a giant stomach that eats miko that come in there and a yōkai that looks like a hill when it's sleeping (which he tries to always be) and had an object that prevented him from being detected.
- In the dub for Martian Successor Nadesico, when Yurika is shown a Jovian colony fortress, she immediately says: "That's no space station, that's a moon!"
- Mazinger Z: Salude, The Dragon Baron Ashura's submarine fortress was simultaneously a Cool Ship and an Island Base camouflaged itself like a real island (it had two parts: the lower part was a submarine Home Base and the upper part was an artificial island. Both parts were interconected via a tube. When Salude surfaced, only the upper part was visible). The first time The Hero Kouji saw it, he exclaimed: "That is not a island!"
- The "island arc" of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water ends with the heroes discovering that the island they've spent the last five episodes on is a spaceship about nine times bigger than the submarine from which they were shipwrecked.
- Inverted: Jiraiya once made a trap that consisted of a restaurant that was really a toad. A regular-sized toad◊.
- Way later in the manga, the trope is played straight as the moon is revealed to be the container of the Ten-Tailed Beast, which was sent into space by the Sage of the Sixth Paths. Well, technically it is the moon (as in a giant rock orbiting earth), it's just that it was made artificially and contains something inside of it (not all of it).
- Played straight again when it is revealed that Lightning Country's secret training island for their demon containers is really the shell of a giant turtle.
- One Piece:
- Luffy spends much of the Skypeia arc inside of a giant snake, which he believes to be a cave.
- Also, the 12th Anime opening features a Turtle Island.
- Laboon the whale is mistaken for an iceberg when the crew first met him. The inside of his stomach is also decorated to look like the outside ocean, complete with -stomach-acid-proof island.
- Warship Island is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. An island that looks like a warship.
- Thriller Bark. It looks like a haunted island, but it's actually a ship.
- The manga version of Johji Manabe's Outlanders reveals, much like Mutineer's Moon and Gurren Lagann, that the moon is the ancient Precursor battleship "Dora".
- Both averted and played straight in The Girl Who Leapt Through Space. Averted in that, while Leopard does have a giant antimatter cannon, his body is also a perfectly fine, perfectly habitable space colony, just as it looks like. Played straight when part of the St. Artemis Rehabilitation Center, located on the Moon, turns out to be merely the tip of a segmented, mobile space colony controlled by Nerval when it emerges from the regolith (and probably megaregolith below, considering the size) to confront Leopard.
- Orguss 02: The island retreat of Prince Perion of Rivilia turns out to be the burial ground of an incredibly powerful Decimator in pristine condition.
- Used and triple-subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where the moon is used by the Anti-Spiral to exterminate humanity by letting it crash on the earth, only to be revealed to BE an operation base, only to be revealed to be in fact Lordgenome's ancient battleship, the Cathedral Terra. Once Team Dai-Gurren claim it, they tug the real moon from hyperspace back to its original place.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! dub-only "Capsule Monsters" arc, there is a Turtle Island the cast got on board without realizing.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Island-Fish Jasconius. A direct reference to the Arabian Nights source.
- In the Shadowmoor expansion, many of the giants have been sleeping for so long, the earth has folded over them and grasses and trees grow on their backs. They're often mistaken for mountains... at least, until they wake up.
- The long-running Weatherlight Saga of books eventually revealed that the Glitter Moon, one of Dominaria's two moons, was actually a giant orbital weapon charged with insane amounts of mana.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there is a card called Island Turtle.
- In issue #10 of The Authority, the Engineer kills a huge alien parasite. In the middle of fixing the damage it did she looks up at the sky and mentions that it looks like an eclipse of the Sun. Turns out a giant alien is the thing that's eclipsing it.
- The DCU:
- Alien malcontent Bolphunga the Unrelenting decides to take on Mogo, rumored to be the most formidable of the Green Lanterns. After years of mapping the planet Mogo is said to reside on, he realizes with great horror that Mogo is the planet by the fact that all the forests of the world form a Green Lantern Ring.
- In a Justice League of America story by Grant Morrison, Starro the Conqueror makes a big entrance. Flash sees what looks like a new land mass near Canada on the monitor, and J'onn flies off to investigate. Then the storm clears, and J'onn realises he can see Starro... from orbit. Aquaman later tries to make contact with it, and wonders why he can't see it. And then the ocean bed blinks.
- The DCU also has artificially built planet Legion World, although there is no horrified realization involved.
- When Superman and Supergirl first encounter Mongul's "WarWorld", they use their telescopic vision to examine a city on its surface. They think that there's a very high wall behind the city, so high that it extends above their field of vision, but when they "zoom out", the wall turns out to be the side of a VERY large missile.
- Doctor Strange:
- When Doctor Strange goes to confront Shuma-Gorath on his home world, he sees only a large mountain. Then the "mountain" opens its eye...
- In a Marvel Fanfare one-shot, he goes into a strangely deserted city which has a warm, skinlike texture and a subtle hum in the air. Near the end, he realizes he is standing on the back of a sleeping giant... who is waking up.
- In Doom Patrol Danny the Street is a cross-dressing street. Some people are surprised by this.
- Marvel Comics:
- Ego The Living Planet sometimes disguises itself as a paradise world to lure space travelers to its surface and devour them.
- On a smaller scale, Krakoa is "The Island that Walks Like a Man."
- Smaller than that, Spragg the Living Hill.
- In Lanfeust of Troy, the gang at one point explores a huge island. Later, they reveal that it is not an island, but a huge creature. And not just any creature, the Magohamoth itself!
- The Sandman features the duel between Morpheus and Doctor Destiny, where Doctor Destiny believes he's finally destroyed the Dream-King because he's found himself on a featureless white plane. Pull back to reveal he's actually in the palm of Morpheus's hand...
- In Sonic the Comic story "The Return of Chaotix", Charmy think's that a massive rain storm is soon to happen, judging by the large cloud moving their way. Sonic is terrified, noticing that the "cloud" is actually "thousands of Metallixes, blotting out the sun"!
- Tom Strong:
- Tom Strong meeting the Pangaean for the second time. "Ah. I see. You are the landscape."
- Similarly, the Modular Man is now Venus. The planet.
- Played straight in an issue of Astonishing X-Men, where what is previously thought to be a moon turns out to be a station. Lampshaded by Beast, who says "You know, I thought I'd have a lot more fun if I ever got to say this... That's no moon..."
- And then again, when the giant missile they went there to stop turns out to actually be a giant bullet.
- Calvin and Hobbes features "Spaceman Spiff" exploring an alien landscape that turns out to be alive. The last shot reveals that Calvin, in classic six-years-old fashion, is crawling over his father's sleeping body. This happens twice. On another occasion, Spiff is flying over some canyons that turn out to be part of giant footprints.
- A Crown of Stars: In chapter 16 Asuka found out that one of the moons orbiting the planet in reality was a humongous space-ship:
Daniel had taken their rescuee off to the clinic, and Ching had told her she’d made arrangements to give her a ride in the trainer variant of her usual battle mecha. Asuka had asked where, and Ching had pointed at the faintly visible glow of one of the half-moons overhead. That was no moon, it turned out. It was a ship, part of the Imperial Navy squadron in orbit. A ship big enough to have looked like a smooth bronze-colored moon from the ground.
- In the InuYasha fic Darkness (ankh-ascendant), Sesshoumaru thinks he's in a cave that smells of Naraku because Naraku has been using it as a lair. He realizes too late that the mountain is Naraku.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged, right around when Freeza notices the giant spirit bomb Goku's forming.
Freeza: What is that? That's not a sun, not a moon, and certainly not a space station!
- Second Wind: Chapter 14.
Sanji: Hey, there's a mountain in the way! I don't think that's supposed to be there!Luffy: That's no mountain. It's a whale.Nami: It's too big to be a whale!
- The Tears Of Gaia: The... thing in the dimensional rift containing the Tears is so large that Twilight and the others mistake one of its eyes for a moon. Needless to say, when they realize what it really is, they get the hell out of there.
- In Tiberium Wars, a Nod soldier manning a checkpoint gets out his goggles and notices a lot of heat signatures on the road, and wonders where all those buildings came from. Seconds later, a squadron of Mammoth Tanks absolutely flattens his position. Pants are crapped, then obliterated by railguns.
- Parodied and subverted in an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series.
Bakura: That's no toon, it's a space station!... Oh wait, you're right, it's a toon.
- In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, this is the reaction of the Chaotix when they detect into the reactivated Galaxy Crusher, a Demon battlestation the size of a red giant.
Vector: I thought stars were supposed to be, you know, bright.Espio: That's not a star.
- Torterras never stop growing, and eventually cease to eat or move much, becoming covered by soil and plants and being often mistaken for hills or islands, only revealed when a part of the landscape stands up and walks away. The largest Torterra known so far is the region of Sinnoh itself.
- Hibernating Avaluggs are often mistaken for inert glaciers, and have even been used as part of walls and fortifications by nearby humans, their identity revealed when an attack caused them to awake and go on a rampage.
Films — Animation
- Yet another giant turtle with an island on its back appears in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
- In Antz, Bala walks up on a plant that is, in fact, a praying mantis.
- Young dinos mistaking a sharptooth's leg for a tree seems to be required content for any film in The Land Before Time series.
- A hippo and a rhino disguise themselves as rocks during the song "Following the Leader" from Peter Pan. An elephant actually did the exact same thing in an animated short starring Goofy.
- From The Princess and the Frog, when Tiana and Naveen meet the crocodiles, we get this:
Naveen: I made that promise to a beautiful princess, not a cranky waitre— why are those logs moving?
Tiana: Those aren't logs...
- Rock-Eyes the toad from Rango.
- In the animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, the crew of the ship ends up on an island. They discover it's a living creature when the Team Pet begins licking its exposed eyeball.
- Subverted in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White falls in a pod and the logs look like actually snapping alligators who tries to bite her. However it's all just a surreal nightmare.
- The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie has a rather hilarious example involving an ice cream stand surrounded by skulls and bones, which was actually a giant fish and the little old lady who runs it is the fish's tongue. And one of it's organs looks like a skinless cat that meows.
- Transformers: The Movie: "That's no giant, mechanical moon... it's a Transformer!!"
- In Treasure Planet, a cresent moon turns out to be a cresent-shaped spaceport. Likewise, the title planet is actually a giant machine, complete with the obligatory Self-Destruct Mechanism.
- I don't think that's daylight...
Films — Live-Action
- In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, an island out in the sea turns out to be a big fish with an equally large appetite.
- Four astronauts that are highly trained scientists in The Angry Red Planet somehow mistake the forty-foot bat-rat-spider-monkey creature legs for trees while exploring Mars.
- In the first of Steve Reeves' Hercules movies, Argo captain Jason steps onto a giant mound of earth to reach a Plot Coupon... but the mound reveals itself to be a dinosaur.
- In the movie Behemoth, the title monster's head and neck are as big as a mountain. The rest of its body, or at least its tentacles, is/are so huge it/they caused seismic activity all over the world.
- Occurs at the end of The Deadly Spawn, when the authorities think that they have tracked down all of the monsters, only to have it revealed that somehow the large hill behind the house has been hollowed out by a massive creature.
- Galaxy Quest. Gigantic stack of boulders. Carnivore midgets running away from it. It lives.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: This is no graveyard... it's a chess board!
- In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the mountain pass that Bilbo and the Dwarves had to travel on was already precarious but it gets even worse when it turns out they're actually walking along the shins of one of the Stone Giants.
- During The Two Towers, Merry and Pippin climb a tree to escape a pursuing orc when it grabs Merry's foot and wrenches him to the ground. Pippin lets out a panicked scream... and the tree he's clinging to opens a pair of eyes.
- In the 1970s remake of King Kong, one character falls into a large hole in the ground, which turns out to be a giant ape's footprint.
- In a possible homage to this, Godzilla (1998) features a character climbing into what he thinks is a digsite but is actually a Zilla print.
- In The Neverending Story Morla the giant turtle is first perceived by Atreyu to be a hill of some sort.
- The "Tet" from Oblivion (2013) is big enough that you can see it clearly during the day.
- In Pacific Rim, the men on a fishing boat start heading for the nearest island for shelter when a kaiju alert goes out on the radio. Then their sonar reveals that the island is so near because it's moving toward them...
- Star Wars:
Obi-Wan: That's no moon, that's a space station.
- The trope's name comes from the above quote about the Death Star in A New Hope.
- In the radio adaptation of A New Hope, the dialogue is tweaked a bit:
Han: You're crazy, old man. (approaches Death Star) That's way too big to be... a... space... station... ohboy.Obi-Wan: That's no space station. It's... the Peace Moon!
- Time Bandits. A ship ends up being a hat worn by a giant.
- In Twister (1996), Beltzer , one of the Members of the Storm Chasing Crew, States while looking at the radar, During a F-3 Tornado, "That's No moon, It's A Space Station! Woohoo!"
- Subtle nonverbal example in Godzilla (2014), achieved by means of clever cinematography. Ford and some other soldiers are doing a HALO jump into San Francisco, which Godzilla has recently ravaged. As they get into visual range of the city, we see Ford's point of view as he scans over the numerous burnt and ruined skyscrapers. Then he catches on to one "structure" that is moving, and sees several of his guys diving right past it....
- Happens in Lone Wolf book 20, The Curse of Naar, while the hero is venturing into the Plane of Darkness (the setting's equivalent of Hell). While lost at sea on a small raft, Lone Wolf spots a distant island and heads toward it — until it starts moving and is revealed to be a nondescript giant monster. If the player hadn't picked a magic amulet earlier, Lone Wolf gets eaten by the monster.
