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Uncanny Valley
aka: Western Animation

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This trope is under discussion in the Trope Repair Shop.

Chip: I think we're in the valley... the Uncanny Valley.
Dale: The what?
Chip: Do you remember that weird animation style in the early 2000s where everything looked real, but nothing looked right?
Dale: Oh, yeah... that stuff was creepy.
Chip: Well, I think this is where they ended up.

Sometimes things that aren't realistic look pretty similar to things that are realistic, yet something about them seems wrong in some way and ends up being unsettling.


While the uncanny valley is usually known to be unintentional, it can also intentionally be used in a work — either for creeping out the characters In-Universe, or for deliberately creeping out the audience. As a result, they can be unsettled by someone or something they think lurks in the uncanny valley, even though the thing or character being encountered may very well be harmless. If it's another character rather than an inanimate object who comes across as unsettling, they may end up wondering why others are afraid of them, especially if they're otherwise good-natured.

See also Unintentional Uncanny Valley, for when the reaction comes from viewers seeing something that wasn't meant to be creepy.

Not to Be Confused with the video game Uncanny Valley, the fifth anniversary Channel Awesome movie The Uncanny Valley, or Uncanny Valley from Miraculous Ladybug.


Note: In Universe Examples and Intended Audience Reactions only and No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan The designs of the Titans. The majority are deformed humanoids measuring anywhere between 4 — 15 meters in height, with Barbie Doll Anatomy and creepy, cheerful smiles that never waver regardless of being blown apart or in the midst of devouring their victims. This is further used with the unique, deviant types encountered throughout the course of the story. Eren's Titan form has pointed ears and a skull-like face, while Ymir's Titan form looks animalistic with shark-like teeth, claws, Creepily Long Arms, and fur sprouting along its shoulders. As a result, both look more like traditional non-human monsters in a reflection of their being on the side of humanity. The Armored Titan has an almost robotic appearance, due to the armored plating covering its body and is less creepy than the Colossal Titan and the Female Titan, who are essentially skinless but otherwise very human in appearance. This seems to hint towards Reiner's Becoming the Mask, in contrast to the more more ruthless Bertolt and Annie.
  • Azumanga Daioh references this in one of the Extra Lessons chapters, in which Sakaki admits to being afraid of the mechanical crossing guards at construction sites.
  • In the manga adaptation of Battle Royale, Kazuo Kiriyama was deliberately drawn with no reflection in his eyes. While barely noticeable, it still manages to give his face a look beyond creepy.
  • In Bubblegum Crisis, some characters complain about how creepy the human-like boomers are, such as Nene in Tokyo 2040 regarding the secretary boomer she works for. And that's not counting when they malfunction and transform into Mechanical Monsters. Another example happens in the AD Police Files Prequel, which has a case involving a boomer prostitute going berserk. It turns out that there was a brief market for Ridiculously Human Sexbots until this trope kicked in — most of the sex organs were illegally recycled and used for maidbots and waitress bots that weren't designed for them, causing some of them to go insane (due to a combination of hormonal imbalance and traumatic memories that can't be erased).
  • Buso Renkin: While most homunculi look convincingly human until they transform into spawn of the devil, Papillon's human persona in particular just looks odd. His eyes are always fixed on a lifeless stare bordering between condescension and rage, regardless of the actual emotion he's trying to express, and his pale skin just makes him more unsettling.
  • In Cat Planet Cuties, this is one of the reasons why the Assistroids are in their current form. The last generation were normal-sized Ridiculously Human Robots — due to this, the Catians couldn't see them as "Tools", and a war was fought until the current generation of Assistroids was made.
  • Death Note aims for this with L's design, with his rather unhealthy, pale skin tone, huge eyebags under his bulbous eyes, and his facial features and expressions overall being drawn in a more exaggerated way than the other characters. Given the numbers of fans L has, this backfired.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • The Tachikomas discuss the trope, musing that they are allowed advanced A.I. because they are not humanoid, and that advanced A.I. in an android would creep humans out.
    • Proto just so happens to be an advanced A.I. in an android. Even before this is revealed, there's clearly something... off about him.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Since the Stands are an extension of one's self, the more psychopathic characters often have Stands which are humanoid but have features which trigger mental alarm bells, not unlike a psychopath's public persona. For example, Yoshikage Kira's Killer Queen is always seen with an expressionless skull-like Frozen Face, Dio's The World has enormous lips and dead monotone eyes, and Anjuro "Angelo" Katagiri's Aqua Necklace has a mouthful of fangs and is covered from head to toe in giant eyes.
  • Nui from Kill la Kill is a unique take on this, as her constant Leaning on the Fourth Wall (i.e., leaning on her own Boss Subtitles, stroking a character's hair through a split-screen divider) and the very simple way she's animated (at one point dodging attacks by having her animation cel rotate around them) add to the feeling that there's just something seriously wrong with her.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files uses this as a plot point in "House of Wax". The killer intentionally makes wax statues of his guests that are fantastically detailed but look a little off. This is so that during a series of crimes when it appears that the wax figures are being set up to resemble the scenes of people who will be found murdered, the murderer can pose as a statue using a mask, and no one will examine it too closely since it so clearly looks inhuman.
  • Mazinger Z:
    • The Gamia from the original manga and Mazinkaiser are three identical robot girls. Outwardly, they seem to be three ordinary human girls... except that their skin is unusually pale, their motions are eerily mechanical, their expressions are completely aloof and unchanging, they are nearly always silent and they never blink. Anybody who sees them can immediately tell that there's something seriously wrong with them... before they begin punching holes in walls and shredding things with their razor-sharp hairs.
    • Most of the human-looking androids which Dr. Hell builds are sufficiently well done to reasonably pass for humans — except for an android which looks just like Kouji but which behaves in a different way and can't speak.
  • Discussed in Medaka Box as the reason of why Medaka's drumming solo fails to elicit any kind of reaction from her audience. Her playing is perfect to the point of coming across as cold and mechanical, lacking human emotion to it. Akune expresses that it's similar to the Uncanny Valley effect, although Zenkichi claims it's the opposite: that while Medaka's playing is technically perfect, it lacks any kind of self-expression, making it come off as inhuman and somewhat disturbing.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • It has been said Rei Ayanami was intended to be this. It didn't work.
    • Kaworu's appearance caused this reaction in a lot of viewers.
    • The Mass Production Evangelions from End. The masochistic cyborg harpies who are The Faceless except for their ever-smiling bright-red lips just get to people.
    • Lilith to an extent as well. There's something about a crucified humanoid being that resembles a bloated corpse and with a mask that gives it the appearance of having no face at all that tends to creep some fans of the series out.
  • One Piece: Oda just loves to make Gonk characters so the Uncanny Valley is no stranger to the series.
    • Played straight with Laffitte whose face doesn't change at all, even when damaged.
    • Satori from Skyepeia is just odd, with his completely round glasses, his high voice and "dumpling"-like body.
    • Fukuro of CP9 is just plain weird, thanks to his big round body and his vaguely disturbing, rotten-looking zipper teeth. Plus, there's the insistence of having him by voiced by a female seiyuu in the anime, which just adds to the uncanny.
    • Kumadori is another weirdo who invokes this reaction. However, since he's based off Kabuki theater, as shown by his appearance/behavior, it's more understandable.
    • Most the villains and zombies in Thriller Bark go straight into Uncanny Valley territory, though it's mostly Played for Laughs. The tree zombie is very creepy since it's got a human face stitched to a tree trunk. Hogback and Absalom are very off-putting, especially in Absalom's case since he's not a zombie but still has the mouth of lion and other "parts". Perona and Cindry are more attractive but still have their creepy moments. Finally, Gecko Moria looks like an outright monster despite being supposedly "human".
      • In a similar vein, we have the Homies from Whole Cake Island. While a lot of them are merely talking animals (something not unique to One Piece), others are talking inanimate objects. This, combined with the Alice in Wonderland aesthetic, results in an extremely eerie effect. Made all the more creepy by the fact Homies are actually made from people's souls.
    • Duval's original face is very uncanny before Sanji rearranges it. Of course, thanks to his personalty, he's still pretty freaky even with his new face.
    • Due to the fact that the admirals are based off of famous Japanese actors, this can happen. While the first admiral shown, Aokiji, does look like a normal character, Kizaru is slightly more realistic, and Akainu doesn't even look like he's part of the show, looking exactly like the actor. Fujiora is the same, to Akainu-level creepily realistic.
    • In Dressrosa, three individuals are deep in the Uncanny Valley thanks to personalty quirks.
    • Pudding, thanks to her Split Personality and her deranged distortion of her face (which, by the way, has a third eye).
    • Wano arc
      • Due to being based off Ukiyo-e paintings, Otsuru and Kyoshiro have this effect.
