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No Budget

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Sorry, we can't afford a page image. Even this caption was just borrowed from a friend in exchange for a walk-on.
Leafy: I was wondering, how are we in space yet able to talk, paddle, breathe, and not explode?
Announcer: Budget cuts.
Battle for Dream Island, "Gardening Hero"

Oh—uhm, hello! Sorry about the mess, uh, we couldn't afford hiring cleaners, and the light, well—one lightbulb should be enough, right? No pesky lampshades blocking the light, too, although this is TVTropes, so I suppose no lampshades isn't really appropriate, eh? Heh—oh, uh, manager says we can't afford jokes like that.

And... uh, it looks like we can only afford a few paragraphs, so let's make this quick. This is what happens when a show lacks sufficient resources, but is desperately produced anyway on a shoestring. Getting it done requires Cutting Corners and sparing every expense possible. In film and television, this can be done be using Recycled Sets and Props, costumes from the local thrift shop, Stock Footage, only a Minimalist Cast of actors willing to work for minimal compensation, and other cost-reducing tricks. In animation, it can be seen in Off-Model, Off-the-Shelf FX, Recycled Graphics, and Special Effect Failure. Slashing marketing budgets leads to Invisible Advertising. If it's a comedy, the cheapness may be Lampshaded.

There are a plenty of reasons for No Budget: the work is a passion project whose creators are Doing It for the Art, mistakes are made while allocating the money, a Pointy-Haired Boss wants to pinch pennies, the money was blown too early (leading to Bottle Episodes), or the show gets Screwed by the Network after it loses favor. Media that is inexpensive to create (like comics) is resistant but not totally immune to this. What constitutes a small budget is always relative to the ambition of the project: action films with explosions and sci-fi epics with space battles may be scraping by with money a romantic comedy would adore.

Sometimes the creators are skilled enough to make the best of it and produce a good work despite (or even because of) the limitations imposed on them. If something goes Off the Rails in an inspired way, they may be willing to Throw It In!—they are too broke and Too Desperate to Be Picky. If this effort ultimately makes the show more interesting than it would have been if it were better-funded, compare Serendipity Writes the Plot. For the stubborn and resilient spirit required to keep doing creative work in such difficulty, compare The Show Must Go On. The Kitschy Local Commercial owes its charm to this.

Ok, uh... manager says we've gone over budget now. Please put your examples below, and we'll deal with them in the morning. Maybe then the appeal for more cash will have gone through...

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  • Most of the public service announcements aired on American Forces Network tend to be this. The most infamous example is this recycling PSA. The creator of this PSA said that it was filmed on their own time and done with their own money.
  • Some companies would just buy ad space for a TV commercial which merely consist of a static image and a voiceover extolling the virtues of whatever it is they're selling. Such as in the case of a toothpaste brand in the Philippines during the 80s, though they did eventually go for a more conventional approach with licenced characters used for their children's line as well.
  • New Zealand supermarket chain Pak'n'Save lampshades this in its TV adverts with the tagline, "Everything we do, to save you money". The adverts make use of simple stick-figure animation.
  • The infamous ASPCA PSAs are guilty of this trope. The same footage of sad looking animals set to royalty-free sad piano music with the spot in the ad for the ASPCA Magazine having the cheapest looking-CGI imaginable.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Anime in general is actually made on half or less of a western cartoon's budget. note  However, the last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion show what happens when even that runs out; the action-packed ending is later made into a movie and the TV series is rounded out with Stock Footage and philosophical exploration of the characters' inner psyches, the representation of Instrumentality from the characters' and then Shinji's perspectives.
  • On the North American side, if you are curious as to why voice actors don't get paid much in working anime compared to doing pre-lay, and why some anime titles are released without dubs, this is mainly because those who work to release the anime in North America are given limited budget because, for the longest time until the end of the 2010s, anime in general is a very niche nerd interest when compared to Marvel and DC Comics, largely because of people's perception towards animenote  unless if you are talking about Cash Cow Franchises such as Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball, and Pokémon. If a title needs around 3,000 units to break even (and this is without an English dub), then it gives you the idea of how limited anime budget tends to be in North America (as opposed to many popular video games where units can sell tens of thousands or even millions).
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena was made on a limited budget. However, the creators embraced their limitation with stock footage, stylised animation and surreal environments, making it one of the most visually distinctive animated series.
  • Kill la Kill, in spite of the series' stellar Animation Bump and Awesome Art moments, was made on a rather tight budget compared to similar shows that premiered around the time, resulting in many Limited Animation moments (episode 4 and 22 being the biggest cases). Nui Harime actually uses this to show how inhuman she is.
  • Lost Universe was made during the southeastern Asia financial crisis of 1998, and most animation studios that year were given meagre budgets to begin with. Also, a fire partially destroyed the studio that animated the episodes, resulting in the first bunch of them being of a sketchy, poor quality (since they had been completed, they couldn't have been fixed after the fire). The fourth episode had to be animated in South Korea for this reasonnote , and it was so Off-Model that the episode title became synonymous in Japan for bad animation.
  • Violinist of Hameln has the nickname "Slideshow of Hameln" for this reason, as the budget only allowed for animation in non-action scenes. Most of the money that should have gone towards the animation instead went towards purchasing the rights to use the classical music pieces that Hamel and Raiel play.
  • Musashi Gundoh, to the point that it became a Cult Classic purely based on its terrible animation. Much of the Off-Model-ness was cleaned up for the DVD release. Fans were not pleased.
  • Kemono Friends had a staff of only 10 people working over 500 days with a budget that was extremely limited and had to make extensive use of CGI, and the director had no clue how it gained the kind of popularity that it did despite all of this.
  • Joseph Lai's Space Thunder Kids is made up of stock animation from other low-budget anime titles that were made at the time, resulting in an incredibly bizarre and incoherent end result of a film.
  • Popee the Performer clearly had little in the way of a budget considering the bare-basic backgrounds and character designs along with its robotic animation, low quality sound mixing, and the fact that there is next to no spoken dialogue. The desert setting is simply because it would be easier to make. Take a look for yourself.
  • Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show was solely developed by Hiroshi Harada over the course of 5 years after numerous anime studios turned down the project due to the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the manga it's based on. The final cut that made it to theaters was unpolished and very limited in terms of animation, along with characters' mouths either being obscured or failing to move at all when they talked. Regardless, the film became highly popular in the underground market with copies of the unedited cut being the most sought after. note 
  • The music video for the Tamagotchi song "Every Lovely" consists of Lovelin dancing in front of the same background for the duration of the video, with the occasional recycled background from Let's Go! Tamagotchi.
  • Parodied in Carnival Phantasm, where one of the end-of-episode Tiger Dojo segments has Taiga decide to take advantage of being animated by performing all kinds of crazy actions with a noticeably higher framerate. In the next segment, she's rendered as colored-pencil line art, and her partner Illya loses her in-between frames and any movement beyond lip flaps, because Taiga blew almost 600,000 yen in under 40 seconds the last time. When Taiga responds by having a freakout and jumping all over the place, her animation quality gets worse and worse until she's nothing but rough pencil sketches and stick figures.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Brave Little Toaster was made on a budget of $2.3M, which was modest even for animated films at the time.
  • Bolívar, el Héroe: Produced in 2003, this Colombian animated feature remained lost for over 13 years until it was eventually uploaded onto YouTube. A quick look at the movie makes it clear why the filmmakers may have tried to hide it in the first place since the animation would give Dingo Pictures a run for their money.
  • DreamWorks Animation's film adaptation of the Captain Underpants book series quickly made headlines in the industry for its $38 million budget, making it the studio's cheapest CG film to date note .
  • Sausage Party has a reported budget of $19 million (though some sources claim $30 million). The cast is full of A-list talent—who are not cheap to pay even on a low budget project—so the amount of money put into actually animating the movie may be much lower. note 
  • The Christmas Tree is exactly this with its horrendous voice acting, writing, and overly sloppy animation. It was a no-brainer for video retailers and the USA channel to quickly brush it under the rug after its first airing and video release.
  • Every movie by Dingo Pictures. Same goes to their contemporary counterparts, Vídeo Brinquedo and Sparkplug Entertainment.
  • Felix the Cat: The Movie didn't fare too well with its ugly-looking animation and early CG effects, along with its terrible sound mixing and voice acting. It should come as no surprise that the film barely had any exposure when it finally came over to the states.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) was produced on a $6.5 million budget. It made ten times its budget with 61 million at the box office, one of the rare successful 2D animated films nowadays.
  • Norm of the North was produced on an $18 million budget and was slated for a straight-to-video release before Lionsgate decided to screen it in theaters at the last minute. Even if you didn't know that, the film's overall quality would make it incredibly obvious.
  • Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss cost around $2 million, which is extremely meager for a full-length animated film. The film was directed, written, and animated by former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink, with the voice acting provided by friends and family members. The results were mixed, though many did commend Nibbelink on such an ambitious project. Unfortunately, it still flopped at the box office.
  • The Rugrats Movie proved to be a financial hit for both Nickelodeon and Klasky-Csupo as the film made over $140 million at the box office against a $24 million budget, kick-starting the wave of TV to big screen animated features throughout the early 2000s.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie was made in 2004 for a budget of $30 million and managed to bring in over $140 million, which paved the way for a standalone sequel eleven years later.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie was originally budgeted at $25 million. It wound up being made for $10 million and it grossed $15 million domestically. What Warner Bros. did with the rest of the budget is anyone's guess—it sure didn't go towards promoting the film.
  • After The Rugrats Movie managed to out do their animated features at the box office, Disney decided to try and beat Nickelodeon at their own game with Doug's 1st Movie note , which they produced for $5 million with the original intention of being a straight-to-video feature.
  • Teen Titans Go! To the Movies reportedly came in on a $10 million budget, around half to a third of the cost of other film expansions of TV cartoons.
  • Disneytoon Studios was formed sometime after Disney entered the TV animation industry during the 90's with the intention of producing low budget animated features for TV, video, and occasionally theaters; hence the above mentioned Doug's 1st Movie along with their infamous Direct to Video lineup during the mid-90s and 2000s.
  • The Secret of NIMH was reportedly produced on a budget of $7 million, which was said to have been around half the budget to any of Disney's animated features at the time. Regardless, the film was heavily well-received by critics with much of the praise being directed towards the animation, which was noted for surpassing the quality of Disney's at the time.
    • Speaking of which: most of Disney's animated titles following Sleeping Beauty are usually considered the black sheep in the company's filmography as the animation is a noticeably sharp down-grade from their previous (and later) works. Robin Hood (1973) in particular had a budget so low that the animators were forced to reuse animation from other Disney films, which is especially noticeable during the "Phony King of England" musical number.
  • Sita Sings the Blues was made for $290K; $50,000 was spent paying for the music copyrights.
  • While nowhere near the quality of certain other studios, Vanguard Animation's filmography still paled in comparison to the works of more major studios of the time, resulting in the company becoming infamous in the animation industry up until their closing in 2010.note 
    • While having no involvement with its production, the direct-to-video sequel for their second film, Happily Never After, managed to look even worse than the first one.
  • Ralph Bakshi's Wizards was made on a $1M budget—on the DVD commentary, Ralph admitted that the only way he was even able to complete the film was because he got veteran Tom and Jerry animator, Irv Spence, to animate 75% of the movie. It tends to show more often than not, but Bakshi's studio was quite famous for cranking out animated films for less money than many movies spend on catering alone.
    • Being an independent filmmaker, most of Bakshi's films were produced on very low budgets. This includes Fritz the Cat ($850,000), Heavy Traffic ($950,000) and American Pop ($1 million). He didn't get a multi-million dollar budget until The Lord of the Rings, which still only cost $4 million. All of the aforementioned films made back their budgets several times over.
    • Cool World subverts this with its $30 million budget, but even then Ralph still had to cut corners when it came to mixing live-action with animation, resulting in the infamously cardboard cut-out set pieces and the poorly choreographed interactions between the actors and animated characters.
  • Down and Dirty Duck's shoestring budget of $110,000 note  meant there was little in the way for an animation team, leaving director Charles Swenson having to animate most of the film himself along with co-stars Flo & Eddie also having to function as the film's co-writers and co-composers respectively. Did we mention that Roger Corman was the producer?
  • Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith produced Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie on a $69,000 budget, which was even smaller than Dirty Duck's. Much like that movie, hiring one animator to make the film was enough, and boy does it show.
  • An American Tail was produced in 1986 for $9 million, and became the highest-grossing non-Disney animated feature of the time with a $84 million return at box office. Compare that to Disney's competing animated feature, The Great Mouse Detective, produced on a $14 million budget with a box office return of $38.7 million.
    • The film's TV spin-off, Fievel's American Tails, had it worst as it frequently suffered from Off-Model character designs and stilted animation, often riddled with errors. Because of this, and the numerous continuity errors from the sequel it's based on, the show was quickly cancelled after 13 episodes.
  • The 2007 adaption of the novel Flatland note  was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr who solely edited and animated the film while also serving as the lead voice actor.
  • Twice Upon a Time only had a mere $4,000,000 budgetnote  which forced co-director John Korty to have a majority of the film animated from his home in order to save money on production space. This was also the reason why the movie had a limited run in theaters, as The Ladd Company was going through financial troubles at the time and chose to spend what little money they had left to give The Right Stuff a wide release instead.
  • The Exigency was produced for 12 years by Cody Vibbart, who single-handedly animated the film using cheap CG programs like Poser on a $50,000 budget he raised out of pocket.
  • Phil Tippett's stop-motion magnum opus Mad God was produced over a period of thirty years, with the majority of its funding being crowd-sourced—and even that totaled only about $150,000.

    Game Shows 
  • This became something of the standard in Game Shows after the Quiz Show Scandals broke in 1958 and people became very distrusting of high-reward games. After that, games switched focus from "winning" more to "playing", which resulted in quirkier shows with lower budgets where the focus was more on having fun instead of big payouts. Big-money shows didn't really return until Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the late 1990s.
  • Most modern Game Show Network originals, especially since America Says. These shows typically award champions a flat $1,000 and offer a top prize of $10,000—with exceptions of America Says ($15,000) and the new Catch 21 ($25,000). Losing a bonus round, even by just one question, wins nothing extra.
    • Before, shows like Idiotest or Emogenius also offered grand prizes of $10k, but scoring was in dollars, and there were still small bonuses in endgames. As of March 2024, only two ongoing shows score in dollars: Chain Reaction and Hey Yahoo!
  • Blankety Blank, the British version of Match Game, had nearly all Undesirable Prizes because they could never afford prizes someone would actually want. This was frequently lampshaded via Self-Deprecation; one Running Gag was for second host Les Dawson to claim their prizes were fire-salvaged.
    Les Dawson: And for the benefit of anyone who hasn't got an Argos catalogue, here's some of the rubbish you might be saddled with tonight.
  • The Taiwanese version of Cash Cab is so cheap, they deduct the cab fare from contestants' winnings. Early episodes also had extremely paltry prize amounts—the grand total given away on the premiere, after cab fare deductions? Less than US$1.
  • The Price Is Right: Seasons 37-39 were accused of this, not with the prizes offered but prizes being offered only as "show" and the pricing games themselves set so hard that, short of a lucky or exceptionally skilled contestant, nobody would win it. One particularly ridiculous example was a game where a contestant had to guess the last digit of something that had no set price; a prize package consisting of a hot tub and personal massages, with the price of the latter determined based on a national average.
    • From at least Seasons 29-36 (2000-08) the pricing game win rate was between 46%-50%, with 36 posting the lowest amount of that group. Seasons 37-39 (2008-11) saw the win rate drop noticeably, with 39 in particular putting up just 34.9% thanks in part to new game Pay The Rent.
    • While this was a common practice prior to Roger Dobkowitz's departure from the show, it was less criticized because while the games were still set to be more difficult than usual, they could still be won by good contestants because Roger believed in not "cheating" the person who was playing — he refused to put the right choice of That's Too Much in the 1st-2nd or 9th-10th slots, or the money of Half Off in Box 13. The subsequent regime ignored both.
      • A common example is Stack The Deck, in which the object is to select five out of seven available numbers and use them to form the correct price of the car. The contestant can get up to three free digits by correctly pricing all three grocery products in play. The trope applies if any of the products are set up to be incorrectly priced.
    • With the more recent offerings of $20,000+ level trips and very easy pricing game setups (such as Secret X set up for a diagonal win), some have also wondered if trips are even part of the show's budget or if they are furnished by hotels/travel companies.
    • Car games offering compact or subcompact cars often worth less than $20,000 have steadily been on the rise despite inflation. It's gotten to a point where in Season 44, the show seemed to take pride in offering a Nissan Versa worth $12,815 in games such as Spelling Bee or Let 'em Roll. The average price of a new car these days is nearly three times that.
  • Sale of the Century: The 1980s NBC version originally began with a shopping Bonus Round, where contestants could buy sometimes-opulent prizes such as a $25,000 precious commodities package or a $20,000 Oriental rug. The show switched to the Winner's Board in November 1984 and the Winner's Big Money Game in December 1987, dropping the super-expensive prizes in favor of more standard game-show fare in the $1,500-$5,000 range, and moving its car prizes from full-sized Cadillacs and top-end Porsches to mainstream cars such as the Ford Taurus, entry-level luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz 190 or BMW 528i, or compact convertibles including the Chevrolet Cavalier (although the occasional Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac DeVille was offered). Some say this was a cost-cutting move, but contestants could still win more than $70,000 cash ($50,000 as the top prize, plus other cash bonuses along the way) for a successful stay. Still, the big-ticket items, such as $13,000 European tours and $21,000 cabin cruisers, were gone.
    • The Winner's Big Money Game made the $50,000 ridiculously hard to get: the champ had to win the WBMG on their seventh day (to get the car), come back for an eighth day, win that game, then clear the subsequent WBMG to actually get the $50,000. By all indication, only one player won the $50,000 in this format, whereas quite a few won the Lot in the Shopping and Winner's Board eras.
    • The 1980s syndicated version began with the Shopping format, but in November 1985 changed to the Winner's Board as well, played exactly the same way as on NBC. The change was rather noticeable since it was never so much as hinted at until the last segment of the last Shopping episode, when Jim announced it. The fact the Cash Jackpot continued to grow during the final Shopping week, even when it became obvious that nobody would get the $750 needed to win it, didn't help matters.
    • When it was revived as Temptation: The New Sale Of The Century, the budget shrank even further. Prizes were in the $500-$1,000 range, less than 1/4th the typical value of the prizes in the 1980s version if you adjust for inflation. The grand prize was just a mid-range car, worth less than 1/8th the 1980s jackpot (again, adjusted for inflation). Also, Instant Cash started at $500 and grew by $500 per show (with a $5,000 cap) and champs were limited to a maximum of five days. If the shoestring budget had been any tighter, the prizes would've had to be literal shoe strings. Justified as according to host Rossi Morreale in a 2012 interview, MyNetworkTV put no money at all into advertising the show.
  • Jeopardy!: Until Season 31, games that ended in non-zero ties for the lead resulted in the tied contestants keeping their winnings and playing again on the following show. The producers circumvented this after four occurrences in Fall 2014, changing this process to all ties being decided with a tiebreaker clue. The winner comes back on the next game with their winnings, and the loser is sent packing with $3,000 ($2,000 prior to Season 40). So far this has happened five times: March 1, 2018, July 18, 2019, January 22, 2021, February 23, 2022 and July 18, 2022.
  • Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me orginally offered scorekeeper Carl Kasell's voice on the winner's answering machine because the show couldn't afford anything else. The plan was to start offering proper prizes once the show gained a large enough budget but Carl's voice became so coveted that plan was dropped.
  • Wheel of Fortune, when the daytime version moved from NBC to CBS in Summer 1989. The show adopted a play-for-cash format (as its still-running syndicated companion did in October 1987), but the Wheel's dollar values were slashed, sometimes by more than half, with $50 and $75 dotting the Rounds 1-2 layout and the top value in Rounds 4+ being a very modest $1,250. (Conversely, nighttime used a $1,000/$2,500/$3,500/$5,000 layout {formerly $1,000/$1,000/$5,000} rather than the daytime $500/$500/$1,000/$1,250 {formerly $750/$1,000/$2,000}.) Also, the Bonus Round prizes included $5,000 cash and subcompact/mini-compact cars, as opposed to the $25,000 cash and super-expensive luxury/hand-built/exotic sportscars common in nighttime. Even worse, the price of a vowel dropped from $250 to $200, then further to $100. While the budget improved slightly over the last two years ($50 and $75 were ousted between mid-August and mid-September 1989, and the removal of the Free Spin wedge on October 16, 1989 resulted in a $400 boost), it was still cheap. While the front-game and Bonus Round prizes increased in value as the series went on, the Wheel became static when Free Spin became a token.
    • Still, despite the comparatively-lower budget, the daytime bonus prizes were generally more practical/desirable game show fare as opposed to nighttime's "other" prizes such as precious gems, log cabins, trips to private islands, $50,000 silver coffee-and-tea services, rooms full of lavender-colored furniture that didn't fit any average suburban home, and tickets to the year's top sporting events.
    • Subverted in Season 26: The $10,000 Wedge was replaced by the current Million-Dollar Wedge, which only awards the chance of taking it to the Bonus Round, and the contestant must avoid Bankrupt before the game ends. The only envelope that is replaced in the Bonus Round is the $100,000 envelope, with the other 23 left unchanged. If the contestant can pull it off...
    • However, with each time the $1,000,000 has been won, the budget has been noticeably tighter... despite the fact that said prize has always been insured.
      • After the first win occurred within a month of the wedge's introduction, the changes introduced in Season 27 made it more difficult to take the wedge to the Bonus Round. The second Bankrupt became permanent throughout the whole game with said space always adjacent to the top dollar amount and the Jackpot Round moved to Round 1, decreasing the value of potential wins.
      • After the second occurred near the end of Season 30, the Bonus Round got much cheaper the following season with the minimum value being landed just over 50% of the time. The $100,000/$1 Million envelope wasn't even landed on until the fourth-to-last week of the season. Also, the cash bonus for winning a car in the Bonus Round decreased from $5,000 to $3,000. Meanwhile, the Jackpot Round was replaced by the Express Round, not helped by its high win rate the previous season.
      • Season 32 saw the show making steps to get back on its feet despite the new $32,000 Bonus Round minimum being offered on almost three out of every four shows: the minimum dollar value on the Wheel increased to $500 (but vowels still cost $250), and the cash bonus for winning a car in the Bonus Round also increased back to $5,000. However, all that went out the window with the $1,000,000 being won again just three shows into the season.
