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I Wish It Were Real

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The sleep is still in my eyes, the dream is still in my head
I breathe a sigh, and sadly smile, and lie awhile in bed
I wish that it might come to pass, not fade like all my dreams
Just think of what my life might be in a world like I have seen!
Rush, 2112

Remember when you were a kid playing with your favourite action figures/video games/television shows and you would go, "I wish it was real!" Well, that's the basis of this trope: a well-trodden storyline where the favourite fictional elements of the main characters somehow materialise into the real world (or the characters are transported into their home Alternate Universe) through some Applied Phlebotinum (frequently a wish). Depending on the mood of the story, Zany Antics or horrific Deconstruction follows as the characters deal with their new circumstances. Remember, Be Careful What You Wish For.

If the show/game is a member of a series, it will most likely use the Recursive Canon trope and place the fantastic elements as a Show Within a Show.

By law, such storylines must include a What If? scene where the protagonists compare themselves to the fictional game, musing on what character class they would be or what superpowers they would have or what cute mascot monster they would train. This turns out to be some kind of highly accurate prophecy.

See also Welcome to the Real World, Refugee from TV Land, Ascended Fanboy, Longing for Fictionland. Wanting Is Better Than Having might end up as an Aesop.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: The story opens up with Kyon narrating how much he wished as a kid to meet aliens, time travelers and ESPers, but now he's left those fantasies behind. Then he meets Haruhi and all those fantasies he had as a kid become very real (and often dangerous).
  • Digimon Tamers: In the Tamers universe, Digimon exists as a franchise that includes a collectible trading card game (much like in real life, though the card game is seemingly more popular in the Tamers universe than it was in ours). The main protagonists are huge Digimon fans and thanks to their devotion they become actual Tamers to real Digimon.
  • Monster Rancher: Genki is a fan of the Monster Rancher video game. He ends up getting sucked into the game's world.
  • MÄR Märchen Awakens Romance is based on the idea of its hero, Ginta, entering a fantasy world and living out his dream of being a hero.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • Loony Leo was a cartoon character brought to life because of a mishap with the Golden Age villain Professor Borzoi's Belief Ray. Leo stopped the villain and started to fade away, but The Gentleman convinces the crowd to save him by believing Leo was real.
    • Beautie is an adult-sized manifestation of the popular Beautie doll for girls. She is actually a robot invented by the genius daughter of a Gadgeteer Genius, who used the doll as a model.
    • One day, the heroes of the popular Australian kids' TV show "Queenslaw" manifested in the real world, fighting crime to the delight of kids and adults nationwide. They're actually a gang of criminals who used Professor Borzoi's Belief technology to commit robberies while impersonating the heroes.
  • Any time a DC Universe super hero visits Earth Prime, the Alternate Universe where super heroes only exist in comic books.
  • In one issue of The Simpsons comic book, aliens Kang and Kodos bring Itchy and Scratchy into the real world. Bart gets hold of the alien device and uses it to evoke Radioactive Man (his favorite Comic Book hero) to deal with the resulting mayhem.

    Fan Works 
  • Many a Self-Insert Fic are along these lines, either of a character discovering the characters in their favorite fandom are real or somehow getting sucked into their world. They never seem to want to go home...
    • Very, very early in Star Trek fandom note  there were a number of humorous short stories about people from the 20th century (often but not always the author) accidentally getting beamed up, or meeting Kirk, Spock, etc. on a time-travel mission. They ranged from cute and witty to outright farces. One fanzine actually held a contest for writers to submit such stories.
  • A very common subgenre of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction involve bronies somehow winding up in Equestria. Deconstructed and inverted in The Non-Bronyverse where the one who ended up in Equestria is anything but a brony, and wants nothing to do with Equestria and makes getting home his main priority.
  • Deconstructed in Marie D Suesse And The Mystery New Pirate Age!. The main character does not have a happy home life and wishes she could go on adventures in the world of her favorite manga. Too bad for her, the world of One Piece is actually a Crapsaccharine World, made worse by events in the fanfic, which makes her wish coming true a very bad thing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with slightly in Spy Kids ("I wish I could go away to your world, Floop. You'd be my friend."). Floop turns out to be the villain, but as it happens, not the Big Bad. In fact, he makes a Heel–Face Turn by the end of the movie.
  • Subverted in Pleasantville, in which the protagonists are drawn into an idealized-1950s TV-show universe, and introduce various forms of personal and sexual liberation that shake up the stereotypically stodgy inhabitants.
  • This is one interpretation of Pan's Labyrinth. The film starts with Ofelia reading a fairy tale about the lost princess of the Underworld. That night, she meets a Faun who tells her that she is the princess in the story. As the film goes on, the fantasy becomes more real and starts having tangible effects in the "real" world.
  • Woody Allen's 1985 film The Purple Rose of Cairo invokes, inverts and generally messes with this trope.
  • Last Action Hero subverts this trope by showing how the "real" and "fictional" worlds may be entirely too different from each other for their inhabitants to cope. Though Danny has issues of his own.
    Jack: In my world they just leave clues.
    Danny: But we're not in your world.
    Danny: That kind of stuff doesn't happen here, Jack. Because this world stinks!
  • In Galaxy Quest, the washed up actors of an old sci-fi show learn that aliens have been watching the show and modeled their entire technology and culture around it. At one point, they have to get in touch with the obsessed fans of the show, whose obscure knowledge saves their lives.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Alex Rogan is really good at a video game — and it turns out the video game is a training simulator for a galaxy-spanning space war.
  • Ted shows a young boy that wishes his teddy bear was real. He gets exactly what he wants, but the charm wears off as the two of them grow up and the bear becomes a lazy womanizing slob.

