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Sliding Scale of Living Toys

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In fiction, especially works aimed at children or set in worlds with a tenuous grip on sanity, it's not uncommon for toys and other inanimate objects to be depicted as having minds of their own. They can think, they can muse, they can ponder, they can rail at their arbitrary existence or gush about how perfect their lives are, and sometimes they can get up, move around and do things that you wouldn't expect them to do... though only while no one's looking, in most cases.

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Sometimes they're like little people, only shaped like teddy bears or toasters; other times, they're prisoners of their plastic/fabric/metal bodies, totally incapable of doing anything but what their owner poses them to do. It doesn't matter if it's an action figure or a lawnmower or even an industrial washing machine: in a world of Living Toys, anything is fair game.

A word of caution: if it's supposed to have a mind of its own via Artificial Intelligence or Applied Phlebotinum, it doesn't belong here. A Ridiculously Human Robot that can fit in your palm is still just a Ridiculously Human Robot, not a Living Toy.

Subtrope of Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism.


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Immobile, But Still Sentient

The toy has no capacity for movement, mechanical and electrical parts notwithstanding. Its life is shaped entirely by the people that play with it. As it must be a Living Toy to fall into this category, this toy is at least capable of an internal monologue. It may also be able to communicate with other toys through some sort of ill-explained "psychic" connection.

    Examples 
  • There are some Real Life examples, such as: a ventriloquist's dummy, a stuffed animal with intelligent eyes, or a doll, as all these behave as if they were alive with the help of human hands and voice.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac has a couple of these.
    • First of all is Shmee, though in JTHM, he is just a toy. However, in the spinoff series Squee!, Squee has a dream in which Shmee is alive and talks to Squee, saying that he is his "trauma-sponge" that works to free Squee of all his fears. And he does a, well, okay job...
    • Native only to the original JTHM series, not any spinoffs, are the two Doughboys, Mr. Fuck/Mr. Eff and Psycho-Doughboy/D-boy. At first, you assume they only appear to speak due to Johnny's extreme imagination, but they actually have different personalities and goals. Mr. Fuck (ironically not the one with the word "fuck" written on him) wants Johnny to kill and use his victims' blood to keep the monster behind the wall at bay, thus giving the Doughboys more of the monster's power and sentience. Psycho-Doughboy instead wants Johnny dead so that he will stop giving them power and thus, both will die and stay inanimate. For a while, they become living beings and can move about, even after Johnny's death, but this doesn't last.
  • Skylanders are portrayed like this on Earth; the idea of the games is to use the toys on a "portal" to send them back home where they're fully living beings again.
  • Emily from Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry is expected to be psychic to some capacity, since the doll is only an outer shell for the Mimic, a device built for pilot-machine interface. Still, from her introduction on, she's shown to have mental capabilities outside the range of a regular Mimic, and she shares the senses and identity of the little alien girl, also named Emily. It's stated later on, when you learn their backstory, that "Sara didn't link with that Mimic — it linked with her.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit, before becoming real, could speak to other toys and once even spoke to a couple of real rabbits. However, he still fit this trope— he was incapable of escaping from dangerous places, and he could never not sit on his hind legs.

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Schrodinger's Toy

The toy is capable of moving on its own, but can only do so while not being observed. There may be a danger of it losing the ability to move forever if it is observed out of position from where it was last left.

    Examples 
  • The family of dolls in children's book The Dollhouse Caper immediately revert to inanimate form if observed. This makes it difficult for them to warn their owners about the robbery plot they've accidentally overheard.
  • This is the basis for the Doll Code in The Doll People. If a human sees them move, or thinks they've seen them move, the doll is immediately put into Doll State, which renders them immobile for 24 hours.
  • Emmet (and presumably all the other minifigures) in The LEGO Movie, though he's only barely capable of independent motion once in the real world. In the sequel, Emmet, Rex, and Lucy are all able to move in the real world, albeit in a choppy motion not unlike stop-motion.
  • All of the toys in Raggedy Ann, both the books and the animated movie.
    • In Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, the toys seem to work like this, but it's hard to tell; one of the last shots of the movie shows the fantastical terrain the toys traveled over to be a mundane stretch of pavement with litter.
  • The titular toy dog in Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien is sentient all the time, but can only move after midnight.
  • Gene Wolfe's (The) War Beneath The Tree. Supposedly, old toys self-destruct on Christmas night to make way for the new toys. The reality is somewhat more brutal.

Toy Masquerade

The toy can switch between animate and inanimate at will, and may communicate with animals, babies, or generally anyone who can't (or at least won't) betray their secret. Such toys need to hide their sentience in the presence of older humans. The toys don't need to worry about being out of position, as humans will assume someone else moved them.