    • For Season 33, Wheel chose not to tape any road shows, citing high production costs (though the Sony email leaks may have also factored in their decision to do so). Also, two of the Wheel's values decreased with a third being lowered in every round except for one. Furthermore, the show stopped giving cash with cars in the Bonus Round and the 1/2 Car tags were removed for Round 1. Again, it didn't help that the 1/2 Car was won frequently in Season 32.
    • Some would argue that the nighttime version has shown this even before the Million-Dollar Wedge was introduced to the show. The main-game prizes since about 2002 have almost always been trips, cash bonuses, or sponsored shopping sprees (even then, the trips are usually within the US or Caribbean islands). Bonus Round prizes, on the other hand, are limited to cars and cash. Also, the Bonus Round answers since the Turn of the Millennium have often been Nintendo Hard answers that are either random pairings of words or contrived phrases that no one would say (although this has been countered somewhat in Season 35 by now allowing the contestant to pick one of three categories).
    • Interestingly, despite signs of budget problems, the Prize Puzzle is still a regular element on the show, currently offering a $7,000+ trip to the player who solves the puzzle. However, they stopped giving out the $50,000 cash award to Sony Rewards card holders in Season 29. In Season 30, they switched to awarding a flat $5,000 to Spin ID members.
    • As of Season 35, SPIN IDs are only put into play when the $10,000 Mystery Wedge is won.
    • The 1/2 Car was retired in Season 37.
  • According to a post by Buzzerblog's Alex Davis, the American version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had only $10,000 left in the prize budget for the last episode of its Clock format, suggesting that the Shuffle format was introduced for budget reasons.
    • The 2018-19 season of the show introduced a new logo and graphics package. However, said graphics are extremely cheap; the question graphics have cheap bevel effects and fonts, the money ladder graphics use a completely different font and are just as ugly, the money graphics after correct answers are a completely different style, and the "Millionaire" text on the logo isn't even centered!
  • Family Feud:
    • Until 1992, families played for cash. With the introduction of the Bullseye Round, families played for points instead. Plus, the Fast Money prizes of $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the version (which were already cheap by early 90s standards) were replaced with base amounts of $2,500 or $5,000. The 1994 Bankroll version had this even worse, with the most families could play for being either $7,000 or $14,000.
    • It's more blatant on the current syndicated version, which also has families playing for points instead of cash. The Fast Money prize was originally $10,000, but it changed to $20,000 in 2001 which is still the same to this day. Fast Money losses are still $5 a point, which has been the same since 1976.note 
  • Parodied on The Cheap Show, a pseudo-game show created by Chris Bearde. The prizes were intentionally cheap (except in the bonus game), the set had a three-person celebrity panel but only two ever showed up, and host Dick Martin was introduced as "the only man we can find who'll work this cheap".
  • The 1981-82 Canadian import Pitfall! originally offered a $5,000 prize package in the bonus game with $100 cash awarded for every "zone" crossed. Later in the run, the prize package was halved and the cash replaced by a small prize for crossing the fourth zone. Later contestants were stiffed of their prizes, and host Alex Trebek's salary check bounced (he had it framed on a wall in his office), all because Catalena Productions, makers of the show, went belly-up.
  • Quicksilver was an Irish quiz show that ran from The '60s to The '80s. Players competed for laughably small cash prizes, ranging from 2 pence to the dizzying heights of £10.
  • Inquizition, airing from 1998-2001, was by design stripped clean of anything that might imply any sort of a budget. The contestants stood behind podiums that performed the bare minimum of functions—locking in an answer and showing a score—and looked it. They competed in an empty sound stage green-screened to look like an abandoned airplane hangar that gave its own implications of cheapness. The prize for winning was a whopping $250, though later on they got really crazy and upped the prize to $500.
  • Letters and Numbers, the Australian version of Countdown, doesn't feature any celebrity guests and the prize for everyone is a Macquarie dictionary whether they lose the first round or win eight in a row.
  • Lampshaded and Played for Laughs with The $1.98 Beauty Show. Contestant competed in a mock beauty pageant and the winner received a plastic crown, a bouquet of rotten vegetables and the titular $1.98 which was dispensed from a change machine on host Rip Taylor's belt.
  • The Hollywood Squares:
    • The budget was slashed big time for the final season of the Bergeron version. The change from self-contained to straddling wouldn't have been so bad if the amount for winning wasn't $2,000 tops without any bonus money for each captured square. In contrast, previous games rewarded $500 for each square win or lose and as much as $4,000 for a Tic-Tac-Toe. Also, the Secret Square prizes were no longer rolled over if lost; said prize changed each game and was worth roughly the same value.
    • The Bonus Round got even cheaper:
      • For the first three of the five levels, contestants originally played for a car, $25,000 and a trip around the world in that order. In the final season, they became the last three prizes with the first two being a sub-$10,000 trip and $10,000. This became even more glaring in light of the original version offering $50,000 for making it to the fourth tier and $100,000 for the champion's fifth and final attempt.
      • To win the Bonus Round prize, a contestant chose from nine keys with only one opening its contents. At first, bad keys were removed for each failed attempt and for each correct answer in a round where Bergeron quizzed contestants on the featured celebrities. The final season did only the latter, putting all nine keys in play at first regardless of attempt and offering only consolation cash of $500 (originally $1,000) for each correct answer if lost.
    • Its spinoff Hip Hop Squares in its first season offered a top prize of $2,500 in 2012. Could be justified, as it was produced for MTV2, a cable network (plus most of the budget likely went towards getting the celebrities). The VH1 version is quite a bit higher-budget.
  • Pyramid:
    • The budget for the main game bonuses got slashed for the John Davidson-hosted revival in 1991. In place of 7-11 (convey seven words or phrases for $1,100), the Tuesday and Thursday shows had two Double Trouble categories (convey seven two-word phrases in 45 seconds, $500 per box). The Mystery 7 (get all seven without the aid of a specific category for a nice prize) was replaced by Gamble for a Trip (decide whether to give up five seconds for the chance to win a cheap trip). Late in the first season, Gamble for a Grand (same as Gamble for a Trip, except $1,000 was at stake) permanently replaced 7-11. Also, this run scrapped the $5,000 bonus for breaking a 21-21 tie.
    • The Donny Osmond version was even worse.
      • You had to beat the Winner's Circle twice to win $25,000. Previously, if you made it to the Winner's Circle both times, you played for $25,000 regardless of whether or not you won the first time.
      • Winner's Circle categories often consisted of Moon Logic Puzzles and impossibly strict judging. The boxes had to be guessed verbatim instead of just "the essence" being said.
      • Hiring celebrities who clearly had no idea how to play the game—or worse, did not speak English as a first language (such as Russian-born Lenny Krayzelburg). This screwed good contestants out of qualifying for the tournament.
      • In the tournament, you also had to beat the Winner's Circle twice in one show to win. If no one succeeded, the contestant with the fastest time merely had their score augumented to $100,000.
    • The GSN revival from 2012 had no main game bonuses. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that getting 7 out of 7 in any category would increase the potential top prize by $5,000.
  • 25 Words or Less: Runner-up contestants receive a $200 debit card for playing. Complete the Bonus Round, and you win $10,000. Otherwise, you win a vacation. When the format switched to returning champions, the consolation prizes became far more varied.
  • The early 90s cable game Let's Go Back offered a top prize of $500 for winning the game. Their bonus prizes weren't very lavish either, being nostalgic knick-knacks from the past like Pet Rocks or 1950s toys. At least the show never took itself seriously, with the host and contestants alike being as laid-back as possible.
  • The original Press Your Luck on CBS became this during its third and final year (1985-1986), when, after the colors on the big board changed, the dollar amounts in Round 2 began taking a nosedive (Round 1 was virtually unchanged, save for the addition of Add-A-One, and a $250 increase in #10), Pick-A-Corner began resulting in many conflicting and anti-climactic choices, and many of the $2,000 and $2,500 spaces were gone to make way for $500 and $1,000 ones. Pick-A-Corner would be dropped by the final month of episodes.
  • Any daytime gameshow produced by Fremantle Media subsidiary Grundy that aired on Channel 5 during the Pearson Television days was this.
    • The first game show Channel 5 ever aired was Whittle. It was simply a rebranded version of another game show called Everybody's Equal but with a mere £250 (or £500) prize and an even cheaper-looking set.
    • 100% went further down the budget than Whittle did. All the set consisted of was a few podiums, some barriers, and that’s it. No audience, no host, just a voice over. However, the series was very successful and lasted until 2001, with many spin-offs and specials produced as well.
    • In 2000, the BBC game show Going for Gold was revived as One to Win, being given the cheaper Whittle treatment as expected from Grundy, and remained the same when it was revived again in 2008, but under its original name.
    • Endemol's Brainteaser happened to have a budget far lower than 100%. The cost for the show went towards its phone-in segments. Channel 5 paid a maximum of £0.00 to air the show, and didn’t even control the time slot it aired on. This soon backfired after the 2007 Phone-In Scandal brought the show to an axing.

