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Motivation on a Stick

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He'll get that bone as soon as the chickens are properly fed.

A character dangles some kind of treat on a stick in front of an animal, or even in front of another character, similar to fishing with a rod, line, and bait. This is usually done in order to trick the subject into going somewhere at a fast pace (or sometimes, to run on a treadmill or hamster wheel). The classic example is "carrot and stick" dangled before a horse, mule, or donkey to get it to pull a cart.

Related to Food as Bribe and X on a Stick. See also Food Interrogation. Will often involve a Trademark Favorite Food, or something from the Stock Animal Diet. Cash Lure is a variation involving money.

The problem of the bait swinging on the string, so that the target can simply grab it, is never mentioned (sometimes this is justified, since they don't have hands).


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  • Happy Heroes:
    • The Planet Guling inhabitants use apples dangling on strings to make their dinosaur rides move.
    • In the Season 10 end credits, Big M. passes by Careful S. holding a hunk of meat on a string. Little M. is trailing behind him, attempting to grab the meat.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In chapter 36 of Aho Girl, Yoshiko comes to Akkun's house to play, while he would much rather focus on his studying. To get Yoshiko out of his hair for a while, he ties her Trademark Favorite Food of bananas to a stick and ties to the stick to her back. She spends five hours leaping about the room trying to get to the bananas without success, while Akkun occasionally twists the knife by grabbing one from the bunch and eating it.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka has a Cash Lure version: Urumi puts a 10,000-yen bill on a small string-and-stick attached to Onizuka's headband, and tells him he can have the money if he catches it in his mouth while bicycling at 60 kph (with her riding on the back of the bike, of course).
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Koichi has to contend with Sheer Heart Attack, a nearly indestructible heat-seeking bomb on treads. Koichi uses the ability of his own Stand, Echoes, to attach a heated ball in front of the bomb, successfully distracting it.
  • Pok√©mon: The Original Series: In the episode"Pokemon Food Fight", Ash and his friends plan to lure a sleepy Snorlax into moving up and over a mountain by luring it with an apple attached to the end of a pole with a string. It wakes up just enough to eat the apple, then goes back to sleep before they could get it to move.
  • In Sasami: Magical Girls Club, while riding on a cart pulled by an ox-like creature, Anri complains about how slow it is, so Washu pulls out an "Acceleration Device" that turns out to be a bundle of hay hanging from a stick. The ox takes off like a rocket and catches the hay once they reach their destination, with the quick stop flinging everyone out of the cart.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics:
    • Jughead Jones was convinced to ride a stationary bike (using a bag of potato chips) this way in one story.
    • In another story, a variant is used to motivate to run faster for the track team. Jughead is outfitted with a special harness with a mirror in front that's positioned to let him see the photo mounted in back, so it looks like his Abhorrent Admirer is always right behind him.
  • How the Flying Dutchman is moved in De Cape et de Crocs. It involves a giant octopus and a really, really, really big fish.

    Comic Strips 
  • A very common Political Cartoon metaphor, for whatever the artist wants to lampoon.
  • Dilbert: When Wally gets volunteered to run a marathon to raise good PR for the company, Catbert attaches a cup of coffee on a stick to his head to motivate him.
  • One The Far Side cartoon has a street full of people all with stick-and-dangling-carrot arrangements strapped to them, and poking out around a corner, at least a head higher than everyone else, a stick which has a chunk of meat dangling from it.

