Lionel Frost: I give you my word.
Mr. Link: Okay, what is it?
Lionel Frost: What?
Mr. Link: Your word.
Lionel Frost: No, it’s a figure of speech.
Mr. Link: Sounds good. What is it?
Lionel Frost: The word... is "trust".
Missing Link is a 2019 Stop Motion animated Adventure Comedy film by Laika. It's notable for being their first film to not have a Kid Hero since Corpse Bride (which wasn't fully a Laika movie anyway, though they were involved), and their first film to be devoid of any horror elements. In 2020, it became the first fully stop-motion film to win a Golden Globe Award.
The story follows Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman), an avid explorer who seeks to discover proof of the world's most famous legends. One day, he receives a mysterious letter telling him where he can find the Bigfoot, he then travels to the Pacific Northwest and encounters a Sasquatch (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) who reveals to Sir Lionel that he was the one who wrote the letter, that he is the last of his kind, and wishes to join the Yetis, his cousins, in the mythical land of Shangri-La. Together, the two set off on an incredible journey across the globe to unite Mr. Link with his brethren.
This movie contains examples of the following tropes:
- Action Prologue: The entire Nessie sequence at the beginning. It sets up who Lionel is, the existence of cryptids in this movie's world, and the generally adventurous tone, but otherwise doesn't really tie into the main plot.
- Almost Kiss: One nearly happens twice between Adelina and Lionel. The first nearly occurs during the elephant ride through the jungle, but the sudden interference of a low-hanging tree branch prevents it. Towards the end of the movie, Lionel attempts to give Adelina a goodbye kiss, but she stops him in his tracks.
- An Aesop: You don't need the approval of others to define yourself. There's a difference between acceptance and friendship.
- And the Adventure Continues: The movie ends with Sir Lionel, now with Susan as his partner, getting his hands on the Fiji mermaid, which he believes to be the key to finding Atlantis.
- Armour-Piercing Question: Sick of him griping about the Optimates Club, Adelina asks Lionel why he wants to join a group of old men who openly hate him. Lionel goes silent for a moment, then forces himself to admit that he only wants to join because they said he couldn't.
- Artistic License – Biology: As Christopher Lee once pointed out, nobody lets out a blood-curdling scream when they've been stabbed through the chest. (Not even when they're falling to their death like Stenk.)
- Artistic License – Geography: The maps of the United States that are seen show Arizona and New Mexico, despite the movie being set in 1909, before they became states.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: The eponymous Link is a Bigfoot (referred to only as a Sasquatch, as "Bigfoot" would not be coined until the 1950's), and the protagonists encounter a tribe of yetis.
- Blowing a Raspberry: After escaping from Shangri-La with his friends, Mr. Link blows a raspberry at the Elder Yeti, surprising her enough to break her contemptuous frown.
- Book Ends:
- The story begins with Sir Lionel's assistant quitting for good, and ends with Sir Lionel finding a new one: Susan.
- The beginning of the story shows a shot of Sir Lionel's office, complete with a photo of Adelina. The story ends with a similar shot, but this time, photo Adelina's portrait seems to smile upon the adjacent photo of Sir Lionel and Susan as friends.
- Caged Bird Metaphor: As he tries to convince Adelina to give him Aldous' map, Sir Lionel compares her to a bird in a cage, like the one in her room, spending too long mourning her husband and shutting out the world. The gates to her home even resemble a bird cage to further drive the point. Later, Adelina says his suggestion to fly away free convinces her to go on adventures of her own.
- Civilized Animal: Susan, aka Mr. Link, is a Sasquatch that learned to speak, read, write, and even to play chess. His intelligence is on par with humans, and he even wears clothes to blend in when needed, it’s never brought up whether he is abnormally intelligent for his species or not; however, the fact that the yetis are also intelligent suggests the latter.
- Crapsaccharine World: Yes, Shangri-la may be lovely and pristine, and it is a monument to the beauty of nature. But its inhabitants, the Yetis, are not only cold and isolationist, but heartlessly sentence all intruders to life imprisonment.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Lord Piggot-Dunceby, and to a lesser extent the Optimates Club as a whole, embody much of the (by modern standards) bigoted and generally imperialist mindset that characterized many early 20th-century explorers. Heck, Piggot-Dunceby's Establishing Character Moment is him regaling his comrades with a tale about the time he shot down an unarmed "savage" in the jungle.
- Disney Villain Death: Lord Piggot-Dunceby and his assistant fall to their deaths after the former destroys the ice bridge. Subverted by Stenk, who falls as well, but only after being struck by a giant icicle.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Zigzagged. The yetis' punishment for trespassing on their land is... not death. Instead, they imprison trespassers for life.