      • The SMILE users from Kaido’s army who have eaten the artificial Devil Fruit that gives them various animal-like appearances. Except unlike Zoan users who just look like perfect human-animal hybrids, SMILE users with only a few exceptions (such as Speed) have animal body parts growing out of them in all sorts of bizarre places. Although the effect is more amusing than unsettling.
      • The failed SMILE users definitely invoke this being very disturbing and extremely tragic. As seen with the poor people of Ebisu Town and Killer who unknowingly ate inefficacious SMILE fruits and now are incapable of showing any emotion beyond joy and laughter even while sobbing in despair.
    • To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Weekly Jump, Oda drew Luffy alongside Goku from the Dragon Ball series. The problem is that Oda didn't even try to draw the latter to fit in his artstyle and ended up giving him Luffy's face.
    • Nearly everybody in One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island thanks to Mamoru Hosoda’s direction, Tatsuya Kushida (who worked on Evangelion and AKIRA)'s animation combined with the context of the story, which is very unlike One Piece (which is saying something). While the movie is still quite good, it's very unsettling to fans. DJ Kappa in particular is exceptionally creepy.
    • Another movie example with One Piece 3D: Straw Hat Chase the first and so far only entirely CG One Piece film. As technically impressive as the film is, it still brushes against this trope, as Oda’s stylised characters can be very jarring when put in 3D, especially Franky and Brook and it also doesn’t help that characters have rather stiff movements. Canon Foreigners, Schneider and his dog Buzz are particularly freaky looking. One Piece: Pirate Warriors despite also being in 3D, doesn’t dip into the Uncanny Valley nearly as much. * Parasyte: The titular monsters, while usually looking human, never blink and have very limited understanding of facial/emotional subtleties that place them quite firmly in this trope. They also are drawn with slightly elongated eyes with sharply pointed ends, giving their faces a distinctly inhuman aspect. Even scarier is that near the end, when police start using these attributes to recognize and kill the parasites, they occasionally kill ordinary (but crazy) humans by mistake.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: While the rest of the characters are drawn and animated in Ume Aoki's style, the witches are each given their own unique styles. Gertrud, the first Witch with a proper fight, has butterfly wings a deformed rosebush for a "head", both of which depicted by paper cutouts of real images. Walpurgisnacht is a giant, upside-down clockwork harlequin doll with no facial features except for lips, and so on.
  • Rebuild World: Discussed, what with Akira's Virtual Sidekick Alpha appearing using an Augmented Reality avatar.
    • When Akira has his first major hand-to-hand fight, it's mentioned that Alpha is keeping perfectly in his vision no matter how wildly he's moving around, meaning that if someone else could see her in that moment, she'd appear to be flying all over the place despite not doing anything that should move her.
    • On one occasion, while Akira walks through a crowd, he asks Alpha why she doesn't walk through people, since she's intangible. Instead of explaining, she just walks through some people to show him why not, making Akira nauseous.
  • This is used in Rozen Maiden whenever the dolls have to act like regular dolls, as shown in the first season's opening. In addition, when Suigintou and Micchan encounter another creator's attempt at making a living doll, they find it unsettling.
  • Saber Marionette J: For the most part, the saber marionettes act as Ridiculously Human Robots, but on two separate occasions, one of them has something happen to her 'maiden circuit' which controls their emotions. They then nosedive instantly into Uncanny Valley territory, marked mostly by their vacant stares and completely lack of movement except when prompted.
  • Squid Girl: Eiko pulls out a really Creepy Doll in episode 11 of Season 1. She later finds the doll's partner, which is broken up a little, freaking out all the girls looking for it.
  • Tiger & Bunny: The Deceptively Human Robot Cis from episode 15 seems to have been deliberately made to look and act just slightly off.
  • In Time of Eve, the robots are all clearly identifiable and do not act human in the slightest — but only because society demands it. Any notion of treating robots as human (or that robots can act human) is vehemently opposed, as shown by the constant anti-robot rights ads that play on TV.
  • Evoked in Trigun whenever the Plants are involved. Vash is a Plant himself but doesn't cause this reaction compared to other Plants and especially his brother, Knives, who is just unsettling and even more so in the manga. In the anime, Vash and Knives were perceived as Creepy Twins for this reason.
  • Wonder Egg Priority: The first few Wonder Killers look like normal humans but with their eyes pixelated out and their mouths drawn far more realistically than the other characters.
  • Referenced offhandedly in The World God Only Knows. One unique girl is trying to make a 'human' out of a remote-controlled box, but people laugh at it. Keima draws a little smiley face on it and adds a cute note, and suddenly people start to help out. The girl then decides to put a mannequin head on it to make it even more human... and it creeps people out to see a box with a human head on top rolling through the hallway.

    Comic Books 
  • If you have ever wondered why certain characters — such as Batman — have irisless white eyes in their masks, it's actually meant to invoke this. Lee Falk, the artist of The Phantom, claimed that he was inspired to give the Phantom white eyes after looking at Greek statues, with an "inhuman" effect suitiable for a masked vigilante. Ironically, this trend has stuck so well that it's actually more uncanny to see the likes of Batman having normal eyes.
  • Beautie from Astro City is a living, life-sized Barbie doll who can pass for human at first glance but soon reveals her artificial nature through her mannerisms. She's also painfully aware of it, and deeply disturbed when men find her attractive.
  • Fall of Cthulhu introduces a brand-new character to the Cthulhu Mythos: the Harlot, a keeper of all men's secrets, whose giant green head houses a nose too flat and a pair of juicy red lips a little too big. She's a wonderful example of what a Humanoid Abomination would look if it took up burlesque fashion.
  • In the early issues of the 1978 Spider-Woman run, this is Jessica Drew's curse, such that the comic's early tagline is "To know her is to fear her!", and later "Marvel's Most Misunderstood Heroine!" Biologically part spider and raised among the High Evolutionary's beast men, there's something subtly but indisputably "off" about her body language and demeanor that makes most people instinctively afraid of her, making it almost impossible for her to find a home or earn an honest living, let alone have any friends. She eventually learns that she's been emitting a pheromone which creeps everyone out (though some men find it very attractive) — when she learns how to control it via medical means, she's able to live a much more normal life.
  • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, this is a big reason why Empurata victims are shunned by society: the amputation of their faces and hands strips them of their Cybertronian identity, while they can still speak, move and transform. For Cybertronians, Empurata victims are horribly disfigured, even though to the readers, they're still just robots (since Cybertronians are already on the far side of the valley).
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate FF: Sue finds it disturbing to see Reed twisting his body into several arms and asks him to look "normal" for a moment.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man: The thief who kills Ben Parker is scared out of his mind when he is attacked by Spider-Man: a man with a full body costume and weird eyes who can stick to walls! Keep in mind that at this point, the only superhuman who people knew about was Captain America, back in World War II.
  • The Vision is noted at various times to cause this In-Universe, particularly both him and his family in The Vision (2015). They have emotions, but their emotional responses seem "off" compared to most people (sometimes muted to the extreme, sometimes well beyond what would be considered normal), and their bodies feel "off" when touched (one character likens the title character's handshake to a warm sandwich bag).
  • Discussed in Basil Wolverton's "Robot Woman!" from Weird Mysteries. Despite being billed as the perfect mate, Fozzmo's creation makes people uneasy with her caricatured features and wide-eyed glare.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence:
    • The Geisha-gynoids are chalk-white, life-sized Creepy Dolls modeled after Hans Bellmar's doll-sculptures and every bit as creepy. Their staggering mechanical movements and speech have just the slightest trace of humanity to put them in the Valley.
    • Batou and Togusa discuss the nature of the Uncanny Valley with a forensics scientist named Haraway, who ponders why humans are obsessed with recreating themselves. Haraway seems like a highly cynical but overall laid-back older woman — until Batou and Togusa leave, upon which she takes her face off and plugs cables into her eyes. If you look carefully, you can deduce her cyborg status by her wearing short sleeves in extreme cold and her breath not being visible, even though Togusa's is.
    • Kim had his brain put into a cybernetic body which is shaped and moved like a wooden puppet on strings. To Kim, the deepest point of the Uncanny Valley is the closest any being can come to perfection. As a result, his whole Big Fancy House is full of human-sized dolls, puppets, and robots.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers has an Animated Actors neighborhood named Uncanny Valley, consisting of Turn of the Millennium 3D characters that looked realistic but seemed very off. The most prominent of them, Bob the Dwarf, is introduced right away with the title characters complaining his design makes it hard to know if he's making eye contact.
  • According to the makers of Ex Machina, Ava was specifically designed to evoke this. Large parts of her body are transparent and contain visible electronics, while wherever she wears skin, she looks lifelike yet impossibly perfect. Her movement is not like a stereotypical robot's with jerky movements and mechanical noises, but instead very smooth and accompanied by soft, hard-to-pinpoint sounds. Alicia Vikander, having been a ballet dancer, manages to make her graceful walk and other movements look almost human but with something inexplicably off. The whole concept of her character is to find out whether someone knowing she is a machine will be able to overcome or even skip the discomfort/revulsion caused by the Uncanny Valley and instead find her human and sympathetic.
  • Christiane's White Mask of Doom in Eyes Without a Face achieves this effect with its blank expression and perfect skin, which clashes with its realistic detail.
    Christiane: My face frightens me. My mask frightens me more.
  • I, Robot: Detective Spooner asks why Doctor Calvin strives to make the robots so human, adding that people wouldn't trust them otherwise. He also adds that he finds the new models having faces makes them creepy.
  • Mean Girls: Cady finds Mrs. George to fall deep into the Valley thanks to her plastic surgery. The sight of her fake breasts approaching Cady is met with "Psycho" Strings, and Cady is clearly unnerved by her lack of reaction to her little chihuahua gnawing on her tit.

