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Waffle: Oh, imprinting!
Gordon: What?
Waffle: Imprinting: a bond where a baby meets its mother for the first time. Imprinting.
Catscratch, "A Woolly Adventure"

Imprinting is the psychological condition where an animal (usually seen with animals that come from eggs, like birds) will follow the first moving object it sees, believing it to be its mother. Mistakes happen, naturally, as there have been times where ducklings have followed cars, plastic bags, humans (who used this to experiment on the full aspects of imprinting) or, in some cases, its own brothers or sisters. Some baby birds will even imprint on animals of a completely different species, such as ducklings imprinting on goslings or cygnets (baby geese/swans) or even larger mammals such as cats and dogs.

However, in this case, the imprinting is done by one character of the story, or one creature, onto another creature/person, be it the protagonist, antagonist, a minor character, etc.

It is also prudent to point out that this is not just imprinting on someone as a mother. Any example of an imprinting can be included here, so as long as the same general concept remains present, but if it's romantic and the "crush" is an inanimate object, that's Animal Sweet on Object.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • There's a Doraemon story, "Typhoon Fuuko", in which Nobita asks for a futuristic pet from Doraemon. Doraemon complies by giving Nobita a 23rd-Century egg which somehow hatches into a baby tornado with a single eye (!!!), who becomes attached to Nobita. Inevitably, Nobita then decides to keep the tornado as a pet, naming it "Fuuko". This short was later recycled into a full-length film, Doraemon: Nobita and the Windmasters, though Fuuko's origins differs in both versions.
  • Gunslinger Girl: Implied in the way The Handler is always introduced to their cyborg, with the girl waking up in bed, their memories wiped, to find the handler there. As 'conditioning' involves a combination of drugs and psychology, it would make sense to have this be one of them.
  • Heaven's Lost Property: Used for a main character, surprisingly: The angeloid Ikaros imprints on the first human she sees after waking up. She follows ANY order from her master as a Literal Genie. All angeloids are imprinted to their masters.
  • Invoked in Magi: Labyrinth of Magic by the powers of Aum Madaura's Magic Tool, which afflicts the brains of the victim who sees Madaura as her own mother, losing (usually) all belligerant intentions, using a principle compared to Imprinting.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • During the Kanto saga, Ash and his friends fight with Team Rocket over who gets to keep the Togepi egg Ash has found — Togepi ultimately choses Misty, because she was the first thing Togepi saw right after hatching, therefore assuming that Misty was her mother.
    • In Pokémon the Series: XY, Ash's Noibat imprints on him after hatching.
  • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Ponyo ironically becomes imprinted on Sosuke after she drinks on his blood.
  • Ai-chan ironically imprints on Mana Aida as a mother from Doki Doki! PreCure since episode 8 for the rest of the series, sort of.
  • Ranma ½:
    • The Phoenix Mountain tribe can imprison people in eggs—when the egg is "hatched", the victim imprints on the first person they see and will obey their instructions. Shampoo gets hit twice.
      • The first time, Kiima hits Shampoo with the eggs that imprison the target in the giant egg, then has Shampoo imprint on her. This is very bad for Our Heroes.
      • When on Phoenix Mountain, our Heroes find a batch of the eggs used for the spell, and wind up throwing them at Shampoo when she attacks again. Mousse is there, and everyone realizes that if Shampoo sees him when she hatches, she'll be his forever. This puts a great deal of pressure on Mousse to make a decision of who Shampoo should look at, and when Shampoo hatches, Mousse shows her... a mirror.
    • During the Phoenix Sword arc Kuno buys a Phoenix Egg when he was told it could help with his sword skills. It hatches when Ranma puts it on his head. When the baby sees Ranma it became imprinted to him as an enemy and then continuously keeps pecking and blinding Ranma while being stuck on Kuno's head. It still recognizes him even in his female form because "Phoenixes see the truth". It will keep doing this until it fully grows up 100 years later.
  • In Samurai Deeper Kyo, a Mad Scientist working for the Mibu clan and going by the anachronistic name of Dr. White make use of Imprinting on his own Artificial Human creations, so that they cannot rebel against him, nor harm him. This extends to Sasuke himself, though he manages to overcome the imprinting and kill Dr. White.
  • One story in Urusei Yatsura has Lum, Ataru, Ten, and Mendo sent into prehistoric times. A baby dinosaur hatches and imprints Lum as his mother (with a narrator explaining the concept of imprinting for the audience's benefit), while the baby's real mom think Ten is one of her eggs! (Because his diaper is the same pattern as the eggshell). Then a female dinosaur falls in love with Ataru, prompting the same narrator to explain that it's a case of "loveprinting". He then stops to ask Rumiko Takahashi if this is for real.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In most of the Adopted Displaced stories, the baby ponies(and other species) will generally imprint themselves on the first person they see or come into contact with.
  • In The Bridge, Godzilla Junior imprinted on Asuza Aoki when he was still in his egg. While working alone in the lab with his egg, Asuza would often sing or hum to herself, and the baby Godzilla Junior took comfort from that. Asuza's superior realized what was happening when he noted that the egg would show temperature fluctuations indicating the baby was afraid whenever Asuza wasn't in the lab.
  • In Crucible (Mass Effect), all turian and hybrid children imprint on their parents by their sight, smell and sound. Naturally, the first thing a child imprints on is its mother, but it doesn't matter who the father is. The imprint can be so strong that even if the child is separated from its parents from a very young age and remember nothing of them, it can still remember the smell. The process also causes a baby to react very violently if the one holding it isn't its parent or at least a family's member. In the one timeline, future-Gaius imprinted on his mother Shepard and Sidonis's family while Garrus, his real father, was virtually a stranger. This prompts present-Garrus to try his very best to ensure that Gaius will imprint on him in this timeline. He succeeds, and baby-Gaius reacts to him even faster than to his mother.
  • In Gundam Seed Bloodlines, the Extended do this. After her original "mother" dies, Cagalli has to get Stellar to imprint on her.

    Films — Animation 
  • At the beginning of The Angry Birds Movie, Red slips and falls headfirst onto an unhatched egg, cracking it open. This causes the chick inside to imprint on him, calling him "daddy" for the rest of the film (to the real father's outrage).
  • Occurs in a few Doraemon Film Series movies, notably those involving the gang getting a fantastic pet.
    • The very first film, Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur, has Nobita reviving a fossilized egg via the Time Cloth, which hatches into a baby futubasaurus which Nobita affectionately names Pisuke. Owing to Nobita being the first person the newly-hatched Pisuke sees, it quickly registers Nobita as a parent.
    • In Doraemon: Nobita and the Birth of Japan (all versions), Nobita creates three fantastic pets using Doraemon's Life Creation Set, injecting DNA into artificial eggs which then hatches into a pegasus, a gryphon and an oriental dragon. As Nobita is present when all three eggs hatches, the three baby animals quickly registers Nobita as their parent.
    • Doraemon: Nobita and the Winged Braves has a newly-hatched Birdpian infant imprinting on Suneo and becoming attached to him, spending much of his screentime after hatching by sitting on Suneo's scalp, Head Pet-style. Suneo eventually becomes attached to the chick, and even lets out Ocular Gushers when the gang have to say goodbye to Birdopia and it's citizens at the end.
    • Doraemon: Nobita's New Dinosaur, a remake of the very first movie, has Nobita once again reviving a fossilized egg into present-day Tokyo. This time, the egg contains a pair of dinosaur twins, belonging to an unidentified feathered species, both who becomes attached to Nobita after imprintment post-hatching.
  • In Finding Dory, Marlin had to imprint with Becky the loon so she could take he and Nemo to Quarantine.
  • Sid in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, to the extent that he even refers to himself as a "Momma" because of the imprinting of the baby dinos on him.
  • The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure: Chomper imprints on Littlefoot, and then on the rest of the gang. Given that throughout the series, "Sharptooth" dinosaurs are anything but friendly, this is quite amusing.
  • Lucky and Zorba revolves around it, with the seagull chick Lucky mistaking the cat Zorba for her mother after she hatches in front of him.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon 3, a little girl named Molly imprints on the illusion of Entei as her "Papa" for the rest of the movie.
    • In Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea, May is holding the Manaphy-egg when it hatches — May is the first thing Manaphy sees after hatching, so he naturally assumes that May is his mother. Brock helpfully explains what happened for the benefit of the audience.
  • Steven Universe: The Movie shows that Pearls ask for a username before first forming, and treat whoever answer as their master. Pearl the Crystal Gem is subject to Identity Amnesia and ends up imprinting on Greg. He finds her slavish attitude amazingly disturbing, especially since he knew her as an independent person.
  • In Toy Story 2, after Mr. Potato Head saves their lives, the LGM refer to him as "Daddy!" and form a strong, child-like attachment to him.
    • In Toy Story 3, they return the favor, and in response he draws them up in his arms, calling them "my boys!"
  • Heart imprints as Umasou's father in You Are Umasou.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Milo and Otis, when Gloria's chick hatches, it thinks Otis is its mom. Otis finally rids himself of the chick when he shows it how rough and tumble a "real dog" has to be. The chick doesn't like it and immediately runs off to find its real mother.
  • The film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence has the "mecha" (android) David, designed to be like a human child, going through an "imprinting sequence" which makes him recognize his new owner as his mother—irreversibly so, and with all the emotions that entails.
  • In Babe, when Babe's mother is taken away to be slaughtered, Fly the sheepdog takes him in, and after her pups have been adopted out, he asks if he can call her mom.
  • The movie Fly Away Home is about a girl who has a flock of Canada geese imprint on her, so in order to teach them to fly properly, she has to learn to fly an ultralight.
  • The Hand That Rocks the Cradle had the evil nanny attempting this with the youngest child (an infant) in her charge, primarily by way of breast-feeding (unbeknownst to, and unauthorized by, the mother) which leads to the baby rejecting his own mother's milk, and the bonding that comes with that. Part of the premise of the movie was the nanny trying to steal the children of a woman she blames for her miscarriage and subsequent hysterectomy.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • Invoked in Jurassic Park, where Hammond insists on being at every hatching so the baby dinos will imprint on him.
    • Brought back again in Jurassic World with Owen Grady and the four raptors (Echo, Blue, Delta, and Charlie) he's cared for and trained since birth. Although somewhat tame, Owen admits that they're more like barely restrained lions than hunting dogs, and he's the only person they won't kill on sight because of his mutually respectful bond with them. And even then the raptors are shown to be perfectly willing to attack him if they could.
  • In Young Frankenstein, the monster imprints on Dr. Frankenstein and considers him to be his mother, even running to him for a comforting hug in one scene.
  • The Disney film The Ugly Dachshund revolves around a Great Dane puppy that imprints upon a dachshund bitch and her litter, thinking he's a dachshund too.

  • The entire plot of "Are You My Mother" by P.D Eastman is a newly-hatched bird trying to find his mother. In one scene, he thinks a power shovel is his mother.
  • Discussed in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book "The Long Haul", when Mrs. Heffley sees the piglet acting social towards Manny and believes he's imprinted on him, but it's unclear if she's right.
  • Dinotopia shows workers at the dinosaur hatchery using hand puppets to ensure that hatchlings imprint on the correct species (i.e. that of the mother).
  • Discworld: The gnome Buggy Swires uses a special foul-smelling potion to do this to birds and use them as transport, first by stunning it with a headbutt, then making it breathe the fumes until it thinks he's its mother.
  • Dragonriders of Pern:
    • Newly-hatched dragons, fire lizards, or watchwhers are subject to imprinting ("Impression") upon the first human with which they establish a psychic link. In this case it is not the first person they see, since they'll plow through any number of people to get to the person they are supposed to Impress with, though Impression always occurs after the two make eye contact.
    • Fire Lizards, small creatures that dragons were engineered from, play this trope more straight. Though they are only ever shown to Impress on humans or other fire lizards.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has Hagrid adopt a pet dragon and assume that it thinks he's its mother, even calling himself "Mummy".
  • At the end of Horton Hatches the Egg, the newly hatched... creature not only recognizes Horton (who faithfully incubated its egg while the bird that laid it was off living it up) as its father, it also emerges with elephant-like features. In typical Seussian fashion, it's meant to impart An Aesop about family being about more than whose DNA you happen to share.
  • In a How to Train Your Dragon book, the three newborn dragons think Toothless is their "papa". In a variation on this, Toothless is actually a dragon too, so it makes sense that they'd think he was their father.
  • The Inheritance Cycle slightly averts this. Rather than the dragon bonding to the first person it sees, it bonds to the first person who touches it. However, the dragon hatches in the presence of this person on purpose, so it's kinda recursive.
  • In Jhereg, when Loiosh hatches and Vlad comforts him, the newborn jhereg mentally addresses him as "Mama". Vlad tries to correct this, as he'd rather be "Daddy", but Loiosh goes right on calling him "Mama" until he grows up and switches to "Boss".
  • The bird kids do this to the heroine of The Lake House by James Patterson.
  • The Men from P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T. by Harry Harrison. The Porcine Interstellar Guard are bioenhanced pigs, and their handler mentions that they obey and protect him because think of him as their mother.
  • In the Mog book "Mog's Kittens", Mog adopts two kittens and becomes their surrogate mother temporarily.
  • Robert Anton Wilson puts forth the theory of sexual imprinting in his Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy, that whatever someone's earliest sexual experiences are like leads them to seek that out most in future — e.g., with another race, same-sex attraction, kink, etc.
  • In the short story "Thief, Thief!" by Mary Catelli, the thief is in the dragon's lair when an egg hatches, and the baby dragon imprints on her.
  • Probably one of the most popular cases, The Twilight Saga gives us Jacob Black, who imprints himself on Bella's and Edward's daughter (though, as for why, it's pretty vague). The werewolf characters in general do this to various people after New Moon.
  • Probably one of the earliest Imprinting-themed fairytales are The Ugly Duckling, where the baby swan (cygnet) sees the mother duck, and follows her believing the duck to be his mother.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who sometimes implies that the Doctor imprints on the first person he sees post-regeneration.
    • A scripted-but-unused line had Ten explain to Rose that he has his peculiar Estuary accent because it's sort of how Rose speaks, and Rose is the first person he ever saw.
    • Amy was the first person Eleven ever saw or interacted with, with Rory the second by a wide margin. Eleven stated it was for this reason that he felt drawn to both of them, and in his dying moments he hallucinated Amy as she was when he first met her.
    • Presumably this sheds a little extra context on the somber and detached Nine (who had nobody around to greet him in his first moments) and the somewhat spacey Eight (the first face he saw was his own, in a cracked mirror, and it caused him a bit of a freak-out).
  • An Emmy-winning episode of PBS's Nature documented a naturalist's experiences raising a brood of wild turkeys which had imprinted on him.
  • The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Hatchery" reverses this, with Archer being sprayed with a chemical in a Xindi-Insectoid hatchery that makes him imprint on the babies as a caretaker.
  • On a bigger scale, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Galaxy's Child" shows a spaceborne lifeform which is delivered from its dead mother by the crew of the Enterprise (a Caesarian by phaser beam). The creature then imprints on the Enterprise (because the ship is about the same size as the mother and produces energy in a similar way as the mother would have done), attaching itself to the hull and feeding off of energy from the fusion generators.
  • In the Ultraman 80 episode "Lullaby for a Migrating Monster", an infant space kaiju called a Baru imprints on Takeshi (80's human form) after hatching from an egg that landed on Earth. While it views Takeshi as its "mother", the rest of UGM pitches in taking care of it. Additionally, when 80 has to protect it from the Baru's predator Zakira, the baby monster is still able to recognize the transformed Takkeshi.
  • In V (2009), Anna is able to do this with Ryan's half-V, half-human child, by giving the infant a disease that causes her pain unless she receives Anna's bliss. She had at that point already killed the baby's real mother.
  • In The Book of Boba Fett, it is revealed that rancor calves imprint on the first thing they see as their master. Boba is given one as a "gift" (an apology after sending a bounty hunter to kill him), and after being informed of the witches of Dathomir's tendencies to ride them into battle, bonds with the calf.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock: In one episode, Junior accidentally drops the egg of two "tree creatures" (birds) into the Fraggles' pond, and Wembley takes it on himself to sit on the egg. On hatching, the baby tree creature, seeing Wembley, starts calling him "Mama".
  • Sesame Street:
    • In one episode, a baby honker hatches out of its egg and believes Luis to be its father. When its real parents arrive, Luis points out that the baby looks similar to its parents, but Luis looks a lot different, which makes the baby realise that Luis isn't his father.
    • One sketch has Grover watch a nest of eggs hatch into baby birds, who start calling him "Mommy" ("Can I watch TV?"). Then their real mother arrives and thinks Grover is one of her chicks.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chaosium's supplement All the Worlds' Monsters Volume III
    • A newborn Perneese Fire Lizard (based on the ancestors of the dragons in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels) can become imprinted on an intelligent being. If they do so, any kind of mind-control magic used on them cannot make them attack the being they're imprinted on.
    • When a Tarn (giant black bird) hatches it will imprint on (and can be tamed by) any nearby creature. However, it will turn on its master if it senses weakness. It can be ridden by a human-sized or smaller creature if a saddle and goad are available.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon magazine #50 article "Hatching is just the beginning". When a dragon egg hatches, the hatchling will imprint on the first creature it sees after birth, considering the creature to be its mother. It will attempt to copy its "mother"'s actions.

  • Amazing Amanda dolls will learn to recognise their owner's voice and from then on, they will address their owner as "Mommy" (no matter what their gender is) and respond to everyone else with "You don't sound like Mommy."

    Video Games 
  • In The Battle Cats, Jagando Jr.'s description states that he thinks the cats who found and raised him are his parents.
  • In Conker's Bad Fur Day Conker finds and hatches a dinosaur egg. The baby dinosaur immediately sees Conker as its Mommy which Conker takes full advantage of by tricking the baby into standing on a pedestal to be sacrificed.
  • In Fable II, a man asks you to help him collect the body parts of Lady Grey (an antagonist from the first game) whom he has fallen in love with and wishes to marry. Before the experiment is done, he explains that the resurrection spell comes with an imprinting measure where she will fall in love with whoever is in her line of sight within a few minutes of resurrecting. Unfortunately for him, you are the first thing she sees. That means that if you don't leave the room immediately, she will fall for you instead of him. The choice is up to you.
  • A variation occurs in Fallen London when Mr Spices' baby is born, with the first thing it does being to make a beeline for the player and climb onto them. In-game text explicitly states that the player character assumes that this trope has occurred, however they are quickly informed that the new born Mr Transport doesn't see them as a parent, but as its mode of transportation.
  • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy: An optional sidequest has you knock an egg off a cliff. When you get back to it, the flut flut inside hatches, and imprints on Daxter, over the latter's protests.
    Daxter: Aaaaaah! I'm not your ma! You see any feathers here?
  • Post development interviews with the creators of Lunar: Eternal Blue state that Lucia began undergoing this when she first encountered Hiro in the crystal teleportation room. It explains her growing reluctant loyalty to him in the early stages of the story, before she fell in love with him.
  • Although we don’t ever get to see it happen, the lore on the culture of the Salarians in Mass Effect states that the Dalatrass (clan matriarch) is always present whenever any eggs laid by any female in her clan hatches. This ensures that the younglings will imprint on her as well as their mother and will become loyal to her as their clan leader. When a fertilized egg that produces a female youngling hatches, the Dalatrasses of both the egg laying mother's clan and the egg fertilizing father's clan are present. This ensures that the female will have dual loyalty to both parents’ clans and thereby strengthens the alliance between them. This is done because salarian females are all exclusively groomed to become politicians.
  • Metroid: Samus, in the events of Metroid II: Return of Samus/Metroid: Samus Returns, has been sent to exterminate all of the Metroids. Upon arrival at the location of the last Metroid, she finds only an egg, which promptly hatches, revealing a baby Metroid, who imprints itself on her as its mother. In the next game in the series, Super Metroid, the last Metroid attacks Samus near the end of the game, but quickly darts off before killing her once it realizes who she is. It returns during the final boss battle with Mother Brain to save Samus at the cost of its own life.
  • This can happen in NetHack, if you're carrying a monster egg in your inventory and it hatches, leading to the newborn monster being tame. If the player is female and polymorphs into something that can lay eggs, those eggs are guaranteed to imprint. If the player is male and therefore can't lay eggs, any egg can imprint, but only with 50% probability. And dragon eggs are special and will imprint no matter what.

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: A Mechelly forms what is called a Link Bond with the first individual they interact with, which means they keep their Link safe and always acts on their best interest.

  • Kevin & Kell: The anthropomorphic animals inherit traits from non-anthropomorphic equivalents, including imprinting used by birds.
  • Melvina's Therapy has young Ayrn bond with a duckling this way. It followed her around thinking she was its mother, until she accidentally stepped on it, killing it. This serves as Foreshadowing for the more plot relevant case of imprinting, Freddie hatching an Eldritch Abomination that now believes him to be its parent.
  • Pandora's Tale: Opening a Helper's delivery pod triggers the release of a gas that makes them imprint on the first person they see after emerging; this is the intended mechanism for tying a Helper to their owner. Isabelle unwittingly causes Pandora to imprint on her when helping her out of her pod.

  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-111 ("Dragon Snails") hatchlings can imprint on humans who are nearby when they're hatched. This was done so they would obey their owners.
    • The Play-Doh soldiers who make up SCP-705 appear to imprint on Dr. Bright as their leader after being exposed to SCP-963.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police: In the episode "That Darn Gator", Max fishes a baby Sewer Gator out of a toilet and it imprints on him.
  • Happens to Angelica in the All Grown Up! episode "Dude, Where's My Horse?" when she accidentally hatches a baby ostrich at a ranch. She is dismissive of it at first (naming it "Reject"), but soon grows fond of it. She is heartbroken when she has to leave the ostrich at the ranch since she obviously can't take it home with her.
  • Animaniacs:
    • One Slappy Squirrel cartoon involved a baby bird hatching from an egg, confusing a fighter plane for his mother momentarily, and in trying to follow it finds Slappy, on who it does imprint. Slappy becomes a lot happier about this situation after finding out the baby can easily open walnuts.
    • In "Smitten with Kittens", some kittens believe Rita to be their mother. Justified in that Rita is also a cat.
  • In the Big City Greens episode "Mama Bird", Tilly finds a lost nest with unhatched eggs in it, and Bill warns she and Cricket that the birds will think the first thing they see when they hatch is their mother. Tilly spends time carrying the nest around hoping the birds will see her as their mama; when the birds finally hatch, they imprint on Cricket instead.
  • Bounty Hamster: A nest of alien eggs break open, hatching several small xenomorphs that look like the ones in Alien. Marion cringes in fear as they advance towards him and shoot out Nested Mouths... and it turns out that he's got nothing to worry about, as they all think he's their mother.
  • Catscratch: Waffle defines the trope when a baby mammoth that thaws out sees Mr. Blik as its mother.
  • In the Classic Disney Short "Don's Fountain of Youth", two alligator eggs hatch near Donald Duck and think he's their mother. The real mother gator takes them back but they will not go near her until she starts quacking.
  • In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Sector V plans to throw hundreds of eggs at the Delightful Children from Down the Lane, until the next day all the eggs hatch into hundreds of chicks that assume Numbuh 1 is their mommy.
  • In an episode of Curious George, George sits on a duck's nest and the first baby that hatches thinks he is its mother.
  • The Deep (2015): In "Fossil", a baby dinosaur hatches out of its egg and immediately imprints on Ant as the only moving thing in sight (and because his wetsuit reeks of fish food). It Makes Sense Incontext.
  • An episode of Dinotrux has Dozer discover a nest of Tortool eggs, which hatch and imprint on him. Even after returning to their rightful mother, the tortools remain good friends with Dozer and regularly visit.
  • An old Famous Studios short "Cock-a-Doodle Dino" has a dinosaur hatching in modern days and believing a hen to be his mother. Problems start when he is taken away to be shown in a circus.
  • In one episode of Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes, the Mole Man attempts to be the first thing Giganto's babies see, so they will obey his every command. Invisible Woman renders him invisible just as they hatch.
  • In the Futurama episode "The Problem with Popplers", a baby alien imprints on the Planet Express crew, calling Leela "Mama" and the professor "Grandpa".
  • In Godzilla: The Series, the title character imprints on Nick, believing him to be his father.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, this is why Jeff the Giant Spider believes the arachnophobic Billy to be his father. Billy discovered his egg and raised it, only to be unpleasantly surprised when the egg hatches into Jeff, who imprints on him immediately.
  • In the Jonny Quest episode "Attack of the Tree People", after their ship explodes, Jonny, Hadji and Bandit wash up on an island beach. While Bandit is lying on the beach, a number of baby sea turtles hatch out of the sand and start following him around. Jonny says that the turtles think that Bandit is their mother.
  • The Loud House: In "Mall of Duty", Lana sits on three ducklings and when they hatch, they follow her home.
  • In an episode of Massey Ferguson, three chicks imprint on Slow-Mo the talking mobility scooter, which makes her friends tease her and call her a "big fat hen".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The show does this with Twilight Sparkle hatching Spike. Their bond seems to be more like brother-sister/assistant-boss, as opposed to mother-son.
    • Peewee the Phoenix also imprints on Spike upon hatching in the episode "Dragon Quest". As of "Just for Sidekicks", Peewee has been returned to the wild.
  • In PB&J Otter, this is the subject of "Mama Peanut". When Peanut agrees to look after a group of turtle eggs while their mother is off at the store, one of them almost immediately hatches and declares Peanut his mommy, embarrassing him when he starts showing up while Peanut is playing with his friends.
  • In Regular Show, Rigby accidentally imprints a family of ducklings, resulting in them learning from his (less than stellar) example most of the episode before they're returned to their real mother.
  • An episode of Rugrats has a duckling becoming attached to Chuckie due to his face being the first thing the duckling saw when it hatched.
  • In the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Jeepers, it's the Creeper", a newly hatched chick imprints on Scooby. Scooby's attempts to correct the hatchling cause it to start barking as it follows Scooby and Shaggy around. Eventually, Scooby returns the chick back to its real mother, but then a bunch of other eggs hatch and the chicks inside of those eggs end up imprinting on Scooby, making him "a mother hen all over again."
  • In the Shimmer and Shine episode "Boom Zahra-Mom", an egg that Zeta finds hatches to reveal a bird, and it imprints on her, believing she's it's mother.
  • In the Super Mario World (1991) episode "Mama Luigi", Luigi fulfills the parent figure for a baby Yoshi.
  • In Tom and Jerry cartoons, it is very common for a duckling or other bird to imprint on Tom or Jerry, who will then invariably try to get rid of it. One example is "Hatch Up Your Troubles", where a woodpecker egg rolls into Jerry's home and hatches there. Jerry does eventually convince the chick that he is not its mother.
  • In the premiere episode of T.O.T.S., the very first animal that Pip and Freddy deliver, a baby kitten named Kiki, imprints on them. She tags along with them back to headquarters and "undelivers" herself.