- Do Wrong, Right: Lord Piggot-Dunceby scolds Stenk for threatening a defenseless old woman... when threatening her defenseless young grandson is much more effective.
- Early-Bird Cameo: A portrait of Adelina can be seen hanging on the wall of Lionel's office well before he goes to see her in person, which also serves as proof that their connection is deeper than it may appear on the surface.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- The photo of Aldous and Adelina counts as this for the former, showing that he was a good husband as well as a great man.
- When Sir Lionel boards the first voyage to seek the lead on Sasquatch, there's a notable shot of the other passengers saying good-bye to their loved ones ashore. Sir Lionel is already in his cabin unpacking, because he has no one to see him off.
- When Sir Lionel first encounters the Sasquatch, it at first seems to start growling, but then has a coughing fit and apologizes in perfect English. This establishes him as being more intelligent (if naive) than its appearance suggests, as well as being gentle and awkward.
- Evil Is Petty: As Stenk is about to push Sir Lionel off a ledge, he admits that, even though he won't get paid after Lord Piggot-Dunceby has died, he's doing it out of "shallow, self-centered pride."
- The giant footprint in the snow is a hint at the existence of the yeti and their part in the story.
- The letter Sir Lionel receives that gives him a lead to the elusive Sasquatch has rather crude handwriting. It's a telling hint that the letter was written by none other than the Missing Link himself.
- The audience is treated to a view of the plaque for the Optimates Club. Then, Sir Lionel's carriage unwittingly splashes mud onto it. This hints that Sir Lionel will come to disown his dream of joining their club.
- Lord Piggot-Dunceby tells Sir Lionel, "I say we are descended from great men, not great apes." To this, Sir Lionel says he disagrees, and believes "the two go hand in hand". Eventually, Sir Lionel comes to form a friendship with Mr. Link, and thus to "go hand in hand" with him.
- As Adelina pushes her way through a crowd, she shoves apart a couple about to kiss. This foreshadows how she will turn down Lionel's kiss towards the end.
- The Elder Yeti sharing the true name of Shangri-La, "Keep-Out-We-Hate-You", paints a revealing picture of not only how isolationist the yetis are, but how little they care for Mr. Link (or any outsiders for that matter).
- The Elder Yeti refers to sasquatches like Mr. Link as the yetis' "red-neck cousins", reflecting her and the yetis' deep-rooted disdain for even their branch cousins.
- Gender-Concealing Writing: When describing his encounter with the friendly prospector, Mr. Link never uses gendered pronouns, instead opting for the singular "they". This is to make it a surprise that the prospector was a woman named Susan.
- Gentleman Adventurer: Sir Lionel Frost is the epitome of the trope. He's a very proper, but undoubtedly eccentric, English gentleman who has devoted his life to the hunting of cryptids above all else. The rest of the Optimates Club, particularly Lord Piggot-Dunceby, are also examples of a darker and deconstructed nature.
- Go Through Me: Lionel and Adelina pull this for Link when they stand up to Lord Piggot-Dunceby. Link tries to join in, only to be told to stand back and let others be gone through.
- Hidden Elf Village: “Shangri-La”, the secluded valley of yetis in the Himalayas. They don’t want to have anything to do with the outside world, and they have total disdain for humankind and Susan.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), Sir Lionel (Hugh Jackman), and Adelina (Zoe Saldaña) all greatly resemble their voice actors.
- Lionel is already an adventurer in his own right, and an awesome one at that. Yet he feels he needs to join a club dedicated to so-called adventurers (who are more like your average petty poachers) in order to prove himself.
- Lord Piggot-Dunceby standing atop a table like a barbarian whilst claiming he and British society "bring good manners to the world".
- "The people we don't want here are leaving! Force them to stay!"
- I Gave My Word: Sir Lionel gives his word to Mr. Link (and then has to explain what that means) that he will help him find a home.
- It Will Never Catch On: When Sir Lionel is talking about the legend of Bigfoot to the Optimates Club, he lists off all the varying names for this legendary creature, the last of these names being "Sasquatch". Mr. Collick scoffs "It'll never catch on."
- Jerkass Has a Point: The yetis are extreme in their isolationism, but Adelina concedes that they have a point that humans ruin the beauty of nature in vain and glorious efforts to validate their inflated sense of self-worth.
- Kick the Dog:
- Whilst denouncing Sir Lionel as man without proof of his accomplishments, Sir Piggot-Dunceby takes Lionel's mold-casting of a sasquatch footprint and deliberately drops it on the floor to shatter into pieces.
- The Elder Yeti is no better, as she not only tells Mr. Link to his face that he doesn't belong in Shangri-la, but says humans are more "his kind".
- Kiss Diss: When parting ways with Adelina towards the end of the movie, Lionel leans in to kiss her, but she stops him halfway.
- Last of His Kind: Susan, an intelligent and English-speaking Sasquatch, reveals to Sir Lionel that he is the last of his kind.
- In a less literal sense, Sir Lionel and Adelina will likely be the last humans to ever see and set foot in Shangri-La after barely escaping when the ice bridge is destroyed by Lord Piggot-Dunceby.
- Lighter and Softer: This is Laika's first film completely devoid of horror elements. That said, it is still quite intense at times, especially in the chase scenes and climactic fight with Willard Stenk. See Vile Villain, Saccharine Show below.
- Literal-Minded: Mr. Link admits as much after Sir Lionel hands him a grappling hook with the instruction to throw the rope over a wall, and he throws the whole thing. He struggles repeatedly with Sir Lionel's non-literal figures of speech throughout the film until the very end, once he's spent some time as Lionel's partner in adventure, and has apparently learned about idioms through his company.Sir Lionel: I give you my word.
Mr. Link: Okay, what is it?
Sir Lionel: What?
Mr. Link: The word.
Sir Lionel: No, it was a figure of speech.
Mr. Link: Sounds good, what is it?
Sir Lionel: ...The word, my dear fellow, is 'trust'.
- Mugged for Disguise: After a bar fight, Sir Lionel has Susan wear a tweed suit a few sizes too small that they got off of one of the unconscious participants. Later, they mug a nun for a disguise to evade Adelina at the train station, but she sees right through it.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: During the fight on the steamboat, Mr. Link attempts to save Frost and Adelina from Stenk, but due to his clumsiness and the extreme waves, he instead knocks out Frost and pushes Adelina overboard.
- No Cartoon Fish: All the animals in the movie have asymmetrical features and oddly-shaped limbs, possibly to make the more evenly-proportioned Mr. Link look better to viewers.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Susan avoids attention in public places wearing an ill-fitting tweed suit while barefoot. Somehow, this works on every single bystander he encounters for the entire movie.
- Posthumous Character: Aldous Fortnight. He may have died some time before the start of the movie, but his research into Shangri-la, particularly the map to Gamu, is essential in Lionel and Link's quest to find the latter a home, and going to retrieve it means they encounter his wife Adelina too. Adelina is also still deeply affected by his death, and his memory motivates many of her actions.
- Pride Before a Fall: Sir Lionel references the phrase before pulling Stenk off a ledge.Sir Lionel: Careful, Stenk. You know what they say pride comes before.
Stenk: Wait a minute, I know this. Is it Tuesday?
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Twice over does Adelina point out to Lionel that he needs to check his ego and think about others for once in his life. The second time, it finally gets through to him.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Lord Piggot-Dunceby is pretty spot on when he claims Sir Lionel doesn't belong in the Optimates Club, but it's less to do with him being worthy to join and more to do with being in a league of his own. For the same reason, the same could be said for the Elder Yeti's statement that Mr. Link doesn't belong in Shangri-la. He really doesn't belong there, but it's not because he's not worthy of staying in Shangri-la. Rather, it's because he probably wouldn't fit in with the cold and stoic yetis, and would be much happier living with Sir Lionel.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- Whilst riding in a carriage to Lord Piggot-Dunceby's club, Sir Lionel's carriage splashes mud onto every unfortunate pedestrian he passes, reflecting Lionel's tendency to step on other people's toes without considering how they feel. Adding onto that, his carriage also splashes mud onto the plague for the Optimates club, as though reflecting that he offends them simply by being himself.
- Whilst giving his "great men" speech, Piggot-Dunceby climbs upon a table to put one foot atop his globe for dramatic effect. This is a very classic representation of ego, as well as an indication of his arrogant viewpoint on colonialism.
- The way Sir Lionel and Lord Piggot-Dunceby make their deal next to a roaring fireplace gives a whole new meaning to the term "heated discussion". What's more, it invokes a "deal with the devil" motif.
- When Sir Lionel rushes down the halls of the Optimates Club, he trails research papers behind him as he struts past a mosaic of the world. He seeks to find knowledge and spread it throughout the world, and it shows.
- In contrast, we see Lord Piggot-Dunceby march down the same candle-lit hall that evening. While he rants about all the new things that threaten his traditional world (the suffragette movement, electricity, evolution theory), his walking past the candles snuffs out each and every one of them. As he passes the same mosaic of the world from before, the mosaic is plunged into darkness, representing how Piggot-Dunceby would gladly keep the world in the dark if he could.
- Casa de Fortnight is behind barred gates, making it feel like Adelina is a bird in a cage. note
- After Lord Piggot-Dunceby destroys the bridge to Shangri-la, the bridge's crumbling represents the height of the yetis' isolationism, culminating in having cut off all ties to the outside world.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Our heroes travel thousands of miles to reach Shangri-La and unite Mr. Link with his yeti "cousins" so he can belong, only to learn that not only do they not want Mr. Link in their world, but that Mr. Link has already found somewhere he can belong: with his friends Lionel and Adelina.
- The Shangri-La: It is described by Sir Lionel as a magical place where people do not age. Adelina corrects him, saying it's actually a place where people did not evolve, i.e. remained ape-like beasts. They actually find the place, which is inhabited by a tribe of unfriendly yetis.
- Small Role, Big Impact:
- Aldous Fortnight has been dead for some time, but his map serves to lead our heroes to their destination, Shangri-La.
- The prospector Susan who made a difference in Mr. Link's life is only mentioned, never seen on-screen or in any flashback. But, her simple kind act of smiling nicely at Mr. Link meant so much to him that he names himself after her.
- Stealth Pun: When Skenk remarks that Lord Piggot-Dunceby won't like the collective bad news that Sir Lionel is alive, still has the Missing Link, and is well on his way to Shangri-La, we Gilligan Cut to a shipping crate labeled "nuts". Sure enough, in that same harbor, Lord Piggot-Dunceby is going nuts over his bad luck.
- The Stinger: The closing credits include a time-lapse clip in which the animators set up the journey that Frost and company make by elephant through the jungles of India, using a combination of hand-built puppetry/sets and CGI. At the end, the Laika production logo morphs to show characters from all five of the studio's films to date.
- Stock Ness Monster: Sir Lionel attempts to take a photo of the Loch Ness Monster early in the movie, but the creature destroys his camera and almost kills his assistant Mr. Lint.
- Suggestive Collision: When Lionel and Adelina are having a conversation in her cabin on the boat they are traveling on, the waves make the ship list from side to side, causing the two to stumble into each other's arms.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
- The death of Sir Aldous Fortnight is treated rather gently, with Adelina truly grieving for her husband. She isn't so easily wooed back into the arms of the self-centered Lionel, not after how her late husband was there for her.
- Sir Lionel thinks that Link should be able to scale a wall with his long arms and such. But Mr. Link is so clumsy that all he can manage is to crash headlong through the wall.
- Ama's baby is a small one, and it reminds audiences why toddlers and infants are referred as "snot-nosed".
- When asked a second time if she can take them to Shangri-la, Gamu basically says no and offers to give her adult granddaughter Ama directions so she can lead in her stead. At Gamu's age, she's too infirm to journey through the mountains by herself, much less guide our heroes.
- When Mr. Link doubts he can throw Lionel out of a pit they are in, the latter replies "Nonsense! Now give it all you've got." How wrong he is.
- In the case of the Yeti Elder, sometimes, people with cold personalities are just that, cold to the core. They can't always be changed by people who are warm, kind, or at least good-mannered.
- Adelina's Kiss Diss is a testament that the girl doesn't always want the guy. Adelina still has her whole life ahead of her, and Sir Lionel has much more growing to do before she can think of getting back together with him (if ever).
- Took a Level in Kindness: Sir Lionel Frost starts out as a self-centered Glory Hound who is willing to put others in danger for his own reputation. During his journey with Mr. Link and Adelina, he learns to care about others and becomes Mr. Link's true friend.
- Travel Montage: Several of them, with a twist: we see a line on a map each time, but it's actually being drawn by Sir Lionel as his plots the route.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The film is a charming little story about a Gentle Giant Bigfoot and a self-centered but well-intentioned explorer travelling the world to find a home for the former. But their pursuers, the snobbish Politically Incorrect Villain Lord Piggot-Dunceby and the ruthless assassin/hunter Willard Stenk, are utterly despicable, going as low as threatening a small child to get a confession out of an old woman.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Implied. What is Sir Lionel's motivation to join the Optimates Club, despite its members neither respecting nor liking him? Why does he want to be one of them? According to Lionel, it's because "they said [he] couldn't."
- Wham Line: The Elder Yeti saying that Mr. Link doesn't belong in Shangri-la.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: A non-villainous example, where Sir Lionel's (former) valet Mr. Lint emphasizes "I'm a human being!" and how he's had it up to here with being treated like a servant, expected to put his life on the line whenever they hunt for a new (possibly dangerous) creature.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the themes of the movie. Adelina eventually has to point out to Sir Lionel that his treatment of Mr. Link is inconsiderate at best and selfish at worst. She recognizes that Mr. Link is a person in his own right, and even urges Sir Lionel to at least offer Link to name himself.