  • In Bequin, Beta finds the Blackwards dolls deeply unsettling due to how highly detailed and lifelike they are, such as the girl doll having a wig of actual human hair. She finds them even more unsettling when they come to life and attack her.
  • In Frankenstein, the title character explains that he had to make his creature 8 feet tall to successfully construct the tiniest parts of him. The result is a monster that everyone is scared of at first glance, including the creature itself. The monster was constructed to be Tall, Dark, and Handsome, and despite the beauty; upon the Monster's rejuvenation, Victor was repulsed because of this trope.
  • In William Saroyan's The Human Comedy, Mr. Mechano (who advertises a particular brand of patent medicine in a drugstore window) frightens Ulysses so badly that he runs through the streets calling for his family.
    The man moved like a piece of machinery, although he was a human being. He looked, however, as if he had been made of wax instead of flesh. He seemed inhuman and in fact he looked like nothing so much as an upright, unburied corpse still capable of moving. The man was the most incredible thing Ulysses had seen in all of his four years of life in the world.
  • Discussed in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, not as a vague feeling of uneasiness but rather as a general moral rule in-universe:
    Mr. Beaver: There may be two views about Humans (meaning no offense to the present company). But there's no two views about things that look like Humans and aren't.
    Mrs. Beaver: I've known good dwarfs.
    Mr. Beaver: So've I, now you come to speak of it, but precious few, and they were the ones least like men. But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that's going to be Human and isn't yet, or used to be Human once and isn't now, or ought to be Human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet.
  • Sector General: One of the series' main alien cultures is the Kelgians, who are human-sized furry mammalian caterpillars, with constantly mobile fur that expresses their emotions. In one of the later novels, a character is introduced from a different species, which has a similar body plan but black, immobile fur. Apparently, he looks to Kelgians like their equivalent of a Humanoid Abomination.
  • Serdra from The Silent War is an immortal in her 130s, with a youthful face yet somehow radiates age. Her nearly emotionless demeanor and constantly intense gaze disturbs people, and she tends to let her pupil do the talking to Muggles.
  • Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is always described by other characters as looking "deformed" somehow, despite having no outwardly noticeable disfigurements, and express a violent loathing of him at first sight despite being unable to find a particular point of disagreement.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffyverse:
    • The three creepiest characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer are generally considered to be Gnarl, the Gentlemen, and Sid. The first two by virtue of exaggerated and odd movement, and the last due to being a self-animating ventriloquist's dummy.
      • The "lead" Gentleman, played by Doug Jones, famous for his equally creepy performances as "The Pale Man" (also known as 'the creepy guy with eyes on his hands') and the faun in Pan's Labyrinth. Also the creepy "Angel of Death" (also known as 'the creepy guy with eyes on his wings'. is there a pattern here?) and much less creepy Abe Sapien from the Hellboy movies. As a trained mime and body artist, he clearly excels at placing himself smack in the middle of the Uncanny Valley.
    • April the Robot from "I Was Made To Love You". She's an in-universe example, as the main characters all slowly realize there is something wrong with the super-cheery way she talks, the way she walks, and eventually her huge amounts of strength.
    • Played with with Warren's second creation, the Buffybot. Though it has the same problems as April, her friends fail to realize they're talking to a robot, merely thinking that their friend that they've known for years is behaving oddly for some reason, until Buffy herself shows up.
  • The mascot from Community falls under this trope. Having been designed to have no ethically distinguishing features, it ended up being an androgynous White Mask of Doom.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Robots of Death", the Doctor describes how, in a society rife with humanlike servant robots, the total lack of body language from them results in some people developing a chronic form of this trope called "robophobia" or "Grimwade's Syndrome" (after a BBC staffer who kept winding up working on robot-centric Who stories), where the robots come off as "walking, talking dead men." One character suffers from robophobia, and slowly grows increasingly unstable as a result of the the murders of his crewmen by modified robots. The main villain of the story, meanwhile, was raised solely by robots, and finds humans to be the uncanny ones.
    • Used intentionally to great effect with the Weeping Angels. Played by actors, in special makeup, while using unusual, robotic movements to make them appear extremely creepy.

