Anakin: General Grievous. You're shorter than I expected.
So it's been a while since you answered the Call to Adventure, and you've had some successes. Spectacular successes, even. Everyone has heard of what you've done and everyone knows your name. . . but they don't know what you look like, and you don't exactly look the part. Maybe you're the Kid Hero, Little Miss Badass, Cute Bruiser, Really 700 Years Old, a Lady of War with a Tomboyish Name, or maybe you just lack the movie-star looks everyone associates with a heroic role.
Either way, your reputation precedes you, and every time you introduce yourself, people are going to look at you and say "Oh! I was expecting someone taller...". Or worse, they'll ask if you've met/heard of/know of... well... you. Then you have to say Actually, I Am Him. Or even worse, they'll think your associate is you, and then you have to say Actually, That's My Assistant.
Can be Truth in Television - research has shown that people make links between people's height and their perceived success, even if they know nothing about them.
May overlap with Shrouded in Myth, where it's the exaggerated reputation or description that causes the disappointment. Can lead into a Warts and All plotline, where they can realize their expectations are wrongheaded.
- In Anatolia Story, everyone has heard of 'Yuri Ishtar', the girl that has finally caused Kail to finally take an official concubine, who is said to have been sent by the heavens, an incarnation of the Goddess of Love and Fertilty Ishtar and has helped the Hittite Empire to win battles! And everyone's first reaction upon actually meeting Yuri is 'You?', since she is small, darkhaired and the complete opposite of what was considered true, gorgeous beauty at the time.
- Dragon Ball Z: Happens quite a lot due to the nature of a shonen anime about 'training to get stronger'.
- Goku gives a particularly boastful one when he first sees Frieza's Final Form. He soon comes to regret those words.
- At the beginning of the Android saga, when Future Trunks has warned the Z Fighters that the Androids in his timeline slaughtered everyone and destroyed the world. When they finally show up, the Z Fighters prove more than a match for them, even though Goku nearly dies of a heart virus. (Although it does turn out that these were not the Androids they were looking for. When they finally do show up, they beat the Z Fighters in short order.)
- When Vegeta goes through the training of his life to face Cell, he outclasses him so much that he is disappointed about how weak the supposed 'perfect warrior' is.
- He still has the same attitude once he allows Cell to become perfect, even commenting that Cell 'just got smaller', and wonders why Cell made such a big deal out of becoming perfect. This time, he is sorely mistaken.
- Vegeta does the same thing again after Majin Buu is hatched, after the Supreme Kai described him as an ultimate evil power— Vegeta senses that both he and Goku have a higher energy than the newly hatched Buu. Goku knows that he is hiding something, though.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: A Running Gag with Edward Elric. His title (the eponymous Fullmetal Alchemist) means that people confuse him with his brother, a suit of Animated Armor. And being called short is his Berserk Button. When May Chang meets Edward for the first time, her dreams are shattered when she learns the Fullmetal Alchemist does not meet her fabrications of the handsome, tall, and princely figure she imagined him being.
- Slayers: Gourry Gabriev says something to this effect in the first episode when he first meets Lina.
- Soul Eater has Excalibur. Sword of kings and legends. So sharp that he can cut through entire dimensions. And he looks like this.◊
- How he acts is even worse.
- Rurouni Kenshin gets "he's shorter than I thought" when living in Tokyo.
- Black Cat: This happens occasionally to Train Heartnet — mostly in the manga. Having been the strongest member of Chronos and a legendary and feared assassin, many people are shocked when they find out how young he is. Of course, an extreme example of this occurs when Train gets transformed into a child after getting hit with the Lucifer bullet. Chronos assassins who want to kill him are rather shocked when he claims to be the Black Cat.
- In Baccano!, a couple of Russo-affiliated thugs are given the task of hunting down a man who managed to single-handedly destroy and rob eighteen of their speakeasies in a single night. And just who is that implacable, One-Man Army of badassery, you might ask? This guy◊. No, not the one with a gun. The guy in the vest who's bawling his eyes out.
- Katekyō Hitman Reborn!: This tends to happen to Tsuna. He's supposed to be the 10th Generation Vongola Boss (against his will, of course), but he's only 14, and is very scrawny and rather pathetic looking. A lot of people say variations of this phrase, and find it generally hard to believe. Interestingly enough, this phrase isn't explicitly said by Spanner, but implied when he gets Tsuna some prisoner clothes, and remarks in surprise and exasperation that even size small is too big for him.
- In Full Metal Panic!, this happens to Sōsuke during one of his missions where he had to work with another group of soldiers to kill Gauron. When they first see him, many of them ask why there's a kid here. They find it extremely hard to believe that he's the one assigned to assist them, and find it an insult that Mithril would send a "child" to help.
- In Death Note, the police are surprised when L turns out to be a scrawny guy in his early twenties.
- In at least the anime version, Milly and Meryl are unable to recognize Vash the Stampede at first because pretty much nothing about him appears anything like the infamously destructive gunslinger they expected. Admittedly, he is tall and his hair is too, but he's far from the tallest person on Gunsmoke (and his hair isn't the biggest, either), and, more importantly, he's a staunchly pacifistic goofball who tends to run around screaming in terror, tripping over his own feet on occasion, flirting with girls and wolfing down doughnuts. At least in the first episode. He Takes a Level in Badass by the end of "Hard Puncher" a few episodes later, or, more accurately, finally reveals what a badass he's actually been all along.
- The only things known about Vash is that he's tall, has blonde hair, and a red coat. Some other details occasionally pop up, but those are as often wrong as right (such as him using a boomerang) from seeing people mistaken for Vash.
The first episode of the anime focuses on several bounty hunters who become suspicious of each other as they try to figure out who the real Vash is. Conversely, in the manga, the cities are festooned with wanted ads featuring his picture, so this isn't an issue.
- When Shuji from Durarara!! set out to interview the most fearsome man in Ikebukuro, he was expecting to find a large, over-muscled monster of a man covered in scars and tattoos. What he got was Shizuo, a slim, quiet young man who insisted that he hated violence. Of course, nobody told Shuji that Shizuo had both a Hair-Trigger Temper and Super Strength, and thus Shuji found himself tossed around like a baseball after asking exactly one too many questions. Ironically, Shuji notes that the only thing that did match his mental image of Shizuo was that he was just about as tall as he expected.
- In the manga adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, a band of soldiers hear of this great swordsman who has the Ocarina of Time and are hoping to beat him, but instead get the child Link. Their leader does warn them about appearances, accepts Link and allows him to train with them, whereupon he trumps them all.
- Vampire Game: The reincarnation of the Vampire Lord Duzell is... a kitten. Ishtar does not know what to think at first.
- Used in Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. When the residents of Pop Star learn that a mighty Star Warrior is coming, Tiff pictures a handsome, sword-wielding hero vaguely similar to Roy. Instead, she gets... Kirby.
- Used again when the NightMare Enterprises guy that sells Dedede the monsters is seen and turns out to have the same legless, stumpy feet as everybody else, despite looking as if he'd be humanoid and most likely really tall.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, Germany expects Italy to be very sly and powerful as Italy is a descendant of the Roman Empire. Instead, he gets a Lovable Coward hiding in a tomato box, who believes that during wars, the best course of action is to surrender.
- Patalliro! had this effect on Bancoran when they first met, since the photo Bancoran was given to identify the prince had been touched up to make him look more like a bishounen and less like the chibi he actually is.
- In Inazuma Eleven, Fubuki has quite a reputation as a talented athlete, so everybody expected him to be a tall and strong guy. Much to their surprise, he turns out to be the average-sized teen they ran into earlier. Apparently, he gets that a lot.
Fubuki: Oh, are you disappointed after seeing the real thing? Everyone who hears about those rumors assumes I'm a big guy or something...
- Fairy Tail's Zeref looks a lot younger and prettier than one would have first assumed. His disposition does not help.
- Used frequently in Ghost Hunt, when people are surprised that Naru is president of SPR at only 17. This is later subverted when they attempt to disguise Naru's identity; Yasuhara (who is really a year or so older) poses as the president, and the client comments, "Yes, I heard you were very young."
- In King of Bandit Jing people are often surprised that the eponymous character is a) the bandit king and b) a rather scrawny looking kid. More so in the anime, for some reason...
- Shiffon Fairchild from Freezing may count. One would expect that the unrivaled "Monster" that reigns supreme over all other Pandoras would not be a cute, goofy and good-natured girl who is far kinder than most of those around her.
