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Reaching Through the Fourth Wall

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Animation and live-action techniques occasionally get mixed together. Sometimes, ideas that only exist as an intangible entity may cross a boundary, by some story device, to become actual live-action physical objects, people, animals, places, or events. The results of this may include people or objects popping out of media on television sets or computer monitors, or popping off the pages of printed media or picture frames. The previously animated objects with then undergo an Art Shift and become live action objects. Animated characters will also be portrayed by live action actors. This will often occur to a Refugee from TV Land and will also be used in a Real-World Episode.

On the topic of video games, one of the concepts of FMV games was bringing live-action into a video game. This usually meant blending the mediums of CGI and live-action. With games involving an inventory system, depending on how the objects in the game were depicted, this meant that an object may start as only a picture, or it may start out as a real object that is "given" to your player character, placed in your inventory, and you carry it around. Later, a live-action FMV character later in the game may ask for that object, and reach towards the "player" for that object. When the character pulls their hand back, suddenly, a real-life representation of that object is now in the character's hands, and the picture of the item has disappeared from the player's inventory. note 

Furthermore, modern VR technology is blurring the lines between fiction and reality, if the VR games that companies produce are interactive enough and have enough visual depth.

A variant of The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You, Medium Blending, Toon Transformation, Defictionalization, Television Portal, and the Roger Rabbit Effect as this trope blurs the line between non-physical ideas and reality.

Although this is a wide-encompassing-example trope, please note that this is not for objects and characters that come from purely live-action fiction based in one singular universe, as they already are, for all intents and purposes, real-life physical entities. (i.e. Star Trek, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Live-Action Anime adaptations, etc.) This trope is also not a direct copy of the Roger Rabbit Effect, as the interacting elements involved are still animated, cartoonish, and separate; plus the characters within already exist in that world. It also does not involve live-action characters interacting with a CGI environment through chroma-key. The characters, objects, or concepts must be kept in separate non-physical realities or concepts at first, then move across the story-device boundary and become physical non-animated characters or objects to apply. This trope is also not about characters or objects being transported into a fictional location, animated or live-action, that just happens to actually exist and has always existed, without the use a plot device.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Tamers plays with this, with references to the TV show only included in the English Dub. In the fictional universe of this season, Digimon is a franchise much like in our universe. There are cards, TV anime, and other memorabilia. Takato Matsuki (OG: Matsuda), Henry Wong (OG: Jian-Liang Lee), and Rika Nonaka (OG: Ruki Makino), all child fans of the franchise, all fatefully discover a strange blue card among their card collections, which turns their Digimon Card scanners into real Digivices, much like the Show Within a Show Digivices, and brings their partner Digimon from the Digital World into the real world of the fictional universe. Although, as said before, this is a played-with trope, as the Digital World has always existed, from the activation of the first-ever computer (the Atanasoff-Berry Computer), and the Digimon franchise within the show branched off of that.
  • Digimon Frontier also plays with this, similar to The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You, where the final villain, Lucemon Shadowlord Mode/Larva, broadcasts a message to all electronic devices in the world: "You Must Follow Me Or Be Destroyed." Wait, aren't you already watching the show on an electronic de... vi...

    Audio Plays 
  • Used to great effect in Another Monty Python Record, using the normal mechanics of your own vinyl record turntable. At the end of the "Pirahna Brothers" sketch, one of the characters (in audio) thinks that the sketch has gone on too long, and "bumps" the record turntable, causing an audible screech, and the character sarcastically apologizes "Sorry Squire, I've scratched the record...", with it playing in a scratched/broken record-like loop. At the end of side one, this is played in the "lead-out" track of the record, where your turntable's needle is kept in-place in the circular groove to prevent it from moving past its intended boundary and possibly damaging it.