    Fan Works 
  • One impressive little piece of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan-art gathers several examples of this trope together, making many fandom jokes in the process, with ponies riding ponies in a fun race:
    • Twilight Sparkle rides on Berry Punch and eggs her on with a bottle of alcohol.
    • Applejack is on her brother Big Macintosh and motivates him with the Smarty Pants doll.
    • For Princess Cadance on Queen Chrysalis, the motivation is love, i.e. food (with a Heart Symbol).
    • The Cutie Marks Crusader rides Rarity, making her move by dangling Sweetie Belle before her sister, while threatening to tear up a piece of fabric.
    • Derpy is riding on Doctor Whooves and dangles his sonic screwdriver before him. She herself has Dinky on her back, who dangles a muffin before her mother.
    • Sweetie Drops (a.k.a. Bon Bon) is riding on Lyra Hearstrings and motivates her by dangling a pair of (human) gloves before her.
    • Discord himself has chosen a bear as mount, and uses poor Angel Bunny as bait. And yes, Fluttershy is in hot pursuit of them.
    • Finally, Dr. Stable is riding his patient Screw Loose and egging her on with a dog biscuit.
    • Subverted by Cranky Doodle Donkey, who doesn't need any Motivation on a Stick, as he's trying to get away from Pinkie Pie, who's on the cart he's pulling, by running backward.
  • There's enough examples on Derpibooru to warrant the existence of the "carrot on a stick" tag.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney Fairies, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. Used in the dust mill to make a millipede run on a wheel to help with the dust sifting process.
  • The Land Before Time: In the first movie, after the protagonists find the newly hatched Spike, Ducky uses some berries on a branch to get Spike to follow her and Littlefoot.
  • In Mulan, the title character uses a dog and bone to feed the chickens. The bone-on-a-stick is tied to the dog's back so the bone is always in front of the dog, and the dog runs around with a feedbag leaking grain behind him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Boondock Saints, Detective Greenley humorously suggests that the only way they're going to catch the MacManus brothers is by "...dangling a potato on a string" — of course, they walk in just as he's saying this.
    Connor: You'd have better luck with beer.
  • Used in the Tropfest short film Cargo which can be seen here. A man is bitten by zombie and knows that he will turn but he is alone with his baby (mommy was the one who bit him). He has to get the baby to an area that he thinks may be safe, and he doesn't want to kill his baby when he turns. So he gathers some organs, suspending them in front of him, and ties his hands together so his zombie self will trudge along till he reaches the safe area, unknowingly carrying the baby on his back. He even puts a balloon on his back to keep the baby quiet and not alert his zombie self. The film manages to play this to a devastatingly tearjerking effect.
    • The 2017 feature film version expands on this scene with Andy preparing the bait, intestines on a stick ("like mom's spaghetti"), and handing it to Thoomi before putting in a mouthguard to stop himself from biting when he turns, then tying his hands and lifting both Thoomi and Rosie on his back.
  • Delusions of Grandeur: Salluste, riding a donkey, makes it move with a carrot dangling from a stick. Without it, the mount instead just does whatever it wants, including dragging Salluste under a waterfall.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids does this with an ant and a piece of the discarded cookie the kids found.
  • In one short in The Little Rascals series, the boys had a "taxi" that was powered by a mule/donkey pushing from the back and a carrot on a stick in front of it was used to make it push.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. When Max is sentenced to "Gulag" (exile in the Thirsty Desert) he's tied to a decrepit donkey with a small jar of water hanging in front of its head.

  • The Adventures of Samurai Cat: In Samurai Cat Goes to Hell, demons traverse the River of Blood by riding a giant turtle, which they steer by dangling a large dead sturgeon in front of it. The dim-witted turtle keeps reciting "Fish... fish... favorite fish..." as it plods along, reaching and snapping in vain at the bait.
  • In a possibly Older Than Feudalism example, the Alexander Romance has Alexander the Great fly by tying two gryphons to a chariot and tempting them to fly up with pieces of meat on sticks.
  • In Jack Vance's novel Cugel's Saga, ships are powered by large worm-like sea creatures bound to either side of the vessel. Bait is hung in front of the ship to make them move.
  • Discworld: Unseen Academicals features a scene with the wizards riding on the backs of the university porters and motivating them with a bottle of beer on the end of a stick while they hunt the Megapode (played by Rincewind). It's traditional.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show: In a sketch, Benny is at a weight-loss camp and is jogging. Three girls show up in front of him and flash their breasts at him, so he speeds up. He gets tired and slows down; they flash him again and he speeds up again, etc.
  • How the characters of Father Ted get Father Jack out on his walks.
  • The Goodies. In "Bunfight at the O.K. Tearooms", the Goodies can't get their Stubborn Mule to move (probably because it's a stuffed dummy) until they dangle a carrot in front of it...then a Reveal Shot shows they're actually having to carry the mule. Later the conveyor belt of Graeme's Rube Goldberg Device is shown to be driven by a tortoise chasing a lettuce on a stick.
  • In the Australian lifestyle program The Living Room, the Hack Off section involves the hosts presenting silly lifestyle hacks they've thought up. One involved a cat collar with a toy mouse hanging off it on a wire, and to demonstrate its practicality he attached another collar to a male host with chorizo sausages hanging off it. The other hosts decided this was too disturbing and refused to award him the prize.
  • The cast of Scaled used a cricket on a stick to get Kevin, their overweight bearded dragon, to run on the tiny treadmill they'd built for her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The ancient Daemonic Herald of Nurgle Horticulous Slimux from Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 dislikes the tiny, capering plague daemons known as Nurglings and will often feed them to his mount Mulch. In order to get the snail-like daemonic mount moving at a reasonable pace he will often dangle a bound and struggling Nurgling from a stick in front of Mulch's ravenous maw, something shown on his tabletop model.

