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Production Lead Time

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"Doing an animated film is like building a cruise ship — you start it in one economy and finish it in another."
— Hollywood reporter Jim Hill (paraphrased)

The production period necessary for any given work varies depending on the medium. Obviously live television is instantaneous, while even live-action scripted shows can be filmed and edited within days. This puts certain other mediums, like animation and video games, at a disadvantage. Animation takes time. Good animation takes a long time. Even the simplest animated TV shows can see a production period of a year for a single episode with multiple episodes in production at the same time.

While the structure of an animation pipeline can actually a boon in some cases, there is one major creative sacrifice those in animation must always make: the ability to be topical.note  Video games are a more insular medium as a whole, but their production pipeline is similar, both in set-up and length, so this issue can apply to them as well.

That isn't to say a work that spent five years in development can't give an accurate picture of the social or political climate it is eventually released in, but due to the long lead time, it's much harder to be certain that whatever you're commentating on will still be relevant over a year later. The more specific the subject you want to reference, the more likely you'll find your audience baffled about why you're still talking about it when everyone else has moved on months ago, assuming they even remember it. Conversely, this means last minute changes are generally not feasible when you take into account the writing, producer approval, performer availability and bringing all those elements together and woven naturally into the story.

Can result in Unintentional Period Piece if it ends up way behind on current events the time it is released. If lucky, some themes may become more topical due to coincidental events mirroring it.

Compare The Shelf of Movie Languishment and Extremely Lengthy Creation. Contrast Writing by the Seat of Your Pants, Christmas Rushed and Absurdly Short Production Time.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • This even happened to the BIONICLE movies despite their amazingly fast (or rather, rushed) production time, as they had gone into production before some of the characters' looks or the outcome of the stories were even finalized. This accounts for why certain characters look more like their toy prototypes than the versions sold in stores. The ending of the first film is a particularly huge mess, as both LEGO and the filmmakers reconfigured its climax after the voices had already been recorded, leading to crucial events going unexplained, explained events not happening the way they're described, and twists and character actions being utterly nonsensical. The fourth film, The Legend Reborn presents further unfinished concepts: Bone Hunters look like Rock Tribe members rather than the finished toys, the Thornax ammo is a glowing energy orb instead of a volatile fruit (it gets its toy appearance in one of the later scenes), characters are fully robotic instead of organic people in armor with cyber-implants, and the planets Aqua Magna and Bota Magna are in a different galaxy than Bara Magna and its two moons, while in the finished story said planets are the moons — the opening scene had so many contradictions that it was de-canonized. Also, Gresh in the movie is an inexperienced rookie despite already having matured in other stories.
  • The Emoji Movie was hit hard by this trope, with all the apps and slang featured in the film being already outdated again when the movie finally came out, despite it having a ridiculously short production time for a major studio animated film (from concept to final product in a mere two years). This was lampshaded in the Honest Trailer of the film.
  • Jetsons: The Movie infamously replaced Janet Waldo (the original voice of Judy Jetson) with '80s pop singer Tiffany as a bit of Stunt Casting intended to draw in a teenage audience. By the time the film actually opened, Tiffany has long since fallen out of style (Janet Waldo didn't take it well, as she had recorded all of her lines prior but wasn't told she was being replaced, though she eventually let it go). In fact, the film took so long to produce that two of its lead actors died a year before it was released: this was the final acting role for both Mel Blanc and George O'Hanlon, the latter of whom passed away in the recording studio.
  • The song "Gangnam Style" appears in the end credits of The Nut Job, (complete with a CGI-animated PSY singing it) which was released in January 2014...almost 2 years after that song was hugely popular!
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet features a lengthy segment involving Baby Groot, who received a brief marketing frenzy after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; however, between the time this segment was written and the film was released, Disney largely moved on from the character and Avengers: Infinity War had featured him as an adolescent.
  • This is one of the reasons (the other being heavy Executive Meddling in the version that eventually did get released) why people think The Thief and the Cobbler is a ripoff of Aladdin; it was released after it, but had actually been in development for so long beforehand that it's more credible to say that Aladdin borrowed from it than the other way around.
  • There was a rumor that Georges Danton's design in the 2011 Hungarian film The Tragedy of Man was based on their highly controversial populist prime minister Viktor Orbán, who had then recently seized power. While the film's director Marcell Jankovics was a supporter of Orbán, sharing similar extreme nationalist, conservative and illiberal views, and Orbán did admit he had wanted to use Jankovics's influence for political gain, the movie had been in production since the 80s and Danton's scene was animated in 1991. At that point, Orbán looked different, was far less famous and still promoted completely different politics.
  • In the original The Transformers: The Movie, released in 1986, Devastator, formed from a combination of the six Constructicons, was featured as the most powerful of the Decepticons. This was because when production began on the movie, there were no other combiners, but by the time the movie came out, others had already been introduced in the toyline and even featured on The Transformers TV show (which led to Devastator undergoing a severe case of Villain Decay). This is also the reason why the film doesn't really feature any of the characters who had become important in the second season (the sole exceptions were Perceptor and the Coneheads)note .
  • While they'd been notorious for their string of loose copycat productions of Pixar films, only once was DreamWorks Animation able to use this trope to beat another film to the punch: The Wild, an obscure co-production between Disney and an independent Canadian company, had been in the works for six years before DreamWorks made its pre-emptive strike with the suspiciously similar (and more heavily stylized) Madagascar. Like The Thief and the Cobbler example above, the end result was the movie in production first released after the film that borrowed its concept became hugely successful, resulting in the original being accused of being a ripoff.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) features characters from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when the show in question ended three years before the film's release and when a new generation of the franchise had just begun.
  • The WCW film Ready to Rumble has a few instances of this.
    • The character of Titus Sinclair is a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Eric Bischoff, who was let go from the company in September 1999. By the time the film released in April 2000, Bischoff had returned to the company.
    • Diamond Dallas Page was one of the film's antagonists due to the fact that he was a heel during production. Page had turned face again right before the film's release.
    • Some of the wrestlers and talent who appear were also gone by the time the film released, such as Perry Saturn (who left in January of 2000) and some of the Nitro Girls; The Nitro Girls as a concept was even ended literal days before the film's release.
    • The WCW Monday Nitro set had been redesigned by the time the film released.
  • The Chuck Jones animated segment in Stay Tuned had already been in production for six months by the time filming had officially commenced in October of 1991.
  • The Transformers Film Series had a different production timeline to the toys, which resulted in a number of discrepancies between the toys and how they were represented in the films. This was different from the norm, as the TV shows were typically developed in response to the toyline or more in conjunction. Optimus Prime got a major redesign about a year before the first movie came out and his major toy was notably different (mostly in the transformation scheme, but was close enough to be a decent figure for the character) while the original Megatron head design was redesigned after fan outcry four months before the movie and toys were set to release, but was a simple enough retool to get things in line by then. Later toylines like the Transformers Studio Series were able to boast about being more representative of the on-screen designs.