- Sanae from Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions refuses to acknowledge Shinka as the girl behind "Mori Summer" because the former was expecting the philosopher from Mabinogion, not the jaded high-schooler desperate to purge her past delusions.
- Bokura no Kiseki is a series that revolves around Reincarnation, so this is bound to pop up. Explicitly mentioned with Ooki, a plain, chubby girl who is the reincarnation of a beautiful female knight. She says she could tell that when she told other characters who she was the reincarnation of, they were visibly disappointed.
- Haiyore! Nyarko-san has Mahiro, a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, remark that he expected Nyarlathotep to look like a giant tentacled beast (or any of the other forms described in Cthulhu lore), rather than a cute teen girl with silver hair and green eyes. Nyarko offers to show Mahiro one of those more horrible forms, but says it'll probably drive him insane, so he declines. The gag is repeated in the second season, except that Nyarko's response is to offer to show Mahiro her "original form" — and start undressing, claiming that it's the form she was in when she was born.
- Many people in Attack on Titan are surprised how short and wiry Captain Levi, known as Humanity's Strongest Warrior, is. Considering how fast and precise he needs to be to swing through the air with the 3D Maneuver Gear and slash through the necks of titans, a bigger and bulkier person would have a harder time.
- In the 3rd episode of Eureka Seven, the crew of the Gekko is disappointed to find out the one man who managed to make Eureka laugh is an ordinary 14 years old boy who doesn't look particularly funny or interesting.
- In The World is Still Beautiful there's the 12-year-old Livius. With titles like the Ruler of the World and the Sun King, Nike's sisters obviously expect someone more... impressive, when he finally makes a visit to the Dukedom of Rain. It's no wonder he's not pleased when they mistake Neil for him.
- In the Devil May Cry: The Animated Series episode "Once Upon A Time", the demon of the week comments that Dante is a lot smaller and less impressive looking than he expected for a Son of Sparda.
- Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes, while saving innocent citizens or rescuing pregnant women and babies, tends to get this from news crews quite a lot. At least it's understandable — he's just your average high schooler with a magical space bug welded to his spine.
- Rorschach from Watchmen: super strong, intelligent, horrifying scourge of the underworld; also rather short, homely, red-haired and freckled. When he's caught by the police they discover he wears lifts.
- The scene where Mmy met Nny in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac:
Jimmy: I only really saw you in the dark, but look, I even did my hair to look like yours. Hey, what happened to your hair? And your boots, you're not wearing the long boots. I like the long boots better.
Johnny: Either my hair burned off in hell, or I sleep-shaved it during a really stupid dream. As for the boots they were hurting my feet.
Jimmy: Like I said, I only saw you in the dark, but still, I thought you'd be paler than you are. And you're shorter. I always thought you'd be a bit taller than—
- The Hulk's son, Skaar, said this when he first met his father on Earth.
- In The Rabbi's Cat 2, when Malka of the Lions says he wants to be admired, his wife tells him he's a legend. Malka replies "So I hear. But every time people see the real thing, they're disappointed."
- Happens constantly with Batman. It's not so much that he's not as imposing or impressive as expected, just everyone seems to mention it. Even Tim Drake and Dick Grayson get told this on occasion! It's even funnier after Dick Grayson becomes Batman... he's actually four inches shorter than Bruce Wayne, so for once it's actually accurate.
- Set up as a Mythology Gag in the Marvel issue of GI Joe that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the original action figure line by reintroducing the original G.I. Joe, Joseph Colton; when he reveals his identity as the original "Joe" to the current team, one of the newer members, Muskrat, comments "I always thought you guys were... bigger", referencing the original 12" toys compared to the modern 3 3/4" figures.
- Charles Fort's response to meeting Nikola Tesla's nuclear-powered atomatic man (aka Atomic Robo) is to remark that he looked taller in the pictures.
- The Punisher gets this from time to time (The current Marvel universe stats list him as 6'1" while the MAX version was 6'6"). Not surprising given the legend that surrounds him as "8 feet tall and bulletproof with a million guns and a giant skull for a head" and the fact that most gangsters who see what he really looks like don't live to talk about it.
- Ultimate Marvel
- Inverted in Spider-Men when Miles Morales of Ultimate-verse and Peter Parker of 616 meet: Miles blurts out, during a bout of giddy fanboy babbling, that he was expecting Peter to be shorter. Made especially hilarious by the fact that Miles himself is thirteen and quite frankly tiny.
- Ultimate Wolverine: The agents complain that Gregory Lee looks taller on TV.
- Wally West as the Flash got this from people in Legends (DC) when he took on the role after Barry Allen's death.
- Star Wars Episode III: A Lost Hope. ...
Darth Vader: I thought you'd be better.
Mace Windu: And I thought you'd be taller.
Darth Vader: ... Touché!
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures fanfic Queen of All Oni, this is General Ozeki's reaction to meeting Jackie.
"Jackie Chan – your name floats through the sleeping darkness of the world. Both a curse and praises for laying low so many. I thought you'd be taller."
- Earth and Sky: Blueblood says this to Chrysalis.
- In the Dark World arc of the Pony POV Series, when Discord meets his little sister Rancor for the first time, she says this about him. He says it's because he slouches.
- In "A Change in Plans", the Dursleys wouldn't allow Harry Potter to use the seatbelt, which resulted in him becoming wheelchair bound. Later on, when Harry and Ron first met, Ron refused to believe he was Harry Potter because of this. (Ron wouldn't believe Harry could be a cripple)
- The Dark Lords of Nerima has Gosunkugi finding it a bit jarring when he meets the Sailor Senshi and realizes that not only are they shorter than he is, they're younger, too.
- In the Harry Potter fanfic The First Day, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor reacts this way to Harry when they first meet.
- From Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble:
Alien: Ah. You must be that Earth Potentate that gave everybody such a hard time. Huh. I kind of pictured you taller.
- In Fate Stay/Night fanfic Nerve Damage, Jordan Lionstone is surprised that his new Servant Archer Napoleon Bonaparte stands at his legendary height instead of his historically-accurate one. The Archer himself is annoyed by this; apparently getting belittled is a sore spot for him.
- Kid Icarus Uprising: The Novelization: In Chapter 20, this is Pit's reaction to the image of the Chaos Kin Viridi shows him:
Pit: That's it? I thought it would look more... imposing.Viridi: Well, what were you expecting? An Eldritch Abomination so hideous you can't grasp its true form?Pit: Something like that, yeah.
- Blood and Spirit: When she first sees Link up close, Veress remarks that, for Hylia's Chosen One, he doesn't look that imposing and is Just a Kid.
- In Opening Dangerous Gates, several characters get underwhelmed when they meet Bleach characters who look like children such as Wonderweiss, Rukia, and Hitsugaya, only to eat their words when they see how tough they are.
- In the ''Worm fanfic, Intrepid, the Wards were expecting Grue (who just committed a Heel–Face Turn) to be a hideous villain. He looks like a model, leaving even Sophia (who hates him), speechless.
- This in inverted in The Vow when Lady Amelia (Lianne's mother) meets for the first time Lord Shen (Lianne's potential betrothed).
Lady Amelia: So you're the famous Shen I've heard so much about. [...] You're taller than I thought you'd be.
- In Faking It, Dipper wonders what Bill really looks like, aware that he's a very powerful mind demon and that he doesn't qualify as an animal (while creatures such as giant centipedes and eldritch abominations do). When he finally sees Bill in his true form, Dipper thinks to himself that he was expecting something less...comprehensible.
- Almost used word for word in Lelouch of the Second Chance when Cornelia meets Zero in person, noting that she's more than One Head Taller than him.
- Inverted in All is Calm, All is Bright when Jonathan Kent meets Bruce Wayne for the first time.
"He’s taller than I thought he’d be. You see guys like that on TV all the time, you think they’re gonna be smaller when you finally meet him. Not Bruce. He actually looks bigger.”
- In The Cup of Life, the Winchesters naturally think of Merlin as a Wizard Classic and are almost traumatized to meet a Pretty Boy kid who doesn't even have a pointy hat.
- Wind Shear:
McGonagall: I'm sorry, I simply... you are not what I was expecting. I was honestly expecting someone...
McGonagall: More visibly seasoned.
- Edward gets hit with this a lot in Returning Echoes but for completely different reasons than he does in canon; firstly, because no one expects him to be alive, and second, due to Alphonse doing some miscalculations with alchemy, he is now a she.
