Follow TV Tropes


Wind-Up Key

Go To
It's uncommon that you wind up with this in real life.
One good way to show that something is a toy, toy-themed, or just mechanical is with a wind up key. Especially complements Toy Time, or alternatively, Clock Punk.

It can also serve as a Weaksauce Weakness if something needs to be wound up to keep functioning.


    open/close all folders 
  • There's a commercial for Pristiq anti-depression medicine which uses wind-up toys as a metaphor for how one feels when one is in the grips of depression, and when one is not.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Rozen Maiden, the living dolls come to life when someone winds them up using a key.
  • Chachamaru in Negima! Magister Negi Magi needs to be wound up while being recharged with magic every so often. It feels very good to her, so it often causes her embarrassment in the hands of an overenthusiastic winder.
  • Ifurita in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World qualifies, with all the expected sub-text (the keyhole is at the base of her spine). When fully wound, she uses the key as a magic wand with Kill Sat level of firepower.
  • Nano from Nichijou is a Ridiculously Human Robot, with the only indication that she's a robot at all being the wind-up key sticking out of her back. She desperately wants it removed so it won't be so blatantly obvious that she's a robot, but the Professor who built her thinks it's cute. Its only real function seems to be launching her big toe like a rocket.
  • In Tina the Wind Up Toy, the titular character Tina and most of the toys that live on Wind Up island has to be wound up in order to function, and won't be able to move otherwise. There is one toy who doesn't have a key, though. (other than Tina's best friend)
  • In the anime adaptation of Da Capo:
    • Miharu Amakase: In episode 3, it is found that after falling off a tree trying to save a kitten and being rendered into a comatose state, she is replaced by an identical android. There is a scene where a Fantastic Arousal occurs a a result of this. There are similar instances of it throughout the anime.
    • In Da Capo II there is no overt scene of a wind-up key in the anime but the visual novel does have scenes pertaining to it.
  • Kikuri has one in the third season of Hell Girl due to possessing a wind-up doll. A Running Gag is made of her needing to be wound up again.

    Asian Animation 
  • Flower Angel: In Season 2, when the characters are made to play the roles of The Wizard of Oz's main cast, Qianhan wears a Tin Man costume that features a wind-up key on her head where her bunny-ears ribbon would normally be.
  • In episode 45 of Nana Moon, Princess Amy and Keke stick a wind-up key onto the back of lazy Xiaolan to help with his slowness problem. It works, and the moon genie starts moving much faster than before.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: The Mechanical Master from Flying Island: The Sky Adventure, being a robot, has a wind-up key on his back. Strangely, it doesn't turn around by itself.

    Comic Books 
  • Flying Smurf's Aerosmurf from The Smurfs story of the same name requires a wind-up key to keep its motor functioning. As he and Smurfette are being chased by Gargamel, the motor of the Aerosmurf gives out, and Flying has to use the key to get the motor running again before he and Smurfette crash-land.

    Comic Strips 
  • At one time, On the Fastrack had a desktop computer (shaped rather like a Lear/Siegler ADM-3 terminal) with an enormous wind-up key sticking out of the back.

    Film - Animation 
  • In Pinocchio, all of Gepetto's music boxes have a key to show they are clockwork. They are started by pressing a button, but are never seen being wound.
  • A wind-up car appears in a quick gag on Robots.
  • One of Sid’s mutant toys is a wind-up frog with wheels instead of hind legs in Toy Story.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Hellboy: Kroenen had to wind up his clockwork innards with a key.
  • Truly Scrumptious pretends to be a "Doll on a Music Box" that has a large wind up key in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
  • In Return to Oz, this is the main weakness of Tik-Tok: in spite of his amazing capabilities, he is clockwork, and has to be wound regularly, with three keys: one for thinking, one for speaking, one for action.
    Tik-Tok: From now on, I shall be your obedient servant (raises his hat), if you keep me wound up.