  • In 2003, MAD released an issue that featured one comic that took potshots at the sitcom 8 Simple Rules. There is generally a few months for the magazine to go from concept to published issue. As a result, the issue in question ended up coming out a just few weeks after the sitcom's star, John Ritter, died suddenly due to an aortic dissection, resulting in complaints over the "too soon" nature of the issue.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Fans of the bygone comic strip The Boondocks may regret that the TV series couldn't joke about current events nearly so much. The lead-time in the comics was lampshaded shortly before the 2000 Presidential Election, where Huey laments that the candidate he was rooting for doesn't stand a chance. Aaron McGruder, meanwhile, keeps leaving comments at the bottom of the panels apologizing because he has to draw out the strips a couple of months in advance, so the polls may have changed in that time. Then at the end, it's revealed that the candidate Huey was rooting for was Ralph Nader, causing Aaron McGruder to admit that the polls for him probably didn't change after all.
  • Newspaper comics are often written a long time in advance — usually around eight weeks for dailies and 12 weeks for Sunday strips — which can cause problems for more topical comics like Doonesbury, as lampshaded here. Garry Trudeau works two weeks away from deadline, closer than any other syndicated cartoonist. He also has a hired inker, which cuts back on production time. Generally speaking, this keeps things relevant.
  • One Foxtrot comic published in the 90s had Jason and Peter discussing a cartoonist who got in trouble for missing a deadline and his editors demanding he write a bigger backlog. When Jason asks how long a backlog he has to make, Paige comes in and asks if they've heard about Watergate.
  • The infamous "National Stupid Day" strip of Garfield ran on Veterans' Day 2010 and was immediately deemed offensive. Jim Davis apologized for the strip saying that the strip was drawn and written in advance and that his son is a veteran and he meant no disrespect.
  • The day after the final Peanuts strip ran in papers, For Better or for Worse ran a strip wishing Charles Schulz a happy retirement. The problem was Schulz died the day before his final strip ran, so he never got to see it.

  • Acknowledged in the Escape from Vault Disney! episode about Loki (2021), in which they discuss the third episode of the show shortly after the episode was released, yet the podcast would not release to the public until after the entire first season was out. This made all speculation instantly dated, and their success with their predictions was better than one would expect, but is still considerably off the mark from reality.

  • As of the 2020’s, it takes roughly two years for a new Transformers toy to go from design to being sold on the shelves. The absolute deadline for a design to be finalized for a toy is roughly a year. By 2022, Hasbro noticed divisive to negative reception from fans disappointed with the redesigns of characters from Transformers: Prime who were receiving toys in the Legacy toyline, as the stylized character designs were toned down to look more like Sunbow animation models from The Transformers. Thus, they began to work hard to find a better compromise between the stylized designs of Prime as well as Transformers: Animated, which bore fruit in 2023 when new toys of Prime Skyquake, Dreadwing, and Animated Prowl leaned much more into them while still looking like they could fit among the rest of the toyline’s primarily G1 aesthetic.

    Video Games 
  • Although Detective Pikachu was released in 2018, well after Pokémon Sun and Moon came out, no Pokémon from those games appear in the first three chapters. This is because it was in development since at least 2013, when Pokémon X and Y were the most recent games, and thus those chapters were written with that in mind. The fourth chapter and onwards do contain Pokémon introduced in Sun and Moon, although in a slightly smaller amount compared to those introduced in other games. Likewise, Detective Pikachu Returns was announced in May of 2019 and released in October of 2023. As a result, it contains no Pokémon from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, which came out in the intervening four years.
  • When Halo: Combat Evolved released on November 15th, 2001, many interpreted the game's plot, with United States themed soldiers fighting back Scary Dogmatic Aliens who had recently attacked one of humanity's major colonies, as commentary on The War on Terror. Bungie shot down these assumptions by noting that the overwhelming majority of the game's development occurred before 9/11 (it had been in development since 1997).
  • LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, based on the show of the same name, was released around the show's third season, but it only covers the first two seasons. As a result, a few details are missing, the most notable being that Darth Maul is labeled as a "Classic" character and uses his design from The Phantom Menace, despite Maul making a surprise return in Season 3, becoming a major villain for the rest of the series.
  • As Marvel vs. Capcom 3 had its roster decided on before Super Street Fighter IV came out, its Street Fighter IV representative was C. Viper, being the closest of IV's newcomers to an Ensemble Dark Horse. After Super released, however, Juri overtook her, leading to C. Viper's inclusion feeling awkward by the time the game came out, and even more so after its Ultimate Updated Re-release.
  • Monster Hunter: This is typically less of an issue between the console and handheld installments in the series, which are each handled by separate development teams, since there's a lot of communication and idea sharing between them; this allows a game to include monsters and hunting areas from another that was released a year or slightly less prior (for example, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate quickly adopted many monsters and features from Monster Hunter Portable 3rd which was released just one year prior and developed by the handheld team).note  However, Monster Hunter: World (released in 2018) was very unlucky in this regard: Its development began in early 2014, but because of its secluded planning phase and the time required to incorporate the monsters' skeletons into the physics of the then-new graphical engine for the series, the game prescinded from all sorts of content featured in the fourth-generation and late third-generation games, with the exception of the Insect Glaive and Charge Blade weapon classes. For this reason, someone who hasn't played too many MH games would have thought at first that the game's predecessor was Monster Hunter 3 (Tri) (released in 2009) due to the presence of Barroth, Uragaan and Deviljho; rather than Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (released in 2017, only one year before World itself). The Iceborne expansion rectified this by adding newer veterans like Zinogre, Brachydios (including its Raging variant in a post-release update), and Glavenus.
  • Garfield is included in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, but because Nickelodeon had yet to announce details about his Nicktoon adaptation, his moveset mostly references the newspaper comic, previous video game appearances, and Garfield and Friends. His inclusion in the game wasn't necessarily about promoting an upcoming show anyway; rather, it was simply because the devs wanted to include him.
  • The October 2018 game Nickelodeon Kart Racers uses the old 2012 designs for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not their Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles designs, due to that series premiering in September 2018. Oddly, the sequel still uses the 2012 designs, while all Nickelodeon games since 2021's Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl feature the 1987 designs. This makes 2019's Super Brawl Universe (a mobile game, rather than a proper console release) the only Nickelodeon game to feature the Rise designs.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was locked into releasing in February of 1994 due to a McDonald's promotion, but as the game expanded in scope and its lead time increased, it became clear that it wasn't going to be complete by then. Rather than delaying the promotion, Sega instead split the game into two parts, releasing the first half in February as scheduled and the second half in October.
  • Super Smash Bros.: Each installment takes roughly two years to develop, from the finalization of the planning document to the release of the base game. As such, the final product tends to feature characters or references that have become less relevant once the game is released (or completely lack ones that fans would expect). Later entries do attempt to avert this by asking other Nintendo development teams about their upcoming projects, but since those games are also in the midst of development, that can cause some issues in and of itself.
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee has very little in the way of GameCube-era content, only having a handful of trophies referencing games and characters from contemporary titles such as Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin (2001).
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl, released in January 2008, features no content from Super Mario Galaxy, which was released in November 2007, due to the two games having mostly-concurrent development cycles. It's only briefly mentioned in the game's Chronicle, so the game instead treats Super Mario Sunshine as the latest console-based mainline Mario game and New Super Mario Bros. as the latest handheld one. For the same reason, content on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is nonexistent (only having a mention in the Chronicle), so the newest Metroid content in the game is as of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (console, 2004) and Metroid Prime: Hunters (handheld and overall, 2006). In both cases, this also affects the information recorded in the trophy descriptions, as many enemies and characters that appear in past Mario and Metroid games would also return in Galaxy and Corruption respectively, yet this isn't acknowledged in the tabs citing the characters' "latest" appearances (and the aforementioned information is also preemptively outdated).
    • During development of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Sakurai decided against making Takamaru playable due to Western unfamiliarity. The game was being developed when Nintendo was making this less of an issue, as The Mysterious Murasame Castle was the subject of a Nintendo Land minigame and got an international release on the 3DS Virtual Console.
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
      • Despite Splatoon 2 coming out a year and a half before Ultimate, the bulk of Splatoon content is based on the first game, with 2's inclusion being limited to Mii costumes, spirits, and music. This is especially noticeable with the Inkling character themselves, whose moveset not only has zero reference to the second game, but their Final Smash is the Killer Wail; a special attack that did not return in the sequel.
      • The base roster and first set of DLC in Ultimate were locked in before the release dates of ARMS and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so they had to compromise by representing them with Mii costumes, spirits, and music. Characters and extra content overall from both games were eventually included in the second set of DLC.
      • Sora joined the roster as the final Ultimate DLC character in 2021, but due to how long negotiations took, only minimally references Kingdom Hearts III, which was released in 2019.
  • Zig Zagged with Total War: Warhammer III.
    • Given the five year Sequel Gap between it and the previous installment, several units in the game had their tabletop models updated by Games Workshop. While some (mostly among the Daemons of Chaos, who were introduced in the game) were able to use their updated modelsnote , a few units (Sigvald the Magnificent, Blood Knights, Black Coaches, and Lord Kroak) were not changed due to a combination of already being in the game and having their models updated in the context of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar (e.g., in Sigvald's case, his new model reflects his ascension into Daemonhood in the Age of Sigmar setting, and does not reflect him during his time in the Old World). The most egregious case so far is Be'lakor the Dark Master, the Big Bad of the third game, who uses his original model rather than his updated model (which was revealed in March 2021, a month after the game's reveal) despite the fact that as a daemon his appearance would not have changed between the settings.
    • The trilogy's depiction of the Zoats. The Zoats were added to the game in The Twisted and the Twilight DLC released in December 2020 for the second game, the same year Zoats were reintroduced by Games Workshop into their Gaiden Games such as Blood Bowl and Blackstone Fortress. However, despite all three appearances occurring in the same year, the Zoats in the trilogy are inaccurate when compared to the miniatures, due to being less stockily built. While one could interpret this as a case of asset reuse (the Zoats reuse the Dragon Ogre skeleton), one could also argue that the new Zoat design was not available for the use of the developers at that point.
  • A video game based on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was released for the DS and Wii on October 5, 2010. It used the clock-based format introduced in 2008... and retired three weeks before the game came out, in favor of one where the categories and money amounts were randomly shuffled. It's likely the clock-based format's replacement occurred too late in development for the developers to completely redo that section.

