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"I hate bottle episodes. They're wall-to-wall facial expressions and emotional nuance. I might as well sit in the corner with a bucket on my head."
Abed, Community, "Cooperative Calligraphy" (the series' bottle episode)
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A "bottle episode" is designed to take up as little money as possible. The easiest way to go about this is to use only the regular cast (or even just part of the regular cast) and set it in a single location, especially if you have a main standing set. This keeps production costs down, because no-one needs to scout locations, build new sets, or create fancy CGI graphics of the outside of the spaceship. Bottle episodes are often a chance for a slow, characterization-filled episode before/after a big special-effects-laden action episode. Of course, all this doesn't mean the episode will be cheap, just that it's meant to be; like any regular episode, unforeseen complications can cause the show to run over the scheduled budget.

The term has become synonymous with "single-location" episode, even though bottle episodes can (theoretically) have as many locations as a normal episode. All that matters is that it costs less, because the money is having to pass through a "bottleneck". The Star Trek cast and crew call this a "ship-in-a-bottle" episode, which is where the name originated. Sometimes single-location episodes are written as a Self-Imposed Challenge by the writers, and might ironically cost more than a standard episode if the one location is new and/or elaborate.

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Bottle episodes often place a higher burden on the writers than a normal episode. Due to limitations in locations and cast, the writers have to lean heavily on inventive situations and dialogue to carry the show. Depending on the writer and how well the premise works out, bottle episodes can range from terrible to some of the best-received.

One advantage of a bottle episode is that it comes equipped with its own reason for why the characters need to stay together and communicate, an essential part of screenwriting.

Some plots lend themselves to the nature of a Bottle Episode, such as Sinking Ship Scenario, "Groundhog Day" Loop, Locked in a Room, or Episode on a Plane. Sometimes an episode which is a Period Piece may look fancy and expensive, but these are often using the studio's already-existing (thus free) costumes and sets. "Die Hard" on an X, though limiting the episode to one location, rarely fits this trope, since the other elements of that trope often negate the budget-saving aspects of a Bottle Episode. Also, a bottle episode may or may not involve a Minimalist Cast.

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Almost all Clip Shows (and, by extension, Recap Episodes) fit this trope, despite not strictly being an actual Bottle Episode. Not to be confused with Drowning My Sorrows, nor with sending out messages in bottles. Another cause that happens on occasion is a writers' strike. With the shorter formats, such as half-hour TV series, the temptation for the director is sometimes to make it The Oner as well.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • The episode "Someday in the Rain" takes this idea and runs with it including a long shot of Yuki reading a book motionless as language lessons and radio programs play in the background. Oddly the budget was clearly substantial and the episode has no connection to the light novels the rest of the anime is based on — implying that it may have been done either for the hell of it or as a deliberate reference to the typically conservative animation styles in anime.
    • Surprisingly averted with the infamous Endless Eight arc, consisting of the cast stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop repeating most of the same actions and lines over and over for 8 episodes. Despite the premise practically begging for laziness and animation recycling, each episode was animated from scratch (with the cast's constantly rotating outfits hinting at this.)
  • Episode four of Kamichama Karin has possibly the most Off-Model art of the whole series, but the story was actually quite well-written.
  • Episode nine of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex takes place almost entirely in a virtual chat room.
  • Episode 11-B "Nothing To Room" of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. The episode consists entirely of a single shot with no variations in camera angle or location (with some minor modifications to depict different times of day), and the majority of the episode is just the characters talking with each other about nothing in particular. Even the plot is minimal; it's basically "Panty and Stocking sit on the couch and waste an entire day." It still manages to be entertaining, though. It's also the last episode before the Genre Shift the Grand Finale faces.
  • Aside from a brief scene at the beginning, Re:Zero Episode 18 focuses solely on Subaru and Rem, and they spend three-quarters of the episode up on a roof while Subaru has a Darkest Hour Heroic B So D and Rem tries to talk him out of it. The animation is actually extremely good.
  • In the first season of Pokémon, the episode "Pikachu's Goodbye" was thrown together during the hiatus following the "Electric Soldier Porygon" seizure incident, and was the first aired when the show returned from its hiatus. To take pressure off the animators, the only Pokemon included were Meowth and Pikachu (the latter in large numbers).
    • The Sun and Moon episode "Partner Promises" features Ash and Pikachu going on a adventure by themselves in a Milestone Celebration of the anime's 20th anniversary, with the other characters mostly showing up at the beginning of the episode.
  • One chapter of Hunter × Hunter is solely about a conversation between a blind girl and her friend, a king. As it's from the point of view of the blind girl, every panel is pitch black except the speech bubbles. The perspective returns to normal third-person at the end of their conversation to show that the king has died.
  • Genshiken has an episode with only two characters, Kasukabe and Madarame, with the majority of the acting simply being Madarame ranting in his head about his feelings for Kasukabe, and the majority of the animation being Madarame on various minimalist backgrounds as he struggles in his imagination, while Kasukabe turns the pages of her book.
  • Taken to the Logical Extreme with the last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Episodes 25 and 26 start with a disclaimer - "Instrumentality is starting, but we don't have the time to show it, so we'll just completely deconstruct our characters".
  • In the anime adaptation of Nisekoi, the second episode of the second season has only three characters present: Raku, Tsugumi, and Paula, and nobody else, not even in the background.
  • Quite a few episodes of Gintama are like this, but one particular episode features a close-up shot of a food cart, the voices of some people who sound like the regular cast, and not much else. The dialog even hints at the characters' identities, right until the camera changes perspective and shows the speakers being completely different people.
  • The anime of Hyouka has episode 19, it's set almost entirely within the Classic Literature Club room and exclusively features the two main characters Eru Chitanda and Hotaro Oreki.

    Audio Play 
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who episode, "Scherzo". The story features a Minimalist Cast consisting of the Doctor (voiced by Paul McGann), his companion, Charley Pollard (voiced by India Fisher) and the Monster of the Week in form of "the Sound Creature" (voiced by both Paul McGann and India Fisher), sees them trapped together for pretty much most of the story in a Closed Circle, in the form of some strange experimentation chamber literally shaped as a huge ring, and is very heavy on characterisation as the Doctor and Charley spend most of the time discussing their relationship and how they respectively understand what the word "love" means to them, and even uses pretty minimal special effects for an Audio Play as the soundscape for the bulk of the story is a constant, low volume Drone of Dread. The episode even comments a bit on the trope from the fact that the experimentation chamber the Doctor and Charley are trapped in is essentially a huge test-tube, and is even described as being made of a glass-like material.

    Comic Books 
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye does this multiple times:
    • "The Waiting Game" (aka Spotlight: Hoist). The issue stars four mismatched Autobots and their pet Insecticon trapped in shuttle on an uninhabited world. They cannot venture out for fear of being killed by an extremely powerful Decepticon and are unable to call for help. They wind up spending most of the issue swapping stories and getting on each others nerves.
    • Issue 31. The entire issue takes place inside an escape pod, where twenty members of the crew are stuck after the events of the previous arc. Nothing is seen outside of the pod aside from brief glimpses of empty space through the windows.

    Fan Works 
  • The Calvin and Hobbes: The Series episode Roughin' It, isn't technically a bottle episode, but it's designed like one. There are only two speaking roles (Calvin and Hobbes, and they spend most of their time just camping out in the woods. There's no action, no real plot, just a lot of Conversational Troping.
  • The majority of Glass is just Seto, Pegasus, and a glass wall, with occasional looks into other characters and locations.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane is set almost entirely in an underground bunker, and only five actors appear in the film.
  • 12 Angry Men is set almost entirely in a jury deliberation room.
  • All Is Lost has only one actor (Robert Redford) and very little dialogue.
  • The Breakfast Club is basically a play.
  • Buried is set entirely in a coffin and features only one actor.
  • Similarly, Kevin Smith set Clerks almost entirely within a convenience store to keep costs down.
  • About 75% of Devil takes place in an elevator with a constantly dwindling cast.
  • The Garage is about the meeting of a parking garage co-op that devolves into backstabbing, insults, and mutual recriminations after the board of the co-op reveals that four people will be losing their parking spaces. The whole movie takes place on the one floor of the museum where they're meeeting, almost all of that in a single room.
  • The bulk of Glengarry Glen Ross takes place in the confines of the office. This makes sense as it was derived from a play.
  • Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is considered this in the Godzilla franchise as it's unlike its previous films. The cast is mostly on an island or out at sea, Godzilla does not attack a city (although he does attack a military base), and the only other monsters are Ebirah and Mothra.
  • Hard Candy only has two main characters and is set almost entirely in the house of the male lead.
  • The first third of The Hateful 8 takes place inside a stagecoach, and the remainder takes place inside a stagecoach lodge. The film's extremely wide aspect ratio makes both of these environments feel very immersive and claustrophobic.
  • Alfred Hitchcock liked to experiment with this format:
    • Except for a shot of the ship sinking at the beginning, the entirety of Lifeboat is set on the lifeboat, the plot driven solely by the survivors' increasingly hostile bickering among each other.
    • Rope begins with an Establishing Shot of the apartment building where the rest of the movie takes place. Not only does the whole story unfold in one room, the movie was edited in such a way to conceal as many cuts as possible, making it feel like the whole movie was a single shot.
    • Paralleling the protagonist's voyeuristic tendencies in Rear Window, the camera in this movie never ventures more than several feet away from Jeffries's room's window. Until the climax, the camera never even leaves his room.
  • The Man from Earth is shot entirely in one location, mostly in a single room.
  • Quentin Tarantino has said he wrote Reservoir Dogs like this to keep the costs down to make it more likely to be filmed. The majority of the movie takes place in the warehouse, while Mr. Orange's apartment and Joe's office were located in the same building.
  • George Romero's first three zombie films each are each primarily set in one location. Night of the Living Dead (1968) traps the characters in an isolated farmhouse about ten minutes in, Dawn of the Dead (1978) moves through a few different locations in the first act before settling into the shopping mall for the long run, and Day of the Dead (1985) is set inside an underground bunker aside from the opening in the abandoned city and the final scene on the beach.
  • The first two acts of Room are set in a cramped, back house apartment and only three characters (Joy, Jack, and "Old Nick") appear.
  • The satirical World War II Prisoner of War film Stalag 17 has the cast largely filmed within their barracks. Aside from making sense due to the characters being prisoners, the film was based upon a play.
  • Almost all of The Three Stooges' short Cuckoo on a Choo-Choo takes place inside a railroad boxcar.
  • Locke starts with the titular character getting into his car, he doesn't get out of it for the duration of the film (the camera only leaves the car for the occasional exterior shot), and his is the only face we see on camera, the only other characters are only heard over the phone.
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe takes place entirely in the morgue where the eponymous autopsy is being carried out.
  • The three Film/Cube films (1997-2004) are set in a Rubix cube type maze, which is filmed pretty much in a box, sometimes with lighting changes. It has all the classic elements of a bottle episode: single location (which in this case is reused to portray different rooms/sections), heavy interpersonal conflict between the actors, and an artificially created sense of danger and claustrophobia.

    Literature 
  • Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the first-ever novel in the original Star Wars expanded universe, was originally developed as a low-budget film sequel written under the assumption that A New Hope wasn't going to be much of a box office success, and it really shows in the resulting book. It takes place almost entirely on a fog-shrouded planet, there are very few things which would have required new props or costumes, Han Solo is totally absent because Harrison Ford hadn't been signed on for a sequel yet, and there's not a single space battle. Of course, A New Hope went on to become the most successful film of all time at that point and there was no need for the bottle tactics when The Empire Strikes Back was made.

    Music 
  • Berlin by Lou Reed: All action of this Concept Album takes place in Berlin.
  • "Heroes" by David Bowie: All action of this concept album takes place in Berlin.
  • Bruce Springsteen's album, Nebraska. The album was largely recorded in Bruce's bedroom at home as demos. When he tried to record the songs with the rest of the E Street Band, they didn't evoke the same bleak, stark feel and instead decided to release the demos as the album.

    Podcasts 
  • The first episode of the Cool Kids Table Harry Potter-themed game Hogwarts: The New Class takes place entirely in a single room, where the four players complain about how bad and convoluted the premise is.

    Radio 
  • Cabin Pressure had one in nearly every series, generally featuring the main cast's interactions for most of the episode with one or no guest stars; the first season finale "Fitton", second series' "Limerick" and the foruth series episode "Xinhou". "Limerick" is the purest example, as it features no guest cast, is told entirely in real time and never leaves the flight deck.
  • The Sherlock Holmes radio drama "The Abergavenny Murder" takes place entirely in the Baker Street sitting room and consists of Holmes and Watson trying to discover what happened to the client who staggered in, asked for their help, and dropped dead.