    Examples 
  • In Arthur, toys are sentient and can move on their own, however the only other characters they talk to are pets and babies, and they pretend not to be sentient in front of everyone else.
  • The Brave Little Toaster. The cast mostly consists of appliances and household devices, but there's been at least one toy character in the trilogy.
  • The toys in the world of Dolltopia only ever move in the presence of humans. They can move freely around animals, though, as they have a cat who helps them out with their missions by giving them rides.
  • The lawn ornaments in Gnomeo and Juliet fall under this category, sometimes freezing into positions that would compromise The Masquerade when seen fighting.
  • Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life has a teddy bear you can buy from a traveling merchant. Apparently it can blink and move when your character is not looking.
  • In the kids' story The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll, the eponymous tiny doll hides her sentience from everyone but the girl. Even when she got bored living with her original owner, she never moved in front of her.
  • The toys in The Noddy Shop, who can only be understood by Truman and Noah. Johnny Crawfish is an exception, as he is an actual living animal.
  • The title characters in the British cartoon series The Raggy Dolls, dolls that live in the reject bin of a toy factory. Each had a minor defect that means they could not be sold and they spend their time forgotten in a bin having adventures. Unusually for this trope, with the exception of one Very Special Episode referencing the plight of orphaned children in Romania of all things (It's a Long Story), The Masquerade was a non-issue most of the time because they didn't really belong to anyone or spend much time interacting with humans or other toys.
  • The 1989 Teddy Bears' Picnic short film features teddy bears that are secretly alive and sneak out to attend a picnic. The two main bears willingly expose themselves to a little girl. Later, it goes to Schrodinger's Toy level, when the other teddy bears except the main two apparently revert to permanent frozen states after being found out. Fortunately, they soon become alive again and accept the girl.
  • In the short story Teddy Bear Tears, the teddy bear can speak and even cry, yet doesn't walk back from the dump, where he was accidentally left, on his own lest the humans find out that he's sentient. He is, however, willing to speak to a fairy, who collects his tears and uses them to make his owner dream about him being at the dump.
  • In the kids' story The Tin Soldier, the toys are fully animate, but pretend to be inanimate in front of the humans. This backfires when the woman who lives with their owner melts two of them.
  • Toy Story, except for that one scene in Sid's yard, when they deliberately break their rules in order to teach the sadistic kid a lesson.
  • Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Living Doll". She verbally threatens people, though no one sees her move on her own.

"Imaginary" Friend

The toy is fully animate, but observers will be unable to identify it as something other than an ordinary toy. Only certain members of a sentient species can see these toys for what they are, and those members will usually fail to convince others that the toy is anything more than an imaginary friend.

    Examples 
  • The toys from the Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins. They come to life when around the titular Doc, but "go stuffed" when anyone else shows up on the scene, with rare exceptions. Also, it's Doc's special stethoscope which animates them.
  • The dinosaurs in Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs are sentient and their bucket leads to another dimension called Dino World, but only Harry himself, his friend Charley, and Nana know this. The others just think Harry is imagining his adventures. In addition, when a non-sentient toy is brought to Dino World, it will become sentient, yet the dinosaurs stay sentient and mobile even when not in Dino World.
  • In the Norwegian children's book "Marens lille ugle" (Maren's Little Owl), the titular owl is a toy that's a curious mix of this and Shrodinger's Toy — but overall probably closer to this level. While he can talk to his owner Maren, and they have many conversations, he never actually moves, or appears as anything but an inanimate stuffed toy, while she's there. And yet, when nobody (including the reader) watches, he moves quite a bit — to the point where he actually does minor chores around the house when nobody's looking. These instances are so common that everyone in Maren's family, including her parents, have long since accepted that the owl is actually alive. As if this wasn't enough, a minor character hears the owl hooting at him at one point, and spends some time wondering if he's going insane.
    • In the filmatization, Ugler i Mosen, directed by Norwegian animator Ivo Caprino, the owl (represented by one of Caprino's characteristic stop-motion puppets) does move while the audience can see, though in this version it's a little more unclear whether or not he's real or just a figment of Maren's very active imagination.
  • Appropriately enough, Imaginary Friends in The Sims 3 start out this way. The child a Friend is for sees it move and can interact with it; everyone else sees a doll.

I've Got No Strings

The toy is fully animate, and everyone around it can see that it is alive, but it is still quite obviously a toy, being made of wood, stuffed with cotton, etc.

    Examples 
  • The robot Barney Estragon in Alien in a Small Town is eventually revealed to have started life as a rich kid's toy, who was eventually abandoned and left to fend for himself.
  • Puppet Angel during the Angel episode "Smile Time" (though, of course, he was previously an animate being): "I'm made of felt, and my nose comes off."
  • The household objects in Disney's Beauty and the Beast including some toy-like Christmas decorations. Played with, in that they are humans who were cursed into their form by the Enchantress with the same magic that made the Beast what he is. They naturally have no problem talking to other humans.
  • On a similar note, the Fantasista Dolls; living avatars of trading cards that happily interact with human society.
  • The tools from Handy Manny freely talk to humans and they jump into their toolbox on their own. Dusty can even pass out (when she met a celebrity) and get sick (in "Manny's Sick Day") while "Phillipe's Hiccups" is just about what you'd expect.
  • In the kids' book I Need a Wee, Alan and the other toys move around and even have their own society, but you can tell they're toys by looking at them.
  • The Lalaloopsy characters behave just like regular humans, but are clearly dolls due to their button eyes.
  • The titular family in The Mennyms, who are human-sized dolls and very convincingly made, but have beaded eyes, yarn for hair and so on. However, they are alive and do everything except eat. The books center around their ongoing efforts not to have their status as dolls discovered by anyone outside the family.
  • A lot of the exhibits in Night at the Museum are clearly statues and taxidermied animals, but speak and move in front of humans without a care (albeit only at night).
  • Pinocchio, the Level Namer. He's quite visibly a wooden puppet, but he runs around on his own without strings, talks, and doesn't hide his sentience in any way.
  • The eponymous dolls from Rozen Maiden. Jun is even a little shocked when he sees Shinku's and Hinaichigo's joints for the first time, despite being aware that they are dolls, because he's gotten so used to them behaving like normal girls.
  • The residents of the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and its spin-offs are these, at least to the North Pole community.
  • The SCP Foundation has a set of LEGO-brand bricks which, when something is built from them, immediately becomes animate and possesses signs of sentience. Just... make sure that the kids building things aren't aware of [EXPUNGED]. Nobody wants to see that again.
  • The Commando Elite and the Gorgonites from Small Soldiers, which are sentient as a result of possessing advanced military-grade AI munitions and proceed to cause some very obvious havoc in the real world.
  • Geno, from Super Mario RPG, a laser-blasting doll animated by a higher being from the Star Road after its destruction to assist in the recovery of the Star Pieces.
  • Supernatural has an episode in which a girl wished for her teddy bear to come alive. Supernatural being what it is, the bear spent most of the subsequent episode drinking, watching porn and trying to commit suicide.
  • Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy: Many of Witzy's friends are between this and "Seems so real and living". They all are clearly toys (Lulla has a music box key sticking out of her back, Boof has a heart on his belly, Patches has strange spots for a giraffe, and Ellie Funt looks patchwork), and yet they eat and need to sleep like they're alive.
  • Ted has a boy who wished his teddy bear come alive, and when it did, it set up the premise of the movie.
  • The toys in TinkerQuarry are alive, but fully aware that they are toys, and classify themselves into species based on what material they're made of.

Seems So Real and Living

They are fully animate and everyone around them can see that it is alive, and are still toys, made of wood, stuffed with cotton, etc. However, they seem so real to the viewers that they tend to forget this and view them as if they were actually living beings. Sometimes they get "toy" or "stuffed animal" reminders to remind the viewers that they are in fact stuffed or toys, especially in the form of getting ripped.

    Examples 
  • In Bewitched, Tabitha the baby witch can turn her (non-sentient) dolls into animate, life-sized dolls that look perfectly human and seem sentient. However, they still aren't real people, as shown when a toy soldier named Max can't speak even when grown to human size and made animate.
  • The main characters of Bobinogs are dolls, but that's only apparent in the intro.
  • One of the main characters in the webcomic The Mulberry Gallows Project is Anastasia the living marionette. In the original run of the comic (no longer viewable online), the fact that she was a living puppet was significant, and characters wondered where she had come from; it was eventually implied that she was a Golem. In the Reboot continuity, she's still a life-sized marionette, but the characters all take it in stride as just one more aspect of the odd setting they inhabit.
  • A lot of the exhibits in Night at the Museum that don't fit the previous category. For instance, many of the taxidermied animals look just like live animals (the monkey even pees on the protagonist in one scene) and the caveman mannequins look just like humans.
  • Likewise, the characters in Tickety Toc are just figures inside a clock. And yet they live their lives like any normal human kid.
  • Banette is a Pokémon which, according to its various Pokédex entries, was once a normal stuffed toy, driven to life by a powerful grudge against the person who disowned it. It is said that treating it with enough care will satisfy its grudge and revert it back to its original form. Other than that, the games don't really give much indication that Banette is a toy.
  • Bob, a ventriloquist dummy, from Soap is a subversion to this, he is strictly an inanimate object but he talks so often and so life-like that often characters think he is real and he's more popular than the character who uses him.
  • Special Agent Oso, more or less. The theme song refers to him as "the U.N.I.Q.U.E. stuffed bear" and occasionally when someone shouts his name upon meeting him, he replies "In the plush!" Other than that, though, it really isn't played up much that he's a toy, such that it's very easy to forget.
  • The trains from The Transporters are toys, as can be seen in the intro and outro, but in the actual episodes you couldn't be blamed for thinking they were real, albeit sentient, trains.
  • The stuffed animals from Winnie-the-Pooh, because many viewers tend to forget that they are stuffed animals and sometimes treat them as if they are just as real as actual living animals like Rabbit and Owl. The Book of Pooh is the exception; Pooh and the other animals fall more under Toy Masquerade, and for whatever reason, only Christopher Robin knows that they're alive, and they can't let his mom know.

Real and Living To Everyone

The toy has somehow become a living being, and no longer looks like a toy. Although these toys may be biologically indistinct from normal living beings, the fact remains that they were created and animated through unconventional means, like Love Imbues Life or Applied Phlebotinum.

    Examples 
  • The titular character from Barney & Friends, when brought to life by the kids' imaginations.
  • In an episode of Bewitched, Clara turns a plush elephant into a real (albeit pink, spotted) one.
  • The Ghost of Martel, after becoming 'real' from the Innocence.
  • All the toy figures in The Indian in the Cupboard series become fully human/real (but still miniature) when the magic key is used on the item containing them (a cupboard, a chest, and a car).
  • In Life Size, Lindsay Lohan's character accidentally brings Eve (a Captain Ersatz of Barbie played by Tyra Banks) to life during a ritual meant to bring her Missing Mom Back from the Dead and subsequently has to deal with Eve's Fish out of Water status and Manic Pixie Dream Girl tendencies. In the end, Eve willingly turns herself back into a doll so that the things she's learned will carry over to all Eve dolls, giving them a much-needed cultural update and saving the entire line from cancellation.
  • In Marvel's Micronauts comic, it was always established that when the title characters ventured from the Microverse to Earth, they and their equipment would emerge tiny, about the size of toys, and their equipment might even be mistaken for such. In their crossover with the X-Men, though, a very confused Cannonball insists his little sister actually owns toys that look just like them, implying the existence of Micronauts toys in the Marvel Universe (it's treated as a joke, of course).
  • Monster of the Month Club: The monsters are supposedly just stuffed animals, but thanks to stellar alignments, they come to life at times. Icicle, Sweetie Pie and Owl are the only ones (as of book 3) to be alive when they arrived, the others were stuffed toys at first and came to life later.
  • Pinocchio, after becoming real, is a little boy who was once a puppet.
  • SCP Foundation has SCP-137, an entity that can possess toys and turn them into real, full sized versions of themselves. As you could expect from SCP Foundation, it's creepy. Imagine kid's beloved Teddy turning into real grizzly.
  • After drinking the appropriate potion, Imaginary Friends from The Sims 3 migrate into this. They become more-or-less ordinary human Sims that everyone can see and interact with, but they can switch over to doll form at will (for no particular benefit beyond storytelling.)
  • The characters in Super Smash Bros. are portrayed this way, being trophies come to life and looking exactly like the regular game characters, with no figurine- or doll-like characteristics within their own universe aside from coming to life from trophies and turning back into trophies when killed. This can be seen in the intro and Giga Bowser's introduction in Melee, and moreso various scenes in The Subspace Emissary (which depicts "dead" trophies more akin to stone statues than figurines). The various bits of Canon Welding reinforce their being on this end of the scale; while they are dreamt up from collectible dolls/trophies in the imaginary Smash Bros. universe, some characters are the same as their fully living canon selves (such as Pit), and some can be summoned in other universes where they are indistinguishable from ordinary humans (like with Marth).
  • There was an early 80's children's show called Today's Special that starred a mannequin that came to life as long as he wore his magic hat and didn't leave the store.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit, after becoming real, is biologically a rabbit but was once a toy.
  • In the Xanth series, Omni Glot Grundy Golem was originally just a golem, made from clay and other odds and ends. The Demon Xanth grants his wish to become alive, which isn't examined in detail, but he's implied to basically be a tiny human from then on.


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