    Web Video 
  • High Score was a shortlived animated series from Matt Wilson, originally competing with Homestar Runner. The characters were later redesigned for Bonus Stage, which used a simpler style in order to allow a faster release cycle, necessary for Matt to keep pace as the show's creator, writer, animator, voice actor (of every character barring a few exceptions toward the end of the show's run), sound designer, etc.
  • Zero Punctuation dealt with this when Yahtzee made his "Top 5 Games of 2015" which also had a category for the five blandest games, which was similar to the "Mediocre Awards" that Jimquisition had done around the same time.
    Yahtzee: Hmm, what's that? [Beat] Jim Sterling just did something like this? Well, it's a good thing everyone knows that I write these a few weeks in advance, isn't it? Otherwise, they might have accused me of ripping him off! And made complete fucking fools of themselves!
  • Meet the Pyro revealing that Team Fortress 2's Pyro sees the world as a Sugar Bowl complete with "Balloonicorns" was accused of being pandering to Bronies by detractors. The plan to have the short show how the Pyro sees the world of TF2 differently was already finalized by March 2010, months before Friendship Is Magic started airing let alone being known for having a Periphery Demographic.

    Western Animation 
  • The British series 2DTV was an animated satire on the week's events, which obviously needed to be animated as quickly and cheaply as possible, leading to errors that couldn't be fixed in time for transmission.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Each episode was completed in 2-3 weeks, resulting in the series being finished at the end of 2003, but it could take years for an episode to finally air. Season 3 occasionally featured a song similar to "Hey Ya!" in montage scenes, and the episode "Lights! Camera! Danger!" doesn't reference any movie newer than Finding Nemo and has a Shout-Out to The Matrix after The Matrix Revolutions killed its popularity.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball gave an in-universe example in the Christmas episode "The Lie". With Elmore suffering from post-Christmas blues, Gumball makes up another holiday on the spot which is Christmas in all but name and the rest of the town goes along with it. That same night, his family settles down to watch the "Sluzzle Tag" special, a hastily cobbled-together few seconds of two CG-animated skeletons which abruptly cut off mid-sentence.
    Announcer: "Unfortunately, animation is a lengthy process and that's all we've had time to make. Jolly Sluzzle Tag."
  • American Dad!:
    • This is one of the reasons why the show underwent reverse Issue Drift and moved away from topical political satire and more towards over-the-top and relatively apolitical Farce. The showrunners stated that it could take upwards of two years from an episode being written to being broadcast, which forces episodes to be written in a more timeless manner. They cited a joke made early on in the show's run about White House counsel Harriet Miers that was so outdated by the time it actually aired that the showrunners themselves forgot who she was and had to look her up online.
    • The episode "Stan Fixes a Shingle" has a B-plot that focuses on Hayley, Jeff and Roger going to see Gallagher perform, and later return his mallet before his next show. Gallagher died on November 11, 2022, while the episode aired on May 22, 2023, so he would have been alive during most of the show's production period and his death likely occurred too late in production to change the subplot. Gallagher's death didn't go entirely unacknowledged, since one of the characters asks "Isn't Gallagher dead?" and at the end of the episode, Jeff runs Gallagher over with his van, killing him.
  • Animaniacs: "Hooray for North Hollywood" (aired 1998) has a line about "Bronfman's play for the MCA", which was news (at least in the entertainment world) in 1995.
  • Lampshaded in Animaniacs (2020). In the "Catch Up Song", Yakko sings about the Presidents of the United States that came after Bill Clinton, mentioning George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Hillary Rodham Clinton's loss to Donald Trump. Yakko stops the song briefly to point out that at the time the song was written in 2018, Trump was still in office, thus they had no idea if Trump was still President in November 2020, when the series finally aired on Hulu. The Warners then decide to spend the next few verses making wild guesses about what else may have occurred in those intervening two years.
  • Arthur:
    • The special "It's Only Rock 'n Roll", guest starring the Backstreet Boys, has a 2002 copyright date, but was presumably produced sometime prior to then given that the Backstreet Boys are shown in their white outfits from the cover of their Millennium album, which was already close to four years old by then. Plus, the Boys were on hiatus at the time the episode was broadcast.
    • The Very Special Episode made in reaction to the 2012 Hurricane Sandy disaster, "Shelter From The Storm", featured a hurricane called Hurricane Sadie and came out in 2015, which was 3 years later. In comparison, "April 9th" only came out a year after 9/11.
    • The special Arthur's First Day first aired in late 2021, and was the first Arthur media to air following the announcement over the summer that the series would be coming to an end in 2022. With how Arthur's First Day featured some notable changes to the status quo such as Arthur and D.W. actually advancing to the next school year, many assumed this was an intentional move to start to give fans closure about the end being in sight; however, social media posts by the cast members revealed that the Grand Finale had actually finished recording in 2019. The airing of Arthur's First Day shortly after the announcement was a complete coincidence as production on the show had already been done for three years.