    Fan Works 
  • The Fourth Wall Job by Gray Cardinal begins with the Leverage team — all of whom have seen one or another of the TV series featuring Carmen Sandiego — being recruited to find the computer used by the live-action Player in the 1990s animated series. Once they've found it, however, Carmen herself turns up to collect the prize:
    Elliot: You're not animated.
    Carmen: Never confuse the interface with the reality behind it.
  • Exploited and deconstructed in oniongirl's Bats and Wizards duology; in the first story, Nita and Kit from Diane Duane's Young Wizards series follow the trail of an escaped ecological threat across universes into Gotham City — except that they don't realize till they get home again that they've been hanging out with "fictional" Batman characters Robin, Batgirl, and Black Canary. In the sequel, the Bat-crew from the prior adventure make the reverse journey, seeking Nita's and Kit's help against one of Poison Ivy's plant toxins... and are greeted in Times Square by a gigantic movie poster promoting Christian Bale's latest Batman movie.
    Kit: Do you think they're going to remember?
    Tom: Tell you what, why don't you test it? Travel to a universe where we're fictional, and then come back and see what you remember.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the decades from the late-1930s to 1960, films attempted to draw viewers in with the facsimile of smells ostensibly passing through the silver screen into the real world. It was only tried successfully exactly once, in the film Scent of Mystery. The apparatus involved has been known as "Smell-o-Vision" in obscure pop culture, which pumped in scents directed by cues from the film's soundtrack.
  • In Search of Dr. Seuss: Kathy Lane, the newspaper reporter, opens a "book of imagination" in Seuss' study, and the magic inside causes the quirky idiosyncrasies, objects, characters, and places present in Dr. Seuss' work to become physical reality. (Some individuals become real, or in the case of some of the different Dr. Seuss animal characters, becoming human.) Some of the food even becomes "real" in a sense. Although one can see they are still non-edible props. note  This is subverted, however, with the Goose/Moose Juice in the "Hunches in Bunches" segment (On the production level of physicality, they appear to be premixed fruit-flavored drinks like Tang.), and where the yolks of the green eggs turn into lime Jello in closeup in the "Green Eggs and Ham" segment.
  • The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle: Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, and Fearless Leader all turn into real-life humans when accidentally pulled out of a TV by a Hollywood film executive. Rocky and Bullwinkle, however, stay as animated 3D models.
  • Cool World is kind of the poor man's perverted Roger Rabbit, where the world depicted in a comic comes to life. One particular cartoon character wants to become a physical living flesh-and-blood person and succeeds by having sex with a real person to do it.
  • Enchanted does this when the villain pushes main character Giselle into a well, which turns her live-action and transports her to New York City. During her stay in the real world, the film deconstructs the tropes associated with fairy tales. Prince Edward and Pip, a chipmunk friend of Giselle's, also become a live-action human and animalistic chipmunk, respectively, later in the film.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Beetleborgs: The main trio of child characters wish for their comic hero characters to become real-life. Unfortunately, this also realizes the villain characters as well.
  • The Goodies. Towards the end of "The Movies", there's a series of visual gags involving the Goodies attacking each other from the cinema screen. Which turns out to be a movie on a cinema screen being watched by another member of the Goodies, enabling the gag to be repeated with them. This includes a literal version of this trope when a close-up of Bill Oddie turns out to be a giant Bill who reaches into the cinema and picks up Tim from his seat.

    Video Games 


  • Some of the aspects found in The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games can fall into this trope, to experience in real-life what the characters on-screen do:
    • Rumble Feature: Motors with an offset weight attached, to produce vibrations similar to collisions, impacts, or blows.
    • Force Feedback: Motors that push back against movement, to produce realistic recoil or resistance similar to weapons fire and vehicle movement vibration. Also includes aspects of the rumble feature. Usually found on steering wheel controllers and joysticks.
    • Sound Feedback: One system, the Aura InterACTor vest, was a bulky backpack bass speaker that plugged into your game system, so, as advertised, you could feel the kicks, punches, impacts, and recoil of video game actions on your body.
  • This was slightly expanded on with the Nintendo Wii, where several games made use of the wireless WiiMote to produce sound separate from the console, display, or connected sound system.
  • The Terebikko (brought to the United States as the "Mattel See 'n Say Video Phone") was a telephone-shaped educational system that used VHS tapes as its main media source. Characters on screen would "call" the child playing the game through the telephone, requiring them to listen to an educational question, and answer by making a choice on one of the 4 colored buttons.


  • Bravely Default plays with this trope. The main villain of the first game plans to gain enough power to break into the Celestial Realm. When you fight him, a rift opens up in the background to reveal the Celestial Realm, and at this point the 3DS front camera activates and shows you, the player, as an inhabitant of the realm. This means that this trope was the villain's plan all along. It also applies in reverse, as it is heavily implied that you are an active character in the story, as the guiding force that saved Tiz and later Yew, and as one that controls time through Bravely Second and New Game+ mechanics.
  • The Myst series:
    • Myst: Three examples occur within the game:
      • The colored pages that you collect for each respective book, depending on which brother you believe, are simply digital constructs note , until you free one of them, at which point the pages become real physical objects, and the brother you freed is now actively tearing them out of the book... in which you are now trapped.
      • The white page that you find in the Marker Switch Vault starts out in the same exact ways, until you go to D'ni and, when he beckons for it, give it to Atrus to repair his Myst linking book, at which point the page becomes a real physical object in his hand, which he places inside the Myst book.
      • In a subversion, after you free Atrus, you, the player, can click on the very-real and now-repaired linking book on Atrus's desk and use it to return to Myst.
      • In the new 2020 VR edition, because of the Oculus Quest 2's environment tracking, you are not only able to interact with the fictional 3D environment as if it were a real, existing world (helped by the rumble motors in the hand controls), but if one has the proper space in real life, one can simply walk (as in, physical steps) from one location to another, as if one were actually there.
    • Riven: The Sequel to Myst
      • Most of the reaching-across-the-fourth-wall interaction comes from the Trap/Prison book that Atrus gives to you to capture Gehn, his father, and the swapping of it between characters.
      • At the start of the game, Atrus hands you a (backstory) journal and the aforementioned prison book. When you link to Riven and are caught in the cage trap, one of Gehn's guards notices you in there, reaches between the bars, and wrestles it away from you. The book is then taken by a rebel who ambushes the guard and frees you.
      • In Tay, the Moiety Rebel Age, one of the rebels gives you back your book, along with Catherine's journal, and they appear in your inventory when you pick them up.
      • When you finally meet Gehn, he's quite a bit more polite and amicable, but still reaches in-between the bars of the cage you are trapped in (for his own security), and draws out a physical version of the book from your inventory, whereby the prison book inventory icon promptly vanishes until you get both back by tricking Gehn into using the book.
      • In fact, you can even interact with the live-action version of the book, to link into it, when Gehn offers it to you to test its authenticity as a real linking book back to D'ni.
      • Catherine also reaches into your inventory when you free her, looking inside the book to check that Gehn is indeed captured.
    • Myst III: Exile
      • Atrus, at the beginning of the game, hands you a(nother backstory) journal, which appears in your inventory.
      • When Saavedro forces you to make a choice at the end of the game, one of your choices is to trap him in-between two ice shields. If you do this and confront him afterwards, as an attempt to bargain, he will give up the Releeshahn book to you, placing it in your inventory.
      • A more bizarre version of this trope has to do with the tapestries you find in the final world. When you first encounter Saavedro, before you arrived, he had torn one of the tapestries off the wall, as evidenced by the CGI leftover tatters left hanging in one of the rooms, and is now wearing it as a new piece of clothing in live-action.
  • Late in Rhem 2, after the player falls down a trapdoor into a prison cell, a woman in a long red coat reaches into your inventory through a barred window, takes the swipe card to your rail car, then hands you a gold token and lets you out of the cell. At the endgame, she returns the card in exchange for the artifact you were sent to take a picture of. This exchange is given through a CG wooden panel, but the Lady in Red picks up the artifact and holds it against her chest as a flat live action disc.
  • Obsidian plays around with this, in that this particular live-action element is depicted on a screen in a technology-generated world on your computer screen (Mind Screw which only adds to how twisted this game already is). In the Bureau Realm, one of the Vidbots note , the Chief-of-the-Bureau Vidbot, to be exact, dons a pair of CG reading glasses, which become live-action on the actor portraying the Chief Vidbot's face, and shortly takes them off, once again becoming CG.
  • In Virtual Nightclub, live action people occasionally offer you items, starting as real-world props before appearing as digitized sprites in your inventory.
  • The Skylanders games feature an example of this as Kayfabe. According to the original backstory, the figures you need to play the game are actually living Skylanders that have been transformed into static figures and sent into our world by Kaos, and the player is bringing them back in their world as living creatures. This is also reflected between the ending of the first game and the beginning of the second one: after being defeated, Kaos has turned himself into a figure and sent into our world, but since he himself is a Portal Master he manages to get back on his own by hijacking a demo station for the first game.
  • X-Men (1993), in the level "Mojo's Future Crunch", requires you to "reset the computer" to erase a virus. To do this, you need to soft reset your Sega Genesis/Megadrive to proceed. (A quick press of the reset button, not a long press.) However, this is not specified anywhere in the game and can lead to a Guide Dang It! moment.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The Strong Bad Email "virus" pulls one of these, when Strong Bad's Compy 386 gets almost 400,000 viruses at once, causing the H*R universe to deteriorate slowly into madness. When multiple in-animation windows of old-design Homestar pop up saying "Making. Out. With. Marzipan. Is. Totally. Awesome!", one physical browser window (that you have to click the "X" on the menu bar to close) also pops up in front of the animation, with the same old-design Homestar saying the same phrase.
    • Played with in-universe in the 2018 Halloween Special "Mr. Poofers Must Die!" No matter what any story any of the characters tell, it is strongly implied that Mr. Poofers (who is a dog character that only exists within the story) is sending some metaphysical force to their real world to prevent them from killing him off, instead turning their intended story into a harmless comedic farce.
      Strong Bad: [voiceover] [Old Man Rootbeer] took dead aim [with a flame thrower] on Mr. ... [he shows signs of starting to struggle to speak] Poofers...
      Strong Bad: Dead aim, you see! And then... [greatly struggling] ...he... pulled... the tr— trrrri— TRRRRRRRRRRRRR—...
      [Sudden cut to a trolley with Old Man Rootbeer riding, smiling widely.]
      Strong Bad: [voiceover, singing] ...trolley 'round the block and then he gave it a ding!
      [Cut to another view of the trolley, with Mr. Poofers now riding it too.]
      Strong Bad: Mr. Poofers hopped aboard and they began to sing! How could we ever, how come we never?
      [Cut back to the main characters. As they sing, the words appear above them.]
      Everyone: [singing] Why can't we slice that pie?
      [Strong Bad collapses. Everyone else heavily huffs in fatigue.]
      Strong Bad: Awwwww! It's no use! Mr. Poofers is too powerful!