- Upon meeting in An Open Secret, both Cad Bane and Asajj Ventress declare as such.
Asajj: Cade Bane... Thought you'd be taller.
Cad Bane: Asajj Ventress. Thought you'd be hotter, way Kenobi went on about you.
Jacob: You know, I thought the one called 'Trollslayer' would be quite a bit taller.
Harry: I am eleven years old. I am supposed to be this tall, Mister Abbott.
- Ageless: A Running Gag has Ryou introducing himself, only for people to comment that they expected him to look older.
- At the start of Invisible Sun, Professor Utonium is preparing for a visit by the reclusive scientist Dexter. No one knew that Dexter was the same age as the Powerpuff Girls (and a good sum shorter than them). Buttercup initially slams the door in Dexter's face, mistaking him for a prankster.
- Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return has the princess of Dainty China Country say this to Dorothy. After being touted as the slayer of witches, though, it could be justified.
- In Mulan II, when Shang finally meets Mushu, near the end of the movie, he reacts like this.
- In Peter Pan, Wendy admits when she first met Peter that he turned out to be a little taller than she expected.
- Planes: Fire & Rescue: When Lil' Dipper first meets Dusty Crophopper, she claims that Dusty is shorter than she expected.
- The Rescuers are a pair of mice trying to rescue a human child from a kidnapper, so it's not surprising that this is Penny's reaction when they arrive:
"Didn't you bring somebody big with you? Like the police?"
- In Shrek:
Shrek: Were you expecting Prince Charming?
Fiona: Actually, yes!
- It would later turn out that she meant this quite literally.
- In Stitch! The Movie, after Pleakley and Cobra Bubbles meet Dr. Hämsterviel for the first time while he's holding Jumba prisoner, Pleakley has this reaction after having only heard his voice throughout the movie, "He sounded a lot bigger over the phone."
- Strange Magic has Marianne saying that she was expecting... more in a flirty manner from the Bog King during a sword duel.
- Zootopia: Officer Hops was surprised when Mr. Big was revealed to be a shrew when she and Nick got kidnapped by his henchmen.
- The Alamo: After the Final Battle of the 2004 version, when David Crockett has been captured and is offered the chance to beg for his life before General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
Crockett: You San'Tanna?
Mexican Interpreter: (nods)
Crockett: ... I thought you'd be taller.
- Inverted in Batman Begins. Mob Boss Carmine Falcone tells a young Bruce Wayne that he's "taller than he looks in the tabloids." He then makes it clear however that he's not very impressed by Wayne's naive bravado.
- Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: Bill and Ted have this reaction when they go to heaven to find the greatest scientist in history, and discover that he's basically a Wookiee who can split into two Ewoks (or is it two Ewoks who can fuse into a Wookiee?). The Grim Reaper asks them, "Did you expect the greatest scientist in history to be from Earth?" which is probably a valid point.
- Braveheart: William Wallace has to deal with this.
William Wallace: Sons of Scotland! I am William Wallace!
Young Soldier: William Wallace is seven feet tall!
William Wallace: Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if he were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.
- This is a bit of a Hand Wave — historical records describe the real William Wallace as being a giant of a man, with many suggesting he was between six and a half and seven feet tall. Mel Gibson is of only average height. The filmmakers endeavored to suggest that his height was a case of his being Shrouded in Myth.
- Collateral: Played straight; When Max, posing as hitman Vincent, meets Vincent's "client" Felix for the first time, the latter one plays greets him with the words "I thought you'd be taller". Then again, he'd probably say the same thing to Vincent (played by Tom Cruise), but still.
- In the Hong Kong film Duel to the Death, legendary swordsman Ching Wan passes through a city and sees an artist drawing a portrait of what the artist imagines Ching Wan looks like. When Ching Wan tells the artist that the portrait looks nothing like the real thing, (without revealing who he is) the artist responds by going on about all the attributes the portrait has and declares that of course a warrior like Ching Wan would look exactly like the portrait.
- In the Eragon movie, two characters, upon meeting Eragon, say, "I was expecting someone more...well, more."
- A Running Gag in Escape from L.A. has numerous people expecting Snake Plissken to be taller than he was. In the original, they kept going, "I Thought You Were Dead". Word of God has it that the former was based off of comments that Kurt Russell received in Real Life.
- A Few Good Men: A variation is inverted and then played straight. Earlier in the film, Kaffee makes fun of Downey's aunt Ginny (as Downey is from somewhere rural and is not that bright, Kaffee assumes Aunt Ginny is some kind of hillbilly). When the trial begins, he finally meets Aunt Ginny... and is surprised to find she's an attractive, intelligent woman who isn't all that impressed with him.
Kaffee: I'm sorry, it's just... I was expecting someone older.
Aunt Ginny: So was I.
- The Gamers: "Make way for the bandit king! all hail the Bandit King! Hail! Hail!"
- In Gandhi, Charlie Andrews immediately tells Gandhi (who was actually around 5'3") "I thought you'd be bigger."
- Hook: Done retrospectively, and with inverted hero-villain relation:
Peter: I remember you being a lot bigger.
Hook: To a ten-year-old, I'm huge.
- Played with in Idiocracy, where President Camacho tells Joe (who is, thanks to society becoming moronic, the smartest man in America at that point) that he "thought [his] head would be bigger."
- Inverted in Inglourious Basterds: the "Jew Hunter" was expecting the Basterd known as the "Little Man" to be shorter.
- Kung Fu Hustle. The Beast is a legendary killing machine, locked away in an asylum. When Sing is sent to retrieve him, he's a little surprised to see a balding old man, in flip flops.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Iron Man Pepper, Coulson, and his men enter Sector 16 and find Tony's original suit, mistaking it for Stane's power armor. Pepper remarks, "I thought it'd be bigger". It is!
- Captain America: The First Avenger has a lot of fun with this trope.
Steve: I though you were dead!
- When the short and sickly Steve Rogers shows up for the supersoldier experiment, everyone in the room stops dead in their tracks and falls silent.
- A senator is holding a ceremony to award Rogers the Medal of Honor, but he's had enough of propaganda stunts and fails to turn up. Instead an aide comes on stage and whispers in the senator's ear, presumably informing him of this fact. In the audience is Stan Lee as a general, who mistakes the aide for Rogers and says he expected him to be taller.
- Inverted when Steve's childhood friend Bucky sees him for the first time since he became a Super Soldier.
Bucky: (confused) I thought you were smaller.
- In The Neverending Story, when Atreyu is called for his quest, the centaur comments that he didn't call for Atreyu the child, he called for Atreyu the warrior. Atreyu explains that they are one and the same.
- In The Film of the Book Prince Caspian, Reepicheep plays the trope for laughs when he and his fellow mice open a door to admit Trumpkin the dwarf into a room of the castle.
Reepicheep: We were expecting someone, you know, taller.
Trumpkin: (looking down at him) You're one to talk!
Reepicheep: What is that, irony?
Peter: Well, if you like, we can come back in a few years.
- Also played by Prince Caspian when meeting the Pevensies, thinking they'd be older. Then again, time goes faster in Narnia, so his expectations were somewhat justified.
- In the film Road House, Patrick Swayze's character — a legendary bouncer — gets this from several characters, who mention that they "thought he'd be bigger" at completely random intervals and as if they were somehow aware that several people have said it to him before and are joking about it now.
- Played with in The Shadow. Shiwan Khan gets into Lamont Cranston's hidden inner sanctum and immediately says, "I saw you as taller." This may be either a byproduct of Lamont's "clouding men's minds", or of Shiwan's mental portrait of Ying Ko, Lamont's former self.
- In Smokey and the Bandit, Sheriff Buford T. Justice is surprised to learn that the police officer he was speaking with over CB radio is a black man, and responds with "You sounded a lot taller on the radio."
- In Star Trek: Nemesis, Captain Picard meets his own Romulan-grown clone, who admits that he expected his progenitor to be a little taller.
- Star Wars:
- Revenge of the Sith: General Grievous and Anakin Skywalker use this as a back-and-forth insult. Anakin's comeback comes across as slightly bizarre since Grievous is in fact several feet taller than Anakin himself, but then again Anakin is only using it to piss him off.
General Grievous: Anakin Skywalker. I was expecting someone with your reputation to be a bit... older.
Anakin: General Grievous. You're shorter than I expected.
