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Western Animation / Corpse Bride

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"There has been a grave misunderstanding."
Only Tim Burton could make necrophilia kinda cute.

Corpse Bride is a 2005 romantic comedy musical by Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, and a Spiritual Successor to Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas (of which Burton was the producer, chief designer and story writer). The film mixes German Expressionism elements, stop motion animation by Cosgrove Hall and Laika, gothic melodrama and macabre sense of humour, and is based on an old Yiddish-language Jewish folk tale from Russia.

Victor, the son of some newly wealthy fishmongers, is entering into an Arranged Marriage with Victoria, a beautiful young woman from an Impoverished Patrician family. The couple find out that despite their differences, they actually rather like each other, and everything is going swimmingly... Except for the tiny problem of Victor being too nervous to memorize his wedding vows. He goes into the forest to practice them but, unintentionally, gives the speech (and engagement ring) to the vivacious and fun-loving Emily, who thinks they are now married.


Oh, did we mention Emily is dead?

Victor is dragged to the underworld, which ironically heavily contrasts with the drab surroundings of the living by being colourful and vibrant. At first he is desperate to get back home to Victoria, but is soon torn between the life he knew and his life in the underworld. Victor also finds himself drawn towards Emily, whose tragic death may be more entwined with the lives of Victoria and himself than he first thought.

The film has many little shout-outs and references to previous works by Tim Burton. Danny Elfman's character, Bonejangles, is a call-back to his time with Oingo Boingo.


This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage: The entire plot, of course.
  • Afterlife Welcome: In contrast to the dull colors and creatively oppressing land of the living, the land of the dead is incredibly vibrant and ironically lively, with Victor, and later Mayhew, awakening inside a bar surrounded by the land's friendly inhabitants and just having a good time drinking and partying. It's implied this only happens to people who were, at the very least, pretty okay in life, as the last we see of Lord Barkis after he dies is him being dragged out of the church and to the land of the dead, with a knife-wielding Mrs. Plum menacingly saying, "New arrival" before closing the door behind her.
  • Almost Kiss: When Victor first returns to the land of the living after marrying Emily, he goes back to Victoria and tells her that after meeting her, he can't wait to be married and stay together with her forever. She replies that she feels the same way and they lean in for a kiss, only to be interrupted by the arrival of a furious Emily.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The dead still in possession of their skin are blue.
  • An Aesop:
    • The truest acts of love are those fueled by making others happy. All three protagonists make decisions for one of the others' sakes, even if it isn't an easy choice.
    • Don't give up on a good opportunity just because it's hard to achieve. Victor almost ruins his chances with Victoria twice because he doesn't face the problem.
  • Animated Musical: Stop-motion, with songs scattered throughout.
  • Arc Words:
    • "According to plan." First spoken by both sets of parents when they are trying to make the wedding go perfectly. Later mentioned by Victor to highlight that things are spiraling out of control, and Victoria in a triumphant sense when Lord Barkis' plan hits a snag.
    • "New arrival" also serves as one for the Land of the Dead.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Subverted with Victoria, who's actually quite sweet. Zigzagged by her parents, who are selfish and rude but seem just like bog-standard Victorian aristocrats. Lord Barkis takes this trope to nasty extremes.
  • Arranged Marriage: Victor and Victoria have been betrothed by their families so that Victor's Nouveau Riche parents can mingle with the aristocracy while Victoria's Impoverished Patrician parents can finally have money again. It turns out to be a Perfectly Arranged Marriage upon meeting; they find that they get along very well. At the very least, it seems that they care for each other.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Elder Gutknecht's dramatic drink-mixing is really just for refreshment, and he actually starts the spell afterwards.
  • Betty and Veronica: Okay people, I have the script! Victoria, you will play the part of the sweet and gentle Betty. The part of the lively and happy-go-lucky (but secretly troubled) Veronica goes to Emily!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The dead are a surprisingly friendly, fun-loving bunch, certainly more pleasant than most of the living... But you don't want to get on their bad side.
