"These days, anime has good art in the first and last episodes, never in the middle."
"That's not something you can just fix for DVD release."
Animation is expensive. Really expensive. An average 30-minute episode of an anime costs around $171,500 and popular shows in America cost between $350,000 to $6,000,000 in USD (as of 2020) depending on how popular and how long the show was going on.
When a production company decides that the important episodes (i.e. pilots, whams, and finales) of a show get priority, other episodes (like filler) will, to conserve production costs, be drawn with only the bare minimum of framework that they absolutely must have.
In American cartoons of the '80s and early '90s (and mid-'70s, to some extent), it became the norm to send animation overseas to studios in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia and other countries to cut costs even further. The budget problems were thus exacerbated by language and cultural barriers, which resulted in nearly every cartoon of the era having animation errors of varying degrees. Japanese studios came to be seen by American studios as the "top of the line" of overseas studios because of their consistent aversion of this trope.note
Long running shows suffering from budget issues or a troubled production schedule will start resorting to thinly veiled camera tricks. The movement and even design of characters will start to slip, especially if the show is bothering to animate heavy action scenes. When they are animated, fight scenes will become Fight Unscenes.
The prevalence of computer-inked animation merely assures that colors stay consistent. Off model refers to the character model (on a model sheet), which is what the animators are supposed to base their drawings on. This is another important step is animation checking, which may be skimped on when time or money (or even both) is short.
Fans are typically not pleased, and it is very common for companies to announce they're fixing up things for the inevitable DVD release.
Some artists willingly invoke this trope and do not follow model sheets, such as John Kricfalusi's Ren and Stimpy. Following models too closely can lead to rigid and lifeless animation, whereas playing fast and loose with the designs can allow for more expressive and fluid animation. This does not mean that such creators "draw badly"; they still follow the basic rules of animation, and work to avoid outright errors. Similarly, animation principals such as smear frames and squash and stretch could be thought of as temporary and more subtle variations on that technique, where models are briefly disregarded in order to make a particular shot look more lively and less stiff - these moments often look perfectly on-model when played at normal speed, but look bizarre if the viewer pauses on one of the deliberately distorted frames.
See also Uncanny Valley, the result when it gets too far out of hand, and Special Effect Failure, which is a similar trope, but for live action and animation. Contrast Animation Bump, wherein the animation suddenly becomes much better than usual and Body Horror where an appearance similar to being off model is done intentionally and for horror. For animation studios who are notorious for this, see AKOM, Toei Animation, GONZO, Studio Shaft, Sunrise, Studio DEEN, Actas, Wang Film Productions, Diomedea, and Saerom. For a studio whose supporters and critics often argue about whether their animation is this, see Kennedy Cartoons.
Note: If a show has constant instances of Off Model, then list notable examples of it. In addition, try to avoid typing Zero Context Examples.
Anime fans from Japan have their own phrase for this trope, 作画崩壊 (sakuga hōkai), literally "drawing collapse".
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- Western Animation
- Happy Heroes: In an episode of Season 3, a poster of Miss Peach appears in the background a few times that completely lacks her facial features.
- Simple Samosa: In one of the ending shots in "Chutney Dam", specifically one where Samosa, Vada, and Jalebi are sitting next to each other, the swirl on Jalebi's head is noticeably bigger than it's usually depicted.
- Many of the creatures in Walking with Dinosaurs and its kin go through some drastic changes in appearance when the shot switches from a CGI animal to a puppet or an animatronic, or vice versa. Ones that stand out the most include the Postosuchus with its rubbery head; the freakish closeups of a Leaellynasaura puppet whose jaw slipped to the side; the Smilodon who seemingly can't open/close their mouth; and the Megaloceros that, upon dying, looks like it instantly became some huge stuffed animal toy. Then there's that insect that goes from being a CGI ant to a live cricket.
- Pure CGI goofs include the 3 year-old indricothere calf that still uses its newborn animation model, even though another, same-aged indricothere already looked like an adult; and though this could be intentional, the Allosaurus at the end of Walking With Monsters is at first represented by the one model from the 2001 TV adaptation of The Lost World, then suddenly becomes a true Walking with...-brand Allosaurus. Freeze-framing reveals that the animals tend to get heavily distorted during particularly fast movements.
- The entire body of Toa Vakama on the cover image◊ of the BIONICLE movie adaptation novel, Legends of Metru Nui, is seriously disfigured, and the head is especially misshapen. Surprisingly, the two characters in the background are both perfectly on-model. As a comparison, here's◊ how he is meant to look, as seen on the movie's poster.
- Also most of the Piraka on the cover of Dark Destiny, as it's a group image of their prototype toys, not the finalized versions.