  • The fantasy series Guardians of the Flame has the college professor DM of a gaming group turn out to be a wizard from a fantasy world who sends his players through to try and set things right there. Some benefit from the immigration (one guy, who's disabled in real life, became his able-bodied dwarf character), but there is a high body count once the characters find out that this DM's world is much harsher than their usual 'game', with one of them dying almost immediately.
  • The Simon's Quest and Wizards & Warriors books in the Worlds of Power series begin this way.
  • Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, although the titular video game comes to life without any actual wishes being involved. It's partially a parody of The Last Starfighter, mentioned above.
  • Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens addresses this. As Adam prepares to remake the world to his liking his friends become acutely aware that the best thing about pirates and cowboys and the other fantastic things in their imaginations is that you can stop being them when you want to.
  • This is what Pamela Dean's The Secret Country books are all about. Five children have spent their lives playing a sustained imaginary game inside a detailed paracosm of their own making — only to find out it's not of their own making. The reality is often very beautiful, but because it's a real place, it's filled with complications and tragedies they never dreamed of.
  • This is also where Greer Gilman's Moonwise takes off. Sylvie, who has spent her life creating elaborate fantasy worlds, meets Ariane at university and lets her in. They end up with nine planets and reams of heartfelt work dedicated to their legends. At Midwinter's Eve, Sylvie vanishes before Ariane's eyes, and it's up to Ariane to find her. The clue she unwinds draws her into the world they called Cloud, but again it's a real place, beautiful but complex and often painful. Gilman has written many other stories about Cloud.
  • In The Indian in the Cupboard, the toys appearing to come to life are people being brought forth from the past and existing in the present on a different scale, while entering the cupboard transports one to that era.
  • The Neverending Story is in a sense, an in-depth analysis of the idea of Wish-Fulfillment, playing it straight in the first half of the novel, then deconstructing it and rebuilding it at the end. The story itself even comments on this:
    You wish for something, you've wanted it for years, and you're sure you want it, as long as you know you can't have it. But if all at once it looks as though your wish might come true, you suddenly find yourself wishing you had never wished for any such thing.

    Live Action TV 
  • Beetleborgs: Three kids who free Flabber wish to become their favorite comic heroes, and he happily obliges. Unfortunately, this also brings the villains to life as a side-effect.
  • Power Rangers Ninja Storm suggested this was the case when the Power Rangers were compared to comic books and described as an urban legend, but it was later subverted when the next season established that it was set in the same universe where Power Rangers had existed for ten years already.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002): "Azoth The Avenger Is A Friend Of Mine". A little boy meets his favorite Barbarian Hero.

  • The Leslie Fish Filk Song "Valhalla" is about a Viking who died in battle, but couldn't reach Valhalla because Christianity had his Gods under siege. Odin reincarnated him as a "bookish, lonely lad" who immersed himself in Scandanavian lore. "Sigurd" then stumbles into the Society for Creative Anachronism, and while it's not perfect, it fits a lot of the bill - including drinking, boasting, wenching, and fighting!
    Be careful of what paradise you deal
    What hope you make other dreamers feel
    For if too many hear it
    they will struggle to draw near it
    And in the search they just might make it real!

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Chaotic creatures from Perim invade Chaotic and Earth, but it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
    • Played straight with any newly-introduced characters. Until they receive an official invitation and password from a Codemaster, the "real" worlds of Chaotic and Perim are nothing but the crazy ramblings of others.
  • This trope is played straight in the Dragon Tales episode entitled "Quetzal's Magic Pop-Up Book" in which the protagonists enter a magical book that brings imagined stories to life.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: At least one of Timmy Turner's wishes has been like this.
    • To elaborate: In one episode, Timmy wishes to meet the Crimson Chin, his favorite superhero. The Chin suffers a Heroic BSoD after learning that he's a fictional character, and Timmy has to try and convince him to return to action. Another episode involves Timmy leaving the portal open and enabling a supervillain to escape into the real world.
    • In another episode, he wishes his life were like an action movie, and the next day it is.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Wishbones" a minor and recurring character of the series, Pud'n, wishes his toy bunny were real. An extra-dimensional skull grants his wish, but being a case of Be Careful What You Wish For, the newly animated bunny turns out to be a complete psychopath who does everything in his power to kill Pud'n.
    "Love hurts, Pud'n, and I love you... to death."
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Power Ponies" have the main characters pulled into a magic Comic Book, where they end up becoming the heroes of the comic.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Once Upon A Star", Elmyra wishes on a star that her Barbette doll was real so they could play together. The wish brings Barbette to life, but Barbette turns out to be very selfish, rude, and arrogant.