  • Big Bad: Lord Barkis Bittern not only conspires to butt into Victor and Victoria's arranged marriage for the latter's fortune (which he doesn't realize doesn't exist anymore until it's too late), but was also the one who murdered and robbed Emily in the first place.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: The Napoleon-like guy and his buddy.
  • Big Little Man: Finis Everglot is first shown talking face-to-face with his wife. Then the camera pans out and it turns out he is standing on a stool and really half her height.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Emily decides to let Victor return to Victoria so that they can have the life she never had. She then dissolves into hundreds of butterflies, having finally achieved freedom and peace in death.
  • The Bluebeard: Barkis tricked Emily into taking her family's jewels and gold and eloping with him, then killed her and ran off with the loot. He has similar plans for Victoria, but doesn't do any background research on their wealth.
  • Bookends: The film opens and closes on butterflies.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Victor meets a dead girl, and ends up accidentally married to her.
  • Bouquet Toss: Before leaving Emily throws her bouquet, which is caught by an elderly woman. The elderly woman then tosses it again from being startled by a maggot on her shoulder, whereupon it is caught by Victoria.
  • Broken Aesop: A number of fans of the film have commented that the "Don't run away from your problems" message rings rather hollow since, by all appearances, the world of the dead is legitimately better off than the world of the living. This may also be why Victor ends up with Victoria and not Emily in the end, since the latter scenario could be fairly easily interpreted as pro-suicide.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: Victoria's parents do not care at all for their daughter's happiness and are using her for their own benefits.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Butterflies appear throughout the film, and Emily turns into them when she finally reaches peace.
  • Circling Monologue: When Emily finally confronts her murderer.
  • The Conscience: The maggot living inside Emily's head is a sarcastic variation.
  • Cool Old Guy: Elder Gutknecht. He's The Smart Guy of the Underworld, facilitates Victor and Emily returning to the Land of the Living and later uncovers the loophole in her marriage vows (as well as the unfortunate way to correct the loophole).
  • Cool Old Lady: Victoria's maid is implied to be a Parental Substitute as she does seem to want Victoria to be happy, and Victoria seems more likely to confide in her.
  • Couple Theme Naming: Victor is betrothed to a woman named Victoria. Despite the mishaps that happen throughout the movie, they end up being the Official Couple.
  • Covers Always Lie: Very minor example (to the point that it seems more like a mistake than anything), but the orientation of Emily's rotting features as seen in the movie (her left arm, her right leg, the small opening on her left cheek, etc.) is reversed on the cover art (her right arm is now the skeletal one, the opening is on her right cheek, etc.).
  • Creepy Crows: Murders of crows appear all over the place, in both worlds.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: "Remains of the Day" is a jazz song performed by Skeletal Musicians, and naturally contains creepy xylophone parts. While the skeletons are not villainous, the song provides the backstory for the titular Corpse Bride, and tells of how she was murdered by The Bluebeard.
  • Curse That Cures: While being dead isn't exactly a picnic what with the gradual decomposition the dead suffer, it has its upsides. For one thing, you can't feel pain anymore; for another, any illnesses you had to deal with in life are now gone, seemingly. Mayhew, who died of a coughing-related illness (probably lung cancer or lung fibrosis, judging from his near-constant pipe-smoking), actually was fairly happy at the turnaround.
    Victor: Mayhew! How nice to see... [notices he's dead] I'm so sorry.
    Mayhew: Oh, yeah. Actually, though, I feel great.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: In this film the living are far scarier than the dead, and much less colorful for that matter.
  • The Dead Can Dance: The corpses in the Underworld appear to be constantly partying and giving elaborate musical numbers. Add murder wounds and decomposition, and you've got some pretty impressive moves!
  • Dead to Begin With: Emily.
  • Death by Origin Story: Emily, again.
  • Death Glare: Emily after finding Victor with Victoria. And she is dead. Barkis gets another one from her at the end.
  • Defanged Horrors: Cute skeleton children abound, and even the skeleton dog.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The world of the living is almost entirely black and white, whereas the underworld is brightly-lit and colourful.
  • Dem Bones: A whole bunch o' dem.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Barkis.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Only in this case, Emily did not get the boy.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The musical segment of "Remains of the Day."
  • Does He Have a Brother?: Miss Plum, the cook, wonders this when Victor first turns up in the Land of the Dead.
  • Do with Him as You Will: At the end of the movie it's revealed that Barkis killed and robbed Emily after he talked her into eloping with him, so the residents of the Land of the Dead want to punish him. Elder Gutknecht restrains the crowd, stating that they are in the land of the living, so they have to abide by their rules. That is until Barkis drinks the poison wine meant for Victor, so the rules of the dead apply to him now. The elder's response is: "All yours."
  • Duet Bonding: Played with. As Victor and Emily get off to a very bad start, the duet starts off competitive and bitter, but they eventually get along through the music.
  • Dull Surprise: The recently-deceased Mayhew is rather calm about suddenly running into his employers' disappeared son in the land of the dead. Though considering he's in the tavern and he's been dead for a little while, chances are, he picked up the local word on the street and got caught up with what was going on. So he would've heard about the marriage.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Victor van Dort is the king of this, thanks to the colour palette of the Land of the Living (and even then, he's paler than most of the other breathers).
  • Elopement: This was Emily's plan with Lord Barkis because her father disapproved.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the opening, the temperaments of Victor and Lord Barkis are displayed by how they react to a butterfly:
  • Evil Is Petty: Having failed to acquire Victoria's non-existent family fortune, Lord Barkis clings to the fact that she's his wife, determined not to leave empty-handed.
  • Expy:
    • Victor looks like the grown-up version of Vincent, the child protagonist of one of Burton's earliest stop-motion works. This is even lampshaded in the movie.
      Lord Everglot: We shall continue as planned, with or without Vincent.
      Lady Everglot: Victor.
      Lord Everglot: Whatever.
    • Also, the maggot was a Peter Lorre impersonation.
  • Exact Words: The would-be marriage of Victor and Emily doesn't count because the marriage vows were never binding. 'Until death do us part', indeed...
  • Eyepatch of Power: One of the skeletons in the Underworld has one.
  • Eye Pop: Emily's right eye has a tendency to pop out of its socket. Mostly because her maggot companion pushes it out, though in one instance it comes out by itself when she's crying.
  • Fairy Tale: Based of a Jewish-Russian folktale originally, about a woman murdered on the way to her wedding. Emily's backstory also bears tragic resemblances to the English folktale Mr. Fox (not to be confused with a later stop-motion animated film).
  • False Soulmate:
    • Emily is under the impression that Victor is her One True Love after he seemingly proposes to her at her gravesite...but he never actually intended to marry her and is already in love with Victoria. The fact he's alive while she's dead doesn't help matters. Victor and Emily actually do start to bond and Victor even considers staying with her but in the end, Emily decides they're Better as Friends and gives Victor and Victoria her blessing to get together.
    • Previously, Emily was also under the impression that the handsome stranger she eloped with was her true love, but he was only interested in her inheritance and murdered her when he realised he wouldn't get it (Emily's father didn't approve of the match). Subsequently, she waited in limbo for her true love to come for her, thus leading to the film's plot.
  • Fat and Skinny: Mrs. and Mr. Van Dort, and Lord and Lady Everglot, respectively.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Barkis, after unwittingly drinking poison, is now one of the dead, which conveniently removes the restriction that the dead cannot harm the living. An angry mob drags him off as he screams. Made worse in that we never really do find out what they do to him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Barkis attempts to make himself presentable and tries to put on a charmingly polite demeanor in order to wed Victoria. Even so, it's clear to viewers that his intentions are no good.
  • Feel No Pain: The dead can no longer feel any physical pain due to being, well... dead. It's even referenced by Emily in her song "Tears to Shed."
  • Fly in the Soup: At one point in the movie the dead go to the land of the living and crash a celebratory dinner. Lord Everglot says "there's an eye in me soup" and lifts it with his spoon just before everyone freaks out at the undead corpses that just appeared around everyone at the dinner table.
  • Forceful Kiss: Emily appears to give one to Victor on the bridge after uttering, "You may kiss the bride."
  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider: There are some friendly, talking black widow spiders in the world of the dead. One of them is a close friend of Emily, the titular corpse bride.
  • Friendly Skeleton: Quite a few, as the story centers around the dead who are shown in various states of decay. Notably the Skeletal Musicians that tell us Emily's backstory.
  • Ghost Invasion: The denizens of The Underworld arrive in the Land of the Living en masse, provoking a general panic in Victor's least, until the locals realize the ghosts and skeletons aren't causing harm and learn they've come to attend the title character's wedding.
  • Gold Digger: Several examples.
    • Lord Barkis Bittern. Hey, a male one! Good for him.
    • In different ways, for both sets of parents, this is the reason they are arranging Victor and Victoria's marriage. The Everglots are after the Van Dorts' money since they have none of their own, while the Van Dorts see the marriage as their ticket to the high society that currently shuns them for earning, rather than inheriting, their wealth. This is treated as normal, standard practice even — then again, it was.
  • The Grotesque: In some ways. Emily is nothing but skin and bones. She also has an eye that pops out and a worm living in her skull. Eww. But she holds on to her living beauty and remains ever gentle and kind.
  • Head Desk: Upon finding out from Emily that he recited his wedding vows perfectly, Victor bangs his head on the bar counter while telling himself to wake up.
  • A Hell of a Time: All dead go to the same place, and how you're treated depends vastly on who you were and how you behaved in life. Victor is greeted warmly by the deceased souls, but Barkis isn't so much; they are greeted, however, with the same phrase...
    Mrs. Plum: New arrival!
  • Hurricane of Puns: They're everywhere.
  • Ignorant About Fire: When the clumsy Victor accidentally sets his future mother-in-law's dress on fire by knocking over a candle, her husband fans the fire, not knowing that oxygen would make it worse.
  • Impairment Shot: Used after Victor runs into a tree.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Victoria's family. To quote Lord Everglot in "According to Plan," they are "land-rich, bankrupt aristocracy without a penny to their name," spoken as he and his wife look into the family safe, which contains nothing but cobwebs. Their house, meanwhile, is large and grand, but, as Mr. Van Dort gracelessly observes (to their faces), shabby and sparsely furnished. (Most of the good furniture was probably sold off long ago.)
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Honestly? Do we have to say his name?
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Mayhew, due to his smoking habits. Ironically, the cough is cured by his death.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Who does Victor look like? Honestly.
    • Ironically, Victoria was based a bit on Helena Bonham Carter (Emily's voice actress) physically, as the character designer wanted to make sure she looked interesting and pretty enough opposite the exotic Emily, so he gave her Bonham Carter's face shape (particularly her chin and forehead.) Burton originally wanted Bonham Carter to voice Victoria anyway, which might make this fact a relic of the straightforward use of the trope. Bonham Carter asked to play Emily instead, as she'd played Victoria-type characters in live action before when she was the character's age.
    • According to the "making of" book, Emily too was redesigned to look a bit more like Helena (specifically, they gave her more of Helena's forehead.)note 
    • Watch Danny Elfman sing "Remains of the Day" live and you'll understand where everything about Bonejangles comes from.
    • The town crier does bear quite a strong facial resemblance to Paul Whitehouse.
  • Ironic Echo: "New arrival..."
  • Irony: The world of the Living is colorless and dreary with no joy, while the Netherworld is fun, lively and vibrant.
  • I've Got an X, and I'm Not Afraid to Use It!: Victor pulls this at one point.
    Victor: I've got a... dwarf... and I'm not afraid to use him!
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: What lets Emily finally be free, as she puts it, is pushing Victor and Victoria towards each other.
  • I Would Say If I Could Say: Emily uses the "took my breath away" qualification.
  • Jaw Drop: Done literally with a skeleton after the revelation of Barkis' history with Emily.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Emily’s father was right to refuse consent for her to marry Barkis Bittern, since her suitor murdered her for her money.
  • Karmic Death: Barkis, after some Evil Gloating at the dead, who are unable to harm the living. On his way out, he casually takes a sip from a cup placed on the altar. Unfortunately for him, the cup contained the poison which Victor was supposed to drink during the marriage ceremony. He is instantly killed. See the Fate Worse than Death section of this article for what happens next. May also qualify as Death by Irony.
  • Land Poor: The Everglots.
  • Large Ham: Pastor Galswells. When voiced by Christopher Lee, what do you expect?
  • Losing Your Head: Paul the "Head Waiter."
  • Love Triangle: Victor must choose between Emily, his dead wife, and Victoria, his living intended fiancée. Which is harder than it probably sounds.
  • Magical Divorce: Victor and Emily's "marriage" is deemed invalid because one of them is dead.
  • Marriage Before Romance: This is expected for Victor and Victoria. Although they build chemistry even just being betrothed.
  • Marry for Love: Victoria wants this to be the case in her marriage.
  • Meaningful Name: Emily means "rival" and Victoria means "victorious", broadcasting which of them Victor will end up with.
  • Minor Insult Meltdown: Victor does this to Emily after she finds out about Victoria. "Why can't you understand? It was a mistake! I would never marry you!" Geez, Victor, couldn't you phrase that any more painfully?
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Subverted and lampshaded. When Emily comes across Victor reuniting with Victoria, she accuses him of cheating and shows off her ring. Victor then correctly points out that Emily is the "other woman", as she hijacked his planned marriage to Victoria. Victoria can tell by Emily's behavior that Victor certainly isn't cheating her either, and she tries to the best of her ability to help him.
  • Mundanger: The undead are more than capable of harm, but do none on-screen. The only character who has murdered, and plans to do so again, is the mortal Lord Barkis.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Lord Barkis Bittern.
  • Nasal Trauma: During the wedding preparations, the male chef — decomposing like everyone else in the underworld — ends up losing his nose when one of his fellow chefs accidentally whacks him in the back of the head. Said nose lands in the cauldron they were cooking with... and ends up becoming the key ingredient of the wedding cake.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The first trailer of the movie led us to believe that Victor got cold feet, left Victoria at the altar, and fled into the woods where he met Emily. In reality, he went into the woods because Gallswells told him not to come back until he had memorized his vows, which he recited in Emily's presence.
    • The trailer also portrayed the movie as having a sinister undertone when in reality, the only real villain of the film was Barkis.
    • The trailer also made the movie look scarier than it actually was.
  • Nobility Marries Money: Victor's parents have money and are extremely excited to get a chance to be part of the nobility. Victoria's parents are noble and are absolutely disgusted that marrying her off to the Nouveau Riche is the only way to get out of their perpetual poverty — they even acknowledge that the only thing that would be worse would be marrying someone else poor. However, once Victor and Victoria meet, they like each other for other reasons.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Most people think Maggot sounds like Peter Lorre.
  • No Indoor Voice: The town crier. Well, he does, but only uses it to forecast the weather.
  • No Name Given: Variation in Emily's case; her name is only spoken a grand total of three times in the film proper and it's easy to miss if one does not pay attention, especially for younger viewers. Heck, the credits list her as simply "Corpse Bride". Even most of the production staff didn't refer to her by proper name.
