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A Sub-Trope of Covers Always Lie where a character who you'd think was a main character does not get developed nearly as much as their counterparts. They're on all the advertisements, they get a witty one-liner in the trailer, but when the release date comes, they almost fade into the background. Basically, they were Demoted to Extra before the story even came out.

This character is introduced at some pivotal point (usually the beginning) and then is generally ignored for the rest of the story. Maybe they're seen for all of five minutes in a three-hour movie, or maybe they just lurk in the background while their friends do all the important stuff. Whatever the case, to qualify for this trope, a character must have been introduced in a way that implied he was going to be important, but is left out of most of the story.

If the wasted character is in a series, the author may realize his mistake and give him some development in later episodes/books/etc. Alternatively, they can just put them on a bus or kill them off for real to avoid having to deal with another character.

Also may occur if an actor is in the opening credits but is seen in very little of the movie. Also could appear only in the cold opening and by the time their name appears in the opening credits they are not seen in the rest of the movie. This tends to be used with big named actors, and often in DVD re-releases of movies they appeared in before the big breakout role that made them stars. Might overlap with One-Scene Wonder. Also could be known as an Opening Credits Cameo. It's not uncommon for advertised extras to be featured on B-Roll footage.

May be a victim of the Spotlight-Stealing Squad, and expect him to become an Ensemble Dark Horse. Another possibility is that the extra is a Decoy Protagonist. Some creators will even use this trope intentionally to make a Decoy Protagonist twist more shocking. Many cases of Dead Star Walking end up as this.

Compare The Artifact, who starts out prominent and then fades. An advertised extra is advertised as prominent, but never actually achieves that status. Also compare Fake Guest Star, where an actor is credited as a guest star but appears to be part of the main cast. See Stunt Casting when famous actors are cast in usually bit parts in hopes on cashing in on their popularity. Contrast Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer, where a prominent character appears in little to no advertising. Billing Displacement occurs after a work is released when the creator wants to capitalize on the Retroactive Recognition of a character, regardless of how short that role may be.