  • In-universe in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, where middle school students Greg and Rowley try to make an indie horror film. Their low-end equipment is "borrowed" from their parents, the only actor is Rowley, and their "special effects" are gummy worms and ketchup.
  • In the Realms of the Unreal author Henry Darger made the illustrations for his story by combining his original art with tracing over photos, coloring book pictures and comic-strip illustrations (he loved Little Annie Rooney) of human figures and landscapes. He would find a lot of those, along with much of his art supplies, while dumpster diving, and also in newspapers—he read all five Chicago papers every day. He also had a collection of children's books with line drawingsnote  and used those. His original nature settings (especially his amazing skies and flowers) were fine, but he couldn't draw human figures as well as he wanted, and he couldn't afford proper art training. What little spending money he did have, he used for editing the photos to his needs, including having enlarged photocopies made at the local drugstore.

  • All tracks except "Avatar" on Grottomatic's first album, fittingly titled On No Budget, were made on Tim Stevens' personal computer. He composed the album art with Microsoft Paint. He was living in poverty at the time.
  • Nirvana recorded their debut album Bleach for barely over $600.
  • The debut self-titled album by My Friend The Chocolate Cake was made on a minuscule budget of $800.
  • Craig Minowa's (and by extension, Cloud Cults) debut album "The Shade Project" was made on a budget so small that he had to cut corners wherever possible and use any and all manner of substitutes for instruments.
  • All of Daniel Johnston's albums prior to 1990 were recorded from his home without any professional equipment whatsoever. Other than music, Daniel also drew each individual album cover by hand before self-releasing them in his hometown of Austin, Texas. He eventually started signing to professional record labels in the 90s but continued to use the same lo-fi production and draw his own album covers until his death in 2019.
  • Nickelback's first EP, Hesher, was recorded in a two month period between March and April of 1996 for $4,000—half of which was actually used for recording and the other half for buying drugs—and was self-released by the group in their hometown. Only a thousand copies of it were made before the band ran out of money and decided the album wasn't worth keeping around, making physical copies heavily sought after by fans.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded his first song, "My Bologna", in the bathroom across the hall from his college's radio station because it wouldn't have cost him anything.
  • Nine Inch Nails' first album, Pretty Hate Machine, was solely recorded by frontman Trent Reznor, who initially began developing the album during down times as an over-night janitor for Right Track Studio.
  • An interesting incident of this befell Neu!!, who ran out of money before they could record what would become side two of their second album, NEU! 2. Their record label refused to give them a dime, so they decided to add the songs from the previously-released standalone single, "Neuschnee/Super," and proceeded to repeat the two tracks at various playback speeds, including one repeat that sounds like a cassette being mangled. Critics dismissed the repetitions and manipulations as a cheap rip-off at the time, but nowadays some look to the result as a forerunner to the remix.
  • Sloan's debut album Smeared was recorded with only $1200 in 1992.
  • Steve Lacy (not the Jazz Musician) became famous for this. He recorded and produced his first couple of songs on his phone in a Garageband App! Though, soon after gaining fame and money he kept choosing to make all his music on his phone making it more a Stylistic Suck than no budget.
  • During *NSYNC's early European days in the late 90s, they had to share hotel rooms and occasionally had to wear their own clothes (or switch the clothes around) for performances. Their early music videos also had quite a low-budget look to them.
  • Eric Idle and Neil Innes' Rutland Weekend Television lampshades this in "Song o' the Continuity Announcers". Verse two:
    And so although you know we never bitch.
    There's not a single funny set, we haven't got a stitch
    'Cause we've overspent out budget, could not have,
    Now there's nothing left to make you buggers laugh.

    Music Videos 
  • Many early music videos during the New Wave Music era were shot in a White Void Room, in order to keep costs to a minimum, as well as in keeping with the stripped-back sensibilities of the music.
    • The Trope Codifier is believed to be ''Pop Muzik'' by M. The director, Brian Grant, was on record saying that he was given a budget limit of £2000, so he had little choice but to produce the video on a 'white cyc' background and edit the video on the fly. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • OK Go videos, at least at their beginning in YouTube. "A Million Ways" is a good example. A lot of them feature props bought at the Dollar Store and Ikea.
  • Sarah McLachlan's music video for "World on Fire" only cost $15 to make. The video shows Sarah playing an acoustic guitar in her living room, and infographics about the cost of other music videos, and what that total could afford in developing countries.
  • Beyoncé filmed two of her videos, "If I Were a Boy" and "Single Ladies", back to back, and wound up spending a lion's share of the budget on the former and forcing her to take a minimalist approach with the latter.
  • Country Music artist Sarah Buxton said that the video for her single "Outside My Window" was filmed by one of the song's four songwriters on a budget of $80.
  • The video for Hizaki Grace Project's "Philosopher" is a good example of a Visual Kei music video where it's painfully obvious that they spent the budget on the band members' costumes. The result is a video, apparently shot with a 10-year-old camera (the video was made in 2006), which consists almost entirely of the band members performing alternately in front of a wrinkled curtain and on a staircase, interspersed with shots of them posing pensively in various places around the mansion they rented. But at least they all look gorgeous!
  • David Lee Roth once bragged that the music video for Van Halen's "Jump" cost around $600—at a time when other bands were spending upwards of six figures on their videos. Both the song and video helped make an already popular band HUGE.
  • The video for Voivod's "Ravenous Medicine" was shot on an incredibly low budget, and consists mostly of the members goofing around on a green screen.
  • "Big Bang Baby" by Stone Temple Pilots is a homage to the bare-bones music videos of the late '70s and early '80s, which already followed this trope. It was made in 1996. You can probably guess how much it must have cost at that point.
  • Lil Dicky invokes this trope in "Save Dat Money", where he keeps faith to the song's lyrical content by making the most badass rap video possible while not spending anything. Believe it or not, he actually gained money by making the video through sponsorships with the firms he collaborated with.
  • Lampshaded in the video for "Hey Man Now You're Really Living" by Eels. It starts with the singer apologizing for having no money, and then the rest of it is just him and his dog singing along to the song.
  • Anthony Kiedis revealed in his autobiography that the music video for "Jungle Man" was shot on a $200 budget of their own money, composed solely of footage of the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing the song in clubs, because EMI refused to give them any money for music videos.
  • INXS shot their first video, "Just Keep Walking" on a budget of $1200.
  • David Bowie's 2013 video for "Love Is Lost" cost only $12.99 according to the official press release! Those life-sized puppets? They were created for an unreleased 1999 video, and he just took them out of mothballs. The three-person crew included himself!
  • Every music video by the comedy rock duo Ninja Sex Party was produced with next to no money using cheap green screens, crudely animated effects, and whatever props and locations they could find at the time.
  • Custom's video for "Hey Mister", directed by the artist himself: The initial concept stemmed from impromptu handheld camera footage revolving around him and his girlfriend going to a beach and writing the lyrics in the sand and on her body. The label liked the results and gave him money to finish the video, so scenes of the two speeding in a yellow Ferrari and shopping, gambling, and dining in Las Vegas were added; However, all of the budget was spent on renting the car and the trip to Vegas. so it was all shot on the same handheld digital camera.
  • The video for O'Hooley and Tidow's version of "Gentleman Jack" (used as the end credit theme for the TV series of the same title) is simply a cellphone video of the two of them messing around in a dressing room in Bifauxnen costumes.
  • The video for PJ Harvey's debut single "Dress" was shot in black and white 16mm by Harvey and her friend Maria Mochnasz. Since they could only afford a total of 12 minutes of film, they ended up having to repeat several sequences.
  • The Pixies were informed they had to make a video for their single "Velouria" if they wanted to get on Top of the Pops, so they filmed one shot of the band running through a quarry for 23 seconds, then slowed it down until it was the length of the song. They didn't get on Top Of The Pops anyway.
  • According to Ed Sheeran, the music video for “The A Team,” cost £10 to make, and that was only for a pack of tights (pantyhose), for the girl in the video to wear.
  • The video for Bobby Shmurda's "Hot N***" was made with next to no money using a commercial camcorder, and mostly consists of Bobby and several members of his crew goofing around on the streets of East Flatbush.