  • David Bowie: Purposely invoked via makeup and image manipulation with the photos of the various characters in the liner notes for 1. Outside, as well as on the album itself with their spoken-word "segues" between songs, which are digitally tweaked to vary the voices further. It doesn't take long to realize Bowie is playing all of them, including the women; the low point of the valley here is Baby Grace Blue, the 14-year-old girl whose murder kicks off the story.
  • The Caretaker:
    • The heavily sample-based music is designed to evoke this, quietly distorting the originals in ways meant to be atmospheric ambience, yet always subtly off by way of low quality, vinyl scratching sounds, and inappropriate looping and inconsistent track-by-track flow. His more conceptual albums like An Empty Bliss Beyond This World and Everywhere at the End of Time are meant to be musical illustrations of the headspace of those suffering from mental disorders like Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and become even more unsettlingly warped and disturbing over time in a way that evokes losing your mind.
    • In a more visual sense of this, the accompanying album cover illustrations by Ivan Seal also count. While his paintings never depict human subjects, the inanimate sculptures he does depict are nevertheless very ambiguous, unidentifiable, and quietly impossible, behaving in ways that wouldn't make sense in real life. There's something "real" in them, but garbled under twisted abstraction.
  • The genre of hyperpop feeds off of this trope. All of the over-repetitiveness of some phrases, bright poppy colors and a background whine in some songs make you feel just a little off. Not to mention the vocals being pitched just a little higher than usual and the utter vapidity of some songs. A proper example of this trope and a big part of the genre, GFOTY really lives up to this, or Lipgloss Twins who just don't feel right in this song are true to this trope.
    • SOPHIE, one of the genre's popularizers (if not originator) is a master at this, taking a step further by designing all her sounds from scratch, designing bizarre synths comparable to rubber/plastic/elastic using waveforms and chaotically integrating them in her tracks. The end results resemble songs inspired by hyper-polished 2000s-era bubblegum pop, but as if entirely created by "hyperkinetic" aliens.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Many a mythical creature in human guise falls under this category, most notably changeling children and angels from The Bible. Though usually said to be beautiful, these disguised beings are also claimed to have something off about them that the human witnessing them can't quite pin down until they learn their true identity.
  • Examples abound in various mythologies. From Classical Mythology comes Pygmalion's creation of the most beautiful sculpture, who the Gods cause to become human, a woman made from stone. In Celtic Mythology, Blodeuwedd is a beautiful woman fashioned originally from flowers who has no conception of what it is to actually be human. She is later transformed into an owl — a night bird considered to be a non-worldly thing of the Otherworld — for her failings whilst trying to be human.

  • The NPR series On the Media did a segment on the Uncanny Valley phenomenon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Blanks are people born without a soul. While they look and act like completely regular people, other people are subconsciously aware of their lack of a soul, and the sheer unnaturalness of it causes them to instinctively hate and fear Blanks. Even if being a Blank makes you immune to the Warp, it won't do much good when you get lynched by an angry mob.

    Video Games 
  • The Working Joes from Alien: Isolation provide an in-universe example. The company that makes them is suggested to be far behind Weyland-Yutani technologically and can't produce the like-humans-but-not-quite-there synthetic androids the setting is known for, so they produce robots that look like bad crash test dummies cheaply for the mass market and use their less-than-perfect appearance as a marketing spin. Of course, they're still terrifying as they shrug off your firepower and give you False Reassurance while doing the The Slow Walk towards you and intending to strangle you. Not even setting them on fire slows them down.
  • BioShock:
    • The first game seems to make intentional use of this phenomenon - the grotesque, ex-human Splicers are even more unnerving for how human they still look. The first ghost you encounter subtly lampshades this: "I'm too spliced up! I'm too spliced up! Now nobody's gonna want me...." The Little Sisters are also examples of the trope.
    • BioShock 2 has redesigned the Little Sisters to make them cuter and more cartoony because the player character's viewpoint is a Big Daddy, who cares for them more than anything else; he doesn't find them creepy, neither should the player. Splicers, on the other hand, are still in the valley, because the PC sees them as threats to his Little Sisters. BioShock 2 brings up the valley when a journal of Andrew Ryan describes an animatronic replica of him built for a theme park as a "lurching, waxen nightmare" and wonders how children are supposed to respond to that. Indeed, the first time one of the animatronics is encountered can be startling because it appears to be a slightly less than normal human sitting completely still. Then you attack it and it breaks apart completely.
    • It's brought up again in BioShock Infinite as intentional on the developers' part for the Motorized Patriot, who was in fact based on a nightmare of Ken Levine's about the porcelain dolls his grandparents had when he was a child.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Played for Laughs with the tiny, harmless little rodents known as nugs. They are absolutely unable to hurt anything, totally docile, and most typically just kind of walk around in circles aimlessly looking for food until they hit a wall. Yet there are still several characters and codex entries that find them creepy because instead of rodentlike limbs, their limbs end in weirdly humanlike hands. Hands.
    • Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening:
      • Justice falls right into the Uncanny Valley... because he's an animated corpse possessed by a spirit from the Fade. Of course he'll look like a corpse!
      • The Architect is much more human-looking then other darkspawn, which just makes it creepier when you notice that his hat is actually part of his head, and that when he takes his mask off you can see that his eyes are misaligned.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, this is done deliberately with the companion Cole — a Spirit of Compassion who has taken the appearance of a mage he previously met and comforted as the man was dying. Spirit Cole looks malnourished and has bags under his eyes because Mage Cole was dying from starvation after being locked in a jail cell by an abusive Templar guard. The issue is more pronounced because of his strange mannerisms as a spirit while still looking human, which only Solas can understand, or the fact he doesn't need to eat, drink or even sleep. Also, due to his spirit nature he can read a person's mind and can immediately know their deepest secrets, or know how past events in their life could have gone had they chosen differently, which they naturally find uncomfortable. If you side with Varric on his personal quest, he becomes more human... and starts complaining about how much he dislikes having to eat.
  • Fallout 4 plays with this. To the people of the New England Commonwealth, the Institute's 1st- and 2nd-generation Synths, which look like SkeleBots and Murderous Mannequins respectively, are pure Nightmare Fuel because of this trope. 3rd-generation Synths, which can pass for human, are pure Paranoia Fuel. But potential companion Nick Valentine averts Uncanny Valley, since he's a discarded prototype with obviously fake "skin" and enough wear and tear to have his robot parts showing. As a result, he looks (and acts) human enough to be reassuring, but still obviously a robot instead of an infiltrator, and so is tolerated in Diamond City and even able to work as a private investigator.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Fire Emblem: The Elibe duology invokes this as part of its Artificial Humans theme. A few things that both war dragons and morphs have in common are that they're both described as hardly feeling sentient, being produced in masses by the games' respective final bosses, and a majority of them lacking any proper intelligence, which results in them looking very "off" compared to the two species (Manaketes and Humans respectively) they're modeled after. They also tend to lack emotions, though in the case of Blazing Blade, Kishuna is capable of displaying them.
  • Used liberally in Five Nights at Freddy's to make the animatronics more disturbing. Nothing more charming than pulling up a camera and seeing a robot that wasn't there before and now looking back at you to make you feel all nice and cozy at night. Of note is the history behind the characters: Scott Cawthon originally developed kid-friendly games, but one such game, Chipper & Sons Lumber Co., was criticized for having characters that look like creepy animatronics. After a Creator Breakdown, Scott decided to turn this flaw into an advantage by creating a horror game about creepy animatronics. Special mention goes to Toy Chica from Five Nights at Freddy's 2, who is the very incarnation of Fanservice gone horribly wrong. A yellow chicken-girl robot wearing attire that leaves very little to the imagination is slightly unsettling in and of its own, but when she starts roaming, she takes it above and beyond because her eyes and beak somehow disappear, leaving her with a very freaky Game Face.
  • The final boss of Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Fecto Forgo, looks a lot like a human embryo and has uncannily photorealistic and detailed eyes, which is especially apparent when they dramatically open their eyes and deliver their threat to consume everything. Their true form as Fecto Elfilis also has this trait, as while they have a humanoid, angelic design, they also have disproportionately large hands, Creepy Long Fingers, and digitigrade legs, which adds to their appearance as an Angelic Abomination. Both are clearly meant to look otherworldly and just plain wrong, since they are an invader not native to this world, and plan on subsuming the entire planet for their own purposes.
  • This is invoked with the Manikins in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. In-universe, it is discussed that they are not human, and even though they do look a lot like them, the characters just think there's something... off. In the game, their tendencies to do random spasms, their mostly expressionless faces and pale skin (pale even by Megaten standards) are unsettling at best. They are usually friendly, however.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The Blue Badger. He's only a battery-powered wooden panel of a mascot, but his vacant eyes, perma-smile, and jerky movements make him creepy to many characters. Phoenix mentions that if a child saw it, they'd probably have nightmares. It's a 3D model in a mostly 2D game. And Edgeworth... well, he sums it up pretty nicely.
    "What the HELL is that wriggling piece of plywood?!"
    • Calisto Yew from Ace Attorney Investigations falls into the trope because of how she behaves in the courtroom. She frequently bursts into laughter, even while talking about serious subjects like murder and her own past, and does it when she takes a hostage during the case she shows up in. Edgeworth himself finds her to be creepy.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies's Video Game 3D Leap gives it, of course, the chance to play this intentionally. Two examples come to mind: Aristotle Means and that goddamn smile, and the phantom and his loose mask.
      • Speaking of the phantom from the final case, their entire character seems to have been an intentional example of this. For context, the phantom is a Master of Disguise who does not feel anything, yet can convey facial expressions as if he does. When Phoenix and company start to corner him, his facial expressions start to mismatch his statements, such as smiling when he's trying to sound angry. When Athena runs her Mood Matrix on him, she finds that there is zero emotion in his voice whatsoever, despite the way he's gesturing with each line; in a subsequent testimony, his emotions start fluctuating all over the place in an attempt to keep in control of himself. It's a very disturbing effect that makes the player wonder if he's even human anymore.

    Web Animation 
  • Extra Credits has mentioned the Uncanny Valley several times. First in an episode specifically about it, then revisited in a Halloween episode and again in an episode about Kinect's controls.
  • going to the store and its sequels invoke this with featureless, unemotive CGI mannequins, their absurd bodily movements, and the remarkably high attention to detail in inserting them into real-world settings.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device mentions in episode 20 that the Salamanders invoke this reaction in the common citizens of the Imperium, as they have jet-black, coal-like skin and glowing red eyes.
  • RWBY:
    • In Volume 1, Penny looks human, but her mannerisms and speech are odd. She isn't familiar with having friends and her social skills are stilted, blunt and naive. After being knocked to the ground, she enthusiastically carries on a conversation, and doesn't think to get back to her feet until it's pointed out. By Volume 2, her mannerisms are only slightly stilted and are much more human.
    • The Volume 6 episode "Alone in the Woods" is setting off a horror-based mini-plotline. As the characters feel increasingly lethargic, the pupils of their eyes become increasingly dilated until they look extremely creepy and zombie-like. The reason turns out to be a pack of Apathy Grimm trapped beneath the farmstead, which are slowly eating away everyone's will to live.
  • Referenced in a Teen Girl Squad cartoon, where Japanese Culture Greg is going to the prom with Chizuko, his robot date.
    Science Fiction Greg: You think I'd be into life-size realistic robots, but that thing makes me want to barf up my earlier energy drink into the one I'm currently drinking.


    Web Original 
  • Asenath of the Binder of Shame is a very pretty woman with a deformed arm, which according to the narrator isn't what creeps him out; what creeps him out is the fact that her clothes are "part schoolgirl outfit, part leatherwear", "she never seemed to blink", and "she was pretty much making out with the GM the whole time we played".
  • Hamster's Paradise:
    • A more tragic example happened with the Always Chaotic Evil harmsters and the peaceful but comparatively primitive splinsters. Both of them are furry bipeds with forward facing eyes, long tufted tails and use spears as their primary weapons. However, the splinsters also have long necks and vaguely elephantine faces that the harmsters found disturbing which led to the naturally sadistic species wiping them out.
    • The harmsters had a similar reaction to the ripperoo, the predatory animals that the harmsters originally evolved from. They're large, savage and animalistic but still have an unnerving resemblance to the harmsters, this led to one culture of Matriarch Harmster to view them as monsters to be eradicated while another would go on to see them as death gods and try to placate them with offerings.
    • The white-eyes are a species of southhound that developed white sclerae to better nonverbally communicate with each other during hunts. This strange appearance combined with their general silence has led to other dark eyed southhounds finding them disturbing and preferring to avoid them.
    • The bat-like desert falcyons have a very canine-like head thanks to convergent evolution which makes them deeply unnerving to the dog-like drysander northhounds, especially since they will sometimes prey on drysander pups. This earned them a reputation in drysander folklore as flying monsters with the faces of people that swoop down on children.
  • In Ilivais X, Iriana is meant to be at the very bottom of this — mostly expressionless, very cold, looks like a monochrome walking corpse, can't ever die outside an energy source, gets off to being stabbed, etc. — and she hates it.
  • One of The Journal Entries describes an encounter that gave a Pendorian this effect. Set shortly after Pendor first contacts Earth, the story involves one of the diplomats attending a convention which has a large Furry contingent. One of the costumers has made a very careful study of the diplomat (apparently from news coverage) and produced a costume that looks exactly like her. If only the face wasn't so completely still...
  • Lester the Manbogey in Mortasheen is a bio-construct designed to spy on and study colonies of humans by blending in as a human itself. However, it's noted to have a 100% failure rate; even human newborns can immediately tell that Lester is an imposter. Lester's creators are baffled how, since other races can't tell it apart from a real human.
  • Many AI generated images can come across as this, especially ones of people.

    Western Animation 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: This trope is alluded to, and parodied, in the episode "Frankendoodle". The drawings of the characters that come to life are described in-universe as being "kinda creepy when they move". And Patrick is obviously put off by DoodleBob because he resembles, but never entirely imitates, SpongeBob. In universe, DoodleBob is seen as disturbing, unsettling, and creepy.
  • Xavier: Renegade Angel has a graphical style reminiscent of early 3D games, down to all the imperfections in the models and movement. As a result, everything looks disturbingly alien.


Video Example(s):

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Uncanny Analog Horror

MatPat explains why the Uncanny Valley works so well in Analog Horror, citing three works he discussed in previous videos as examples.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / UncannyValley

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