  • Tik-tok in the Land of Oz books. Interestingly, he has three keyholes that operate walking, talking and thinking for him, while the key is hanging from a hook on his back.
  • Played for creepy in Varjak Paw, when the cat hero finds a bunch of very, very creepy cats... that turn out to be wind-up toys.
  • The children's book Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy, about a boy who was converted into a clockwork Cyborg by an oddball surgeon after being run over by a lorry. There's a brief scene where he looks at his reflection in a shop window, noting that the folded-down key is a barely-noticeable lump under his jacket.
  • In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, the History Monk protagonists use an experimental device called a portable procrastinator to artificially increase the amount of time they can use. It's worn on the back and powered by manually winding up the key. This is absolutely vital for their continued movement once time breaks, but only for one character.
  • For completeness, one should mention the clockwork mouse Mr. Clicky, which the rats in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents often use to set off traps. They carry several with them in their travels, having agreed to discontinue use of Mr. Squeaky since the sound of him being crushed was quite distressing to all.
  • Robert Sheckley has a short story where an expedition comes upon a planet full of strange, brightly colored animals, and with a mile high metallic column sticking from the ground. It turns out to be a toy playground planet, and the column is the wind-up key for all of it.
  • In Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone, it is a plot point that protagonist Mattie, a Clockwork Creature Robot Girl, has a special wind-up key that cannot be replicated and keeps her dependent on her creator Loharri.

    Live Action Television 
  • Doctor Who: In the Second Doctor story "The Mind Robber", the clockwork soldiers which patrol the Land of Fiction have giant keys in their backs and make a loud grinding sound like the gears of a clock as they move.
  • LazyTown: In "Dancing Duel", the sentient toy version of Robbie, and Robbie's dancing doll, both have wind-up keys on their backs.
  • In Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, during the quest to obtain the Shinobi Scrolls, Tsuruhime had to undergo a test of her leadership skills. Since the other Kakurangers were busy obtaining their Scrolls elsewhere, Sandayuu gave her dolls that would mimic them. Unlike most examples of this trope, the dolls' wind-up keys were on the back of their necks.
  • Aigalon from Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has a shape resembling a wind-up key on his back, referring to his mechanical nature (as well as his representing the Tin Man in the The Wizard of Oz theme that pervades the series' villains). Naturally, his Power Rangers counterpart Wrench has it too.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show once had a robotic duplicate of Kermit the Frog, which had a wind-up key in its back.
  • The titular castle in the classic Nickelodeon preschool series Eureeka's Castle has a giant wind-up key on the castle itself that the giant would wind occasionally; usually when a guest performer appeared.

    Tabletop Games and Card Games 
  • Pathfinder includes clockwork constructs in Bestiary 3, which require a key to wind up or down. They last a number of days per winding, based on their general strength. They can also be given a copy of their key, so that they can wind themselves up.
  • Res Arcana: The background of Windup Man features a wind-up key.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has an entire archetype based on wind-up toys. Naturally, the key is a spell card.

  • Luzia, one of Cirque du Soleil's shows, has a wind-up key for the entire show. When the protagonist turns it, strange people and puppets suddenly appear around him and start doing strange things. It runs down during the finale, and he has to wind it up again.

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario World: The Mecha Koopa enemies have wind-up keys on their backs. Bob-ombs have them, too.
  • The first Mario Party has a "how many times can you wind up the toy in X seconds" minigame.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, robot Kremlings called Krobots have these, and the theme tune itself even has a music box type wind up effect at the start, as heard here.
  • Luigi's Mansion has the Clockwork Soldiers. Their wind-up keys are are actually their weak spots, as they need to be removed in order for Luigi to begin capturing them with his Poltergust.
  • The Mario vs. Donkey Kong games feature wind-up Mini-Mario toys.
  • MapleStory: Various monsters in Ludibrium have them
  • Lots and lots of these appear in the Syberia duology, seeing how it's literally crawling with all kinds of clockwork contraptions. Most notably, the train you are traveling on needs to be wound up on each station.
  • The Clockwork from City of Heroes, which are created from scrap metal, but almost always have one of these on their backs. The winders are also a common low-level salvage drop.
  • The Keymasters in Dynamite Headdy. Heather's mission is to collect all the keys to reveal the Dark Demon's castle.
  • In EverQuest, the Secrets of Faydwer expansion introduced the clockwork robots created by gnomes which all have a wind up key on their backs.
  • Pokémon in Pokémon Rumble are all wind-up toys, so the key is used to wind them up before releasing them. One such key is even the Big Bad.
  • In AdventureQuest, the Nightmare Queen's chess-themed minions are all sentient, life-sized toy soldiers, complete with wind-up keys in their backs. The Player Character can also purchase an identical-looking armor after completing the "Frostval In July!" quest.
  • Certain concept art for Skullgirls suggests that Robo-Fortune is powered by a wind-up key in her back.
  • Clockwork keys are an item drop at Thugnderdome in Kingdom of Loathing. They're significantly rarer than the other components of clockwork items; getting ten in a single run earns a trophy. They're also needed for the last stage of every clockwork item.
  • Belladonna is the story of a woman who woke up part clockwork. She has a key in her head. Belladonna's key goes in her back, where she can't reach.
  • The Adventures of Rad Gravity's first boss is a pair of dancing clockwork robots that wind one another up when one runs down. The objective is to use the Crystal Bombs to keep them separated long enough that they both run down.
  • Orianna, the Lady of Clockwork from League of Legends has a prominent one in all of her in-game skins, which she can crank herself thanks to her Abnormal Limb Rotation Range. Weirdly, it's now The Artifact in her current rewritten backstory; when she Was Once Human, it was installed to power her replacement lungs in an effort to save her life, but as the rest of her organs started failing and she eventually became completely roboticized, she reached a point where she can survive without it.
  • The eponymous character from Gingiva is a woman whose head was replaced with a windup key. As indicated by Chatterteeth, this is customary procedure with the objective of transforming the subjects into mindless automatons that are expected to slave away at the factories for the rest of their days. Gingiva, however, managed to retain some of her personality while losing her memory. They embark on a quest to retrieve Gingiva's original head and hopefully her memories as well.
  • Batman Doom: The walking penguin bombs have a golden wind-up key on their backs, which spins as they walk.
  • Cookie Run: Lollipop Cookie has one that looks like a piece of hair stylised as a bow. Her pet, Gentlemouse, is one as well.