  • The Finnish animated series The Autocrats was a CGI-animated comedy series about the (largely fictional) lives of the members of the Finnish parliament. Its topical nature meant that each episode had to be created in just a week, so the CGI was relatively basic.
  • Ed Asner died in August 2021, but he had already recorded his dialogue for the entirety of what ended up being his final time playing Carl Fredricksen in the spin-off/sequel short series Dug Days and Carl's Date. The former was released mere days after Asner’s death, while the latter would be released in 2023, nearly two years later.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Certified Super Sitter" has Timmy's parents making a reference to the Vine app, a short-form video hosting service. The service was shut down on January 17, 2017, and the episode first aired on Nicktoons a day later on January 18. Twitter announced Vine would shut down on October 27, 2016, several months prior to its airing, so the app still would have been in operation during most of the show's production period, and the announcement of its shutdown likely occurred too late in production for the voice actors to re-record the line to remove the reference.
  • Family Guy:
    • The episode "Ocean's 3½" managed to do a joke about Christian Bale's Cluster F-Bomb within two weeks after the audio was first released, by quickly animating a reel-to-reel tape player playing clips of said outburst interspliced with Peter Griffin reacting as if he were the one Bale was berating. This was cut out in later airings of the episode and the DVD release, and was replaced with Quagmire's cutaway involving wanting to make an underwhelming thriller starring Jeff Bridges and Laura Linney.
    • They did something similar in "American Gigg-olo" with the Donald Trump tapes, dubbing it (and Peter's reaction) over footage of the bus. Like the above example, it too was cut from later airings and the DVD release and was replaced by a cutaway involving an animal sobriety checkpoint.
    • Played straight with "Hannah Banana", which aired two years after the event it adapts (the "Best of Both Worlds" concert tour that was notorious for selling out nationwide almost immediately after tickets went on sale).
    • An alternate scene from the animatic of "Back to the Pilot" was likely altered for this reason. In the alternate timeline where Brian is the author of the Harry Potter series, rather than Lois saying a pseudo-spell phrase, she said that she couldn't wait for the next book. This episode came out in 2011, well after the last book and movie had come out.
    • "Ratings Guy" has Mayor West destroy all of Peter's Nielsen boxes after he added a second tree to One Tree Hill. That show had actually aired its final season at the start of 2012, well before this episode premiered.
    • The episode "Chris Has Got A Date Date Date Date Date" mocks Taylor Swift for only writing melodramatic breakup songs. That sort of joke was quite popular circa 2010-2013. However, the episode came out in 2016, by which point Taylor's 1989 album had subverted and lampshaded her old formulas to a sufficient point that most no longer saw them as relevant.
    • The opening to "The Juice is Loose" claims as much, stating that it was a "lost" episode from 2007, ostensibly because by the time it aired in March 2009, its subject matter - O. J. Simpson moving into Quahog and becoming friends with Peter, who then has to convince the rest of the town that he's not as bad as the 1994 murder trials made him out to be - was already dated, with Simpson having been jailed just a few months prior over armed robbery and kidnapping.
    • "Stewie's First Word" has Peter asking a Magic 8-Ball if Fox is viable in an age of streaming; to which it responds by exploding. The episode was produced for season 18 but aired as part of in season 19, at which point, it aired after Fox Corporation acquired Tubi.
  • Futurama:
    • Admitted on the commentary track for episode "300 Big Boys", which was based off a big tax refund that, when it happened, was quite a big deal... but then came September 11th. By the time the episode aired in June 2003, viewers either didn't know or didn't care about the reference.
    • On the commentary for "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles" the writers also admit that the joke they wrote in early 2001 about Florida being known for recounts was no longer as relevant by the time the episode aired in March 2003.
    • "Related To Items You've Viewed" features extensive satire of Amazon, which did remain relevant when the episode aired in 2023 as the company has been seen as a monopolistic megacorp. Less timely, however, was the specific satire around Amazon's voice-activated virtual home assistant device, Alexa. In Futurama, "Invasa" makes so much money and amasses so much power that it assimilates the entire universe into it. In real life, Alexa was described by Amazon as "a colossal failure of imagination" as having led to a $10 billion loss in 2022 due to their inability to be profitable, and with Amazon, Google, and other competitors to downsize development of their respective virtual assistant products, the overall future of such devices is looking rather grim.
  • Kevin Spencer: "Home Improv-ment" has Anastasia and Vivica attending "Lilthe Fest"— a parody of the Lilith Fair, which took place over a few summers in the 1990s; the episode would air in October 2003.
