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Hostile Animatronics

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"Now, concerning your safety, the only real risk to you as a night watchman here, if any, is the fact that these characters, uh, if they happen to see you after hours, probably won't recognize you as a person. They'll p— most likely see you as a metal endoskeleton without its costume on. Now, since that's against the rules here at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, they'll probably try to... forcefully stuff you inside a Freddy Fazbear suit."
Phone Guy, Five Nights at Freddy's

Ah, animatronics, a staple at any "child friendly pizza house" or amusement park. Too bad they're terrifying. And sometimes, they'll come to life and try to kill you.

Now, the animatronics don't have to actually kill anyone, or even, strictly, be trying to. They just have to attack.

The origins of this trope lie in a phenomenon called the "uncanny valley." This is when something has human-like features, but doesn't imitate them closely enough, and so a person looking at it feels unsettled or frightened. Animatronics built for children are typically bright and colorful, and behave in a friendly manner (sometimes a little too friendly), but sometimes lean too close to the valley and make children scream in terror instead of delight. They're also huge (taller than a grown man), strong, and made of metal, making it easy to imagine them accidentally harming a child. Even more so if they start malfunctioning, st-st-st-stuttering and g-g-gliiiiiitching when they speak, or have their programming hijacked to turn them into killer robots.

Damaged animatronics turn up the scary factor and invoke the robotic version of Body Horror, with missing eyes or Glowing Eyes of Doom (preferably red), other missing or visibly broken parts, exposed and sparking wiring, etc. (Sometimes they're so damaged they shouldn't logically be able to move, but chalk that up to the Rule of Scary.) Long-forgotten, decayed animatronics at an abandoned family restaurant or Amusement Park of Doom may behave like giant, super strong versions of a Vengeful Abandoned Toy. But, surprisingly often this kind of character turns out to be a Tragic Monster when sentient. After all, it was originally built to make children happy, but something went wrong and turned it into a killer.

Sub-Trope of Killer Robot. Compare Creepy Mascot Suit, which often goes hand-in-hand with this trope because they both resemble anthropomorphic animals, and Monster Clown, another trope about a source of light-hearted entertainment being evil.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop: In the episode "Pierrot le Fou", it's unclear whether the robots at Space Land are actively trying to kill Spike, or if they're just getting in the way, but they cause plenty of mayhem, and a giant one ends up crushing the bad guy to death.
  • At the start of EDENS ZERO, a virus turns the kind and welcoming robots at the Granbell Kingdom into human-hating automatons, and their first order of business is to try burning Rebecca and Happy at the stake and gang up on Shiki, whom the robots raised as one of their own. One of the robots in particular is an old Robot Soldier dolled up as a king, making him especially dangerous. It turns to be a subversion, however; the robots simply put on an act to get Shiki to leave with Rebecca into outer space, as they were Secretly Dying and there were no other humans on their entire planet, which would've doomed Shiki to become The Aloner.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the Joker has turned the derelict World of the Future Fair into his lair. He uses the female chef animatronic of the House of the Future for mundane things like cutting sausage... but he can also press a button to have it attack opponents such as Andrea. In true Joker fashion, the animatronic has a mad laugh when attacking.

    Films — Live Action 
  • The Banana Splits Movie has the titular characters, who go berserk and start murdering all the adults in the studio when their show is canceled.
  • The Hug: Pandory is the face of Pandory's Pan Pizza Palace, and he has a tendency to eat any kids who get too close to him.
  • Alluded to in Jurassic Park (1993). Despite the last several hours of chaos inflicted by a Tyrannosaurus who escaped her captivity and an employee going rogue sabotaging the park, John Hammond tries to compare the crisis to how when Disneyland opened, nothing worked. Ian Malcolm, having already been on the wrong end of the rampaging tyrannosaur, bitterly snarks that if Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirate animatronics at least won't eat the tourists.
  • The Man with the Golden Gun: The cowboy and gangsters (including Al Capone, of all people) inside Scaramanga's Fun House shoot at the people Scaramanga lures into it for his training with live targets, but it's only blanks. The real danger comes from Scaramanga himself, when he manages to reach his golden gun.
  • Westworld is the Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker. A robot gunslinger in a theme park goes berserk and starts shooting guests for real.
  • Willy's Wonderland stars Nicolas Cage working as a night janitor at the titular Suck E. Cheese's, who ends up having to fend off the demonically possessed animatronics.
  • Downplayed in the Wonderful World of Disney TV movie The Whiz Kid and the Carnival Caper. A carnival's animatronic Frankenstein-type monster is used to capture a pair of baddies. One of the bad guys shoots the monster, which stops working but falls on him, keeping him pinned until the police show up.

    Literature 
  • In The Kingdom Keepers, the Mooks usually take the form of animatronics wandering outside the attractions where they are usually found.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of CSI, the crew investigate the death of a college student whose body has apparently been bitten by a tyrannosaurus. It turns out that he was killed at an animatronic dinosaur traveling attraction, knocked off a ladder by a romantic rival to fall directly into the animatronic T. rex's open jaws.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Chase", an animatronic Frankenstein's Monster (built for a funfair Haunted House) destroys a Dalek.
  • Saturday Night Live has the Merryville Brothers sketches. Two cast members would ride a fun house coaster past animatronic singers, then the ride breaks down, trapping the riders in one room. They would then be menaced by three increasingly creepy robots (played by Bill Hader, Taran Killam, and that episode's host) while the mechanics try to fix the ride.
  • Red Dwarf: In the episode "Meltdown", the crew find a planet built as a theme park, occupied by "wax droids" of historical figures. Over the millennia, the droids have broken their programming and are now engaged in a planetwide war between the good and evil characters. One side somehow ends up enlisting Rimmer as their new military leader in order to break the stalemate. He... technically succeeds.

    Music 

    Video Games 
  • Downplayed with the plywood Blue Badger animatronic from Ace Attorney, as it's not sentient or even physically capable of harm, but the court finds its cheaply made appearance very creepy, and its involvement in the case "Rise from the Ashes" gives everyone trouble at several points — including the true culprit, as its placement secured a bloody handprint left on the locker behind it just by being in front of it, meaning that it could've only been placed by the real killer at a certain time.
  • Most of the robot enemies in Atomic Heart have this sort of design aesthetic. That's because the facility where they were built was trying to use Soviet Superscience primarily with peaceful applications in mind. The robots were mostly supposed to be used for domestic service and entertainment. The facility even has a showroom for their inventions including mock-ups of apartments for the robots to demonstrate doing chores and a theater where the robots would perform for visitors. Other than that, some of the robots that were designed for military purposes have a sort of cartoony look to them, like the fat bomb throwing robot from the trailer. Also, the lab assistant bots were apparently designed as animatronic replicas of one of the scientists at the facility.
  • BioShock Infinite:
  • In CarnEvil, the entire amusement park has gone amok, and the animatronics, including mechanical clowns and dinosaurs from a ride, are among the many enemies the players will face.
  • Case: Animatronics features animatronics that have turned hostile. In the story mode, your objective is to investigate the facility's darkened hallways while avoiding being caught and murdered by the animatronics. In multiplayer, the player can assume the role of the animatronic for a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the player survivors.
  • Dark Deception has these in the form of the Joy Joy Gang, a sentient trio of demons that resemble mascots at first but have robotic skeletons underneath. All three of them believe that Happiness Is Mandatory, and they're more than willing to pulverize you horribly if you aren't happy. Oh, and there's hundreds of them to deal with.
  • Epic Mickey:
    • Played with in the first game. The game features animatronic versions of Disney classics such as Donald Duck and Goofy, but while they appear terrifying, thanks to their missing parts, they are actually just as friendly as the characters they were built to look like. On the other hand, we have the Beetleworx, a bunch of killer robots inspired by the animatronics at Disney World. The "Small World" clock tower might also count, having been equipped with mechanical arms to try and crush Mickey and driven mad by having to listen to the attraction's song.
    • Double subverted in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, where we learn that, in the first game, the Mad Doctor turned himself into an animatronic so he could control the Shadow Blot. However, in this game, he has turned good and wants to help save Wasteland. Then it turns out that he was lying, and he becomes the Big Bad, though if you defeat him using paint, he becomes a real Toon along with performing a musical Heel–Face Turn, leaving this trope ultimately deconstructed.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's (probably the Trope Codifier of the mid-to-late 2010s) revolves around playing a deadly game of "Red Light, Green Light" with killer animatronics at a shabby family pizza joint haunted by the ghosts of murdered children. The player has to keep an eye on Freddy Fazbear and his friends and make sure that they don't get past the player's meager defenses. Exceptions are the Phantom Animatronics (as they're phantoms), the Nightmare Animatronics (as they're nightmares), Glamrock Freddy (unless he runs out of power or when he's possessed by Burntrap), the Sun version of the Daycare Attendant (and Eclipse once Sun's and Moon's personalities are merged), and Glamrock Bonnie (as he was destroyed before Vanny could reprogram him into a straight example).
  • Pizza Tower: The surprisingly creepy "Don't Make a Sound" level has a group of Toppin-themed animatronics that Peppino must contend with while exploring the abandoned Pizza Boy restaurant that the level is set in. Each one is an Implacable Man, and if they manage to catch him they'll subject the player to a Jump Scare and temporarily turn him into a doll, meaning that when they show up, the correct response is to run like hell... at least until near the end, at which point Peppino manages to get his hands on a shotgun, allowing him to turn the tables on the animatronics.
  • The enemies in Scooby-Doo! Unmasked are "mubber" movie monster animatronics created by Monstrous Fright and Magic which someone is using to commit crimes.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: The knock-off theme park Loo-Loo Land has a band of decaying animatronics led by a robotic duplicate of the demon jester Fizzarolli, who Blitzo has some history with, leading to a battle that ends up burning the park down.
  • Squimpus McGrimpus is an Analog Horror YouTube channel once dedicated to Five Nights at Freddy's content. The channel can be found here, and the playlist containing the full FNAF VHS series can be found here.
  • The Walten Files is an Analog Horror series that takes a lot of inspiration from Five Nights at Freddy's, and tells a story with a similar premise of disturbing Haunted Technology animatronics that have killed and maimed people, their bodies being stuffed into the robot suits. However, the form of media and presentation allow it to stand out.

    Websites 
  • SCP Foundation has SCP-492 ("Animated Cloth Dummy"). According to "Captain Jack" (SCP-492's nickname), the animatronic dinosaurs in the dinosaur ride kept trying to eat him, thus indicating hostile intent. However, 492 himself is quite benign.

    Web Videos 
  • In AGKandvideomaker2000's AGK series episode #88 "Angry german kid goes to Chuck E Cheeses", during Leonard's birthday, the Chuck Animatronic becomes hostile upon seeing Leopold. However, he destroyed the animatronic with his keyboard in time, but he ended up being grounded for ruining his little brother's birthday.
  • The Carpetbagger: Jacob loves animatronics, and he visits many attractions that have them, so it's only natural that the topic of scary animatronics would occasionally pop up as well:
    • He did a video going to different stores to look at the horror-themed Spirit Halloween animatronics on display. Subverted in that he was more fascinated than scared by them.
    • Subverted in "Attacked by Animatronics?!?". Carpetbagger meets THE KING's animatronic band in a dark room, where they are deactivated. The animatronics suddenly wake up and start verbally menacing the Carpetbagger, threatening to take him apart and turn him into an animatronic. However, the animatronics' owner, Jared, enters the room and saves him. From then on, the animatronics stop acting scary, and the rest of the video is dedicated to Jared showing them off and explaining how he acquired them.
    • Played straight in "Attacked By Animatronics II The Upgrade", in which the King's band actually succeeds in turning Jacob into an animatronic. They sing an original song called "One of Us", about how Jacob is trapped as an animatronic forever, while Jacob is forced to play guitar with them, protesting the whole time. It's all just a sketch, of course, but it is unusual to see the King and his band act so menacing.
  • The Chimpy Chippa Tapes by SpringTock Pictures is about an animatronic monkey possessed by demons that feed on negativity.

    Western Animation 
  • The Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary" features a run-down family restaurant whose stage features a pair of banjo-playing animatronic scorpions, with envenomed tails.
  • The Gravity Falls episode "Soos and the Real Girl" has the murderous A.I. Giffany possess the animatronics of Hoo-Ha Owl's to get Soos back for leaving her.
  • In Jellystone!, the Cattanooga Cats animatronics at a Suck E. Cheese's have a strict Happiness Is Mandatory policy. They try to murder Yogi and Shag for violating it and Shag admitting that the two of them lied about being a family for their own reasons (Yogi to gorge himself on the restaurant's pizza, Shag to win a pizza-themed car from the prize counter).
  • In Kim Possible, Señor Senior Jr. steals a couple of animatronics for a party. His dad secretly upgraded them with laser eyes.
  • In the Regular Show episode "Fuzzy Dice", the animatronics at the Fun Fun Zone turn out to be the Capicola Gang, a band of disguised mobsters who hid a stash of diamonds from their last robbery in the eponymous fuzzy dice and sabotage anyone attempting to get enough tickets to win it. Naturally, they go after Mordecai, Rigby, and their friends.
  • An early and non-lethal example in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. Charlie the Funland Robot was an amusement park attraction that had started malfunctioning and running around at night causing trouble. It was one of the few villains on the show who wasn't a crook in a mask.
  • The Simpsons:
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Tunnel of Glove", SpongeBob and Pearl were attacked by the ride's animatronics, which were turned into faceless, moaning zombie-bots due to Patrick messing with the ride's controls.

 
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Hoo-Ha Owl's

Soos has a dinner date with Melody at a Gravity Falls-esque Chuck E. Cheese's, which becomes under attack by .GIFfany.

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