General Grievous: . . . Jedi scum!
- The Empire Strikes Back: Luke Skywalker was somewhat surprised on meeting the great Jedi master Yoda, although that's more "I thought you'd be less senile and less likely to steal my lunch."
- In the storybook-and-record set of Empire made for children, the story is radically condensed in order to fit on a 45-rpm platter. Luke instantly figures out Yoda's identity upon meeting him and says, "I was expecting someone larger!"
- In A New Hope, Leia thinks that Luke is a little short to be a Storm Trooper.
- Revenge of the Sith: General Grievous and Anakin Skywalker use this as a back-and-forth insult. Anakin's comeback comes across as slightly bizarre since Grievous is in fact several feet taller than Anakin himself, but then again Anakin is only using it to piss him off.
- In Sunset, Tom Mix tells Wyatt Earp that he's not what he expected, being so cultured. Wyatt Earp replies that Tom's not what he expected either, he then ponders a moment before shrugging and resorting to this trope.
- Near the beginning of Ted, the titular teddy bear becomes a celebrity after coming to life and appears (digitally inserted via special effects) on The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson tells him "I thought you'd be taller," while Ted quips back "I thought you'd be funnier."
- In True Memoirs of an International Assassin, a writer falsely claims that he's a hitman called The Ghost to sell his action-adventure novel. When he's kidnapped by people wanting him to kill a politician, their leader says, "I expected you to be a bit... (uses hand gestures to indicate someone a lot taller and thinner) ...younger."
- In the movie Willow, the group first encounters Finn Raziel, one of the world's most powerful witches, after she's been transformed into a possum by the Big Bad. The two Brownies name a whole bunch of things they were expecting instead, with taller being just one of them.
Rool: That's Raziel?
Franjean: I don't know, I was expecting something a little more grand, a little less...
- Averted and played straight in the Hurog series: When Ward finds out that the badass, who single-handedly killed some bandits, and only succumbed to severe injuries after all the bandits were dead, is a woman, he is completely unfazed - he knows her and has a crush on her. However, when Ward himself is introduced to some people who heard of his prowess in battle, they admit that they expected someone older.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe
- X-Wing Series: Wedge Antilles and Ysanne Isard had been enemies for years before they finally met. Wedge is an Ace Pilot, so he doesn't need to be big, but... well, he is pretty short. Corran Horn also gets this a lot, being about 5' 4".
- In Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Nick Rostu is surprised to find that Luke is Anakin's son; Luke is visibly smaller than Anakin was, about five foot seven to Anakin's pre-suit six foot two. Luke tells him that he takes after his mother.
- Arthur from Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom books is an asthmatic 12-year-old. By the third book, someone has taken to writing fictionalised versions of his already fairly impressive accomplishments that portray him as seven feet tall and looking akin to a Greek God. People tend to be somewhat disappointed upon meeting him in person.
His sidekick Suzy Turquoise Blue is similarly transformed from a 16th-century English street urchin with historically accurate hygiene to a Ninja assassin killing machine. Dame Primus, the incarnation of the last will and testament of the universe's creator, becomes a were-bear-frog. Ironically, this makes it much less terrifying than it is. Arthur subverts this trope as his constant usage of the Keys causes him to get taller.
- Tom Holt's Expecting Someone Taller, unsurprisingly, uses this trope, or at least a variation. When nerdy clerk Malcolm Fisher runs over a badger and wins The Ring of the Nibelung, and with it, rulership of the world, everyone is shocked that such a pathetic wet fish could possibly be the hero of prophecy. The dying badger (who is actually a frost giant in disguise) even drops the title/trope name.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Trumpkin doesn't try to hide his disappointment when he meets the Pevensie siblings in Prince Caspian. Caspian apparently summoned a bunch of children when everyone expected their saviors to be strong, fully-grown warriors... which they were at one time, but Year Inside, Hour Outside is funny that way.
- The Dresden Files:
- In Grave Peril, when Harry and the Knight of the Cross Michael meet the dragon Ferrovax at a Red Court ball and Michael reveals that he killed the dragon Siriothrax, all Ferrovax deigns to say is "I thought you would be taller".
- In Small Favor, Harry has been fighting the Billy Goats Gruff, and each successive set of brothers becomes a hell of a lot taller — with the third wave, consisting of a single gruff nicknamed "Tiny" being about the size of a double-decker bus. Then Eldest Gruff shows up while Harry is hiding inside a building, and Harry levels his staff at the roof of the little shack. He hears Eldest thumping along as he approaches, and aims a little higher. Then, Eldest walks in. He's five feet tall. Five-two, tops.
- 'I took a slow breath and stepped past her, to face the king of the Red Court. He was kinda little.'
- The Light Fantastic: When Rincewind meets Cohen the Barbarian for the first time, he doesn't expect Cohen to be a senior citizen.
- Also played with when he meets Cohen's daughter Conina. The whole town is looking for a mysterious master thief who turns out to be an attractive barbarian woman. Rincewind admits that she is different from what he had expected. It seems like we would get an Aesop about gender equality and not judging people based on looks but instead he just says that she's a bit taller than he imagined.
- Played straight when Rincewind meets Coin the Sourcerer in Sourcery; Armed with naught but a half-brick in a sock, the wizzard goes up Coin's tower and finds out what the readers have known the entire book- that all-powerful, unmatched Sourcerer is just a little boy.
- Big Fido, mysterious head of the short-lived Dog Guild in Men at Arms, is a toy poodle.
- Taken to the extreme by Miss Butts, the headmistress of the Quirm College for Young Ladies in Soul Music. Her demeanor is so strict, domineering, and pervasive that most people don't realize she's short even when they meet her in person.
- In the beginning of Diana Wynne Jones's Year Of The Griffin, the protagonists' University tutor, getting all his pupils to self-introduce themselves, expects Olga Gunnarsson to be the Emperor's sister (because of her regal manner), and the Emperor's sister to be the Wizard Derk's daughter (for her "humble, almost harassed look"). Wizard Derk's daughter actually turns out to be a griffin.
- In The Homeward Bounders, an earlier book by Creator/Diana Wynne Jones, Joris constantly talks up his master, Konstam, leading the other characters to picture him as ten feet tall and omni-competent. When he does show up, he's omni-competent but only about five foot six.
- In the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Seeing I, Sam gets a chance to talk up the Doctor to some new friends before they meet him. When they do, he's rather bedraggled and miserable, and only 5'8" anyway, so one of them says that he expected the Doctor to be taller. Sam responds that "he acts tall."
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Prince Oberyn was disappointed (albeit jokingly) that Tyrion (a disfigured dwarf) did not have the spade tail he was rumored to as a child. Similarly, Tyrion uses this line to great (chilling) effect when finding his mistress in bed with another man.
- In the Barbara Hambly book Dragonsbane, this is a major component of the surprise that Gareth feels at his first encounter with the eponymous dragon-slayer, John Aversin — although he is too well-bred to comment.
- In Hambly's The Time of the Dark, when Rudy sees a young woman being given lots of bossy instructions when she takes the baby heir to the throne out for a bit of air, Rudy assumes the girl is the most junior nursemaid. She's the Queen.
- Tortall Universe: In the later quartets, practically everyone has heard of Alanna the Lioness, King's Champion, and her adventurous exploits. Then they find out she's a lot shorter than even most of the other women she works with. No less badass for it, but it makes for some awkward introductions.
"Let me guess. You were expecting someone bigger?"
- Mary Renault's historical novels about the Greek hero Theseus pull this trope on the readers, subverting the expectation that Theseus "should" be a towering muscleman with her short, yet quick and agile protagonist. Nicely justified in the author's notes, which point out that a small man would've had far more reason to develop clever fighting tricks, as Theseus is said to have done, than a Big Guy who can win by brute force.
- In the Isaac Asimov novel The Robots of Dawn, we learn that the story of the previous investigation of the hero, Elijah Baley, was made into a "hyperwave drama". Consequently, everybody who meets Baley tells him that he doesn't look like the actor playing him (who was younger and more handsome).
- Codex Alera: Referenced in the first book. Amara confronts a famous hero stationed with the legionarii. He was taking a bath when she showed up, and decided she didn't matter enough for him to get dressed. When he says who he is, Amara gives him a meaningful look and says, "I thought you'd be... taller." Pwned.
- Corum: Michael Moorcock's Corum is a member of a race called the Vadhagh, who are more advanced culturally than humans but, on the scale of the Five Races, fall well within the range of "High Men." He still finds that Vadhagh in general, and Corum personally in particular, are very Shrouded in Myth and are believed to be as powerful as demigods. King Mannach even tells Corum that "I had expected to meet a being at least nine feet tall!"
- Also inverted when Corum meets the Sidhe known as Goffanon the Dwarf, who he is expecting to be, well, dwarf-sized, but who turns out to be about eight feet tall. Which makes him a dwarf by Sidhe standards (Goffanon's brother Ilbrec is 16ft tall).
- Sword in Attanasio's The Last Legends Of Earth, where the population of a village were expecting him to look more like a badass and less like a schoolteacher. Then he proceeds to overhaul their defenses against monsters, and then kills the biggest monster in the area single-handedly. The moral of this story? Don't judge a book by its cover, wait until the pages have finished beating the shit out of gargantuan freaks of "nature" to make your decision.
- Inverted in Agents of Light and Darkness, where a character asks Judas Iscariot what Jesus was really like. "Taller than you'd think" is the reply.
- Watership Down: Happens in reverse order, when the Efrafans assume the Watership warren's chief rabbit must be enormous, if the formidable Bigwig follows his orders. They'd actually met Hazel-rah face to face, but took it for granted that he was just a messenger, as he's only average-sized. Justified because most rabbit chieftains attain their position through physical strength, not cunning and charisma as in Hazel's case.
- Pulp Western writer J.T. Edson's principal continuing character is Dusty Fog, who though strongly built is only about five feet five inches tall and continually overlooked by strangers who know him only by reputation. Usefully, one of his associates, Mark Counter, really is well over six feet tall with big muscles and the face and figure of a Greek god, and from time to time Mark pretends to be Dusty in order that strangers will blab secrets when he is not around but the insignificant-looking real Dusty is. Word of God is that Fog was based on Audie Murphy, who was himself of no great size.
- Warrior Cats:
- In The Darkest Hour, Firestar thinks that Scourge's much bigger deputy is the leader of BloodClan, as he wasn't expecting such a small cat to be leader. When Tigerstar meets Scourge for the first time, he even blurts out, "That's Scourge? He's no bigger than an apprentice!"
- In A Forest Divided, Minnow remarks, "This is Gray Wing? I thought he'd be bigger."''
- In Ranger's Apprentice, everyone who meets Halt, and later Will, is surprised that they're so short, having envisioned a huge, glorious hero.
- In the Honor Harrington novel In Enemy Hands, Thomas Theisman thinks this of Cordelia Ransom. He doesn't say it, of course.
- In Flashman and the Redskins, Flashy is saved from death at the hands of the Apache by none other than Kit Carson. Carson takes it upon himself to take care of Flashy, travel with him, etc. At one point they're somewhere public when a man comes barging in; he had heard that the great Kit Carson was around and wanted to shake his hand. The small, mild, diffident Carson steps up, while the tall, stalwart Flashy remains in the background. The man can't believe Carson is so small—so Carson gives an almost imperceptible nod to Flashy, at which point the man rushes over and shakes Flashy's hand (and sneers at Carson for trying to fool him). Other Mountain Men hanging around can't stop laughing.
- In the Emberverse, after the average-sized Sam Aylward becomes legendary as "Aylward the Archer," he gets this reaction a lot.
- In the Anita Blake series, Anita gets this a lot. Her reaction is usually along the lines of "Yeah, it disappoints me too."
- The Saga of Hrolf Kraki and Prose Edda relate that Hrolf Kraki of Denmark, the most glorious king of his time, was physically unimpressive. Supposedly he received his epithet when a Swede, Vogg, saw the king for the first time and exclaimed: "I heard say that King Hrolf was the greatest man in the Northlands, but now here sits on the throne a little kraki [a pole ladder], and they call it their king!" (Prose Edda)
- In the Aubrey-Maturin series, Stephen goes to see a local spymaster, Major Beck, who has never met him before but has heard of the brilliant intelligence coups Stephen has pulled off. Beck is disappointed to find that Stephen is 'meager, shabby, undistinguished,' and wearing blue spectacles. Stephen promptly tells him how he personally killed the two dangerous French spies in the area, and hands over all the American Intelligence Chief's personal papers.
'By the time the last document took its place on the desk Dr. Maturin had reached and surpassed the heroic stature expected of him.'
- Invoked in Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian. A dwarf realises that he's only seconds away from being murdered by Opal, so he decides to go out with flair by making his last words an insult. "I always thought you'd be taller. Plus your hips are wobbly."
- The Lay of Paul Twister opens this way: he meets with a client, who had gone to hire a renowned magical rogue, and at first didn't believe that the teenager standing before him, who'd been pulling legendary heists for years, could be the great Paul Twister. Turns out he just ages slowly.
- In Deathstalker, Owen and Hazel seek out Jack Random, the legendary professional rebel, hero of a thousand campaigns against the Empire, whose name still commands respect and fear in several quarters. When they finally find him, he's a broken, shriveled old man, relying on battle drugs to give him the courage he needs to step back into the rebellion, and even then he's not sure he can do it. Owen and Hazel are less then impressed, and it's even rather nebulous for quite some time if he really is Jack Random, or an Imperial impostor or spy.
- The Riftwar Cycle has a couple:
- In Prince of the Blood, this is Prince Erland's first reaction upon meeting the Empress of Kesh, as she's a tiny, ordinary-looking elderly woman. Of course, since she's also the most powerful ruler in the world, he doesn't say anything about it.
- A Crown Imperiled has the leader of the civilized Pantathians say this upon encountering Pug, who they knew mostly through the results of his attempt at exterminating them half a century earlier.
- Pug also gets this in Magician's End from a leader of the Dark Elves.
- In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom is severely disappointed when a visiting US senator fails to meet his expectations.
Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained hard, there was no procession in consequence, and the greatest man in the world (as Tom supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United States Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment—for he was not twenty-five feet high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it.
- Inverted in Dick Francis's Break In. Most people who meet steeplechase jockey Kit Fielding for the first time admit that they were expecting someone shorter. Kit is shorter than average, but he's nowhere near the stereotypical midget most people picture when they think of a jockey.
- The Saga of Arrow-Odd: When Vignir, Odd's son with the giantess Hildigunn, meets his father for the first time, he is stumped that Odd is a normal-sized person, i.e. what amounts to a midget in the eyes of a giant.
"I'm at a loss for words,“ said Vignir.
"Why's that?" asked Odd.
"I can't believe such a puny-looking little wretch as you could be my father," said Vignir.
- The White Company: Everyone knows that Sir Nigel Loring is one of the pre-eminent knights of the age. What the stories often conveniently forget to mention is that he is also short, slender, prematurely bald and near-sighted... he gets this a lot.
- Eidolon has this effect when he actually talks to people. Though he is unquestionably the most powerful superhero alive, nobody that talks to him actually likes him as a person, even the heroes that he's worked with for years.
- Skitter also has this effect. Clockblocker even comments, during an Enemy Mine, that she's shorter than she looks when she's not covered in a shroud of insects.
- Inverted in Andromeda, where Dylan Hunt (played by Kevin Sorbo) gets described as: "[...]huge, like a Greek god."
- In Angel, Illyria reacted along these lines to meeting her priest, Knox:
Illyria: You are the Qwa'ha Xahn.
Knox: I am your priest. I am your servant. I am your guide in this world. I've taken your sacraments and placed them close to my heart according to the ancient ways. That's why you were called to me. We're bound together.
Illyria: (dismissively) My last Qwa'ha Xahn was taller.
- Subverted in Ashes to Ashes:
"You're taller than I imagined."
"I'm bigger in every department."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Jenny: The part that gets me, though, is where Buffy is the Vampire Slayer. She's so little.
- The first time Buffy met Angel (as opposed to the first time he saw her), he tells her "I thought you'd be taller." — Lampshading the fact that Buffy was played by a different actress in the movie.
- A indirect version is used in the episode Prophecy Girl, when Jenny remarks:
- Xander says this about Count Dracula.
- In one episode of Burn Notice, Michael goes to trade information with a Libyan spy. Mike's name is apparently pretty well known in the Middle East's intelligence community, prompting this line:
Anwar: You're Westen? I thought you would be taller.
- In the pilot, a Russian man admits that he (and the rest of the Russian intelligence community) thought that Michael Westen was a code name for a whole team of operatives. "Nope, just me".