  • King of the Hill episodes apparently took a while to make, considering that they were airing hand-drawn episodes until its eighth season in 2003, where they switched to digital ink and paint (for reference, many cartoons switched from traditional cels to digital ink and paint in the early 2000s). Then there's the episode "Lost in MySpace" which dealt with the Strickland Propane crew discovering MySpace. This episode didn't air until the end of 2008, when MySpace was declining in popularity. Fortunately, this is Truth in Television, as rural communities like Arlen are often behind the times and don't embrace modern trends until after they've been established as commonplace elsewhere.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The second season finale cashed in on the 2011 Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, by having its own wedding in-universe. Except the first season hadn't even aired its finale at the time. The two-part episode "A Canterlot Wedding" aired a full year later.
    • Rainbow Power ponies began appearing in the show's toyline a full year before the show itself would debut them in the Season 4 finale.
  • The Proud Family episode "EZ Jackster" plot revolves around music piracy, with the website at the center of it being heavily based on peer-to-peer file sharing site Napster (and The Matrix). By the time the episode came out, Napster (well, the original brand) was forcibly shut down just months prior.
  • One episode of Robot Chicken did a Lampshade Hanging on this. During a spoof of the film Into the Blue - which consisted entirely of the characters making general statements about themselves (e.g. "I'm in a bikini!" "I do lots of situps.") and awkwardly-forced title drops - Seth Green (in stop-motion animated form) interrupted the skit to briefly explain how animation takes time and therefore some skits may be irrelevant, since they would have had next to nothing to go on regarding the film when they were actually writing it several months beforehand. He then went on to state (with obvious irony) that he was confident that by now, Into the Blue had become a box office hit and won several Academy Awards, then closed by apologizing for any inconvenience.
  • The Simpsons plays with this. They often try to overdub relevant jokes after the finished animation is back from its overseas production.
    • They make it obvious on some occasions, such as the Super Bowl episode "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday"; the names of the teams were only said once, with Homer's and Moe's mouths covered, and the overdub doesn't match the scene's audio. They also took some potshots at the then-current Lewinsky scandal, where the status of Bill Clinton's presidency was clearly overdubbed as well as the status of his marriage.
    • They try to overcome it with overdubs and lampshade hanging, but they still fall victim to this trope big time. Combined with the occasional tendency of episodes to air a season or more after they were completed — due to Fox's seasons and Simpsons production seasons not always lining up — this trope has (for instance) caused parody episodes to be released years after the works they were mocking. Case in point, "Simpson Tide", a parody of the 1995 film Crimson Tide, was first shown in 1998note .
    • In one episode, several Itchy and Scratchy cartoons are shown in quick succession, all parodying films at least a year old. Krusty then hangs a huge lampshade on it, asking why they're parodying movies that old, and saying that the animation took too long to make to get it out sooner.
    • One area where the writers are able to be consistently topical is in what Bart writes on the chalkboard for the intro to each episode, which the writers use to occasionally address various mistakes or controversies in the episode that aired the week prior, or jokes that otherwise reference real-world events.
    • "Bart To The Future" features a bizarre example looping from a straight example into an aversion, with an infamous joke about a Donald Trump presidency in the distant future. At the time the episode was made, Trump was seeking the Reform Party's 2000 presidential nomination. But by its premiere in March 2000, Trump already suspended his campaign. It became an aversion after he was actually elected president in the 2016 election.
    • According to Al Jean, this was why the show largely avoided making any political jokes during seasons 13 (2001-02) and 14 (2002-03), as the September 11th attacks left politics in such a volatile state that they didn't want any episodes to instantly become dated. The only episode during that time that truly satirized American politics was season 14's "Mr. Spritz Goes To Washington", which skewers the American Political System as a whole more than anything else.
  • South Park:
    • The series as a whole is a rare aversion. The Stylistic Suck design is so comically simple to animate with industry standard software that, once the show switched over to such programs rather than animating construction paper cutouts by hand, the production time for episodes slowly became shorter and shorter until the creators found that they were now putting together entire episodes from concept to final delivery in a mere six days. Such is the case of the episode "Christmas in Canada", which included references to (and images of) Saddam Hussein's capture three days after it happened.