- In the second book of Clive Barker's Abarat, there is a "double island" — a friendly creature which head and back look like two rocky islands. It even has a tree on its back.
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen features the baron finding an island that turns out to be a giant fish.
- In Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, the volcano is actually a secret base for the corporation.
- In Black Powder War we see a mild version when Laurence is asked to evacuate the Prussian Royal Family from the front on Temeraire. Queen Louise waves off concern over this mode of transportation (citing her experience being shuttled about on couriers maybe twice the size of a horse), then asks Laurence "Is that your dragon on the hill over there?"... before the "hill" lifts his head to look at her.
- Harlan Ellison wrote one of his better known works, The Chocolate Alphabet, in the window of a Los Angeles bookstore. It is actually a collection of 26 mini-stories, one of which is (approximately): "The Midgard Serpent (from Norse mythology) is not dead, only sleeping. One day, the moon will writhe."
- In Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, one planet has what are moon-sized alien cabbages orbiting it.
- Children's poet Shel Silverstein wrote about "Hungry Kid Island" in his book Falling Up, and drew an illustration showing why it's called that.
- Frank Herbert's Whipping Star. Stars are really the visible manifestations of a species of extradimensional beings of unfathomable power. To be more precise, stars are more or less mouths to these beings.
- In Jackie French's short story Dancing Dinosaurs, dinosaurs (and, it is implied, other prehistoric animals) have survived to the present day by disguising themselves as hills around Canberra and only coming out at night. Another That's No Moon moment occurs when a mountain turns out to be an Allosaurus.
- In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged once goes to an island to fight off dragons. The first dragons are relatively small and easy to defeat... then the castle on the island moves and it's the main dragon...
- The BBC Audio adaption even gives Ged the line "you are right, my friend, that is no tower..."
- At one point in Galaxy of Fear our heroes come out of hyperspace and nearly collide with what they first think is a ship, but turns out to be an absolutely vast space station, Nepis 8.
- The Goosebumps novel "Ghost Camp" has the campers tell a story about people who hear a strange thumping noise while out in the woods. Turns out the noise is the heartbeat of the giant monster they're standing on. The ghosts who inhabit the camp later create an illusion of said monster to scare the heroes.
- The title planet of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is composed largely of trillions of Sentinels, and there's a Forerunner facility inside, which, among other things, produces said trillions of Sentinels.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Grawp is, at first, believed to be some anomalous hillock.
- Humanx Commonwealth: In Reunion, Alan Dean Foster appears to play this straight from the Star Wars example, with an artificial object orbiting an otherwise uninteresting gas giant. A bit larger than Earth's moon, it appears to be a colossal space station, or even possibly a warship. However, it one-ups the Trope Namer when it turns out the "moon" is a lifeboat. You know, those tiny things that carry only a small fraction of the parent ship's passengers and crew. Turns out the real warship is the Gas Giant. Said "gas giant" being slightly larger than Jupiter, which is itself 1320 times larger than Earth by volume.
- In the Ray Bradbury short-story "Here There Be Tygers", a group of astronauts exploring space discover that the planet they are on is alive, and able to read their thoughts and grant their desires. It's pretty cool.
- The Discworld itself sits atop the back of four gigantic elephants, who themselves stand upon the back of an even larger turtle.
- Thus, the trope is inverted in The Science of Discworld, when Ridcully dismisses the idea that Earth has turtles of its own because "you don't get giant turtles that small".
- In Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic, a team of thieves find a cave full of diamond stalactites and stalagmites high up on a mountain and think they've hit the jackpot. But the diamond structures turn out to be troll teeth — and still in the huge, ancient troll's mouth...
- This was said to be the root of all the animosity between Trolls and Dwarves. The Dwarves go about innocently mining for diamonds, only to be severely beaten when the Troll owner of the diamond teeth wakes up.
- In Reaper Man, Death and the Auditors are standing on a flat, whorled plain that turns out to be the fingertip of Azrael, the spirit of Death for the entire universe.
- The Discworld itself sits atop the back of four gigantic elephants, who themselves stand upon the back of an even larger turtle.
- David Weber's Mutineer's Moon, the first Empire from the Ashes novel. The Moon is no Moon. It's a light picket cruiser with enough firepower to make the Death Stars seem weak in comparison, that threw the original moon into the sun and secretly replaced it 50,000 years ago. Oddly enough, this is the least outrageous plot point.
- The Chronicles of Narnia:
- The novel (and the BBC adaptation) of The Silver Chair has Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum stop to look at the far-off gigantic statues lying in a field. Jill remarks on how lifelike they look. Then they stand up and start throwing rocks the size of cars. Fortunately, the giants were throwing at each other as a game; unfortunately, they have lousy aim.
- In the same book, they explore a series of strangely cut chasms. Later, they find out that the chasms were actually letters carved into the rocky landscape.
- The Neverending Story has a giant turtle, disguised as a grassy hillock in a swamp.
- In The Polity novels, The Delta-class are the largest Polity spaceships that can orbit an inhabited planet. The bigger ones aren't allowed as they will disrupt the tides.
- In the first Revelation Space novel, a planet orbiting a neutron star turns out to be a beacon that alerts the Inhibitors, a race of Omnicidal Maniac aliens. The neutron star turns out to be an immense computer. In the sequel, Redemption Ark, the Inhibitors break down three worlds to create an enormous weapon, which is used to turn a star into a flamethrower. The third book in the trilogy, Absolution Gap, a gas giant is revealed to be a transport mechanism for creatures from another dimension. Alastair Reynolds really likes this trope.
- Larry Niven's Ringworld has a super-sized example where The sun that Ringworld orbits can be manipulated to emit photon bursts through solar flares. That's right, a sun-sized laser! The Great Ocean of Ringworld has some surprises of its own. Not only does it contain real "island-fish" that sailors can accidentally land on (see "Mythology", below), but also archipelagos which are precise maps of various populated Known Space planets: Earth, Kzin, Jinx, etc. Precise, one-to-one scale maps.
- The Elric Saga: In The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Elric and a bunch of other incarnations of the Eternal Champion are tasked with destroying two malevolent alien beings. They enter one of what they believe to be the towers of these creatures, but in the end it turns out the "buildings" are rather the creatures themselves. The mooks the protagonists have been fighting inside are the immune system of the creature.
- In China Miéville's The Scar, Bellis finds out what it is Armada is looking for by means of a drawing in a book:
She still did not take her gaze from the picture she held: a little man in a little ship on a sea of frozen waves that overlapped in perfect sequince-like fish scales, and below them deeps rendered in crosshatched and tightly spiraled ink, and at the bottom, easily eclipsing the vessel above, a circle in a circle in a circle, vast no matter how vague the perspective, unthinkably big, with darkness at its center. Looking up, looking up at the fisherman hunting his prey.