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Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Accel World anime, Akira Himi, aka Aqua Current, is prominently shown in the openings and even joins the protagonists in the shot at the end of the first opening, despite only appearing in a single story arc early on, and not rejoining Nega Nebulus until much later in the light novels.
  • Aria the Scarlet Ammo gives us Reki, who is put on par with Aria, Shirayuki and Riko in promotional artwork for the anime adaptation but ended up getting a few tiny (albeit important) appearances while all the others got An Arc and/or plenty of screentime. In the original novels, however, she's more prominent, and even get two novels dedicated for her.
  • The promotional materials for the Japan Animator Expo short Bureau of Proto Society shows a rampaging Humongous Mecha about to open fire. In the actual short, it appears in only one scene of archive footage-to be precise, various fictional works Proto Society thought was archive footage.
  • Blue Lock: Ryosuke Kira, who starts out as the most promising player of his generation (being the star player of the team who defeats protagonist Yoichi Isagi in the beginning), is shown very prominently in promotional material for the anime. He's actually the first member in Team Z who gets eliminated from Blue Lock and is not seen again afterwards.
  • The initial opening and ending of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo make it seem like Captain Battleship/Gunkan is going to be a major recurring character or even apart of the group. By the series end he only ends up appearing in 5 episodes as a villain. This may be a case of Early-Installment Weirdness at play, as the original plan was to have him make a Heel–Face Turn and join the group.
  • Chainsaw Man: Despite featuring heavily in advertising and merchandise, and effectively functioning as the Series Mascot, Pochita only physically appears in his dog-like form in the first chapter, and then never again due to merging with Denji's heart, only appearing subsequently in occasional flashbacks, dream sequences, and in his original humanoid Chainsaw Devil form.
  • Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School heavily built up Nagito Komaeda as major character in Despair Arc, as per his role in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (where he was a main character). While he doesn't quite get enough screentime to be called a minor character, he still doesn't much screentime or relevance outside of A Day in the Limelight and gets Put on a Bus a third of the way in. Also, official material for Future Arc, including the opening, gives off the impression that Yasuhiro Hagakure is part of the Final Killing Game. He's actually stuck outside without a bangle and is only occasionally cut to.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Giyu Tomioka, the Water Hashira and the first introduced Demon Slayer, is often prominently displayed in marketing and official merchandise despite being Out of Focus for much of the series. He only plays a role at the very beginning, the Mount Natagumo arc, the Hashira Training arc and the climax.
  • While Digimon Adventure tri. had always intended to center the original characters of Adventure over their apprentices of 02, it is the apparent defeat of the 02 characters that steals the trailers to the first film...and so far through five of the six planned films, they haven't been seen or heard onscreen yet, and only Ken has been verbally referenced at all.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The cover of Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn features many villains both from the main series as well as the other DBZ films, despite that none of them play any major role in the film apart from a tiny cameo appearance. Some, like Cooler and Nappa, don't even appear despite being on the cover!
    • Most advertisements and promotional images for the Dragon Ball Z film Lord Slug featured one of his henchmen Zeeun, in the film itself he only shows up for a few minutes and is killed by Slug when he accidentally insults his age before he even has a chance to fight.
    • Dragon Ball Super had an ad for its Universal Survival Arc which showed the ten warriors for Universe 7. One of those was Majin Buu, who seemed like he would be able to get into action for once since he'd essentially been sidelined since the Battle of Gods Arc. He prepares for the tournament, getting a brand new form... then ends up dropping out due to falling asleep and ends up getting replaced by the real tenth member: Frieza.
  • Food Wars!: Mayumi Kurase is featured prominently on the first volume's cover along with Soma and Erina, as if she was meant to be a heroine. However, after the first chapter/episode, Mayumi does not reappear until Soma returns to the restaurant during the school break, and then disappears from the story again when Soma returns to Totsuki. Suspiciously Similar Substitute is also in play, as Megumi is essentially a replacement of her.
  • Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu prominently features Tessa Testarossa, one of the central characters from the main series, in both the opening and closing as well as promotional artwork. She only appears in a 2-part episode.
  • Gundam:
    • Chalia Bull in the original Mobile Suit Gundam was played up as the Ace Pilot from Jupiter who'd be able to completely change the war. He was a Newtype, a great pilot, and not only that, he was piloting a new Prototype Mobile Armor with remote weapons. Thing is, he only had a few minutes of screen one episode... And he died...
    • The Kämpfer mobile suit in Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. Heavily merchandised and loaded with weapons. It wreaks havoc across the colony for a few minutes, then gets torn to shreds in less than a minute by the Gundam Alex. Most likely the point of it's non-use; it was crashed early on, and in repairs up until the finale. 0080 wasn't about the Gundam battles itself, but knew that the build up for the final clash would make it more memorable.
    • Descartes Shaman in Gundam 00: Awakening Of The Trailblazer, who appeared on plenty of promotional material but ends up being a rather minor character.
  • Subverted by Yuina in Hanasaku Iroha, as she was treated as part of the main cast but barely appeared... until episode 13-14, which were focused on her, and afterwards she started hanging around the main girls all the time.
  • HuGtto! Pretty Cure featured, in the opening, a giant golden spirit known as "Mother Heart". However, she does very little in the series, only showing up in the Cures' "Tomorrow For Everyone" attack, even if that was the attack used to defeat the Big Bad. The only major thing she does is split the final Transformation Trinket into two so that it can be used by both Ruru and Emiru, but even then it's treated as a Deus ex Machina.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable:
    • Despite being the Big Bad (and therefore prominently featured on advertising and merchandise), Yoshikage Kira is only seen for two arcs before he kills Kosaku Kawajiri and steals his face and identity. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle even demoted Kira to DLC, while his Kosaku persona is presented as his default look.
    • Yukako Yamagishi is prominently featured in all three of the anime openings despite only appearing in a handful of episodes, a few of which only have her in brief appearances with minimal dialogue. Her part wasn't much bigger in the original manga, where she still managed to appear on quite a few chapter covers.
  • Kouchuu from Koihime†Musou is treated as a main character in both promotional art and anime opening, but in the first season she only appears for one episode before joining the Final Battle (everyone else gets at least 4-5 eps of hanging with the heroine) and for the next seasons she has to Stay in the Kitchen while everyone else has adventures (except Bachou on season 2, and she got A Day in the Limelight to compensate).
  • Naruto:
    • Sai in the anime adaptation. While he's an important character during the arc he debuts in, his relevance to the plot and character development pretty much end there, and gets little to do afterwards. Yet lots of openings after his debut still featured him almost as prominently as Naruto and Sakura, despite both his screentime and contribution to the plot being minimal. He's much less featured in the openings (to the point of being absent in some of them) once the anime reached the Fourth Ninja War arc.
    • In the case of Naruto Gaiden, while Boruto was seen prominently in the promotional material for this spinoff, he has a rather small role whereas his classmate Sarada has become an Ascended Extra.
  • In New Game! the opening and ending credits act as if Aoba, Hifumi, Hajime and Yun are a Four-Girl Ensemble. However, in the series itself Hajime and Yun get one shared Character Focus episode and serve as Those Two Guys otherwise. While Hifumi is more important than they are, she's often left on the back burner for other characters.
  • In One Piece Film: Gold, Despite being announced in the film, Rob Lucci and Sabo barely play a role in it and at best just have a brief battle outside the Gran Tesoro. They don't even interact with the Straw Hats. Likewise Koala has one scene in the film talking with Sabo.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The main series tends to suffer this problem, with the main characters often obtaining monsters that end up receiving less screen time than the guest stars.
    • Advertisements and trailers for various movies often prominently feature one or more Pokémon who ultimately play a very minor role, if any at all (it doesn't help that almost all of them lie through their teeth).
      • The original teaser for Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior prominently featured Regigigas, who in the actual movie only shows up (rather suddenly) for the last fifteen minutes.
      • The website for Pokémon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened presented a Sableye among the cast as if it were a major player. After the first ten minutes, it becomes a background character. There's also the bulk of the Genesect Army, who get very few lines and no personalities, being outshined by the Douse Drive and Red Genesect.
      • The poster for Pokémon: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages has Arceus standing behind the main cast. In the actual movie, it's only ever talked about until it shows up out of nowhere in the climax.
      • The original teaser for Pokémon: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel was the first appearance of Zygarde's Complete Forme. In the actual movie, Zygarde only assumes its Complete Forme towards the end for one scene, and none of the main cast even see it.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion introduces a new magical girl: Nagisa Momoe, the much-hyped human form of Ensemble Dark Horse witch Charlotte. However, she's just an elementary school-aged little girl whose role is little more than being Mami's friend/roommate/"pet".
  • Rent-A-Girlfriend:
    • Sumi is featured prominently in the opening credits, but she only debuts at the end of Episode 10 out of 12.
    • Likewise, Mami is only a Recurring Character at the best of times but the opening credits and various official artwork make her out to be one of the main protagonists and equally on par with Chizuru in terms of storyline importance rather than an antagonist and someone who only shows up sometimes but not all the time.
  • The Anime of the Game Sands of Destruction is subtitled Sekai Bokumetsu Rokunin, or "The Six People Who Will Destroy the World". Agan is supposed to be one of the main six characters, but he tends to be just some guy who shows up every few episodes and says a few lines, maybe offers the team a ride (for a price, of course). It's never implied he's following the group or has any real interest in them; he just...appears. Of course, part of the problem could be that this Alternate Continuity has removed his status as Morte's Childhood Friend, and a good deal of his development in the game comes from their Like Brother and Sister Vitriolic Best Buds relationship. The other part could be that, since he never officially joins the team this time around, the writers just have to figure out a way to shoehorn him in somewhere.
  • From the way Hazuki and Sapphire are advertised and featured in Sound! Euphonium material you would think they're of the utmost importance. While they are still above being Those Two Guys their friendship with the protagonist is put on the backburner for Kumiko's friendship with Reina.
  • Cammy appears on the Japanese poster for Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, as well as every piece of licensed merchandise and even on the opening video to the tie-in "Interactive Movie" game, to the point that it almost seems as if she's one of the main heroes alongside Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li. In the actual movie her only significant scene is near beginning, when she assassinates a British politician under the influence of M. Bison's mind control. She is only seen briefly again halfway through the movie when one of M. Bison's monitor cyborgs records footage of her interrogation with Chun-Li and the only time she is ever mentioned after that scene is when M. Bison orders Sagat to eliminate her and Vega just before the final battle (but this assignment is never actually shown on-screen).
  • Tigerstar in the Warrior Cats manga Tigerstar and Sasha, is this for the second and third books. In the first book, he was the love interest. However, in the second book (on which he is the only one on the cover), he shows up, asks the hero a question, and is never seen again! In book three, he only appears in dream sequences. It's like the writers didn't know what to do with him, so they hid him in a cupboard and hoped no one would find him.
  • The end credits of Wasteful Days of High School Girls show Kohaku alongside all the other girls as if she's a main cast member, but she rarely interacts with them, and usually only shows up as part of a pair with her more prominent sister Majo.
  • Walkappa from Yo-Kai Watch is featured in the ending credits dancing with the main characters, despite appearing rather rarely.

