Mr. Burns: My league! My beautiful league! All dead.
Smithers: Even monsters need air, sir.
In comedy works, it sometimes happens that a character will attempt to summon their minions, reveal a surprise character/animal/pet, or use a creature-based attack, only to have said minions/mooks/critters show up dead or incapacitated. Why? Because the character forgot to feed them or otherwise pay for their upkeep.
This trope is frequently a parody, is almost always Lampshaded, and is often used as a form of Deconstruction applied to other tropes, such as Zerg Rush, We Have Reserves, Summon Magic, and animal-based weapons or Death Traps such as Bee Bee Gun or Shark Pool, particularly if the villain makes a point of starving them to "keep them hungry". When it happens, it's usually to the Miser Advisor, Jerkass, Cloudcuckoolander, or The Ditz characters, as they're presumably the kinds of people who would be too flaky or too cheap to feed the minions. The Butt-Monkey or Cosmic Plaything may also suffer this fate as a natural consequence of the universe screwing with them. When it happens to an Evil Overlord, it can be a result of incompetence on the part of the Minion with an F in Evil.
Compare It Works Better with Bullets, For Want of a Nail, and Reality Ensues. Contrast Infinite Supplies, Offscreen Villain Dark Matter, Perpetual-Motion Monster. A good source of Mook Depletion. A subtrope and subversion of Crazy-Prepared.
- A bafflingly dark M&Ms ad had a man realizing that his girlfriend never opened the gift that he had gotten for her, and after rushing to the closet and tearing it open he watches the anthropomorphic M&M inside choke on its last breath.
- There was an incompetent Mad Scientist Dr. Fishtein in Górsky & Butch. All his death traps involved some kind of predatory fish, always dead because he kept forgetting about water...
- Defied in the miniseries Thessaly: Witch for Hire. The title witch is revealed to have captured or enslaved several monsters over the centuries. When her would-be suitor Fetch accidentally makes her a target for a seemingly invulnerable beast, she decides to let most of these monsters go because she doesn't expect to survive her encounter with the beast, and thinks it would be cruel to let her assorted captives die.
- In one Daredevil story arc, the hero ends up in an old mansion converted into a gigantic house of DEATH. At one point, he gets thrown into a tube and ends up in a pool... which, due to lack of maintenance, featured a half empty base, and a suffocating shark.
- The comic book adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis features this (somewhat surprisingly, given the franchise's general use of Durable Deathtrap)— Indy and Sophia fall into a pit of alligator skeletons, which are of course long dead due to the temple being abandoned for millenia, prompting Sophia to remark that it isn't really much of a deathtrap anymore.
- The Mane Six get a warning about a giant monster in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW). They eventually encounter said monster's remains, noting that the Evil Overlord forgot to feed it.
- Asterix: One story has Asterix & Obelix thrown to wild beasts, who've been starved for a few days to make them nice and vicious. They take so long in actually getting on scene, however, that the only animal visible is a happy-looking lion with a very distended belly.
- In Knights of the Dinner Table, this serves as the basis for the classic "Bag Wars" arc. Brian, while checking the list of what his character is keeping in his bag of holding, discovers a complement of hirelings he had placed in there and forgotten about. When he investigates, he discovers that the hirelings have used the resources of the bag to build a keep and declare themselves an independent nation. Writer Jolly Blackburn claims this storyline was inspired by an actual incident in one of his games where a player hid hirelings in a bag of holding in order to smuggle them into an enemy stronghold and then forgot about them.
- In Wormy, the "Siege of the Iron Keep" wargaming set that Wormy had ordered took four months to be delivered. Unfortunately, the enclosed playing pieces had only been provided with six weeks of rations.
- In this strip, Garfield attempts to have a singing and dancing mouse that he's been training for four years perform for the reader, only to discover he forgot to cut air holes in the mouse's box.
- The Pony POV Series has this happen in Dark World as a Shout-Out to The Simpsons example. After Traitor Dash and the Valeyard have been beaten, Discord orders Fluttercruel to summon his League of Auxiliary Minions...only to discover, even though he made them The Ageless, he'd forgotten to provide a way for air to get into the room and they all died. It later turns out that Angry Pie killed them all in a Mama Bear rage when they tried to rape one of her foals.
- Mentioned in The Two Sides of Daring Do. While exploring an ancient temple, the heroes avoid a trap that would have dropped them into a Shark Pool. AK Yearling asks how in the world the sharks are still alive.
- In Wintersmith, Roland and the Nac Mac Feegle travel to a disused Underworld to rescue the Summer Lady, and find the skeleton of a three-headed dog that had apparently starved to death.
- In Sourcery, there's a sequence where the Grand Vizier attempts to find a way of killing/torturing Rincewind, but keeps being told there's something wrong with the device. For example, when he suggests throwing Rincewind in a cage with a tiger, he's told the tiger is ill. They then resolve to throw him in the Snake Pit, which may be an example of this also because it only contains one snake, which is rather tame and doesn't attack anyone.
- Overlaps with Buried Alive in Poe's short story "The Premature Burial"
- Subverted in the H.P. Lovecraft story The Dunwich Horror, where the monster escapes from its prison when its brother, Wilbur Whateley, fails to return to feed it after being mauled to death by a guard dog.
- In a variant, one of the Magic: The Gathering tie-in novels had an ancient (and slightly senile) wizard summon up a vicious unnatural horror he remembered from his youth - only to get a heap of dusty bones. This prompted him to think something along the lines of "Has it really been so long?"
- In Good Omens, the angel Aziraphale finds a dead bird lurking in his old, disused magician's coat. Oddly, it's the demon Crowley who restores the bird's life and sets it free.
- The Jungle Book: Mowgli falls into a treasure hoard guarded by an ancient albino cobra. However, the cobra is so old it has no venom left.
- Played straight in the fifth season of Angel, when Illyria returns to Vahla'hanesh to get her demonic army. She's been dead so long they have all crumbled to dust.
- Any time GOB performs an illusion involving animals in Arrested Development
- One episode of Horrible Histories covered Tudor medical treatments. One of them involved covering live spiders in butter and feeding them to the sick victim. They were about to try it, but couldn't, because they forgot to feed the spiders.
- One woman on an episode of Fatal Attractions was attacked by her pet tigers because she could no longer afford to feed all of them and had to resort to scrounging for roadkill.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Howard is preparing to do a magic show when he finds an old trick in his closet involving a metal tin and a live dove. When he opens the tin, feathers fly out and the sight makes him retch.
- In a sketch from John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme parodying heist movies, this is how the crew got past one of the security features: a wolf that hasn't been fed for five weeks, and is constantly being prodded by a robotic arm to keep it annoyed.
Carrie Quinlan: What you have there is a wolf skeleton being poked by an electronic stick. I mean, as modern art it's a provocative statement, but as a security feature...
- One of the bosses of that long-forgotten NES game Monster Party apologizes when you enter its room: "Sorry, I'm dead." Lets Player DeceasedCrab takes his name from this boss.
- Keeping your pet(s) fed in NetHack is important (and fortunately quite easy). Feeding them treats will train them to fetch. Also, being separated from your pet(s) (on a different level) for too long will lead to them going feral. A possible YASD is being killed by a former pet.
- Averted in Nintendogs: If you neglect to feed your dog, eventually it will simply "run away." But it returns no worse for wear (if a little dirtier) soon afterwards.
- In The Sims and its sequels:
- It is possible, albeit difficult, to starve your Sims to death by neglect. The difficult part is because the poor things will try anything to feed themselves until the fridge runs out of food and they're too broke to order pizza, unless you intentionally trap them in a room with no doors. Attempt this on a child, however, and a Social Services worker will come to take them away.
- Dogs and cats in the games are treated like infants/children or infants, toddlers, and children depending on what version you are playing (apparently Child Services doesn't care about teens), but fish and other small animals can be starved if you forget to feed them.
- Also the University expansion for the second game lets you get a "cowplant", if you "forget" to feed the cowplant it will set out a cake-shaped lure on its tongue, which will attract non-household sims on the lot, which will then be eaten by the plant. Needless to say many many players will use the cowplant to get rid of non-player sims they don't like. Especially since the plant produces milk that will make the sim that drinks it younger. And some sims want to "drink" sims they don't like.
- In The Sims Medieval YOU can forget to feed the monster! Specifically, there's a huge tentacled beast used to execute Sims, and Spies and Knights are frequently assigned "Feed The Beast" as a responsibility. Sadly, they can only throw meat in, not Sims. And if they do literally forget to do it, the monster doesn't seem to suffer any ill effects. On the other hand, there is a quest where you have to cure the Beast of an illness.
- As of 2012, herbivorous animals in Dwarf Fortress need to graze in a pasture, or they will starve to death. The mechanics of this are still pretty wonky, and several larger animals literally cannot eat fast enough to keep from starving. So much for your army of war elephants.
- In Mass Effect 2, the captain's cabin on the Normandy 2 features a huge aquarium that you can fill with fish. And if you forget to feed them between missions, you'll be refilling it with fish, over and over and over again.
