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Action Figure Speech

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"Silence you insolent Dirtlings!" Unable to articulate its rigid mouth, the alien had to wave its claws about just to let them know it was talking.

When your character doesn't have lips or a mouth, or sometimes even any part out of which sound could possibly issue, in order to display the character is speaking, they will move their whole body around. Sometimes they just move once to indicate this, sometimes they're flailing wildly the whole time they're talking.

Named after, of course, the tendency to do this when playing with dolls and action figures, since their mouths have no moving parts.

Broader version of the Head Bob. If their speech is indicated by flashing lights, see Talking Lightbulb. If the character only talks through body language, see He Who Must Not Be Heard or Silent Bob. If their mouth only appears when they are talking, they are blessed with Sudden Anatomy.


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    Fan Works 
  • The characters in Potter Puppet Pals are made to bob up and down and wiggle about when talking for comedic purposes, even though each has a very distinctive voice. This is made more visible by the puppets' arms, which are sewn to their bodies by the shoulders and flap around comically when the character moves.
  • Star Wars Uncut: In scenes where the characters from Star Wars are being played by actual action figures.
  • In Monster Island Buddies, since all the characters are toys, this is a given. Orga lampshades it in the Monster Island Mailbag of "Jet Jaguar meets Ultraman":
    Orga: Hey, has anyone ever wondered why only one of us can move at a time?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Speaking of not being very menacing (at all), there's the titular aliens from the 50's classic (and MST3K ep) Robot Monster. The Ro-Men, looking for all the world like a guy in a gorilla suit wearing a space helmet flailed around wildly while speaking.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Wheel In Space", the Cybermen indicate they are speaking by rocking their entire upper bodies back and forth. Their air of menace rather suffers as a result. Modern-era Cybermen lean more towards flashing lights in their mouths.
    • The Daleks are prone to this at times. At its best, the rocking is barely noticeable; at its worst, it makes them look rather incontinent. Similar to modern-day Cybermen, Daleks have also always flashed the lights on their armour.
    • In "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" the three Gods of Ragnarok indicate which of them is talking by raising and lowering their arms. Unlike the Daleks and Cybermen, however, the Gods have noticeably different voices.
  • The Adam and Joe Show featured Toymovies - parodies of films or television series acted out with toys so naturally this was used.
  • Most Toku shows, especially Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, do this with the heroes and the villains.
  • On Brum, Brum often shows he's either speaking or expressing some sort of wild emotion (such as enthusiasm, excitement or panic) by bobbing his suspension, making him rock on both sides. At other times he spins his crank, extends his front flaps, sounds his horn and "waves" by opening and shutting his doors.
    • The human characters in the show also utilise this trope. Nearly all of the recurring human cast were Large Hams, with the notable exception of the museum owner. Brum's Signature Style was presenting the characters as mute while the narrator would say the dialogue, like reading a storybook aloud. Therefore it was imperative that the characters be as hammy as possible.
  • Blake's 7. In "Headhunter", a killer android gets its head knocked off, with no apparent effect other than a tendency to start Milking the Giant Cow during its speeches.
  • Star Trek guest stars who aren't used to playing Rubber-Forehead Aliens can do this (because it feels like you're wearing a full-face mask). Check out the Vidiians in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Phage" for an example.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Most traditional puppets (without a moving mouth) bob up and down when they talk; for specific example, Kukla of Kukla, Fran and Ollie (Fran was a human and Ollie had a moving mouth).

    Theme Parks 
  • The character performers in the Disney Theme Parks. Though Disney eventually made elaborate puppet heads for certain shows.

    Video Games 
  • The video game version of The Phantom Menace did this whenever anyone talked. Including characters who were lying on the ground dying.
  • The models in Age of Mythology do this, though their gestures are actually rather sensible. Arkantos in particular spends a lot of time facepalming at Ajax's stupidity.
  • Movies made with Microsoft's 3D Movie Maker had all characters doing this, since the technology wasn't good enough in 1995 to allow lip syncing. Much Milking the Giant Cow action ensues.
  • The tutorial characters in Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics unsurprisingly talk this way, considering they pretty much are action figures.

    Web Animation 
  • Most all Machinima resorts to this in some way. It's lampshaded in Red vs. Blue.
    "Do we really bob our heads up and down all the time when we talk? God, that looks stupid."
    • It's particularly noticeable in Season 18, which is animated in the Unreal Engine. Scenes that in Halo are Head Bob now have them moving the whole upper body, if not gesturing. De De de de
    • Minecraft fanvideos often exaggerate this, with characters nodding their heads so hard it looks like they might as well snap their necks.
  • The EQUESTRIA GIRLS parody videos, which uses stock art and fan-art of the characters, has this.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device: The only way the characters are indicated to be talking is by shaking the clip-arts around, sometimes to exaggerated effects. With the exception of the Emperor, of course, who can't move at all since he's a skeleton. (Instead, his speech is hinted by his eyepiece glowing.) As of season 2, some characters have their artwork articulated to let them gesticulate to various degrees. For example Magnus the Red can only move his left arm, his right seemingly frozen in place, while Kaldor Draigo (the Supreme Grand Master of the Grey Knights) is able to swing his arms freely, able to cover his face with his shield. Little Kitten is relegated to bobbing back and forth to simulate talking.

    Web Original 
  • Since nearly the entire cast of The Adventures of Mr. Gear and Clippy (with the exceptions of a few "humanoid" characters) are a bunch of anthropomorphic objects with Invisible Anatomy, the characters tend to shake when they speak, though usually there are speech bubbles to let us know they're talking anyway. Mr. Gear sometimes even turns when he's not speaking, often at times during pauses in the dialogue (after which he will say something in response to Clippy's latest antics, or the villain's crazy behavior).

     Western Animation 
  • Action League NOW! has a cast made of literal action figures that move around slightly as they talk.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Bill Cipher’s body flashes slightly when talking due to not having a visible mouth.
    • The unicorns in "The Last Mablecorn" have their horns glow when speaking; they don’t move their mouths.
  • The Herculoids have Gloop and Gleep as members of the heroic team. These two polymorphs usually assume the shape of mayonnaise balloons or unflavored gelatin ghosts, with two black-pearl eyeballs. They communicate via a series of fluid oscillations "wu-wu-wu-wu-wu" in a tenor tone for Gloop and a contralto tone for Gleep. Neither one has a visible mouth, so speech causes their entire body to jiggle. Their vocalizations are supplied by Frank Welker.
  • Robot Chicken uses literal toys for most of its characters, usually pasting animated mouths onto them. For characters with no clear place to put a mouth, they typically gesticulate in some way as they speak.
  • In Toy Story, Woody and Buzz conceal themselves under a drink cup and a burger box, respectively. When Buzz talks, the box moves up and down.
  • In Wander over Yonder, the Watchdogs' irises pulsate whenever they speak.
  • The Transformers:
    • Optimus Prime's faceplate slides up and down when he speaks. Many later adaptations omit the trope by giving Optimus a retractable mask, exposing a normal mouth.
    • Wheeljack's ear fins glow when he talks.