  • No Song for the Wicked: The true villain, Lord Barkis Bittern, never sings, while most of the other characters do. The closest thing to a Villain Song is "According to Plan," but while the singers, Victor and Victoria's parents, are rather selfish, they're not quite evil.
  • Noodle People: Several people are matchstick-thin.
  • Nouveau Riche: Victor's parents, to the disgust of Victoria's parents, who describe them as "So common! / So coarse!"
  • Obviously Evil: Lord Barkis. And his chin. His evil, evil chin.
  • Of Corset Hurts: As Victoria is getting her corset drawn, her mother orders the maid to tighten it. "I can hear you speak without gasping."
  • Offscreen Teleportation: You cannot run, Victor! Emily will find you! Not in a way that's physically possible but still. Subverted the second time, where it's explained that Emily simply took the stairs to the top of the cliff that Victor climbs.
  • Offstage Villainy: Emily's murder.
  • Old Retainer: The Everglot's maid, Hildegarde, for Victoria.
  • Parental Bonus: When Victor is in the woods, practicing his vows, he says a line to the effect of "With this hand, I will cup your...", with his hands placed near his chest area. Once he realizes what he's doing, he pulls his hands away in shock. "Oh goodness, no."
    • Finis' grandfather at one point, while holding a wine glass, asks "Where do you keep the spirits?" Since he is a reanimated skeleton, kids will assume he is asking where his spirit is, but older kids and adults will know he's referring to the alcoholic beverage known as spirits.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Implied by the lyrics of Remains of the Day, which says Emily fell hard and fast for a man, "but her daddy said no". Said man turns out to be the villain of the film, meaning Emily's father was absolutely right to reject him, even if it led to tragic results.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage:
    • Victor and Victoria. Originally it's an arranged marriage for social purposes, but they both fall for one another when they meet for the first time without their parents around.
    • Played with in regards to Victoria's parents. Although they don't actually like each other, they seem perfectly content with the state of their marriage as it is and get along very well because they both regard their marriage as a business partnership rather than having anything to do with love.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Nearly everyone in the land of the living. Most notable with the parents of the bride, especially when her mother orders her dad to smile, which takes great effort.
  • Prank Date: Emily's attempt to elope with Lord Barkis perfectly fits the "Malicious Trap" version of this trope.
  • Proper Lady: Victoria through and through.
  • Puddle-Covering Chivalry: Mayhew does this for Victor's mother during the opening scene.
  • Real Is Brown: More grey than brown, but this describes the staid Victorian world of the living, in stark contrast to the land of the dead, which is ironically more vivid in hue and, well, full of life.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Subverted with Pastor Galswells. When Victoria sees the situation regarding Victor and Emily, she goes to him, believing he will have the sufficient supernatural knowledge to help. Unfortunately, he instead takes her claims as utter madness, and she's taken home against her will to be imprisoned in her room again.
    • Played straight with the Elder Skeleton, who rules the Land of the Dead with justice and, as the priest overseeing Victor and Emily's wedding, might as well be the Good Shepherd.
  • The Reveal: Lord Barkis Bittern the killer. Buh buh BUUUUUHHHH!!! Also an Unreveal — in "The Remains of the Day," when Bonejangles tells Emily's story in silhouette, his shadow briefly takes on Lord Barkis' appearance.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Victor and Lord Barkis, respectively, although the Everglots don't find out about Lord Barkis' poverty until after he marries Victoria. In an inversion of the usual approach to this trope, the rich suitor is the virtuous one (although he is of humble birth, while the poor suitor is an Impoverished Patrician).
  • Robbing the Dead: The man who murdered Emily also took her family’s jewels.
  • Romantic False Lead: And we have a twofer. Emily is the likable variation, with Barkis being the nasty version.
  • Rule of Three: The Land of the Dead has three cooks.
  • Rummage Fail:
    • She doesn't exactly rummage, but it's close enough when Mrs. Plum tries to grab a knife from the male cook's head for Victor to fight with but accidentally takes hold of a fork and tosses that to Victor. She apologizes for not tossing him the optimal weapon.