    Video Games 
  • The riding hedgehog in Bramble: The Mountain King is guided using an earthworm dangled in front of its gaping mouth.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The collector's edition of the game came with a custom mount: the Fat Chocobo. Your character dangles Gysahl Greens in front of it when riding.
    • As of the Heavensward expansion, the Fat Chocobo can also fly. In order to make it take off, your character swaps the Gysahl Greens for a big, rich slice of cake.
  • Master Kohga of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has an attack where he is lifted and carried by his loyal Yiga minions to plow through enemies. By extending the attack, he does this with a bunch of Mighty Bananas, the Trademark Favorite Food of the Yiga clan, making his minions pick up the pace.
  • The "Chow-Man Motor" in The Incredible Toon Machine. Drop some food, usually an egg, in front of him, and he'll start walking on his treadmill.
  • Kingdom Rush Frontiers has an Giant Mook called the Gorillon, a Killer Gorilla mounted by a member of a Cannibal Tribe who dangles a banana in front of it to control its movement.
  • Lucky Tower: In Lucky Tower II, Von Wanst does this with a haunch to make his horse run (is that horse carnivorous?). Later, 3 bandits are seen doing the same to their mules with carrots.
  • Minecraft
    • A saddle can be put on a pig to ride them, but it wasn't until the game introduced carrots that players got a method to steer the pig: by combining a carrot and a fishing rod, you can make a "carrot on a stick" item that lets you steer a saddled pig you're riding, in whatever direction the player is looking.
    • The 1.16 Nether Update introduced Striders, passive Nether mobs who can walk on lava. They too can be saddled and ridden, and are controlled with a "warped fungus on a stick" introduced in the same update, fashioned in the same way as the carrot on a stick mentioned above.
  • Pizza Tower has Gustavo riding on a giant rat called Brick. He holds a stick with cheese in front of Brick in order to get him to move.
  • Scribblenauts allows you to set this up using a "plank", "glue" and something the character wants.
  • Team Fortress 2 has the Sammy Cap, a hat for the Heavy that attaches one of these to his head, with a whole Sandvich somehow attached to the string. Unfortunately, it doesn't make him run any faster.
  • The adventure game Wacki: Kosmiczna rozgrywka uses this as the solution to a puzzle: To exit the Africa level, you need to assemble a carrot-on-a-stick, and use it to ride a donkey.
  • This appears as a trinket in World of Warcraft. It increases mount speed by 3%. Awkward Zombie even points out some Fridge Logic with that particular item.
  • In Zettai Hero Project, the Appetite Engine accessory is a carrot on a stick worn on the player's head. It reduces EN consumption by 50% while equipped, and can be eaten to restore EN in a pinch.

    Web Animation 
  • AstroLOLogy: In "From Flubber to Fit", Taurus gets himself to run on a treadmill by hanging a drawing of a cupcake from a metal pole on his back and dangling it in front of himself.

    Web Comics 
    Web Videos 
  • Played with in one of Thomas Sanders' Vines when he works out with his trainers holding chocolate and junk food just out of reach.

    Western Animation 
  • The Archie Show: In "A Hard Day's Knight", Archie claims to be a knight and dresses up in a suit of armor and rides a horse. He tries to challenge Reggie to a duel for Veronica's hand. Reggie nonchalantly pulls a carrot on a stick out of nowhere and sticks it on the horse's head. This causes the horse to run after the carrot, with Archie unable to stop it until he is eventually thrown off.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender does this on the episode "The Great Divide", where the heroes use it to ride fearsome creatures up a cliff.
  • The ChalkZone episode "Rudy's Date" ends with Rudy, Snap and Penny making their way back to the portal Rudy and Penny drew into ChalkZone by riding a giant baby. To keep the infant from straying from the path, they lure him by tying his bottle to a stick and dangling it in front of him.
    Snap: This baby sure can go!
    Rduy: (holding his nose) You can say that again.
  • Extreme Omnivore Toot Braunstein from Drawn Together does this to herself by giving Ling-Ling a stick with a Hostess treat attached to the end so he can use it to make her move while carrying him on her back. She even encourages him to move it a little as her vision is based on movement.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy, "Wish You Were Ed": The neighborhood kids all participate in an impromptu race. Rolf's method of racing has him riding in a basket atop his pig Wilfred, guiding him forward with a carrot on a stick. When he needs Wilfred to "go with the speed of cabbage", Rolf replaces the carrot with a photograph of Wilfred's mother.
  • The Fairly OddParents! has Cosmo come up with a variant as an emergency method to keep the power running during an outage while Timmy is in a video game to save AJ and Chester, running on a treadmill to power a generator the TV and console are plugged into, a steak hanging on a hook in front of him:
    Cosmo: [eagerly staring at the steak] Good thing I'm more hungry than tired.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "He's Too Sexy for His Fat", Peter gets Chris to run on a treadmill by sticking a plumber's helper to his forehead with a Twinkie hanging from it. Chris eventually figures out how to get the Twinkie: lay on his back.
      Chris: I'm turning you into poo!
    • In "Road to the North Pole", Brian and Stewie use a mutant elf's torn off arm to make the mutant reindeer fly pulling Santa's sleigh.
  • Futurama:
    • The Beast With a Billion Backs opens with a pastiche of 1930s cartoons, and has Zoidberg powering the Planet Express ship by chasing a fish on a stick.
    • At the end of Bender's Game, with dark matter rendered useless as a fuel, Professor Farnsworth proposes an alternative fuel: Nibbler power! Which turns out to be a fair number of Nibblonians motivated to pull a ship by a single chicken hanging from a stick.
  • In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield is ordered to plow the backyard for Jon's garden. He ties Odie to the plow and puts a harness on him with a bone that Odie chases after to plow up the yard.
  • In Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Gunther's backside is used as the carrot on the stick to get Oscar the dog to chase him and thereby pull the sled to rescue the school bus full of kids from a snow-filled gully.
  • In Hanna-Barbera's version of The Little Rascals, the Rascals have a wooden vehicle which Pete pulls while pursuing a bone.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Father Knows Beast": Pinkie Pie exploits this trope to get Sludge the dragon up and moving as he's being rehabilitated, first with a cupcake on a stick with her on his back (to Twilight's shock), then by walking past his room with a cart full of gem-topped cupcakes that Sludge chases after.
  • Popeye has one episode where he and Brutus are in a joust, only Popeye's mount is a stubborn mule. He finally gets it to run with a carrot dangling from his lance.
  • Slugterra: In "The Journey Home", Burpy and a group of slugs hitch a ride on a mecha-beast this way: using one of themselves as the bait dangling on the stick.
  • Super 4: The episode "Chasing the Chameleon" has the team pursuing their vehicle seized by pirates, by riding a pterosaur they're directing with a fish dangling from a stick. The ride ain't exactly smooth, though.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!: In "The Great Gladiator Gig", Mario and Luigi are running away from mooks and jump into a horse drawn chariot, but the horse refuses to move. Mario gets it to run by dangling a bag full of hay from a sink pipe. When the mooks almost catch up to them, Mario throws the pipe and the bag at them to slow them down. At this point, the horse angrily stops, which throws the bros out of the chariot. The horse, which had seemed like an ordinary animal until this point, angrily says it won't help them without food. Left with no choice, the bros run.
  • In an episode of Trollkins where most of the cast take part in a road race, the Sheriff modifies his car for the race. His idea of tuning? By having a male rabbit, in a treadmill that powers the car, run like crazy when he's shown a caged female.
  • In the Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa episode "How the West was Shrunk", the shrunken C.O.W.-Boys make their way to Dr. Wolfenstein's lair by riding on bees, which they control by guiding them with twigs dipped in honey.
  • Yogi's Gang and Yogi's Ark Lark: The Ark is powered by Magilla Gorilla pursuing a banana while running on a treadmill, as seen here at 2:25. Note that he occasionally ate the banana. In one episode, they were down to the last banana, so Peter Potamus snatched it away before Magilla could eat it. Both of them running on the treadmill (Magilla "chasing" Peter for taking the banana) kept the ark powered.
  • On Yogi's Space Race, Jabberjaw uses a stuffed raccoon on a stick to make Buford run on the treadmill.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


AvM Shorts "Motivation"

The Sticks try this trope out with various creatures and foodstuffs, but Yellow seems to have cracked the code.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / MotivationOnAStick

Media sources: