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Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue

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"A funny picture can save a poor joke, a good idea can save poor presentation. Getting them both perfect, however, is an exercise in futility."

When confronted with the antics of the rest of the cast, does the Only Sane Man crack a wry comment or does he sigh and put on a long suffering look?

Does a work of fiction rely on gestures, sweeping shots and visuals to get the story moving, or does it have Walls of Text and loads of conversations?

Naturally, this scale is completely independent of the other sliding scales.

It is not completely dependent on the medium, either, though the medium affects how the balance is perceived. Sweeping shots and visuals in TV and film translate to descriptive paragraphs in text and radio.

The examples which focus on the visuals go on the top, and those that depend on dialogue go to the bottom.



  • Rather obvious, almost all silent films.
  • All examples listed under Silence is Golden.
  • Next to no dialogue is spoken in Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary; the characters' actions and facial expressions do all the talking. Since a fair number of them are Heroic Mimes in their signature franchises (Mario, Link, Samus, Yoshi, etc.) this makes sense in context. However, it enters Fridge Logic territory when Snake joins the brawl... and jumps to Fridge Brilliance when Sonic does.
    • Snake does have one line ("Kept you waiting, huh?") when he first appears, and is also a regular chatterbox in the normal modes if you activate his Codec.
  • Many Cirque du Soleil shows are short on dialogue, and much of said dialogue is merely Speaking Simlish.
  • Samurai Jack did many dialogue-less episodes, often conveying the story via minimalist animation.
  • ICO. Most of what little dialog there was wasn't translated in the NTSC version.
    • Also, it's Spiritual Successor or prequel, Shadow of the Colossus. The very little dialog that there is, is spoken in simlish. Without subtitles you wouldn't know what the characters are saying, not that it is needed to understand the story.
  • The first half of WALL•E has little to no dialogue.
  • minus. probably falls somewhere around here.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture featured large stretches wherein characters would react silently to special effects sequences.
  • Many of Stanley Kubrick's films, particularly 2001 and Barry Lyndon. Of course, Full Metal Jacket and Dr. Strangelove both have their share of memorable lines.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. Visual metaphors abound, from the utterly alien design of the Angels to Mind Screwing religious symbols everywhere. One notable example is Gendo's Scary Shiny Glasses, which become steadily less scarily shiny as we get to know more about his motivations.
  • Primal - Twenty minutes of expository cutscenes before the player gets to do more than just walk through the large, empty Nexus.
    • The trend continues with each new world and situation.
    • In between (and during) the cutscenes are mind-blowing Scenery Porn, though. Puts this kind of in the middle.
  • The comic books where Hermann does both story and drawings (like Jeremiah, for instance) tend to have many pages without words.
  • Works by Mamoru Oshii
  • None of The Sims has any proper dialog, as they all talks simslish. You still can know what they are talking about thanks to the images in the talking bubble and their gestures.
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan, is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel. With heavy emphasis on the "graphic" part. As in, there are NO recognizeable letters or words anywhere within the body of the story.
  • The comic version of 300 used two or three double-spread panels per page with few word balloons or captions. This allowed for Frank Miller's gorgeous art, colored by his wife Lynn Varely, to tell the story.
  • Many Sin City stories tend to have few captions and word balloons spread along "widescreen" panels. The Yellow Bastard is one such example where you have entire pages with only a few words.
  • Bambi was iconic for being one of Disney's most visual heavy pieces, the characters speak less than 900 words of dialogue throughout the entire film, and many shots are focused entirely on scenery and backdrops. It's Midquel, Bambi II has relatively far more extensive conversation scenes, though retains a larger amount of quiet, visual heavy moments than a standard Disney film.
  • The only "character" in The Legend of Lobo who speaks is Rex Allen as the narrator, explaining to us what the cast is thinking and what their individual personalities are. While this is understandable due to most of the cast being animals, there are also two human cattlemen who serve as the villains of the move, and they don't make so much as a peep either.
  • The The X-Files episode "Rm9sbG93ZXJz" contains very little dialogue, largely because Mulder and Scully are the only human characters until the denouement and they spend much of the episode apart.
  • Lamput is almost entirely lacking in dialogue save for Speaking Simlish, so its narratives unfold through the characters' actions.


  • Warhammer 40,000, although it does use the occasional mind blowingly gothic drawing to set the mood, 40k relies mostly on quotations and snippets of fluff to set the plot pieces. Good thing it's one of the most quotable pieces of fiction out there.
  • The Order of the Stick, being a stick figure webcomic, relies on its characters' banter to set up its jokes and distribute its plot coupons. Sometimes a victim of Walls of Text
  • Dinosaur Comics' entire gimmick is that it always has the same crappy clip art images. Fortunately, the dialogue is hilarious.
  • The videogame adaptation of The Death Gate Cycle is heavily on the dialogue side. It's not so much that there aren't enough graphical depictions or whatever, it's just that there's just so much text in this game. Fortunately, it's very good text, and the voice acting on the dialogue is top-notch.
    • Legend Entertainment also did several other book-to-game adaptations in the same style.
  • A lot of the filmmakers who came from the American independent film scene of the early 1990's (such as Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater) focused much more on clever dialogue than impressive visuals. It also helped that it cost significantly less to shoot clever dialogue than clever visuals. Nowadays, independent filmmakers can make gorgeous movies for the cost of an HD camcorder and a laptop.
  • Quentin Tarantino films are usually dialogue heavy.
  • Death Note. It's got pages of Wall of Text, and most of the story is characters monologuing their mind games to themselves or the group.
  • Ever since dialogue was introduced into a Mario game starting with Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine is actually the only game in the series since then to feature full voice acting. By Super Mario Galaxy, everyone's back to talking with dialogue boxes and Voice Grunting. And do you know why? Talking Bowser.
  • Sonichu. The author claims it's to preserve marker ink.
  • Radio Drama in general is at the opposite extreme; some Exposition of the scene is often included, but it's difficult to work too much in without having people Narrating the Obvious.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye can be very wordy at times. The series has included multiple roll call sheets in one issue, a full-page excerpt from an essay, and has had a post-issue prose story on more than one occasion.
  • While Homestuck is known for its flash animations and at times (mainly later in the story) some beautifully drawn art without dialogue, much of the plot is usually told through through Pesterlogs and Dialoglog note , with even some of the more important moments being retold rather than shown.
  • Often the only difference between The Abridged Series and whatever it's based off of is the dialogue.
  • My Dinner with Andre is just dialogue and little to nothing else.
  • Sagrada Reset: Most of the story is carried by exposition and internal monologues instead of visuals. The characters rarely emote and the dialogue just barely avoids being monotone and presents a good opportunity for Worldbuilding.
  • Most Hanna-Barbera cartoons rely heavily on dialogue as the backbone of their stories, to the point that Chuck Jones once derisively referred to them as "illustrated radio".


  • BoJack Horseman has two episodes that are on the two extreme polar opposites. "Fish out of water" is the Silence is Golden example, which could easily be a modern-day setting Charles Chaplin film, with the visuals taking all the protagonism and no dialogue. On the Speech-Centric Work antithesis to this is the episode "Free churro" which literally consists of a long monologue Bojack gives during his mother's funeral. And of course with some Played for Laughs moments, just like you would expect in a stand-up comedy.
  • Children´s picture books, fit this as well. Probably because are targeted to readers who are learning just... to read. So, it is expected from both parents and publishers that illustrations serve as a complement to the words and vice-versa.
  • Star Wars is a complete Scenery Porn orgy. The lightsabers, the ships, the planets, and all the universe as a whole screams visuals everywhere. In particular, the shoot of Luke watching the sunset has become an iconic example of the Show, Don't Tell rule. But also the series is particularly known for having a lot of memorable dialogue as well like the " I am your father" moment (could really this be considered a spoiler?) and the traditional phrase "I have a bad feeling about this" that has been repeated in every film of the saga. The prequel trilogy is the ultimate example of this mostly because of his obvious Shakespearian dialogue´s inspiration ( or well, what most people think how Shakespeare works are ).
  • The classic Looney Tunes cartoons could go anywhere on the scale. In general, Chuck Jones favored visuals while Robert McKimson favored dialogue; Friz Freleng was usually in the middle. As for specific examples, Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons were entirely devoid of dialogue and relied on visual gags. Meanwhile, Foghorn Leghorn was a loudmouth, and as such his cartoons had heavy dialogue to reflect that. Also, the cartoons began to rely more and more on dialogue in later years, particularly the 60s, due to dwindling budgets (and, by extension, increasingly Limited Animation); that being said, exceptions like Now Hear This and Rabbit Stew and Rabbits, Too! (which completely lack dialogue) exist.
  • One could believe that Amazon spent over $500 million (for the first season alone) for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power just to have breath-taking Scenery Porn visuals on par with the Avatar movies. The reveal of capital city of Armenelos and the eruption of Orodruin leading to its turn into the Mount Doom are both iconic scenes. But in the same time, the show is also known for its slow scenes, and having dialogue full of Aphorisms and characters talking Flowery Elizabethan English.