    • Also when Victor attempts to arm himself, but the sword doesn't come free of the guy it's stuck through.
      "Stay back! I've got a... dwarf, and I'm not afraid to use him!"
  • Scratchy-Voiced Senior: Albert's widow has a high, croaky voice.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Emil, the Everglots' valet, hands in his verbal resignation during the "dead walk the Earth" sequence.
    Finis Everglot: Fetch me musket!
    Emil: (at the front door in his hat and coat) Fetch your own musket! I'm off! (slams the door behind him)
  • Self-Made Man: William Van Dort, millionaire fish merchant. The fact that he made his money through hard work rather than by inheriting it from his parents means that he and his wife are still looked down on by the upper class, one reason they are marrying Victor off to Victoria.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Emily's murder, to make it more family friendly, but also to hide the identity of her killer.
  • Shear Menace: One of the residents of the Land of the Dead is a barber who was killed by being stabbed in the head by his own scissors. He stores them there still when not using them.
  • She's Not My Girlfriend: Gender inverted as He's Not My Boyfriend: "He's my husband."
  • Shotgun Wedding: In a way, Victor and Emily.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The piano Victor sits at when meeting Victoria is brand-labeled a "Harryhausen", in homage to stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen.
    • There's even a line from Gone with the Wind used during an old man's skeleton and his still-living wife reuniting when the dead folk head upstairs for their wedding party.
    • Victoria's mother's character design is very reminiscent of Lady Tremaine from Cinderella. She's about as friendly as Tremaine is, too.
    • Victor and Victoria.
    • Aside from the You Shall Not Pass! moment, during the wedding rehearsal for Victor and Victoria, Victor accidentally drops the ring, which rolls on the floor while Pastor Gallswells angrily yells about "DROPPING THE RING!". It's a rather blatant reference.
  • Skewed Priorities: Victoria's mother.
    Victoria: It's true, Mother! Victor is married to a dead woman! I saw her — a corpse! — standing right there with Victor!
    Lady Everglot: Victor was in your room!?
    • Though this may be more a case of simply not buying the rest of her story. She made it pretty clear moments later that she didn't.
    • When Victor accidentally sets fire to Lady Everglot's dress, his mother voices concern of it leaving a stain.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Victoria doesn't object to Victor's wedding to Emily; Emily herself stops it when she realizes that if she goes through with it, she will steal Victoria's dreams just as her own dreams were stolen.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Emily plays this trope against Victoria's Proper Lady counterpoint. Although, Victoria starts to show signs of this too as the film goes on, such as fashioning a make-shift rope to climb out of her window and find a way to help Victor, and even trying to smash the door open with a poker when her parents lock her in her room. In the climax, when she realizes why Barkiss wanted to marry her, she lets him know exactly what she thinks of him before storming off to find Victor. However, Emily is more explicitly this trope right from the beginning.
  • Spiritual Successor: Corpse Bride may as well call The Nightmare Before Christmas "Daddy."
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Victor and Victoria. Ultimately subverted.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The head waiter is a head who happens to be a waiter. Not to mention that the joint where he works is called "The Ball and Socket."
    • At one point, Emily literally cries her eye out. (Just one, though.)
    • While looking for Victor, Emily passes a second-hand store that sells hands for people that lost the first one.
  • Tempting Fate: When Victor says his day couldn't get any worse following his messing up the wedding rehearsal, the town crier appears yelling about the incident to the town.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Poor Victoria just stares straight ahead in stunned silence during her wedding to Lord Barkis.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: What Emily's former fiance (Lord Barkis) did to her which led her to become a corpse bride.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Both sets of parents, in different ways. William and Nell Van Dort are roughly the same height, but William is skinny while Nell is wide enough to have trouble fitting into the carriage. Finis and Maudeline Everglot appear to be the same height when we first see them watching the Van Dorts from their window, but Finis is revealed to be standing on a stepladder, and is only about half as tall as his wife.
