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Contractual Obligation Project

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"Two words: contractually obligated!"

A work that the creators say they did mainly to fulfill a contractual obligation.

Similar to Money, Dear Boy except for the creator's goal in many instances is to avoid losing money as a result of getting sued for breach of contract, incurring legal expenses, and (in the worst case scenario) having to pay damages.

For a creator involved in a contractual obligation project, the obligation aspect looms over everything. A typical example is when there's a final project left in a long-term agreement between parties whose relationship has soured. The enthusiasm for this last project may be low since at least one party just wants to get it over with and end the deal. Other times, the Contractual Obligation Project may be one a creator will do just so they can get to do another more enticing project that's also part of the deal. This does not mean a Contractual Obligation Project is all but guaranteed to be a dud. There are times when, in spite of everything, the final product will end up being financially successful, award-winning, and highly-regarded.

Note that this is mostly an English-speaking trope used in the Anglosphere, due to the way in which Common Law works in those countries. Many other countries forbid forcing a person to work against their will unless the person who signed the contract also compromised in some way or another to work on that project. There are a few exceptions to this, especially when divorced people are involved.

Compare this with Ashcan Copy, which is a project that is greenlit to avoid a penalty because the terms of a contract aren't being met, and Merchandise-Driven, where the writers of a show are contractually obligated to add elements inspired by real-life merchandise in order to advertise it. A fictional version usually involves Forced Creativity.


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  • The reason Michael Jackson did Pepsi commercials in The '80s despite not drinking the stuff was part of the deal for them sponsoring The Jacksons' Victory tour in 1984. This led to a serious accident where, while filming one of the commercials, Jackson was accidentally set on fire by pyrotechnics; he negotiated a massive settlement with Pepsi afterward, but the injuries to his scalp forced him to wear wigs for the rest of his life, and many pointed to the accident as the catalyst for the painkiller addiction that would eventually kill him.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Basically how the Glitter Force dub came to be. Despite Crunchyroll trying to get the streaming rights to the rest of the Pretty Cure series note , Toei decided to include Pretty Cure in the same licensing deal that also gave Saban Brands the rights to Digimon. However, it should be noted that Saban wanted nothing to do with the Pretty Cure series to begin with. This resulted in Smile (and eventually Doki Doki! PreCure) getting an Ashcan Copy dubwork from upper management.

    Audio Plays 
  • Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album expressly invokes this trope: it contained a minimum of brand new material, and that was often deliberately thrown together and made to look slapdash and amateurish whilst still remaining funny. Most of the rest consists of off-cuts from film scripts, and reworkings of old sketches and songs that go back to the middle 1960s, and which were originally intended for radio and TV shows that preceded Python by some years. Some sketches had indeed already been performed on British radio and TV by other people.

    Comic Books 
  • An in-universe example in Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem left the City but is forced to return due to a two-book contract. He eventually declares that one of the books will be an Omnibus re-release of the columns he's written so far, angrily pointing out (on live TV, no less), that his contract permits this, while the second book will be on the impending presidential election. He gets out of the second due to info-pollen induced dementia.

    Comic Strips 
  • Lampshaded in a Doonesbury strip with Jimmy Thudpucker. When told he needs a "dues" song on his new album (as in "I've paid my dues") Jimmy replies that he paid no dues. He was an overnight success. His agent counters that his contract requires one "dues" song per album.

    Films — Animation 
  • For nearly 20 years, Walt Disney had a distribution deal with RKO. By the early 1950s, RKO was crumbling under the erratic leadership of Howard Hughes. In 1953, Disney had formed his own distribution company, Buena Vista, but was still obligated to deliver one more film to Hughes. As a result, Disney compiled segments from his earlier animated anthologies Make Mine Music and Melody Time, to create Music Land (1955). This constituted a new film in RKO's eyes and the deal ended with Music Land. Unsurprisingly, the film is an even bigger Old Shame for Disney than its other package movies; it never saw any theatrical reissues nor any home video releases and is not counted as part of the canon.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • While David Arquette doing Ready to Rumble isn't itself an example (he actually enjoyed doing the film... solely because it let him hang out with professional wrestlers; he thought the script was garbage), him holding the WCW World Heavyweight Championship is. Arquette, a lifelong wrestling fan, was horrified at the idea of a non-wrestler like him being handed the title but was forced into the gimmick by his contract. In response, he donated his earnings to the families of deceased wrestlers Owen Hart and Brian Pillman, as well as to Darren Drozdov (rendered permanently paralyzed after an in-ring accident).
  • The poster-woman for why this occurs is Kim Basinger, who averted this trope by backing out of Boxing Helena - and was subsequently sued by Main Line Pictures for breach of contract, initially winning an $8.1 million judgment against the actress (resulting in her bankruptcy), though they later settled for roughly $3.8 million.
  • Even though the film ended up winning her an Academy Award (albeit due to a sympathy vote because she had nearly died of pneumonianote ), Elizabeth Taylor never liked Butterfield 8 and only did the movie because it was required under her contract.
  • The Cat in the Hat is an example due to Mike Myers and Bo Welch being forced under threat of a lawsuitnote  to work on the movie.
  • The existence of Cutthroat Island had a lot to do with it being a Contractual Obligation Project for many of the people involved. The producers, for example, were obligated to make the film because the money had already been raised and star Geena Davis and director Renny Harlin were contractually tied to do it.
  • When Kelly Clarkson was asked why she participated in the poorly received musical From Justin to Kelly, she replied "Two Words: contractually obligated!"
  • Jessica Chastain was given a starring role in Crimson Peak provided that she would also later appear in The Huntsman: Winter's War.
  • Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert thought It Happened One Night would flop and were only in the film to fulfill contractual obligations. Both would go on to win Oscars for the movie; as of 2019, the film is one of only three films to win the "Big Five" Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress).note 
  • The Beatles signed a contract with United Artists in late 1963 to make three movies, two of which were the very well-received A Hard Day's Night and Help!. The Fab Four was dissatisfied working on the latter film, however, so they agreed to have Yellow Submarine made as an easy way to fulfill their contract since it's an animated movie Not Quite Starring them. On seeing the end result, however, the band actually ended up enjoying it more than they expected. Many fans have assumed that the cartoon did not satisfy the contract, but Let It Be, also released by United Artists, was not part of the original three-picture deal.
  • Sylvester Stallone starred in Over the Top purely to fulfill his contract with The Cannon Group.
  • Paul Newman agreed to star in When Time Ran Out... out of contractual obligation and later called it the worst film he ever did. On the bright side, much of Newman's salary from the movie provided the seed money to begin his successful charity, Newman's Own.
  • Natalie Portman signed onto the first Thor because she wanted to work with Kenneth Branagh. She also signed under the understanding that Patty Jenkins note was to direct the sequel that ended up being called The Dark World. Jenkins ended up leaving the project a few months after she officially signed on for Creative Differences and Portman tried to leave with her. She would later back down once she realized that there was no way out of her two-film contract to avoid litigation from Disney’s Army of Lawyers.
  • Whoopi Goldberg reluctantly did Theodore Rex to fulfill a contractual obligation and avoid paying damages from a lawsuit by the film's producers. Whoopi Goldberg had learned the lesson of just biting the bullet and starring in a flop from Kim Basinger, who was driven into bankruptcy when she tried to defy this trope by refusing to star in Boxing Helena.
  • Channing Tatum's appearances in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation were the result of a deal he made with Paramount and the studio threatened him with a lawsuit if he didn't honor the agreement. He picked the G.I. Joe franchise in the hopes that it would be a fun experience but has had very few nice things to say about the films once he was no longer obligated to promote them.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis was forced to star in Halloween: Resurrection - a critically savaged sequel to Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later. The promotional team also circulated a lie that Jamie was only meant to have a 30-second cameo but "liked the script so much" that she had her role expanded.
  • Emily Blunt had to star in Gulliver's Travels (2010) as a result of starring in The Devil Wears Prada. Because of the scheduling conflict, she had to turn down the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2.
  • Back in the 1930s Chinese-American star Anna May Wong was getting frustrated at playing Dragon Lady parts and exotic supporting roles. She agreed to do one more - playing the daughter of Fu Manchu in Daughter of the Dragon - so she could star in the Marlene Dietrich movie Shanghai Express, getting a more interesting part. Daughter of the Dragon marked the last time she ever played a Dragon Lady.
  • Val Kilmer didn't want to be in Top Gun, but was contractually obliged. He also tried to drop out of The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) due to his impending divorce but was contractually obliged. Another of the film's stars, Fairuza Balk, walked off the set in protest at Richard Stanley being fired and was literally stopped at the airport when trying to leave Australia, being informed that her career would be utterly ruined if she dropped out.
  • Both Otto Preminger and Marilyn Monroe were forced to do the 1954 western River of No Return against their will, due to contractual obligations. They both expressed their frustration over the script which they considered below par. However, the film was a box office hit upon its release and remains a popular classic western. Monroe also agreed to take a supporting part in There's No Business Like Show Business, a Jukebox Musical released the same year, in order to secure a leading role in The Seven Year Itchnote .
  • Edward Norton made it clear that his participation in The Italian Job (2003) is a result of contractual obligation, not choice. He signed a three-movie deal with Paramount, of which Primal Fear, his breakthrough movie, was the first. He kept dismissing scripts for the other two (resulting in the contract getting extended from the intended timeline of contract though Norton now only had to do one extra film) until Paramount coerced him into accepting a role in this film. Norton did not hide his misery on the set, clashing with the crew throughout it, and when the producer handed out gifts to the cast over the movie's surprisingly strong box office performance, Norton returned the gift with a note stating "Give this to someone you actually like—or someone who actually likes you." He also wasn't happy at how the conditions of the deal meant that he was paid a fraction of what he'd have earned on any other film at that time in his career.
  • John Wayne played Genghis Khan in The Conqueror to close out his contract with RKO.
  • Geneviève Bujold made Earthquake and Swashbuckler purely to fill out her contract with Universal Studios.
  • Eric Bress and J Mackeye Gruber wrote the script for Final Destination 2 in order to be allowed to direct The Butterfly Effect.
  • Christopher Lambert was so disgusted with the rewritten script for Highlander II: The Quickening that he wanted to drop out of the film. Contractual obligations forced him to finish it.
  • Roy Scheider did not originally want to appear in Jaws 2, but had recently left the production of The Deer Hunter, which led to conflicts with Universal Pictures to whom he was locked into a multi-film contract. The studio agreed to forgive his leaving The Deer Hunter if he did Jaws 2, which they would count as the two remaining films of his contract with them. Scheider agreed to the terms but was resentful of his involvement from the onset and clashed frequently with director Jeannot Szwarc.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger only agreed to star in Raw Deal (1986) after much haggling in exchange for dissolving his multi-picture agreement with Dino De Laurentiis. He had one picture left with the producer and was actually very interested in doing Total Recall (1990), but De Laurentiis objected, feeling that he was not suitable for the lead role of Quaid. Instead, Patrick Swayze was already cast before the bankruptcy.
  • Jackie Chan appeared in Cannonball Run II for this very reason.
  • Natalie Wood didn't want to be in The Great Race, but Warner Bros. talked her into it. Wood was unhappy with her career and her personal life, having recently divorced from Robert Wagner in April 1962. Warner asked Tony Curtis if he would give a percentage of his film royalties to Wood, as an enticement, but Curtis refused. He said, "I couldn't give her anything to make her want to do the movie." Instead of more money, Warner promised Wood that if she completed The Great Race, she could star in Inside Daisy Clover, a role she greatly wished to have. Wood agreed, thinking that filming would be brief on Blake Edwards' movie.
  • Gary Cooper agreed to star in The Pride of the Yankees despite not being a baseball fan, as he owed one to Samuel Goldwyn.
  • John Candy didn't want to make Wagons East!, but was contractually obliged. Sadly, this turned out to be his final film, as he Died During Production.
  • Michael Fassbender agreed to star in The Counselor as part of a two-picture deal. The next film would not be a sequel; instead, the studio would fund Assassin's Creed, which was a passion project of his.
  • Following the failure via Executive Meddling of his film The Road Back, James Whale ran out his contract at Universal with a string of B-movies. Other than The Man In The Iron Mask, six of his last seven films were critical and commercial failures.
  • Chris Farley and David Spade were both signed to a two-film deal by Paramount. Black Sheep (1996) was rushed into production because they wanted to capitalize on the success of Tommy Boy before the contracts expired.
  • Caroline Munro appeared in Dracula A.D. 1972 and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter as part of her deal with Hammer.
  • George Lazenby appeared in three films for Golden Harvest - Stoner, The Man from Hong Kong and The Queen's Ransom.
  • Alan Ladd signed a three-picture deal with Albert R. Broccoli's Warwick films. The results were The Red Beret, Hell Below Zero and The Black Knight.
  • Mario Bava was unwillingly conscripted to direct the Vincent Price spy-spoof sequel Doctor Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. The resulting mess is often and unsurprisingly regarded as his worst movie.
  • Bruce Willis starred in Armageddon (1998), The Sixth Sense and The Kid (2000) (the first two of which were monster hits) because of another film he'd been working on for Disney, Broadway Brawler, being scrapped early into principal photography for various reasons (mostly on Willis' end), with a three-picture deal between him and Disney ultimately brokered to prevent Disney from suing him; because of the fact that Disney had spent $20 million on an unfinished movie, Willis took a drastic cut in pay for Armageddon to help make up the difference.
  • Disney inherited a bunch of movies from Twentieth Century Fox following the former's expensive acquisition of the latter. Despite some speculation that some completed films might be canceled, Disney made an effort to honor the existing contracts by giving full theatrical releases to all inherited films, even if some movies had Invisible Advertising as a result.
  • Brooke Shields agreed to take a role in the George Burns vehicle Just You and Me, Kid only to secure the lead in The Blue Lagoonnote .
    • As for the latter film, she did not want to star in it; it was her mother, Teri, who wanted her daughter to star in it.
  • Rob Zombie initially signed a three-picture deal with the Weinstein Company to reboot the Halloween franchise. He found working with the Weinsteins to be a nightmare, however. So before agreeing to direct the second film, he asked to be let out of the agreement to do the third.

