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Unimpressive Progress Reveal

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"Please tell me I'm almost there. Does the air seem a bit thin to you up here?"

"Excellent! The first three feet are the hardest."
— Sherpa Richard P. Offsteader, Back at the Barnyard, "Mission: Save Bigfoot"

Sometimes a character has a task to accomplish. They may have to climb some insane cliffs, reach the top of a long stairway, or cross a street. After a moment of preparation, they launch themselves to the task, usually shown as a Travel Montage. They give it their all. They sweat, gasp for breath, and struggle to push themselves for what seems like hours to complete the task.

Except, as we see when the camera pans out, they've only made a tiny amount of progress in the overall goal. Almost always Played for Laughs. They may or may not continue on with their task, but if they do continue, the rest of the task is usually not seen and the characters seem O.K. at the end, giving the impression that it was only the very start that was that difficult.

See also Not so Dire and Stop Drowning and Stand Up. Compare Not So Remote. Subtrope of Reveal Shot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The opening to the second season of KonoSuba shows the party heading out for a quest, bursting with enthusiasm. Then all but Darkness are falling behind, then stumbling, then lying down exhausted... and then a shot shows they are still in sight of their starting town.
  • In My Hero Academia, Katsuki Bakugo throws a ball with his quirk, making it fly ten times as far as it would if he'd thrown it normally. Several arcs later, he does the same thing to show how much better he's gotten, only for the results to be virtually identical.
  • In One Piece, Usopp is desperate to get off Bowin Island and back to Luffy, and fellow stranded adventurer Heracles continuously tells him it's impossible to escape to the outer island. Also due to eating the island's enticing food, Usopp is extremely fat now.
    Usopp: (sprinting) Look at that, I think I made it! Is that the shore!?
    Heracles: You've barely gone 50 feet.
    Usopp: Noooo!

    Comic Strips 
  • In an early Garfield strip, Garfield decides to take up jogging. He jumps out of bed and spends two panels running and panting. In the final panel, we see that he has reached his food bowl, all of two feet away.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen: When Anna and Kristoff reach the North Mountain, Anna begins scaling the rock wall as Kristoff teases her for her inability to climb. After a few shots, the camera pans out and we see Anna about five feet up the side of the cliff.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Po starts climbing the stairs to the temple. The scene cuts to several hours later and Po falls to the ground out of breath, then the camera zooms out and reveals he's only made it up about five steps.
  • In Up, Carl attempts to make Russell climb up to his house by the garden hose tethering it. After Russell climbs out of frame, Carl listens to him grunting in effort for a while, then asks him if he's reached the porch yet before looking up. Pan out on Russell clinging to the hose two feet above Carl's head before sliding down, exhausted.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played for Drama in Armageddon (1998). After landing on the killer asteroid, Harry Stamper and his team have exactly eight hours to drill a shaft eight hundred feet deep to plant a bomb before it crosses "zero barrier" and cannot be deflected away from Earth. After a Hard-Work Montage that lasts two and a half hours in-universe, Colonel Sharp demands an update and is less than pleased when Stamper admits they're only at 57 feet.
  • Cool Runnings: During the training, Derice, Junior, and Yul do pull-ups easily, while Sank hangs from the bar. Much later, when the four are shown pulling up again, Sanka seems to be progressing... until the camera goes down to show Blitzer holding his legs and pushing him up.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when young Willy Wonka decides that he will go out and explore the world, we're treated to a Montage of flags, to symbolize the countries he has visited. Then a museum guard tells him it's time to close and we see that he had been walking through the museum's "Flags of the World" exhibit.
  • In the Garfield film, Garfield sets out to rescue Odie from Happy Chapman, only to initially not even have the energy to leave the driveway. He then goes back inside to refuel on junk food before trying again.
  • The Jerk: Navin leaves home to seek his fortune, and starts by trying to hitch a ride. That evening, his family wonders how he's doing, so they call out the window and ask. He hasn't been picked up yet. Then a car picks him up and carries him about 25 feet, dropping him off barely at the edge of his family's farmhouse property.
    Trucker: How far are you going?
    Navin: St. Louis. How far are you going?
    Trucker: To the end of this fence.
    Navin: OK.
  • A completely unintentional one in Moby-Dick, due to modern audience's different expectations of pacing: The characters board, families wave goodbye, the Pequod sets off and we are treated to a long montage of sailors working the sails and rigging - only to cut back to the same old ladies still waving and the ship still in the harbor.

  • Played with twice in Mr. Men:
    • In Mr Busy, the title character takes Mr Slow on a picnic with him, and rushes away from Mr Slow's front door; and by the time Mr Busy had walked a mile, do you know how far Mr Slow had walked? (Turn the page) To his own garden gate!
    • In Mr Tall, the title character goes for a walk with Mr Small, but forgets about him, and walks home, a distance of forty miles. Mr Small also walks home, forty miles. He got there yesterday.
  • Played somewhat seriously in Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. He and his friend Katz have struggled through the woods on the Appalachian trail for weeks, probably almost two months by now, suffering all the way, and when they are at an off-trail rest stop that has a map with the trail oriented in an up-down position, Bill checks their location... and realizes that on a map that has the trail several feet in length, they have only done 2 inches. After a minute of despair, it turns into a good thing, as they decide to skip some parts of the trail that are mostly a boring slog, and to jump on and off the trail at different spots to concentrate on the really nice, scenic parts.
  • In Witch Week, Nan is continuously humiliated by her inability to do a Gym Class Rope Climb. Once, she tries climbing with her eyes closed so she can concentrate without seeing the laughing faces of her classmates. After several minutes of strenuous effort, she opens her eyes to check how high she's got and finds that she hasn't made any significant progress at all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "The Girl Who Died" the Doctor and his companion attempt the Training the Peaceful Villagers when a Viking settlement is threatened by an alien invasion. The results are absolutely Played for Laughs: a basic swordfighting exercise somehow leads to the village being on fire.
  • In the Kenan & Kel made-for-TV movie "Two Heads are Better than None," the Rockmores (and Kel) take a road trip and end up stranded in the desert when Kel removes wires from the car's engine because they're pretty. After some encouragement, Kenan and Kel offer to walk to the nearest town, which is ten miles away, to get help. An apparent Time Skip passes, and we see Kel dramatically saying that he's dying of thirst; he falls to the ground, groaning for Kenan to go on without which point Kenan turns around and asks for some water bottles, because the family car is ten feet behind them.
  • Happens repeatedly in the Ron Obvious sketch of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Ron's manager keeps signing him up to do incredible stunts which he utterly fails to do, such as long jumping across the English Channel (he makes it about 5 feet out of 20 miles), eating Westminster Cathedral (fails to get a single bite out of it before damaging his teeth) and digging a tunnel to India (gets about five feet down and zero feet laterally, as they didn't think to get a shovel first).
  • A dialogue-based example occurs in Spaced: Daisy decides to write up a house-cleaning rota for the flat. Cue Daisy typing to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto 1, with shots of various household implements overlaid, all set up to suggest that it's a grand, massive undertaking on par with writing an epic novel. When she gets to the end, she promptly passes out on her typewriter from exhaustion. Tim then awakens her and reveals when asked that she'd only been typing for two-and-a-half minutes.
  • In the Top Gear Bolivia special, the team are dropped off somewhere on the banks of the Amazon in the middle of the rainforest. After taking a full day to unload their cars from the barge, they camp out and start to head into the jungle the next morning. Cue montage of machete use, undergrowth falling, gratuitous shots of pouring water over their own heads to cool down, the cars driving through the cleared path, and other "great adventure"-type shots. Then Jeremy notices he's forgotten his phone on the shore, and he'll have to go back for it. The other two roll their eyes and wish him luck as he heads off, then about fifteen seconds later he calls to check whether he left it on the rock or by the log.

  • In the music video for Attitude City by Ninja Sex Party, Danny is shown jogging himself to the point of exhaustion, before the camera pans back to a shot of him about 15ft from where he started.

    Video Games 
  • Baba's character video from F-Zero GX is made up of several of these. First, we see him jump into the air, apparently leaping a great distance, only to then reveal he hopped over a small puddle of water. Next, we see him scale a cliff, only to zoom out and see the "cliff" is barely taller than he is. Finally, we see him holding up a boulder using only his finger, only to zoom out to show that the boulder is being held up by a crane.
  • In the intro of Left 4 Dead, the survivors fight their way through a horde of bloodthirsty Infected (including the deadly Special Infected) and just barely escape with their lives. The following Wham Line hammers home just how desperate their situation is:
    Louis: We made it... I can't believe we made it!
    Bill: Son, we just crossed the street. Let's not throw a party until we're out of the city.

  • One comic parody of Bloodborne showed a player booting up the game and (apparently) grappling with its Nintendo Hard nature. Many looks of frustration and anger are shown until at last, he wipes some sweat off his brown satisfied with his accomplishment... of finally completing the Character Customization.
  • One Housepets! comic shows Maxwell deciding he's gotten buff enough to impress Grape after not really trying. According to his chosen trainer, Kevin, he only completed half a rep. The comic shows the minuscule change in his arm-flex. Grape even throws a lampshade on it while simultaneously humoring him.
    Grape: Oh Maxie, I'd think you were pathetic if you weren't so adorable.
    Maxwell: Careful babe, Geneva declared possession of these guns a war crime.
  • One Pixie and Brutus comic has Pixie determinedly climbing a tree, but then she looks down and gets to scared to continue climbing and asks Brutus for help. He carefully lifts her down, and she remarks that she must have been really close to the top. The view pans out to show that she was, at most, three feet off the ground, but Brutus decides to just humor her and agree that yes, she was.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman: In "A Horse Walks Into a Rehab", during hiking therapy, we see Bojack completely exhausted and having to be carried by two men... to the starting point of the trail, on which he immediately collapses. This repeats later when we see him fall to his knees of exhaustion, only to reveal he moved a few meters at most. Subverted the third time when we see him needing to stop to rest, and it's revealed that while nowhere near completion, he has actually made good progress this time.
  • CatDog has the title character spend the whole day climbing Mount Nearburg to try and get a head-start from Mindy Wonderful. Unfortunately, by the time tomorrow comes around, they only managed to climb a small elevated ledge from ground height and could have walked around instead.
  • The Chipmunks: In "The Greatest Show-Offs on Earth" Theodore attempts tightrope walking for Uncle Ben's Celebrity Circus; we see he makes it halfway across the rope (though, just barely), and appears very proud of his achievement, then we see the camera pan out to reveal he's only six inches from the ground. Eleanor even points this out when Jeanette applauds Theodore for his feat.
  • In the Duck Dodgers episode "Samurai Quack", Dodgers is shown struggling to climb a mountain — of course, when he looks down, he's only a few feet off the ground.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "The Great Dime Chase!", a broken elevator forces Louie to climb the stairs to the 57th floor of Scrooge's money bin. After much struggling, sweat, and panting, he reaches... the second floor.
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Virt-Ed-Go", Ed is asked to climb a tree so they can build their new clubhouse on it. Ed struggles for a bit and asks for help, and the next shot shows he'd only made it a few feet up the tree.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "Camp Keep a Good Mac Down", Mr. Herriman ventures into the forest in search of food for his friends, and he becomes more afraid the darker and more mysterious it becomes. And he starts to panic.
    Mr. Herriman: Oh. Oh dear. My bearings, they seem to have become misplaced. What's that noise? Hello?! HELP! HELP! MADAME FOSTER!
    Madame Foster: Yes?
    [cut to reveal he's only a few feet away from the camp]
    Mr. Herriman: [nervous laugh] I mean, t-that's what you would have said if any of you went into the woods. [laughs] ...Tally-ho. [hops into the woods] A-hunting we will... Hello? Hello? HEEEEELP!
    [Madame Foster facepalms]
  • Garfield and Friends: In "Weighty Problem", Jon makes Garfield go jogging with him, and it only takes a short while before Garfield collapses from exhaustion.
    Jon: Garfield, we're still in front of our house.
    Garfield: Yeah, but it's a long driveway.
  • Grossology: In "Squirmed", Petunia takes Abby rock climbing in an attempt at mother-daughter bonding. In the next scene showing a closeup of them climbing, Petunia suffers acrophobia before the scene pans out to show she is only about ten feet off the ground, much to Abby (who isn't even climbing)'s embarrassment.
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Veterans Day", Arnold's grandpa was recounting a mission he had in World War II. He had to transport some food elsewhere, and after some time driving, he decided to camp up and started thinking if any of his enemies might have already noticed him... only for one of his comrades to ask him to join a poker game with the rest of his regiment, showing he was barely a few meters away.
  • Johnny Bravo: In "Hip Hop Flop", a hip-hop group named The Round Pound goes out in search of a new turn-table to purchase after one of them eats their old one, thinking it was a giant sandwich; as they press on, they collapse in exhaustion, but then we see they're only inches away from their tour bus.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses this a few times.
    • In "The Show Stoppers", a montage features the Cutie Mark Crusaders apparently scaling a mountain top and getting blown off by the wind. The camera pulls back to reveal it's just a small hill.
    • In "Flight to the Finish", the Cutie Mark Crusaders' Training Montage includes a shot of them climbing a staircase, just like Rocky Balboa. Then a wider shot shows that the staircase is only five steps high.
    • In "The Cutie Map Part 2", after joining Starlight Glimmer's commune as a Fake Defector, Fluttershy manages to sneak out of the chimney of her house and sets out to head to the mountain cave where Starlight is keeping the stolen cutie marks. Sometime later, Fluttershy is walking along and muses to herself that she must be getting close by now, only for the camera to zoom out to reveal that she's still on Starlight Glimmer's roof. This does, however, allow Fluttershy to find out that Starlight is keeping her friends' cutie marks in her house, and that Starlight still has her own.
    • In "Common Ground", Rainbow's attempts to turn the chronically nerdy Quibble Pants into an athletic, sporty person include racing exercises to build up his speed. Rainbow blows her whistle, Quibble starts running furiously while surrounded by a cloud of dust, and then the camera pans away from a sweating, exhausted Quibble Pants to show that he's barely moved from the starting line.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror III" segment "King Homer", the eponymous giant ape climbs a skyscraper with Marge in his hand, but drops from exhaustion — from the second floor, about half his body height.
    • Used twice in "King of the Hill".
      • Homer decides to start running at night, next scene has him already crawling due to exhaustion and stops in front of a mailbox... the one of his neighbor Flanders.
      • Homer must climb Mount Murderhorn (a gigantic mountain that is said to be worse than the Everest). One Time Skip later, the camera follows a trail of spent oxygen tanks and a Homer that is greedily sucking down on a new one... and then we find out that he just ascended about 20 feet (it's still close enough to the ground that Bart can easily tell him to stop using up his oxygen).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Your Shoe's Untied", SpongeBob realizes he doesn't know how to tie his shoes after he unties them for a demonstration; consequently, he can't take a single step without tripping on them and falling flat on his face, which causes a problem at the Krusty Krab when he has to bring a Krabby Patty from the grill to Squidward on the other side of the kitchen. He tries rubbing his shoes together and slowly shuffling along on the wood floor, but despite his best efforts, he barely moves away from the grill, which only annoys Squidward further.
    • "Procrastination" revolves around SpongeBob spending all night trying to write an 800-word essay for boating school, only to procrastinate on it at every possible turn. At one point, he seems to have a flash of inspiration, which segues into a Hard-Work Montage depicting him writing very dramatically and enthusiastically. He places his pencil down, gazes at his paper, and starts reading it off... at which point it's revealed that all he did was write the word "THE" in an extremely elaborate font.
  • Total Drama: In the first episode of Action, Owen spends ten and a half hours trying to walk only three city blocks to get to the bouncy castle where all the other contestants except him are being held to rescue them.
  • The Wayside episode "Wayside Special" has Todd climbing up to the 30th floor. He starts off by climbing some stairs, scaling a ladder, crossing a log, and traversing a jungle gym, only to get to the second floor.


Video Example(s):


Mater the Greater

Mater seems to pull off an impressive jump, but flops spectacularly.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnimpressiveProgressReveal

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