    Real Life 
  • Naturally, many birds imprint on the first thing they see as their mother, which was experimented on by Konrad Lorenz, as seen in his iconic picture showing him walking through some grass with three ducklings following him closely. This can cause some problems later in a bird's life. The (now grown-up) bird may try to socialize, and even mate, with members of the species upon which it imprinted, instead of its own species. Birds raised by humans may never be able to released into the wild for this reason. For example, special hats are worn by falconers to "accept the affection" of male birds that have been raised in captivity, which can then be used to fertilize similarly raised females (via syringe). When caring for baby birds with the intention of release, Wildlife Rescue and/or Rehabilitation Centers sometimes use masks or puppets to teach hatchlings what species to imprint on.
  • In some cases, many animals (and in many cases, some humans) will "adopt" an abandoned baby animal, even if it is a member of its natural enemy-predator, resulting in the animal growing to think of its savior as its mother. Whether it be a bear growing to be a pet to some people, or a mother dog nursing piglets.
  • Some applications in Machine Learning can somehow be interpreted like that. You can train an algorithm with your voice or your face for the machine to recognize it.


Video Example(s):


Baby Dinos

The baby Dinos in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, to the extent that Sid even refers to himself as a ''Mommy'' because of their imprinting on him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / Imprinting

Media sources: