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Western Animation / Corpse Bride

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With this hand, I will lift your sorrows.
Your cup will never empty, for I will be your wine.
With this candle, I will light your way in darkness.
With this ring, I ask you to be mine.

Corpse Bride is a 2005 romantic comedy musical film directed by Mike Johnson (who previously worked on James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Tim Burton, 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 (in their first official project), gothic melodrama and macabre sense of humour, and is based on an old Yiddish-language Jewish folk tale from Russia with songs composed by Danny Elfman.

Victor van Dort (Johnny Depp), the son of some newly wealthy fishmongers, is entering into an Arranged Marriage with Victoria, (Emily Watson) 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 (Helena Bonham Carter), who thinks they are now married.

Oh, did we mention Emily is a walking, talking corpse?

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.

Corpse Bride provides examples of:

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  • A Child Shall Lead Them: When the dead are walking the town, the living folk cower from them. It takes a little child to realize that these "monsters" are their dearly departed.
    Little boy: Grandpa?
  • Abusive Parents:
    • The Everglots belittle Victoria, going as far as to say that she looks like "an otter" (probably because she is not ugly like them or their ancestors). Her mother forbids her of touching the piano, saying that music is improper for a young lady - never mind that learning to play the piano was part of a girl's education back in the Victorian Age, and Emily plays it wonderfully, so it seems more like an excuse to keep Victoria from doing something that would give her pleasure. Also, though it is understandable that Lady Everglot wouldn't believe Victoria's story about Victor being kidnapped by a dead woman, she is unfased by Victoria's shaken state and forbids Hildegard from comforting the poor girl, locking Victoria in her room.
    • Although Mrs. Van Dort doesn't go to Lady Everglot's extremes, she is not very fond of Victor, either, telling him to his face that it's an advantage that Victoria doesn't know him.
  • Accidental Marriage: The entire plot, of course.
  • Accidental Suicide: Barkis is wanted by the dead for tricking Emily into marrying him, stealing her fortune, and then murdering her, however they cannot touch him since the dead are unable to harm the living. After some Evil Gloating, 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 his fatal marriage ceremony to Emily and Barkis is instantly killed, leading him to a Fate Worse than Death at the ghosts' hands.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Emily recites Ophelia's "That's rosemary, for remembrance..." speech from Hamlet while holding a bouquet of flowers after Victor rejects her. Emily is voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, who played Ophelia 15 years earlier in Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 film of the play.
    • It's also not the first time Danny Elfman voices a singing skeleton.
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Lord Barkis asks Emily one as one last Kick the Dog moment after it’s revealed that he murdered her. Thankfully, he gets Laser-Guided Karma in the form of drinking the Wine of Ages, which unbeknownst to him, is poison.
    Lord Barkis: Tell me, my dear; can a heart still break once it’s stopped beating?
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: During the disastrous wedding rehearsal, Lord Barkis puts out a fire on Lady Everglot's skirt by pouring a cup of wine onto it. In reality this would have made things worse, as wine is flammable.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: At the end of the film; Emily, finally having found peace, doesn't return to the land of the dead but, rather, transforms into hundreds of butterflies. It's implied that Emily has achieved eternal bliss and tranquility, free to finally move on from this plane.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Elder Gutknecht's dramatic drink-mixing is really just for refreshment, and he actually starts the spell afterwards.
    • When the undead arrive in the real world, a young boy approaches one of them and gets hoisted up into the air, hinting something sinister is about to happen. Instead, the boy recognizes the figure as his deceased grandfather and the two embrace, followed by the rest of the living and the dead also reuniting with their friends and loved ones.
  • Betty and Veronica: Victoria plays the part of the sweet and gentle Betty while Emily is the spirited, yet secretly troubled Veronica.
  • Big Bad: Lord Barkis Bittern 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. He's also revealed to have been the stranger who stole Emily's heart, along with her life and her own family's fortune.
  • 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.
  • Bizarre Dream Rationalization: Victor faints after meeting Emily for the first time. He comes to in the Land of the Dead, surrounded by walking, talking corpses in varying states of decay, and with one of them insisting she's his wife. Naturally, Victor assumes he's dreaming and bangs his head on the bar in an attempt to wake himself up.
  • Blaming the Tools: When Mrs. Van Dort gets stuck in the doorway, she denies being fat and thinks her dress must have caught.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes on butterflies.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: The plot centers on Victor mistakenly engaging himself to the undead Emily and being taken to the land of the dead.
  • Bouquet Toss: Emily does this as she prepares to leave the church in the end. It's first caught by an elderly woman, who tosses it again from being startled by a maggot on her shoulder, whereupon it is caught by Victoria.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Butterflies appear throughout the film, and Emily turns into them when she finally reaches peace.
  • The Conscience: The maggot living inside Emily's head is a sarcastic variation.
  • 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.
  • 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. You can't feel pain anymore, and any illnesses you had to deal with in life are now gone, seemingly. Mayhew, who died of a coughing-related illness, actually seems 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.
  • The Dead Can Dance: The corpses in the Underworld appear to be constantly partying and giving elaborate musical numbers.
  • Death by Origin Story: Emily, again.
  • Death Glare: Emily fires one at Victor when she catches him trying to catch up to Victoria. She gives another to Barkis, after throwing herself in between him and Victor and turning his own sword against him.
  • Death of a Child: Implied. Though no children are seen dying on-screen, two residents of the underworld are skeletal children.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The world of the living is almost entirely lifeless, drab, and grey, with only the faintest hints of color in select places. This contrasts it to the land of the dead, which is ironically very vibrant and colorful.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Gender inverted. Emily has her chance to be with Victor, but gives him up because she doesn't want to steal him from Victoria.
  • Dirty Coward: When the residents of the underworld invade the wedding rehersal dinner, Barkis is seen crawling under the table, only to come face to face with two giggling undead chidlren.
  • Does He Have a Brother?: Miss Plum, the cook, wonders this when Victor first turns up in the Land of the Dead.
  • Double Standard: Emily holds Victor to his Accidental Marriage, drags him off to the afterlife, and refuses to let him return to the woman he's already engaged to, yet she's never framed unsympathetically by the movie's tone or its other characters. Yet when Barkis holds Victoria to their marriage vows and refuses to let her be with Victor out of spite, it's perceived as villainous and reprehensible by the onlookers. Downplayed, in that Victor's desire to get back to Victoria is shown as sympathetic by the movie and that Emily, whilst also sympathetic, needs to let him go as he still has a life to live with the one he really loves. By doing so, this is ultimately how she finds peace.
  • Do with Him as You Will: Elder Gutknecht initially holds the dead back from punishing Barkis for his crimes, reminding them of their inability to harm the living. That is until Barkis downs a goblet of wine that, unbeknownst to him, was spiked with poison. Elder Gutknecht's reaction? "He's all yours."
  • Duet Bonding: After a falling out with Emily about their Accidental Marriage, Victor manages to make amends with her by joining in her piano performance.

  • Elopement: This was Emily's plan with her beau 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:
    • Victor draws a sketch of the butterfly he captured, then releases it, completely unharmed, as he watches in awe. This shows that he is a gentle, bookish fellow.
    • Barkis scowls and tries to shoo the butterfly away. If you didn't see it already, he's not a good person.
  • Evil is Petty: Even after realizing that Victoria's parents are penniless and she's been wed to him with no dowry, Barkis refuses to let her return to Victor in the end, clinging to the fact that she's legally his wife just to ensure he has something to walk away with.
  • Exact Words: A source of strife in the third act comes from Victor's marriage to Emily lasting only until death do they part. Elder Gutknecht has to point out to her that death has already parted them, thus requiring Victor to join her in death or else their vows won't stick.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The story takes place over two days, from the afternoon of the first to the night of the second.
  • 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.
  • Face Death with Despair: At the very end, a variation is seen since Barkis had just died. Once Barkis is defeated, and decides to walk away from Victoria and try his luck elsewhere, the Residents of the Land of the Dead want to punish him for what he did to Emily and the sarcastic wedding toast he delivers, but elder Gutkneck says they can't as they're in the land of the living. When Barkis smugly drinks the poison wine meant for Victor, he tries to calmly walk out out the church, but dies soon after, meaning that the rules for the Dead apply to him as well, and Gutneck states "he's all yours." As the Residents of the Land of the Dead slowly approach him, Barkis lets out a panicked scream and desperately tries to escape, but is instead dragged off to a gruesome fate.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Done twice by Victor. The first time, after he's told by Mayhew, who recently died from complications of his smoking adiction and being run over by the carriage that carried Mr. and Mrs. Van Dorth, that Emily was married off to Lord Barkis, he overhears Emily talking to Elder Gutkneck, the Maggot, and the Black Widow spider that the only way she could marry Victor is if Victor dies. Victor seeing that he can't be with Victoria, agrees to perform the ritual so that he and Emily can get married, and the wedding procession heads to the Land of the Living for the nuptials. The second time happens at the church, after he's disarmed by Barkis after losing the sword fight, Victor merely flinches as he prepares himself to get stabbed by Barkis. Luckily, Emily stands between them, takes the sword that Barkis embedded in her abdomen and sternly orders him to "Get Out!".
  • 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 with a charmingly polite demeanor in order to wed Victoria. However, he lets his true colors shine whenever he's behind closed doors, and once his plans go astray, he abandons any sense of misdirection and lets known that he's only after her for her family's money.
  • 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."
  • Forceful Kiss: Emily appears to give one to Victor on the bridge after uttering, "You may kiss the bride."
  • Foreshadowing: Take a look at the way Emily's hand is pointing, as if she knew who her killer was.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Happily Married: 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.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Emily's character arc carries a rather bittersweet one: sometimes your dreams won't all come true but that doesn't mean you can't still find happiness. Emily dreamed of getting married to her true love, but she wasn't able to achieve this in life...or undeath, for that matter. However, she is still able to find inner peace and happiness when she lets go of this dream, enabling her to move on.
  • 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.
  • Heel Realization: Emily is convinced not to go through with marrying Victor when she sees Victoria watching their wedding in secret, as she realizes Victoria's dreams of being a happy bride are being ripped from her just as Emily's were. Unwilling to put another woman through that sorrow, she stops Victor from fulfilling his vows and gives him and Victoria her blessing.
  • 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?
  • Incest Subtext: Played with. Lord Barkis introduces himself as a "distant relative" to the Everglots. Neither of them can figure out who he is related to, but, had it been true, it would have been n-th Cousin Royal Inbreeding.
  • 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.
    • Not played by him, of course, but the grave-worm crawling about in Emily's eye-socket looks and sounds like Peter Lorre. Appropriate in that a long-deceased actor is referenced in a creature who feasts upon long-deceased people; dovetails neatly with No Celebrities Were Harmed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: Victor's quill that he uses to draw in the opening is curled at the tip, just like the hill from that other Tim Burton stop motion animated movie.
  • 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 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 alcoholic spirits - liquers.
  • 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.
  • Parents Suck at Matchmaking: Victor and Victoria are set up by their respective parents (Victor's want to become aristocrats through his marriage and Victoria's need money), but fall for each other at first sight. Played straight after Victor is abducted by Emily and Victoria's uncaring parents force her to marry Lord Barkis because he lied he was rich. When she learns he is a Gold Digger, she has at least the satisfaction of rubbing her parents' poverty on his face:
    Victoria: Well, perhaps in disappointment we are perfectly matched.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Victor and Victoria. Originally it's an arranged marriage for social purposes, and both of them are shown to be apprehensive about meeting their betrothed, but they both fall for one another when they meet for the first time without their parents around.
  • 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.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • A lot of grief might have been avoided by Victor explaining from the beginning that the vows he made to Emily were a mistake. Instead, he tries to lead her along as a way of getting back to the land of the living, only coming clean after she finds him with Victoria and is thus too upset to see his line of thought.
    • Similarly, neither Lord Barkis nor the Everglots admit to being broke, so they both go ahead with the wedding for the money not realising its complete futility.
  • Prank Date: Emily's attempt to elope perfectly fits the "Malicious Trap" version of this trope.
  • Proper Lady: Victoria through and through.
  • Puddle-Covering Chivalry: Played with. Mayhew does this for Victor's mother during the opening scene, but not out of chivalry; she glares at him on seeing the puddle until he complies.
  • 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 turns out to have been the stranger who wooed and ultimately murdered Emily to make off with her family's fortune.
  • 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).
  • Ridiculously Alive Undead: Everyone in the Land of the Dead is either a walking skeleton or a zombie, yet they're still shown to eat and drink in the bar.
  • 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: Gertrude, the village's resident cranky old dame, 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.
  • 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.
    • If the song "According To Plan" isn't this at its finest, then what is?
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: This film was based on an old Russian-Jewish folktale, which in turn was inspired by an incident in Tsarist Russia where, it is said, an anti-Semitic gang lay in wait for a Jewish bride on her way to her wedding and murdered her en route. The characters here, however, are decidedly Gentile to give the movie a more universal, fairy-tale type quality.
  • 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 and void.
  • 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.
  • Woken Up at an Ungodly Hour: Victoria goes to the church in the middle of the night, seeking the help of Pastor Galswells on how to deal with Emily. The Pastor is very grumpy about being bothered at such a late hour, but when Victoria mentions Emily being a living corpse, he suddenly turns serious and it looks like he's going to be a Reasonable Authority Figure... only for the scene to Smash Cut to him giving over Victoria back to her parents, telling them that's she's acting crazy.
  • 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 dead don't really attack anyone, some of them even have manners like saying "Sorry" and tipping their hats, then 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.


"Remains of the Day"

The song briefly devolves into a black void of skeletons playing music.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisneyAcidSequence

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