Children — and childlike, innocent (although not necessarily small) beings — are curious and easily distracted. So when a cute, small creature, like a butterfly, passes by them, they will follow it out of curiosity. The small animal will either ignore them, or will be scared and flee.
More often than not, following the critter will lead the characters away from their parents / guardians and into the proximity of some form of danger: a trap, a predator, or even the critter's parent. Alternatively, the critter itself may be revealed to be dangerous. Usually, the guardians arrive just in time to save their child, but that's not always the case.
Related to Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!, Straying Baby and Follow the White Rabbit. Pretty Butterflies are a common choice, but it works with any other small and non-threatening creature, or even some pretty, moving inanimate object.
- Happens in a chapter of the Japanese-only Neptunia manga, with a de-aged Uni crawling after balloons. Neptune soon catches up with her, but this causes her to cry, and causes more mishaps.
- In the anime version of Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka chases after an apparition of a phoenix (representing, of course, Suzaku). In the manga, she discovers the phoenix while chasing after an errant pencil.
- In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, it's used to illustrate Esteban's innocence, he has a fascination with butterflies that begins during the sea crossing from Spain. This later nearly gets him killed when he starts trying to catch butterflies while on the way to the Fort of the Black Eagle, and is shot at by Gomez's soldiers.
- Seen as a Funny Background Event in Episode 9 of Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God; while the other gods are hard at work cultivating rice, Medjed is off chasing a butterfly — and then he floats off into the air following it as it flies away.
- Happy Heroes: In Season 6 episode 11, Happy S. finds a butterfly and is about to chase it when the old man he is visiting warns him not to, explaining that the butterfly will take him to a confinement swamp filled with monsters. Happy S. completely ignores his instructions and chases the butterfly anyway.
- In the Hungarian short Pangea The Neverending World, Rexy, the baby Tyrannosaurus rex chases a butterfly, which leads him away from his nest to a ravine he almost falls in. He is also attacked by a Spinosaurus.
- The titular character of Vuk the Little Fox, as a young predator, tends to chase after everything he sees. He almost falls off the cliff when he attacks a lizard while his uncle is asleep.
- In Kérem a következőt!, Ursula the bear nurse enjoys capturing butterflies to see how happy they are when she releases them (although the one butterfly we see her releasing clearly looks more annoyed than happy).
- Mei, the younger girl from My Neighbor Totoro, tends to do this. First she chases the soot sprites all over the house; then she gets lost when she follows Chibi-Totoro into the woods. Although she encounters a monstrous creature (the titular Totoro), fortunately he is a Gentle Giant, so the danger part is averted.
- Happens twice with the main character in Bambi; first with a butterfly, then with a frog. In neither case does it lead to danger.
- In Brave, a young Merida follows the Will-o'-the-Wisps into the forest, where she is attacked by Mor'du the bear.
- The Land Before Time:
- In the first move, the very first thing Ducky does after hatching is chasing after a prehistoric butterfly, nearly into the jaws of a snapping turtle. In a later scene, Littlefoot and Cera chase a frog before their first encounter with Sharptooth.
- In the second movie, newborn Tyrannosaurus Chomper chases after a dragonfly that he wants to eat, following it right to the slope of an active volcano.
- The Lion King:
- In the original movie, Simba, while waiting in the gorge, chases a chameleon, practicing his roar on it. Then the stampede arrives.
- In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Kiara chases a butterfly, which leads her to a rock near a pond that has a great view of the Outlands. Timon and Pumbaa follow behind her, intending to keep her safe, but accidentally cause her to lose her balance, falling off the rock and into the pond as a result.
- At the beginning of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Baby Alakay (who would later grow up to be Alex) chases a butterfly to the edge of the animal reserve, which leads him to get captured by a pair of poachers.
- Played for Drama in Tarzan, where Kala and Kerchak's baby follows a frog, which leads him to Sabor the leopard. The results aren't pretty.
- At the beginning of Dinosaur, a baby parasaurolophus chases after a winged lizard, which leads him to a Carnotaur that starts chasing after the other dinosaurs.
- Pixar's WALLE: WALLE notices a glowing red dot near his home, which seems to dart away from him tantalizingly. The lonely robot pursues the curious dot to a barren area, until he discovers that it's a targeting light for a landing spacecraft. WALLE does well to dig himself into a bunker before the landing rockets melt him into slag.
- In the opening scene of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a little girl follows a Compsognathus, only to be attacked by a whole flock of them.
- Symbolically in Young Frankenstein, when the Creature is enraptured by the Frankenstein family lullaby, he idly snatches at the air as if trying to grab invisible butterflies.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Groot chases around and nearly eats an alien bug while the rest of the team is busy fighting the Abilisk.
- The Red Balloon is a classic film about a boy's adventure through Paris chasing said (possibly sapient) balloon.
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland starts with Alice following a white rabbit out of curiosity and falling down its hole, which leads her to Wonderland.
- At the beginning of Jurassic Park a child finds a cute little dinosaur and chases after it under the assumption that it's just some native Costa Rican lizard, only to find out the hard way that Procompsognathus has a venomous bite.
- Invoked in The Hound of the Baskervilles with Stapleton, a butterfly collector willing to run through a dangerous mire in order to collect a rare specimen. It turns out though that he's the Big Bad of the piece.
- Over the course of the season one finale and the season two premier of Malcolm in the Middle, Dewie experiences a Black Humor parody of The Red Balloon beginning with his chase after said balloon after his babysitter has a heart attack.
- In The Orville episode "Midnight Blue," Topa sees a rare blue Luminite, a tiny creature that glows like a firefly, and chases it into the woods where she is abducted by a crew of Moclans.
- In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Felicia's Victory Pose has her Failed Attempt at Drama interrupted by a butterfly passing by and she promptly chases it.
- Fatal Frame has Mayu in Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly. She chases after butterflies all the time, and then she "gets lost." This leaves you alone. The butterflies are the souls of dead sacrifices, so her following them never bodes well.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the wings of various butterflies are ingredients for some of the more useful potion recipes. Thus, it is not a rare sight to see the Dovahkiin, slayer of dragons, go out of his/her way to chase down some butterflies.
- In Elite Beat Agents, the second bonus level features a baby chasing a butterfly through a construction site, and it's up to the family cat to save him.
- Makai Kingdom: In a few of the cutscenes, the teal-haired girl Trenia can be seen chasing a butterfly. This catches Zetta's attention, who notes that only Overlord-class beings can exist where they are currently. This ends up foreshadowing that Trenia is much more than what she seems to be.
- A Plague Tale: Innocence has sheltered five-year-old Hugo forced to leave home. Much to the consternation of his older sister Amicia, who is a bit more worldly and far more aware of how dire their circumstances are, Hugo often gets distracted by things like food, a chance to play hide-and-seek, and frogs along the bank of a river, running off in pursuit. Later he chases butterflies, and since that happens in a far safer location Amicia is content to let him.
- The whole premise of the "Mindy and Buttons" shorts of Animaniacs. Mindy follows a cute critter, oblivious to danger, while Buttons tries to rescue her.
- In the short Big Buck Bunny, the titular Gentle Giant rabbit chases after a butterfly, only to be attacked by a trio of Screwball Squirrels.
- The Family Guy episode "Extra Large Medium" has Chris chasing a butterfly with Stewie on his back and the two end up getting lost in the woods.
Stewie: You just had to chase that butterfly!
Chris: Yes, I had to. I came here to explore nature!
- In the Disney short Goliath II, the titular baby elephant follows a butterfly, only to be attacked by a tiger and a crocodile. He later chases a pair of snails and falls down a hole.
- This is how Baby Herman crawls into (and out of) danger in the Roger Rabbit Shorts. In "Tummy Trouble" he chases a milk bottle that rolls off a cart; in "Roller Coaster Rabbit" it's a red balloon; and in "Trail Mix-Up" it's a beaver.
- Brattus from Mr. Bogus is sometimes prone to this trope, which leads to Bogus trying to keep his younger cousin out of trouble.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Three's a Crowd", Pinkie Pie follows a balloon that floats away off screen. We don't see her again for the rest of the episode...
- Played in the darkest manner possible in Primal (2019), when it is revealed that Lula the Witch's daughter died after carelessly chasing a butterfly near a cliff and tripping, causing her to fall off the ledge and split her head open on a rock.
- In "Baseball", Lou and Stu take Tommy to a baseball game between the Grizzlies and the Boston Boomers. Tommy gets a balloon at the game, which becomes the main focus of the episode's plot, as it keeps escaping his grasp. He leaves to chase the balloon while Lou and Stu are oblivious that he's missing and continue to watch the game. At one point, Tommy wanders onto a high balcony and falls from it trying to catch his balloon. Fortunately, Bucky Majors, a player for the Grizzlies, catches him before he hits the ground.
- A non-lethal example occurs in "Angelica the Magnificent". Angelica performs a magic trick wherein she makes Lil disappear by hiding her in a cardboard box. Lil chases a butterfly as Angelica says the magic words, and another butterfly flies into the box around the same time, leading the babies and Angelica to believe that Angelica turned Lil into a butterfly.
- In the TaleSpin episode "A Bad Reflection on You, Part One," a baby bear tries to catch a butterfly that lands on the flower of her windowsill. This, of course, leads to the baby bear falling out the open window of her apartment. It's a good thing Baloo and Kit were there to save her in time.