  • Title Drop: Repeatedly in the underworld. Victoria also tells the minister that Victor "has a corpse bride!"
  • Together in Death: That's how Emily wants it. And due to the nature of the phrase "'til death do us part", it's also the only way her "marriage" with Victor can be legit.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Delivered through song!
  • Truth in Television: This film was inspired by Burton learning of the despicable practice in Tsarist Russia of anti-Semitic gangs to lay in wait for Jewish brides on their way to weddings and murdering them en route.
  • Undeath Always Ends: Emily, once Barkis has died and Victor and Victoria are reunited, transforms into hundreds of butterflies as she leaves the church.
  • Undeathly Pallor: Everyone who's dead. The living are all mostly pale-skinned brunettes.
  • Unrequited Tragic Maiden: Emily. Her greatest wish was to find love after having been betrayed and killed on her wedding night by the man she thought really loved her, albeit Victor cannot reciprocate her emotions as he's already betrothed to and in love with Victoria. Eventually, she ascends to the afterlife unwed and leaves the young couple to enjoy a life together rather than forcing Victor to keep a promise that he never meant to make.
  • The Un-Smile: Lord Everglot, when his wife tells him, "Smile, darling, smile" as they meet the Van Dorts for the first time. His face audibly grinds into the unfamiliar expression as he puts on an awkward sideways smile.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Both Victor's and Victoria's parents, to varying degrees. Victor's parents are clearly Working Class Twits.
  • Villain Has a Point: While interrupting Victor and Victoria's reunion, Barkis reminds everyone that by law, Victoria is married to him, whether she likes him or not. And later, he affirms Elder Gutknecht that so long as the Dead are not allowed to harm the Living, they can't touch him. ...Thankfully, Barkis visits his mortality when he accidentally drinks the Wine of Ages, leaving both arguments null.
  • Wham Line: When Lord Barkis interrupts Victor and Victoria's reunion, we get this bombshell dropped on us.
    Emily: You...
    Lord Barkis: Emily...?
    Emily: You!
    Lord Barkis: But, but... I left you!
    Emily: ...For dead.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Weren't Victor's parents last seen on an out-of-control carriage after the death of their driver? What happened to them?
  • What You Are in the Dark: Emily has a chance to kill Victor without his knowledge, and stay married to him for eternity. As she has this conversation, she has no idea that Victor is right outside, hearing the whole thing. After a moment's consideration, she collapses in despair and says she could never do that to him.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Mayhew when telling Victor about Victoria marrying Barkis says, "I guess they didn't want to waste the cake."
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Victoria and Lord Barkis, letting her free again for Victor.
  • Woman Scorned: Victor, you really shouldn't have lied to Emily...
  • World of Pun: Just try to count them.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: A humorous and justified example; The town crier's reports consist of the events surrounding the Everglot-Van Dort wedding, to show the viewer how the Land of the Living really is THAT boring. Well, right up until he reports a swarm of the undead.
  • Xylophones for Walking Bones: "Remains of the Day" is sung by a Skeletal Musician and heavily features xylophone music. There's even a part where some dancing skeletons play each others' ribcages!
  • "You!" Exclamation: Emily does one directed at Barkis in the final act. This is because he’s the one who murdered her.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Spoofed with extra points for having it said by Christopher Lee's character, who treats the dead as if they're the unholy legions of hell. To which one of the dead whispers, "Keep it down, we're in a church!" (Where else would you have a proper Victorian wedding, after all?)
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Subverted, as the living gradually recognize their lost loved ones among the ranks of the dead. The dead, far from meaning harm, are overjoyed to share a few words with their living relatives, and are back on Earth only to attend a wedding. Further, they don't shamble, they softshoe.


Video Example(s):



Emily, ready to marry.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / WightInAWeddingDress

Media sources:

Main / WightInAWeddingDress