Western Animation: Planet 51
"General, I know what you're afraid of, and it's not Chuck. It's not monsters or aliens. It's the unknown. I've spent my whole life running from it, and I think maybe you have too, but I'm telling you the unknown isn't something to be afraid of. It can be your best friend. And just when you think that it means the end of everything you know, it's really just the beginning."Planet 51
— Lem, to General Grawl
, a Spanish/American All-CGI Cartoon
feature from 2009, is an Affectionate Parody
of tropes from both Science Fiction
and Sit Coms
of The Fifties
The premise: Human astronaut Captain Charles "Chuck" Baker, accompanied by an exploration robot named Rover, lands on the eponymous planet, which is supposedly uninhabited. However, Planet 51 is
populated, by green-skinned humanoids whose world strongly resembles 1950s suburban America. The aliens are also paranoid about being invaded by another planet, so Chuck's appearance causes unintentional havoc, and he's soon being hunted by the military. Chuck befriends an alien teenager named Lem, a worker at a local observatory; Lem protects the astronaut as he struggles to return to his ship, which will automatically take off after a preset time limit whether Chuck is aboard or not.
- Affectionate Parody
- Alien Invasion: Subverted by the "invasion" being an accident. Also Inverted as Humans are the "invaders".
- Aliens Speaking English: "Hey, you speak my language!"
- All Animals Are Dogs: The aliens keep doglike xenomorphs as pets.
- Rover acts like one too. Complete with wagging his antenna and sniffing with his main lens.
- All-CGI Cartoon
- All Planets Are Earthlike
- Artistic License – Astronomy: An In-Universe example. According to Lem's observatory lecture at the beginning of the film, "the universe is nearly 500 miles long, and it contains—you're not going to believe this—over 1000 stars!"
- This is apparently a running thing with the aliens' unit measurements - they seem to just use lower numbers for things in general: at one point the professor postulates that a manned space flight would cost "hundreds of dollars."
- Actually, it's all probably deliberate considering just how little the aliens actually know about space. They haven't even been able to launch satellites into orbit yet.
- Another example of Artistic License – Astronomy, not to mention Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: at one point Chuck mentions the alien planet is 20 billion miles away from Earth. In Real Life, the nearest star to our solar system is 24.7 trillion miles away.
- Possibly Fridge Brilliance: he mentions at some point that the only thing he does with the star ship is to push some buttons, like a monkey could do. Chuck isn't exactly the brightest bulb of the set...
- Barefoot Cartoon Aliens: Apparently, the aliens Do Not Like Shoes.
- Batman in My Basement: Lem hiding Chuck.
- Big Damn Heroes: There are several scenes like this as the movie nears its climax.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Several examples, all Played for Laughs.
- According to the official website, the aliens' hearts are located behind the left kneecap, and their blood is green.
- The aliens can function without a brain, and might even be smarter that way. Which just leads to the question of why they think it's important, but...
- As Lem and Skiff are trying to keep Chuck hidden, Skiff reveals very strange assumptions about toiletry needs.
"If you have to go number one, aim for the newspaper. If you have to go number two, go outside. If you have to go number three, I can't help you."
- That last thing may be a reference to A Date with Rosie Palms.
- This troper assumed diarrhea or vomit, which "number three" is most often intended.
- Also their hair looks like it's a living part of their bodies, and lots of fanfics call it "feelers". How do they cut it?
- Bowel Breaking Bricks: General Grawl intimidates Rover during interrogation, giving the robot a sudden oil leak. Does This Remind You of Anything?
- A Boy and His X: Skiff eventually adopts Rover as a pet.
- And the xenomorph "dog" stows away with Chuck as he departs.
- Brain in a Jar: Professor Kipple has a few in his lab.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The aliens call their pet xenomorphs "dogs."
- Cannot Spit It Out: Lem has a hard time asking Neera out on a date. This is partially due to his own shyness, and partially because Glar is a Moment Killer who bursts into song whenever Lem is about to ask Neera out. Technically, Lem never completes his question to Neera, because at the end of the film she says "yes" before he can finish, and gives him a "Shut Up" Kiss.
- City of Adventure: Glipforg, the quiet little suburb where Chuck lands.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Skiff, a sci-fi nerd who takes aliens a little too seriously, even before one of them arrives.
- Developing Doomed Characters: Reversed, most likely for parody.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Base 9.
- Expy: The Aliens' pets look like Xenomorphs that are about the size of a toy poodle. Instead of a second set of jaws, they have a sucker mouth on a frog-tongue.
- They don't bleed acid, though. They piss acid.
- Failed a Spot Check: Chuck manages to walk several feet without noticing the aliens or their entire town, until he steps on a squeaky toy and turns around.
- Fictional Pinball Game: There are several alien pinball games in the bowling alley.
- The Fifties: Parodied by the culture of the aliens.
- Four-Fingered Hands: The aliens have them. "Gimme four!"
- Chuck actually has five fingers.
- General Ripper/Inspector Javert/Well-Intentioned Extremist: General Grawl, leader of the soldiers hunting Chuck, is a combination of all of these tropes.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: Judging from Chuck's reactions to the alien women in the commercials.
- Genre Savvy: for all that he thinks Chuck is there to invade Planet 51, General Grawl does realize that such an effort would be carried out by the military, whose members would carry something that points out towards their origin. This allows him to find Chuck in the middle of a crowd disguised in similar disguises, as Chuck's is the only one that has an US flag patch.
- Groin Attack: Implied, when the astronaut lands on a globe.
- Hassle-Free Hotwire: Chuck and Lem both do this. Lem lampshades it by explaining to Neera that hotwiring is "how they start cars on Earth."
- Heel-Face Turn: General Grawl does one after Chuck saves his life.
- Hidden in Plain Sight/Status Quo Is God: How do you hide an alien astronaut? Paint an eyeball on his space suit and enter him in a costume contest promoting the Alien Invasion movie that just happens to be premiering today. Double for Status Quo because even though the "invasion" has the military in a tizzy, the movie premiere isn't even delayed!
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Professor Kipple extracts the brains of the soldiers that have been tricked by Chuck into believing they have been brainwashed. At the end of the film, the two soldiers practice the same operation on the Professor.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: The premise of the film.
- Inhumanable Alien Rights: Subverted, since Chuck is the one who might be victimized.
- Inverted only from a human perspective. It may very well be played straight, since technically Chuck is an "alien" while on the planet.
- Innocent Aliens: Both Chuck and the aliens.
- Keet: Eckle, a little boy who's positively enthusiastic about the prospect of invasion by brain-eating aliens.
- Love Triangle: Lem and Glar are both interested in Neera.
- Maniacal Laugh: Professor Kipple has one.
- Mad Scientist: Professor Kipple, who wants to remove and study Chuck's brain. And he's refined the procedure through practicing ON HIS OWN KIND.
- Mind Control: The aliens believe that Chuck can do this. After all, isn't he an alien invader?
- Misplaced Accent: in the European Spanish dub, the brainless aliens speak with Argentinian accents.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: how Chuck manages to hide while he tries to reach his ship (see Hidden in Plain Sight).
- Only One Name: The aliens.
- Out of the Inferno: How Chuck saves Grawl as Base 9 is self-destructing.
- Perspective Flip: A human astronaut is seen as an alien invader by most of the locals, with a few realizing that he is actually a peaceful visitor.
- Police Brutality: Glar gets beaten up by soldiers as a distraction so that his pals can sneak into Base 9. It's Played for Laughs, and Glar himself seems okay with it.
- Product Placement: At one point Chuck pulls a Twix bar out to convince Lem to clear the way to his ship. note Professor Kipple later finds the discarded wrapping and interprets it as being a death threat in alien language (while the barcode would be the surrender terms).
- There's also a Volkswagen badge on the front of Glar's van.
- Protest Song: Glar specializes in them.
- Race Against the Clock: Chuck's ship is programmed to leave in 74 hours—with or without him. He makes it.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Rover is one of the cutest robots ever.
- Robot Buddy/Team Pet: Rover is a little of both.
- Rule of Funny: How likely is it that an alien civilization which has had little contact with Earth (and even that hasn't been revealed to the public) would evolve into a near-perfect duplicate of a specific human culture? How likely is it that such a world would have a popular science fiction franchise called Humaniacs? And how likely would it be that they have developed a perfect copy of the English language? Who cares?
- Scenery Porn: The film's backgrounds are just breathtaking.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Parodied. No one can take seriously anyone who would even remotely suggest that the Universe was only 500 miles wide, since the planet they were on has to be much bigger than that in order to have an atmosphere capable of sustaining life, and a typical star is at least three orders of magnitude larger than 500 miles.
- Sequelitis: Parodied In-Universe by Humaniacs III, a movie within the movie that happens to be opening when Chuck lands. The franchise is about alien invaders, of course.
- The Smurfette Principle: Neera is the only female character with a substantial role.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Lem seems to see Glar as an antagonistic competitor, only because Neera seems interested in him; in actuality, Glar's been on his side the whole time.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The advertisement for the film uses The Killers' "Spaceman." The song is about being abducted by aliens and then being autopsied.
- Space Romans: In this case, Space Suburbanites.
- Stealth Pun: Chuck's MP3 player has a picture of a pot as its logo, making it, presumably, an iPot.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Right after Chuck is captured:
General Grawl: Let's take the aliens to Base 9note !
General Grawl: ...Not that it exists.
- Terror At Makeout Point
- Toilet Humor: You'd better believe it.
- Who Even Needs a Brain?: Once two alien soldiers have their brains removed not only do they still function but actually seem to get smarter such as speaking in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: most of Planet 51's inhabitants think that Chuck will behave like the "human" monsters in their films, but actually the poor guy was only exploring.