    Visual Novels 
  • There are robots in Da Capo that are wound up by a key. They do have alternative energy sources, though.

    Web Animation 
  • Minilife TV: The city hall welcoming robot, Nostalgia Bot (aka Nosty), is powered by a wind-up key, and it's Jacob Brickstud's job to wind him back up whenever he powers down, which frustrates him.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Feed the Kitty: Marc Anthony takes a key off a toy car and pretends to wind up Pussyfoot with it to fool his owner into thinking that the cat is a toy. He succeeds, and Pussyfoot then gets himself into the aforementioned toy car, minus key. Marc Anthony finds it cute, until Pussyfoot manages to get the toy car working and starts driving erratically, possibly because of the aforementioned removal of the key.
  • Kilgore from My Life as a Teenage Robot is a pitiful toy robot, powered by a watch spring and a wind-up key, who dreams of destroying mankind.
  • Mechanicles from Disney's Aladdin: The Series is often seen winding up his Clock Punk insect-like robots. He even has one dedicated to winding up all others, so he only has to wind up that one.
  • In the Donald Duck cartoon Donald's Diary, Don's nightmare of being a henpecked husband culminates in a key growing on his back, making him into a robot doing chores for Daisy.
  • Yogi Bear once put a key on his back and pretended to be a giant wind-up toy grabbing picnic baskets, after doing an experiment with Boo Boo. Yogi is stopped by a wind-up Ranger Smith.
  • A common gag on Droopy cartoons is for his opponent to wind him up with a key to send him toddling away like a toy.
  • In Wakfu, Big Bad Nox must be fed every day with wakfu through a giant key-shaped tube (which fits into a hole in his chest rather than his back, oddly enough.)
  • In a Dave the Barbarian episode, Candy is able to tell Dave apart from Mecha-Dave by pointing out the key on its back, which clearly did not exist until after she pointed it out. Later, Mecha-Dave stops his battle with Dave to tell him to wind his key.
  • At the end of the early 1980s Scooby-Doo short "Scooby-Doo 2000", Scrappy-Doo had a fake wind-up key in his back.
  • Granny from The Crumpets has a big wind-up key that is sometimes worn on her back, and is also her walking stick whenever she needs it. In one episode, she inserts the key to a hole in one of her slot machines and turns the key to gain access to the Crumpet house's security room.
  • In an Elseworld episode of Phineas and Ferb, the kids have a Humongous Mecha battle against Doofus Khan with a wind-up terra cotta warrior and mechanical dragon, respectively.
    Baljeet: He has the key to our defeat!
    Buford: You make puns when the other guy is down, dumbbell!
  • The episode "Monkey See, Monkey Do Better" of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh features an arrogant wind-up gorilla toy named Bruno as the antagonist. Near the end of the episode, under the mistaken belief that nobody wants him, he attempts suicide by removing his wind-up key and letting himself unwind.

     Real Life 
  • At one point when the locomotive Blue Circle was based at the Bluebell Railway, it acquired a (fake) key.


Video Example(s):


Wind-up Shark

In a fantasy bath world, Garfield, Odie, and Nermal find Garfield's toy boat, unfortunately it came with a toy shark, fortunately, it's a wind-up.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThreateningShark

Media sources: