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Continuity Snarl / Western Animation

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Continuity Snarls in western animation TV shows.

  • Played for laughs on American Dad! when Roger explains the background of a character he's made up for himself:
    Roger: My name is Braff Zacklin. I was an international race car driver. One day, a baby carriage rolled out onto the track so I swerved into the retaining wall to avoid it. The car burst into flames, but the baby miraculously survived... I was that baby.
    Steve: That doesn't make any sense.
    Roger: I'm Braff Zacklin!
  • Jeph Loeb has stated in several interviews that Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers, Assemble! share the same universe as The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!. As you can tell by the first episodes of both Ultimate and Assemble, this would only work in heavy Broad Strokes. The most noticeable contradiction being the apparent age difference between Iron Fist and Luke Cage as seen in Ultimate Spider-Man and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! and The Falcon being a rookie in Assemble whereas he was already active in EMH.
    • Related to EMH, Chris Yost, Craig Kyle, and Josh Fine have said it, Wolverine and the X-Men, and the "Wolverine" short of Hulk Vs. are all set in the same universe—despite the number of things that contradict each other, like Bruce Banner not remembering Wolverine in WatXM, despite Wolverine's behavior to Banner being the direct cause of both of Banner's main Hulk-outs in the "Wolverine" short.
    • This is further complicated in the later seasons of Avengers Assemble. Season 2 featured a guest appearance from Spider-Man, who was the same version as the one from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon (right down to using the same voice actor and having Spidey retain his habit of breaking the fourth wall). After Ultimate Spider-Man was cancelled and replaced with Marvel's Spider-Man, all subsequent guest appearances on Avengers Assemble used the new version of the character from the latter, despite the sheer number of continuity issues raised by the unexplained switch.
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    • How exactly Bruce got his powers and became the Hulk is contradicted on two separate occasions. The incident was first shown in "Planet Doom" as a small gamma bomb that went off in a lab near Bruce, ultimately giving him his powers. In "Dehulked", his origin is closer to the The Incredible Hulk film's take on it, with Bruce willingly getting the gamma blasted into him by a laser under the supervision of General Ross. On top of all that, if what A-Bomb said in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. is supposed to believed, Rick himself was supposed to be there to be saved by Bruce before he got hit by the gamma radiation, although Rick Jones wasn't in "Dehulked".
    • Klaw's appearance in "Thunderbolts Revealed" is radically different than how was previously-established in Ultimate Spider-Man, which takes place in the same universe: He is human again (albeit briefly), despite the fact that he was a living embodiment of sound prior to this episode; he now resembles his Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart, as opposed to having his red full-body containment suit, including a different sound generation located on the opposite arm; and, no longer voiced by Matt Lanter, "Klaue" now sports a ambiguously foreign accent that is completely distinct from Lanter's gruff bad guy voice.
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    • Emil Blonsky, who had his Abomination persona forcibly removed in the Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. episode "Spirit of Vengeance", is a gamma monster again in "Dehulked" with no explanation, though it's possible that this took place before Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
    • Egghead begins his villainous career midway through Season 3, despite the fact that he was already a villain Scott Lang sold tech to, according to a line of a dialogue in "Spectrums", a Season 2 episode.
    • In Season 3, it was stated that prior to becoming Ant-Man, Scott Lang was a scientist who sold tech to supervillains, and it's implied that this is what landed him in jail. In Season 4, he's now stated to have been a former thief, much like his movie counterpart, but who's to say he hadn't done both?
    • Season 4's Halloween Episode is a continuity nightmare. For starters, it stars the original six Avengers and features none of the new recruits, even though by this point in the season, the original Avengers had already been scattered across time and space, and wouldn't return for another five episodes. Next, Iron Man is still with the team, even though he'd been trapped in another dimension at the end of the last season, and wasn't rescued alongside the other Avengers in Season 4. Crimson Widow is also still working for HYDRA, even though she betrayed them in Season 3 and was already shown working alone earlier in Season 4. Finally, the episode ends in the training room of Avengers Tower, even though Season 3 ended with the Avengers moving into the Avengers Compound after the Tower was destroyed, and the replacement Avengers were operating out of the Wakandan Embassy at that point before the compound was repaired. Timeline-wise, the episode really only makes sense if it's meant to be taking place some time prior to the Season 3 finale. While that is assumed to be the case, it creates yet another issue; Season 3 already had a Halloween episode, and if the timeline of Ultron Revolution happened spanned over an entire year, Yelena being with HYDRA still wouldn't make sense since her debut episode was after Season 3's Halloween Episode and during the winter season.
