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- There's a commercial for Pristiq anti-depression medicine which uses wind-up toys as a metaphor for how one feels when one is in the grips of depression, and when one is not.
Anime and Manga
- In Rozen Maiden, the living dolls come to life when someone winds them up using a key.
- Chachamaru in Mahou Sensei Negima! needs to be wound up while being recharged with magic every so often. It feels very good to her, so it often causes her embarrassment in the hands of an overenthusiastic winder.
- Ifurita in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World qualifies, with all the expected sub-text (the keyhole is at the base of her spine). When fully wound, she uses the key as a magic wand with Kill Sat level of firepower.
- Nano, from Nichijou, desperately wants hers removed so it won't be so blatantly obvious that she's... not exactly human. The Professor who built her thinks it's cute.
- It does do something though. But this being the Professor it just causes her big toe to shoot off like a rocket.
- In Tina the Wind Up Toy, the titular character Tina and most of the toys that live on Wind Up island has to be wound up in order to function, and won't be able to move otherwise. There is one toy who doesn't have a key, though. (other than Tina's best friend)
- In the anime adaptation of Da Capo:
- Miharu Amakase: In episode 3, it is found that after falling off a tree trying to save a kitten and being rendered into a comatose state, she is replaced by an identical android. There is a scene where a Fantastic Arousal occurs a a result of this. There are similar instances of it throughout the anime.
- In Da Capo II there is no overt scene of a wind-up key in the anime but the visual novel does have scenes pertaining to it.
- Flying Smurf's Aerosmurf from The Smurfs story of the same name requires a wind-up key to keep its motor functioning. As he and Smurfette are being chased by Gargamel, the motor of the Aerosmurf gives out, and Flying has to use the key to get the motor running again before he and Smurfette crash-land.
Film - Animation
- A wind-up car appears in a quick gag on Robots.
Film - Live Action
- Tik-tok in the Land of Oz books. Interestingly, he has three keyholes that operate walking, talking and thinking for him, while the key is hanging from a hook on his back.
- Played for creepy in Varjak Paw, when the cat hero finds a bunch of very, very creepy cats... that turn out to be wind-up toys.
- The children's book Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy, about a boy who was converted into a clockwork cyborg by an oddball surgeon after being run over by a lorry. There's a brief scene where he looks at his reflection in a shop window, noting that the folded-down key is a barely-noticeable lump under his jacket.
- In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, the History Monk protagonists use an experimental device called a portable procrastinator to artificially increase the amount of time they can use. It's worn on the back and powered by manually winding up the key. This is absolutely vital for their continued movement once time breaks, but only for one character.
- For completeness, one should mention the clockwork mouse Mr Clicky, which the rats in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents often use to set off traps. They carry several with them in their travels, having agreed to discontinue use of Mr Squeaky since the sound of him being crushed was quite distressing to all.
- Robert Sheckley has a short story where an expedition comes upon a planet full of strange, brightly colored animals, and with a mile high metallic column sticking from the ground. It turns out to be a toy playground planet, and the column is the wind-up key for all of it.
Live Action Television
- The Muppet Show once had a robotic duplicate of Kermit the Frog, which had a wind-up key in its back.
- The titular castle in the classic Nickelodeon preschool series Eureeka's Castle has a giant wind-up key on the castle itself that the giant would wind occasionally; usually when a guest performer appeared.
Tabletop Games and Card Games
- Super Mario World: The Mecha Koopa enemies have wind-up keys on their backs.
- Bob-ombs also have them, too.
- The first Mario Party had a "how many times can you wind up the toy in X seconds" minigame.
- In Donkey Kong 64, robot Kremlings called Krobots have these, and the theme tune itself even has a music box type wind up effect at the start, as heard here.
- Luigi's Mansion has the toy soldier bosses.
- The Mario vs. Donkey Kong games feature wind-up Mini-Mario toys.