- Firedracax, a fan-submitted model was badly mangled and mis-assembled by the photographer for his entry in the Dark Hunters guidebook. What was meant to be a humanoid warrior with a tall helmet became a hunched-over reptilian◊. His head was accidentally connected to his belly and flipped around, making his pointy helmet look like a snout, and his chest and arms are just hanging off his back.
- The cover of Sonic The Hedgehog And The Silicon Warriors has Sonic looking particularly stupid while the [robot?] Tails looks even worse and is missing one of this eponymous tails.
- Sonic The Hedgehog In Castle Robotnik has Robotnik looking rather odd, more like an Eastern European cartoon attempting a crude 3D look than anything else.
- Discussed by J. Michael Straczynski in his book "The Complete Book of Scriptwriting", based on his time writing for 80's era animation:
- American writers had scripted a scene where a character is to be "strapped in" (seat-belts fastened), the Japanese animation team thought this mean "tied down with ropes" and animated it accordingly. The same thing happened when the script said that a character was "hauling ass": he was drawn running with his hands on his rear.
- When writing a scene in animation, Straczynski recommends some extra dialogue and As You Know because of the limitations of the medium. You as an scriptwriter may write an emotional (non-verbal) scene for a character but as he puts it "she may look like she's having a gas attack."
- Warrior Cats:
- Unreliable Illustrators and Inconsistent Coloring is the norm for Warriors. Characters change designs between artwork, nevermind what their canonical designs look like. Dovewing is an example where she was eventually retconned to match her off model design: she has blue eyes in the books but green eyes in all her illustrations, so eventually they outright made her green eyed in the text as well.
- On the 2019 cover of Bluestar's Prophecy, Bluestar is incorrectly depicted as long-furred and as light grey instead of "blue" grey. She looks more like Yellowfang than Bluestar.
- In the earlier episodes of the long-running British game show Catchphrase, Mr Chips never really had a consistent appearance, sometimes appearing very tall or very short in the space of a single episode.
- Doctor Who:
- The TARDIS console changed quite a bit over the years, sometimes from episode to episode. Especially a problem during the '80s years there were times when someone put the panels on in the wrong order, which meant that nothing fit right; at other times, dings and dents were very obviously painted over. The console room itself went through this from time to time: in "Battlefield", the main wall was a painted backdrop, and the set had to be carefully lit to disguise it.
- In "The Power of the Daleks", the Dalek army is represented by Louis Marx toy Daleks. The problem was that Marx's Daleks were a subtly wrong shape◊, which became more obvious when intercut with the three real Daleks.
- The Second Doctor's outfit is supposed in-story to be the First Doctor's outfit, but baggy as it now no longer fit him properly. In reality, both men were about the same size, so the baggy outfit had to be made especially, resulting in significant differences bordering on Costume Exaggeration a tuxedo jacket instead of a suit jacket, windowpane check on the trousers instead of tartan, no waistcoat, a bowtie instead of a ribbon tie, and gaudy braces rather than the rather understated ones of the First Doctor. Of course, the changes were more subtle to a casual, non-fandom audience watching every episode on a tiny valve television for the first and final time.
- Screencaps show that the Second Doctor's tall hat seemed to change size from episode to episode. It's about the same size as his head in "The Power of the Daleks", a lot taller in "The Highlanders", and about the size of a normal top hat in "The Underwater Menace", if not smaller.
- A common problem in 1970s promotional photos, as they were taken of the dress rehearsal performance, where more simple makeup was used, rather than of the actual performance. Mostly this isn't noticeable, but does result in things like the join between Davros' mask and body being visible, or the Brigadier missing his moustache. Noah in "The Ark in Space" has a strikingly different hairstyle (big and curly) that the actor had not yet had removed, there's several shots of the Doctor trotting around Mr. Sin's hideout from "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" in Tom Baker's everyday clothes but with the Doctor coat thrown on top, and there's even a few pics of Alpha Centauri from "The Curse of Peladon" missing its cape (aagh)... Philip Hinchcliffe complained about the practice, because, as the promo pics were things people could own, it made people remember the effects as being more shoddy than they actually were.
- "Destiny of the Daleks" was shot at a time when the Dalek props being used had been beaten up in poor storage one of the main Daleks in the story has a cracked hemisphere, some are held together with bits of tape, one has a random bit of metal on it for the sole purpose of a scene later that requires a magnetic grenade to stick to it. Bad as this is, it has nothing on some of the other Daleks in the same story they had strange flat backs as they'd only been intended to be shot from the front (of course, the director gave long, long shots of these strange flat backs).
- Richard Hurndall playing the First Doctor in "The Five Doctors", due to William Hartnell's death. Also, promo shots for the episode included a wax statue of the Fourth Doctor, borrowed from Madame Tussauds, due to Tom Baker declining to return.
- Everyone in "Dimensions in Time", between actors ageing and putting on weight, both of the memorably curly-haired Bakers having long since adopted short, straight hairstyles after their role, and issues in the costuming department, leading to things like Leela not having shoes on. Couldn't they have found Tom Baker a wig or anything?
- In "The Time of Angels", watch carefully when Eleven catches River Song: the Russell T. Davies-era TARDIS makes a brief cameo!
- Another victim of Off-the-Shelf FX the rather Doctory scarf worn by Osgood in "The Day of the Doctor" has a noticeably different colour scheme and stitch to any of the scarves the Fourth Doctor actually wore, making it a bit ambiguous as to where she got it from.
- Mind you, it's unlikely that Osgood would actually have got the Doctor's scarf, so it's not surprising that it's different.
- One very flashback-filled episode of Frasier ("Crock Tales") featured "young" Roz and Daphne wearing truly terrible wigs.
- In-Universe Example: During the "Into the Comics" serial of Ghostwriter, the gang is able to identify that the comic they are to analyze for contest clues is, in fact, a fake by noticing differences in the art-style from the previous instalments.
- Power Rangers:
- In season three of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Titanus was reintroduced. Unfortunately, as there was no footage of the character in the series footage was taken from (Ninja Sentai Kakuranger), Saban decided to use the toys of him, the Ninjazords and Shogunzords instead. Unfortunately, they never took into consideration that the Shogunzord used by the White Ranger in the original was repainted pink for America.
- Power Rangers Wild Force episode "Forever Red" had the return of Serpentera, Lord Zedd's Zord from the original series. Unfortunately, Disney meddled during the episode's productionnote , resulting in an undersized, miscolored version of Serpentera rendered in butt-ugly CG (even for the standards of the show).
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics", Scotty requests the holodeck recreate the bridge of the Enterprise, "no bloody A, B, C or D." When the holodeck door open, several fans stated that the production company didn't reproduce the bridge exactly as on the old show. Turns out they actually used a static picture of an empty bridge (from "This Side of Paradise") for the initial shot. Maybe the holodeck archives are working off incomplete data?
- Also in "Yesterday's Enterprise", after the timeline is fixed, Geordi sits down with Guinan while still wearing the uniform from the alternate universe.
- Similarly, in the Enterprise series finale "These Are The Voyages..." The premise is a plot point set in a TNG story arc, with Frakes and Sirtis reprising their roles as Riker and Troi. The problem is Troi's long lost her accent, and had her hair dyed red, and Riker has gotten more rotund, which is silly, and we're left to assume they changed so much for one plot point and then went back to normal in regular TNG.
- During the 1996/1997 season, Wheel of Fortune updated their trademark wheel. Needless to say, it didn't go over so well. The main issue was that for a month afterwards, the second Bankrupt Wedge looked different. Some other instances included the absence of the Million-Dollar Wedge during a May 2011 episode, Prize Wedges in the wrong slots, missing or wrong Category Names, and even the wheel itself being dislodged on occasion.
- Before that, the 2nd half of the 1987-88 syndicated season Wheel began reserving the Free Spin (then a wedge on the wheel as opposed to the later token version) for the first round only and replacing it with a $200 wedge that was notable for using a much-thinner version of the Clarendon-like font used on the wheel wedges. This also created a bizarre wedge pattern in which there were two consecutive $200 spaces (one of regular font next to the off model example) with another $200 two spaces away. To the show's credit, they "upgraded" the off model $200 wedge, increasing its value to $300 for the following season. Said wedge lasted until the week after the Free Spin wedge was retired the season after that, replacing it with an on-model $500 wedge.
- The version of William Hartnell seen on the backglass of Doctor Who is a little... alien-looking.
- The playfield Space Shuttle toy in Space Shuttle is missing its tailfin. This was done in order to get it to fit inside the cabinet.
- The characters in Sega Pinball's GoldenEye are off-model to various degrees, due to licensing issues.
- Gottlieb's Street Fighter II pinball is infamous for this, with backglass characters that barely resembled their video game namesake, and a Chun Li who looked like a Bruce Lee Clone Disguised in Drag.
- The ED-209 playfield toy in Data East's RoboCop pinball has a more angular look than the original, sports a white decal with red trim, and is missing its legs all together.
- Former ITV company Associated Television (ATV) was originally known in its earliest days (1955) as the Associated Broadcasting Company (ABC). The owner of the soon-to-be-established Associated British Corporation (also ABC) sued ATV for former ownership of the name (the company already ran a large chain of cinemas under those initials), requiring a change of name and a redesign of the logo. Said redesign was done in a hurry, which resulted in a logo that looked very off. Another redesign was done in 1958 to correct the mistake, but the mis-proportioned version was kept in the sign-on sequence until color broadcasting began in 1969. See some of the the variations here.