    Western Animation 
  • For one instant in Family Guy, because of their universe-hopping device, Stewie and Brian become a real human baby and animalistic dog in live-action.
  • Gravity Falls: Due to Bill Cipher starting Weirdmageddon, his antics cause the intro of the show to become corrupted in the final 3 episodes, including his minions replacing the main characters, and he himself replacing most instances of the other characters and events, down to putting his name as the show creator's credit.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Parodied in "Pressure," where Sandy dares the sea creatures to go above water after they mock her for being a mammal. SpongeBob, Patrick, and Mr. Krabs are represented on land as a real-life kitchen sponge, starfish, and crab, respectively, while Squidward is a more awkward large-eyed sculpture of an octopus. When she goes above water, Sandy is represented by a squirrel puppet.
  • A gag in the Sonic Boom episode "Just a Guy" involves Sonic's communicator going off while he's in his "happier place", causing Sonic to wake up. Unfortunately, he wakes up one too many times and the scene cuts to a live-action shot of a man in Sonic cosplay taking out the garbage.

    Real Life 
  • Cosplayers do this a lot of the time, with subjective varying degrees of success, as their desire to closely match the look (or realistic aesthetic) of the costume of a character and their accompanying props also may require different real-life fabrics, materials, and objects.
  • In a way, consumer and 3D printers do this. Printing takes the image or model from the information inside your computer and produces a physical hard copy of the image on paper, or in the case of 3D, it builds the object layer-by-layer.