  • Invoked by Time Fantasy, which was made to provide a low-budget item for Williams' marketing and distribution departments.
  • Asteroid Annie and the Aliens was made in order to use up some outdated leftover components.
  • Bally's 1983 Grand Slam was made as an "economy" game. Among its cheapness was many of them only supporting 2 players (the later units had 4-player support), and only having 6-digit score counters (when almost every game at the time had 7 digits).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Big Japan Pro Wrestling's early years were propped up by two wrestlers who departed from All Japan (Shinya Kojika and Kendo Nagasaki), and it showed. Their solution was to turn to Garbage Wrestling, but even in that field they couldn't match the explosives of FMW or production of IWA Japan, inspiring some of their more "distinct" hazards such as "heat stones" (space heaters wrapped in barbed wire) and piranha tanks, which remained even after they could afford better due to Grandfather Clause.
  • Ohio Valley Wrestling's "Shoestring Budget" has been affectionately mocked by everyone from Jim Cornette to Randy Orton, both of whom expressed disdain with the much more expensive facilities ran by the revived FCW, believing OVW gets more done with so much less.
  • When CZW isn't being rundown for Garbage Wrestling or for being a Wretched Hive, other promotions are mocking its non existent budget, the joke usually being after some spectacular mess, often their own, someone will decry that even budget-less CZW did better.
    • While all of the above is true CZW has still been running shows uninterrupted since 1999. The same can't be said for their midwest counterpart IWA-Mid South, which made the average CZW show look like WrestleMania. They've gone out of business several times and haven't ran a show since 2022, literally getting banned in Kentucky (and nearly getting professional wrestling banned in Kentucky) and causing a hepatitis scare in Indiananote  hasn't helped.
  • Ring of Honor was in this situation after losing their distributor, RF Video. While the company was eventually saved by Sinclair Broadcast Group, SBG let them run for over a year without a production budget, despite being, well, a broadcast group. ROH in fact threatened to overtake CZW as the punchline, though while production progress was slow, SBG did come to learn the value of talent and venue slightly quicker.
  • Even by independent circuit standards Emi Sakura's Ice Ribbon stood out in this regard as it didn't even have a ring. Shows consisted of children straight from its "dojo" wrestling on mats. With that said, the company has grown immensely from its humble origins to become one of the more recognizable women's feds since the fall of Zenjo and GAEA, pioneering internet streaming, bringing pro wrestling to dead venues across Asia and attracting various big name talents, not just from pro wrestling and mixed martial arts but even the unexpected addition of actress Hikaru Shida, who proved to be very good in the ring once they could afford to maintain one.
  • This is the most immediately noticeable difference between Chigusa Nagayo's first promotional effort, GAEA, and her second, Marvelous. Compare the elaborate outfits of Lioness Asuka's Super Star Unit or Akira Hokuto's Las Cachorras Orientales with Infernal KAORU's W-Fix, who are identified by black t shirts. Still, a promotion run by Nagayo doesn't have much trouble getting names such as KAORU on its shows or attracting international attention when recruiting new wrestlers. The streaming service was a shakier endeavor, sometimes literally, but none the less proved to be a source of good matches.
  • TNA's budget went into a nosedive after they got cancelled from Spike and Panda Energy (the billion dollar company Dixie Carter's parents own) cut them off. By 2016 they were broke. They kept on paying their wrestlers and production team late, they were kicked out of their original headquarters and had to move into their merchandise warehouse, and they barely had enough money to do tapings. The annual Slammiversary PPV almost got canceled because they were so short on cash—it's effectively the reason why Billy Corgan became minority shareholder. Even then Corgan only did so out of ignorance of just how true "no budget" really was and fled to the NWA once he realized how hard TNA's recovery would be, Anthem of the Fight Network also having an interest in the company giving him a convenient way out.
  • Buck Zumhofe's Rock n Roll Wrestling was infamous during its run for its incredibly shoestring quality. Matches were held in cheap locations (bars, schools, etc) using a wrestling ring that was barely big enough to hold two people, and were recorded using a store bought camcorder without announcers or a film crew. Their videos also lacked editing, meaning technical goofs like Zumhofe's daughter saying "action" and "cut" were often left in, while Zumhofe's commentary on his old AWA matches (which were originally used to pad out their YouTube channel in the beginning) were filmed by pointing the camera at the TV monitor as he commentated from off screen. Since Zumhofe's conviction for sexual abuse in 2014, RnR Wrestling has shut down and their YouTube channel has been deleted; with this audience recording being the only proof that the promotion ever existed.
  • Professional Wrestling as a whole was guilty of this in the territory days. Promoters often recycled tapes to save money, which is why many promotions have incomplete libraries or whatever does exist was recorded by fans. Promoters rarely filmed house shows for budgetary reasons. note  Since house shows were where most promoters made their money and concluded feuds, many great matches only exist in the memories of the fans who witnessed them live. Territory promoters often used the same title belts for decades, to the point that they would literally be falling apart before someone bothered to have a new one made. Wrestlers on smaller shows, called "spot shows," often worked more than one match so the promoter could put on a card with as few as six wrestlers. note  And "outlaw" promoters ran on even less of a budget than the territories. An outlaw promoter might literally hold a show in someone's back yard in the days before Backyard Wrestling was even a thing.

  • On Rick Dees Top 40, "No budget" was a catchphrase, the source of a Running Gag (example: Dees explained about a problem with receiving mail, as because there was "no budget", the show could not afford a letter opener), and the name of a fictional record label.
  • NPR's news/quiz show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me had such a low budget during its first few years that the only "prize" they could afford to give out was a voice mail greeting done by game's announcer Carl Kasell. The prize became such a famous part of the show that it was kept even after the show was given a higher budget.
  • Mark Steel's in Town has a budget that barely covers transportation and lodging for the small production to do its field recording. They couldn't even do any episodes on Scottish towns for the first series because they couldn't afford the train fare.

  • Happens all the time, mainly because many shows don't really have a budget to begin with. This doesn't apply to, say, Broadway (most of the time), but there are far more theaters out there than what's on Broadway, as well as many colleges that produce productions, and many of them (both college productions and actual theatrical productions,) are run on a shoe-string budget. This can get to the point where all you might have are cheap costumes, a bare-bones set, and minimal lighting. And some productions don't even have that. But in a field where, on average, only 2% of the US go to see shows, it can only be expected, unfortunately.
  • The Fantasticks spent around $1,000 for set and costuming, and employed a two-piece orchestra. This helps keep its production costs low, enabling it to become a record-breaking Long Runner.
  • An ancient example of the trope - Aristophanes, in his Frogs, has the chorus come on dressed in the filthy torn rags of Bacchic celebrants, and has them joke openly about how this choice of costume helps to keep down the expenses. Athenian theatre was funded by the liturgy system - the compulsory largesse of the wealthiest men in the city - but Frogs was put on at the height of the Peloponnesian War, when everyone was feeling the financial strain and liturgy money was desperately needed to pay for mercenaries and triremes instead. Which makes this Older Than Feudalism.
  • This trope is actually the reason The Scottish Play has such a superstitious reputation, for two connected reasons:
    • It's one of the cheapest plays you can put together if you can't afford safety equipment—the fact that most of the scenes are at night means you don't even need many light bulbs—except it's one of the plays that most needs safety equipment.
    • Because it's so cheap to put on yet such a famous crowd-pleaser, it's a tempting play for a troupe down on their luck to use as their swansong; the play gets blamed for being cursed and putting the troupe out of business, when the troupe was probably already bankrupt by the time the curtains even opened.
  • Finale was produced by two high school students. The budget almost entirely came out of pocket and from a (mostly unsuccessful) gofundme page.

    Video Games 
  • Believe it or not, Amnesia: The Dark Descent actually only had a budget of $360,000. Frictional Games reportedly even had to go a couple months without pay to keep the game from running out of money.
  • Katawa Shoujo had about 20 international developers and no budget - they all volunteered in their spare time to make a free game. They didn't even accept any donations (since it would be impractical to fairly distribute them), although they have sold some very limited physical goods.
  • This is the reason behind many indie games using Retraux graphics rather than being in 3D. 2D pixel art is easy to attempt on your own if you can't afford an artist, although doing it well is another matter, and doesn't require fancy hardware or software.
  • Touhou Project, Cave Story, and various other one-person efforts.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire is a non-indie PC game with a budget of $1M. For comparison, average PC game cost is $18-28M.
  • Katamari Damacy was made by a group of 10 in less than 18 months on a budget of under $1M, leading to the Lego-like art style that's now a series staple. (Yes, it was successful enough for a series). The original also included many large levels, multiplayer, etc.
  • Plumbers Don't Wear Ties was very cheaply shot even for a 1990s Interactive Movie, and most of the time it fails at being full-motion. Low production values are evident even in the game interface (what there is of it, anyway).
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia had an extremely limited budget, yet garnered the highest amount of sales of any game by Compile Heart, which led it to become a larger series (with a proper budget, obviously).
  • Mortal Kombat I had a very small development team (all the programming was done by Ed Boon!), with the footage used for the digitized graphics being shot with the camera of artist John Tobias in a makeshift broom closet without even mats for the martial artists to do falls or flips. Only when a demo version became popular in Midway's offices the higher-ups gave more time for them to develop, even adding a female character to the six males.
  • The original Super Smash Bros. 64 had a very limited budget and little promotion, as the project was initially a simple side project by Masahiro Sakurai that Satoru Iwata let him do on weekends. After Sakurai presented the partial product to Iwata, he asked if he could use several Nintendo characters in an effort to make it more original. The game's surprise success led to the sequels having a much more lavish budget, as seen in the much bigger cast, stage selection, and more complex moves.
  • Almost all Game Mods rely on an almost non-existent budget and typically are not allowed to sell their finished game/mod for money (Flight simulators are one notable exception). Even total conversion mods like MechWarrior: Living Legends and Black Mesa - mods which are essentially their own triple-A games - are developed on a budget that that only covers the cost for server upkeep and tool licensing, such as 3DS Max.
  • Dwarf Fortress is an odd case The studio's annual operating budget is about US$35,000; for a game that's coded by one guy and which started out as a pure hobby project, that's pretty high. For a game that's won a large stack of awards, spawned at least three or four imitators from much larger and better-resourced studios, been the subject of a feature article in the New York Times, and been on display in the Museum of Modern Art, it's astonishingly low. Also worth mentioning is that the budget is donations. The game is free.
  • The Fool's Errand and its sequel The Fool and His Money were both coded, illustrated, written, and produced by one man named Cliff Johnson. The Fool and His Money in particular was funded by money out of Johnson's own pocket and donations from "True Believers", which goes a long way towards explaining why it took nine years for the game to be completed.
  • Segagaga: According to developer Tez Okano, the game cost "100th of Shenmue"note  and was developed mostly in secret over two years. When its sale was approved, Sega gave him a $200 marketing budget, of which half was used by Okano to buy himself a wrestling mask. Appearing at games stores in disguise, he was able to get enough buzz going to spur online orders and eventually a retail release.
  • The majority of crowd-funded video games (whose title isn't "Star Citizen") are produced on budgets drastically humbler than what traditional publishers invest into projects of comparable complexity. Since this money is usually spent on programming and assets, crowd-funded projects usually skimp on marketing (compensated by word of mouth) and quality assurance (compensated by a rapid post-release feedback and patch cycle).
  • Age of Conan. Very apparent when the game first launched in 2008. Most of the world segments were beautifully designed and the storyline and quests were masterful up until level 40, at which point it became obvious to players that the money to develop the game had simply run out. There were practically no quests or playable content between level 40 and level 70 with a smattering of endgame quests filled out. This problem was alleviated by "Rise of the Godslayer" and further expansions that filled out the sorely needed mid level content.
  • Many of Yoko Taro's games fall victim to having to be made with a shoestring budget as well as often having an inexperienced crew under him often leads to lackluster graphics and gameplay. His games often use atmosphere and story in center in order to get by instead.
  • All of the games made by Mediagenic. The reason why is because back then Activision had very little money left, as they wanted to break in the software applications industry under the name Mediagenic, but ended up lacking in success there. That was compounded by an 1988 court decision that found Activision guilty in a multi-million dollar patent infringement suit by Philips regarding its previous cartridge games. They were however still an old and respected name in the video game industry and so were given confident launch titles to last by both Sega and Nintendo for their respective 16-bit consoles. Eventually they crashed, were taken over by an investment group led by Bobby Kotick and filed for chapter 11 reorganisation in 1992. They changed their name back to Activision, allowing them to do high-budget games again.
  • Both Midas Interactive and Phoenix Games take this to the extreme as most of their titles barely qualify as games at all; rather they're poorly animated films note  with slider puzzles and coloring pages slapped on to pass them off as games to the mass public. That, or they would publish games from unknown or smaller developers under a very limited budget and severely constrained schedule, often resulting in games like London Cab Challenge or Shoot for the PS1 that were regarded to be some of the worst console titles ever made, if not for its obscurity compared to the likes of Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. Their low-budget business model even apparently extended to their advertising, as there is next to no coverage about them in major gaming publications.
  • Both Hotel Mario and the Zelda games for the Philips CDI are notorious examples in the industry. The Zelda titles were produced for around $500,000 each, with the infamous animated cut scenes for all three being handled by a small team of amateur animators brought into the U.S. to produce them within a five month period. As for games themselves, all three suffered from stiff controls and confusing game play which wasn't at all helped by the frequent lags and the rather poor and graphically outdated level design; And that's not even mentioning the atrocious writing and voice-overs.
  • The first installment of Five Nights at Freddy's was initially a Kickstarter project by creator Scott Cawthon to fund for its creation, but after failing to attract even a single investor for the game, Scott decided to continue Freddy's development by himself with his own money and had his kids act as beta testers for it.
    • On the same subject, Scott's previous Christian and family games were also produced on shoestring budgets as many of them utilized pre-rendered graphics and in-program character models and props.
  • Reportedly, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was made on a very low budget for a Modern game with estimates being at least half of the budget for Street Fighter V's DLC - you read that correctly, a budget of half not the SFV base game, but that of its DLC seasons - and, as a result, many of the character models were pulled from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and other older titles, with only slight changes to make them work in the new art style.
  • First Max Payne game had a modest budget and most of what little development money Remedy had went into creating character models, most of which were based on developers, their friends or family members and people who worked in other companies in the same office complex where Remedy was located to cut down the costs. The distinct Graphic Novel cutscenes of the game were also selected due to budget issues and similarly casted with easily available people, most notably the games lead writer, Sam Lake, who played Max Payne.
  • Atlus was undergoing significant financial troubles during the development of Persona 4. This doesn't show too much during the actual game but is more evident with the game's choice of platform (it's a PlayStation 2 game released in 2008) and internal data (the game is built as if it were a Game Mod for Persona 3, complete with stacks of leftover assets from that game). This was mainly due to financial issues regarding Index Corporation, Atlus's parent company at the time, which eventually led to them being convicted of corporate fraud and declaring bankruptcy in June, 2013. Thankfully this issue stopped plaguing Atlus after they were acquired by the Sega Sammy group.
  • Compared to the blockbuster-level budgets Rockstar Games spent on their recent Grand Theft Auto titles, Vice City in particular was developed on a $5 million budget. Most of it was apparently spent on the voice actors, namely Ray Liotta and a few others. Given how the game was initially conceived as an Expansion Pack for Grand Theft Auto III before it was spun off as a standalone game it isn't that much of a surprise, though ironically enough it was actually their most expensive game up to that point.
    • A bigger example of this in the GTA series is Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which had to give almost every character The Other Darrin treatment, and have a music selection closer to III's than VC's with the pop stations featuring original compositions once again instead of licensed songs, the stations all featuring less music than VC, and The Liberty Jam being the only case of Nothing but Hits in the game. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories in comparison had a much bigger budget, and thus was able to license plenty more hit 80's songs, bring back the celebrity voices, change up Vice City even more than Liberty City Stories changed Liberty City, and have Phil Collins appear as himself.
  • Legend (1994), an arcade Beat 'em Up game made by the then-indie studio, Arcade Zone. The amount of money put into it is unknown, but it's drawn and animated by two people, Carlo Perconti and Lyes Belaidouni. The sequel, Legend (1998) averts it by having an increased budget.
  • While it's not exactly known what the budget for Resident Evil was, the developers pointed out that after they had budgeted everything else, they had little to no money left for actors and voice acting. The actors seen in the FMVs were just a bunch of random people that had little to no acting experience and the actress that protrayed Jill Valentine was still in high school at the time. The massive success of the game paved the way for bigger budgets for later sequels that would have much better voice acting.
  • Running VoltGun is an indie Run-and-Gun game whose budget is tiny, even for indie standards. For starters, it's made in three days by a single person, game developer Sinclair Strange (YES, really). It contains a grand total of three short stages, with a single-digit number of enemy mooks available, three bosses, and can be completed in around 18 minutes. Even the game's introduction screen proudly states it's "Made under 72 hours".
  • Due to the mediocre sales and divisive reception of The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures, its sequel Resolve was made with a brutally slashed budget and staff, something which is reflected in how the majority of the new characters were either designed for the first game or based on their models, the limited number of new areas, abandoning anime cutscenes in favor of in-engine ones, or the jury outright vanishing for the final two chapters, essentially abandoning a major mechanic with more than a third of the game left. That the game still ended up one of the most acclaimed in the franchise is a testament to their perseverance, though unfortunately the game would still end up an Acclaimed Flop.
  • For the amount of advertising Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was given, the game was very lacking in production value when it first came out. While Ludosity Games made due with what they were given, the fact the game launched with no voice acting, items, or alternate costumes and barebones game mode selections is a rather good indicator of how much money they were given to create the game. When MultiVersus, the Warner Bros. Platform Fighter, was revealed shortly after its release, one of the thing they highlighted was how the game had all those features that Nick All-Stars Brawl didn't have, almost as a jab towards it. It wouldn't be until 8 months after launch that voice acting would be added to the game, and it's very likely it was only considered after it became clear the lack of voice acting was one of the biggest criticisms about the game.
  • The King of Fighters XIV, while being able to launch with a roster of 50 characters without having to resort to Moveset Clones, was also developed on a budget too low to license a third-party Game Engine, resulting in it launching with graphics comparable to mid-90's CG. The game, however, was successful enough to have an update which improved its graphics, as well as making SNK able to afford an Unreal Engine license for Samurai Shodown 2019 and The King of Fighters XV, both of which have stylized graphics that look much better than launch XIV.
  • Many Updated Rereleases, HD remasters, etc. are made on a much smaller budget than the original games were. It's somewhat understandable given most of their assets have already been made, but it can result in the removal of licensed content such as songs or Guest Fighters.

  • A short arc in Ozy and Millie invoked this with a "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" parody "Who Wants To Be A Seventeen Cent-aire?" The grand prize was, as is mentioned in the title, seventeen cents.
  • Each arc of The B-Movie Comic is a B-movie made of this principle (with occasional behind-the-scenes interviews). The producer is even named Nolan Nobucks, and one of the actors is a kid actor paid little to nothing.

    Web Original 
  • Many internet webseries run the line from shoestring to no budget whatsoever.
    • Particularly the Channel Awesome anniversary specials. Most of what little budget they had was spent on getting the key players there.
    • It's more visible with Linkara's Wham Episodes. Surprisingly, they still work.
    • The original run of Classic Game Room had a weekly budget of $50.
    • The charm of Economy Watch comes from the obvious lack of budget.
    • Most of RedLetterMedia's old stuff were shot in places like their old apartments with old VHS cameras. Their stuff nowadays is better funded but it's still barebones.
    • Scott The Woz also has a very homemade-esque aesthetic to it.
  • The Claymation Compilation: You'd believe that a thirty second animation of one clayfigure walking has no budget(Claymation Trailer). This is lampshaded in the same short by the trailer itself.
  • The first season of Marble Hornets was made on a budget of about $500. Since it's essentially The Blair Witch Project and released on YouTube (there's a DVD now), this isn't too surprising, but still impressive when you consider they made twenty-six entries with that budget alone.
    • The same applies to most of the other YouTube Slenderman stories that followed in its wake. It's not uncommon for a series to go on hiatus while the creators scrounge up the resources to create the next entry.
  • Apparently most of Manwhores' costs were in film, with all the actors donating their time and various people donating the sets. It still manages to have pretty varied settings.
  • The tendency for Christian movies to do this is parodied in "A Trailer For Every Christian Movie Ever". The cast is the producer/writer/director, his high school sweetheart, and his best friend.
  • Occasionally done in-universe in Homestar Runner, especially in the case of "Dangeresque" or "Space Captainface". Strong Sad's independent film in the Strong Bad Email "independent" is stated to be "lower than no-budget":
    Strong Sad: I'm making the world's first faux-budget film! The entire thing's being financed with Monopoly money.
    Strong Bad: And best of luck to you.
  • Indy Mogul, a web show on YouTube, explains how to do Hollywood-style special effects on a low budget.
  • The Let's Play group Super Playify points this out in the games it reviews while being an example itself, as they exclusively play ten-dollar bargain-bin games they've never heard of.
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Word of God says they have zero budget and that they shoot the scenes at their home.
  • A Cracked Photoplasty considers what would have happened If 40 Famous Movies Had $50 Budgets.
  • Brad Jones' Demo Reel notes this In-Universe, which is why they can't try doing Hook.
  • Stars In Black started this way. And remained so.
  • The Veronica Exclusive has no budget whatsoever, which is mainly because it's a fan project coordinated by a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings, most of whom live on separate ends of the globe from one another.
  • The Let's Play channel Analog Control is made using the simplistic tools possible. Lacking a traditional capture card, the show is recorded using VHS tapes and a beat up old VCR. The hosts usually reflect on this as a fun element of Stylistic Suck.
  • Episodes of the original Making Fiends series were 3-5 minutes long and were solely developed by Amy Winfrey for her website in 2003. Backgrounds and characters were made using overlapping JPEG files with ugly color schemes and were crudely animated using flash. The Nickelodeon reboot differed with crew members and a bigger budget, but still kept the sloppy and cheap look of the original web series.
  • Battle for Dream Island: In-Universe, the series is full of this.
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is a website that provides bots which are designed to waste the time of telemarketers or telephone scammers, with recordings of such calls sometimes being placed online. None of the voices of the bots are professional voice talent. The voice of the original Jolly Roger bot is actually company founder Roger Anderson. The Jolly Jenny bot is voiced by his wife.
  • Many of the older YouTube shorts by David F. Sandberg were made in this way, including his breakout hit Lights Out. Most featured only one or two actors (himself and his wife), used off-the-shelf cameras, and were edited with easily available software. Since becoming a major Hollywood director, he's produced a few more, including some using homemade dollies.
  • The first two volumes of RWBY were done with very little time and money, resulting in everyone being overworked. Writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross reported having to sleep in the studio frequently. The animation wasn't even rendered, it was made on playblasts that saved time but meant all lighting and shadows had to be baked into the scenes by hand.

    Western Animation 
  • Most animated TV pilots fall into this trope; the reason being that their sole intent is to get the creator's idea across to executives in hope that they invest into the show's production. This is why most pilots are never released to the public outside of test screenings note , as they were never produced for general audiences to begin with.
  • Much like how an episode of a Japanese production costs less than an episode of a western one, the latter is made with a considerably smaller amount of money than an animated film.
  • Domestically-produced cartoons inverts this rule, as it's much cheaper to outsource animation to another country than to produce it locally because of the difference in dollar values. As a result, domestically-animated projects tend to have lower production values than outsourced ones despite having the same budget, since producers have to pay more for local animators than for animators in Japan or South Korea.
  • Many studios that opened up during the first 15 years of commercial TV churned out many cartoon shows with the most threadbare of budgets. Hanna-Barbera has been widely chided for this practice from 1957 to 2001.
    • The Ruff & Reddy Show had a budget that was tiny even by their standards, around $3,000 per short (even in 1958 that was paltry). Compare that to the last Tom and Jerry shorts Bill and Joe made for MGM a couple years earlier, which had budgets close to $60,000! In this case, Ruff and Reddy (1957-1960) was the very first television series produced by the new company, and it is quite likely they did not have the funding for anything more ambitious. Huckleberry Hound (1958-1961) didn't fare much better with its meager budget of $6,000 per short.
  • Sam Singer, who's often referred to as "The Ed Wood of Animation", produced many ultra-low-budget cartoons from the 50's and 70's through his studio Trans-Artist Productions.
    • The Adventures of Paddy the Pelican resorted to looping uncolored cut-outs and rough animation which were frequently out-of-sync in each episode. Sound effects are largely absent with the exception of some very heavily improvised voice acting and music, all of which were provided by Singer himself.
    • His final cartoon, Tubby the Tuba (1975), was produced and developed in-house by The New York Institute of Technology under the direction of founder Alexander Schure, who had no experience in animation prior to this film. Singer was hired as the animation director for the movie but was fired a year into production due to Schure's frequent intrusions. After negative feedback from test audiences, Singer chose to have his name removed from the final cut.
  • Filmation was notorious for making all of their series with absolutely no budget whatsoever. This was due in part to their policy of never outsourcing animation jobs, which was expensive. In fact, when the studio first started the co-founders had to use a mannequin to pass off as a secretary!
  • Take away the licensing fees for the music video segments and Beavis and Butt-Head is left with Limited Animation, grade schooler-level backdrops that look to have been made with crayon and colored pencil, and almost everyone is voiced by creator Mike Judge. Which perfectly fits the wonderfully crude idiocy of the show.
  • Any films by Bill Plympton, who maintains that his budget is about $1,000 per minute of animation, which is very low by the industry standards. In addition to doing most of the work himself (with only a small number of crew helping out), he animates in threes, giving his animation a choppy look that became his signature style.
  • Bands on the Run was produced under a year with a small crew of college students, one of which had to solely design and storyboard the film within two months. Due to the poor animation brought back from China they spent the final four months redoing the film by teaching themselves CG animation using homemade render farms. One member said the final product was the result of executives being more concerned about the film's completion during the silly band craze rather than the overall quality.
  • Every cartoon Don Hertzfelt created, especially considering that he animates stick figures. However he makes up for this with his humorous and note  existential writing along with the bizarre nature of his works. It also helps that he began using computers in his later shorts.
  • Joe Oriolo's made-for-TV Felix the Cat cartoons (the 1959-1961 Trans-Lux series) were made on very tight, shoestring budgets. The series only had a budget of $1,750,000 note  with $6,700 per episode, hence why there were rare instances of fully animated walk cycles and why many shots are background pans with stock music cues; there were even parts where they would slide the cels across the screen without any animation at all! To further limit costs, Jack Mercer had to voice every character in one take while enunciating his lines slowly to put less strain on the animators. Worse, they had to turn out three completed episodes per week with mere hours to write the scripts for each one. note  John Canemaker's Felix book summed up just how frugal Joe Oriolo was forced to be on the show;
    “One of his dictums became well known within the industry: scenes that could not fit under his office door, said Oriolo, held too many drawings.”
  • The black-and-white Looney Tunes directed by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett had very small budgets of $3,000 (around $50,000 in 2016 money) and strict deadlines of four weeks to slam together each cartoon.
    • The later cartoons from 1964-69 after the original studio shut down, specifically the Speedy Gonzales shorts where he's fighting Daffy Duck, Rudy Larriva's Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner shorts, and the Seven Arts cartoons, had an extremely low budget and some were even outsourced to Format Films (namely the aforementioned Larriva-directed Road Runner shorts).
  • Mighty Magiswords creator Kyle Carrozza admits the character designs for Nohyas and the Mysterious Hooded Woman were chosen based on how cheap it was to animate them and that the budget restraints also led him and two other voice actors to voice half of the show's cast.
  • One of the theories behind why My Life Me has such poor animation, as TV Loonland, the company that originally made the show, declared insolvency in the middle of its production. They had to sell the rights to Classic Media.
  • Phineas and Ferb: "Tri-Stone Area" had the characters' pre-historical counterparts grunt. The episode was occasionally interrupted so Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh would explain details. Povenmire mentioned limited budgets as an explanation for the low quality of their scenes.
  • Smiling Friends is a Downplayed example, the budget of the first season (which consists of nine 11 miniute episodes) was around 2 million dollars, which is the budget for only one episode of Family Guy.
  • Pop-Culture Urban Legends:* The Nutshack only had enough money to afford a five-man crew made up of amateurs who took nearly every position in the show's production in order to get it off the ground. The limited budget also affected casting as the crew also had to voice almost every character in the show save for three additional voice actors; one of whom was hired because she was willing to do it for free.
  • Pickle and Peanut was definitely made on a low budget. Many of the characters and effects are stock images, and the ones that aren't are usually drawn very simply.
  • The first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, was an independent short made after Walt Disney had lost the rights to his character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The short was made on a shoestring budget of roughly $1,700 ($23,655 in 2015 money), and was singlehandedly animated by Ub Iwerks in just two weeks—he had to crank out 700 drawings per day just to get the film done. The film was animated in Walt's garage, and their camera wasn't even capable of doing a trucking shot, so they had to stack books below the background to give the illusion of it.
  • The Al Brodax Popeye cartoons had similar budget problems. They were farmed out to every studio across the planet, slamming together around 200 made for TV cartoons in just two years.
  • John and Faith Hubley's filmography suffered from this after they were blacklisted from Hollywood when John refused to testify in front of The House Committee on Un-American Activities, leaving them to solely produce, animate, and distribute their cartoons and to hire their children and friends as voice actors. However these limitations only contributed to the duo's already Deranged Animation as some of their most notable works like Moonbird, The Cosmic Eye, and Everybody Rides the Carousel were made during this period.
  • The Simpsons has this happen a lot in-universe. The show itself definitely averts this, as its voice actors alone cost more than most cartoons budget for episodes.
    • When the Intimidating Revenue Service seized 95% of Krusty's estate and future earnings until his debt was paid and controlled his show, they renamed it "Hershel Krustofsky's Clown-Related Entertainment Show" and removed anything fun from it. There wasn't money even for a pie to be thrown at someone's face. Or someone other than Krusty to be targeted.
    • When Kent Brockman uttered a swear word on TV and the network got a $10M fine because of this, they couldn't afford voice actors or any sound effects for Itchy and Scratchy.
    • So much was spent to have Katy Perry appear in a Christmas Episode there was only one hound to answer Mr. Burns' usual "release the hounds" command.
  • A Georgian television station produced their own CG animated rendition of The Simpsons called The Samsonadzes, which garnered infamy on the internet in later years for its low-budget animation.
  • South Park's minimalist geometric art style (originally spawned from cardboard cut-outs), casting (almost all the voices are done by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and two women), and use of stock effects allows episodes to be done by a small team of under 20 people assuming multiple roles, all within the course of a single week.
    • Speaking of South Park, Trey and Matt were given $1,000 to make the Christmas short that later became a basis for the show. Of that, they spent $750 on actual production, with them pocketing the rest.
  • Almost anything produced for Spike and Mike's Animation Festival was made on a low budget.
  • MTV's first animated series, Stevie and Zoya, was noted for its extremely crude animation and soundtrack made up of old movie and television scores. The title characters had next to no dialogue throughout its run and when they did speak it was usually a flub left in the final cut, giving the show an improvised feel. Despite this, the show quickly achieved a cult status among viewers due to its fast pace and short running time. note 
  • Tom Terrific is probably as low-budget as a presentable TV cartoon can get; Terry Toons had very little money for it, so as a cost-cutting measure the animation consisted of black line-art only, with no cel paint used (at least in the first season; in the second season they started painting the characters solid white).
  • Nearly every cartoon ever produced by William Street falls under this.
    • The studio's first show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, was almost entirely composed of stock footage of the original cartoon by Hanna-Barbera that was animated using After Effectsnote . On the plus side this added to the show's idiosyncratic humor and nature which helped to kick start [adult swim] a few years later.
    • 12 oz. Mouse. All the characters resemble MS Paint drawings, and there are few effects. The creator joked it would "cost five dollars and will take some of the paper sitting in the copier".
  • The voice cast for Blue's Clues was mostly made up of the show's crew and co-creator because of the limited casting budget they had to work with.
  • Clutch Cargo barely qualifies as a cartoon since Cambria Studios had to produce each episode with one-fifth of what it would cost Hanna-Barbera to make. To get around this, animators had to superimpose the lips of the actors onto their characters and substitute actual animation with real time movement.
    • Speaking of Cambria Studios, they were also the producers of such classics like Space Angel and Captain Fathom which aren't any different in quality from Clutch. If Sam Singer was the Ed Wood of animation during the 50's, than Cambria co-founder Clark Haas was the Coleman Francis of that decade.
  • 2009's Dixie Dynamite clearly had no budget considering the stiff animation and poorly-rendered CG backdrops. Did we mention that one of the film's animators also worked on Rapsittie Street Kids?
  • Spoofed In-Universe in the Garfield and Friends episode "The Discount of Monte Cristo", where Aloysius keeps on making random budget cuts to the story so that it's done as cheaply as possible, going from cutting a musical number, firing actors, reusing the same sets and eventually turning the background black and white and having Roy and Wade double as actors, making Orson annoyed.
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog was pretty obviously made on a low budget, as if the heavy usage of Acting for Two for the voice actors, with some exceptions such as John Ritter as the titular character, and the music score, which is composed solely of synthesizers and an emulated clavinet, wasn't a big enough hint.
  • One of the Gravity Falls webshorts included a montage of local television programming. One spoofed this trope with Sheriff Durland and Deputy Blubb’s PSA on peer pressure. Highlights: a Totally Radical vibe, the set is the high school gym, and both cops playing all roles. Badly.
    • A Real Life example is the original pilot/pitch to Disney. It was done by a recently graduated Alex Hirsch with a screenplay made from Post-It Notes and Flash Animation. It’s still pretty solid, but the quality is significantly lower than the finished series.
  • Before it was hidden behind a subscription, the IMDb page for Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum said that the show has a budget of $3,000. For reference, that's how much Ruff and Reddy (mentioned above) costed per short. That show came out in 1957, where television animation had shoestring budgets. Xavier Riddle came out in 2019, when TV cartoons have long since evolved. The series' low budget clearly shows with the constant reused assets, such as props or character designs.
  • The Walter Lantz cartoons were made on low budgets, resulting in rather sloppy-looking animation throughout the 30s and early-40s, though they cleaned up afterwards. Tellingly, Lantz and his crew didn't have much trouble keeping up when The Dark Age of Animation set in and this became the rule rather than the exception, allowing them to stay in the theatrical cartoon business until 1972, at which point the only other studio producing theatrical cartoon shorts was DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.
  • Pet Alien aimed to be a 3D-animated series that prominently used squash-and-stretch... on a fairly small TV budget. While the animation itself is very expressive, the rest of the show was clearly constrained by the low budget, with odd-looking models that have visibly low-resolution textures, a small voice cast with only four voice actors for the entire show (resulting in a lot of Acting for Two), and a lot episodes primarily taking place inside or around the lighthouse to avoid creating new environments.
  • The qubo version of VeggieTales is this. As it was basically new framing material for an already-existing Direct to Video series, the new segments only used two voice actors (with the exception of Lisa Vischer playing Junior in one episode), some of the segments used stock footage or images (this is especially noticeable in the Pa Grape's Home Movies segments, which uses footage of black and white educational films), and in some episodes (specifically the second season), animation from earlier framing segments is recycled.
  • Terry Toons had one of the lowest budgets of any golden-age animation studio, and as a result was very slow to adapt to new technology; they only began producing sound cartoons in 1930 and completely stuck to black-and-white until 1938, and it probably would have been even longer if Executive Meddling didn't force the studio to up its game. Furthermore, the studio refused to pay to use popular songs, meaning most compositions were original. Paul Terry was well-aware of this, and famously said that Disney was the Tiffany's to Terrytoons' Woolworth's.

  • Most Mockbusters and Moral Substitutes.
  • There are a wide variety of such competitions, generally along the lines of "Here's a camera, here's 24/48 hours, make a movie!" A disproportionate number of them are named after Ed Wood.
  • Multimedia students at universities can rent cameras for free, but that's it; everything else is down to them. Students being students, your actors are likely not to turn up, and your "props" will be whatever your roommates have lying around. Having someone in the group who is good with editing and special effects can help disguise the fact that the movie consists of you and your aunt acting in the woods behind the main campus. It's even worse for independent filmmakers: they don't even give you the camera.
  • Nowadays, good quality audio recording is easy and cheap. Even integrated sound cards have much better audio quality than old recording equipment. You don't have to use Apple computers; regular Windows and Linux PCs are fine too. If you buy a cheap professional sound card, it's unlikely to not include some recording software (and if it does not, there's always Audacity and other free alternatives). VSTs can be obtained for free (either as freeware or pirated) and several alternatives exist for GarageBand on Windows and Linux. The only problem is to get instruments, microphones and talent, and the first two can be done cheap or skipped depending on what you aim for musically and where you look.
    • As for video recording, any standalone camera on the market can record in HD; even your cellphone can likely do 16x9 HD in landscape mode. As above, talent is the thing to find, as well as ingenuity to compensate for the lack of budget.
    • Thanks to the advent of drones, shots that would have required renting a crane or even a helicopter can be had for the cost of buying said drone (which you can then keep using indefinitely on future projects) and hiring someone who's good at using it. They can also be used in place of rigs and dollies for ground-level tracking shots, particularly over rough outdoor terrain.
  • The Artega GT was a sports car that had cost a bit over $10 million to develop, while competitor ones usually cost at least 20 times more. Despite the low budget, it was designed by the famed Henrik Fisker.
  • Many TV-based animated features owe their success on the fact that they're produced on relatively smaller, modest budgets as opposed to the high price tags any major Hollywood animated film is made for.
  • An ASMR Video can have this - the use of household items or just narration over Stock Footage as a trigger.

Ok, people - that's a wrap! We've got an hour to get this whole page packed up and shipped back to the Trope Launch Pad before they charge for the next day. Let's show some hustle!

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