  • Pet Sematary: While it was marketed as "the book so scary Stephen King didn't want to publish it," the real truth is that King wanted out of his Doubleday contract due to the publisher holding onto a huge backlog of his royalties. Doubleday refused to give the money back unless King delivered two more books. Having previously shelved the story for being too nihilistic for his liking, King threw the manuscript at them to settle half of the contract.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This trope is invoked in-universe in the final episode of 30 Rock when, after the show-within-the-show "TGS" is canceled, another episode has to be produced in order to avoid having to give Tracy a $30 million payout.
  • The only reason Freeform still airs the fundamentalist Christian show The 700 Club is because it is under contract with televangelist Pat Robertson to do so, back when it was owned by his Christian Broadcasting Network, under the name CBN Satellite Service. Robertson allegedly refused Disney's monetary offers to take his business elsewhere; it's likely that he kept doing it out of spite in response to the network's "satanic" direction since the Turn of the Millennium. The network gets around the issue by scheduling it in undesirable slots and airing Content Warnings which generally mock the show.
    Freeform is not responsible for what is about to appear on your screen. Watch or don't watch. We're okay either way.
  • Monty Hall hosted the 1979-80 revival of Beat the Clock because CBS had him under contract at the time. Up until that point, they hadn't found any work for him, so they forced him to host. He greatly disliked the show, stating many years later "I hated it with all my heart".
  • Early in his career, Lenny Henry's first manager gave him the opportunity to perform as part of the Luff-produced touring stage version of The Black and White Minstrel Show, which in retrospect has widely been seen as an embarrassment and one of the most racist shows in British history. In July 2009, he stated he was contractually obliged to perform and regretted his part in the show, telling The Times in 2015 that his appearance on the show led to a profound "wormhole of depression", and regretted his family not intervening to prevent him from continuing in the show.
  • Dollhouse was created in order to finish Eliza Dushku's contract with Fox.
  • When Patrick Duffy returned to Dallas in 1986, he stipulated in his contract that once the series ended, series producer Lorimar would be obligated to cast him in another show. Dallas ended in 1991, and Lorimar fulfilled the contract by casting Duffy as the patriarch on Step by Step.
  • Paul Lynde's appearances on Donny And Marie were to fulfill his contract with ABC regarding his Halloween special.
  • The series Helstrom was commissioned by Marvel Television for Hulu as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in a supernatural horror subfranchise titled Adventure Into Fear with a standalone Ghost Rider series (with Gabriel Luna reprising his role) also being developed with many other horror characters also having planned adaptations. However, following a corporate restructuring that had MCU Producer Kevin Feige gaining complete oversight over the Television side of the MCU, the subfranchise was aborted with all the shows canceled except Helstrom due to being too far in development, and was allowed to finish production but also declared non-canonical to the MCU in order to fulfill their contractual obligations to the parties involved.
  • The NCAA used to control all television rights for Collegiate American Football. Starting in 1977, when they reached a 4-year deal with ABC that significantly expanded the number of games shown, the NCAA required that the network show a small number of games involving colleges from the lower-profile Division II and Division III (and when it began in 1978, Division I-AA). ABC had no intention of taking any prime exposure away from Division I teams for these games, so they scheduled them in the less-desirable early afternoon timeslots with very small regional footprints (often just 1 or 2 affiliates). In 1982, CBS was also granted rights to live games, but the NCAA subjected them to the same requirements, which they handled in much the same way. Most memorably, during the National Football League players' strike that year, CBS burned off their Division III requirement over a single weekend by moving four gamesnote  to Sunday and putting them in the regular NFL timeslot to be aired on a regional basis. However, the NCAA's heavy-handed rules had frustrated many of the bigger schools, who banded together to form the College Football Association, which attempted to cut its own TV deal. This led to suits and countersuits between the NCAA and the CFA, until the US Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in 1984, saying that their TV contracts violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, opening the way for schools and conferences to make TV deals and pushing the smaller schools out of the TV picture entirely.
  • Power Rangers RPM exists because of contractual obligations between Disney, Bandai, and Jetix Europe. By that point in time, Disney had long contemplated canceling Power Rangers (especially when Bruce Kalish, lead producer of previous Disney seasons, parted ways following Power Rangers Jungle Fury), but they were on the hook for one last season, so RPM was produced with fresh new production. The preconception that RPM was going to be the final season of the franchise is what enabled the new team more creative freedom to explore an uncharacteristically darker and more self-aware direction appealing to older audiences, but it also led to Disney's complete indifference to the show when it was ready, giving it little advertising and subjecting it highly inconsistent broadcasting and timeslots, including at 5 AM.
  • Short-lived reality/competition show Unchained Reaction — hosted by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame — was the result of the two being approached by Discovery to create a show based on making chain reaction machines. Neither Savage nor Hyneman were fans of Rube Goldberg machines just for the sake of it, as well as competition shows, but they ended up doing a short 6-episode season to test the waters before it was dropped shortly afterward.

  • Jimi Hendrix:
    • Axis: Bold As Love was a contractual obligation album because the Experience was required to release two albums in 1967. Despite this, it is regarded as a classic and was listed at #83 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
    • Part of the reason for Band of Gypsys being produced was to settle a contract dispute with Ed Chalpin, who managed Hendrix when the guitarist was a member of R&B band Curtis Knight & The Squires and who had been reissuing Knight/Squires albums on Capitol Records with misleading covers publicizing Jimi's involvement with them to compete with/capitalize on Hendrix' success years later.
  • Electric Light Orchestra's Balance of Power was created entirely because the band needed to deliver one more album to Jet Records before they could dissolve following the Troubled Production of Secret Messages. The resultant Creator's Apathy led to the album being widely panned upon release, and the band immediately parted ways once the supporting tour wrapped up, not reforming until the Turn of the Millennium.
  • The Dingees admitted that, after writing enough songs for their fourth album, The Rebel Soul Sound System, they'd planned to stick in a bunch of dub remixes as Album Filler to extend the whole thing to double-album length—and thus fulfill their five-album contract with their label. Ironically, the label dropped them before they could record any of it, and The Rebel Soul Sound System wound up being the band's zero-budget passion project instead of a contractual obligation.
  • By 1977 the members of Emerson, Lake & Palmer were pretty much no longer on speaking terms. They had to record one more album before they were released by their label, though, and the result, Love Beach, is regarded as their worst.
  • When Marvin Gaye got divorced in 1977, he agreed to give his ex-wife half the proceeds from his next album. The result was Here, My Dear, which was panned by critics and fans alike (although it's been Vindicated by History, making Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at #456). Rumors that he intentionally made a bad album that wouldn't sell soon arose; other accounts suggest that she would get the money regardless, possibly making this an aversion.
  • Though Talk Talk split up shortly after the release of Laughing Stock in 1991, their contract with Polydor Records required one more album to be fulfilled. Frontman Mark Hollis would thus come out of retirement in 1998 solely to put out a self-titled solo album and complete his end of the bargain, quietly stepping back into retirement right after.
  • Michael Jackson's Number Ones compilation album was released solely so that Jackson could fulfill his contract with Sony Music, following a high-profile legal dispute with them that stalled promotion for Invincible, his last album before his death eight years later.
  • Lord Melody (a calypso singer) released two in 1962/1963 to get out of his contract with Cook Records (which was about to fold). These were Lord Melody 1962 (US) / More Calypsoes By Lord Melody (Trinidad) (largely rerecorded early 50s material and singles aimed at tourists) and Caribbean Limbo Music (an album of Melody and a man named Sam discussing limbo moves over jazz instrumentals from Cook's back catalog). In Trinidad, 1962 was Melody's poorest-selling release, though it was fairly successful in the US due to his cover of "Shame And Scandal" (Wau Wau).
  • Led Zeppelin began and ended this way:
    • When The Yardbirds broke up in 1968, Jimmy Page wound up holding the bag on the band's remaining contractually obligated album. He got three other musicians he knew of together to form, and briefly tour, as the New Yardbirds. By the time they released the album, they'd changed their name and the rest is history ...
    • ... until it came to an end a decade later. They were contractually obligated for one more album after the death of drummer John Bonham but were unwilling to continue without him, and so released Coda, an album made up entirely of unreleased songs, mostly from In Through The Out Door. It's generally considered to be their worst album.
  • When *NSYNC went on a hiatus in 2002, they didn't plan for the break to turn into a formal disbandment. Since they still owed Jive Records future albums, compilation albums were released in subsequent years to fulfill their contract (Jive has since been absorbed into Sony Music).
    • These compilation albums include Greatest Hits (2005), The Collection (2010), and The Essential *NSYNC (2014). The band members themselves were not even aware of an impending release of The Essential *NSYNC.
    • In 2004, as Lance, Joey, JC, and Chris waited on Justin’s presumed return to the band, Justin was asked by GQ Magazine about the possibility of returning to the group. The article stated, “Lance Bass says 'NSync is planning to record another album, ideally in November, and he has every reason to expect Justin will be there. Justin's less certain, even when it's suggested he has a contractual obligation.”
    Justin: I don't know, I don't know. You're never contractually obligated to do anything. I think A Tribe Called Quest has been contractually obligated to do another album for like ten years.
  • After the death of Van Morrison's producer Bert Berns, Morrison was still contracted for an album to his Bang Records company, owned by Berns' widow Ilena, with whom Morrison didn't get along. To get out of his contract, Morrison recorded an album worth of desultory, sometimes intentionally offensive "songs" such as "Ring Worm", "Here Comes Dumb George", and "Blowin' Your Nose". They sometimes get released as "rarities" to hoodwink completists.
  • Ozzy Osbourne never made any secret of disliking the 1982 Speak of the Devil double live album that consists mostly of his versions of Black Sabbath songs, to the point that after it went out of print in 2000 he stopped listing it on his website, since it was not a good time in his life and he did it purely for contractual reasons.note 
  • Tupac Shakur signed a three-album deal with Death Row Records in exchange for them bailing him out of prison. All Eyez on Me was released as a double album, which was followed by The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.
  • Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy, in order to dissolve his Warner contract, released a "techno without drums" album under a quasi-side project called SSV-NSMABAAOTWMODAACOTIATW, short for Screw Shareholder Value - Not So Much A Band As Another Opportunity To Waste Money On Drugs And Ammunition courtesy Of The Idiots At Time Warner.
  • When Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons left Vee-Jay Records for Philips Records following a lawsuit over unpaid royalties, they were obligated as part of the settlement to deliver one final album for Vee-Jay. They created a "live" album by taking rehearsal recordings and overdubbing crowd noises. Said album mostly featured standards done in a traditional style incongruous with the group's usual sound, perhaps in a deliberate attempt to make the album flop, although it did feature a song done in their usual style ("Little Boy [in Grown up Clothes]", which saw a single release) and a comedy routine which featured excerpts of "Sherry" ("How Do You Make a Hit Song?").
  • Happened with "Weird Al" Yankovic when he was with his old record company, Scotti Bros.
    • Al was faced with two stipulations for Dare to Be Stupid. The first was that one of the songs had to be a Cyndi Lauper parody, and the second was that he had to include a cover. He met them with "Girls Just Want to Have Lunch" and the George of the Jungle theme song, respectively. Al put as little effort as he could for "Girls Just Want to Have Lunch", singing with a rock-bottom demeanor.
    • For Polka Party!, the label forced him to include a Christmas song. Al gave them "Christmas at Ground Zero", a Black Comedy song about nuclear annihilation.
    • As Alapalooza neared completion, Scotti Bros. attempted to release a compilation album called Al Unplugged. When Al heard that this meant swapping out the electric instruments in the songs in favor of synthesized acoustic-sounding parts, he put an end to it. The label then pitched The Food Album which Al accepted because he "hated it slightly less." Al commissioned Mr. Lawrence to design the album cover (a monster getting his last licks at the remains of Al's skeleton with an apple in its jaws) to illustrate how the label had "[bled] his catalog dry".
    • While Bad Hair Day was in production, Al was similarly approached for The TV Album to complete the compilation album clause on his contract. Al was more open to it, reporting that the record company was more civil than in other cases. Its cover depicts Al giving a Slasher Smile while blowing up a TV set with dynamite. Al explained that the artwork for TV and Food was so that he'd at least have a good laugh at the album covers despite hating the albums themselves.
  • Both Naughty Boys and Service by Yellow Magic Orchestra were put out solely to fulfill the band's contract with Alfa Records as fast as possible; the group originally planned to dissolve after the release of Technodelic thanks to Creative Differences, but Alfa still required two more albums. Tellingly, Naughty Boys and Service both released the same year, and the latter features a number of Japanese-language comedy skits to pad out the runtime.
  • Logic had announced his retirement from rap before realizing that his contract with Def Jam still required him to put out an album and mixtape; he put together his last album under Def Jam, Vinyl Days, in 12 days in order to fulfill his obligations and get independent as fast as possible. The album received broadly positive reviews, features an impressive guest list, and is considered by his fans to be one of his best projects. Logic stated in an interview that he was proud that, even though he cranked it out quickly, Vinyl Days was "the dopest shit I could give them — it's not like I just wiped my ass".
  • In 1970, The Rolling Stones wanted to leave their then-current record company Decca to form their own label but was told they were still under contract to produce at least one more single for the company. To complete the contract but also stick it to Decca management whom they had grown to really detest by this time, they submitted the extremely profane song "Cocksucker Blues" (aka Schoolboy Blues), a song that tells the tale of a young man going to London looking for gay sex in explicit detail. Naturally, Decca refused to release it, just as the band had expected. It would have remained buried and unheard by anyone outside the band and record label if not for a German record label accidentally including it on a Rolling Stones box set "The Rest of the Best" they released in 1983. Once this oversight was discovered, the box set was recalled and later reissued without Schoolboy Blues on it, but not before copies of the original version of the box set were sold and as a result, the song was later able to be uploaded to the internet, where it has since developed a cult following.
  • Legendary Jazz Fusion band Weather Report's final album, This Is This!, was only made because the band had one more album left in their contract. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter was mostly not involved in it, preferring to focus on his solo project, and the album suffered for it.
  • Mike Oldfield's Amarok and Heaven's Open were made primarily to fulfill the remainder of his contract with Virgin Records, as Oldfield's relationship with CEO Richard Branson had grown increasingly strained over the years. To ensure that he would have the last laugh, both albums were loaded with jabs at Branson and Virgin, with the former album being made as uncommercial as possible (following Earth Moving, in which Oldfield adhered to Branson's demands to the letter by making a pop album with no instrumentals).
  • Frank Ocean was signed on to Def Jam records after his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. He released Channel Orange, and then went quiet for several years, occasionally teasing an upcoming project. Finally, in August of 2016, he released Endless, an odd collection of song fragments sprinkled into a long video of him building a staircase. His contractual obligation with Def Jam for two albums was fulfilled and Frank having bought back all his masters going back to 2009, then left Def Jam and independently released Blonde which went on to eclipse Endless entirely.
  • After Jim Morrison died in 1971, the surviving members of The Doors recorded two contractually obligated albums without him: Other Voices and Full Circle. The albums were poorly received and eventually forgotten, and they were not included in reissues of the Doors' catalog until they were finally rereleased in 2015.
  • The Strokes released Comedown Machine in 2013, two years after their previous album Angles. It was their fifth and final album for RCA Records and the band did not promote the album on television, live shows or tours. Instead of an original design, the cover artwork for the album was designed to resemble an old RCA magnetic tape reel box.