    • "New Year's Resolution" raises all sorts of issues about time travel in this series. First of all, time travel can now erase the memories of travelers. Then, Kang explains that if someone is brought to the future, they can only stay there for a short period of time before everything after the point when they left starts to be erased from history. In this episode, Peggy and Howard are in the future for a few hours at most before things start falling apart, while Falcon was trapped in the future for YEARS, and this never seems to happen. Even Baron Heinrich Zemo was in the future for about a few hours and didn't suffer the same problem either. If anything, the Timey-Wimey Ball is in effect in this universe, so the rules of time travel are bound to vary. It also has the same continuity problems as the aforementioned Halloween special, since Iron Man is back on the team without explanation, and the Avengers are still operating out of Avengers Tower. However, that this episode is A Day in the Limelight for Peggy Carter and Howard Stark taking place in the past while involving Time Travel, so the "future" they travel to doesn't necessarily have to be the "present" this episode airs in (which in this case is Season 4).
    • Much like the Klaw example, Baron Mordo shows up in Season 4, where he is a black man like his movie counterpart, though retaining his powers, and alignment with Hydra from Ultimate Spider-Man. This is despite the fact that Mordo previously shown up in Ultimate Spider-Man as a white guy.
    • In "Beyond," Black Widow states that the Avengers had assumed that Iron Man died after the connection to his dimension was cut off. This is despite the fact that in the first episode of the season, when the cut off happened, the Avengers are very clearly determined to bring him back.
    • Iron Man shows up in "Beyond" after being trapped in an alternate dimension when Ultron possessed him in the Season 3 finale. He doesn't have his armor with him, so the implication is he left it, and Ultron, behind in the section of Battleworld made up of No Tech Land, and that's why he's not possessed anymore. The only problem is that Ultron possessed him via the Arc Reactor, not the armor, which is why he had to stay behind in the first place. He needs the Arc Reactor to live, and leaving would mean Ultron would take over again when it reactivated. Tony shouldn't have been able to leave No Tech Land at all.
    • Season 5, "Black Panther's Quest" is a continuity nightmare. It's still officially listed as taking place after season 4, "Secret Wars," but several characters are missing without explanation. The crossover with Spider-Man features the Spidey of Marvel's Spider-Man and not Ultimate Spider-Man (a change that also carried on into Guardians of the Galaxy)! The changed character designs are also the same as in Spider-Man 2017. When T'Challa meets with Attuma in Atlantis, he's a completely different character from the tyrant in Red Skull's Cabal in the early seasons. It's like the show just hopped universes between seasons.
  • Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation does this to previous works in the Care Bears franchise, from having the Care Bear Cousins grow up with the rest of the Care Bears, instead of separately in The Care Bears Movie.
  • Various Cartoon Network shows have been implied to be in the same Universe, perhaps most notably in The Grim Adventures Of The Kids Next Door, but this simply can't be. All of these shows have had their own versions of Santa Claus appear who looks different from the other show. In addition, episodes of shows like Dexter's Laboratory show Negative Continuity like the entire Earth being destroyed or an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy where Mandy wishes everyone in the world to go away, which can't exist in the same place as shows like Codename: Kids Next Door which clearly have continuity.
  • The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs TV spin-off is branded as a prequel to the two movies with Flint Lockwood in high school. If it is truly a prequel, however, then there are some inconsistencies with the movie's canon. Most noticeably, Sam Sparks is attending the Swallow Falls high school with Flint despite it never being established in the either of the two movies that Sam had ever been to Swallow Falls before being sent there in the beginning of the first movie, much less known Flint. Additionally, Manny (Sam's camera man) is also a Swallow Falls resident (which doesn't add up for the same reason as Sam), and Mayor Shelbourne has an actual son (instead of a metaphorical son) who never appeared in either of the movies that are set after this series.
  • The DC Animated Universe has a couple because of Justice League:
    • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode, "Blasts from the Past, Part 1", Lois Lane makes a snarky remark, saying, "Yeah, and I'm Wonder Woman," which suggests that Wonder Woman was already active in the DCAU. In Justice League, Diana is presented as a rookie and a newbie to Man's World.
    • Likewise, the Superman: TAS episode "Apokolips... Now, Part 2" features Forager among the New Gods from New Genesis, yet in "Twilght" he's not yet among their numbers until the end of the episode.