- Bonetail of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a subversion, in that despite being reduced to a fossilized skeleton after a millenium of neglect, he is still an undead beast and the most powerful enemy in the game.
- In AdventureQuest Worlds, Grimskull, the master of a sadistically devious labyrinth filled with evil instakill traps, has a Villainous Breakdown upon finding out that Raxgore, the unstoppable juggernaut he intended to send after you, has starved to death due to not having been fed in ten years, and that all the necromancers that could have raised him as undead had been eaten by Binky, his man-eating unicorn and one of the most brutal bosses you will likely face.
- Averted here. No way will Hades ever forget to feed this adorable three-headed puppy!
- Used twice in 8-Bit Theater — first when Bikke tries to attack the Light Warriors with his pirate minions, only to discover that they are all dead or dying of scurvy because he was too cheap to buy supplies. Later happens to Thief, who forgot to feed his lawninja.
Black Mage: I don't get it. If they're dead then how did they know when to deploy? Hell, how have they been following us?
Thief: They are exceptionally trained.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: In Beeman's interlude, here. "Wait, how long ago did I load this?"
- A variation in The B-Movie Comic: The Big Bad of the second movie sends sharks with Frickin' Laser Beams after the heroes, only forgetting that a shark can only live underwater...
- Chainmail Bikini plays with this. On the one hand, besieging the goblins' cave and starving them out so you can sell them trail rations is a perfectly good Take a Third Option. Too bad the quest is to "recover the pigs stolen by the goblins," and they were being kept in the cave. Of course, it took Marcus to point this out to the GM...
- O tries to invoke this in a Commissioned strip, to deal with a player who keeps his familiar in a sack and never makes any reference to it except when it's currently useful. He's talked down to the familiar having just run away due to neglect.
- Also used dramatically in The Dementia of Magic: When Matt sees all sorts of dying monsters in the dungeon, he correctly guesses the evil sorceress that has been harassing and taunting him is not that competent.
- The Dreadful does this in #059.
Liz: Wow, I forgot I had this fairy in a bottle thing.
- Dark Legacy Comics: The Ditz tries to keep a turkey safe just before thanksgiving, so he builds a wall around it and guards it for a week.
Krom: Dude, you know you have to like, feed those things, right?
- Penny Arcade once demonstrated the trope with a Pokémon.
- Inverted in Sluggy Freelance, where failure to give Satan's feline offspring milk on a daily basis results in them becoming extremely dangerous, and they're otherwise docile. The entire plot of the first K I T T E N all started because one of their caretakers switched from the real deal to a soy-based substitute; the sequel involved a government conspiracy depriving the town of milk so they could reproduce the conditions of two years ago.
- In one story arc, Bruno the Bandit is planning to kidnap a girl for ransom and begins to reflect on the first time he tried something like that only to come to a sudden realization. Cut to them in the attic observing the Bound and Gagged skeleton of Bruno's first ransom attempt.
- In Drowtales, Kiel'ndia has been feeding her friend Naal'suul, who succumbed to her demonic taint earlier in the story, for years in her hiding place under their old school. When she runs off to another city for a few chapters she gets back and realizes Naal hasn't eaten in days, so she promptly heads back to fix this. When she gets there Naal attacks her and then goes on a rampage. Ironically, this ultimately saves Kiel and possibly the entire world, as it results in Naal being present when Kiel's "Big sister" Kharla'ggen loses control after she's forcibly merged with a Demon God and is this close to mind-controlling Kiel too before Naal jumps in to try and eat Kharla, ultimately leading to both her and Kharla's demise.
- Averted in Erfworld: If you fail to pay the upkeep, the unit disappears, and the leader is normally given a psychic indicator that their forces have decreased from starvation. If the leader doesn't get such an update, then that's usually due to "Carnymancer" trickery and the ignored death is intentionally orchestrated.
- We do not know what a certain reviewer wears on his head, but apparently it gets cranky when he forgets to feed it.
- In The Thrilling Adventure Hour episode "Sarcophagus Now", Frank and Sadie Doyle visit an ancient pyramid where, among the death traps, is a room with hundreds of snakes. It would be quite frightening, were it not for the fact the snakes have been dead a very long time.
Frank: I don't know who thought they were being clever loading a place up with snakes, but they never had a goldfish nor a guinea pig for a pet. You have to feed animals, Ancient Egyptians! Oh, also they will not live to be thousands of years old even if you do feed them!
- In Critical Role, the Mighty Nein are exploring some ancient ruins and a trap is triggered that summons a swarm of venomous snakes. While in most Dungeons & Dragons games, this would be the cue for a battle, this trope is invoked instead; all the snakes are dead.
- Family Guy loves this trope.
- In one instance, Peter reveals he'd been saving a pony for an easy way to cheer up Meg when needed. Opens the closet, sees its skeleton.
Peter: Uh that's right, ponies... ponies like food, don't they?
- A similar thing occurs in another episode where he stashed party balloons, streamers, and a clown on the chance where he was finally right about something.
Lois: You were right, Peter.
Peter: No way! I finally get to do this!
(pulls on a rope which drops balloons and confetti and unrolls a banner that says Peter's Right)
Peter: I had that set up fifteen years ago. Hey where's the clown?
Lois: We have to do something about the FCC. Pack your bags, Peter, we're going to Washington DC.
(skeleton with a clown nose and a rainbow afro wig falls from the ceiling)
Peter: Oh, there he is.
- In one instance, Peter reveals he'd been saving a pony for an easy way to cheer up Meg when needed. Opens the closet, sees its skeleton.
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Jon digs a top hat out of a trunk while mentioning that he hasn't practiced the trick in 20 years. He then reaches into the hat and pulls out a rabbit skeleton, to which Garfield remarks, "Maybe you should've fed the rabbit."
- The Simpsons has done this at least twice.
Mr Burns: My League!! My beautiful League!!Smithers: Even monsters need air, sir.Mr Burns: *grumbles* Well, gather their watches!
- Mr Burns orders the assembly of his League Of Evil, and opens a hidden door to a meeting room... only to reveal the long-dead skeletons of an outlaw cowboy, a Nazi officer, a Saracen, a samurai lord and a Mad Scientist.
- Disco Stu's, er, aquarium-shoes.
"Uh, your fish are dead."
"Yeah, I... can't get them out of there."
- The Venture Bros.
- The Monarch had a trap in his lair which consisted of releasing a horde of "man-eating butterflies"... except he forgot to feed them, so Brock just had several hundred dead butterflies dumped on his head. The Monarch then berates his henchmen for the mistake.
- On a related note, at one point Dr. Venture is going through his mail, and opens a package containing a coiled cobra, poised to strike, and the words "Die, Dr. Venture!" written in blood. After a moment, the snake crumbles into dust, at which point he checks the postmark, realizing a) the package has been on his desk for years, and b) "I really have to get my shit together."
- Brickleberry had Woody Johnson trying to come up with ideas to keep the new Secretary Of the Interior from firing him, and tries to summon a group of Oompa Loompas to help him.
Woody: *plays a flute. Nothing happens* WHERE THE HELL ARE THEM OOMPA LOOMPAS?!*cut to the Loompas rotting remains in a cage*Woody: GODDAMNIT, forgot to feed them!
- Right Now Kapow plays this for laughs in a single sketch. The Villain has captured the heroes and hung them over a giant tank filled with sharks that he starved just for the occasion. The silhouette of a shark appears in the water but quickly sinks to the bottom of the tank along with several others indicating their death and prompting one of the captive heroes to ask how long it has been since the sharks were fed.
- DuckTales (2017): In "From the Confidential Casefiles of Agent 22!", a flashback to the 60's had Scrooge and Mrs. Beakley explore a booby trapped island, which included a pool full of piranhas. In the present, Scrooge and Webby go to the island, and they find that the piranha have all died. Scrooge complained that having to wade through a pool of dead piranhas was even worse than when they were alive.
- Neglect has led to the death of many a beloved pet (or even child) in Real Life, for reasons ranging from forgetfulness to addiction to malice. Since this is neither funny nor relevant, please refrain from adding examples.
- There's a classic riddle about a man who is given the choice of taking his chances with cannibals, or being thrown into a pit full of lions who haven't eaten in a year. He chooses the lions and escapes, because the lions have obviously died at this point. A variation has a man forced to choose between three doors, one having raging fires behind, the second having assassins with loaded guns, and the third with lions that haven't eaten in 3 years.
- Admit it; you've had a virtual pet that you left alone for ages and came back only to find it was dead, diseased, and surrounded by its own crap. Tamagotchis can take care of themselves.
- A slightly more family-friendly variation happens in real-life to Animal Crossing games. If you forget to visit every so often, you start to lose your town to the inexorable decay of time—without maintenance, buildings become dilapidated, fields are overgrown, belongings rot, and townsfolk leave. No one actually dies, but your village is little more than a ghost town by that point.