Sclera, iris, and pupil.
- A variation in "The Shunned House" by H.P. Lovecraft: The protagonist digs under the eponymous house and finds a strange, two-foot-thick folded translucent tube. Which, once he gets past his confusion from the scale and seeing it independent of the rest of the owner's anatomy, he realizes is an elbow.
- One of the Star Trek: Titan novels has the characters notice two odd moons. Too even to be regular planetary bodies; they were computers.
- In the Paradox Trilogy, the first time Devi sees a xith'cal tribe ship, she mistakes it for a moon.
- In Her Majesty's Wizard, there are three hills overlooking the Plain of Grellig. Two of them are the giants Colmain and Ballspear, turned to stone during their last battle. Matthew accidentally resurrects both of them while trying to re-awaken Colmain.
- J.R.R. Tolkein's poem "Fastitocalion" is about a giant sea-turtle who pretends to be an island; when people land on him, he waits until they start to get comfortable, then flips over and dives, drowning them.
- In Venus Prime, Amalthea (one of Jupiter's moons) turns out to be have a huge starship inside it belonging to a race of Starfish Aliens, who had originally come to colonize Venus but failed.
- A Symphony Of Eternity series has Galiana that's basically an Up to Eleven Deathstar with two beams of energy and a liquid outer hull and a remote controlled mist engulfing it to help confuse the enemy.
- 12 Monkeys: The heroes spend half of Season 2 trying to track down Titan, the facility that the Witness uses as a base, and presumably where his own time machine is located. When they raid it in the season finale, they discover to their shock that the city-sized Titan does not contain a time machine, but that it is a time machine.
- In Andromeda the ship approaches what appears to be a star system. Only it's not, it's a Dyson Sphere. Only it's not just a Dyson Sphere, it's also mobile and equipped with black hole-firing guns.
- The Babylon 5 station orbits a planet called Epsilon 3. Only it's not a planet — it's a planet-sized machine.
- Doctor Who:
- The episode "42" has a good take on this trope. That's no Sun. Oh wait, it is a Sun. Oh wait, the Sun is alive...
- And again with the Series' Fnarg (or 5) finale. All the stars in the universe have been wiped out — so why does Earth still have a sun? Because that's no sun, it's the exploding TARDIS!
- And in "The Beast Below", the Doctor describes Starship UK as "that's not just a ship, that's an idea, that's a whole country". Skyscrapers have neon signs bearing the names of counties. Then it turns out Starship UK's engines are dummies — because the whole structure is built on the back of a star whale!
- Finally, the most faithful take on this trope possible comes in Series 8: that Moon really is no moon. It's an egg.
- In the Farscape episode "Green Eyed Monster", the line "That's no moon!" is used word for word by Crichton. It's not a space station however, it's a "budong".
- The Lexx — a city-sized wingless dragonfly — was once mistaken by a low-tech planet for a new comet in the sky.
- Used in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Unnatural Selection", when the crew lands on a planet and realizes its surface is made entirely of Replicators.
- And in the episode "Watergate", what they thought was a sea was a community of aliens.
- In Stargate Atlantis we have "Home" where the planet's mist is alive.
- An episode of the original Star Trek ("For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky") had a giant asteroid turn out to be a worldship for an almost-long dead civilization. In a twist, none of the inhabitants knew they were on a worldship until the Enterprise crew told them.
- Star Trek: Voyager begins one episode with a grizzled old explorer in a spacedock talking about a forest-covered planetoid he claims to have once discovered: during an "earthquake", it turned out to really be a gigantic alien creature with its own ecosystem growing on it. Oddly enough, the story is brushed off as a tall tale and plays no part in the rest of the episode. Given the bizarre lifeforms encountered each week, that might be taken as Arbitrary Skepticism on the crew's part. The same crew once met a living, sentient nebula.
- Quark. The High Gorgon is demanding the surrender of a Proud Warrior Race. They're not impressed until...
High Gorgon: I suggest you take a closer look at my space ship.
Leader of the Spartans: A ship? We see no ship. All I see is a large maroon planet.
High Gorgon: That is my space ship!
Leader of the Spartans: [beat] Just give us a few minutes to move our things out of the palace.
Myths & Religion
- Older Than Print: In Arabian Nights, Sinbad the Sailor stops on an island on his first voyage and discovered the hard way that it was a whale. Then he found a huge dome and found out the hard way it was a roc's egg. This same beast, the zaratan, appeared in other Middle Eastern tales. Strangely, it was sometimes a whale and sometimes a turtle, despite the name remaining constant.
- Another huge example from Arabic Mythology is our world resting on the shoulders of Kujata, a colossal bull, who is then standing on the back of Bahamut, an even MORE colossal fish!
- In the Finnish national epic The Kalevala, the mighty giant sage and sorcerer, Antero Vipunen, who lies in the earth dead but dreaming, is often mistaken for a huge cliff, as even trees grow off his body.
- Krakens were supposedly so huge that sailors frequently mistook them for islands, camped on them for the night, and were then drowned as they submerged.
- Norse Mythology:
- In one myth, Thor encountered a strange house while on a journey to recover his stolen hammer: five small rooms letting off a single much larger room. It turned out to be a giant's glove.
- The Earth itself was said to be crafted from the corpse of Ymir, the first frost giant.
- The deceptive whale island is a pretty common theme in medieval literature. There's an Anglo-Saxon poem in which it's a metaphor for the devil.
- Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen sometimes depicted trolls so large that trees grow on them.
- The "Seven Giant Teeth Monster" from Sesame Street.
- In The Devil of Denge Marsh, the second adventure of The Scarifyers, Inspector Lionheart is flying in a small plane towards some listening dishes on the South Coast of England. He exclaims "That's no dish... That's Shub-Niggurath, the Great Old One!"
- At one point in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (original radio show version), the ship's Improbability Drive causes it to rematerialise in what seems to be a strange cylindrical cave on the planet of Brontitall. The cave is a mile deep, ice-cold and apparently carved out of marble. It's also hovering thirteen miles above the planet surface, and eventually revealed to be part of a massive statue of "Arthur Dent Throwing The Nutrimatic Cup" and held up by artistic imperative. Oh, and a society of birds now live in Arthur's right ear.
- The Finnish RPG Astra includes a creature called Parmaelosthu, a giant floating blob that looks exactly like a small island until you try to climb onto it and discover it's made of slime. The book leaves it an open question whether it is intelligent or not.
- Cthulhu Mythos:
- One of the Outer Gods is Ghroth, a moon-shaped planetoid that travels through the universe. Whenever it gets close enough to a planet, it sings a song that brings about the end of the world. The roleplaying game Delta Green has fun with this in a mission where the player characters end up on a Mi-Go space station as Ghroth approaches: "The continents move back, revealing a vast ocean. On a successful Idea roll, the character realizes that the planet is actually opening its eyes. Roll 1d10/1d100 SAN [roll to see how many Sanity Points you lose], and thank you for playing."
- Call of Cthulhu also has an adventure called "Crack'd and Crook'd Manse," where the investigators are called in to figure out why a renowned explorer seemingly vanished from his own home. One of the first things they tend to notice is that the walls are badly damaged by excess moisture... because there's a fricking shoggoth living between them.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The turtle zaratan appeared in the Arabian Nights-themed Al-Qadim setting, and has since become a D&D staple.
- The Immortals expansion of the CD&D rules includes a race of rocky space-dwelling intelligent beings who are commonly mistaken for planets.
- The supplement Elder Evils features Atropus, an Eldritch Abomination that is a living moon (well, not really living, as it is an undead being) with the goals of an Omnicidal Maniac.
- Both the sun and the moon are gigantic eons-old artifacts attuned to the sun god and moon god of the setting, respectively. The Silver Chair of Night is a vast reality engine, drawing in forces from other realms to bring both dynamism and stability to Creation, and the Dirigible Engine Daystar is, aside from serving all of the functions of our sun and fueling Holy effects, the mightiest weapons system Creation has ever known, surpassing even the Realm Defense Grid. The Daystar can also fold itself into a giant robot. And it knows Kung Fu.
- In Shards of the Exalted Dreams, two of the new settings have their own additions. In Heaven's Reach, Primordials are known as "Stellar Intelligences" - basically sentient stars, which were created by the Exalted. In Gunstar Autochtonia, the eponymous "Gunstar" is the Primordial Autochton, who has spent the last four thousand years being transformed for war; he's essentially a battle-armed Dyson Sphere with Multiple Personality Disorder.
- The fanmade Genius: The Transgression lists this trope as the highest possible size category of Wonders the game's Mad Scientist PCs can produce. It takes one million years for one man with no empowerments to create. With a solid — really solid — gang of igors, a good lab, and help from plenty of other Geniuses, you can cut it down to ten years pretty easily.
- Legend of the Five Rings features the Kusatte Iru, a sleeping demon so large that humans can navigate its blood vessels like tunnels.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Crops up occasionally, usually as a Necron construct. Usually these are the tombs on Necron Tomb Worlds, the entrances into the interiors of which often can be mistaken to be simple, abandoned tombs on worlds. But then those tombs turn out to be bigger...much bigger...and their builders are still at home, simply waiting for the proper stimulus to wake up. And ninety-nine percent of the time, the arrival of intruders in their tombs qualifies as the proper stimulus.
- There are also mention of two planet-sized Necron creations. The first of which was a Death Star ersatz, and the other was a time-messer-upper.
- There are also the Eldar Craftworlds, which serve as a moon-sized space-city for a planet's worth of a population.
- In the Revised edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the intro story, told by a werewolf prophet, has him relating one of his dreams, talking about how massive the Wyrm is. How massive? Well, a small mountain range slides back, and something black and wet and glistening can be seen, if you're high enough... a pupil.
- Major spoiler: It turns out that the entire Matoran "universe" is inside Mata Nui, who's a Humongous Mecha that crash-landed on a planet. The island that bears his name is (was) actually a covering on his face. Since it was a lava island, one can only assume he had allergies.
- Likewise, the Red Star that orbited that planet was revealed to be a planet-sized Space Station where the dead characters were recreated, and also served as a booster rocket that attached to Mata Nui when he flew through the cosmos.
- Over on another planet, Bara Magna, villages had settled around various structures; the rock tribe's looking like a head with a Cave Mouth but the rest unidentifiable. When the people united they moved the structures together, and... they're parts to a broken Humongous Mecha - Mata Nui's prototype, in fact.
- Hero Factory's 6th podcast has a planet's moon vanish because it was eaten by a villain, who left a moon-sized poop behind. Accompanied by the line "That's no moon."
- Armored Core 2. It's revealed that the Martian moon of Phobos is actually a massive hunk of Lost Technology left behind by a long dead alien race which the Big Bad intends to smash into the planet. The final mission has the player infiltrate the asteroid to prevent this from happening.
- Battlestar Galactica Online has Defence Platforms disguised as asteroids.
- In Binary Boy, the second level is essentially the same grassy area as first, but at dusk-time, and so a moon appears on the screen. It will move relative to your own movements much like a real-life moon appears to and so doesn't arouse any suspicion... until it lands and turns out to be an alien ship crewed by a hostile robot.
- One of the bigger secrets in City of Villains...At the epicentre of all kinds of dangerous magical phenomena is the Leviathan... an Eldritch Abomination sleeping underneath Sharkhead Island, and possible all of the Rogue Isles!
- In the somewhat-forgotten The ClueFinders games, the "living island" the kids land on in 5th Grade Adventures is not an island, but a spaceship.
- Dead Space 3 has obviously, the moon. It's actually a moon sized necromorph called a brother moon that was forced into sleep mode, but if awakened would go around eating the biospheres off of planets. Isaac manages to destroy it, but for a little bit of paranoia fuel, the first letter of each chapter in Dead Space spells out BROTHER MOONS ARE AWAKE. Plural. Oh crap. This is confirmed in the Awakened DLC, and the Brethren Moons are already feasting on Earth.
- In Descent II, your mercenary pilot has the job of flying from planet to planet, clearing out the mines on those planets of berserker robots. Only when you have finished clearing out the last 'mine' on the last 'planet' does the player find out that that was no planet, it's a space station, with a drive and everything.
MD 1032: The readings on this base aren't consistent with any of the others I've destroyed. It's actually moving! Maintaining speed and heading just like a starship! Well, whatever it is, it's about to blow itself to pieces. Good.
- In Disgaea 4, the Tera Star animation shows the planets of the solar system, starting with Earth and going through Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, U- wait a minute...
- In Endless Frontier, the heroes note that the location in which they go to confront the invaders attacking their worlds seems to be a giant fossilized monster. It is in fact the corpse of Stern Regisseur, the final boss of Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2.
- In Final Fantasy III you start out on a continent that appears to be world. Turns out it's a floating continent above a MUCH bigger planet
- In Final Fantasy IV, it turns out the moon is a spaceship for a race of Precursors. In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years a new moon appears which is a spaceship for a completely different set of Precursors.
- In Final Fantasy VII, the characters only slowly realize that the entire Temple of the Ancients is the black materia to summon Meteor.
- Dalamud in Final Fantasy XIV is actually not a moon, but an ancient superweapon that served as a prison for Bahamut.
- In the mission "The Place of Chariots" in the game FreeSpace 2, an unusually large asteroid is discovered in an asteroid field near the rebel cargo depot the player's squadron is attacking. As the player approaches, the asteroid is revealed to be a huge space station, and it is soon destroyed only to reveal a completed warship, the Iceni, with the rebel leader Admiral Aken Bosch as her captain, on the inside. The Iceni immediately escapes.
- God of War III demonstrates this in one trailer.
- Golden Axe:
- A giant turtle appears after you beat the "Fiend's Path" stage.
- That game also has a level on a giant eagle's back. This revelation is foreshadowed when giant feathers periodically fly across the screen.
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age reveals that the moon of Weyard is actually the ancient city of Anemos lifted above the ground by a wind-affinite tribe. Induces some Fridge Logic in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn when a solar eclipse is extremely significant to the plot, and it's indicated that a similar one happened during the Golden Age of Man, before Anemos took off.
- Jade Empire has a sidequest involving the search for a corrupting demon of hunger called the Cannibal Mother... which ends in a giant cavern with a strange rock formation in the middle of it. Needless to say, it's not a rock formation.
- Katamari Damacy: The Island-turtles appear again as one of the many, many things you can pick up once you get big enough.
- Played straight in one of the levels in Kid Icarus: Uprising. The level begins with Pit singing. Then, after Palutena asks about the moon, Pit responds that it looks beautiful, the screen pans over to a second one, which is actually a giant base you have to invade, and Palutena asks for his opinion on that one. It then proceeds to shoot at you.
- In Lunar: The Silver Star, the party hears tales about a moving island, which turns out to be a giant turtle.
- The Legend of Dragoon: The Moon That Never Sets is actually the dormant embryo of the God of Destruction, intended by Soa to cleanse the world.
- Inversion: In Marathon, the titular vessel is actually Mars' moon Deimos, hollowed out and turned into a spaceship. Also, the sequel revolves around the search for a clan of the S'pht race which were supposed to live on a mythical extra moon of their planet that vanished because it had been equipped with an enormous hyperdrive. This is based on some nutbar theory in Real Life that Deimos is really a giant spaceship.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- An island-turtle appears in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
- The moon, which turns out not to be a moon, but a different world used only by the Mask itself, to destroy all of Termina. Inside the moon is a lush field and a big tree.
- The giant boulder which turns out to be the biggest Goron you'll ever meet?
- In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, this is true of the second and third giant Luigi opponents. For the first one, Mario and Luigi realise the hard way that the dream version of Mount Pajamaja is actually alive (when it wakes up right behind them), then manage to make it annoyed by slamming blocks into its face (cue chase to bottom and Boss Battle). They later encounter the Bedsmith's Nightmare chunk (which has his spirit trapped inside) in a building in Dreamy Wakeport, and get warned about a "terrible guardian" that will attack if they try to release it. Turns out the head of said guardian (Earthwake) just happens to be the building with the nightmare chunk, the one they're standing on. And that it happens to be a Humongous Mecha made up of the buildings in the background. Cue another Boss Battle.
- Mass Effect:
- It turns out that Pluto's moon Charon isn't a moon — it's the mass effect relay for the solar system, allowing humanity to enter the galactic community.
- Sovereign, Spectre Saren Arterius' ship (Who is allied with the reapers) is one of the most powerful ships in the galaxy. It becomes more apparent when the ship decides to talk to you, and in turn reveal its status as a Reaper itself!
- Mass Effect 3: The Reaper base on Rannoch is revealed to be an actual Reaper-Destroyer. Cue panicked chase scene, until Shepard decides "screw running" and links the targeting laser to the entire orbiting quarian fleet. Cue dead Reaper.
- Happens in Game Boy Mega Man 5, leading to an Unexpected Gameplay Change: "What's that star?..." "Star" shoots its Big Fraggin' Laser at Mega Man. It's even called the "Wily Star".
- In Persona 3, the moon really turns out to be a huge Eldritch Abomination called by collective humanity so that everyone would die.
- In Phantasy Star Online Episode I, Red Ring Rico finds and notes in her logs that you find along the way the supposed expansive ruins of Ragol are not ruins at all, but a giant spaceship.
- The abundance of giant turtle-islands in mythology (and pop culture) is referenced with the Pokémon Torterra, which has a tree and a pair of small mountains on its back, and, while not island-sized, is large enough to be occasionally mistaken for a hill.
- In Portal2, one of Cave Johnson's "alternate universe" recordings ends with the revelation that the planet you're on is, in fact, Cave Johnson. Cave Johnson is really big in that universe. Spoiler tags really aren't necessary for that, because he couldn't hold in the secret very well either.
- Bydo Lab profile in R-Type Final mention how they once encounter planet-size Gomander.
- In Shadow of the Colossus, at first you think that you're going to have to climb a tower to get to the final colossus. Then you realize that the tower is PART OF the final colossus.
- In Shin Megami Tensei II, player will found pointy mountains in undergound and Makai demon world. The mountains eventually moving, it turn out that these mountains is actually the dragon Kuzuryu.
- In The Simpsons Game, Comic Book Guy gives this exchange in the level "Around the World in 80 Bites":
Comic Book Guy: That's no moon! It's Homer Simpson!
- Besides the obvious Star Wars reference in the Death Egg, the Sonic the Hedgehog series features the Space Colony ARK, which makes its first appearance in Sonic Adventure 2 disguised as a very large asteroid/meteor, half of which disintegrates to show the Eggman-like facade.
- In Strider, the Big Bad's base is a Death Star-like planetoid called the Third Moon. Minus the earth-shattering super laser.
- Sword of the Stars:
- Asteroid Monitors are giant hollowed-out rocks with huge numbers of gun turrets on them that have been left in orbit for hundreds (or thousands) of years. And they're still running on full automatic. You can hack unowned Monitors to gain control of their weapons platforms, and later in the game you can research the technology to build your own with even bigger guns.
- Another type of Random Encounter is the Alien Derelict, a fragment of some unspeakably large spaceship floating in space. The last patch added a game mode which required the factions to find and collect multiple derelicts to reassemble them, upon which it's revealed that that's no spaceship, it's a space suit! And it's signalling its owners. Cue the arrival of the Suul'ka.
- In Super Mario Galaxy 2, in the Freezy Flake Galaxy, Mario lands on a suspicious ice planetoid covered in what seem to be spikes at the end of the level. Until he takes the nearby Sling Star and lands on the next planet, causing said first planetoid to crash down and be revealed to be Sorbetti, the level boss.
- In Super Robot Wars Judgment, The moon turns out to be the the space ship of the Fury's after they had seeded the formerly lifeless earth and went to sleep waiting for the earth to terraform in the process it collected space debris to form a sort of shell and became the moon in the final battle you are trying to prevent the final boss from reactivating the ship which would cause it to shed off the said debris shell and cause the parts of shell to rain down on earth as well has obvious tidal disruptions.
- Celland in Tales of Hearts has two moons, neither of which is real. The black one is Gardenia, the progenitor of all The Heartless Zerom, and the white one is the dead world of the Precursors, Quartzia, drained of all life by Gardenia. One character points this out - "Wait, so the black moon destroyed the white moon?".
- In Tales of Vesperia, there's a mountain on the northeastern part of the world map not even the airship can fly over. The in-game description explicitly states it's the tallest mountain in the world. It is. And it isn't. Because it's the ancient tower Tarqaron, the Final Dungeon
- The (Armada-based) Transformers game had you fly out to an aircraft carrier to clear it of Decepticons. Then it begins to transform, and becomes Tidal Wave, the end of level Boss.
- In Wild ARMs 1, the moon Malduke (Marduk) is a Metal Demon Base.
- World of Warcraft:
- Teldrassil: this single tree is bigger than some mountain ranges and has a city and two smaller towns in its branches, plus a seaport village in its root structure. No doubt it was very surprising for someone who created a Night Elf character without watching the opening narration when they finally left it and looked back.
- In the Expansion Pack, Mists of Pandaria, Pandaren start on the Wandering Isle. It's actually an enormous wandering sea turtle.
- At the start of the main plot of X3 Terran Conflict, a group of Terran fighters patrolling Uranus (among which there's the player) detects some small signals on the gravity radar. Lieutenant Plinter believes them to be pieces of a micrometeor destroyed during the transit in a Trans-Orbital Accelerator. Turns out they're Xenon scouts raiding Neptune.
- Near the end of Xenoblade, as the Mechonis begins to awaken, Kallian has to remind everyone that they're fighting on its sword.
- Double Dragon Neon's second stage ends with you entering Skullmageddon's temple, only to find out it's actually a rocketship, which launches into space.
- Sunless Sea: Bound to happen with Lifebergs. As the name tells, they look rather like particularly filthy icebergs, until you realize they're moving a little too fast for a chunk of ice. And then they charge you, and things get painful. And then there's Mt. Nomad. It looks like one of the usual deserted rocks you often find near coastlines. She's not.
- In The Dig, the asteroid that nearly hits Earth turns out to be an alien starship sent to find sentient life and bring it back to its builders' homeworld. Unfortunately, when the astronauts get there, they find an empty planet.
- Corruption of Champions has Venus, a freshwater turtle woman who grew and grew after demons started to pump toxic run off from their mountain factory into the lake. She grew so big that her shell looks like a small island though at this size she'd never try to hurt anyone. Being a fetish RPG with a plot you can partake in sexual activities with her.
- In Rewrite in the Moon route the oddly large white sphere in the sky is the Earth after it has run out of life energy. The events of the route take place on the real moon.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja #8 parodies the Star Wars line in the Alt Text of one page, and inverts it in the same issue: The moon at Dracula's place (yes, Dracula) really is a moon, it just happens to be Dracula's actual base, and it just so happens that it can fire orbital lasers.
- Parodied in Darths & Droids, where the Death Star was originally designed as a "Peace Moon" to replace Naboo's moon that was destroyed in Episode I's war. The name stuck even as the plans were altered to make it a weapon, leading to this exchange:
Han Solo: He's headed for that big space station.
Obi-wan: That's no space station. It's... the Peace Moon!
- Girl Genius: That's not a cloud.
- The members of The Order of the Stick learned a while back that their planet is actually a prison for an Eldritch Abomination, and are trying to keep it locked away. This is both to prevent its escape, and to ensure the gods don't tear down their old prison to replace it with a stronger one.
- In this strip of Gone with the Blastwave, couple of soldiers invoke this trope when one of them can't believe they are on the surface of the moon after walking there from inside a Space Station that was nowhere near the moon. Also this moon suspiciously has a ceiling.
- In a strip from Ryotiras, two characters find out that the "Moon" they're looking at is actually Earth, which means... they're standing on a giant rubber duck.
- In Schlock Mercenary, the Oafan space station Eina-Afa is large enough for Tagon to reference this trope.
Tagon: I thought a thing orbiting a thing orbiting a star was called a moon, but in this case[,] that's no moon.
Tagon: It's a space station.
- Also, Oisri from the previous arc counts.
- The line is parodied in Sequential Art.
- Sluggy Freelance parodies this in what simply has to be a Star Wars Shout-Out in this strip.
- In this strip of Starslip a character wants to land on a "moon" when another points out that it has a seam running down the middle.
- Speaking of seams, see Iapetus, below.
- The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom) demonstrates the worst-case scenario: landing on an "island" that's actually a napping Eldritch Abomination.
- /m/ wrote a Science Fantasy universe where the local solar system's sun was surrounded by a giant Dyson Ring that was actually a large dragon that bit itself in the tail. This is currently the largest example of this trope on this page. /m/ does not think small.
- In Orion's Arm the brains of the ruling transhuman intelligences start at the size of the moon and go all the way up to being the size of the star Betelgeuse, which is larger than the orbit of Jupiter.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-507 (who randomly teleports to alternate universes) once found himself at the mouth of a cave, looking at a desert planet baked by its two large suns. Then the "suns" blinked and looked away...
- The Foundation is also suppressing knowledge of SCP-169, a sea serpent so large that its protrusions above the waterline were mistaken for an archipelago of islands.
- On Adventure Time the Ice King washes up on a random island only to discover that it's a giant island woman named Senorita. She turns out to be a lot nicer than most of the examples on this page.
- In another episode, Finn has a dramatic musical moment on top of a grassy mountain. The mountain then gets up & turns out to be the cyclops Finn was looking for at the beginning of the episode so he could use his tears to heal his broken leg. Finn no longer cares about that but the cyclops tries to kill him anyway because he doesn't believe him.
- Alfred J. Kwak, which you probably don't know as well if you're not Dutch/Swedish/Polish, had the typical "Turtle island" trope.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- In Code Lyoko Season 4, episode "Maiden Voyage", the heroes' virtual ship is lost in the Digital Sea, where it is attracted by a Replika which they think to be Lyoko at first. The scene is a direct Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, with the Replika looking like a giant metallic sphere and Aelita saying "That's not Lyoko!"
- Played with in Codename: Kids Next Door in "Operation C.A.K.E.D.-F.I.V.E" as part of a Star Wars shout-out. Numbuh 86 and 19th Century are heading to the Moon Base when an alarm alerted them of approaching the base. 86 mentions that they shouldn't be there yet and looks up, sees Father's giant ice cream cake and says, "That's no moon!"
- In an early episode of Dora the Explorer, Dora and Boots go to search for the Big Red Chicken. According to legend, the chicken lives on the Big Red Hill. No points for guessing what the Big Red Hill really is.
- One episode of Dragon Tales had the gang lose the ball that they were playing with to the depths of a cave that was nearby. All of them went in to search for it, but Cassie nervously hung back when she noticed that the floor of the cave was oddly squishy. Turned out to be the mouth of a giant sleeping dinosaur thing, which soon woke up and swallowed everyone....