  • Icarus in Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is almost hidden. You can only see his leg sticking out of the water in the bottom right corner of the image. None of the other people in the painting seem to notice Icarus falling into the water; in fact, the shepherd seems to be actively focused on something else.
    • See also W. H. Auden's 1938 poem about the Bruegel painting, "Musée des Beaux Arts", which addresses this issue directly.

    Comic Books 
  • Many of the examples on the Wolverine Publicity page fit, that is if the advertised character even appears at all.
  • At the height of the popularity of Batman (Grant Morrison), DC Comics announced that Damian Wayne would be joining the cast of Teen Titans. His arrival was heavily promoted and multiple variant covers were created for the issue where he joins, but he was only with the team for a grand total of four issues before being Put on a Bus.
  • Doctor Light sometimes appears in pin-ups or other pieces of official art promoting Justice League International, despite the fact that she quit the team at the end of the very first story arc.
  • Marvel Comics usually puts major characters on the corner box of their comic covers. For the limited series Marvel: The Lost Generation, every issue since the first (which had the words "EXPLOSIVE FIRST ISSUE!" instead) featured Mako the Atlantean, whose prominence was limited to a few pages of the first issue, as well as a cameo in the tenth issue as a fetus in a jar. A more fitting character would have been Effigy, or the Black Fox, or even Dr. Cassandra Locke.
  • Shari Flenniken's Trots and Bonnie comic strips are about a girl named Bonnie and her talking dog Trots...or so the title would have you believe. The real deuteragonist is Bonnie's troublemaking friend Pepsi, with Trots not doing much besides tagging along and delivering a punchline at the end.

    Fan Works 
  • Tagging systems on sites like Archive of Our Own can lead to this. Some authors will create a tag for every character that appears in the story, nor matter how minor, so someone searching through the tag will find stories that don't involve the character they're looking for at all.
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The ancient Bone Singer from Chapter 5 is on the Chapter 9 cover art of this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction, even though the Bone Singer only appears in the one chapter.

    Films — Animation 
  • Stella in The Angry Birds Movie. Despite appearing on a large portion of the film's merchandise, she is in the movie for a grand total of 15 minutes.
  • Fifi the feather duster from Beauty and the Beast has around three and a half minutes of screen time. Despite this, on many covers, she's up there with the main characters. She plays a larger role in one of the stories in the midquel, Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World.
  • The home video cover for Brother Bear shows the bear protagonists Kenai and Koda, comic relief moose Rutt and Tuke, and two rams who are only in one scene and the end credits.
  • If you've never seen Chicken Little, you'd think Morkubine Porcupine was a major character. He featured heavily in TV spots and on the website, and appears on the DVD cover (in place of Abby Mallard, who was a main character) yet has 3 lines of dialogue in the whole film ("Yo", "no", "whoa") and barely contributes to the story.
  • The Disney Princess merchandise line includes Mulan and Pocahontas as official princesses, but they're commonly left out of most of the merchandise. Often replaced by unofficial princesses Anna and Elsa from hit Frozen, making a subversion of this trope.
  • Camilo Madrigal received great publicity in the Encanto trailers before it was released as well as his older cousins and his younger brother, who are important at some point in the story. However, in reality he only appears on the screen for five minutes during the entire movie and he's the Madrigal that contributes the least to the plot.
  • Patrick Stewart's Poop character in The Emoji Movie shows up frequently in trailers and even has his own poster. In the movie proper, he only has a handful of lines and is only a minor character at best.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: Owen Wilson plays the coach at the animals' school, appears in one scene with a few lines, and that's it. He's still mentioned on the cover of the DVD box as if he were playing a major character.
  • Many Finding Nemo ads show minor characters Bruce and Crush, who have very small roles in the movie.
  • Foodfight! had a very bad example of this, which is possibly due to troubled production. The movie was supposed to be used to promote several supermarket food brands, and as such, the cover had Mrs. Buttersworth, Twinkie the Kid, the Vlasic stork, Charlie the Tuna, etc. However, each of these characters were basically extras, only appearing in one or two scenes.
  • Bobby from A Goofy Movie had a big enough role that it made sense for him to be advertised—or it would have if the trailers didn't play him up to the detriment of three secondary characters with bigger roles than his, including completely ousting one of them. From viewing the trailer and looking at the cover art you would probably think Bobby was a main character on par with or barely beneath Goofy and Max. He actually has six scenes worth of screentime, one of which is spent doing nothing interesting or important and not being acknowledged, five of which are in the first act, and he completely disappears without even a mention for the entire second act and most of the third. He also has only one contribution to the plot.
  • Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in Happy Feet Two. The trailers gave their characters Wolverine Publicity but their scenes total 10 minutes at most and their characters (a pair of krill wanting to leave their pack) add nothing to the plot.
  • Ice Age:
    • Taken to an extreme by having the advertisements center around Scrat the sabre-toothed squirrel, then releasing a movie where Scrat was only occasionally seen outside of the scene from the advertisement. The three main characters weren't even in some of the ads. Scrat is widely considered the best character of the series, even if he's hardly part of the main plot.
    • Rappers Drake and Nicki Minaj in Ice Age: Continental Drift. Their combined screen time is about five minutes and yet Fox saw it was enough to put their names on the poster. Meanwhile, actual actors like Peter Dinklage, Nick Frost, Aziz Ansari and Rebel Wilson have far more screen time than those two but barely appeared in the marketing.
  • Jack-Jack doesn't feature nearly as much in the action film The Incredibles as you'd be inclined to think by the promotional material. In fact, he doesn't even wear his full Incredible outfit until literally the last fifteen seconds of the film.
  • Although Rocky the raccoon from Incredibles 2 appears on posters and toy sets, in the film, he only appears in the scene where Jack-Jack fights him and Bob sees his powers for the first time.
  • Kronk's New Groove: Kuzco is shown on the DVD cover despite not being in the actual plot - narration cuts notwithstanding - until the climax where he shows up as Kronk's 'wife'. Pacha and his family have considerably larger roles in the movie by comparison, but are nowhere to be seen on the cover.
  • George Takei was billed heavily alongside the other main actors for Kubo and the Two Strings. In reality his character only appears at the very beginning and end, and he only has 4-5 lines total in the entire film.
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • Master Thundering Rhino in Kung Fu Panda 2. He was advertised on the official website and other promotional material, but only got about two minutes of screentime before being Killed Off for Real. To a lesser extent, Masters Ox and Croc apply as well. The DVD special Secrets of the Masters makes up for this, as Ox, Croc, and Rhino are the main characters.
    • Mei Mei from Kung Fu Panda 3. The trailers made it seem like she was going to be a major character and Po's love interest; while it does initially seem like they'd become a couple, they only share a few scenes together and she instead chooses the dopey crooked toothed panda after she fixes his teeth when she accidentally hits him with nunchucks.
  • Lizzy from Meet the Robinsons is featured prominently on the poster, despite the fact that she is in no way essential to the plot, has maybe one full minute of screen time, and anywhere from two to five lines.
    • Lizzy and Stanley (the chubby kid at the science fair with the volcano) played more prominent roles in the video game prequel, however.
    • The present-day version of Dr. Krunklehorn is also featured on the poster alongside many characters who appear in the future, which is odd because she ends up being Lewis' adopted mother.
    • The Robinsons' dog Buster (the one who wears glasses) was also prominently shown in advertisements, despite having only one scene. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the entirety of the dog's screen time.
  • Pua the pig appears in all the advertisements and merchandise for Moana, even though he has a very small role in the actual film, appearing at the beginning and end, and not accompanying the titular character on her journey. Instead, the rooster Heihei fills the animal sidekick role.
  • Songbird Serenade in My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) is featured front-and-center on displays at stores as if she is the protagonist, has her own plush toy, a large plastic doll, and a lot of other miscellaneous merchandise, but she appears only at the beginning, for one scene halfway through, and for the first credits song, with very little plot relevance. Undoubtedly this is to draw in fans of Sia, as she voices Songbird and is the basis for her design. Averted with the advertisement not related to the toys though, in which she is either in the background or absent entirely.
  • Ads for The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (or 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits', for those outside of the UK) heavily emphasized Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz. They're featured prominently in trailers and posters, yet they only appear for two scenes. This is actually a continuation of a joke set up in the books, where both are supposedly prominent figures in the Captain's life and yet do next to nothing of importance in the books.
  • One would think that Plopper the pig in The Simpsons Movie had a more central role in the film given how much advertisement it got, including its own theme song. While it is indirectly the catalyst for the plot (Homer dumps a silo full of its excrement in Springfield's lake and the Simpsons are banned from the town), it is a Living Prop at best and ended up completely forgotten in the series proper besides a couple of cameos.
  • Poor Aurora. She is the title character in Sleeping Beauty, and yet, she is asleep for half the movie and has only 18 lines of dialogue. Just like Aurora, Poor Queen Leah suffers this as she too, does not appear too much in the film, has no proper characterization, and has only two lines of dialogue. Much of the film is actually focused on the three fairies (Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather), Maleficent, and even Prince Phillip.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Yoda appears on the main poster with his lightsaber drawn, yet he only has a small speaking role in the first quarter of the film and a small, silent role at the end, with absolutely no fighting done by him whatsoever. Likewise with Commander Cody who only has a few, mostly background appearances and three short lines in the entire film. Yet he appears on the main poster in a similar fashion to Captain Rex, in the background.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Michelangelo and Donatello in TMNT. All the posters, promotional material, and merchandise featured all four turtles evenly, but in the actual film they barely do anything and only appear in about a third of it in total.
    • One of the first things revealed in the lead-up to Turtles Forever was that the movie would feature TMNT2003 versions of movie villains Tokka and Rahzar. The poster for the movie makes them one of its most notable elements, even more than several prominent characters. In the actual movie, they appear for less than a minute, unnamed, as part of a larger group of mooks.
  • Droopy was on the cover of and in many of the advertisements for Tom and Jerry: The Movie, even though he only gets a five second cameo.
  • Gwen Stefani was advertised in many of the trailers for Trolls, her character DJ Suki, although she is present throughout the film has only two lines, though several of her songs are featured on the soundtrack.
    • To a lesser extent, some social media ads played up YouTube star Glozell's character, Grandma Rosiepuff. She only appears in flashback, shouting a few distorted lines before being killed off.
  • In the trailers and commercials for Turning Red, the bathroom "OMG!" scene with Stacy Frick shows up to the point of Trailer Joke Decay but she only has a handful of lines across two scenes.
  • Piglet in the first Winnie the Pooh short, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. He appears in the opening theme, but is absent from the actual short itself, and he would not properly show up until two years later in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.
  • Every single cameo by a video game character in Wreck-It Ralph. The way that Disney marketed the film, it seems like they tried to make the cameos the stars and push the actual main characters to the background (but at least they have the honesty of putting at least one of the four protagonists along with the cameos in the posters). Like many animated films, there were even character-themed posters that a cameo character had all to themselves. These characters rarely appeared outside of the opening scene, and some of them didn't even have lines.
  • Many of the supporting characters from Zootopia can fall under this, considering posters and other ads were littered with characters who had only a few (if no) lines and barely any screen time. Yax and Gazelle are particularly guilty of this but the worst offender is probably Flash, who was in only two scenes but had the entire teaser trailer centered around him (in fact it's one of his two scenes in its entirety).
    • The 2022 anthology series Zootopia+ makes up for it by giving some of those characters, especially Flash, their own episode to shine.

  • The cover of Shaman Blues displays the hero, the villain, and a ghost that in the story proper appears only in three very brief scenes, one of which doesn't even identify it.
  • Most The Chronicles of Narnia books are named after either the protagonist or some majorly plot-relevant idea. The Silver Chair... not so much; the titular chair, which appears on most covers, is essentially just a minor MacGuffin that appears in only a handful of chapters and gets destroyed about two-thirds of the way in.
  • Several of the titles of the Harry Potter books exhibit this trope to varying degrees. Out of all of them, The Half-Blood Prince is likely the biggest example. Though the Prince is later revealed to be Snape, through the majority of the book he is just the original owner of Harry's secondhand (and heavily annotated) potions textbook. While it does make for an interesting sideplot for Harry to unknowingly see another side of his foe and even connect with him a little bit through learning his techniques and his self-made spells, it ultimately doesn't have much of an effect on the broader plot and isn't mentioned again after Snape leaves the school as a supposed Death Eater.
  • The Moving Finger is a detective story in the Miss Marple series, but Miss Marple herself only appears in a handful of scenes.
  • The cover blurb for Carnosaur— the original book, not the Roger Corman movie— name-drops Deinonychus, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Brachiosaurus. Out of those, only Deinonychus'' plays a sizable role in the story— the other two appear in only a single scene each.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Happened a lot when Raw had the weekly celebrity guest hosts. Some would be routinely involved throughout the show. Others would only arrive, plug their project or whatever and barely be seen. Trish Stratus had an opening introduction, one backstage segment and a short match for example. This was about fifteen minutes of screen time in a two hour show.
  • Can happen when a PPV advertises a title match that turns out to be a Squash Match. Most egregiously was WrestleMania 25 where the Intercontinental Championship between Rey Mysterio and JBL was hyped up. It was over in twenty one seconds. This will often happen when a wrestler is injured in the months between promotion material printing and the actual event. The wrestler can't perform a full match, so they do a squash or have him "attacked" back stage.
  • Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley's parody commercials were done in protest to their lack of TNA bookings, despite the reported importance of The Motor City Machine Guns to the X and Tag Team divions.
  • When Ring Warriors joined the National Wrestling Alliance in 2011, the NWA decided to use it to reestablish an NWA presence in the Caribbean. Several Puerto Ricans were brought in with help from Carlos Colon, Bahamian Bad Boy Bo Bo Brazell was contacted and Kahagas mouth piece, Haitain wrestler Tyree Pride, was brought out of retirement. Aside from Pride however, none of these wrestlers were used when Ring Warriors first started doing shows in the region in 2012, and it was Played for Drama when La Rosa Negra crashed a Nassau Bahamas show to protest not being booked.
  • In 1990, WCW held a PPV called Capital Combat: The Return of RoboCop to help promote the release of RoboCop 2. His involvement amounted to some backstage segments, doing a Big Damn Heroes by saving Sting from the Four Horsemen by ripping some flimsy bars off a shark cage...and that's basically it.

  • Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series doesn't have much character development, supposedly because the actress' performance didn't give Douglas Adams much to work with, and because her purpose was to have someone who Arthur could talk to about Earth, but Ford served that purpose just as well. Her character is much more developed in the later books (and in the movie).

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney Theme Parks:
    • Let's say basically every time an attraction has a memorable original character that only shows up a few times, expect to see them in almost all the ride promos, and on tons of the merchandise. A good example would be the Hitchhiking Ghosts from The Haunted Mansion. They only show up at the end, but their scene is so recognizable that they appear on all of that ride's merchandise.
    • There are some Disney properties that only have a show or a meet and greet, but they still get tons of attention in advertising. For example, Phineas and Ferb only had a meet and greet and some merch throughout the parks, but got tons of promotion in the early 2010s at the height of their show's popularity.
    • In Star Tours, C-3PO is quite prominent on the attraction poster, but only appears in the queue as an animatronic with R2-D2. However, this was averted when Disney updated the ride, because now C-3PO has accidentally become pilot of the Starspeeder 1000.
    • With a show called Mickey's PhilharMagic, you'd expect Mickey Mouse to be the main character. In reality, although his presence is still there throughout the attraction, he only shows up twice at the beginning and the ending. The real star happens to be Donald Duck.
  • Universal Studios:
    • In the American parks, SpongeBob SquarePants easily falls under this trope. He gets tons of promotion at the Orlando park, despite his franchise only being featured on a parade float, a meet and greet, and merchandising. However, he can be justified, as he's about as recognizable to the public as Mickey Mouse is at Disney World.
    • Speaking of Nickelodeon shows, for Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast, the characters from Hey Arnold! were shown a lot in earlier advertisements of the attraction, but they only showed up in the ride for like 5 seconds.
    • The T. rex in Jurassic Park River Adventure is always seen in commercials for the park, but only appears at the very end of the ride.
    • Although The Simpsons Ride is set at Krusty the Clown's theme park, yet he doesn't even appear in the main ride portion of the attraction. To be fair though, he is very prominently featured in the pre-ride videos, and is the last character to talk to you before the ride ends, so there's still no shortage of Krusty to go around.

  • The revival of Hair featured actress Allison Case prominently in its advertising. She was on every poster, every TV appearance and most likely to be the one to speak for the cast. Case played Crissy, and while she's in the whole show (like everyone in Hair), her character had one song and maybe two scenes with her as the center.
  • Estelle Parsons in Nice Work If You Can Get It. She showed up at the very end of the show and that was it.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney
    • Missile, the adorable Shiba Inu from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is often seen in posters and other such advertisements and is even with Phoenix and Maya in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, however, he has only one appearance during the original trilogy and the scene he appears in is optional. He does, however, appear briefly in both Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth spinoffs.
    • Shi-Long Lang, Edgeworth's primary investigative rival in the first Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth game, only actually appears in two of the five cases, and has a brief cameo in the fourth case.
    • Klavier Gavin often appears in promotional art for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies despite only playing a minor role in the third case.
    • Despite the advertising for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice hyping up Maya Fey's return, she doesn't appear at all in three of the game's five cases, plays a comparatively minor part in another, and the one case that she does play a central part in confines her to prison during the investigation segments. The only case where she has the same sort of role that she had during the original trilogy is the optional DLC case.
    • Advertising for The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve promoted Scotland Yard coroner Courtney Sithe as one of its major characters. In the game itself, she isn't much more than a "villain of the week", being the culprit of the one case she appears in and only mentioned in passing afterwards.
  • Yukine Miyazawa from CLANNAD is featured on some box cover art for the game alongside the other main characters, since she was originally intended to be one of the romanceable heroines. However, that idea was scrapped during the game's development, and in the story itself she's ultimately a minor character.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry's Rena Ryuuguu is featured in all promotional art, crossovers, side-games and is practically synonymous with the entire When They Cry franchise. She's only really, truly important for two arcs out of eight.
  • The true route of Maji De Watashi Ni Koishinasai S is often referred to as the Koyuki route. However, while it does give her a happier backstory and saner personality she appears very little after the opening. getting only a brief fight and then an optional sex scene at the end. The trouble is that, as noted in the original VN, she has quite a bit of overlap with Miyako and what does set her apart are traits that are rather incompatible with being a love interest and that she doesn't have if you've altered her backstory. So there isn't much to do with her that you couldn't do with a more important or popular character.
  • Spirit Hunter series:
    • The Hanayome spirit features predominantly in promotional material for Spirit Hunter: Death Mark, and is even the only spirit to receive an acrylic charm design. In the game proper, she is the Arc Villain of the shortest chapter, the fight against her is the easiest (she is fought in a Live Or Die Choice rather than the usual RPG-like format), and she has no ties to the overarching plot besides being created by the Big Bad, as opposed to the later spirits Miss Zoo and the Kannon Soldier.
    • As with Hanayome before her, The Urashima Woman from Spirit Hunter: NG is the spirit that was featured the most in promotional artwork, and even received a novella that expanded on her character. In the game proper, she has no connection to the protagonists or the story as a whole, as opposed to all the spirits that come after her.

    Web Animation 
  • Senpai Club often shows Rock-and-Roll Senpai with the main cast during the opening, implying he's at least prominent to some degree. In-show, however, the most he's been seen was the club introduction and a couple of Continuity Cameos.
  • In The Grossery Gang webseries, Fungus Fries was set up to be a major character, appearing in the sizzle reel, a good chunk of the promotion artwork, and getting one of the longer bios the webseries characters get. In the end, he ended up relegated to just the toyline. He would eventually make his debut in the webseries for Series 4, three seasons after his official release.
  • My Little Pony in a Nutshell, to make fun of My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) for this, had Songbird Serenade appear exactly once, bluntly introduce herself as Sia, and have zero affect whatsoever on the plot.
    "Sia": Hi I'm Sia.
    Everyone: Hi Sia.


Dark Rey

"Trailer Fodder?"
"Trailer Fodder."

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