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The Artifact / Western Animation

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  • Classic animation example: Mickey Mouse's ears. No matter how he turns his head, they stay in the same position, in direct violation of the rules of perspective. This is a relic of the time Mickey was created (the late 1920s), when designs were simple and crude, but as the animators improved their drawing skills and the style became more elaborate, Mickey's design began to look archaic by comparison. His immense popularity made a complete redesign impossible, so only small, judicious changes were made over time. There was a time in the early 1940s when the ears were altered to look more like real mouse ears, as well as giving them dimension, but that change was short-lived and the round ears returned. Nowadays it's accepted as a crucial element in Mickey's design (even CG versions of the character have special adjustments to keep the ears the same from every angle), and is even Lampshaded on occasion.
  • The early seasons of South Park had a pretty different tone and concept, and so many older elements have become this over time.
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    • Kenny is often seen as this for various reasons.
      • His deaths were a written-in-stone Running Gag until the creators decided that in one episode that he was Killed Off for Real. "They Changed It, Now It Sucks!" reactions caused them to put him back on the show, where he died roughly once a season or so. Since the seventeenth season, he's only died off-screen and without the iconic reaction dialogue, though playful references remain.
      • He is The Unintelligible because his muffled voice was originally supposed to be a clever censor. In early episodes, he would often describe lewd things that were theoretically too vulgar to say outright, but viewers could listen closely and understand what he was saying. As the show pushed the envelope, however, this novelty became mostly pointless; another character can just say the same thing outright.
      • After the loss of both those two big gimmicks by the time of his return in the sixth season, very few episodes feature Kenny as a focus point or doing much of anything but basically just standing to one side. This has been prone to various Lampshade gags over the years.
      • The best known lampshade hanging was in "The Jeffersons." Kenny, for once unmuffled, complains about taking Blanket's place, at which Stan tells him to stop complaining, at least he finally gets to do something. In addition, nobody uses his name, so the audience doesn't get the joke that it was Kenny until he dies.
      • Also lampshaded in "Lice Capades," Where Kyle, Stan, and Cartman point out to each other that they're doing exactly what they would do if they had head lice, and Cartman adds, "And this is exactly what Kenny would do: stand here and say nothing."
      • An even more obvious lampshade hanging was used in Season 22's "The Scoots", where the boys don't want to spend Halloween with Kenny because he will slow down their elaborate scheme to get candy, and is rebuffed by other kids at school for similar reasons. The school counselor seems to be speaking for the creators as he apologizes to Kenny that "we all kind of forget about you sometimes"; this seems to double as a Throw the Dog a Bone for Kenny fans. The rest of the season also featured him a bit more heavily, albeit with references to his "loner" status.
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    • For many years, this was the case with Officer Barbrady, who was prominent in early seasons as the town's lone dim-witted police officer. A new police force was gradually established with distinct characters and a completely separate headquarters, which gradually displaced Barbrady, who was reduced to very brief and infrequent appearances when the larger force wasn't necessary. After being sidelined for a decade, he was written out of the show in Season 19, which included him being fired from the police force, with the Mayor outright telling him he was "from another time".
    • A more typical case is Stan's Uncle Jimbo, who was a prominent adult character in the first few seasons, seen often and rarely seen without his war buddy Ned. Both characters fell Out of Focus as main characters after the fifth season, as the boys' dads became more prominent. Unlike many other characters on the show who faded from prominence and were written out, Demoted to Extra or removed, Jimbo has remained a part of the show's cast for fifteen years since then, but has usually recieved only very small Straight Man supporting roles to other characters such as Randy or Cartman, with only a few lines of supporting dialogue and without his familiar comedic traits from early episodes (besides continuing to sell guns). A single scene in season 22's "Time To Get Cereal" features Jimbo and Ned in their familiar roles, but they are dropped for the rest of the storyline.
  • Family Guy
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    • Meg Griffin seems to have been designed and included for one narrative purpose (high school angst-driven stories); as the show has become joke-driven, structurally looser and narratively weaker, Meg's continued existence often seems little more than a vestige of the plot-driven early seasons of the show. Couple this with the character's initial unpopularity for those very reasons, and the show's increasing reliance on the Seth McFarlane-voiced characters, the audience's dislike of the Meg character (lampshaded frequently on the show through the rest of the family's increasingly pronounced and occasionally violent antipathy toward her) and there's really little left of the character beyond the awareness of her Artifact status.
      • The disproportionate in-universe hate towards her has shoved her through The Woobie Wall for many members of the audience, giving her an actual purpose in the show. It also makes the scene in the the episode "Dial Meg for Murder" where she beats Peter after being in prison a few months a Moment of Awesome. Whether or not this was intended is a topic of debate.
      • The diminishment of Meg's character began at about the same time as her original (and uncredited) voice actor Lacey Chabert was replaced by Mila Kunis. In contrast to Lacey Chabert's rather mundane characterization, Mila Kunis brought a sharper, more distinctive quality to the character (along with a much greater appreciation for the show's type of humor than Lacey Chabert had, which is what caused her to leave the show and be uncredited). Mila Kunis' performance allows the out-of-proportion attacks on Meg to be funny, whereas had Lacey Chabert remained, it likely would have just come off as mean-spirited.
    • Stewie Griffin's unusual appearance and voice—his posh British accent and slicked-back hair, in particular—were originally a pretty explicit Shout-Out to Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs. This made sense in the early seasons, since Stewie's entire gimmick was that he was a deranged evil genius with the body of an infant. But after years of Flanderization caused his characterization to become dominated by his snobbishness and his feminine mannerisms, it started to seem a bit odd that he still looked like a cannibalistic serial killer. But by then, his design was simply too iconic to change.
  • American Dad!:
    • Klaus the East German athlete in a goldfish's body, seems to serve no narrative purpose in later episodes. Originally he was a much more mean-spirited character with a unrequited crush on Francine, and was intended as a foil to Roger, but with Roger's shift from sheltered and somewhat sympathetic Jerk with a Heart of Gold to largely-independent Heroic Comedic Sociopath, that's pretty much fallen by the wayside. Klaus mostly Took a Level in Kindness as a result, however, ironically becoming the lonely one.
      • In some later episodes, Klaus' lack of purpose is lampshaded through Klaus bemoaning his situation, or the other characters making fun of him. One particularly cruel example is "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", where the rest of the family is fighting for their lives against Santa Claus and his elves with machine guns and hatchets, and Francine mentions "What's his name?" during a conversation with Hayley; it then cuts to Klaus floating in his bowl with no background noise, and he dispassionately says "My name is Klaus Heissler."
    • Hayley was originally designed as a counterpart to Stan's extreme convervatism, and this relationship formed the backbone of many earlier episodes. As the show largely lost its political aspects over the years, Hayley's had less and less to do, with focus shifting to her marriage to The Stoner Jeff Fischer.
    • Both examples were Lampshaded by Klaus and Hayley about halfway through the episode "Ricky Spanish". Klaus pops up on the screen out of nowhere exclaiming, "Ha! I made it into the episode! Pay me, bitches!" Then Hayley pops up saying, "Ha! Me too!" Otherwise, both characters are entirely absent from the episode.
  • This actually happened to Optimus Prime, of all characters, during the final season of The Transformers. They'd brought him back because of Fan Backlash over his removal so they couldn't very well have him leave again. But because of the Loads and Loads of Characters that had to be written in due to the toyline all older characters such as Blaster and Perceptor had been written off in favor of the new characters with gimmicks (such as being a Head or Target Master or part of a combination team) except for Prime. As a result he looks notably out of place with his 80s era Mack Truck form and lack of gimmicky weapons when surrounded by futuristic cars and jets and all the Masters. Notably, in the Japanese continuity which splits off right after he's brought back to life, he's killed off again almost immediately, replaced by a series of newer, more visually and technologically impressive leaders.
    • In the third season, this also happened to some extent with many of the first and second season characters who survived the movie, although some of them did get important roles in an episode or two (Blaster and Soundwave in "Carnage in C-Minor", Perceptor in "The Face of the Nijika", etc.).
    • Optimus Prime himself may be an example of this trope. His nemesis Megatron has had several personality changes over the course of the franchise, but the Big Red himself is pretty much the same character even when he's smaller or less red. His alternate counterparts tend to be closer to the original than the alternate Megatrons as well. Then again, there's not much that can be changed about a consummate hero without keeping him as heroic as he's expected to be. A lot of modern stories have seen him be demoted to a Supporting Leader role or otherwise written out, due to the difficulties in writing a character of his rank and personality (often moving the focus to Bumblebee). Notably, Transformers Animated is one of the few modern series where Optimus is inarguably the protagonist from beginning to end, and it's also notable because he isn't the Big Good or Ideal Hero in that series.
    • In Beast Wars, Optimus Primal and Megatron were originally conceived of as simply being their G1 selves but in new bodies. The TV series (and pretty much every version to follow) reinterpreted them as different people entirely, but kept their names, and in Primal's case, his extremely Prime-ish face design. It'd be the equivalent of your boss taking the name "Babe Lincoln" and wearing a stovepipe hat and thick beard to work, and nobody ever commenting on it. Megatron got a later justification in the series for why he has the same name as the other one ("Megatron" is actually an Antichrist-esque figure in their religion, and both versions took on the name because they were Card Carrying Villains), but Primal's reasons basically remained an enigma all the way to the end of the series.
    • The "robots in disguise!" slogan stuck around in both the theme song and overall material, long after any hope of disguise faded out. Neither side in the original series was interested in The Masquerade, and by the third season, not only was everyone on Earth aware of the Transformers and their members openly working with the government, but even their designs were mostly crazy space-age vehicles or robot animals that were no good for disguise anyway. (Later commercials tried "They've got the power to surprise!", "stronger, faster, more alive!" or "the challenge is in the change!", but none managed to really catch on.)
  • In the Disney Sing Along Songs VHS series, Professor Owl from the Adventures in Music Duology was originally the host, with Jiminy Cricket and Professor Ludwig Von Drake occasionally taking over. In later entries, Professor Owl only appears to say "And now is your host, [Jiminy Cricket / Professor Ludwig Von Drake]!", and in a completely different voice from the intro and earlier videos, at that. The most likely reason is that the between-song segments were composed entirely of Stock Footage of old cartoons, and Cricket and Von Drake — particularly the latter, who by the end was the only one hosting — had a good deal more material to draw from.
  • Hack and Slash in ReBoot fell into this during season 3. While the series got Darker and Edgier, they didn't. For the most part they were ignored unless some comic relief was needed.
  • Total Drama started with 22 contestants in the first season, but while the second and third seasons still had most of the cast competing, a few characters were stuck watching from the sidelines. With such a large main cast, some pairs of characters were Not So Different from one another, which made a few like Eva, Katie and Sadie redundant as Courtney, Lindsay and Beth respectively took on their defining traits. The three only competed in the first season as a result, and have been Out of Focus ever since.
  • Speaking of animated reality shows, after the first season Drawn Together lost the pretense of being "the first animated reality" by dropping the "confessional" segments, the votes, and so on. This however was referenced in The Movie that closed the series for good.
  • The Phineas and Ferb theme-song has the titular boys saying that they want to "Drive their sister insane!" However, their personalities changed a bit during development, and now the boys are incredibly nice, and want to help their sister out—she's just too amped up to realise. However, because it rhymes and is so intrinsic, the line stays.
    • Then again, you could take the line to mean that the things they do are going to drive her insane as a side effect, even if it's not what they intend to do.
    • Sort of subtly lampshaded in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension—Phineas is singing part of the show's theme song, but gets distracted before he can finish the line "driving our sister insane". He doesn't try to drive her insane or even seem to realize that he's doing it, so it wouldn't make any sense for him to say that.
    • Candace yelling "Phineas!" was originally in response to him snarking "It's a short drive" following the above line.
  • The Movie of Thomas the Tank Engine introduced the engine Lady as a sort of Barrier Maiden keeping the magical bond between the Engines' world and the real world alive, but this magical bond is not only never mentioned in any other version, but Shining Time Station and the Messrs. Conductor have since been phased out entirely. Nevertheless, Lady continued to appear in a few stories released shortly after the film, despite having lost the one thing that made her special and interesting. She disappeared after she'd appeared in enough stories to justify the toys to kids who didn't see the movie.
    • Given that the series has Loads and Loads of Characters, this is the case for the majority of the engines. Characters who were once mainstays of the series like Duck, Boco and Daisy have all but disappeared - if one were to be cynical, one might suggest that the few appearances they have are to ensure their continued presence in the various merchandise lines.
    • In addition, the original episodes, and the novels on which they are based, placed most of the engines onto different lines and work regimes. Now, the engines just seem to work freely anywhere around Sodor, making some of them superfluous. This was likely done so as to make main characters such as Thomas more flexible and easier to write into different situations.
    • Newer seasons, due to change in writing team, seemed to make some attempts to reverse these examples, with more accuracy to the original stories and the return of old concepts and characters. Some leeway is still made in favor of new additions however.
  • Zordrak was created as the sinister Big Bad of The Dreamstone, in early episodes, while mostly staying in his lair, he devised many of the plans for his mooks, the Urpneys, and on a handful of occasions played part in the task at hand, making him a palpable Knight of Cerebus. As the show began to revolve more and more around the Urpneys' slapstick however, Zordrak's part in the show became smaller and more superfluous, usually appearing as little more than a source of abuse for his mooks while they plotted and acted out everything themselves. The heroes themselves even became trivial additions at times due to the Urpneys being such luckless imbeciles they could play out and fail at a scheme completely by themselves (though they were pushed back into spotlight a little in the final seasons).
    • The Noops in particular suffered for a lengthy amount of time. Originally Rufus (and to a degree Amberley) were the main protagonists, however it soon became blatant that every other heroic member was stronger and more competent than them, thus reducing them to The Load for a lot of the series. The later episodes rectified this somewhat by placing the others Out of Focus, isolating the two and thus putting them into more situations they had to handle on their own.
    • The dream premise of the show itself was downplayed pretty damn early, again, in favor of the Urpneys Road Runner vs. Coyote antics. After the pilot in fact, only a few episodes went into detail about the dreams, and even fewer actually shown them onscreen. This got to such a point that the only way to go was up, with the third and fourth season going into slightly more depth about the process (if still rather skimpy).
    • For a very minor example, we have Frizz's eye color. In the first season, he wore glasses but come the second season these were fazed out completely. The lens color, however, was not, leaving him with blue eyes for the rest of the series.
  • The friendship letters to Princess Celestia in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic may count. For the most part, their point was simply to recap the episode's intended Aesop early in the series, yet as time went by towards the end of the second season and into the third they seemed to get increasingly phased out as largely superfluous...to the point where "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" stands out a bit by virtue of Applejack deciding to write on again without prompting from anybody else. Granted, this is just to boast that she knew the episode's moral all along and that everyone should have listened to her instead of play with the Idiot Ball all day, but still...
    • As of the Season 4 episode "Castle Mane-ia", the friendship letters have been replaced by diaries. The journal itself becomes an artifact when Spike still holds it in the opening of season 5 despite its absence after fulfilling its role in the season 4 finale.
  • Early episodes of King of the Hill feature other neighbors besides the usual cast, notably a woman with glasses and long dark hair (voiced by Kathy Najimy) and several housewives who occasionally hang out with Peggy. After the first two seasons, these characters occasionally appear as extras but are rarely voiced.
  • The Tom and Jerry Show (2014) uses the classic gasp, gulp, and screaming sound effects for the duo even though they stick out like a sore thumb compared to the more modern noises of the show.
  • Cartoon Network's action-animation block Toonami has one in the form of a quote: "We won't be intimidated by criminal threats!", a line taken from the theatrical Superman cartoons, which aired via the Cartoon Roulette. While the Superman cartoons (as well as the Cartoon Roulette itself and the other shows it presented) left the block in 2000 and never came back, the sound bite for the line itself was still used in various promos. Even the revived Toonami on [adult swim] still uses it in promos.
  • The 2011 reboot of Beavis And Butthead has the boys and Stewart still rocking the same T-shirts they did in the 1990s. While it's still reasonable that teenage metalheads would be rocking Metallica and AC/DC shirts in modern times, being iconic acts, one wonders how many teenage boys nowadays would wear a T-shirt by the nearly forgotten hair metal band Winger (hell, Winger was almost an artifact when the original B&B show started airing in the '90s).
  • In-Universe example in The Legend of Korra. A recurring theme of the show is asking whether or not the Avatar itself is an artifact of the world. The Big Bads certainly think so, and each has tried in their own way to create a world where the Avatar no longer exists. Granted, with the new Air Nation taking the role of international peacekeepers following season three, they may have a point.
    • The animal companions Naga and Pabu, whose significance and screen time dropped steadily over the seasons. By book 4, they had nothing to do and barely even appeared. Understandable, given the breakneck pacing with Loads and Loads of Characters all fighting for limited screen time. But even as far back as season 1, some fans felt they didn't add anything to the show and were only there so that The Legend of Korra would have counterparts to Appa and Momo from the original series.
  • Subverted with Daffy Duck's signature "WOO HOO WOO HOO" laugh. He was originally an insane Cloudcuckoolander comparable to Woody Woodpecker. Though soon became the a more levelheaded Jerkass he's known as being, albeit with a few screwball elements, he keeps his manical laughter during occasional Character Checks to his former personality.
  • A few characters, but particularly Rotor and Bunnie in Sonic Sat AM. The show originally consisted of a Five-Man Band who got fairly even spotlight in Season One. Rotor was originally an Adorkable Ditzy Genius who provided tech support, however as both Sally's intellect and Antoine's clumsiness got Flanderized, his role became more superfluous, only having odd moments of importance. Bunnie meanwhile was originally a supporting powerhouse, though after Dulcy was introduced and episodes focused more heavily on Sonic and Sally's brawn and brains dynamic, she was demoted to a fairly unimportant role, rarely even using her cyborg powers.
  • Heloise has a scar on her head in Jimmy Two-Shoes. This is an artifact from an earlier concept, when the show was going to take place in Hell and Heloise was a teenage serial killer who was gunned down by the police. It was only left in to make her seem creepier.
  • In Teen Titans, Starfire's distinctive speech patterns became this trope. She would speak slowly and properly, and often misuse slang and idioms ("Let us kick the butt!"). The obvious implication is that she's an alien not used to speaking English, but over time we meet other aliens—including other Tamaraneans—who speak English just fine. It simply became a quirk of her character.
  • Beginning in Summer 1999, Nickelodeon began to have Henry and June from KaBlam! host various Nicktoon blocks, such as 101% Whizbang! and U-Pick. While KaBlam! aired its last episode in May 2000, the duo continued to host U-Pick until the end of 2000 when the block was cancelled (it would be revived two years later with live-action hosts). However, they eventually came back (albeit with June being recast) at the beginning of 2001 to host the Nicktoon World News shorts in-between commercial breaks, where they'd sit at a newsdesk and give out fun facts about upcoming Nicktoons (or in some cases, already-airing Nicktoons), as well as various "coming up next" bumpers for the channel. Despite this, KaBlam! had already been cancelled a year earlier and eventually was taken off of Nickelodeon's schedule not too long after the shorts/bumpers began airing. They still continued to host them until Fall 2001 when Nickelodeon retired them for good.
    • The fourth season of the show received a slight Retool to the wraparounds, making the TV studio setting more apparent than it had ever been and almost abandoning the comic book setting, which had been the show's primary gimmick (most likely as an attempt to integrate elements from the failed The Henry and June Show pilot into the series). The only remains of it being in the opening and ending titles and the show's traditional "turning the page" to the next segment.
  • Futurama: Fry's backstory as a 20th century human transplanted into the 31st century via cryogenic freezing almost became an afterthought in later episodes. If you got into the series at a later point, you'd scarcely think that Fry wasn't from the 30th century. This is a Justified Trope, however: similar to 3rd Rock from the Sun under the Live Action TV section, it was inevitable that Fry would get used to life in the future, especially since real time passed over the course of the series (he was in his mid-30's by the time the show ended). One episode also acknowledges it, with characters mentioning that Fry fits in quite well in the future because he was such a misfit in the 20th century.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Katara's Opening Narration remains the same through the series. Her statement "And although [Aang's] airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone." was true early on, it makes no sense by Book 3, where Aang is clearly stronger and more mature, having saved countless people before even mastering the final element.
    • In early episodes, the fauna in the Avatar world ran on Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit", filled with wildly-alien beasts with the names of ordinary Earth animals. By the end of the first season, the wildlife had been replaced by more organic-looking Mix-and-Match Critters. Despite this, the bizarre species introduced in the earlier episodes couldn't just go away, especially since two of them, Appa the "bison" and Momo the "lemur", were the show's ubiquitous Team Pets.
  • Hey Arnold! kept the same title sequence throughout its run. Needless to say, by the show's end after five seasons some things that showed up in the title sequence had long since been changed, most noticeably Stinky's spiky arm-bands (from back in the first season where he was a bully alongside Harold, before he eventually became more of a mild-mannered Country Mouse with a slight Jerkass streak) and the very fact that Ruth MacDougal is still present. (By the series' end, she had all but disappeared.)
  • Phantom Investigators: Early in production, Daemona's real name was Prunella Daemon, and "Daemona Prune" was to be her aliases while on the job as a Phantom Investigator. It was later decided that the latter name would be used as her real name and she wouldn't use an aliases as a Phantom Investigator, leaving her name as an artifact from an earlier point of production.
  • Ben 10: Several of Ben Tennyson's ten original forms have been made completely obsolete due to him gaining new ones with the same abilities and more over the course of the sequel, yet these forms still end up being brought back because of how iconic and popular they are.
  • The vast majority of modern versions of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe aim to be at least somewhat more mature than the original cartoon and toys, often extensively so. But no matter how mature He-Man as a franchise tries to be, it still has to feature a main character named He-Man, something that'd never fly for a franchise meant to be taken remotely seriously. To say nothing of Fisto, Clawful, Buzz-Off, or Two-Bad.
  • Sofia the First: Sofia's backstory as a village girl who becomes a princess when Miranda marries the king becomes less significant as the series goes on. In the first season, Sofia adjusting to royal life is easily the basic premise of the show. In the later seasons, her backstory is rarely mentioned at all, and there is almost no indication that Sofia hasn't always been a princess. Justified in that it was inevitable that Sofia would get used to life as a princess as time passed.
  • Young Justice has an example of this combined with Adaptation Relationship Overhaul. In this show, Tim Drake/Robin is the Official Couple with Cassie Sandsmark/Wonder Girl, because it was inspired by the New 52 giving them a Relationship Upgrade. However, this was in part because at the time, the real character Tim is usually an couple with, Stephanie Brown/Spoiler, was Exiled from Continuity for perceived toxicity. Said blacklisting would eventually be lifted, with Tim soon enough becoming a couple with Steph once again and never going back (his relationship with Cassie was not taken well by fans, so this was a saving throw), and by the time the series was Un-Cancelled and Outsiders was released, Stephanie Brown was fully introduced as Spoiler and they could've theoretically been made a couple as they usually are in the source. However, because Tim and Cassie are the Official Couple of the show, him and Steph haven't even had so much as a Ship Tease much less actually date each other, because doing so would mess with this particular continuity, even if it was inspired by a poorly-received period of time. Not helping matters is the Age Lift, as while they're normally the same age, here Tim is 16 while Steph is a full two years younger than him, making them as a couple sound unlikely.

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