- General Beckman from Chuck, played by the diminutive Bonita Friedericy. For a while she only appears on video conferences with the heroes, and the first time she shows up in person, Chuck blurts out, "Wow, Beckman is tiny!"
- In Father Ted, when Dougal is reminded of once meeting the Pope, he brushes it off as unimportant. Ted reminds him that the Pope is God's representative on Earth, to which Dougal replies, "You think he'd be taller."
- The Flash (2014) Barry Allen/The Flash finally gets to meet Savitar outside his Powered Armor. Upon seeing that he's a twisted and evil future version of himself, all Barry can say is "You're not so scary without your armor."
- Game of Thrones. Though he's not tall by any means, Olenna Redwyne expresses disappointment that Tyrion Lannister is a "cowed bookkeeper" (his father has roped him into running the kingdom's finances) instead of the Depraved Dwarf and Deadpan Snarker he's supposed to be. Inverted when Tyrion's father, Lord Tywin, outmaneuvers her during a private political negotiation; Olenna says it's a pleasure to meet a man who finally lives up to his reputation.
- When villains Draco and Silverthorn meet in The Girl from Tomorrow.
Draco: So you're the infamous Silverthorn. I imagined you'd look tougher.
Silverthorn: Looks aren't everything.
- In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys the eponymous hero is often confronted with that statement.
- On Medium,when Joe first meets Captain Push, his first comment to Allison is that he thought the great Captain Push would be taller. He later admits that he got taller as the night went on.
- Inverted in Merlin. Grettir, a dwarf, says that Arthur isn't as short as he expected.
- Inverted with Canadian TV game show host Jim Perry. He was 6'4", and the set of the game show Definition had a hole for him to stand in, so he wouldn't look so much taller than the contestants.
- Power Rangers RPM: Doctor K's reaction to her Rangers' reaction to her Samus Is a Girl reveal.
Dr. K: What? You thought I'd be taller?
- The Professionals: "The Untouchables".
Rahad: Mr Cowley! I have heard of you. You are... much smaller than I imagined.
Cowley: So was Henry the Eighth.
- In Red Dwarf, Kryten has this reaction to the planet Earth the first time he sees it.
"It's exactly like I always imagined, only much shorter."
- Rizzoli & Isles: the team investigates the murderer of an avid MMORPG player, and get a list of his contacts, including one with the name "Grunhilde", whose avatar is a gorgeous blonde Viking and whose real name is Kendra Dee. Frost and Korsak are eager to meet with her ... and she turns out to be a mid-60s woman with a romantic streak and a penchant for writing Runic love letters.
- Sherlock: When the eponymous character, newly famous, meets an employee of the British government:
- Stargate SG-1
Gen. Hammond: I'm assigning Sam Carter to this mission.
- Series opening:
O'Neill: I'd prefer to put together my own team, sir.
Gen. Hammond: Not on this mission, sorry. Carter's our expert on the Stargate.
O'Neill: Where's he transferring form?
Carter: She is transferring from the Pentagon. (enters the briefing room) I take it you're Colonel O'Neill. Captain Samantha Carter reporting, sir!
Carter: He didn't look like that. He was...Lam: Taller?Carter: He was a grown man.
- Later, when teenage-clone O'Neill meets adult original O'Neill, he comments "Wow. I'm taller than I thought."
- In the episode "Ascension", Orlin is a man who once was an ascended being who fell in love with Carter and she eventually had intimate feelings for him as well. Five years later, Orlin comes back in the two part episode "The Fourth Horseman", now in the form of a twelve-year-old boy. Carter had to explin the situation.
- An odd example happens in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Homage". Troi's fiancé (it's an Arranged Marriage) was clearly expecting her to look differently when he first sees her. (Later, the explanation makes things clear; he has been getting telepathic messages from a woman and, because Troi is telepathic, he had assumed they were from her. They were actually from someone else entirely.)
- Senator Vreenak in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "In The Pale Moonlight", when he meets Sisko.
Vreenak: So you're the commander of Deep Space Nine. And the Emissary of the Prophets. Decorated combat officer, widower, father, mentor and... oh, yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion. Somehow I thought you'd be taller.
Sisko: Sorry to disappoint you.
Vreenak: To be honest, my opinion of Starfleet officers is so low, you'd have to work very hard indeed to disappoint me.
- An episode of Star Trek: Voyager called "Live Fast and Prosper" featured a group of aliens who were masquerading as members of the Voyager crew. Janeway got this line from the woman, Dala, who was impersonating her:
Janeway: I have to admit I'm impressed.
Dala: I wish I could say the same. The great Captain Janeway. Somehow I expected you to be taller. I make a better you than you.
Janeway: Oh, I don't know, I'd say we're very much alike. Resourceful, intelligent, ambitious, but with just one tiny difference.
Dala: And what is that?
Janeway: I'm not a liar and a thief.
- Star Trek: Enterprise. A variation in "Bound". Captain Archer is invited to Dinner and a Show (as in scantily-clad dancing girls) by an Orion captain Harrad-Sar, who says that for someone wanted by the Klingons and the Orions, he was expecting Archer to have a more robust appetite.
Archer: With all those people after me, I need to stay quick on my feet.
- Supernatural. Samuel Campbell has this reaction on meeting the angel Castiel for the first time.
Samuel: This is Castiel? You're scrawnier than I pictured.
Castiel: This is a vessel. My true form is approximately the size of your Chrysler building.
- Meg tells John that she expected him to be taller when she meets him. Seeing as she had a lot of Foe Yay with Sam in her previous appearances, he probably set the bar too high.
- When Peter meets Mozzie for the first time in episode four of White Collar.
Peter: I thought you'd be taller.
Mozzie: Me too.
- Averted in The X-Files when Reyes meets Mulder properly for the first time (he was somewhat dead the first time she saw him).
Reyes: Agent Mulder.
Mulder: Agent Reyes?
Reyes: You're taller than I thought.
Mulder: You keep on alluding to a time that we've met and I don't remember.
Reyes: I was there when they found you in the woods. You were... Uh... Yeah. I'm not surprised you don't remember.
- This trope is Older Than Feudalism. The Jews were expecting Jesus to be this huge, powerful "warrior-king" in the mold of David who would gather up an army and start hacking down Romans in cold blood and stuff. Instead, he turned out to be this kindly, quiet-natured teacher who held some get-togethers, tended to some sick people, died, and (according to rumor) then came back to life after three days. That's part of why there's so much continuity debate between the more classic Jewish fanbase and the revisionist Christians.
- King David also had this trope on him: When it came the time for prophet Samuel to anoint the new king, God instructed him to go to a house of a certain Jesse who had many sons. He inspected them, and they were no doubt strong, smart, and reputable, but to the surprise of Jesse and probably Samuel too, none of them were to be the king. Samuel, wondering whether he or God had mistaken the house, asked whether those were really all Jesse's sons. There was one more, a young boy who preferred to spend time alone tending the sheep. Guess which one became the king.
- This was nearly a Running Gag in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. Several incarnations of the tale even include a conversation between Medb and Fergus which suspiciously mirrors the one in Monty Python and the Holy Grail between King Arthur and Tim the Enchanter.
Medb: Why comes he not, Fergus?
Fergus: Cuchulain is there before you.
Medb: I see no one at all save one young lad. I cannot see a warrior near or far.
Fergus: That young lad is that who has done damage to your hosts.
- Swedish stand-up comedian Johan Glans once said something about people coming up to him and pointing out that he looks taller on television, and he somewhat sarcastically wondered how you reply to that: "Oh, I'm sorry. I'll shape up, I promise."
- Jack Dee (appx 5ft6): "People come up to me and say (sarcastic voice) Oooh, you're not as big as you look on the telly. To which I say, "How big's your ***ing telly?!"
- In the same vein, the Cash Cab guy once remarked that he should hire a dwarf version of himself to walk in front of him at all times, so when people came up to the dwarf, they would say, "You look exactly the same size..."
- Rockville: Done in a subtle but funny way in this mostly-German musical. Brian Carr, dead rock star turned guardian angel in training, can only be seen by those willing to believe in his existence — initially, only the children and the elderly. At one point, single mom Jackie has to admit that he must exist and talks to him despite still being unable to see him — and keeps looking in the air over his head (prompting the ones who can see him to point at where his face actually is). Brian isn't particularly short, just not very tall, and looks mostly amused.
