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Early-Bird Cameo

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"Sonic's first appearance was a cameo in the 1991 arcade racing game Rad Mobile. You can see him dangling near the top of the windshield."
Sonic's Origins, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

An Early-Bird Cameo is when characters appear earlier than their proper introduction in the same work or continuity.

Such a cameo is superficially similar to the Chekhov's Gunman with the difference being that the Gunman's introduction later in the work coincides with them becoming a plot-resolver while an Early-Bird Cameo is more along the lines of 'Bob appears in the background in chapter 1 yet joins the main cast only in chapter 5'.

An Early-Bird Cameo can come in different flavors. Either the character has their cameo without any actual characterization or they get a small role as themselves (including characterization) before their main role — for example, being a side villain in one film and the Big Bad of its sequel. There is also the habit of studios to promote new characters of an upcoming release by letting them cameo at the end of a work which is called a "Sneak Peek".

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    Asian Animation 
  • Block 13: Although Honey isn't formally introduced until "The Fifth Element", he makes a cameo during a song sequence in the earlier episode "My Bad Luck".
  • The intro used throughout Season 1 of Happy Heroes contains a brief clip showing the character Careful S., who does not make his proper debut in the show until the final episode of said season.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County: Before Bill the Cat appeared as a regular character, a regular cat was exposed to the corrupting influence of rock and roll, transforming into what would be the character design of Bill the Cat.
  • In Retail, Josh made an appearance in one 2006 strip, about a year before he was properly introduced as a recurring character.
  • Subverted in Garfield. The strip began making reference to Jon taking an extremely reluctant Garfield to the veterinary clinic a full year before the introduction of Jon's perpetual crush - and future steady girlfriend - Dr. Liz Wilson in 1979. However, when we first see the vet in a Halloween strip, the vet is a man with a mustache. Liz replaces him soon enough and he's never seen or heard from again. It's not clear what happened to him, but one strip implied that Garfield mauled the male vet during a failed declawing operation, resulting in him having to get stitches and perhaps quitting the practice. Liz could have been brought in to replace him in-universe, and to add some diversity to the strip out-of-universe.

  • Longetime MAD art director Sam Viviano got his first credit for the magazine in 1980 when he was commissioned to draw a front cover — five years before he would submit anything else.


  • In episode five of Mystery Show, Starlee is hired by David, a former political cartoonist and professional pencil sharpener, to find out how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is. Starlee and David would later co-create an entirely different podcast, Election Profit Makers.
  • Twice in the Gemini arc of Sequinox. In the Star Invasion world, the girls spot foot soldiers from stars that they'd yet to fight. In the Sitcom world they also see the stars themselves, but since it's only in a title sequence they go too fast to get any details on them.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Donkey Hodie: A drawing of Dodie Hodie drinking a cup of juice can be seen during the "Little Steps" song in "Purple Peg Problem" before her actual debut in "Dodie Hodie".
  • The Muppet Show: the episode guest-starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker aired three months before the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back, and was the first time Luke wore the Bespin uniform that he would wear in the film.
  • Sesame Street:
    • The titular character of Hey Arnold! actually first appeared in a stop-motion skit featured in Sesame Street.
    • Cookie Monster actually made his first appearance in a skit featured in The Ed Sullivan Show (which itself was based on an old instructional film by IBM), where he is shown taking a machine apart piece-by-piece and eating it, only to realize that doing so will cause the machine to self-destruct within his body, causing him to explode. And for some reason, this version of Cookie Monster has fangs, while the one in Sesame Street does not. This version is also green instead of blue.
      • Grover first appeared in another Ed Sullivan Show sketch as one of the evil monsters who wants to steal Santa Claus' toys.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, Wattaildragon first appeared as a picture on a scroll in the artwork of Ancient Rules way back in Strike of Neos, over five years before its own release in Galactic Overlord. Its flavor text even makes a reference to "ancient rules" which forbid its capture.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a few:
    • Future Sight is built around these. Most of them preview elements from Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, from individual cards to the tribal and planeswalker card types.
    • Spike Drone appeared one set before any other Spikes.
    • Shield of Kaldra mentions Helm of Kaldra, a card released one set later.
    • Ravnica block has guilds appearing in flavor text before they actually showed up with cards of their own.
    • Many planeswalkers will appear in a set before they're plot relevant. Ashiok appeared in Theros even though they didn't begin being part of the plot until Born of the Gods. One of the three planeswalkers who sealed the Eldrazi prior to the Zendikar block alongside Sorin and Ugin didn't get a card until the Commander 2014 decks and didn't appear in the plot until Shadow Over Innistrad.
  • In the third edition rulebook of Warhammer 40,000, pictures of generic Kroot and Necron warriors appear several years before their armies were officially introduced.
    • In Gathering Storm: Fall of Cadia, a piece of artwork featuring an army of marching Black Templars, also shows what looks like a Dark Eldar Incubus in bright red armor with a blue-furred cape, looking in the opposite direction of the marching Space Marines and generally sticking out like a sore thumb. One month later, he was revealed as the Visarch, a new Eldar special character properly introduced in the second Gathering Storm book, Fracture of Biel-Tan.
    • Beginning with Warhammer 40,000, a brief magazine released along the eighth edition rulebook as a brief introduction to the franchise for newcomers, featured pictures of the Space Marines Repulsor and the Death Guard Plagueburst Crawler respectively one and four months before their proper releases.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battles:
    • The Warriors of Chaos 7th Edition rulebook (released in November 2008) had pictures of the Daemon Prince plastic kit, which was released only in August 2010. An article on that month's White Dwarf explained that they postponed the model's release in order to have him as part of a wave of new Chaos Daemons models.
    • Talking about the Chaos Daemons wave released in August 2010, one month before the 8th edition of the main rulebook already had pictures of the other models in that wave (Pink Horrors, The Changeling, Kairos Fateweaver, Seekers of Slaanesh and Khorne Bloodcrushers)
  • Dungeons & Dragons: the character Alyxian and the myth surrounding his life from the officially published Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeepadventure book is first revealed in the 3rd party Critical Role Tal Dorei Campaign Setting in the revised 2022 edition of the book Tal'Dorei Reborn several months before the Call of the Netherdeep's release.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • Artwork on different cards will frequently feature characters from currently-unrelated expansions. Also, it's not uncommon for a hero or villain to share a nemesis icon with an unreleased deck. The Vengeance expansion, for instance, included mini-nemeses for all the pre-OblivAeon hero decks, including Captain Cosmic and Sky-Scraper, who didn't debut until the later Wrath of the Cosmos expansion.
    • Captain Cosmic is also shown on Argent Adept's Silver Shadow card, again well before his debut or even the reveal of his name.
    • Visionary's "Prophetic Vision" card from the core set shows Iron Legacy, who didn't appear as a villain until 3 expansions later in Shattered Timelines.
    • The Engine of War variant of Bunker, who is the villainous Fright Train who pulled a Heel–Face Turn in a Bad Future, was released at the time of the Shattered Timelines expansion, while Fright Train's villain deck came out later, as part of the Vengeance expansion.

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company is fond of doing this to Launcelot Gobbo, the "fool" from The Merchant of Venice. The 1999-1994 run (with Christopher Luscombe in the role) combined the two "Prince of Morocco" scenes, so that Launcelot's first appearance came directly after the scene in which the bond is agreed to. He was depicted doing odd jobs around Shylock's office (preparing coffee and rearranging files) until the others exited, at which point he suddenly stepped out and gave his monologue—probably quite a surprise to audience members who thought he was just an extra! The current run gives him an even earlier cameo—the show's setting has been transposed to Las Vegas, and there's an Elvis impersonator walking around singing appropriate music. Guess who he turns out to be...
  • The Things I Will Not Do When I Direct A Shakespeare Production, On Stage Or Film, #225: "I will not incorporate an ominous witch-doctor woman into Romeo and Juliet, having her stalk the streets of Verona until she's finally revealed as the apothecary."
  • In Shrek: The Musical, Puss in Boots makes a quick cameo during "Travel Song". Of course, it is slightly played with in that there are currently no plans for a musical based off Shrek 2.

    Theme Parks 

  • The Transformers: Prime did not have any toys until after the Dark of the Moon line has been out for a while. But a few of the major players (Optimus, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream, & Soundwave) each got a toy in the Generations line.
    • Sunstorm and Acid Storm originally appeared as unnamed Seeker jets in The Transformers, and didn't get toys and names until the Universe toyline two decades later. There was also a green Palette Swap of Grapple later named Hauler.
  • A number of the characters in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes debuted in the game before they even had Lego figures on the market. The game offered up first looks at the Lego counterparts for characters like Storm and The Falcon, whose figures weren't released until X-Men: Days of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were out in theaters.
  • LEGO Marvel's Avengers does the same thing with the DLC for Captain America: Civil War, showing off the figures for characters like Black Panther and Crossbones before they were even in toy stores.
  • LEGO Minifigures: The Fox Costume Girl made a cameo in The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part before Series 19 was released later that same year (2019).
  • Mixels didn't even try to hide the Series 2 and 3 tribes when Series 1 was released. The future six tribes appeared in the back of the construction books and decorating the store boxes of the Series 1 tribes as a checklist, Balk, Slumbo, and Glurt (the first two being from Series 2, the latter Series 3), topped the logo, and the entire bunch of Series 2 Mixels filled up the screen with the Series 1 members in the show's intro. Eventually, the companies both seemed to wise up about spoiling, and Series 4 and onwards only contains the characters of that series.
    • A staggered release schedule during 2005 meant that different figure lines were available in different areas internationally, with the heroic Toa releasing in the winter wave in America and the Visorak villains releasing in Europe during the winter wave. In the summer wave the two production lines swapped places with the Toa being released in Europe and the Visorak in America. This meant though that the tie in comics and books showed both lines in their stories, meaning readers were being shown ahead of time what toys would be coming in the summer release in their home country. While a few fans were wise enough to catch onto the release swap and ordered trans-Atlantic purchases of both toy lines in winter, many fans were oblivious to the staggered releases until discovering it on fan forums years later when talking to fans on the other side of the world who swore that they remember getting one of the waves and not the other first.
    • The back of Nocturn's box in early 2007 featured dark silhouettes of the Toa Mahri, the upcoming figure wave at the time. Similarly, the Mistika toys of late 2008 were first officially glimpsed in a promo booklet released outside the U.S., featuring the early 2008 Phantoka sets.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Ace Attorney series:
    • In the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney case "Rise from the Ashes" (inserted at the end of the first game when it was updated from the Game Boy Advance to the DS), Gumshoe gives Edgeworth a menu from a French restaurant that's just opened. You have to squint a little, since the picture is tiny, but the man on the menu is Jean Armstrong. Armstrong and his French restaurant don't show up until the third game. Then again, in Japan, they've got the first four cases of the first game, and the two other games as the Gyakuten Saiban trilogy for the GBA. The fifth case was added in the DS remake, which came later, hence his apparition. It introduced a Dub-Induced Plot Hole in the French version, which tried to make Jean Armstrong sound less French, for obvious reasons. He was made Libanese in this cameo, but Italian in the third game, when translated there.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures' fourth case, you briefly cross paths with your client's neighbor and a man in yellow, both unnamed, getting into an argument. The two are dismissed as irrelevant to the matter at hand, but return in The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve as major players in the second case.
  • Done twice in Melody:
    • Sophia is seen talking on the phone and video chatting with Melody in Week 1, but she doesn’t appear properly until Week 4.
    • Xianne appears as a karaoke bar waitress in Chapter 3, and subsequently befriends Melody after running into her in various locations and situations.

    Web Animation 
  • In Kirby Guardian King Dedede shows up in OldOne’s Daydream in Episode 2 and again on the TV in Episode 6, apparently having been stealing food. He shows up again with a more pronounced role in Comics 5-11.
  • In Volume 5 of RWBY, the main hall of Haven Academy is shown to feature a large statue of a long-haired woman wearing golden chains. One volume later, said woman is introduced as Jinn, the embodiment of Haven's divine Relic.
  • Minilife TV: In "Dummy Demolition", Jack is presented as a nameless janitor who delivers dummies to Chris and Ian before he's properly introduced in "Season 2 Finale!".
  • Tari, the protagonist of Meta Runner, had a version of her debut in the SMG4 episode "Mario The Ultimate Gamer", just over a month before Meta Runner was first teased. This was mainly done to get SMG4 fans familiar with Tari so that the announcement of her series wouldn’t throw them off as much.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's: Forgotten Events, a red Toy Bonnie plushie appears in "Mysterious Task". Later in season 3 during the Flash Forward sequence during William Afton's plans, a billboard teasing the fourth season also has the red Toy Bonnie on it. He is officially introduced in "Sinister Friend".
  • In Homestar Runner, The King of Town and The Poopsmith appear as background characters in "Marshmallow's Last Stand" before being properly introduced in "The King of Town."
  • The Walten Files has both Showbear and Rocket Bunny appearing before their canonical introductions in Bunnyfarm:

    Web Original 
  • Baumgartner Restoration: Sometimes, paintings that will become the subject of future videos can be seen in the background.
  • In his review of Caligula to celebrate 100 episodes, The Cinema Snob had appearances from all of Brad Jones's other characters, including 80s Dan... at least, until Brad pointed out he didn't have an 80s Dan character, at which point Dan faded away into nothingness. A few weeks later, 80's Dan became an official spin-off.
  • Critical Role: Early in the first campaign, Vox Machina journeys into the Elemental Plane of Fire for Keyleth's quest and while there spot, in the distance, the most massive dragon they have ever seen. Nearly twenty episodes later, that same red dragon, now revealed as Thordak, the Cinder King, leads a quartet of other ancient chromatic dragons in a devastating war of conquest on the continent of Tal'Dorei.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • In the Critic's crossover with Todd in the Shadows, one can briefly see the rebuilt version of Pollo.
    • According to the commentary track on his Lorax Review, an early version of the character Hyper Fan Girl appears in his top 11 South Park episodes played by Rachel Tietz wearing glasses and an orange shirt instead of a sweater. She's later played by Tamera Chambers and is a recurring character on the show.
    • Tamara Chambers was one of the "Catwomen" in the Catwoman (2004) review. She is now a regular in every NC review.
  • On the Rejected Princesses site, several Princesses appear in each other's stories before their own entry was put online, such as Christine de Pizan appearing in Zenobia's entry before debuting in the book version and Zenobia herself being mentioned in Hester Stanhope's entry.
  • In Trinton Chronicles, the villains known as Trinity make a minor appearance at the end of Fantasia before becoming the villains of the next story. By that same token, a character from another furry-based game called Arcadia makes her pre-Trinton appearance here before plopping into Trinton Chronicles two years later.
  • The Unlucky Tug: In the Cold Open for the Sodor's Finest episode about Percy, the first two engines Sir Topham Hatt sees at the workshop are Emily and Arthur (facing away from the camera, David Mitton style). This scene takes place during Season 1 of Thomas & Friends; both engines were introduced in Season 7.
  • "The lame girl with the spirit of the squirrel" was a throwaway line in some early Whateley Universe stories. Then, she was a weak character in some of the Phase stories, where she was in Phase's aikido class and gained the name Aquerna. Now, she's had a vignette and a novel.
  • WitchCraft SMP: Downplayed. In Tiff's 8th episode, while she's preparing to take on the dungeon, a couple of death messages pop up stating that Bertha has been killed by an Obsidilith, which later serves as the final boss of the dungeon.


Video Example(s):


Sonic Rebound [Masked Watcher]

Sonic Rebound - Ep 4 [Resilience]: In this adaptation of the the third IDW comic... the story deviates. Sonic and Knuckles defeat Rough and Tumble and all is well. However both are unware of a mysterious watcher viewing the preceedings. For fans of the comic, this figure might look familiar. Especially since they show up much earlier than expected.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

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Main / EarlyBirdCameo

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