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Shapeshifter Mode Lock
aka: Mode Lock

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"However, the giants of the Sul’at League studied the Gyrderi and found a way to counter the druids—the giants enacted a terrible curse that forever bound them in the wild shapes they were wearing, trapping them and their descendants in the forms of animals."
Eberron, "Secrets of Xen'drik, Chapter 3"

You know how when you were a kid, your mother always said that if you kept making that face, it'd stay that way?


This is the Shapeshifting equivalent, where the shapeshifter gets stuck in a particular form, unable to use their shapeshifting powers. If they're lucky, they're stuck in their most natural or inconspicuous form (possibly their Shapeshifter Default Form), but if not, the body they're stuck in is either weak and pitiful, or monstrous and riot-inciting.

Conversely, milder forms of Mode Lock may lock someone out of a certain form instead of into one, or require that they stay in the form they take for a certain amount of time. In practice, used to establish contrivance to why a shapeshifter may not look optimal to a situation.

The name is taken from Transformers, more specifically, from the Transformers: Universe profile for Cloudraker, where it is in an issue of the Marvel comic book, which states "His major physical problem is a tendency to suffer "mode-lock" — the inability to transform from one mode to another."


Compare The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body, And I Must Scream, First Law of Gender Bending. See also Power Incontinence. Contrast Involuntary Shapeshifting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Haji of Blood+ suffers from this in a way. After being prematurely awakened in 1972 Vietnam, Saya went on a bloody rampage and severed Haji's right hand. Though it was reattached, it is now permanently stuck in chiropteran form, and he constantly keeps it bandaged up except when The Gloves Come Off.
  • BNA: Brand New Animal has Michiru suffer from this for a while. While she does have the unique ability to morph body parts in her anthropomorphic tanuki form, she's spent several months unable to accomplish the mundane Beast Man ability of shifting back to their default human form due to having Just Woke Up That Way rather than be born as a beastman. She does learn how to do this after a few episodes, but by that point she decides to have tanuki be her Shapeshifter Default Form anyway.
  • Keel's goal of undoing his human transformation in Buster Keel!. He does manage to gain a few items that let him temporarily transform his arms to their original forms for fighting.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Episode 58 has Eriol cast a spell on Kero and Yue so that they are unable to return to their disguise forms. Sakura eventually fixes the problem by using the Shield Card on them.
  • In Claymore the more a Claymore uses her Youki power, the more her body transforms into a Youma — the very thing they hunt (since they are part Human part Youma). If they use up 80% of their Youki power, they fully turn into a Youma and cannot transform back into human form and hunter will become the hunted (apart from some rare exceptions).
  • In the second season of Corrector Yui, the corrector Synchro, who had spent almost the whole first season trapped in the form of Corruptor War Wolf, was forcibly reverted to his War Wolf shape when he was attacked and infected by a powerful virus.
  • Digimon Tamers was the first series to explore this aspect of E[Digi]volution — both Guilmon and Terriermon have some trouble in coming back to their Child/Rookie forms after the change; there was even an entire episode showing the problems in hiding the huge Growlmon in the real world. Eventually this aspect was downplayed, since they spent some 20 episodes in the Digital World, and after that the Digimon's existence was known by the public.
  • One chapter of D.N.Angel had Dark in control of the body after Daisuke went missing (sort of) on White Day.
  • Dragon Ball
    • In the early part of the Cell saga, Freeza can only stay in his final form, due to his mechanical parts from being severely injured during his fight with Goku.
    • In the Buu Saga of Dragon Ball Z, the Old Kai warns Goku that fusing via the Potara earrings while in Super Saiyan form will lead to the fusion being unable to power down, when Super Saiyan can normally be activated and deactivated at will. On top of that, the strain that Super Saiyan puts on the body could prove lethal.
    • This point comes up later in Dragon Ball Super, when Future Zamasu and Goku Black fuse into Fusion Zamasu using the earrings. Goku Black is in his Super Saiyan Rosé form at the time, which should bring up this issue. However, the fusion inherited Future Zamasu's Complete Immortality, a trait that prevents the mode lock's lethality and gives it even more power. This does come with some downsides, though; when Fusion Zamasu is hit with enough energy, half of his body starts mutating, since his immortality didn't fully extend to his mortal half, and thus can't fix the damage like it would for Future Zamasu.
  • An example from Fairy Musketeers: Val used to be a werewolf. However, thanks to injuries he sustained while protecting Akazukin's home village from other werewolves several years before the series began, he's now trapped in wolf form.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, Envy transforms into a dragon before going through the Gate to our world. Since alchemy doesn't work in our world, he remains stuck in his dragon form.
  • Hime-chan no Ribon has Hime-chan stuck in the form of her rival, Hibino. After being hit by a truck and revived, she got better.
  • Akko-chan, from Himitsu no Akko-chan, usually had to use the mirror to switch back as well, causing problems when she would temporarily misplace it.
    • In one episode of the original 1969 series, aptly named "_____", Akko-chan, upon meeting a new deaf kid, uses her mirror, out of curiosity and compassion, to transform herself into a deaf-mute version of herself. Too bad that, since the mirror works by clear utterances of the needed transformation, and since Akko-chan insisted on the "mute" part of her ailment, Akko-chan couldn't ask the mirror to be changed back anymore. The mirror itself eventually reverses her condition once she's learned not to treat deafness so lightly.
  • This happens to the Macross in The Movie adaptation of Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Macross: Do You Remember Love?: when a Meltrandi attack blows off its Vertical Mecha Fins, the Macross is locked into Humongous Mecha mode since those fins, aside from being its Wave-Motion Gun, also happen to be the ship mode's forward section. And indeed after the final battle of both the movie and the series, the Macross never transforms into ship mode ever again as it's stuck waist down in a lake.
  • Marvelous Melmo has two chief examples of this trope. Melmo, the titular heroine, is gifted by her dead mother with two types of candies. The blue candies make her older, and the red ones make her younger, with the explicit purpose of making her able to care for her younger siblings. As early as the first episodes, Melmo discovers that by taking both pills at once, she can de-age herself to embryonic state, then regrow her body in another form, thus shapeshifting to another animal.
    • When his little brother Totoo tries that for himself, he turns himself into a frog, spending half the series figuring how to swallow a couple of pills that now are bigger than his own stomach.
    • When the angels responsible for Melmo's empowering decide that she's abusing it, by continuously aging and shapeshifting for personal reasons, they withhold their blessing from the candies. However, at the very same moment, Melmo is currently transformed into a dog, so, without her candies, she's stuck in that form, and unable to care for her little brothers. Upon getting her Aesop, she's turned back, but this time with a limited supply of candies.
  • Downplayed in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Ilulu is fully capable of assuming her true form as well as changing her human guise, but she isn't very good at finer control of her shapeshifting, so she ends up looking like a petite girl with ridiculous breasts, Pointed Ears, and dragon claws, which is the best she can manage (though she improves enough to form proper hands later on). Tohru states that if she relaxes her control her Gag Boobs would get bigger, but would presumably end up with more inhuman features in turn. Thus, she basically has to stay the way she is now to fit in until she can get better control of her shape.
  • Ranma ½:
    • The goal of the cursed characters is to be cursed again in the Spring of the Drowned Man or Drowned Girl. That way, when splashed with cold water, they'll turn into themselves, effectively not changing. Aside from that, the more common disadvantageous type of Mode Lock appears a few times as well:
    • In an early story, Ranma was the victim of a Pressure Point attack called the Full Body Cat's Tongue, which made him unable to bear hot water — the trigger to turn him male — thereby locking him into his girl mode until the cure was found. In at least the anime version, this resulted in a Twisted-Knee Collapse once Cologne told him about it, and vowed he would be cured if only he agreed to honor his engagement to Shampoo.
    • A sort of de facto mode lock occurs when Ranma pretends to be Picolet de Chardin's fiancee. Girl Ranma is locked into a tight corset made of steel, which is too tight for him to breathe in if he changes to his larger male form.
    • In the manga's Musk Dynasty arc, Herb has the same curse as Ranma and has been locked into cursed form by the water from a magical pail. He comes to Japan looking for the cure, is angered when Ranma discovers his changed body, and uses the pail on Ranma as well. Mousse and Ryoga go with Ranma planning to use it on themselves while in human form to effectively remove the curse, but since it works by splashing you with cold water, you'll always be in cursed form when the Mode Lock take effect.
    • Ranma also briefly had a temporary cure when he got a fever so hot it made any water he came in contact with too warm to activate the curse. Conversely, when he got a freezing cold later in the same story, the moisture in the air flash-froze in contact with him, which also made it impossible to turn into a girl (since solid ice doesn't trigger the curse).
    • In the second movie, Nihao My Concubine, the villain has waters from a sacred spring that transformed the one splashed in it permanently into a man. He uses it to threaten girls to come along quietly with him, but the curse spring victims try to use it to break their curse. By the end of the movie, Ranma's falling high speed toward the spring, but he has Akane falling with him, so he destroys the spring so she doesn't get stuck as a man, ruining his chance to break the curse once again.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: In episode 13, Motoyasu puts a magic shackle on Filo's ankle that forces her to return to her human form and prevents her from shape shifting. It didn't take away any of her other powers, like her Super Strength, which she uses to kick Motoyashu's ass and escape. Afterwards, Naofumi is able to remove the shackle.
  • Happens to Moka in Rosario + Vampire when she is unable to reattach her rosary and return to her "outer" personality. It takes more than a dozen chapters for this to get fixed, and it's still hinted that the two personalities are slowly becoming one.
  • In SD Gundam Force, Captain is stuck in vehicle mode after his soul drive is stolen.
  • In Suite Pretty Cure ♪, after performing a Heel–Face Turn to save her childhood friend Hummy, Siren appears to be eternally stuck in her human form, Ellen.
  • In Super Pig, Buurin gets this in the second to the last episode after revealing her secret to her classmates. Fortunately for her, after collecting 108 pearls, she gets better.
  • Happens twice in Those Who Hunt Elves - once involving a shape-change spell, once involving a lycanthrope. In both cases, having a spell segment imprinted on one's body creates a Mode Lock as long as the segment is in place.
  • When Ichigo first turns into a full cat in Tokyo Mew Mew, both she and Mission Control fear that it'll be permanent. However, she figures out how to change back after a long and grueling day as a helpless kitten.
    • Said Mission Control, Ryou, who himself has a cat form named Alto is specifically said to be able to stay in cat form for no more than ten minutes - or else the transformation will become permanent.
  • Keiki from The Twelve Kingdoms is mode-locked in his beast form per orders of The Evil Princess Joei, as a part of her plan to usurp Youko's throne. She does so because, in beast form, Keiki can't either speak to others (to let them know that Joei is not the rightful heiress to the Kei throne), nor show that he's physically unable to kneel in front of Joei (since having a kirin kneel in front of a prospect King/Queen is the proof of said King/Queen's worth). Youko manages to release him.

    Comic Books 
  • In All Fall Down, the shape-shifter Phylum, while entertaining children in hospital, is permanently trapped in the form of a chimpanzee.
  • Walter Langowski/Sasquatch from Alpha Flight is a gamma mutate with the power to transform at will into, well, a Sasquatch. Over the years, however, he's spent more and more time as Sasquatch, hardly ever reverting to human form. By the time of Immortal Hulk, its started to become actively painful and difficult for him to turn back into a human again, prompting him to seek out Bruce Banner (who has experience with this trope, as noted above) for help, fearing that soon he won't be able to transform at all. His fears are proven horribly true when it's revealed that his difficulty shapeshifting is the result of Brian Banner gradually influencing and possessing him from beyond. He is only restored back to humanity when Hulk manages to drain his gamma radiation and Brian with it.
  • Big Bang Comics: The Hummingbird, who was shrunk by an alien ray that was destroyed before he could be re-enlarged. As such, he's stuck permanently at a maximum height of six inches, though among his powers is the ability to temporarily shrink even smaller.
  • In Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, Tawky Tawny is reimagined as a spirit who can shift between a human and various animal forms, usually a tiger. When fighting Niatpac Levram (aka Mr. Mind), he tries to transform but gets hit, which, due to the instability of magic at the Rock of Eternity, traps him halfway between human and tiger shape, making him an anthropomorphic animal like his counterpart in most other Shazam! books.
  • Doctor Strange foe Dormammu's sister Umar used to be the Stronger Sibling. Then Umar gave birth to her daughter Clea while transformed as a human. To Umar's chagrin, this locked her into human form forever, which made her weaker than her brother.
  • ElfQuest. The female High One named Timmain regularly changed into the form of a wolf to hunt. She eventually forgot her true identity and came to think of herself as a wolf.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Happens to the Hulk on occasion. Whether this is good or bad depends on the form he's stuck as. Hulk would love to be mode-locked and never turn into Banner again. Banner would love to be free of the Hulk, but at this point knows better. Both absolutely hate the idea of being mode-locked as the other.
    • Unlike the Hulk, the Abomination is completely incapable of returning to his original human form. He's none too happy about that.
  • In Justice League: Generation Lost, it is revealed that Captain Atom had lost the ability to change back and forth between being Captain Atom and Nathaniel Adam/Cameron Scott. It was introduced out of the blue, as no previous appearance had even suggested that he was losing the ability to transform effortlessly, so it did not have much dramatic impact.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • A story arc involved Durlan shapeshifter Chameleon Boy getting stuck in his usual form and undertaking a dangerous journey on Durla to a place that would restore his shapechanging abilities. His father, who had long ago been Mode Locked into human form by a disease, came with him, but only to provide support; he had adjusted to having a permanent form and didn't want his abilities back.
    • An origin story reveals that the clubhouse of the Legion itself is this. An alien called Fortress Lad who had the ability to turn into a fortress was rejected by the Legion, who were then attacked by Mnemonic Kid, who had the power to erase memories. She blanked the memory of the Legionnaires but Fortress Lad stepped in before she could do further harm, transforming into a building to protect them. In retaliation, she proceeded to attack him, entirely erasing his memory of being a living being, only one thought in his mind ("Never give up") leaving him locked in building mode forever. When the Legionnaires regained their senses and defeated Mnemonic Kid they simply believed the building already was their clubhouse, since they had a feeling of fondness for it.
  • A memorable example in Lucifer came when the Big Bad sent a shapeshifting demon to kill Elaine. The demon in question killed her father and took his form to get close to her. After Elaine escaped, the Big Bad decided to stop said demon from interfering by trapping it in that form permanently. It literally begged for death at the end, as the man's memories started to overwhelm it.
    • Jill Presto doesn't know that Mazikeen's half-rotted face isn't an injury but a deliberate shape-shifting choice, and tries to "heal" it with the power of the Basanos. This trope is the result. Mazikeen is not pleased.
  • In The DCU, a story arc in Martian Manhunter involved him being Mode Locked in a form resembling his usual appearance, but with four arms. This was a Shout-Out to the four-armed Green Martians in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels.
    • Other instances include Manhunter being reduced to amorphous goo by a neurotoxin, being trapped in Aquaman's body and freaking out, and an Elseworlds story where all the heroes lost their powers, leaving him in his natural Martian form with all of the suck and none of the blessing.
    • The evil White Martians are initially dealt with this way by the JLA. They are given human form and have their memories removed, effectively trapping them as humans. Needless to say, problems occur when a few of them get their minds back and remember how to shapeshift.
  • Parodied by the She-Hulk graphic novel. Jennifer is told by Reed Richards that he has bad news: She's stuck as She-Hulk forever and can never change back into regular human Jennifer. After a Beat Panel, She-Hulk inquired "So what's this bad news"? It turned out that Reed was lying anyway since he's a dick.
  • A Skrull named Khn'nr was to be used in the infiltration of Earth in Marvel's Secret Invasion event. He was mode locked into the form of Captain Marvel, a long dead hero, and brainwashed into thinking he was him from the past. When he found out, he rejected his part in the invasion, and now is trying to work against it.
    • Similarly, quite a few Skrulls who took the form of Dr. Hank Pym wound up losing themselves in the role/being overwhelmed by the personality of the original, and had to be put down.
      • During the period when the entire Skrull race lost their powers, they were stuck in whatever form they took at the time. Those whose jobs involved snaking through drainpipes, for example, had to be cut out. The villain who actually initiated the change was in a suit that he thought would protect him from the effect. It did not, leaving him permanently trapped inside, in agony because the "suit" was not hollow, but loaded with internal machinery that he had oozed around and between.
      • In another example, some Skrulls who invaded Earth were brainwashed into becoming cows, rendering them harmless. Unfortunately, the cows were then slaughtered, and those who ate the meat either died or gained powers along with a virus. That's the origin of the Skrull Kill Krew. Team member Riot was stuck in a monstrous bug form for an extended period of time.
  • During Peter David's Supergirl arc in the 1996s, Supergirl (at this point a protoplasmic life-form known as Matrix) was initially capable of shape-shifting, but suffered a shift in her powers when she merged with the dying Linda Danvers to save her life. As a result of this merge, Supergirl subconsciously began to "define" herself as Linda and Supergirl and nothing else; she could still shift between these two forms (Linda being a shorter brunette who was less well-endowed than Supergirl), but she couldn't change into anything else, and she also lost her ability to turn invisible.
  • In Superman storyline Who Took the Super out of Superman?, alien villain Xviar takes on human form in order to mingle with Earth people, but due to a flaw in the process he's unable to change back to his original form. His body can't age either, so Xviar is forced to move and change jobs constantly so nobody wonders why he doesn't get older.
  • In Transformers: Spotlight, Soundwave gets locked by the Decepticon Pretenders when he tries to stop them after learning the full extent of their plans.
    • Likewise, the Dinobots, who took their alt-modes to avoid succumbing to energon-poisoning. However, due to circumstances, they become unable to ditch these afterwards. Grimlock tries, and the most he can do is make a few cosmetic changes. By the time they get a chance to change them, they've all decided they like turning into dinosaurs.
    • The Transformers (Marvel): There's a device that locks a Transformer in one mode. It's used on Blaster for defying Grimlock. It's more than an inconvenience for Blaster (or Soundwave, for that matter) because of their alternate modes: not-terribly-mobile radios. It later gets used to mode-lock the Combaticon Blast-Off in his space shuttle mode in order to take a bunch of human kids for an orbital joyride.
    • Toward the end of the Marvel run, Grimlock searches for a legendary energy source, Nucleon, to revive several fallen Autobots for the upcoming battle with Unicron. After the battle, he froze up, his body reforming into a new Action Master form - one which couldn't transform (see the Toys entry below for more). Other Autobots weren't immediately affected; in the IDW follow-up series Regeneration One, we learn that some of the revived Autobots had unpredictable, dangerous side-effects, and Grimlock set out on a quest to find a cure, which set the second story arc in motion.
    • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye introduced the Militant Monoform Movement, a radical group that believed that alternate modes were a form of literal social engineering and should be outlawed. The group's main method of enforcing this seemed to be removing transformation cogs, sometimes not willingly.
    • In a Flash Forward issue looking at Ironhide in a peaceful future he mentions that he is likely unable to assume his vehicle form anymore as a result of his advanced age.
  • Averted in a Wild C.A.T.s (WildStorm) / JLA (1997) crossover where Maul is afraid to use his power to exchange intelligence for size because he would become "too stupid to turn back" if he grew big enough to smash the villain's barrier. Superman solves it by giving him an electric spark that turns him small after 30 seconds.
  • In W.I.T.C.H. the Wise Ones of Kandrakar force this on Cedric twice, first as part of his punishment (being a shapeshifter and a formidable liar who loves books, they stuck him in his preferred human look, that isn't his true form, and locked him in a room filled with books that only include fiction and lies. He liked the joke), and then, when he's given a chance to reform, as a security measure (because leaving him on Earth with the ability to change his looks would just give him too many chances to wreak havoc if he stayed evil. And considering what he did in these conditions...).
  • Wonder Woman Vol 5: Circe manages to trap Deimos and Phobos, who often disguise themselves as dogs, in the form of a pair of Doberman Pinschers. They are utterly furious that she would dare, and even more angry that they are now magically trapped as Veronica Cale's obedient pets.
  • X-Men:
    • In the Gambit solo series, Courier shapeshifted into a woman to make an appointment with Mr. Sinister, who was posing as an obstetrician. Realizing he was set up, Sinister injected "her" with a destabilizing agent, the only antidote for which was to take away her powers completely. Unfortunately, he didn't realize Courier wasn't originally female...
    • Courier's not the only X-character to suffer this. Nearly any character with a civilian form and a combat form will find him/herself stuck in powered-up mode. Colossus has been trapped in metal form, Iceman in ice form, Lifeguard in half Shi'ar form, Shadowcat as intangible (not shapeshifter but worth mention), Wolfsbane as at least part wolf, and so on.

    Comic Strips 
  • Appears in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin's Transmogrifier Gun runs out of juice after a Shapeshifter Showdown, leaving Calvin stuck in the form of an owl until it recharges. Somehow, his mother doesn't seem to notice, but humours him.
  • In Scary Gary, Gary, a vampire, gets stuck in his bat form but with his human face at one point, and needs Owen to help him figure out what’s wrong, since as a bat, he can’t flip through the pages of his copy of an "undead owners manual".
    Owen: It says to be able to change back, you must first achieve mental clarity and emotional stability.
    Leopold: You better get used to those wings, bat boy.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: Besides all the instances of this from canon...
    • Jake accidentally becomes stuck as a tiger in "What if Jake was stuck in morph?". He later gets his morphing ability back with the tiger as his base form from the Ellimist á la Tobias in The Change, then nothlits himself as a human at the end. Also, instead of turning David into a rat, Jake orders him to create a new human morph and stay in it for over two hours, then turn himself into the local youth shelter.
    • Kelly, whose cystic fibrosis can't be cured by morphing, nothlits herself into a new human identity in "What if the Auximorphs joined the team right away?".
    • "What if Tobias was stuck as a human in #33?" has it right there in the title.
    • Part of the premise of "What if Tobias and Rachel lived in NYC post-war?" is that Tobias nothlited himself as a human in adulthood.
  • Dæmorphing:
    • Aldrea, Arbron, Elfangor, and Tobias all become nothlits as in canon, but Aftran doesn't become a whale, nor does David get trapped as a rat.
    • Instead, Tom ends up spending too long as a Hork-Bajir; and after Alloran is killed, Esplin infests Gafinilan and nothlits him in Alloran's body.
    • Loren becomes an Andalite nothlit in A Place to Stand's alternate timeline.
    • The author makes a point of averting this with the Yeerks and Taxxons; they took issue with two entire species essentially committing genocide on themselves being portrayed as a happy ending.
  • Navarone and Twilight are temporarily locked in pegasus and human form respectively in Diaries of a Madman. Nav later also ends up being locked in female form after his gender switching stones backfire.
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • Swift-Pad's changeling friend Maxilla informs Swift-Pad that they've been given permission to do this, assuming the form of a female wolf permanently to prove how much he/she cares about him and their relationship. Swift-Pad, fully aware of the meaning behind this act, becomes fully committed to the relationship as a result. Maxilla later officially undergoes it in chapter 26.
    • Chapter 26 reveals that doing this is a last-resort option for changelings who don't want to die with their Queen.
  • While in the original series they chose to mode lock (making it not a real example), in Dragon Ball Z Abridged Goku and Gohan stay Super Saiyan cause they forgot how to power down.
    Gohan: Truthfully it's very concerning.
  • Eleutherophobia:
    • It's mentioned in THX 1138 that some people, nicknamed "transcenders", choose to permanently morph into new bodies, though it requires a ton of paperwork beforehand.
    • In Slaughterhouse-Five, Jake warns his class that the punishment for abusing morphing is being made into a nothlit.
    • Tom comes close to getting stuck as a king cobra in Escape from L.A. while he's lost in the sewers; he's barely able to demorph on time.
  • Standard for the first 72 hours in this paranormal-themed Emergency! fic series if a person manages to survive the initial infection that produces cat-shifters. After that, shifting comes freely.
  • In If Wishes Were Ponies: Animagi traveling through the portal from Earth to Equestria are automatically transformed into a Pony; regardless of whether they were in their Human or Animal Forms when crossing over as was shown with Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, Rita Skeeter, and Peter Pettigrew. By Book II, it is discovered that this Mode Lock also extends to Werewolves as was shown when Remus Lupin accidentally gazed up at Lunas' Full Moon, and collapsed in pain as the Werewolf Curse tried to forcibly transform him out of his Pony Body: only to wind up destroying itself and curing Lupin of his Lycanthropy altogether.
  • In Mirrored after Harry polyjuiced himself to look like Voldemort the polyjuice has a reaction with the horcrux inside Harry so he was stuck looking like Voldemort for an extended period of time.
  • Natsuru, of Kämpfer, is a Magical Girl whose real form is male. In Resonance Days, she dies and winds up in the Puella Magi afterlife, where she's now permanently in Magical Girl form. She seems to have taken it fairly well, though.
  • Tabula Rasa is centered around Ranma undergoing an irreversible one in her female form thanks to a gem that Cologne mistakenly told her and Ryoga would lift the curse.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic This Is It, The Apocalypse, Marinette and Adrien both get trapped in their superhero forms when their kwamis go into hibernation without warning.
  • In With Strings Attached, it happens to George thanks to a flaw in the ring that normally allows him to shape change at will. He gets stuck as a pigeon in New Zork and is not happy about it; he uses his ring more cautiously for a time after it happens.
    • A bigger problem for George in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, to the point where he becomes afraid to use his ring lest it die completely and trap him in some other form. And, indeed, Mode Lock kills him when he gets thrown into the Hungry Sea and can't change. He gets better real quick.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Howl's Moving Castle, Calcifer warns Howl that the more often Howl changes into his semi-avian form, the greater the chance that Howl will lose his humanity and never be able to change back. Other wizards in the film are mentioned to have done this deliberately in order to help with a war effort; Howl notes that by the time the war ends, they'll have forgotten that they were ever human to begin with.
  • In The Return of Hanuman, one of the conditions for Hanuman to be reincarnated as a human on Earth is that when he turns back into the original Hanuman, he could not turn back into human form.
  • Occurs in The Secret of Kells. After allowing Crom Cruach to hurt her so she can let Brendan sneak past safely, Aisling is stuck in her white wolf form, unable to speak to Brendan anymore. In the Distant Finale of the movie, however, we briefly see her in her human appearance, implying the lock is starting to wear off, or possibly already has.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald introduces the concept of Maledictuses to the Harry Potter lore. Maledictuses are women who are inflicted with a blood curse from birth, which would eventually transform them permanently into a beast. In fact, Nagini the snake was once a woman herself.
  • Ghostbusters: Whenever Gozer enters a reality and prepares to destroy it, it forces the inhabitants of that world to pick the form it will take as it does so. Once that form is decided, Gozer can only ever use that specific form while in that reality; once Ray semi-accidentally causes Gozer to choose the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man as its form on Earth, it always has to manifest as the Marshmallow Man in every subsequent attack on Earth in the Expanded Universe, no matter how many times the form is defeated.
  • The Magic Door: Liam captures the Black Witch when she's a mouse, which means she doesn't have room to turn back to normal.
  • My Favorite Martian: Elliot Coleye gets ahold of some of the nerplex gum that the Martians use to transform into different species. He's initially exhilarated to transform into an alien himself (as he had spent the whole film desperately trying to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life), but in the midst of the change he accidentally swallows the gum, leaving him stuck like that. This proves inconvenient when his fellow SETI members tranquilize and capture him despite his protestations that he's Dr. Coleye.
  • Done to the goddess Calypso by the First Brethren Court many years before the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, trapping her in the form of Tia Dalma. She says that "it has been torture."
  • Wes Craven's New Nightmare: When a new Nightmare movie is plagued by a mysterious series of deaths, it's revealed that an ancient shapeshifting evil that has existed in various forms throughout time but which can be contained by stories has been impersonating Freddy Krueger for the past 10 years. After being stuck as Freddy for so long, the spirit started to believe that it actually was Freddy and tries to target Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played the first Final Girl to face him.

  • In Animorphs, this is part and parcel of the rules of morphing—stay in a morphed form for more than Two of Your Earth Hours, and you're stuck that way. Andalites call these people "nothlits."
    • Tobias getting stuck in red-tailed hawk form is a First-Episode Twist. He spends the next twelve books still managing to be surprisingly useful to the team, at which point a Sufficiently Advanced Alien gives him back his morphing powers, as well as allowing him to morph his own human body. This leaves Tobias a difficult choice: continue fighting in the war, even though he has to remain in hawk form most of the time, or deliberately mode-lock himself back into human form forever.
    • You can apparently (if illogically) get out of being a nothlit if your animal form undergoes a natural metamorphosis. This becomes relevant when Cassie gets stuck as a caterpillar—once she's a butterfly, she has two hours to demorph.
    • David was deliberately lured into a pipe and then stuck there until he was trapped as a rat. He is later dropped off on a deserted island with no-one but real rats for company.
    • The Andalite Aldrea forsook her people after the genocide of the Hork-Bajir, choosing to permanently become a Hork-Bajir and marry Dak, one of the survivors.
    • Two Andalite characters become nothlits in The Andalite Chronicles: Arbron, trapped in Taxxon form, and Elfangor, who deliberately becomes human and even has a human kid. But the aforementioned Sufficiently Advanced Alien later turns the latter back into an Andalite with full morphing abilities.
    • In a more horrifying example, if the Animorphs reach the 2 hour mark while demorphing, they can be stuck mid demorph, as horribly deformed human animal mashups. Fortunately, each time this has happened they managed to fully demorph.
    • Aftran, Menderash and the ENTIRE TAXXON RACE, as well as most of the Yeerks all end up doing this deliberately as a humpback whale, a human, and anacondas respectively.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series, the Metamorph species is able to voluntarily shapeshift. Their normal form is that of an amorphous blob. There are a few individuals who have a mutation that locks the individual into the first transformation for life. At that point, only slight changes are possible. These usually become spies among other races, able to slightly alter their appearance within the confines of the race. The observer on Earth took on the appearance of a human male. He's able to change into other males of any human ethnicity but not females due to radical physiological changes. Attempting any radical changes is likely to be fatal.
  • In The Belgariad, Belgarath mentions that sorcerers can't spend too much time in animal form without changing back, as the longer you spend as said animal, the more you begin to think and feel like that animal, and too much time in one form can bring the very real possibility that you simply won't want to change back ever.
  • Beware of Chicken: Tigger/"Tigu" the cat goes through a painful and dangerous Tribulation in order to achieve a human form, and is quite happy with the results — but then discovers that she's unable to change back into a animal. The other animals suspect that the problem is that deep down, she doesn't really want to; she much prefers how she is now. She eventually succeeds when life-or-death circumstances force her to, but returns to human at the first opportunity, confirming that she doesn't like being a cat anymore.
  • Bisclavret is about a baron who is a werewolf. For three days each week he takes off his clothes, turns into a wolf and then turns back when he puts them on again. Unfortunately, his wife takes this news badly, begins an affair with a knight and has him steal the baron's clothes, trapping him in wolf form. He's stuck that way for a year before he gets free.
    • This poem had a few other medieval copycats with the same basic plot, including The Lay of Melion (where the transformation is done by the wife's magic ring) and an Arthurian knight named Sir Marrok, who was stuck for seven years.
  • Voluntary shapeshifting and other forms of Transhumanism played a big role in human society in John Ringo's Council Wars series until the beginning of the war imposed a Mode Lock on everyone. Results varied from unfortunate through unpleasant to instantly fatal depending upon how long the person had intended to stay transformed and how survivable the chosen form was when technology was lost. Both sides try to recruit people with useful shapes, despite the villains' purist ideology. Even though shapeshifting is a thing of the past how people deal (or fail to deal) with their mode locks remains a plot point for years afterwards.
  • Curse of the Wolfgirl reveals that werewolves are unable to shift out of their human forms if there is a lunar eclipse. Then things get worse when the Big Bad of the book finds a spell that can simulate an eclipse and conspires with a bunch of hunters.
  • Discworld:
    • "Yennorks" are werewolves born with permanent mode-lock. Angua had a sister Elsa who was unable to turn into a wolf and her brother Andrei passes himself off as a sheepdog because of his inability to take human form. She makes it clear to Carrot that this doesn't make them a human and a wolf, they're both still werewolves, just werewolves unable to change.
      • Also used more conventionally within the series: Angua frequently worries about the psychological effects of becoming a wolf, fearing that if she stays in wolf form too long, she will forget how to be human.
      • Shown with her father, in particular, who is slowly forgetting how to be human. Mentioned also that the human/reasoning side becomes less powerful the longer they're in Werewolf form, while the senses fade in human form.
      • Angua herself is locked into her wolf form and unable to return to human form when a wily adversary gets a silver collar onto her.
    • Borrowing can also cause this, in a way; if a witch borrows an animal's mind and stays there for too long, she'll forget she was ever human and it'll take a powerful witch to bring her back.
  • Dracula, unlike modern vampires, is not killed by sunlight. However, he can't change shape during the day except at high noon.
  • Dragonlance: The New Adventures: In the spinoff book Black Dragon Codex, the titular dragon Septimus is trapped as a human without any of his magic powers for most of the novel.
  • Inverted in Dragon's Winter when Karadur is locked in his human form (he's a dragon shapechanger). Later in the novel, Hawk is also so locked. Her alternate shape should be rather easy to guess.
  • In The Fey and the Fallen, Half-Human Hybrid Liam attempts to control his fey magic by undergoing hypnosis treatment. The result is that the violent "beast" inside him is asleep, but he can no longer shapeshift.
  • There's a German children's book (main character's named Agathe) which involves witches, shapeshifting into cats and a "stay-a-cat-powder".
  • The succubus lead character in Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid series suffers a mode lock, along with all of the other demonic immortals in Seattle, when their supervising Archdemon goes missing (summoned and bound by his lieutenant, with help). Georgina is lucky enough to be in her default form when the lock begins — another succubus is not so lucky and gets locked into a completely different body. This stasis removed definable abilities such as shape-shifting and aura perception due to their being normally 'distributed' via the Archdemon, but their connection to hell - and their immortality — remained.
  • In Harry Potter, Hermione puts Rita Skeeter, the nosy reporter who isn't above ruining people's lives by writing bald-faced lies about them, into a jar that makes her unable to transform out of her animagus form, a beetle. The jar is just sealed and enchanted to be unbreakable — thus, if she tries to change back... well, she'd be too big for the container.
    • Also, Dumbledore has mentioned in The Tales of Beedle the Bard that anyone other than an animagus that tries to polymorph themselves would permanently become an animal, unable to use magic to change back.
    • This also happens to Tonks although it's not too dramatic. Tonks is unable to use her metamorphmagus skills when she becomes depressed about her love for Remus Lupin and thus gets stuck looking rather like a girl version of him.
    • Hermione gets stuck as a Cat Girl in Chamber of Secrets, after mistakenly adding cat's hair to her dose of the Polyjuice-potion, that was meant to transform her into a Slytherin girl. The potion is supposed to work for just one hour, but since it was designed for human-transformation only, it takes several weeks of professional magical treatment to reverse the effects.
  • In His Dark Materials, Daemons may manifest as any creature up until their human counterpart grows up, whereupon they "settle" on a highly symbolic permanant form.
  • Used in Tamora Pierce's The Immortals quartet. A strange black hawk turns out to be a powerful mage after being given enough drugs to knock out a human - he was so sick in animal form that there was no way he could do anything, much less change back. Daine also gains the ability to shapeshift later on, but often can't shift back if she panics or forgets about her human self. Also, if she ever shapeshifted into an immortal, she would be unable to change back.
  • The title villain of IT by Stephen King can be forced into one form if several people all think of it that way at once. Like a Giant Spider.
  • Several people in the Kiesha'ra series by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes have had their animal forms "bound" so that they can't transform, some intentionally as punishment. It's not a pleasant process.
    • Though none have appeared in published canon, Word Of God says that a shapeshifter who spends an extremely long period of time in his or her animal form can get modelocked as the animal. This is referred to as going feral.
  • Discussed in The Lost Years of Merlin—Merlin is given the ability to turn into a deer at will. However, the power will naturally wear off after a while, and if he's still in deer form when it does, well, tough cookies. Fortunately, it doesn't happen.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • Treach, the Tiger of Summer, originally a Soletaken Ascendant, is said to have been stuck in his tiger form for at least the last 500 years prior to the series and to have become little more than a crazed, mindless beast due to losing his rational thought to the tiger's instincts.
    • The unnamed god of the Forkrul Assail is seen only as a D'ivers in the present-day of the story and is broken up into every lifeform in the Glass Desert — so largely bugs and butterflies, since there is nothing to feed upon in the Glass Desert for any other animals. It is considered lost by the Forkrul Assail, but the last book reveals that they drove it to this by turning their endless hunger to judge everything onto their own god and finding it wanting.
    • The seven Deragoth, or Hounds of Darkness, are said to be the D'ivers form of Dessimbelackis, the Emperor of the human First Empire, who sought to teach his subjects a lesson about respecting nature by turning them into beast shapeshifters. He took on the forms of the seven Deragoth in order to flee the T'lan Imass retribution for the mess he had created, then lost himself and became the Hounds of Darkness for good.
  • In The Monster's Ring, Russell gets a ring from The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday that lets him transform into a Horned Humanoid by twisting it on his finger but its instructions warn him to not twist it three times and to never use it on a full moon. When he accidentally does both of these on the same night, he transforms into a full monster and finds that he can't change back. Fortunately, he returns to being human when the night is over. Unfortunately, he learns a month later that he's now doomed to transform into the same monstrous form every full moon.
  • Oliver Twisted: Bullseye is a werewolf who was born with the inability to shift into human form, and thus appears as the pet of Bill Sikes. He's the only one who can understand him because they are brothers.
  • Greg Egan's Orthogonal trilogy features a relatively minor example. When Shapeshifting Starfish Alien Carlo's hand starts spasming uncontrollably during the light experiment, he tries to reabsorb it into his body, but can't. It's implied that he was just so viscerally repulsed by the phenomenon that he couldn't make himself absorb the hand, rather than actually being physically incapable of doing it, but it still qualifies.
    Carlo began drawing the flesh in at his shoulder. He managed to shorten his arm by about a third before his body rebelled and halted the process. The prospect of bringing the afflicted hand any closer felt like ingesting something rotting and poisoned. And for all he knew, his body was right. What if it couldn't reorganize this flesh, any more than it could subdue a virulent parasite?
    "I can't do it," he said finally. "It has to come off."
  • In the Outernet books by Steves Barlowe and Skidmore, the shapeshifter-characters Sirius and Vega are trapped in the forms of a cat and dog, respectively. This remains throughout the whole of the series (with two brief exceptions).
  • In Prospero's Children by Jan Siegal, a sorceress with the ability to turn into a wolf would use her form to hunt humans for sport. One day she met a wizard who cursed her to remain in wolf form permanently until she could repent for her evil ways. After several years, she sought out the wizard so that she could show him that she had changed, but the wizard no longer had the power to change her back.
  • In Renegades, Danna can transform into a swarm of butterflies, but cannot change back into a human unless every single one of them is either dead or clustered together. The Anarchists use this to hide Nova's identity when they discover Donna spying on them, trapping one butterfly in a jar.
  • Retired Witches Mysteries: In book 3, the witches use a special enchanted water to force a shapeshifter back into human form and stop her from changing back.
  • Mikey McGill in The Skinjacker Trilogy gets stuck in his hideous monster form whenever his negative emotions overwhelm him, and it usually takes some sort of trigger to bring him back to normal.
  • The Stormlight Archive has two similar species, the parshmen and the Parshendi (a human term, meaning, "parshmen who think."). The lively Parshendi call themselves Listeners and can change forms with each Highstorm. The parshmen cannot, permanently stuck in the docile "dullform," until the Parshendi invoke the God of Evil at the end of book 2.
  • Wilhelm Hauff wrote "The Story of Caliph Stork," where you need a magic word (and magic snuff) to transform, but will forget it if you laugh.
  • An unusual variation occurs in the Switchers series. The titular shapeshifters lose their powers at 15 (which is to say, Midnight on the morning of their fifteenth birthday) and are stuck as whatever they happen to be at the time. This issue is directly and pointedly addressed in the second book, appropriately entitled Midnight's Choice.
  • In This Is Not a Werewolf Story, which is loosely based on Bisclavret, Raul turns into a wolf each weekend and spends time with a white wolf which he believes is his Missing Mom. He doesn't know how she got trapped in wolf form and is thus very careful to always follow the transformation formula carefully. Raul is then trapped in wolf form himself for several months after his friend Vincent betrays his secret to the villain who trapped his mom.
  • In Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • In The Silmarillion this happens to Morgoth — "And then he took the form he had worn as the tyrant of Utumno — a dark lord, tall and terrible. And in that form he remained forever after."
    • Likewise his protégé, Sauron, after the destruction of his physical body in the drowning of Númenor. Even after he regains physical form, he can no longer take on a fair-seeming appearance, and is restricted to ruling through fear rather than deception (not that he doesn't make the odd off-handed attempt, but it doesn't work out too well in a world where Beauty Equals Goodness is nearly always the rule).
    • The Wizards in The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, are good Maiar in a voluntary Mode Lock in the shape of old men — in fact, they are placed into real flesh-and-blood bodies, instead of the usual fana shapes of Maiar. This is to encourage them to use knowledge to advise and encourage other peoples, rather than use their full abilities to grab power or cow people into submission. Doesn't work with Saruman.
  • In Void City, one of the magical properties of the bullets fired by the gun El Alma Perdida is to prevent all forms of shapeshifting. John Paul Courtney would use it to prevent werewolves he killed from reverting to their human forms upon death, thus making it apparent that he had killed monsters rather than men.
  • In A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, wizards who spend too much time shapeshifted into animal forms can forget their humanity, especially when distracted by the animal's power of flight or ability to freely range the oceans. A sufficiently powerful wizard can bring them back, though in the only case that happens onscreen the wizard also had access to the shapeshifter's Name, which may have helped.
  • The Brotherhood of the Conch: In The Conch Bearer, Abhaydatta expends all his magic turning into a mongoose in order to fight Surabhanu, who is in the form of a snake. Unable to change back, he forgets that he was ever a human until the Healers manage to transform him again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Agent 33 gets electrocuted to the face while wearing a high-tech mask that can be programmed to disguise the wearer as anyone, fusing the mask to her face and locking her in her current disguise (Agent May), with the addition of a nasty disfiguring scar over her right eye. Eventually she gets the mask repaired. It's still fused to her face, but now it's functional again, so she just programmed it to "disguise" her as herself (she can also just shut it off, but she prefers this method since it hides the scar).
    • Creel has the ability to absorb the properties of anything he touches. When he's finally defeated, he goes through a Shapeshifter Swan Song before turning to stone, seemingly permanently. But as Coulson mentions, "He could always do that," and recommends treating him as a dangerous prisoner rather than a corpse.
  • Buffyverse:
    • On Angel, during the Pylea arc, Angel in the other dimension would get stuck in the "super" version of his vampireness. The whole demon would emerge, instead of him just vamping out whenever he wanted. He would be stuck as the Van-tal for a really long time, until he could calm down.
      • It's heavily implied that the Van-tal demons were the original progenitors of the Vampire race. Which would mean that, by definition, vampires are themselves demons always mode-locked in a human body.
      • After Illyria, a primordial Old One, had her powers mostly drained, she was effectively trapped in Fred's body. She did retain the ability to shapeshift... but only into Fred's human appearance.
    • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amy the witch turned into a rat and couldn't turn back for 3 seasons. She was never really quite the same...
      • Anya was trapped in her human form when she lost her powers, and was stuck impersonating a high school student ('And I'm flunking math').
      • In the Halloween Episode "Fear Itself", Oz is forced to live out his worst fear, which results in him suddenly starting to transform into a werewolf and getting stuck halfway.
      • Also, ancient vampires like the Master and Kakistos are permanently stuck in Game Face. The result is really quite disgusting, but since it's a reflection of their extreme age and power, it's considered a mark of status in vampire society and they're generally quite proud of it.
    • The comics create a new breed of vampires that are immune to daylight and can change their shape. But only at night, during the day, do they have to walk around in their normal shape.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's TARDIS possesses a "chameleon circuit" which, under ideal circumstances, disguises the machine by making it appear to be an inconspicuous object in the time and place it's parked. Due to a malfunction the Doctor's never been able to fix, however, it is permanently stuck in the shape of a 1960s British police box. The Doctor did fix it for one story, but then it broke again. It's later stated that they don't even try to fix it anymore, because they like it that way. Other Time Lords that appear in the series have TARDISes with normally functioning chameleon circuits.
      • At one point the Doctor says they smashed the circuit with a hammer, so it would NEVER work again. In a more recent episode, they claim that whenever they repairs or replaces the circuit, the TARDIS herself deliberately shorts it out. They both prefer her as a Police Box.
      • It was finally revealed in the 50th anniversary Doctor Who Magazine comic strip that the initial malfunction — as in, the one that broke the circuit in the first place — was caused by the Doctor going back in time and intentionally breaking it, so that it would gain its iconic shape and become a symbol that lived on in the minds of whoever he saved.
      • In another episode, it's stated that the chameleon circuit is working properly. It analyzes a huge area of its surrounding environment, extrapolates an inconspicuous form for its exterior, then shifts that appearance to... a 1960s British police box. Every time. But it is, technically, functional.
    • In "Hell Bent", Clara and Ashildr/Me get their own TARDIS (complete with instructional manual) but their chameleon circuit also breaks (suggesting they are the first thing to go on any TARDIS) so theirs is stuck looking like a diner.
    • The Weeping Angels have a natural defence mechanism that turns them to stone whenever in the sight of any living thing (including each other), forcing them to remain that way until they are no longer being looked at. Those who are incredibly lucky can manage to trick two angels into an eternal staring contest with the other, causing them to remain permanently frozen. This is hard to do, though, as the angels are well aware of this weakness and thus will usually hide their face with their hands to avoid it (hence the "weeping" part of their name).
    • In the Doctor Who Magazine strip, shapeshifting companion Frobisher got stuck as a penguin for a while. Even before and after that, however, it was the form he most preferred.
  • On Fringe, the shapeshifter at the beginning of Season 2 is stuck in the body of Agent Charlie Francis after its shapeshifting device is broken. The shapeshifters' devices are unique so using another's would be pointless. The only way out is to complete its mission and go back before it is too late. This doesn't happen because Olivia Dunham shoots it in the head.
  • Happened to David Banner one time on The Incredible Hulk (1977), but in an incredibly strange way: in the two-parter "Prometheus", Dr. Banner got a little too close to a radioactive meteorite, and got stuck halfway between himself and the Hulk. For the duration of the Shapeshifter Mode Lock, he retained his consciousness and intelligence, but had difficulty concentrating and focusing, and also possessed a fair portion of the Hulk's strength. Later in the same episode, he effectively got Mode Locked AS the Hulk after being captured and imprisoned by the military; his futile attempts to break free of his cell kept him pissed off enough to stay green.
  • In season 4 of Legends of Tomorrow, the Legends encounter a shapeshifter and, as per their SOP, try to send her to hell, assuming her to be evil. However, Charlie isn't actually evil, just rebellious, and takes the team on a Shapeshifter Guilt Trip, shifting into several shapes to drive the point home. They eventually relent, but Constantine casts a spell on her that locks her in her current shape, which happens to be that of Amaya (who has left the show last season).
  • Lost: Happened to the Man in Black twice. First, after killing Jacob he got Mode Locked in Mode Locke. He could still change back to the Smoke Monster form, but couldn't assume other human forms anymore. Then, the removal of the Island's cork in the Finale took that ability away as well, locking him in a mortal body as opposed to the invulnerable Smoke form, allowing the Heroes to kill him.
  • In Misfits, one of the super-powered teens has some trouble after his gender bending power leaves him stuck as a woman due to his self-induced pregnancy; luckily, all is well by the end of the episode.
  • Played for laughs in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Undead, where the shapeshifting witch from this week's experiment visits the Satellite of Love and loses control of her powers. She eventually winds up stuck as a bottle of bleach, though she can still communicate. ("This is so annoying!")
  • This happened to the character Tommy Oliver in Power Rangers: Dino Thunder when the actor playing him had real life commitments; the character was stuck in his suit, then invisible for the best part of a season.
  • In Sanctuary, a pregnant HAP's body will go into lockdown to protect the fetus, because shapeshifting also changes the protean's insides.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In one episode, Garak uses a device on Odo that prevents his shapeshifting. Since he cannot take his natural liquid form, his body begins to deteriorate.
    • Later, Odo has his powers taken away by his people and is forced to become (and stay) biologically human.
    • Still later, in the latter days of the Dominion War arc, all of Odo's race (including Odo) fall under the influence of a disease which makes them unable to liquefy, slowly killing them as above. This is revealed to be a biological weapon invented by the shadowy, rule-evading part of Starfleet. Unfortunately for their plot, they have to infect the race through Odo, which means the good guys race to find the cure in the nick of time.
  • Supernatural: God chooses to appear as a God in Human Form in order to interact with his creations. After it is revealed that God Is Evil, his power is eventually usurped by his grandson Jack who then becomes the new God. This leaves God as simply an ordinary human, doomed to grow old and die one day.
  • Super Sentai: One episode of Dengeki Sentai Changeman dealt with Hiryū Tsurugi is stuck in his Change Dragon form. Unlike in other instances where it is treated as a minor annoyance at best, here it is treated as a real threat.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Celtic Mythology, the pregnant aunt of Finn Mac Cool is transformed into a dog by a jealous fairy. Although she is later restored, her twin children remain as dogs, because that was the form they were born in.
  • In Norse Mythology, Loki suffered a temporary Shapeshifter Mode Lock in the form of a mare, before giving birth to Sleipnir. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Selkies:
    • Some unscrupulous men invoke this trope by stealing the selkies' sealskins to trap them in human form and force them into marriage.
    • In some versions, selkies can only go on land a certain number of times before suffering permanent Mode Lock as a seal or human, depending on what they were at the time.
  • Another shapeshifter myth: the Margotines are fey white cats that can change into pretty human females — or can confer a human female the power to turn into a white cat. However, if the woman is wounded while in this form, she can no longer change back to her true shape — and the Margotine cannot turn into a human any longer either.
  • In some legends, the cat sìth is actually a witch who has transformed into a cat nine times, at which point they can't transform back. This is presumably related to the idea that Cats Have Nine Lives.

  • The Adventure Zone: Dust has Errol Ryehouse, who's stuck half-transformed after a botched attempt at removing his lycanthropy.

  • We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • If an armbanded human is caught while in Pokémon form, the Vow takes precedence and the human is forced to stay as a mon unless they're released. (The armband can be taken off, but they won't shift back to their original form.) However, putting on a Pokémon to human armband can work around that restriction.
    • The mon bombs used by the Seven Jerk Dragons work under similar principles, including the Pokémon to human armband loophole.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Amber Diceless Role Playing, it's possible for someone using Shapeshifting to lose the knowledge of how to shapeshift or even the ability itself, stranding them in their current form. It's also possible for them to lose their personality and take on the personality of the creature or person they're imitating, so they don't want to change back.
  • Ars Magica. Using Muto Corporem (shapechanging) spells is potentially dangerous. If a mage spends a month in the shape of an animal, they will start to act and think like that animal. Eventually they could lose their human personalities altogether.
  • A Transforming Mecha example from BattleTech. A Land-Air 'Mech that takes either a gyro hit or an actuator hit is as good as stuck in whichever form it's in at the moment. It has to have a complete working set of joints in order to transform properly. This property makes Land-Air 'Mechs into extremely Fragile Speedsters.
  • The Call of Cthulhu module Horror's Heart introduces the spell Cage of Kind, which causes a loup-garou to first shapeshift uncontrollably, then eventually become permanently locked in animal form.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • A number of spells, like moonbeam and wall of moonlight, can force a shapeshifted creature back into its default form and prevent it from transforming for a short time.
    • Traditionally, clerics who followed moon deities had the ability to inflict this trope on shapeshifters, primarily werebeasts but frequently on other shapeshifters as well.
    • The overwhelming majority of shapeshifting powers being supernatural in nature, any form of Anti-Magic (including a dead magic zone or a null-magic plane) will immediately revert shapeshifters into their true forms, and keep them from transforming again until they escape the area.
    • Eberron:
      • When the elves, most of which were the slaves of the giants, rebelled, the Gyrderi, who were the free elves, decided to help their kin. Being druids, they had an ability called wild shape, which lets them shapeshift into animals. The giants trapped the Gyrderi, and their descendants in their wild shaped forms.
      • The 3.5th Edition sourcebook Race of Eberron indicates that this is what happens to changelings if they become pregnant — they are still able to shift between female forms, but they can't shift to a non-female form until they give birth.
  • In Exalted, if a Lunar Exalted's anima banner gets too intense, the Lunar will be Mode Locked to a handful of his most iconic forms until the anima banner dies down.
  • Forgotten Futures: A magician who transforms into an animal may come to believe that they are that animal and prolong the spell until it becomes permanent and erases their true personality.
  • The Innistrad set of Magic: The Gathering has a beneficial one for Werewolves: Immerwolf, translating from German to "Everwolf". Werewolves normally transform back and forth between their human and wolf form depending on the amount of spells cast on the last turn, and their human forms are typically much weaker. As long as Immerwolf is on the battlefield, all werewolves already in wolf form are locked into it, making them far more formidable (werewolves in human form remain free to shapeshift into beast form, but not out of it).
    • A corollary is the Planeswalker Arlinn Kord, herself a werewolf native to Innistrad. She changes between human and wolf form, but only beneath the light of Innistrad's moon. She can Planeswalk to other worlds in either form, but is Mode Locked until she returns to Innistrad.
  • Weaponized by Task Force: Valkyrie in New World of Darkness with their Equalizer Grenades. You know how rapidly blinking bright light can cause seizure? Same principle, but it's applied to the part of the brain that controls shapeshifting. Suddenly those werewolves find themselves back to human form and unable to switch back, making them easy pickings.
  • The Court of Mirrors from Princess: The Hopeful have an interesting twist on this trope. Most Princesses are standard Henshin Hero fare: they default to a human form, can temporarily assume a powerful magical form, and must concentrate and make an effort to hold that form for long stretches of time. Princessess of Mirrors, on the other hand, default to their magical form and have to make an effort to assume or stay in their human shape.
  • In Rage (the card game based off of Werewolf: the Apocalypse), Tamara Lovegrove of the Seventh Generation can lock Garou into their current form as her special ability.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse itself, there are a few ways it can come up:
    • Werewolves and other shapeshifters can "lose the wolf," permanently losing their Rage and becoming trapped in their birth-form, if they suffer too severely from depression.
    • There was once a gift that let a werewolf stay in Crinos war-form (used either for major battles or as punishment), but it's been long lost.
    • One variant that only kicks in upon death is a rite that locks a dead metis' corpse into either Homid or Lupus form instead of the Crinos form that a dead metis would normally take, done to preserve The Masquerade.
    • One particularly creepy one comes from when a shifter is possessed by a Weaver spirit and turned into a drone. Since the Weaver is all about calcified, unchanging "perfection," its drones cannot change at all - for shifters, this includes never being able to change into their other forms. This (combined being possessed by a spirit that works for an insane embodiment of pure order) invariably drives the shifter insane. The Weaver fortunately is loathe to do this, however, as it recognizes that its shapeshifting allies are more useful with that ability intact in most cases.
    • A particular vulnerability of the Rokea shifters is born of their link to the sea. Even if they find or possess other means of maintaining their Gnosis when they go too long without immersion in seawater or something close to it they are locked into whatever form they are in when the clock runs out forever, as one NPC operating in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin found out the hard way.
  • Downplayed in Werewolf: The Forsaken. A werewolf whose Harmony has tilted too far towards their human side can still shift forms, but it takes longer and requires Essence.
    • A variant with the idigam. These spirits start out as Formless, ever-shifting creatures of chaos whose weaknesses change from scene to scene. Once they choose something by which to define themselves they Coalesce, locking themselves into a specific shape and gaining a defined powerset, with the cost of also giving themselves a permanent Ban and Bane. They can revert to Formlessness, but it requires considerable effort and few are willing to lose the powers of their Coalesced form.

  • The Mistika Makuta from BIONICLE suffered from this, after being exposed to the Pit Mutagen.
  • Powermasters in Transformers: Generation 1, in theory, required their Nebulan partner in order to transform from vehicle mode to robot mode (in reality, all that was really required was to simply press a button. The toy was capable of working without it, but the partner made it a tad easier — not to mention the toys looked better with the partner attached).
    • More severe were the Action Masters, a series of non-transforming Transformer toys, stuck in their robot modes. The fluff explained that they had taken a substance called Nucleon, that had rendered them more powerful, more 'alive', but robbed them of their ability to transform into vehicles. To compensate for this, the Action Masters were all packaged with transformable accessories, such as weapons or vehicles.