- Used a few times in the Baldur's Gate series:
- In the first game, after finishing Chapter 2, people will start mentioning 20-foot-tall heroes in response to the events of that chapter.
- In the final chapter, one of the assassins sent after you is an ogre called Larze, who has seen a picture of your face but is otherwise unaware of how you look and act. The player character can use his/hers at that point rather embellished reputation to claim that you're not yourself, since you're not eight feet tall with glowing eyes and a voice that booms as the heavens, causing the ogre to leave to get a better look at the picture.
- Done twice in the second game. After starting the Mage Stronghold sidequest, the wizard who teleports in to meet you says that he "thought you'd be taller." Also, when talking to the not-quite leader of the Shadow Thieves guild, he'll say that he " was expecting someone... grander" in response to what he's heard about the PC. CHARNAME can even comment on the fact that he's fairly pleasant for someone with the name "Bloodscalp". There's no option to act offended though, even if you're playing as a halfling.
- Jade Empire: The reason your character can walk around freely in the capital even after killing numerous Mooks is that since none of them survived encountering you, nobody knows what you look like and are thus expecting a ten-foot fire-breathing Scourge of the South.
- In the Pokémon games, going from a game of the main series (in which sprites of most Pokémon with similar proportions are basically the same size) to one where they appear to scale may confuse most players when confronted with 'mons, expecially fully-evolved ones, which appeared much bigger before.
- Goto in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords delivers the "I was expecting someone taller" line when he first meets the Jedi Exile.
- Usually played straight in the Spyro the Dragon series... but with an inversion/subversion/lampshading in Spyro: A Hero's Tail:
Ineptune: Ah, you must be Spyro! You're larger than I expected.
Spyro: ... Huh? Normally people I fight say I'm smaller than they expected. You know — trying to psyche me out.
- In Dawn of War: One line of Imperial Guard chatter that can trigger when they spot an Eldar unit: "Those are Eldar? I thought they'd be taller."
- Ruca Milda of Tales of Innocence is Asras' reincarnation. He's shy and notably scrawny, not what most people expect from the reincarnation of Census Army's general.
- Deadpool to Ultimate Spidey in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
- Mysterio takes it a step further, and openly mocks him for it with recycled Yo Mamma jokes.
- Final Fantasy VI has a Shout-Out to Star Wars: if Locke steals an imperial trooper's uniform and goes to rescue Celes in it, she asks "aren't you a little short for an imperial trooper?"
- Dragon Age
Nathaniel: Aren't you supposed to be ten feet tall with lightning bolts shooting out of your eyes?
- Random dialogue from a Commoner Dwarf in the original game includes a line that she thought humans/a Grey Warden (you) would be taller. Her image of it must be rather skewed...
- In Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, an imported Warden can get this (somewhat sarcastic) reaction from Nathaniel Howe upon first encountering him in a prison cell.
- Star Wars: Rebel Assault II, after Dressing as the Enemy:
Rookie One: Hey, aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
Ru Murleen: Shut up.
- World of Warcraft contains a quest which requires you to take an orphan to The High Queen of the dragons. Despite her being about twice as big as the average player, he still comments that he expected her to be somewhat bigger.
- AdventureQuest Worlds uses this trope and lampshades it at the same time in the conclusion of the Vordred storyline, where upon meeting Artix he remarks. 'I always thought you'd be taller...and have a deeper voice.' To which Artix responds 'Yeah I get that a lot.'. This gets repeated when Gravelyn meets Artix for the first time in her ending to the Doomwood saga.
- The bonus boss of Touhou 13: Ten Desires is the youkai's trump card against the resurrected saint who served as the Final Boss. The four heroines of the game expected youkai such as the giant skeleton known as a Gashadokuro. Instead, they got Mamizou, a Tanuki. Granted, she's one of the strongest examples of her species and is as powerful as one would expect from a Bonus Boss, but well, as Marisa put it...
Marisa: Aren't you supposed to be the youkai trump card? I figured you'd be amazing, but you're just a tanuki youkai.
Mamizou: Oh, I hope you're not making light of tanuki. We have quite a bit of influence in youkai society. You might even call us elite.
Mamizou: And in addition, my transformation power is among the top three tanuki of Japan.
Marisa: Sure, but you're still a tanuki, right? The kind that drums on their bellies on the night of the full moon, right?
- Conker's Bad Fur Day:
Conker: Aren't you a little short to be a Grim Reaper?
Gregg: Well, how many Grim Reapers have you met before, mate? What am I supposed to look like?
- In the Suikoden games, this comes up a couple of times.
- In Suikoden, some early townspeople will share rumors that Odessa, the leader of La Résistance, is some kind of nine-feet-tall ogre. While Odessa is right there in your party, and completely unnoticed by the townspeople.
- In Suikoden II, Hoi's impersonating you, but his disguise falls flat when his "True Rune" (actually a bit of body painting) starts to dissolve. Cue one of the villagers admitting that Hoi's actually a little small to be the leader of the anti-Highwind forces. Now consider that Hoi isn't just larger than you, he's pretty hefty. (And that they mistook you for his accomplice...) No way are they going to realize that the genuine article is the genuine article.
Goblin Tinkerer: I thought you'd be taller.
- In Jade Cocoon 2, after Kahu saves the world from Lilith and the Chosen One of Darkness, he meets Mint, who's surprised by how normal-looking he is, given what he recently achieved.
- In Halo 4, Commander Palmer jokingly says she expected the Master Chief to be taller. The Chief is quite a bit taller than she is (depending on the cutscene, she doesn't even come up to the Chief's shoulder). (Canonically, the Master Chief is only 5 inches taller than she is.)
- League of Legends: Poppy is a champion, on an long quest to find the true Hero of Demacia to give him a magic hammer. Being a very responsible and capable girl, she murdered every bandit, beast and monster she encountered as she wandered all across Demacia for centuries. In the story Slayer, she pursues rumors of herself and encounters the statue of herself without realizing it. Of course, the statue portrays her as a seven feet tall man rippling with sharply defined muscles while Poppy is three and a half feet tall Yordle, so it's an understandable mistake.
- Golden Sun: When you save Kolima, people are slightly disappointed that they got four teenage adventurers instead ofhuge, bearded, muscular warriors. Turns into a Brick Joke in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn when Isaac has become just that (Garet only went to Badass Mustache).
- In Shining Wisdom, Alfred reacts this way upon meeting Mars:
"Don't take this the wrong way, but I was expecting someone much, uh... larger. Ah well, size is overrated. You and I are gonna make a great team, anyway!"
- One of the possible comments the Dragonborn can make when first meeting Delphine in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is "I was expecting someone... taller." One of the Companions makes a similar comment when the new Harbinger is announced at the end of that faction's questline.
- In One Shot, when Niko visits a house in the lookout point, one of the robots inside asks if they are the "messiah", and that they were expecting someone taller...or at least someone that didn't look like a kitten.
- In God of War (PS4), when first confronting Kratos, the Stranger remarks that he thought Kratos would be taller. Keep in mind that Kratos is already about a head taller than him. It's Foreshadowing that Baldur doesn't know who Kratos actually is and was expecting to find a Frost Giant.
- In Tales of the Questor, this is a gag when Quentyn visits a newspaper and meets the artist who drew the front page picture of himself, a raccoonmountain of a Questor. Somehow, having the artist go "Oh poop" at seeing how far off she was is hardly flattering. However, Kestrel, Quentyn's friend, tells him that he might as well appreciate the misapprehension as an advantage to thwart his enemies' expectations.
- In Spinnerette, Heather a.k.a. Spinnerette is starting her career as a super-heroine and poses for a newspaper photographer. On the next day, she's very annoyed to discover that they actually photoshopped her taller, because a 5'1 feet tall heroine apparently doesn't strike fear in the hearts of evildoers.
- Bob and George: George and X.
- Oswald of Knights-Errant is, well... "really tiny" for a man known as the Behemoth. Or, according to him, everyone else is too damn tall.
- In True Villains, it is a running gag when someone meets Sebastian. He never seems to live up to the tales they've heard, including a story of him being six foot three.
- Inverted in S.S.D.D with Commander Krutz (a very tall and muscular and, as this is a Furry Comic, fierce looking dog), everyone that sees him and his bodyguard (much shorter than him) always tries to shake the hand fo the bodyguard.
- Karin-dou 4koma: The Dreaded Seren has the (temporary) form of a cute child when Meguru and Rindou each meet her, taking them quite off-guard.
