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Sealed Army in a Can

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Hmm, what's this? Want to Take Over the World? Cause mayhem? Have you considered the Sealed Army in a Can? Guaranteed to provide decades of destructive entertainment, try it today!

The Sealed Army in a Can is an army that was so powerful that it was impossible to destroy them and the best that could be hoped for was sealing them away, usually at great cost. With works that employ this trope, you can invariably expect that the Big Bad's master plan will revolve around awakening this army to do his bidding whether it be to Take Over the World or just break things. Often times you will get the Sealed Evil in a Can thrown in with them as a nice bonus. Like the Sealed Evil in a Can the fact that they were sealed away may have weakened them to the point they can be destroyed or technology has advanced to the point where it can get the job done. Or not.

Unlike a real army that is composed of individuals, the sealed in a can variety don't seem to have any sentience and will often mindlessly follow whoever freed them.

Can sometimes be used as Sealed Good in a Can for a really Big Damn Heroes moment; see also Awakening the Sleeping Giant. In these cases, they may not be quite as mindless. For several unique characters (often in separate "cans") see Sealed Cast in a Multipack. For a single character in multiple "cans", see Sealed Evil in a Six Pack.

Sub-trope of Badass Army except more so (otherwise, what's the big problem?).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Dorabian Nights has Doraemon and friends entering the world of the Arabian Nights and meeting Sinbad - an elderly Retired Badass - who lives in his Magic Palace in the Middle of the Desert, with his collection of magic goodies. One of his many gadgets is the "Army-in-a-Box", a chest of magic beads that transforms into warriors upon being flung. Said box (and most of Sinbad's gadgets) ends up being stolen by a villain named Abdil, who took over Sinbad's palace, but Doraemon managed to steal back the box and recall the soldiers.
  • Hellsing: Alucard has the ability to summon people and creatures that he's drained as familiars. Towards the end, when Integra releases his final Power Limiter and unleashes his full power, he summons everybody he's ever eaten, ever just FYI Alucard is The original Dracula; He's been around since the Crusades (back when he was "Vlad the Impaler"). Think about that for a minute.
  • Capone "Gang" Bege of One Piece has this as his power, where he seals an entire army in himself. This allows him to brazenly stroll into a battlefield alone and still wind up with superior military force once he ejects them.
  • MDGeist has the Death Force, an army of machines programmed to wipe out all life on the planet Jerra. The focus of the plot is on preventing them from waking up. At the end of the first movie, the "hero" of the story decides to activate them anyway.
  • There also is an example in the Naruto Manga where it's revealed that Zetsu, given a sufficient amount of chakra can spawn an army of 100.000 clones of himself.
  • In Fate/Zero, Rider has the ability to call upon the spirits of everyone he has ever commanded when he unleashes his ultimate Noble Phantasm, Ionioi Hetairoi: Army of the King.

    Comic Books 
  • In Rom: Spaceknight, Rom's preferred weapon, The Neutralizer, banishes his enemies into Limbo. Thus some Dire Wraiths stole the gun, and later captured Rom, in the hopes of finding a means of returning the many Dire Wraiths he banished and thus create a big renewal of their forces.

    Fan Works 
  • In Equestria: Across the Multiverse, a major plot point of the Winter Wedding Arc is the Chamber of Seven Sleeping Armies, an ancient sealed chamber beneath the Isle of Pony guarded by the royal family containing seven armies (or rather six armies and one Dragon that when fully grown might as well be an army) that are also under their own individual seals. They will only awaken when a chosen hero summons them, but Princess Spring Heart/Chrysalis has the means to override the seal and control them if she reaches the chamber first. Starlight, Patch, and Sweetheart manage to awaken three of them, the Shisa Pride, the Armor of Valiant Warriors, and the dragon egg (their world's version of Spike), and lead the former two (Spike being a baby is too young to fight) into battle as a decisive turning point in the arc.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In the fourth story, The Diplomat's Life, the final arc features the Umbrum Forces, who are sealed within the Shadow Prison under the Crystal Empire. Rabia's goal is to free them and then take over the world.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Babes in Toyland (a/k/a March of the Wooden Soldiers) features an army of toy wooden soldiers that were built outside specification (100 wooden soldiers each six feet tall, instead of 600 wooden soldiers each one foot tall). They come in handy defending Toyland from the boogeymen.
  • Bane creates a good version of the Sealed Army In A Can in The Dark Knight Rises when he traps almost the entire Gotham Police Department in the sewers.
  • They do this again in Heisei Rider vs. Showa Rider: Kamen Rider Taisen feat. Super Sentai, when the Badan Empire plans to take advantage of the Kamen Rider civil war to set their plans into motion. Just when they believed all but two Riders are left standing, Ryo Murasame/Kamen Rider ZX (who was undercover in Badan but ousted) reveals that all the Riders were merely lying in wait in the Helheim Forest. Ryo then uses the Rider Lockseeds on Kouta Kazuraba/Kamen Rider Gaim to summon the Riders back to fight Badan.
  • The Golden Army from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. An army of 4900 (More accurately, 70 times 70 soldiers) indestructible, untiring, clockwork warriors, to be precise. They're controlled by a MacGuffin that was split into three pieces to prevent it from ever being used again.
  • In Immortals, Hyperion uses Epirus Bow to unleashed Titans for total destruction.
  • In Kamen Rider × Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen, both Dai-Shocker (under Tsukasa Kadoya/Kamen Rider Decade) and Dai-Zangyack (under Captain Marvelous) have been eliminating the Super Sentai and the Kamen Riders, respectively. When the villains turn against their leaders and become a united front, it's revealed that Tsukasa and Marvelous were very well aware of the treachery before it happened. And the Super Sentai and Kamen Riders were never killed, just sent to a dimensional rift, waiting at the right moment to reveal themselves and take care of the combined villain armies.
  • In a variation on this trope Aragorn gains control of a ghost army of oathbreakers bound to serve the king, in both the film and the book The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and uses it to save Minas Tirith. Different from most examples in that they retained their sapience and only agreed to serve him in the battle because he, as rightful heir to the throne, promised to accept it as fulfillment of their broken oath and thus make it possible for them to finally pass on.
  • The Mahou Sentai Magiranger movie has an evil army that would be unleashed if Groom no Bridon marries someone pure and good, so he kidnaps the red ranger's Love Interest.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • The Mummy Returns: The mummy returns and attempts to gain control of the Army of Anubis. Cutting off their heads is the only way to kill them, not that it helps since more will show up anyway. They can only be sealed away, not destroyed.
    • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: The Dragon Emperor's Army the Terracotta army, although the heroes get access to another Sealed Army in a Can in the form of his many dead slaves. They aren't exactly superior combatants, but they hold their own.
  • The buried alien army in The War of the Worlds remake.

  • Discworld:
    • One of these were found under the Long Man in Lords and Ladies. They're supposed to wake up in time for some final battle when a wolf eats the sun.
    • Interesting Times has Rincewind discover the "real" Red Army, and use it to save the revolutionaries.
    • In Making Money, the Golems of Um comprise one of these. Especially since on the inscription Adora found, "four golden golems" was meant to be translated as "four thousand golems".
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Door into Summer he mentions in passing that the USA was able to win a war against Russia because of reserve troops kept in suspended animation.
  • In The Dragon in the Sword, by Michael Moorcock, the Eternal champion manages to get access to one of these, composed of all the heroes throughout eternity that fell. (It's implied that they're ones who tried to stop fighting). Each one is described as being as skilled as Erekose, who is able to take on 6 mooks without too much trouble. They take on the concentrated might of all of Chaos.
    • Dorian Hawkmoon's Sword of the Dawn, able to summon the savage warriors of the Legion of the Dawn apparently at will and for as long as its wielder remains conscious, may also qualify.
  • In Fate/Zero, Alexander the Great, A.K.A. Iskander, can summon a regiment of his former army at will as his Noble Phantasm. They all manifest as lesser Heroic Spirits, and some of them are genuine Heroic Spirits as well. He uses it to kill 80 Assassins in approximately an eighth of a second. Later, it's destroyed by Gilgamesh blasting all the soldiers and disrupting it.
  • In David Brin's Kiln People people routinely copy their souls into "dittos" that decompose a day or two after activation, and for most nations war has been reduced to a spectator sport where their soldiers' dittos duke it out in arenas for a week. But every nation also keeps a secret stockpile of un-imprinted war dittos in case of invasion, their short lifespans making them of little use for anything but defense. Unfortunately that means a Mad Scientist might be able to sneak in to the secret bunker and bake himself an army.
  • A variation appearing in Perry Rhodan lays the groundwork for the eponymous subplot of the "Orbiter" arc. After driving the Hordes of Garbesch out of the Milky Way Galaxy, the defenders' high commander orders the creation of a secret installation (spread over planets of a handful of solar systems) equipped with everything needed to quickly raise an army of customized clone warriors and equip them with weapons and starships in the event that the invaders should ever return. They never exactly do, but 1.2 million years later — which is to say, in the series' then-present —, the misinterpretation of a series of "space quakes" and an automated scoutship's encounter with and capture of a small group of the worst pirates at the time lead to the systems being activated and the army of clones resembling just those pirates quickly force-grown to drive away...the current humanoid inhabitants of the galaxy, it turns out. (Thanks to a combination of factors actual violence never breaks out, but things do get quite tense and awkward for a time — the clones come pre-programmed with remarkably high ethics, but also won't take "no" for an answer.)
  • Septimus Heap: Syren has a massive army of djinn sealed inside a chest, which the book's villain seeks for himself, while Jenna's father Milo wanted to give it to her.
  • The good version is found in The Tower Of Geburah by John White. Five hundred of the best knights of the realm, awakened and ready to kill the hordes of bad guys.
  • In the Back Story for The War Against the Chtorr the United States was forced to demilitarize, but it's later revealed that much of its technological resources is actually this trope.
  • The Horn of Valere from The Wheel of Time. Whoever blows it can summon the Heroes of the Ages to fight for him. Of course, everyone wants it.
  • With Friends Like These... by Alan Dean Foster: Humanity was sealed under a forcefield a long time ago because we scared the aliens that badly. When aliens later release the humans in exchange for helping them against a bigger menace, one of the aliens has the sense to worry, "What happens when we run out of enemies?".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: A subversion is used where Eldritch Abomination Illyria attempts to conquer the world by raising her invincible demon army that has waited underground while she was sealed away dead. However, it has since crumbled to dust due to the passage of time.
  • Beetleborgs: The Monster of the Week was always summoned out of a comic book, and "returned to the printed page" at the end of the episode. The season finale featured Nukus suggesting they summon them all again, this time all at once.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: seen in season 7 when Buffy & co. have to fight the uber-vamps sealed beneath the Hellmouth.
  • Used a number of times on Doctor Who.
    • The Cybermen in "The Tomb of the Cybermen", "Earthshock" and "Ascension of the Cybermen"
    • Daleks in both "Planet of the Daleks" and "Doomsday". ("Doomsday" also has Sealed Evil in a Can in the form of the Cult of Skaro, an elite group of special Daleks who release the army, in an unusually literal application of this trope. The entirety of the army is sealed in a metal can the size of a single Dalek. It used TARDIS tech.)
    • Kane's mercenaries in "Dragonfire".
    • The events of the Last Great Time War are "time locked" so that time travel is impossible to or from it, which also sealed away the Daleks and Time Lords. The one time the time lock is nearly broken the Doctor notes that the entire cosmos would burn if all the horrors of the War were to escape.
    • "The Day of the Doctor": The entire Time Lord race and Gallifrey itself.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Played with an interesting twist in Power Rangers Ninja Storm. In the finale, it turns out that, unbeknownst to either the audience or the Rangers, the heroes haven't been killing the Monsters of the Week, they've been sealing them. And the Big Bad was keeping track of the exact number of monsters the can could hold, as when it went one over, it would let them all out at once. The Rangers would even the odds by freeing all the Wind Ninja Academy students Lothor kidnapped at the beginning of the season.
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive The Fearcat army in a magic mirror.
  • Stargate Atlantis: At any given time the majority of the Wraith are in hibernation, as the human populations they feed on couldn't support all of them at once. However, when those currently awake find out about the 6 billion humans available on Earth they begin waking the rest up.
  • The Season 2 finale of Supernatural has an agent of the show's Big Bad open a doorway to Hell and unleashing an army of demons.

    Multiple Media 
  • The Bohrok swarms in BIONICLE. In a mild subversion of the trope, they didn't follow the commands of those that had released them, but their sole operative (demolishing the island of Mata Nui and everything that gets in their way, then going back to stasis) was put to good use both by the villains and the good guys at different points — first when Makuta Teridax unleashed them to terrorize the Matoran people of Mata Nui, and then when the Matoran released them again to fight against the Makuta's real army.

  • Jason was given the task to sow a field with dragon's teeth, which sprouted into a huge, invincible army. However, he defeated them by throwing a stone into the army, causing them all to kill each other in an escalating brawl. There's probably a message in that somewhere.
  • The Myrmidons in The Iliad were ants who would turn into warriors and provide Achilles with an invincible army.
  • There is a Polish legend that says an entire army of knights is slumbering under the Tatra mountains and will awaken when Poland is in dire need of them. In some versions of the legend, an old Polish king is slumbering with them.
  • The same functional legend for the Irish Fenians, who sleep under certain hills in Ireland.
  • Similar legeng for the Czech Knights of Blaník who are believed to sleep under the mountain and will ride out lead by saint Wenceslas.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The Necrons from Warhammer 40,000 are a variation in that they can't be controlled and their only goal is to eradicate all life from the universe. Additionally, unlike most sealed armies they can wake up anytime they want and will voluntarily seal themselves away for centuries at a time to wait for victims to make themselves available.
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure OA6 Ronin Challenge. Underneath the city of Tempat Larang is an army of 500,000 infantry.

    Video Games 
  • It's heavily implied that this happens to the Iron Legion of Xylvania in Battalion Wars when the Solar Empire uses its super weapon to defeat them.
    • Confirmed in the last leg of the game in which you have to fight the resurrected Iron legion with a battalion of somewhat more modern troops
  • The second to last scenario of Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars: Kane's Wrath involves activating an army of cyborgs Kane has hidden away, and the last mission involves using said cyborgs to storm a massive GDI Complex. Background information suggests CABAL hid a lot of the things, along with backup copies of its program, in vaults around the world, but GDI was typically vigilant in rooting them out.
  • The Darkspawn from Dragon Age are another example. While straggling warbands occasionally roam the surface, the only time they seriously gather in massive numbers to wage war on the surface is when they are rallied by an Archdemon, thus beginning a new Blight. As such, the Grey Wardens make it their top priority to locate and slay the Archdemon as soon as possible, removing its guiding influence on the mindless Darkspawn and forcing the horde to retreat underground into the Deep Roads. Once underground again, they resume their endless war against the Dwarves, rebuild their numbers and begin searching for another Old God to corrupt into a new Archdemon, thus repeating the cycle all over again.
  • There's Mr. House's Securitron army hidden in Fortification Hill in Fallout: New Vegas, the door to which can only be opened by the thing you were mugged for at the start of the game.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has the Guardians and the Divine Beasts. 10,000 years previous, the Kingdom of Hyrule commissioned their construction by the Sheikah tribe so that they could be used to help fight Calamity Ganon. After they fulfilled this role, however, the people of Hyrule feared that the Sheikah would then use these machines against them. Thus, the Sheikah were banished and the machines were buried underground where they could not be used. A century before the start of the game, after relations with the Sheikah were reestablished, the machines were dug back up in anticipation of Ganon's return. Unfortunately, Ganon himself possessed the machines and destroyed Hyrule with them.
  • In Loom, the Archbishop Mandible has a grand plan to release an army of dead from the afterlife. This turned out to be not such a great idea.
  • In the Mass Effect series, this was supposed to be the result of the Prothean facilities on Ilos and Eden Prime (and possible elsewhere...). Unfortunately, the extremely long time span involved (50000 years, give or take), the poor condition of the Protheans, and active sabotage by Indoctrinated agents meant that both were heavily damaged. The Ilos facility managed to preserve a tiny corps of scientists, who sabotaged the Citadel in hopes of hampering future Reaper invasions and left behind their VI, Vigil, to give testament to what happened. The Eden Prime facility was less lucky; there was one survivor.
  • The Spirit Army from Mortal Kombat. Resurrecting it was the villains' plot for Deadly Alliance, and it was completely and totally destroyed in the opening of the following installment, Deception.
  • The Myrkridia, a terrifying race of Always Chaotic Evil humanoid monsters in the universe of Myth and its sequels, were sealed in a small artifact call the Tain. Various plotlines involved Myrkridia getting out of and/or the protagonists (and their armies) being trapped in it.
  • The Oni Army Orb in Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, which Samanosuke uses to help Jacques storm Nobunaga Oda's castle.
  • The Minion Hives in Overlord 1 & 2 have to be recovered to grant the Overlord a replenishing supply of various forces.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, the Prince has an entire Sealed Army in a Can.
  • The Chimera from Resistance are a bit of a variation in that they aren't sealed away, the means by which they get more soldiers is.
  • The Terracotta Army is available as a wonder in Rise of Nations, that grants a bonus of troops (unsealing a platoon?) after a while in the game during the campaign in another territory, and generates one light/modern infantry at regular intervals based on the number of existing infantry when present in a match.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic has the Esh-Ka, a race of warrior aliens that the Rakata deemed dangerous enough to seal away on Belsavis. When the Jedi Consular is in need of an army, they thaw the more even-minded members of the species out of stasis and convince them to work for the Republic
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order is cast in an Alternate Timeline where Nazis rule the world. Where did they get the technology to build their robot army? Apparently, they found a cache of technology that is on par with Thule technology and twice as durable. This becomes heavily ironic because (AND THIS IS A BIG SPOILER) Not only was the technology designed by Jewish scientists, but the reason why their technology was hyper-advanced was that their scientists took a binding oath to God that they would never apply their technology to real life, and would only use it to help other scientists design even more advanced technology with the sole intent of understanding the universe; no civil wars, no sabotage, all discoveries are shared between all scientists in the project, and nine thousand years to build and evolve their tinkertoys in secrecy equals pure human potential. That means that their religion is SUPERIOR to the Nazi's philosophy, and yet they've been denounced as inferior by the Nazis the entire series, even after discovering what they're capable of.
  • In StarCraft the ancient Protoss built three Arkships housing thousands in stasis to ensure the continuation of their culture. In Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void Amon mind controls the majority of the Protoss race, forcing Artanis to reactivate the sole surviving Arkship, the Spear of Adun, and sever the nerve cords (that enabled Amon's control) of the Zealots in stasis before waking them up.
    • Later, the situation becomes so desperate that Artanis and his followers seek out the Purifiers, a robotic army that was deactivated and locked up after an attempted rebellion.
  • At the end of Star Wars Empire at War: Forces of Corruption, an army of Sith troopers in Carbonite is found. However, while an obvious Sequel Hook this was never followed up on.
  • Black & White 2: Downplayed with the Seven Samurai Side Quest, which lets you free, well, seven samurai who had been Taken for Granite and acquire them as an Elite Army. Their petrified bodies are scattered across an island and need to be gathered into a specific arrangement before the curse is lifted.

    Western Animation 
  • In Conan the Adventurer, most of the Serpentmen are still sealed in the Abyss along with their demon-god Set. The heroes' Starmetal weapons can send the remaining Serpentmen to Set's side in the Abyss as well.
  • Final Space: The Titans are a horde of malevolent eldritch abominations that act as Invictus' troopers in its war upon all of creation. They were imprisoned in another dimension eons ago to keep the universe safe from their destruction after Invictus corrupted them, but Invictus intends to set them loose on the cosmos as its army once again.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • The Season 1 finale reveals Shendu has an army of dragon minions which are currently trapped in Another Dimension, and after regaining his true form, he intends to summon them to Earth to destroy all of Asia.
    • In the Season 4 finale, Tarakudo and his nine Oni Generals and all their legions of Shadowkhan are all imprisoned inside Tarakudo's mask. Lampshaded by Jade:
      "Ten demons and a gajillion ninjas in one teeny-tiny mask? Cozy."
  • Kid vs. Kat: In "Curse of Tutankitty's Tomb", Kat discovers that the Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus of Tutankitty at a museum contains an entire army of his alien kindred who invaded and were sealed away in 100 BC. Kat attempts to free his brethren, but Coop and Dennis' efforts ensure that Tutankitty and his kat army never take more than two steps outside the sarcophagus before they're sent back in and the sarcophagus is re-sealed.
  • Martin Mystery had an episode when the team had to stop the revival of an evil Chinese emperor. In his tomb, they even found an army of Terracotta warriors facing towards the tomb, while the ones of the other one face away, to better defend the Emperor from attack. The reason for this is the army is there to prevent the Evil Emperor from rising once more.
  • Ninjago: The Stone Army were sealed in a tomb by the First Spinjitzu Master and are revived by the Great Devourer's venom when the Serpentine burrow underground in an attempt to collapse Ninjago City.
  • The Real Ghostbusters episode "Bustman's Holiday"; Ray inherits his uncle's castle in Scotland only to discover soon after that it is cursed. The curse came after a battle between highlanders and lowlanders that happened centuries before and having both armies of ghosts reawaken to start the battle again.
  • Transformers: Prime Airachnid found an army of huge Insecticons in stasis pods underground and uses them to wreak havoc on the Decepticon warship.

    Real Life 
  • The Terracotta Warriors are, according to legend, one of these.
  • The Russian Navy is this, sealed away by its lack of any ports that don't freeze over except on the Black Sea where it is bottled up by Istanbul controlling the mouth. As a result, several naval powers have had sort of a standing This Means War! on any attempt by Russia to conquer Istanbul, going back several generations.
  • Some strategic nuclear missile silos are estimated to be able remain functional for decades if not centuries without maintenance. A silo in Russia was recently discovered to have not only survived for two decades of abandonment but was also able to keep the critical launch systems powered for all that time. The nukes themselves however have markedly shorter shelf life, as modern thermonuclear bombs can only maintain functionally for a maximum of ten years without having the tritium changed.
  • While you can't seal away the army itself you can seal everything needed to equip it. Guns, ammo, tanks, planes, rations can all be held in storage for decades with the right preservation techniques. The United States effectively unsealed its canned WWII military during the Korean war in as little as two weeks.
    • A large part of the reason for the rise in large extra-national militias and militarizes (think terrorists) are people finding and unsealing the Soviet Union's sealed armies in a can. The USSR always operated under the mindset that one day the capitalist would come knocking on their door, and after lessons learned from WWII, it did not waste weapons. Everything surplus that wasn't used for foreign military aid was sealed away in warehouses. With the collapse of the USSR, suddenly there was no one guarding a lot of these cans. The result was an arms dealer's paradise.


Video Example(s):



Using a mystical mask in Tarakudo's likeness, the J-Team imprisons the King of the Shadowkhan, along with all of his forces. Jade can't help but comment on it being crowded in there.

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Example of:

Main / SealedEvilInACan

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