    Video Games 
  • Cornell, the werewolf protagonist of Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, spends the entirety of Castlevania: Judgment trapped in wolf form as a result of the time rift.
  • In Devil May Cry 4, Nero had his right arm injured after a run in with a demon, only for it to heal exceptionally quickly and become a demonic Red Right Hand. While he think's he's being turned into a demon, in reality his arm is stuck in Devil Trigger, which usually transforms the entire body into a more powerful demonic form. After he gains full control of his demonic power in Devil May Cry 5, Nero's arm returns to its human form and he is able to activate his full Devil Trigger at will, which transforms his entire body rather than just his arm.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the Bosmer (Wood Elves) possess the innate ability to transform into nightmarish beasts as a final desperate act of defense against invaders, known as "the Wild Hunt." However, there is no known way to reverse this transformation, leaving them permanently stuck as these monsters. As such, it is only known to have been used twice in recorded history.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, there are a race of humanoid shapeshifters called Laguz who transform between Little Bit Beastly mode to their respective form and back, mostly at will but balance-wise restricts how long they can fight. Eventually, antagonistic Laguz appear that are stuck in their combat form, and their berserk, slave-like nature heavily implies that they are not this way by choice. It's revealed that Mad Scientist Izuka used a Psycho Serum on several laguz, causing them to go insane and become what's known as the Feral Ones. One of his victims was Rajaion, a Dragon Laguz Prince, forcing him to stay in his dragon form and make him go insane; from then on he was enslaved by Izuka's boss Ashnard, who used poor Rajaion as his Dragon Mount. He was only released by the time Ashnard was slain in battle... but by then he was so weakened and wounded that he died almost immediately afterwards.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, the Avatar's dragon friend Lilith claims she has a human form but cannot use it any longer because she has used up her energy. She only shapeshifts back into it as she's dying.
  • In Golden Sun, the party visits Garoh, a village whose inhabitants, due to proximity to the Air's Rock, turn into werewolves in full moon nights. The mayor, though, as Kraden explains to him, he has absorbed too much Psynergy to go back to his human form.
  • In Hearthstone, this is the default setting for transformations. Whenever a card transforms, whether by its own power or other cards' effect, the card will remain as its transformed state for the rest of the match. For example, if you play your Molten Blade that has transformed into Arcanite Reaper, once the Reaper breaks, your Rummaging Kobold can only fetch back your Reaper, not your Molten Blade.
  • A variant of this trope appears in inFAMOUS: Second Son : when Delsin absorbs a new power, he becomes unable to access any other power until he masters the one he absorbed. Augustine tries to use this against him in the final battle, willingly giving Delsin her concrete powers, knowing that Delsin would be at a disadvantage since she had seven years to master her own.
  • Not quite Shapeshifting, but in Kingdom Hearts II, abusing Sora's drive forms can lead to him accidentally drive into the infamous Anti Form. Along with weakened attacks, reduced damage resistance, no healing and no allies, Sora can't exit this form until his drive gauge depletes, making it a temporary (but still often fatal) example of this trope. And woe betide you if you gave yourself abilities that increase drive form duration, since they prolong Anti Form just like any other.
    • In the same game, it's revealed that an apparently revived "Ansem" is actually Riku. The first time he transformed into the "Ansem, Seeker of Darkness" form was in the first game, and happened because "Ansem" possessed him. The second time, though, he willingly transformed into the form to defeat Roxas prior to the beginning of II; he has full control of himself, but is unable to change back until near the end of the game.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link gets stuck in wolf form whenever he goes into a area covered in twilight. The only way he can change back, is by returning the 'Tears of Light' to the spirit in that area. Later in the game however Zant curses Link, locking him in his Wolf form (despite there being no twilight covering the land) Once removed, said "curse" can be re-applied and removed at will, allowing Link to change whenever he needs to.
    • Majora's Mask begins with this trope. Link is changed into a deku scrub until he gets his Ocarina back and learns to play the song of healing. Of course later on you can change at will by applying various masks.
  • Towards the end of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus goes to Phaaze, the source of all Phazon. However, the concentration of Phazon is so high that Samus gets thrown into a dangerous Hyper Mode has to drain all of her energy tanks in order to prevent instant corruption. And even that doesn't stop the problem since it just delays the inevitable where sooner or later, the Phazon will consume Samus so it becomes a Timed Mission from the landing to the end of the Final Boss battle.
    • Towards the beginning of Metroid Prime, Samus gets Mode-Locked out of her Morph Ball after it malfunctions, forcing her to procure a replacement.
  • Two examples from NetHack:
    • The amulet of unchanging will mode lock the player. This is usually a good thing, since most transformations are unwanted.
    • The ring of protection from shape changers will mode lock all enemy shapeshifters, which renders them effectively harmless.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, a certain wonkiness in the nature of things makes it difficult—in some cases impossible—for the local druids to shapeshift. It's a story element and has no effect on the combat effectiveness of your party's druid.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], halfway through the game you are given a "cure" that mode locks your ability to shapeshift your body into weapons. Oddly enough though you can still shapeshift.
  • An example of the lock out version of mode lock: In the seventh-gen console game of Spider-Man 3, if the player removes the black suit, they have to wait for a small amount of time before they can use it again.
  • Implied at the end of Splatoon 3, where Cuttlefish ends up forced into his squid form after Mr. Grizz dehydrates him. Thanks to some moisture from Captain 3 crying over his body, Cuttlefish is able to recover, but despite this, remains in his squid form, even in the post-game, suggesting he may not be able to turn back into his human form.
  • In Super Robot Wars Advance, Whenever the Getter Team gets a new machine, the previous one is modified by Professor Saotome to lose its transformation capabilities so that it can still use 100% of its power without needing all three pilots, allowing spare Getter pilots to ride them. They get brand new regular and Combination Attacks to make up for the lack of transforming.
  • The player's mecha in Thexder 95 is unable to change into jet or tank form for the first few levels.
  • Leader units in Transformers: War for Cybertron get to inflict this on opponents as an ability, known as Disruption. In addition to causing damage, it forces anyone in robot mode into vechicle mode and vice versa, for a set period of time. This can be either pointless or deadly, given that the opponent has weapons in both forms but also can't access all of their abilties. A Scientist without his jet form will not last long.
    • Grimlock suffers from this in the sequel Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Shockwave modelocked Grimlock into robot mode as a failsafe until he could fully control his test subject. Unstoppable Rage can let Grimlock temporaraly override the mode lock.
  • Warcraft III:
    • Certain units can shapeshift, but the action is considered to be a spell, and costs mana (and sometimes also has a cool down). So, if a Dark Ranger casts Silence on a bunch of Druids of the Claw, then, well, no Bear Form for you. Similar things can be done with Druids of the Talon and Spirit Walkers.
    • A TFT walkthrough states that in one mission, hitting Ilidan with a bunch of damaging spells will have a high chance of distrupting his AI, preventing him from transforming into his demonic form when heavily injured.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The black dragon boss Nefarian has calls out to specific classes with specific effects on those classes. The class call to Druids ("Druids and their silly shapeshifting. Let's see it in action!") will force all Druids to shapeshift into cat form and block them in it for a while. Feral specialized DPS druids may not be affected if they're fighting in this form anyway, but druid bear tanks, healers and spellcasters will be annoyed. Of course, at the time Nefarian was at the top of the food chain DPS-specced feral druids, and for that matter any non-healer druids, were so exceedingly rare in end-game raiding that Nefarian was probably fine discounting their existence entirely.
    • A slightly less obvious example existed for Warriors in the same fight. Warriors, while not traditional shapeshifters, do have the ability to switch between different stances. When Nef called them out, "Warriors, is that all the damage you can do?", they were forced into Berserker Stance — which increases damage done but also decreases defenses. Like the above druids, at this point in the game 99.99% of raid tanks were Warriors and virtually all raiding Warriors were expected to at least be geared for tanking for trash and should a boss require multiple offtanks or should the shit hit the fan. This meant that when Warriors were called the tank suddenly took A LOT more damage, and it was time to blow defensive cooldowns and heal bomb. The entirety of phase 2 of that fight was built around messing with a class's ability to do its (at the time) primary job.
    • In a Played for Laughs example, in Legion's version of Dalaran in the first aid shop, you find a druid trapped in his aquatic form (a sea lion) stuck in a bathtub complete with showerhead and frilly curtains. If you ask him about it he tells you he was doing reconnaissance in the waters off the broken shore and got clobbered by an infernal dropping from the sky, and it's risky to shift back until he's completely healed. The entire situation has him thoroughly embarrassed and he asks you to not tell anyone he knows about it.
  • In Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter, Dalles locks you in monster form halfway through the game, and you must go on a Fetch Quest to change back.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • College Roomies from Hell!!!: Roger's mom is stuck in furry form (and happy that way), and tells him that it will eventually happen to him too.
  • Darths & Droids: Boba Fett is a shapeshifter, but acquires a childhood injury which locks him into the shape of his adopted father, Jango Fett.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Grace and her brothers could each shapeshift partially or fully into whatever animal's DNA was thrown in with their human DNA. Since the brothers were a threat at the time, Grace hoped they wouldn't be able to turn back to normal if they were hit with Tedd's transformation gun. They dropped that plan when all it did to Grace was give her new forms she could shapeshift to.
    • Which brings us to Vlad, who was in a de facto mode lock as his attempt to turn human nearly killed him; he ended up stuck in his hybrid wolf/bat/falcon form. He's unlocked after Ellen transforms him into a woman, but the idea of losing human form again bothers her so much she refuses to be transformed into anything else. It's implied that she rejects everything about her old form, including her former gender.
    • Also the TF Gun has a built in mode lock related to its original purpose: Transformations normally only last 30 days, but If you get pregnant while transformed, you stay female. (It's implied that you can always use the gun again after giving birth.)
  • In Harbourmaster, Seisha has such a strong Healing Factor that any shapeshifter which samples her DNA will wind up turning into her — permanently. This results in Mormo, who took over ten thousand forms over its life, captured and put into stasis until Gilou and the other Aquaans can figure out how to fix it, just on general principles. After all, there's nothing preventing someone from making another Seisha somehow.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! Princess Voluptua is an insectoid alien who routinely uses a device to appear human. In the Cone story arc, it gets stuck, which is terribly dangerous.
  • In Jix, the main aliens (the Ambis) have the ability to going from cute and fuzzy to large and pointy beasts. This is known as their feral form. One of the villains, Maricax, was introduced in his feral form, unable to revert back to normal. That is...until another villain named Kelelder gives him super healing ability.
  • In NIMONA a comical incident in which the titular shapeshifter is briefly trapped in feline form becomes the catalyst for the webcomic's Cerebus Syndrome and a climactic Chekhov's Gun.
  • Slightly Damned: Kieri's "bunny curse" occasionally kicks in by itself and is difficult to revert.
  • In Spinnerette, the Werewolf of London, Ontario trained hard until he could change from human to werewolf and back again whenever he wanted. Then he forgot how to do it, and is now stuck in werewolf form permanently.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, anyone who enters Betel's Forest is turned into a beast form, and those who can normally shapeshift are unable to revert while remaining there. Kalliv couldn't revert until chapter 3, despite leaving the forest in chapter 2.

    Web Original 
  • In the Altered Fates universe created by Jennifer Adams, featuring the Medallion of Zulo, one changed by the Medallion has to wait twelve hours to change again or change back. The Medallion also tends to disappear or get misplaced at inconvenient times, leaving the changed person stuck in his new form forever.
  • The horror story We don't make good wives explains why one should never do this to a shapeshifting snake woman, no matter how much of a Cute Monster Girl you think she is.
  • Whateley Universe: Apparently this is a known hazard for shapeshifters, one common enough to be mentioned in the Powers Theory class and textbook.
    • Pejuta warns her brother Pounce about this, when he complains about having to set the biometric lock to his dorm room to accept readings in each of his forms (which includes a puma form, as well as a Cat Girl-esque form he finds embarrassing).
    • At one point, twins Phobos and Deimos were stuck while fused into their Fury form, and Jobe's attempt to separate them caused their already significant GSDnote  to worsen. It also led to Phobos' death months later, due to unforeseen interactions with the genetic tampering which had been done several years earlier by their mother, the Nazi supervillainess Wolfin the Purifier, unbeknownst to the twins.
    • In the Gen 2 stories, Reinforce can get stuck in a form for up to half an hour if he changes to many times in quick succession, or takes a form that is too different from human (such as that of his brother Razorback).

    Western Animation 
  • Meatwad in Aqua Teen Hunger Force practiced turning into a life sized figure of Abraham Lincoln (he can normally only become a hotdog and igloo) only to get stuck that way for the rest of the episode, as if he pulled a muscle.
  • Beast Wars and Beast Machines, not having the secrecy restriction of other Transformers series, invented excuses for the cast having to adopt and stay in alternate forms. In Beast Wars, it was that all of the robots would be debilitated by energon radiation and that organic-skinned beast modes would protect them (an excuse as good as obsolete by the second season, but by then everyone had vehicle modes that gave them the advantage of speed or flight anyway). In at least one instance, having serious damage to the robot body prompted the internal system to force a Transformer back into Beast Mode. Beast Machines had the Maximals stuck in beast mode until they learned how to use their new techno-organic bodies, and had to use their alternate forms to hide from the ubiquitous wardrones.
    • There was also an episode where Megatron has a beam-like device that trapped characters hit with it in Beast Mode. This lost the Maximals a chance to contact Cybertron.
    • The original Marvel The Transformers comics introduced Nucleon late in the run, to tie in with the toy line's introduction of the non-transforming Action Masters. Nucleon strengthens a Transformer immensely, but, among other nasty potential side effects, always renders them unable to transform. Understandably, most users wind up wishing they'd never touched the stuff.
    • The Transformers cartoon, specifically the episode "The Autobot Run" had the Transfixatron, a weapon that trapped most of the Autobots in their vehicle modes (all land-based, all unarmed), making them very vulnerable to the Decepticons. Later episodes would imply that Mode Lock could also be the result of heavy damage, and the Headmasters were automatically stuck in vehicle mode anytime their partners (who transformed into their heads) weren't around.
      • Also in "Desertion of the Dinobots", a little bit of Phlebotinum called "Cybertonium", which all Cybertron-created Transformers (i.e.: not the Dinobots) need in order to function correctly, starts decaying, resulting in semi-hilarious malfunctions (Megatron in at one point waving his arms around wildly when trying to fly, Ironhide icing himself up). Jazz is shown as unable to transform from car mode (until Ironhide kicks him), and is later shown stuck part-transformed (robot upper body, still in car mode in lower body). During the episode, Perceptor actually says "Fortunately I am still stuck in microscope mode").
    • The Beast Wars example is a double-edged sword: by remaining in beast mode for too long, the beast instincts start to overwhelm the robot intelligence until they become feral. Certain Maximals who frequently remain in beast mode, notably Tigatron, are able to overcome this.
      • After even the normal Maximals were forced into permanent Beast Mode for an episode, they too learned the trick, and proceeded to teach the Predacons a lesson in Beast Wars.
    • Yet another Beast Wars example: Optimus Primal became mode-locked in "Gorilla Warfare" thanks to Scorponok frakking around with his cyber-bee. Naturally this backfired, turning the normally peace loving Primal into a Berserker. (It was SUPPOSED to turn him into a coward, but Scorponok's competency can fluctuate according to the needs of the script.)
    • The Transformers: Prime two-part episode "Operation Bumblebee" featured Bumblebee's T-Cog being stolen by MECH, rendering him unable to transform into vehicle mode. Eventually it was retrieved, however MECH then procceded to turn on Starscream (who'd been working with them), and steal his T-Cog, leaving him stuck in robot mode.
      • Starscream then created and subsequently murdered a clone to get THAT T-Cog and installed it in himself. Bumblebee managed to retrieve his original T-Cog eventually, though it was heavily, but not irreparably, damaged in the process.
    • Swindle from Transformers: Animated got stuck in vehicle mode for a long time.
  • Ben 10:
    • Ben has this happen to him a lot, since he's basically got a Black Box from outer space permanently attached to his wrist. Even leaving aside that when he uses it, it turns him into the alien he chooses (or the one it chooses instead) until the timer runs down, then turns him back human until it powers up again, there have been a number of Mode Lock incidents, generally involving a weaker alien such as Grey Matter or Ditto.
    • Kevin:
      • As a variant, Kevin winds up submitting to Mode Lock after overuse of previously-acquired Omnitrix-fueled transformation — what Vilgax calls a "misshapen, chaotic amalgamation". By the time Alien Force rolls around, he returned to human form in time for his escape from the Null-Void.
      • Happened to Kevin yet again in Alien Force, becoming part concrete, metal, diamond, and other stuff.
    • Happened to Albedo, Ben's doppelganger in Alien Force, who creates a duplicate Omnitrix and synchronizes it to Ben's, only to be transformed into a copy of Ben because Ben's form is the "default". When they fight, the magnetic interference caused by the meeting of two Omnitrices causes Albedo's colors to change. When Azmuth appears to tidy up the whole mess, he takes out a part of Albedo's imitation Omnitrix, cursing him to stay in Ben's pre-teen human form (which he absolutely hates).
    • A plot point in the episode "Con of Rath", wherein Ben spends basically the entire episode in the form of the titular alien (which debuted in said episode). This was due to electromagnetic interference inadvertently caused by the Lewodan Prince Tiffin, whom the crew have to escort in a supposed peacemaking effort.
    • Ben does this on purpose in Omniverse, using a mode lock feature on the Omnitrix to stick himself in a form known for diplomatic skills to negotiate between 2 alien races (one of which is Rath's species). Unfortunately one of the diplomats infested Ben with alien fleas, planning on ruining the peace talk by having the fleas cause Ben to explode!
    • In another episode, "The Frogs of War", Ben uses the mode lock to keep him as a member of the species that invaded the earth and exiled him. It's notable that this example the audience is unaware until shortly before he removes the lock.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • This is the entire purpose of the Plasmius Maximus in Danny Phantom. It has been used on both Danny and Vlad, modelocking them into their human forms. Other weapons/containment devices have this as a side effect of sorts.
    • The episode "Forever Phantom", in which one of Jack's weapons zaps Danny and Amorpho, forcing the former to stay in his ghost form and the latter to stay in Danny's human form...even though Amorpho still manages to (with difficulty) shift a bit more before being cured. It's a Long Story.
  • Gargoyles:
    • Puck is mode-locked into one shape, that of Owen Burnett, by Oberon after rebelling against his king. Given that shapeshifting is a major part of Puck's tricks... this sucks. The punishment also included eternal banishment from their homeland Avalon. Puck wanted to spend more time living as a human in the human world, and Oberon gave it to him. The only way he can get mode-unlocked is to train or protect Xanatos's son, Alexander.
    • The gargoyles' own stone sleep is a variant of this, being a unique aspect of their physiology. The Magus' curse took advantage of this by mode-locking them in it for a millennium, preventing them from reawakening when the sun set each day.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts has this as the danger of undergoing full, rather than partial transformation, as the shifter can lose themselves to their animal half without external stimulus to remind them of their human side. This ended up being the case for Kipo's mother, Song.
  • Timber Wolf in Legion Of Superheroes is mode locked into his half-human, half-feral form because his father tampered with his DNA too much.
  • The episode "Good Hunting" from Love, Death & Robots features this prominently. As The Magic Goes Away, the shapeshifter Yen finds it harder and harder to leave human form, eventually becoming locked in it. After her Unwilling Roboticisation, she finds an alternate way to escape this trope. And her species by default has a Weaksauce Weakness that can shape-lock them, at least until they dry off.
  • An episode of The Mask: The Animated Series featured a gypsy fortune-teller that tricked Stanley into giving her the Mask which she then used to power another magic Mask that gives enormous powers. She then discards the Mask thinking it's now useless and Stanley puts it on... only The Mask is stuck in the form of a stereotypical Scot (complete with kilt). He then gradually obtains the rest of his forms (starting with the most useless ones, as The Mask himself lampshades).
  • In Supernoobs, if Kevin doesn't use his Battle Ball to turn back into a human within three hours, his DNA will permanently change and he will spend the rest of his life as his current animal form.
  • Vampirina: Vampires get stuck in their bat forms as a symptom of batty fever.
  • Visionaries:
    • In "Lion Hunt", Darkstorm uses a potion to trap Leoric in his Lion form. Unless the spell is broken by the setting of the Three Suns, Leoric will never be able to revert to human form again.
    • In "Horn of Unicorn, Claw of Dragon", Arzon, after he has developed symptoms of the Magical Plague, attempts to assume his Eagle form, only to find that he can't maintain it, effectively trapping him in human form.
    • In "The Trail of Three Wizards", most of the Visionaries become exhibits in a magical zoo, where they are locked into their animal forms.
    • In "Dawn of the Sun Imps", one of the titular Imps (who has the ability to control felines) takes control of Leoric, who becomes trapped in his Lion form as a result.
  • Between episodes 21 and 23 of Wakfu, Adamaï, a young shapeshifting dragon, is stuck in Tofu form after being swallowed whole and then regurgitated by Igôle (a powerful beast reinforced by Xelor magic, which is what interfere with Adamaï's power). This is a case where the modelocked form is small and weak, Tofus being Ridiculously Cute Critter birds.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mode Lock


Forever Phantom

Danny Phantom finds himself unable to shift into any other mode

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShapeshifterModeLock

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