    Theatre 
  • Thornton Wilder's Our Town is performed with minimal scenery and many of the props are pantomimed, with the stage manager filling such additional roles as the minister at the wedding, soda shop owner, local townsperson, etc.
  • Strip Tease by Slawomir Mrozek and Lola Gruenthal is an abstract absurdist play set in a room, where the characters can't get out and are forced to communicate to figure out their situation.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was made with fewer resources and in a shorter period of time compared to most other Zelda games (which typically suffer Schedule Slip). The development team accomplished this by recycling the engine and many assets from Ocarina of Time. This tactic was repeated with Oracle of Ages and Seasons (by reusing the Link's Awakening set), The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (by reusing the Phantom Hourglass set), and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (by reusing the A Link Between Worlds set); and in each case it was done to aim the greater resources at bigger installments (Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild, respectively).
  • In the latter half of Devil May Cry 4, since you are replaying the same levels/bosses as the first half, the level structure is just reversed.
  • The Inverted Castle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The level layout is exactly the same as the normal castle, just flipped upside down (though at least there's different bosses and enemies).
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The remakes of Final Fantasy II have included post-game bonus content in which 2 of 3 dungeons are mirror images of the levels at the end of the regular game.
    • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years and its prequel Interlude recycle assets from the original SNES version of IV, as well as the PSP and DS remakes in the PSP and PC versions. It also recycles a lot of level and boss design.
  • Sonic Generations revolves around Sonic and his friends being caught in a simplistic white world, reliving memories of past games and going through their levels, one for each game.
  • This Is the Only Level revolves around escaping the same room over and over, with different variations each time.
  • Odin Sphere has only 8 locations, with 5 characters having to go through 7 of them each. Each location has the same set of enemies with the occasional bit of variation (like Velvet's run through Winterhorn Ridge where she's being chased by goblins along with the standard enemies) and generally has the same map layout throughout, just with rooms switched around for each character. Bosses are fought repeatedly by the characters (especially Belial, who's fought by every character, though with one of them it's part of a Dual Boss fight) with unique bosses only coming rarely.
  • The original Earthworm Jim's secret level, Who Turned Out the Lights, is an entire level that the player may never stumble upon. How could the time and effort needed to make such a level be justifiable? Easy. It consists of the player running around in the dark with the only new graphics being spotlights, doors, a silhouetted Jim, menacing orange enemy eyes, superimposed regular and AWOO-GA eyes for Jim, and giant menacing orange eyes. The level's music didn't even need composing, as it's the public domain Maple Leaf Rag. The level is fun and interesting and even has items hidden in hard-to-reach sections and a memorable setpiece (the aforementioned giant eyes).
  • The final level of Silent Hill (titled "Nowhere") consists entirely of reused rooms and assets from earlier sections of the game. Most notably, Nowhere closely resembles the hospital. However, some rooms are also taken from other areas, such as the school, the town center, and the antique shop.
  • The live-action FMV cutscenes in Roundabout are all shots of either Georgio in the front seat of the limo or a shot of the passenger in the backseat, all using the same static camera angles and with an obvious green-screen stock-footage background where appropriate. The only exceptions come from shots consisting entirely of Stock Footage and a few missions with characters standing in front of the same obvious green-screen.
  • Many Environmental Narrative Games are made by small indie developers with limited staff and budgets, and hence meet many of the conditions for this trope:
  • Mega Man (Game Gear) simply reuses content from the 2nd, 4th, and 5th NES games of the series.
  • With the exception of Zain and Geemel, [1] simply reuses levels and bosses from X1 and X2.
  • RuneScape has a few quests that were created using minimal new assets that are referred to by the developers as bottle quests. One example is the Wanted! quest, which mostly consists of the player tracking a criminal around the game world.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has R-06, which has only three characters (Raiden, Sam, and Wolf), one background, and two cutscenes.
  • Senran Kagura Shinobi Refle has Asuka as the only character present, with an unseen avatar who is in charge of, ahem, massaging her.
  • Puyo Puyo eSports reuses and edits art assets from Puyo Puyo Quest and Puyo Puyo Tetris, its voice clips from Quest, and most of its soundtrack from games as far back as Fever 1. As for the content, it's one of the rare Puyo games without any story or anything resembling a cutscene, and most of the game is just battling with AI or local/online multiplayer. It is meant to to cater to the competitive crowd, or just lovers of Puyo Puyo's gameplay in general, hence the eSports in the title.

    Web Animation 
  • Dr. Havoc's Diary: Episode 27, the episode where Dr. Havoc, Kim, and Brock go to Couple's Therapy.
  • Unless you count the Machinima aspects of the show, the entirety of Arby 'n' the Chief mainly consists of two talking action figures that live alone in an apartment and are unable to venture out of it in fear of causing panic to the outside world.
  • Bonus Stage has a few bottle episodes that the fandom termed "Anti-Episodes" due to them often having nothing to do with their episode guide description:
    • Season 1 had "Recap", ostensibly about Joel and Phil reminiscing on the good old days. It was actually less than a sentence from each with a short bonus cartoon after the credits.
    • Season 4 had "Cursive Written Script". It was delayed a week due to trouble scripting it, mirroring the plot of June and the other characters being aimless without Joel to script, and released a day before the next episode. The voices were done by Shmorky, half of the episode took place in Phil's garage, and it, like "Recap", had more of the episode after the credits.
    • Season 5 originally had "Fe Fi Fo", to be about Joel accidentally making Phil a giant, but it was changed to "Five Minute Story Time", a story about a laptop's adventure narrated by Joel.
    • Season 6's "Phil the WereDevil" was originally about Phil being infected by malicious marine life, but was changed to an MTV-like special about the production of the episode or lack thereof.
    • Season 7 gave "Nerds and Geeks Are Not the Same", which was, instead of a regular cartoon, a sort of proto–abridged series with Andrew, Elly, Phil and Joel voicing Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto and a skeleton, respectively. The episode was released sooner than originally planned, pushing three other episodes behind it.

    Web Original 
  • Echo Chamber, the TV Tropes webseries, had an episode on Walk and Talk which was substantially shorter and simpler than a normal episode. Tropers were divided on whether its brevity was an asset or a liability, compared to the previous episode.
  • KateModern tended to follow a schedule of one episode every weekday, with Bottle Episodes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and a more special effects-heavy episode on Friday. This was sometimes subverted, either by having the bigger budget episode earlier in the week or by showing an additional, often more dramatic episode at the weekend.
  • Black Jack Justice has the episode The Road to Hell, which consists entirely of Jack and Trixie bickering with each other as they follow a suspect per car. There are no other speaking roles in the episode.
  • Star Trek: Discovery pads the space between the first and second seasons with a web series called Short Treks, a series of mini-episodes featuring a reduced cast, thus far we have:
    • "Runaway", which features only Tilly out of the main cast, plus one guest character and some extras, mostly taking place in Tilly's quarters or the galley.
    • "Calypso", featuring none of the main cast, instead being about a new character, Craft, finding himself aboard an abandoned Discovery and accompanied only by the ship's computer, Zora. This episode features more of the ship, but mostly takes place in the galley and the bridge.

    Western Animation 
  • Any Bonds Today? just features Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd singing on a stage in front of patriotic and militaristic imagery. This the only location seen in this propaganda Wartime Cartoon.
  • The Looney Tunes shorts featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner never take place outside the desert, and the title characters are the only characters who appear in those shorts. The exception to that rule is the short The Wild Chase, where Sylvester and Speedy Gonzales makes an appearance.
  • Archer:
    • "Lo Scandalo" is one, the entire episode taking place inside Malory Archer's apartment.
    • Season 6 Episode 5's "Vision Quest" has the entire cast stuck in an elevator for almost the entire duration of the episode. Between the characters' respective quirks and addictions, no cell phone service, and Pam turning it into a Pee Bottle Episode after guzzling a forty-oz. then trying to pour it back in the bottle, the most dangerous mission may have been this one, where they were barely twenty feet away from the office.
  • Clerks: The Animated Series:
    • In one episode they made a point of keeping Dante and Randal inside the store while incredible happenings occurred just outside, with the whole purpose being to hang a lampshade on how dissimilar the series was to the original movie.
    • The very second episode, "The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives", was both this trope and a fake Clip Show.
  • The Invader Zim episode "Zim Eats Waffles", with the exception of the first minute and about twenty seconds at the end, consisted entirely of two camera angles. May have been due to a relatively large portion of the budget allocated to the second season finale (which was never made due to the series being canceled), although that remains unclear. The commentary actually states that this was the writer's intention. It's one of the series' most beloved episodes.
  • The episode "A Third Dad Cartoon" from Dexter's Laboratory uses a single camera angle, and consists entirely of Dad setting up a golf shot while the kids watch. Luckily, this was one of the shorts.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Look Before You Sleep" fits this trope, and may have been intended to conserve the budget, since it has only three speaking parts and is set mostly inside Twilight's treehouse. It's rumored they originally were well into another episode which had to be scrapped, and what we got was what they made in about a third of the time they'd normally have to make an episode.
    • "The Gift of the Maud Pie" is this in terms of the number speaking roles (five characters by four voice actors). However, there is a ton of new designs and settings present throughout.
    • "Sisterhooves Social", in terms of speaking roles, is centered mostly on Rarity, Applejack, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are absent, and Spike is given a cameo in the ending.
    • The majority of "Viva Las Pegasus" takes place inside Gladmane's hotel, rather than the whole city of Las Pegasus.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends has Mish Mash Melee, which only has four ponies (Fizzy, Wind Whistler, Shady, and Gusty) and is set in a single location.
  • The Ren and Stimpy DVD commentary says that "Rubber Nipple Salesmen" was a Bottle Episode. The only fully-animated scenes were Ren and Stimpy driving the truck and standing outside someone's house whenever they had to sell rubber nipples and the Gainax Ending where the duo get thrown out and end up on the backs of two bulls who ride them off into the sunset. The animation budget they had for the episode was really tight, so John K. and the good people at Spumco couldn't animate Ren and Stimpy actually getting out of the truck or driving away.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • "Gary Takes A Bath". 8-minute season 2 finale with one voice actor, only three characters (Mr. Krabs doesn't even talk) and a simple plot.
    • The No-Dialogue Episode "Reef Blower", which only focuses on SpongeBob and Squidward, and only the latter has any semblance of dialogue.
    • "The Camping Episode" takes place mostly outside of SpongeBob and Squidward's houses. The only characters to appear are Spongebob, Patrick, Squidward, a sea bear and a sea rhinoceros.
    • "Krusty Krushers" takes place entirely inside the wrestling arena, except for a brief scene in Patrick's house.
    • Oddly, "Truth or Square," the 10th anniversary special, is one of these, with the majority of the animated portion taking place in the Krusty Krab's air ducts and the Patchy portion being shot entirely around Nickelodeon itself.
    • "Big Sister Sam" takes place entirely on Conch Street. Simply put, there is only one background.
    • "Yeti Krabs" takes place mostly in an empty Krusty Krab, with one scene showing a snowy mountainside and downtown Bikini Bottom.
    • A rather large number of Season 1 episodes (ex., "Bubblestand", "Naughty Nautical Neighbors", "Opposite Day" (to some extent; the realtor's office is given very brief screen time), "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", "I Was a Teenage Gary", and "The Paper" (probably the straightest example on this list)) have the only background being Conch Street.
  • The Sealab 2021 episode "Fusebox" consists almost entirely of one exterior shot of Sealab while the power is out.
  • According to Word of God, The Venture Bros. episode "Tag Sale... You're It!" was meant to be one of these by keeping the action on the Venture compound. Then the plot of the episode called for Loads and Loads of Background Characters, and the amount of work for the animators didn't really diminish.
  • The 150th Family Guy episode "Brian & Stewie", which is about Brian and Stewie coming to terms with each other while locked in a bank vault. The entire episode was free of the show's normal conventions (cutaway gags, recurring characters, burns against celebrities, flashbacks). It's basically just Seth MacFarlane Talking to Himself — no Alex Borstein playing Lois, no Seth Green as Chris, not even Mila Kunis as the Designated Monkey Meg — for 22 minutes. It's about as minimal as an episode can get, which people either applauded for being different or jeered because of the gross, diaper-eating scene or thinking that the episode is an excuse for Seth MacFarlane to hog the spotlight.
  • Adventure Time has several:
    • "Marceline's Closet", where Finn and Jake spend the majority of the episode trapped in Marceline's closet.
    • "Still", as evident by the fact that Finn and Jake are frozen the entire episode. One of the workers on the show even called it a Bottle Episode.
    • "Card Wars" takes place entirely in the tree house and only features Finn, Jake and BMO.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • "Lights Out", following action mostly by sound-effects and following the characters By the Lights of Their Eyes.
    • "Desperate Without Housewives" takes place mostly in one room of the Turner house with a static background despite the fact that 24 hours pass.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) has at least two such episodes, though in different senses:
    • "Frenemies" is set almost entirely in the day camp room, with a handful of short scenes in Blythe's room and at the storefront. Nevertheless, the episode is indoors from beginning to end, and only the main characters are present.
    • "Eight Arms to Hold You" shows a lot of locations, more so than most other episodes, but only six characters have screentime longer than five seconds. These six are also the only characters in the episode with speaking roles and thus half of the voice actors for this show sat this episode out. To save on animation, a power outage means a few scenes are also set in total darkness.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has the appropriately titled "The Powerpuff Girls' Best Rainy Day Adventure Ever," which as the title suggests features the girls stuck inside the house because of the rain, so they in turn act out one of their own adventures. It's generally regarded as one of the funniest episodes in the series.
  • VeggieTales has the special known as "Dave and the Giant Pickle", which is a simple retelling of the story of David vs. Goliath. According to the crew, they had spent so much money putting together their previous special "Rack, Shack, and Benny" that they had to make this particular special very simple, otherwise Big Idea Inc. would've gone bankrupt.
  • The Angry Beavers' unaired and unanimated series finale "Bye Bye Beavers" would have been this.
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Blackout" appears to be this, as the animation mostly consists of several pairs of eyes against a black background.
  • The 1930 Disney short Fiddling Around was made in response to the sudden departure of Disney's key animator Ub Iwerks. It featured only Mickey Mouse, and it consisted him of performing violin tunes on a stage.
  • One of the last second season episodes of Donkey Kong Country combined this with a clip show, taking place only at the beach and DK's treetop house with the majority of the action in flashbacks and with no original songs. This was lampshaded in the episode's title, "Message in a Bottle Show".
  • Time Squad:
    • "Killing Time", the only three-minute episode, consists of the guys having to just talk to Nicholas Copernicus about becoming an astronomer for 30 seconds, while the rest is just them waiting for Larry's transport device to reboot.
    • "Larry Upgrade," "Cabin Fever", and "Day of the Larrys" are all episodes where the Time Squad just don't go anywhere in history and remained on the satellite where Hilarity Ensues.
    • "Hate and Let Hate" is a zigzagged example. While it does mostly take place on the satellite (Larry and Tuddrussell arguing), there are also scenes of Otto being left on the desert island and trying to survive.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball, "The Procrastinators": Only two locations (inside and in front of the Watterson house), with Gumball and Darwin as the main characters. Nicole appears in the beginning and the end, Richard and Anais are only shown in the end, and a creepy clown messenger is the only non-Watterson family character.
  • Parodied and deconstructed on Teen Titans Go! in the aptly named "Bottle Episode", in which the Titans spend the entire episode trapped inside a giant bottle and flashing back to clips of past adventures.
  • Spoofed in the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode "Blackwatch Plaid", which is almost entirely made up of scenes from other episodes re-dubbed and live action scenes (which are cheaper to do than animation). Really hilarious when the ending has Harvey discussing how to stop Phil's extreme monitoring...which, thanks to reusing a scene, has Phil right in the room with Harvey.
  • Most episodes of The Trap Door take place in Berk's castle home, with a few episodes including another location, either the forest outside of the castle or the inside of the eponymous trap door.
  • The Steven Universe episode "Kiki's Pizza Delivery Service" makes use of only three characters (Steven, Kiki and Jenny), two voice actors (Kiki and Jenny share a voice actress), and three settings (Steven's house, Fish Stew Pizza and Kiki's dreams).
  • The Bojack Horseman episode "Free Churro" is focused entirely on Bojack giving a eulogy at his mother's funeral. Aside from a flashback with his father in The Teaser, Bojack is the only character to have any dialogue and Will Arnett provides the voices for both speaking roles. The only other characters to appear do so at the very end, when Bojack realizes too late that he's at the wrong funeral.

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