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Puppet Permutation

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What... exactly does that feel like?
"I do not have puppet cancer!"
Puppet Angel, Angel

Sometimes, something strange happens. A person, either the hero or villain, changes into a living puppet. Attempts to manipulate the newly-formed puppet often result in violence.

This is often the work of an Evil Puppeteer, turning innocent people into puppets to use at his leisure.

Could be a Baleful Polymorph. Compare to Demonic Dummy or People Puppets. Subtrope to Toy Transmutation.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is the ability of the Doll Devil in Chainsaw Man, harnessed by an old man from Germany codenamed Santa Claus. By activating the power and physically touching someone, Santa can turn that person into a marionette-like doll, after which he can mentally control their movements as he pleases and that person is effectively deceased. Humans who touch a doll become a doll too, so the powers overlap with The Virus. Since the only way to stop a doll is to put them down, and Santa prefers crowded urban areas where people are constantly bumping into each other, civilian body counts get very high when he's on the attack. Luckily, Fiends and Hybrids like Power and Denji are immune.
  • Anya of Karin is fond of taking people's souls and sticking them into dolls. Near the end of the manga she binds her grandfather's soul so that they can figure out what the hell is going on.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh!, using the Wincott poison will move the person's soul into a doll and allow their body to be used at will by the Wincott family, and it will only end when the Wincott family agrees.
  • In Melody of Oblivion this is one of the various things that happen to normal people that see a monster. The other examples are turning into statues or ape-men. Each particular monster seems to have a particular effect.
  • Sabrina from Pokémon used her psychic powers to transform people into dolls while suffering from Literal Split Personality.
    • Ash, Kiawe, Lillie, and their pokemon get turned into puppets during the Sun and Moon Halloween episode, though it turns out to have been All Just a Dream caused by a group of Ghost types.
  • Happens to Akane in Ranma ½, both in the OVA "Ranma, Look at Me" and in the ending of the Manga.
  • In Soul Eater, during the Operation Capture Baba Yaga Castle Arc, Arachne uses her abilities to make Soul, Maka and Medusa hallucinate that they have become puppets.
  • Happens in the second Vampire Princess Miyu OAV, where the Shinma Miyu has to fight is an Uncanny Valley Girl who transforms the students of a prestigious Kyoto private school into mannequins. And falls in love with one of them, so to prevent the Star-Crossed Lovers situation, she turns him into a Shinma. At the guy's request, because he falls for her as well even after finding out who she truly is.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash #133, a classic Silver Age Flash story where Abra Kadabra turns the Flash into a marionette.
  • In "Strung Along" in The Vault of Horror #33 a dying puppeteer's marionettes come to life and turn his greedy wife into a puppet in a more gruesome and literal manner than most stories of this variety.
  • Zatanna: In the 2010 series, Zee's father Zatara once transformed the Serial Killer Hamsel into a marionette. Decades later, Hamsel took vengeance by turning Zatanna into a marionette: a form in which she was trapped for several months.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 

  • In the Thomas Ligotti story "Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech", Dr. Voke looks to his friend Mr. Veech for revenge on his unfaithful wife and best friend, although he doesn't know the details. When he brings them to the location Veech has specified, he sees them dangling from strings and turning to wood.
  • In The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones, the villain at one point turns Tonino and Angelica into puppets and makes them act out a Punch and Judy show.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Apollo, Apollo", it is revealed that Kenneth sees everyone as singing puppets. Authentic Whatnot Muppets, no less. And Liz Lemon really walks like one.
  • The above quote comes from "Smile Time" an episode of Angel where the titular character is turned into a puppet. Within the episode, he fights other, demonic puppets. It also contains the line "You're a wee little puppet man!" from Spike. May or may not be a hint that he's being turned into a metaphorical puppet.
    Angel: I'm made of felt...and by dose comes off!
    • Spike later gets the same treatment in the comic Spike: Shadow Puppets when he travels to Japan where Smile Time is still popular.
  • Doom Patrol (2019): During the Eternal Flagellation, Jane and other main personalities are turned into Sesame Street-esque puppets in Kay’s subconscious. Even after being dragged back to reality, Jane is stuck in her puppet body until the Flagellation ends.
  • In Goosebumps, Slappy turns Zane into a dummy during the adaptation of Night of the Living Dummy III. This did not happen in the book, however.
  • One episode of Home Improvement had a Dream Sequence where the cast become Rankin/Bass Productions-style stop-motion puppets. Hilarity Ensues. Especially since Tim ends up Losing His Head.
    Oh no!
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Legends of To-Meow-Meow", one of the alternate timelines Charlie and Constantine accidentally create is one where Mick left the team, joined forces with the fairy godmother, and called the Legends "puppets of the Time Bureau", which the godmother then literalised. For some reason, turning into felt puppets also makes the characters act like they're in a pre-school edutainment series.
    • Happens again in the season 5 episode “Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac”, when the team is briefly trapped inside a Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Expy and Ava and Sara are transformed into puppets for the show.
  • At the end of The Middleman episode "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation," both the Middleman and Lacey are (briefly) turned into puppets.
  • One of the Sci Fi episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 sends the Satellite of Love through a wormhole that temporarily replaces Mike with an Alternate Universe robot/puppet Mike.
  • The Stargate SG-1 episode "200" features a five-minute Imagine Spot mash-up of the series pilot and the original Stargate movie, as cast with marionettes.