    • South Park broke its own record with "About Last Night...", spoofing the results of the 2008 election and the ensuing aftermath that had happened the previous night. Of course they wrote it assuming Obama's poll lead would translate into victory in the election (which it did) and an easily reworkable plot in case he didn't (and banked on the assumption that if Obama didn't win, an episode of South Park would go ignored in the ensuing frenzy). The episode "Obama Wins!" aired the day after Obama's reelection in 2012, but the plot of the episode also dealt with The Walt Disney Company purchasing Lucasfilm, which had happened a week prior.
    • The seventh episode of Season 20 was originally written under the assumption that Hilary Clinton would win in 2016. When Trump won instead, Matt and Trey had to completely rewrite (and presumably, reanimate) the whole episode in less than a day, as well as change the title— originally "The Very First Gentleman", it is now known as "Oh, Jeez".
    • The Quintuplets episode was rewritten after commercials aired to be about the Elián Gonzales situation.
    • When Pope Francis was named Time magazine's Person of the Year, the episode "The Hobbit", which had him accepting the award, aired the very same day of the announcement.
    • One episode spoofed Bob Saget's hosting style on America's Funniest Home Videos. By the time it aired, he was replaced by John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes.
    • After doing a two-parter episode ridiculing Family Guy, the creators were asked if they were prepared for a battle of wits between the two shows. They responded if the FG team did anything in response they would just let it slide, mostly because their production schedule is so much faster they would have too much of an advantage.
  • The first episode of The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper had a gag where Elvis' ghost goes to haunt Lisa Marie, presumably for marrying Michael Jackson. By the time it aired, Lisa Marie and Michael had been divorced for a month.
  • Star Wars:
    • Ian Abercrombie passed away in early 2012, but had already completed recording most of his lines as Palpatine/Darth Sidious for the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars with the exception of two lines that were dubbed by his successor Tim Curry. The final episode of Season 5 is when Curry fully takes over the role with one exception: an arc in Season 6 that was originally meant to air in Season 5 but got pushed back, produced and recorded before Abercrombie's passing and the subsequent recasting.
    • When it was announced in 2018 that The Clone Wars was being revived for a seventh season, accusations were lodged at Disney that the company was only bringing back the series to distract from the recent Broken Base receptions of The Last Jedi and Solo. However, when the Clone Wars announcement was made in the months following the latter release, the reveal trailer featured fully-animated footage from one of the episodes, indicating that the revival had been planned for some time and was already in development.
    • Tom Kane suffered a stroke in 2020 that unfortunately destroyed his voice and forced him to ultimately retire from voice acting. However, he was able to record one final appearance as the narrator of The Clone Wars for the series premiere of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, which aired just a few months before Kane’s daughter announced his retirement.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) infamously suffered a case of Executive Meddling partially because of this. By the time the fourth season finale aired in spring 2006, the fifth season was completed and ready to air in the fall as usual. However, Playmates Toys, in response to the Darker and Edgier third and fourth seasons, asked for the show to become lighter in tone, resulting in the Lighter and Softer Fast Forward retool for the show's sixth season. Fast Forward was bumped up to air first in fall 2006 to try to increase interest in the series. This resulted in a massive cliffhanger from the end of the fourth season going unresolved in America until 2008 when the fifth season finally aired after the sixth had finished running.
  • Teen Titans Go!:
    • The Running Gag in "BBBDay!" is that the Titans can’t sing Happy Birthday to You! because it's still under copyright. By the time it aired, a ruling invalidated the song's copyright, undermining the main joke of the entire episode. Later episodes have no problems singing the song.
    • "Hey You, Don't Forget About Me In Your Memory" was made with the intention of airing in February 2015 (the anniversary of the movie it spoofs). The episode aired in September of 2015.
    • "Teen Titans Roar" was a spoof of the ThunderCats Roar controversy that happened in 2018, but, like the show it was based off, aired in April 2020, although Teletoon in Canada aired it earlier.
    • Similar to "Hey You, Don't Forget About Me In Your Memory", "Toddler Titans...Yay!", which spoofs Dora the Explorer, was probably written with the release of Dora and the Lost City of Gold in mind. It wound up being released in November 2020, a year and three months after the movie and at a time when Nickelodeon had taken the show off their channel's schedules.
    • "Cy and Beasty" was likely produced with the release of Tom & Jerry (2021) in mind, but came out in August 2021, six months after its' theatrical release.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Animation Lead Time


Catch-Up Song

The Warners explain everything that's happened from the moment their show ended until the present year of 2020. Problem is, this episode was written in 2018, so they have to take some liberties to fill in that two-year gap.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (49 votes)

Example of:

Main / ProductionLeadTime

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