Follow TV Tropes

This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.


Prop Recycling

Go To

"I actually recognize this wall. It's been redressed a number of times, most recently for a scene in the Enterprise series finale 'These are the Voyages...', but it's also been used as a backdrop on a Son'a ship in Insurrection... This wall, I think, deserves an Emmy for withstanding so much crap."

The Hollywood version of "Waste Not, Want Not". When elaborate sets, costumes or Props are made for one production, they may turn up again and again in other productions that may need elaborate props but don't have the budget to design and build their own.

The prop may be altered slightly by repainting it or adding or removing widgets but it usually remains recognizable, especially if the original production was well known. While an understandable cost-saving measure, there's something about the practice that just screams "low budget".

Can overlap with Whole Costume Reference if the costume is recycled from an earlier work. If it's a real item, then it's Off-the-Shelf FX. If it's everything in the room, it's a Recycled Set. If it is an illustrated work resuing drawings from another work, it's Traced Artwork. There is also Classic Filler Text, in which a newspaper is made for a specific production but most of the article text is filler text that has been used in other productions. For when video games reuse "models" of the polygonal kind in the same work, see You ALL Look Familiar and New Work, Recycled Graphics. Compare Stock Footage, Recycled Animation, Palette Swap and California Doubling.

This is utterly ubiquitous in live theatre, so a section for this would be hopelessly long, and utterly pointless. Just take it as a given that live theatre companies save and re-use everything.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • The Batman OnStar Commercials reused the same Batmobile from Batman and Batman Returns, as well as a repainted version of the main Batsuit from Batman & Robin.
  • For additional set dressage, Dodgey Donut (his action figure exclusive variant) and Greaseburger from The Grossery Gang were placed in the background of the first Flush Force commercial. This is besides the fact the toylines are from two entirely different companies and the two Grossery Gang figures were featured with multiple Flushies, making their appearance practically unneeded.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The folks at Pixar are fond of reusing props, sets, even whole characters from their previous movies (and even from their upcoming ones), usually as a Shout-Out, as well as for practical measures. The most famous example is the Pizza Planet delivery truck from Toy Story, which has found its way into almost every film. Other popular props include the yellow ball with the blue stripe and red star from Luxo Jr., as well as both Luxo lamps from the same short.
    • A good example of recycling in Pixar productions is Boundin'. As mentioned in the audio commentary, the dancing fishes are retooled versions of Gurgle from Finding Nemo, the burrowing owl and the moles use the same base model, the shearer's car is Lizzie from the then still unreleased Cars and the arm that picks the lamb to shear him is the one of the dentist from Finding Nemo.
    • The Nightmare Sequence at the beginning of Inside Out uses altered versions of Remy and Queen Elinor's bear form as the zombie mouse and the pizza delivery bear.
    • In Coco, they used one of Hank's tentacles from Finding Dory as a base for Dante the dog's tongue.
    • Ratatouille borrows from two yet unreleased Pixar films. The shadow of Dug the Dog from Up can be seen in one of the apartments and heard barking at Remy as he scampers up from the sewer. Later, when Alfredo arrives home with his bicycle, Hal the cockroach from WALL•E can briefly be seen crawling up the wall.
    • A prototype of Lotso Huggin' Bear from Toy Story 3 is in the bedroom of the little girl Carl's house flies by in Up.
    • As well as the ball from "Luxo Jr,", there's a Buzz Lightyear action figure in the dentist's office in Finding Nemo.
  • 101 Dalmatians:
    • Two vehicles from this movie actually made a reappearance in The Aristocats: The Baduns' truck (as a milk truck the cats ride in at one point while heading back to Paris) and the moving van (as the truck that comes to pick up Edgar and take him to Timbuktu at the end of the film). These were actual physical props, painted white with "outlines" drawn on the edges, that were filmed in front of white backgrounds and photocopied onto the cels in a manner similar to Rotoscoping.
    • Cruella de Vil's car also made a brief cameo near the beginning of The Rescuers as the car Madame Medusa used to drive to the airport. Possibly an artifact of an early script where Medusa was Cruella until they rewrote the story to have a new villain.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet reuses baby Moana's model from Moana. People noticed it as soon as the first trailer was released and joked about it, to the point that when the movie came out they actually went and named the little girl "Mo".note 
  • The Animated Adaptation of James and the Giant Peach reused Jack Skellington's puppet from The Nightmare Before Christmas for the Skeletal Pirate captain.

  • Referenced in The Art of Discworld, in Terry Pratchett's comments on what inspired Überwald. Remarking on the influence of Hammer Horror on this region of the Disc, he recalls how a very large, distinctively-ornate candlestick appeared in every single movie.

    Music Videos 


    Pro Wrestling 
  • Averted in the case of the WWF Hardcore Title. For years, many fans believed that the title was the same broken title belt smashed by Mr. Perfect on an episode of "Saturday Night's Main Event". WWE has confirmed that this is not the case.

    Puppet Shows 
  • On Sesame Street, the train prop used in "The Ballad of Casey McPhee" would be re-used in the "Beat the Time" skit with Cookie Monster.
    • Sesame Street and it's international co-productions often recycle puppets from each other. For example: Birdie from Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce is just Arthur from the short-lived Japanese co-production with no changes whatsoever, Preston Rabbit's original puppet was reused for various one-shot characters in Sesamstraße, and Mama Bird from Sesame Street Episode 4401 was originally Claribelle of Sesame Tree.
  • Of course, with puppets, producers are not just restricted to recycling things. They can recycle characters — a quick dye job, switch out the eyes, put the head onto a differently-dressed body, and voila, a new hero/villain/bystander. Gerry Anderson's series are well-known for this, particularly for the Stingray episode in which the hero of the previous GA series, Steve Zodiac of Fireball XL5 fame, is re-used with dark hair as, of all things, an actor! Where this can be a problem is when the puppets' features change over time. Zodiac, for instance, had a rather large head and cruder facial features than the Stingray puppets. Once Anderson moved to proportionally-sized heads for Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons et seq., he couldn't use the older puppets any more, but did use the Scarlet puppets in subsequent series.
  • Achmed the Dead Terrorist from the routines of Jeff Dunham has a very interesting pair of eyes. They're interesting because they're spare eyes from Mars Attacks!.
  • The Muppets regularly reuse puppets from earlier productions in newer ones, sometimes as background cast and sometimes as new characters. Justified on The Muppet Show as (in-universe) all the characters are actors.
  • Les Guignols de l'Info
    • The French and Spanish versions shared puppets, and the puppets of people who are famous in one country are sometimes recycled as average, non-famous citizens in the other. This can be bizarre if you watch either version while being familiar with the other, because the host puppet (PPD in Les Guignols, Hilario Pino in Los Guiñoles) is particularly prone to this.
    • Les Guignols de l'info also sometimes used puppets from Les Minikeums (or made from the same molds as Les Minikeums) as young extras or incidental characters, as the shows shared a workshop (that of Alain Duverne) and some puppeteers.
  • After The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss ended, one of the Wickersham puppets from the show appeared in two sketches on Sesame Street; one from Episode 4153, where he appears as a member of Count Billy Bob Von Count Jr.'s greasemonkey work crew, and one from the direct-to-DVD release, Happy Healthy Monsters, where he (performed by David Rudman) jumps alongside India.Arie and other Muppet animals.
  • In the Donkey Hodie episode "A Lot Of Hot!", some of the stuff in the pile of random stuff Donkey brings out are props from Jack's Big Music Show, including a tanbourine, the horn of the Music Genie and a trumpet.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • Done deliberately with the Clan Omnimechs that appeared in Technical Readout: 3050. In-universe, Omnimechs differ from standard Battlemechs by having their weapons housed in special omnipods that work on plug-and-play style tech, allowing them to be easily fitted, removed, and swapped between mechs. To give them this aesthetic, the original Omnimechs were created in a way so that they shared common parts between different machines. For example, the iconic Mad Cat has the same arms as the Loki (and the same right arm as the Thor, though the Thor uses a unique left arm). It also has the same legs as the Vulture.
    • Recycling parts actually wound up causing one mini to be taken out of production in the Unseen issue that happened during the mid 90s. The BNC-3S Banshee, a rare variant of the Banshee assault mech, used the left arm from the Warhammer. As the Warhammer was made using the art from the Tomahawk Destroid from Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, it had to be taken out of production, which mean that the 3S Banshee's mini was also forced to be removed from production.

    Theme Parks 
  • Universal Studios Hollywood was built on this trope — the Theme Park was originally created to allow visitors to see the actual sets and filming used by the studio. Nowadays, the rides get more attention, and the tram tours avoid areas with actual filming, but the sets themselves are still frequently used. People familiar with the Tram Tour are able to recognize Courthouse Square, Wisteria Lane, and other parts of the studio when they appear in movies and TV shows.
  • Disney Theme Parks:
  • In Europa-Park (Germany), the "Universum der Energie" (rebranded/retooled as "Madame Freudenreich Curiosités" since) doombuggies originally come from the ride "Voyage Under the Sea" at the defunct French theme park Mirapolis, which operated from 1987 to 1991.
  • Many roller coasters at the Six Flags theme parks often get re-themed, with repaints of the tracks and/or cars. For example, Poison Ivy's Tangled Train at Six Flags New England got re-themed and re-painted to become Catwoman's Whip. For a while Six Flags parks went even further, regularly rotating roller coasters between parks. They would be closed, taken apart, shipped to a different park, rebuilt and opened. Rinse, repeat.

  • Many Transformers toys reuse older versions' molds to save on the cost of new figures. The Combiner Wars and Titans Return sublines recieved heavy criticism due to the sheer amount of mold reuse that took place during them. There were some molds that were used for five or six different characters, the only changes being color schemes and sometimes new robot heads. There were a couple instances where only one or two new figures would be released during a wave, and the other eight or twelve were all redecos of previous figures.
  • Irwin's Li'l Babies figures were simply LJN's Oodles with the head-loops hacked off.
  • Peppermint Rose dolls were modified versions of an earlier Mattel property, Lady Lovely Locks.
  • After the cancellation of the Rose Petal Place franchise and toys, the dolls' molds were reused for the Bubble Belles toyline.
  • The toyline for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves reused tons of stuff from other Kenner toylines, mostly Star Wars and the Super Powers Collection.
    • Kenner was prone to do this with many of their lines. For example, Kenner recycled many toy molds from past lines for items in the Star Wars line before they started making the original action figure line (which includes recycling a toy headset from The Six Million Dollar Man). They ended up recycling bits and pieces for the action figure line as well from past action figure lines, such as reusing the plastic base from a Wild West saloon playset for the base of their Cantina playset (which they replaced the cardboard saloon background with a Star Wars version). They also recycled a stage/display set from a girl's toyline for a display playset for the line. It wasn't just limited with Star Wars, as they not only did so for the above mentioned Robin Hood toyline, they had at one point came close to recycling the molds of KITT from their Knight Rider toyline for their Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure toyline (but it never got past the prototype phase).
  • In the mid-60s, Ideal manufactured a collection of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. toys that included the triangular I.D. badge from the TV series. These badges were recycled into Captain Action badges a couple of years later after the show went off the air by covering the UNCLE logo with a sticky paper label.
  • In more recent years, various toy companies have purposefully designed "generic body types", which they designed one fit female, one fit male and one supermuscular male, for their toylines to be able to produce multiple characters with the same body type and swap out a minimal amount of parts to create multiple new characters with minimal effort. Hasbro's Marvel Legends is a great example, as most of the bodies for their characters use the same types of bodies but are often different colors. NECA and their cloth-based Mego-style action figures and DC Essentials action figure line and the characters also use this method of action figure design method.
  • When Jaspion became a huge hit in Brazil, toy manufacturer Glasslite created a figure that was very much RoboCop, reusing molds they built for an unreleased line based on the 1988 cartoon until a more faithful Jaspion one was built. And the following toys in turn were recycled for ones based on Spielvan, which was downright advertised as Jaspion 2 in the country.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner is a Flash series mainly animated through the use of flat "objects" that are manipulated much like paper cutouts, so this crops up fairly often. The Gremlin, for example, started out as part of a story Bubs was telling on Halloween, but later became part of the actual Homestar Runner universe when the script called for a car. Their sister Karen joked about it in the commentary for one cartoon: "These guys are so lazy, they're pulling stuff out of the hat that they used five years ago."
  • This is common in GoAnimate because of obvious limitations. For example, headbands are often used to make letters such as the hat "M" for Mario and the "A" on Alvin's shirt, along with forming Dora's backpack (it's very obvious if she bends slightly and no actual bag structure exists). Dinner plate covers with crude lines or screamer masks are used to become electrode "hats" for execution, and black/grey boxes are restructured into restraining duct tape. Simple shapes such as circles and squares are re-formed by some video makers to become crude body forms. It is also common to use FedEx boxes to represent VHS or DVD cases, as well as bibles as homework or reading material.
    • A trend to make the grounded characters more accurate to their actual versions, started by Alan the Video Maker, uses this in spades; While roses are now used to recreate the ruffles on Doris' shirt, chef hats are used to recreate long sleeves, and headbands (and MS Paint sketching) are now used to make the hair of Mami (and Dora). However, problems ensue as these props do not have a structure, causing them to go out of place when the character is moving.

  • Happens in-universe in Darths & Droids. Pete spends part of the Episode IV campaign wondering where his space dreadnought went. Upon reaching Mos Eisley, he's horrified to discover that the GM took apart the dreadnought model and incorporated those parts into the city model.

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:
    • The good doctor's freeze/death ray is an Alliance stun gun from Firefly held upside-down. The gun later appeared on an episode of The Middleman.
    • And his lab coat was from the Firefly episode "Ariel".
  • In the final episode of France Five, this trope is combined with Actor Allusion. A BFG used to dispose of a minor villain is recycled from another French Web series, Flander's Company. Said villain is played by Rudy Pomarède, creator of Flander's Company, and whose character in it is the main user of the aforementioned BFG. Also, the BFG in question is basically the Blaster from episodes II and 3 of the Jak and Daxter series, with the front part turned upside-down, suggesting it was itself a recycled cosplay prop.
  • The Belle dress has made the rounds in Channel Awesome headquarters, with Malcolm wearing it in Demo Reel, Doug wearing it in the "What's with All the Princess Hate" title card and Tamara wearing it in both The Phantom of the Opera review and the Beauty and the Beast review.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond:
    • The commentary for the episode "Splicers" noted that the gun design was reused for some Justice League Unlimited episodes.
    • And the other way around: robot drones from Justice League Unlimited had the same design as the "V-headed" Zeta model that first appeared in Batman Beyond. They're referred to as Z-8 combat training drones (get it?) In JLU. The implication being that Zeta himself is a recycled prop: an old drone with new software, bells and whistles added.
    • Batman Beyond also reused the Batmobile from Batman: The Animated Series as the elder Bruce Wayne's limousine, but they flipped it upside-down.
  • The Prop Room from House of Mouse, which consists of props from every single animated Disney film up to 2001's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
  • Utilized to a rather impressive extent in Ed, Edd n Eddy.
    • For example, the "Ed's Hive Bee Gone" jumpsuits as seen in "Pop Goes the Ed" later make a reappearance in "It's Way Ed" as a part of the fad freaker suit (sans inscription) and later in "To Sir with Ed", this time with the aforementioned inscription scribbled out in favor of "Snake be Gone".
    • The "En-O-Gee Drinks" stand from "Over Your Ed" was reused similarly as "Ed Mart" in "A Glass of Warm Ed".
    • "The Good Ol' Ed" made good use of this to send up the classic Clip Show formula. Nearly all the props were from previous episodes, but all the flashbacks referred to previously unseen shenanigans involving the same props.
  • Robot Chicken tends to reuse a lot of the same figures and sets for unrelated sketches. One example would be a figure of an older Jem which was later used at least twice, once as "your mom" and again as another unrelated woman.
  • Total Drama often uses prototype character designs for interns and other extremely minor background characters.
  • The first episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers has Hoggish Greedly attack Captain Planet with a hose that spew toxic waste; it looks very similar to the neutrona wands on The Real Ghostbusters' proton packs (both series were made by DiC, although Captain Planet moved to Hanna-Barbera later on).
  • Lampshaded in Futurama when Farnsworth decodes an alien message using the same machine that was used to make glow-in-the dark fake noses earlier in the episode.
    Fry: Isn't that the machine that makes noses?
    Farnsworth: It can do other things! Why shouldn't it!?
  • Some of the models from TUGS were modified to create different characters, like Bluenose/Sea Rogue and Boomer/Sea Rogue's uncle. Years later, many of the props appeared on Thomas & Friends - O.J. and Izzy Gomez were turned into generic boats, while Big Mickey the crane became a fixture in harbor scenes even after the move to CGI, eventually regaining the ability to speak in Season 21 (though with a face instead of a megaphone).
  • In the Bertha episode "The Burglars", the titular burglars are pretty clearly Ted and Alf.
  • Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet carries on the fine old Gerry Anderson tradition by having the futuristic-looking truck from the pilot episode show up in the background whenever named characters were driving on a freeway. There were also no less than three separate episodes whose plot involved a massive Russian super-tank, also from the pilot, being used to blow something up.
  • Trollhunters will have various models from Dragons: Riders of Berk reused in different episodes, including a viking ship, Heather's lamb-chops and a Maces and Talons board. Word of God confirms that they do not share a universe and that they are simply "office neighbors" from whom they "steal props".
  • The same brick backdrop texture from Pelswick was used in Braceface on several occassions.
  • The scanner model used in Transformers: Prime was reused as a bomb detonator in Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy.
  • Happens a lot in Rainmaker Entertainment projects thanks to the costs of CGI in the 1990s and 2000s. You'd see models from ReBoot show up in Beast Wars, characters from their Barbie movies would be recycled as background characters in later ones, etc.
  • The line of race car drivers in the Bozo: The World's Most Famous Clown cartoon "Hot Rod Bozo" would be reused in the Brodax Popeye cartoon "Floppy Jalopy," both of which were from the Larry Harmon studios.

  • It is common in the Furry Fandom for fursuiters to modify older suits and use them as new fursonas, or to buy older suits/fursonas from other fursuiters.