    Video Games 
  • One of the characters in the horror novel (and computer game) The 7th Guest succumbs to a rather nasty version, being gradually and permanently transformed into an inanimate marionette. It's not clear whether or not she's still conscious afterwards.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has Ganondorf pull this trick on himself as a One-Winged Angel gambit.
    • Well, sort of. He seems to be actually playing the puppetmaster, from above, with a little help from some magic. (Note the strings on all three forms of the boss.)
  • The villain in Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show used a magic mirror to turn several kidnapped children into puppets.
  • Spamton G. Spamton of Deltarune is a sentient spambot program taking the form of a living ventriloquist dummy (and a marionette in his One-Winged Angel form), but an in-game poster and an air freshener included in a real-life merchandise grab bag reveal that he once looked like the decidedly non-puppet Addisons before whatever caused him to go crazy also turned him into a living puppet.

     Web Animation  

    Web Comics 
  • Childlike and sociopathic Ilharess Kharla'ggen from Drowtales has a hobby of turning people that take her fancy into dolls. Though she has demonstrated an ability to do this entirely by magic, her favourite method is to physically cut out the bones from her victims' arms and legs, pull out their eyes and tongue, decorate them cutely, and leave them like that. Being elves, they can theoretically live indefinitely as long as they are fed, making this example of the trope seriously creepy.
  • A prominent character in The Forgotten Order, has been cursed into a form of a doll that must do the bidding of witches and wizards.
  • During one magician's duel in The Wotch, a character gets turned into a marionette.

    Western Animation  
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Puppets", Gumball turns into a puppet while journeying into the world of his and Darwin's childhood imagination to save Darwin from some childhood toys gone rogue.
  • This is the entire premise of Atomic Puppet. The superhero Captain Atomic has been transformed into a sock puppet by his ex-sidekick Mookie; he can still walk and talk, but he can only use his superpowers by teaming up with Joey to become Atomic Puppet.
  • Chowder has vignettes during its credits with the characters as puppets.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Great Fusilli", the titular villain turns his victims, including Eustace and Muriel into marionettes, and gets defeated when he turns into one himself by Courage. Disturbingly, Eustace and Muriel don't change back at the end, and Courage controls them to live like they usually do.
  • In the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "Strings Attached", Fanboy is turned into a wooden puppet as punishment for his bad behavior. However, he ends up liking it so much that he tries to make the change permanent by doing a good deed.
  • Cosmo, Wanda, Timmy, and Vicky in Channel Chasers when they hop into a parody of Sesame Street. They were accompanied by Timmy from the dystopian future. Cosmo even express how he feels about that sudden change.
    Cosmo: I've never felt more alive. Get it? Felt?
  • Jackie Chan Adventures has a couple episodes involving the Monkey King, an evil magical puppet who comes to life when someone pulls the puppet's leg, turning the one who was pulling his leg into a puppet themselves. When this happens to Jackie, he's revived using the Rat Talisman—but he's still a puppet. That trait ends up saving him more than once in that episode; to quote Jade, "Let's hear it for detachable parts."
  • An episode of Teen Titans had the Villain of the Week called The Puppet King, who cast a spell to put the Titans' souls into puppet facsimiles. The boys are all captured this way; Raven manages to cast a counter-spell while she and Starfire are being attacked, which lets them escape but results in them accidentally switching bodies (and thus, powers).


Video Example(s):


The Great Fusilli

The Great Fusilli turns his performers into puppets using his magic stage.

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Main / PuppetPermutation

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