  • Due to Canon Welding with the comics it was based on, DuckTales (1987) (and its spin-off Darkwing Duck) is covered on the Comic Books page.
  • Parodied in The Fairly OddParents! where it shows all of the different versions of Crimson Chins there are from the different decades of comic books. They all have different appearances, attitudes and one was even banned (the "super edgy 1985" one who swore excessively).
    • Played straight in the series with its own continuity. The inclusion of Poof as a main cast member has brought up some confusion regarding his absence in the finale of the movie Channel Chasers. Also, the addition of Sparky in Season Nine brings more continuity issues, such as Sparky not being there at the end of Channel Chasers (the same contradiction happened with Poof) and his not being in the live-action movies — A Fairly Odd Movie and A Fairly Odd Christmas — both taking place thirteen years after the events of the main series. In A Fairly Odd Movie, there is even a scene in which Wanda states that Timmy doesn't have a dog.
    • The biggest one occurs near the end of A Fairly Odd Summer, in which Timmy's Heroic Sacrifice has caused him to turn into a fairy.
  • Hercules is rather hard to gel with the movie that it's based on. It's about Hercules attending school while trying to be a hero... so, like, set during the film's Training Montage, but before his "first" heroic deed against the Hydra. (Given how dismissive people are of him in the film, they've apparently forgotten his TV-show feats.) Also, in the movie it's a plot point that Hades thinks that Hercules is dead, but here they interact Once per Episode, which also makes it odd that he has to introduce himself to Hercules during the film's Titan invasion. It's best to just to throw up your hands and call it Broad Strokes.
  • The Little Mermaid prequel TV series has a couple. In the movie Sebastian barely knows Ariel and is assigned to watch over her after she misses the concert. In the TV series he's part of her True Companions and they act as if they've known each other for years. Additionally Sebastian doesn't discover Ariel's grotto until the "Part of Your World" number - after he's only just been told to keep an eye on her. The TV series has him appearing in the grotto numerous times. Otherwise subverted with other details. Eric appears on the show a couple of times but Ariel never sees him, preserving the continuity of their first meeting in the movie. Likewise Ursula appears but is not defeated and does not interact too much with Ariel. The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning showed Flounder and Ariel meeting for the first time and portrayed Flounder as extroverted and daring. The TV series showed them meeting as children and Flounder is portrayed as timid (but brave when necessary) and cautious in every other media.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic chronology makes absolutely no sense simply going by the show, with multiple episodes set during a specific time of year appearing across three seasons... at which point it was revealed that a year had passed. Show staff have admitted that firm canon has never really been that important to them, though effort is made to keep everything relatively coherent such that one can Hand Wave it as Anachronic Order. The books, show, comics and supplementary material also all have their own issues with each other if taken as one overall canon.
    • Pound and Pumpkin Cake are one of the show's biggest examples. They are born in Season 2 and seem to remain infants until the show's Distant Finale shows them as adults, with Pinkie celebrating the one-year anniversary of their first sneeze as an offhand joke in Season 7, and yet the Cutie Mark Crusaders ageing from implied children to implied preteens is a plot point earlier that same season, so more than a year should have passed. The Series 8 short "Teacher of the Month" involves Fluttershy being voted Teacher of the Month at the School of Friendship for the 16th time in a row, confirming over a year passed since the school is founded, yet Pound and Pumpkin still don't look any older.
    • The official Word of God line is that any supplementary material can be considered canon, unless the show contradicts it, in which case the show's canon wipes it out. But this still runs into trouble with the comics' "Siege of the Crystal Empire" arc, a massive battle with numerous villains over the show's least the few that the poor writer tasked with putting it together was actually able to use given the show's love of reforming its villains. He even resorted to using Iron Will, a character previously presented as a bit rough around the edges but in no way a villain even in another comic issue.
  • Ninjago has great continuity... for what happens on-screen. Trying to sort out what happened before the pilot, on the other hand (not helped by each season feeling compelled to tie into Wu and Garmadon's history, adding to the mythos of the Elemental Masters, etc.)...
    • Regarding Garmadon's backstory: As a child, he was bitten by the Great Devourer, which poisoned him with evil. This development establishes that the Evil Garmadon isn't really him, just something he was forced into. The Tournament of Elements then shows him studying under Master Chen, developing this evil side and even using it to steal Misako (Lloyd's mother)'s affection from Wu, which he feels conflicted about. But any time there's a reference to a battle fought before the series (the Serpentine War, the Hands of Time), Garmadon fought alongside Wu, with no hints at all that there's any evil in him yet. There's even a picture showing Wu, Misako, and Garmadon together showing Garmadon looking exceptionally pale (a physical manifestation of the evil inside him) from before his time with Chen, when flashbacks of Garmadon with Chen show him with a regular LEGO-yellow skin.
    • Zane is a Nindroid (ninja-android). The episode that reveals this has him remembering his father (the man who built him also raised him as a son) telling him "You were built to defend those who cannot defend themselves." Except he was apparently supposed to "defend others" by... living in a tree in the forest, unknown to anyone. His elemental abilities were apparently (somehow) passed onto him by the former Master of Ice, who... stumbled upon them one night, asked for shelter, and then moved on. Wu visited the next day (specifically looking for the ninja who would wield the Ice Shuriken), and yet seems surprised that the Master of Ice (who the show had already established Wu knew and had fought alongside previously) had visited... despite it being the only way Zane could have gotten the ice powers in the first place!
    • The Hands of Time arc brings up several. It had previously been established that Nya "was there for" Kai after their father's disappearance... This arc then establishes that, not only is Nya the younger sibling, she was only three when their parents went missing, so how is a three-year-old supposed to "be there" for her older brother? The painting of the climactic battle is stated as being "during the Serpentine War" and is repeatedly established to have occurred 40 years before the present day. How exactly were the Serpentine and the Great Devourer supposed to have faded to legend in 40 years? Specific ages are typically avoided, but one of the characters in the flashback mentions delaying her honeymoon, which would seem to imply that she (and by extension, the others) are young adults at youngest, rather than teenagers, but the next generation of ninja are teenagers in the present day, which means those characters waited another twenty years to reproduce (putting them at maybe 40 when their children were born, which isn't impossible, but stretches credibility), which isn't helped by the aging different characters have gone through. If we say Crux and Acronix, Wu, and the Elemental Masters are approximately the same age, in the 40 years since the battle: Wu and Crux both aged into old men, Acronix (who was sent into the future and therefore didn't age a day) looks and acts like a teenager (he's possibly closer to 20, if we're generous, which would make Crux, his twin, 60, which is a good estimate based on his appearance and behavior, but seems like a lowball estimate for Wu), most of the Elemental Masters don't appear again in the present day, but the few who do Ray and Maya, Kai and Nya's parents look exactly the same as they did in the flashback, meaning either they're incredibly youthful for 60 or they were kids during the first battle who just looked like adults and were already competent blacksmiths.
  • Due to the sheer length of time it's been on the air coupled with its ageless cast and focus on American cultural commentary, The Simpsons has increasingly severe continuity problems regarding when the characters were born, what generation they belong to, etc. Early episodes, set in the early 1990s, established Marge and Homer as kids of the late 1950s — baby boomers, basically — with Bart and Lisa being kids of the early 1980s. Early episodes flashbacks were completely unambiguous about this — young Homer watching JFK on TV, Lisa's birth overlapping with the 1984 Olympics, and so on. However, the show has survived for so long, it is now impossible to honor this past without absurdity — Lisa cannot still be eight years old in the late 2010s if she was born in the 1980s, etc. Flashbacks in contemporary episodes now have to occur in some vague, unspecified "past" with decade-identifying details scrubbed, though this is not so easily done for certain characters for whom time-sensitive events are a big part of their identity: for example, Abe being a WWII vet, Seymour having served in Vietnam, Marge, Homer, and Artie Ziff having attended a very 70s prom — to say nothing of Disco Stu! It seems many of these details are being quietly retired for snarl reasons.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants is a show that mostly runs on Negative Continuity, so it seldom has any true examples of this trope, but things get muddy when the status of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie as the show's canonical ending according to Word of God is brought into the picture. As the series has gone on for many seasons afterward and maintaining what little continuity the show has has become harder, there has been the occasional appearance of something that comes into conflict with the movie's status as the Grand Finale, such as the appearance of various objects from said movie (such as the Goofy Goober guitar and the bag of winds) appearing in the Krusty Krab's lost-and-found in Season 10's "Lost and Found" and Mindy attending SpongeBob's surprise birthday party in Season 12's Milestone Celebration "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" when Mindy likely didn't even know who SpongeBob was until the events of the first movie.
  • Trying to fit every work in The Lion King franchise into a single continuity is... challenging, to say at least.
    • Following the original movie, first there was the spin-off book titled The Lion King: Six New Adventures, naming Simba's son "Kopa" and telling a story about how Scar got his scar.
    • The Lion King 2 Simbas Pride, a straight-up sequel that ignored Kopa's existence and replaced him with a female cub named Kiara - whose presentation ceremony, as shown in the beginning of the film, looks completely different from the ceremony seen at the end of the original film. Furthermore it introduced a pride of lions, led by a lioness named Zira, who were supportive of Scar, despite their existence not even mentioned in the original movie, where Scar seems to have a 0% Approval Rating.
    • The Lion King 1½ retold the events of the original movie from a Perspective Flip, showing how Timon and Pumbaa met and how their raised Simba - but it often ignored continuity in favor of Rule of Funny. The montage of Timon and Pumbaa appearing in every scene of the original movie just straight-up flies in the face of any continuity.
    • Timon & Pumbaa told a different version of how Timon and Pumbaa met, and is a lot Denser and Wackier than anything else in the franchise, including the characters getting more anthropomorphized and interacting with humans and man-made objects. It's the best to treat this as Alternate Continuity completely.
    • The Lion Guard makes the whole thing even more confusing:
      • The protagonist is Simba's son Kion who is Kiara's younger brother, but was nowhere to be seen in the sequel. He's also a completely different character than Kopa.
      • Mufasa's ghost seems to be able to appear to Kion at any time to advise him - which begs the question why he never appeared to his own son and left him living in guilt for many years.
      • Scar is revealed to have been the member of the former Lion Guard, possessing the power of the Roar of the Elders and using it to kill his fellow Guard members. Why Mufasa trusted him after such a heinous act is a mystery. Furthermore, Scar is implied to have died in the fire below Pride Rock, whereas in the movie he was clearly eaten by his hyena minions. A promotional clip from Season 3 also shows a story regarding how Scar got his scar, which is completely different from the one in The Lion King: Six New Adventures.
      • Zira's pride is introduced in one episode, but they seem to be completely unaware of the other villains' plot to summon Scar, and Scar's spirit also seems to ignore them.
    • And then, there is the stage musical and the photo-realistic remake, which are just re-tellings of the original story in a different medium.
  • The Scooby-Doo franchise has developed some issues over the years; even ignoring works that are explicitly set in their own continuities like Scooby Goes Hollywood and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the exact timeline of the franchise's "main" continuity is a mystery in itself.
    • The animated series from 1969's Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! to 1985's The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo seem to all take place in the same continuity, in chronological order. 13 Ghosts explicitly features real supernatural beings, while the earlier shows relied on the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax trope exclusively. 1988's A Pup Named Scooby-Doo is a prequel featuring the gang as kids in what appears to be the late 1950s. These shows collectively feature a heavy dose of Comic-Book Time, given that the gang never grow out of their teenage years even by the mid-80s, and Scooby dramatically exceeds the life expectancy of a Great Dane in that time as well.
    • The 1998 direct-to-video film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island takes a Broad Strokes approach to the earlier shows and ignores 13 Ghosts outright. It features the gang as young adults after a Time Skip, pursuing different jobs across the country after retiring from monster-hunting. They reunite to investigate a case that ends up being genuinely supernatural, and it's made clear that this is the first time that's happened in this new continuity.
    • The following direct-to-video films would initially respect Zombie Island's version of events, with the gang still as adults, but that would later change. The fifth film,Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire reverted the gang to their original outfits, doing away with the more modern fashion introduced in Zombie Island. This would begin a trend of generally treating the gang as teenagers again and carrying on from the old cartoons, effectively pretending that the time skip and the events of the first four video films never happened. The Comic Book Time is even more pronounced now, as it seems that the gang have been teenagers for well over 40 years.
    • Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost brings the events of the original 13 Ghosts cartoon back into the canon, and Scooby-Doo: Return to Zombie Island revisits the first Zombie Island film's setting but thoroughly retcons the events as happening while the gang were still teenagers (and they're still teenagers in the sequel's present day scenes, 21 years later). This makes it unclear whether their first encounter with the supernatural was in 13 Ghosts or Zombie Island, and basically requires that the gang really never ages, as Zombie Island's events still explicitly happened in a pre-9/11 time period.


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