    Theme Parks 
  • When Disney signed off on the construction of Euro Disneyland, the contract they signed with the French government for the land mandated that, after the resort's opening, they must continue to build a new theme park (up to a total of three) within the resort on a ten-year cadence. If they miss the deadline, the government can repossess the earmarked land and sell it off. Walt Disney Studios Park opened in 2002, i.e. exactly a decade after the original park opened. It was heavily criticised on opening day for being cheap and underdeveloped, illustratively featuring just three rides, none of which were completely original to a Disney park. Disney have wisely negotiated extensions to the third theme park, with its current construction deadline being in 2036. While Walt Disney Studios Park has received much-needed investment and improvements over the years, it is still widely considered to be Disney's weakest park.

    Video Games 
  • thatgamecompany made a three-game deal with Sony in order to put themselves on the map of the video game industry. The results were flOw, Flower, and Journey (2012), and the aforementioned deal is the sole reason why they remained Sony console-exclusives for so long. Flower and Journey would eventually see PC releases in 2019, though flOw remains Sony exclusive as of 2024.
  • During the 2010s, Sega signed a deal with Nintendo to make three Sonic the Hedgehog games for them: Of which came Sonic Lost World, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games... and Sonic Boom. While the former two had smooth enough developments, the third was outsourced to another company called Big Red Button whose engine wasn't compatible with the Wii U system. Rather than scrap the project and do something else, Sega pretty much forced the company into completing the game to fulfill its obligation to Nintendo. The fact that the game was Big Red Button's first (and at the current, only) game which critics and gamers would savage didn't help matters.
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines was a game that 20th Century Fox and later Sega always wanted to do, an Action-Horror First-Person Shooter set after the events of Aliens and Alien³. However, they would be unable to do it due to bad luck and incompetence. Eventually, Sega would hire Gearbox Software to make their own version, but suspicions of Gearbox taking money away to work on their own projects led to Sega canceling the game, only to give it back to Gearbox after the success of Borderlands with the caveat of a 2012 release. However, Gearbox was in the middle of developing Borderlands 2 and finishing Duke Nukem Forever when they accepted to develop Colonial Marines, and felt that Borderlands 2 was a more important game (since it was their IP), decided to outsource the development of A:CM to TimeGate Studios, who were unable to make a passable build by the time BL2 was released in 2012 due to Executive Meddling from both Gearbox and Sega. Gearbox's leadership went into panic mode as Sega would sue them for failing to release the game on time as promised, and decided to rebuild the game almost from scratch to get the game into stores just before the end of Sega's fiscal year in March 2013. The game would be released to dismal reviews but passable sales and Sega would cut ties with Gearbox for all the Troubled Production the game suffered through.
  • The infamous ZX Spectrum game SQIJ! was the result of a contract between its creator Jason Creighton (then 15 years old) and publisher The Power House. After a falling-out, he tried to get out of the contract by hastily slapping together some code that just barely qualified as a game, figuring the result would be so obviously unpublishable that they'd just throw it out. Then they went and published it anyway.
  • Sega forced a newly-formed developer called Treasure to develop McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure in exchange for greenlighting their passion project, Gunstar Heroes. Though Treasure Land Adventure was finished first, Gunstar Heroes came out two weeks earlier, making it Treasure's proper debut title.
  • Hotel Mario and The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games exist as part of a contract Nintendo and Philips made after the cancellation of the SNES CD-ROM. Consequently, Nintendo had little interest or oversight other than ensuring that the characters were on model in the packaging and manual artwork.
  • Part of the reason why Skull & Bones went through a 7-year Troubled Production instead of being cancelled outright was because Ubisoft had signed a deal with the Singaporean government pledging to develop original IP games in the country in return for tax breaks. If the game had been cancelled, the money would have to be refunded in full.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy parody of Return of the Jedi, the Opening Crawl veers off into a rant about how they're tired of parodying Star Wars, says that Fox made them produce it, lapses into a non sequitur about raccoons, and finally asks the audience to lower their expectations for the episode. Based on the DVD Commentary, the crew wants to make it crystal clear that their rant wasn't a joke on their part; they really meant it.
  • The three The Fox and the Crow cartoons produced by UPA were a contractual obligation for their distribution contract with Columbia Pictures. UPA wanted to do cartoons that steered away from the cliches of the day, such as the use of Funny Animals and Slapstick, both of which the Fox and Crow cartoons exemplified in spades. The cartoons were actually well-received (two were nominated for Academy Awards), which gave UPA free rein to make their own films with their own characters.
  • An in-universe example occurs in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Wacky Delly" when Ralph Bighead* ends production on his show The Fatheads to create a new artistic masterpiece. However, his network contract states that he has to make one more show so, to get it over with, Ralph hires Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt to make a pilot for the new show, hoping it will be bad enough to get the executives to cancel his contract. Unfortunately, they love Wacky Delly and the show becomes a massive hit. Ironically when he decides to put some effort into it, the network instantly cancels the show.
  • VeggieTales: Invoked in a song that was so pointless, Larry's voice actor supposedly refused to finish it (though this was probably written in meta-humor). "The Song Under the Credits" was its name, and in the middle of a chorus of "Hey hey ho-ho-ho-ho" the actor left, while the other actors chewed him out for leaving, telling him "We have contractual obligations to finish this song!"