- MapleStory: Various monsters in Ludibrium have them
- Lots and lots of these appear in the Syberia duology, seeing how it's literally crawling with all kinds of clockwork contraptions. Most notably, the train you are traveling on needs to be wound up on each station.
- The Clockwork from City of Heroes, which are created from scrap metal, but almost always have one of these on their backs. The winders are also a common low-level salvage drop.
- The Keymasters in Dynamite Headdy. Heather's mission is to collect all the keys to reveal the Dark Demon's castle.
- In EverQuest, the Secrets of Faydwer expansion introduced the clockwork robots created by gnomes which all have a wind up key on their backs.
- Pokémon in Pokémon Rumble are all wind-up toys, so the key is used to wind them up before releasing them. One such key is even the Big Bad.
- In AdventureQuest, the Nightmare Queen's chess-themed minions are all sentient, life-sized toy soldiers, complete with wind-up keys in their backs. The Player Character can also purchase an identical-looking armor after completing the "Frostval In July!" quest.
- Certain concept art for Skullgirls suggests that Robo-Fortune is powered by a wind-up key in her back.
- Clockwork keys are an item drop at Thugnderdome in Kingdom of Loathing. They're significantly rarer than the other components of clockwork items; getting ten in a single run earns a trophy. They're also needed for the last stage of every clockwork item.
- Belladonna is the story of a woman who woke up part clockwork. She has a key in her head. Belladonna's key goes in her back, where she can't reach.
- The Adventures Of Rad Gravity's first boss is a pair of dancing clockwork robots that wind one another up when one runs down. The objective is to use the Crystal Bombs to keep them separated long enough that they both run down.
- Orianna, the Lady of Clockwork from League of Legends has a prominent one in all of her in-game skins, which she can crank herself thanks to her Abnormal Limb Rotation Range. Weirdly, it's now The Artifact in her current rewritten backstory; when she Was Once Human, it was installed to power her replacement lungs in an effort to save her life, but as the rest of her organs started failing and she eventually became completely roboticized, she reached a point where she can survive without it.
- There are robots in Da Capo that are wound up by a key. They do have alternative energy sources, though.
- Feed the Kitty: Marc Anthony takes a key off a toy car and pretends to wind up Pussyfoot with it to fool his owner into thinking that the cat is a toy. He succeeds, and Pussyfoot then gets himself into the aforementioned toy car, minus key. Marc Anthony finds it cute, until Pussyfoot manages to get the toy car working and starts driving erratically, possibly because of the aforementioned removal of the key.
- Kilgore from My Life as a Teenage Robot is a pitiful toy robot, powered by a watch spring and a wind-up key, who dreams of destroying mankind.
- Mechanicles from Disney's Aladdin: The Series is often seen winding up his Clock Punk insect-like robots. He even has one dedicated to winding up all others, so he only has to wind up that one.
- In the Donald Duck cartoon Donald's Diary, Don's nightmare of being a henpecked husband culminates in a key growing on his back, making him into a robot doing chores for Daisy.
- Yogi Bear once put a key on his back and pretended to be a giant wind-up toy grabbing picnic baskets, after doing an experiment with Boo Boo. Yogi is stopped by a wind-up Ranger Smith.
- A common gag on Droopy cartoons is for his opponent to wind him up with a key to send him toddling away like a toy.
- In Wakfu, Big Bad Nox must be fed every day with wakfu through a giant key-shaped tube (which fits into a hole in his chest rather than his back, oddly enough.)
- In a Dave the Barbarian episode, Candy is able to tell Dave apart from Mecha-Dave by pointing out the key on its back. Later, Mecha-Dave stops his battle with Dave to tell him to wind his key.
- At the end of the early 1980s Scooby-Doo short "Scooby-Doo 2000", Scrappy-Doo had a fake wind-up key in his back.
- At one point when the locomotive Blue Circle was based at the Bluebell Railway, it acquired a (fake) key.