- A somewhat smaller example than the rest, but quite large for its scale - in one episode of Family Guy, Peter is in a sauna with Chris, when Peter notices... "Hey, that's not your leg!" The rest of the episode is about Peter trying to deal with penis envy (or something more like "penis shame").
- The Gravity Falls: Dipper's Guide to the Unexplained short "The Tooth" deals with Dipper trying to find the source of a giant tooth on a lake shore. A cashier tells them if they see bubbles on the lake run. They see bubbles near an island, at which point Mabel proceeds to paddle away. Turns out the giant tooth came from the island, which is monster that rises out of the water and tries to eat you if you get too close.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Lucius making it to Miseryville's moon and planting his flag on a hill. It turned out to be a moon beast.
- In the Justice League episode "The Savage Time", John Stewart (who'd lost his ring) noted to the soldiers he was attached to that the hill they were standing on did not exist in the map they have. It turned out to be Vandal Savage's hanger for his advanced jet bombers that would be used to invade the USA.
- In Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, the Ice Bug is an asteroid-sized space creature that hibernates for interstellar travel. One of the movies had a "Godbug" which could supposedly devour a planet.
- Sort of a Lampshade Hanging in an episode of The Simpsons: a runaway Sacagawea (Lisa) stops to weep on a rock, saying "O warm, fuzzy rock, you're my only friend!" The warm fuzzy rock is actually a wildcat.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- "Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm" has Sandy arrogantly going after a local worm-monster. She attacks and ties a knot in what she thinks is the worm before SpongeBob can tell her that it's actually the worm's tongue.
- ("Nature Pants"). SpongeBob runs away from Bikini Bottom and Patrick starts chasing him. SpongeBob runs behind a supposedly big rock to hide from him, but the "rock" turns out to be a gigantic snail.
- Played with in "Plankton's Army". Plankton's family comes to help steal the Krabby Patty formula. They surround the Krusty Krab and Mr. Krabs asks "You planted grass?" Then the grass started laughing and reshaping itself into limbs and ears...
- The first season finale of Transformers: Beast Wars uses this. Turns out, when they are finally rid of the giant scary orbital weapon that wasn't a moon, the planet starts to look suspiciously familiar...
Megatron: Idiot! It was never a moon, and it is far from gone!
- In Transformers Animated, the ship that the Autobots use to come to Earth is revealed to be Omega Supreme, one of the most powerful Autobots ever. Ratchet is aware of this. The other Autobots are shocked, and the Decepticons have a big Oh, Crap! moment.
- In Transformers Prime, Earth is actually Unicron in disguise!
- The first season finale of Transformers: Beast Wars uses this. Turns out, when they are finally rid of the giant scary orbital weapon that wasn't a moon, the planet starts to look suspiciously familiar...
- In Shadow Raiders, the planet Remora turns out to be a giant battle station created by the Beast.
- Spoofed in Celebrity Deathmatch, when Bam Margera goes into orbit around the massively fat Don Vito.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Three's a Crowd", Twilight and Cadance search for a rare flower on a mountaintop around what they think is a large tree... before realizing that the flower is the tree. They couldn't realize this while climbing up since the top was covered by a cloud.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Chronicles of Meap":
Phineas: He's headed towards that small cloud!Ferb: That's no cloud, that's a space station.Phineas: I've got a good feeling about this!
- Geologists knew, from certain terrain features such as geysers and hot springs, that there was an inactive volcano somewhere in Yellowstone Park. They searched for the caldera but were unable to find it — until aerial photos revealed that the entire park was the caldera.
- Also, it turns out the Yellowstone supervolcano isn't so inactive after all. It has a major eruption about every million years, give or take a few hundred thousand. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, and was about 24,000 times stronger than the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated. Another such eruption would likely kill everything within a hundred miles, and even a thousand miles downwind the land would be buried in two meters of ash. This was explored in excruciating detail in the docudrama Supervolcano.
- Another is Siberia. Not in Siberia, Siberia. The last eruption corresponds with the Permian extinction that wiped out most of the species on Earth. And "most of the species on Earth", in this case, means roughly 90%. Among other things, this was the only time in all of Earth's history that insects suffered a mass extinction. That's right, if Siberia erupts again, even the cockroaches wouldn't survive.
- In another park, biologists were finding tendrils (mushrooms' underground part) all over the place, but no mushrooms nearby, so they wondered where they all were. It turned out all those tendrils (kilometer-wide!) belonged to one single mushroom colony, growing inconspicuously near one tree.
- Technically, the mycelium (the network of tendrils) is the main body of the fungus organism. The visible mushrooms are just temporary fruiting bodies.
- A nice inversion: Three years after A New Hope came out, space probe flybys revealed this◊ closeup picture of Mimas, one of Saturn's moons. Kind of Hilarious in Hindsight.
- It's also Pac-Man, apparently. That's no moon, it's a 1980s pop-cultural icon!
- Iapetus, another moon of Saturn, has a light-colored side, a dark-colored side, a straight mountainous seam running along its equator, and a large crater in certain part of it. You gotta wonder.
- Then again, most just compare it to a walnut, and call it a day.
- A somewhat apocryphal story tells of Hashima, an island off the coast of Nagasaki that is often called Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because the sea wall and the buildings on the island make it look like a battleship. Supposedly, during the Second World War, an American submarine mistook the island for a Japanese battleship and attacked it.
- There's a forest in Utah that covers 107 acres, with about 47,000 trees.... Correction: there's a giant tree in Utah named Pando with about 47,000 stems. Pando is a male tree. This is apparently not as unusual for Quaking Aspen as we'd have suspected — we just never looked all that close at forests before. Pando is also probably 80,000 years old.
- Inverted by a stretch of land off the Gower Peninsula in Wales called the Worm's Head, which bears a striking resemblance to a colossal sea serpent in silhouette◊. Cannae remember whether it's true or not, but apparently it scared off a shipful of Viking raiders, who later got shipwrecked in Swansea Bay.
- A "true" story in an English book called The Sleeping Giant that is about an island off the Irish coast coming to life some day in the future.
- The almost-island of Ferdinandea between Italy and North Africa. After almost starting a world war in the 1830s when it first surfaced and quickly sank, it was bombed during the 1986 attack on Libya becuase an American plane mistook it for a submarine.
- David Icke theorized that Earth's Moon is not a moon at all but is rather some sort of organic, hollowed-out planetoid or possibly an ancient spaceship built by Ancient Astronauts.
- A fun exercise for people who live near the shores of the Great Lakes (places like Toronto, Milwaukee, or Chicago) who have friends who live overseas and aren't overly familiar with maps of North America: tell them to look up your town on Google Maps. Their first reaction will be, "Wow, you live really close to the sea." Then they realize that isn't the sea...!