- In Freefall, this is the punchline when Florence finally meets Dr. Bowman. It's a punchline because she really was expecting someone taller — namely, a human.
- In Homestuck, the fandom went ballistic when they realized that Doc Scratch, an omniscient, omnipotent badass, is the size of a puppet.
- Shotgun Shuffle: Danny's first words to his business partner after meeting him in person is that he thought he'd be taller. This is while said partner(who is at least a head shorter than him), is choke holding him in the air.
- In Stand Still, Stay Silent, Tuuri had heard that Swedes were quite tall, making her a little disappointed when her new Swedish teammate turns out to be average-sized, and actually a little shorter than her own cousin.
- In Past Division, when the party meets Thorn, he says the trope almost verbatim.
Thorn: Well, you must be the new recruits. I have to say, I thought you'd be taller.
- Aang, from Avatar: The Last Airbender is supposedly a 112-year-old master of all elements. Thanks to being a Human Popsicle for a hundred years, he's really a 12-year-old kid who likes penguin sledding. This is commented on by Zuko the first time they come face to face:
Zuko: You're just a child!
Aang: Well, you're just a teenager!
- In Count Duckula, when Duckula had some movie producers come to make a movie of his life, the producers ended up casting Igor for the part instead because they weren't expecting the real Count Duckula to be so puny.
- Hiccup gets this in Dragons: Riders of Berk, when Alvin the Treacherous can't believe that the famous "Dragon Conquerer" is "Stoick's little embarrassment" — a scrawny little boy with a fake leg.
- A Family Guy Cutaway Gag depicts the second coming of Jesus, who recognizes this trope.
Jesus: Okay, everybody, uh, I know you were expecting something else, but as science will tell you, people were a lot shorter 2,000 years ago.
Lois (Leia): (to Luke) Aren't you a little fat to be a stormtrooper?
- In Laugh It Up, Fuzzball, the "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper" scene is parodied.
Chris (Luke): Well, stay here and rot, you stuck-up bitch.
Lois (Leia): Wait! Who are you?
Chris (Luke): I'm Luke Skywalker. Me and Han Solo and Obi-Wan are here to rescue you.
Lois (Leia): Wait! Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Chris (Luke): Yeah. Suddenly I'm not so fat, huh?
- In the Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes episode "World's Tiniest Heroes," Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man) says this to the shrunken Four.
- In Gummi Bears, when Cubbi became the superhero the Crimson Avenger, the rumors get so out of hand that he is thought to be a tall human. This helps keep the existence of the Gummi Bears secret.
- An indirect example: In one episode of the Hercules TV series, the Evil Plan of King Midas involves stealing the winged shoes of Hermes and using them himself. But he has some difficulty putting them on, and wonders how a god can have such small feet...
- In the Disney animated holiday special, Mickey's Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Jiminy Cricket. When he introduces himself to a bemused Uncle Scrooge, Scrooge replies, "Ohh. I thought you'd be taller." (Making this even funnier, the Ghost of Christmas Present, who comes later, is a giant, specifically the giant in the Disney version of Jack and the Beanstalk.)
- Played With in the Milo Murphy's Law episode "Smooth Opera-tor," when Milo is Pushed in Front of the Audience in place of an adult performer:
Opera Singer: You're shorter than I remember.
Milo: This is the physique that I was cursed with.
Opera Singer: I'll admit that I'm confused,/You're not the one that I rehearsed with.
- A Pink Panther short had him seeing a "Mr. Big" but he turns out to be a very small man behind a desk. The Panther sneezes and the man winds up in the wastebasket.
- Pound Puppies (2010): In one episode, the dogs are being visited by a legendary puppy rescuer known only as The General. When The General actually arrives, they're all surprised to find that she's a fluffy pink poodle with a southern drawl whose reputation seems to come from the fact that male dogs fall all over themselves to do what she asks.
- ReBoot: Rare villainous example in Season 4's Supervirus Daemon. Given what Supervirus Gigabyte looked like and that Daemon was even MORE powerful, few were expecting a sweet, shiny, brightly-colored Jeanne d'Archétype.
- In the United States dub of The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, when one of the Smurfs introduces Papa Smurf to Peewit as "the Great Smurf", Peewit jokingly wonders how tall "the greatest Smurf" must be.
- Star Wars Rebels: In "Brothers of the Broken Horn", after Ezra introduces himself to Hondo Ohnaka as Lando Calrissian, Hondo remarks:
"So, at last I meet the semi-famous Lando Calrissian! A little younger than I expected."
- Total Drama: In the first episode Beth runs up to Chris, the host of the show, and hugs him; after letting go she comments, "Wow, you're much shorter in real life."
- In Wakfu season 2 episode 6, a trio of Sadida children comments that they were expecting someone taller about the red-headed warrior — i.e. the resurrected Sadlygrove.
- In a Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas special, Pooh fears he has made it impossible for the letter he and his friends wrote for Santa Claus to reach him, so he disguises himself as Santa in an attempt to rectify his mistake and get his friends the presents they wished for. Unlike Santa, Pooh isn't very stealthy; Tigger, Rabbit and Eeyore each notice him coming into their houses, and each comment on how they thought Santa would be taller. Of course, this is Justified as Pooh is obviously not the real Santa and, being a teddy bear, can't be more than a foot or so tall.
- It is not uncommon to make movie actors (especially in male lead roles) look taller by tricks like shooting only head on or from below, pairing them with shorter costars, have them stand on boxes, or even use downsized sets. A few famous actors that were or are a lot shorter in real life than most people realize(d) are Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone (real height about 5'9"), Boris Karloff (5'11"), Mel Gibson (5'9"), Tom Cruise (5'7"), Chuck Norris (5'8"), Robert Downey, Jr. (5'8"), Josh Hutcherson (5'6"), Zac Efron (5'8"), Lucy Liu (5'1"), Daniel Radcliffe (5'5") and Arnold Schwarzenegger (whose height is officially given as 6'2", but probably is less than 6'1").
- Jon Stewart of The Daily Show often jokes about getting this reaction from fans in his studio audience.
- A great many fictional stories have someone meet the president of the United States or some other important leader and find him shorter than expected. Although it might not be likely in Real Life much, since the last average-sized president was the 5'9" Harry Truman (Jimmy Carter as well; he's a half-inch taller than Truman was).
- People with some frequency imagine powerful political leaders they haven't seen in real life as taller than they are. In reality, there is no significant correlation between height and political office: Before Obama was elected, Canadian PM Stephen Harper was the only G8 leader taller than 6'0". A small selection of world leaders and their height.◊
- In the reality TV show I Get That A Lot where famous persons pretend to be ordinary citizens who just happen to look like a famous person, the late Larry Hagman was on and someone told him he wasn't "Larry Hagman" because the real Larry Hagman was taller.
- In the introduction to Dangerous Visions, Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison® recount their first meeting, when young fan Ellison walked up to the elder author and said, "I think you're (beat) nothing." Ellison was invoking this trope, although Asimov initially took it as something more insulting.
- The Reverend Billy Graham once told a story of how he was in a hotel for a conference. He was in an elevator along with his associates and businessmen who were also staying in the hotel. One of the businessmen turned to another and said, "I heard Billy Graham is staying here". The men in the elevator smiled and pointed Graham out to him. The businessman sized him up and said "What an anticlimax". Graham chuckled and said, "I'm sorry, this is all there is."
- The Room's Tommy Wiseau. Given his broad shoulders and overall musculature, you'd be surprised to find out he's no more than 5'5".
- Although not seen in person by anyone, most modern depictions of Christian figures are influenced by El Greco, who stretched his subjects into beanpole physiques for symbolic reasons. Older depictions are often much shorter and stouter.
- In a famous anecdote Alexander the Great was said to have visited the Persian harem shortly after the Battle of Issos alongside his dearest friend and probable lover, Hephaistion. The vanquished Darius' mother, Sisygambis was said to have begged for her life not from Alexander but from Hephaistion, mistaking him for the king, since Alexander was much smaller, and from all accounts younger looking and less intimidating than Hephaistion. When she realized her mistake, Alexander corrected her by saying " You weren't wrong. He is Alexander too."
- When a fat acceptance blogger made a post about meeting a famous fat activist Ragen Chastain in person, she offhandly mentioned that at first she had a hard time recognizing her since she looked much different in real life than in the pictures on her official website, all of which were taken few years before, back when she weighted considerably less.