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Western Animation / Motorcity

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From Disney Television Animation, Titmouse, and Chris Prynoski (the creator of Megas XLR), Motorcity is a Disney XD series.

The series is set in a fictional, futuristic Detroit owned by Corrupt Corporate Executive Abraham Kane (Mark Hamill). Having banned personal freedoms including automobile transportation, Kane now faces one last obstacle: a group of hot-rod wielding rebels who call themselves The Burners. Led by Mike Chilton (Reid Scott), The Burners rise to stop Kane from conquering Detroit’s last oasis of freedom—an underground refuge dubbed Motorcity.

Despite being well received by critics and fans, the show was unfortunately Screwed by the Network,note  and received the axe before the first season was even finished. Much like their previous series, Megas XLR though, the staff was able to give their last (and in this case only) season a Grand Finale.

A staff-run blog, People of Motorcity, has released the series bible.

This animated TV series provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The Burners' cars and some of Kane's robots are animated with CGI, though it generally blends fairly well with the rest of the animation.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A couple of episodes have these, particularly when it comes to Mike's past or Julie and her father.
  • After the End: Maybe... there's a lot of ambiguity about just what's outside the city. In "Vega", it's mentioned that everything outside Detroit has supposedly been reduced to uninhabitable wasteland. When Vega arrives and claims to be from Cleveland, it's speculated by the characters that Kane just made up everything about the wasteland so that nobody would try to leave. Then it turns out that Vega is really Kane in disguise, luring the Burners into a trap, so who knows whether there really is a wasteland or not?
  • Abnormal Ammo: Terras use seeds that quickly grow into entangling plants.
    • The Duke of Detroit has a tank that shoots limos.
    • "Fearless" has Mike using his own car as ammo for a cannon to launch him and Chuck reach 15 stories higher on a tower.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Mike and Chuck in particular calling each other "Mikey" and "Chuckles".
    • To a lesser extent, "Jules" and "Tex".
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Utility Bots invented by Jacob were installed with AI to make them anticipate human commands. Unfortunately, in an interesting twist, they only obey Jacob's commands.
  • All There in the Manual: There's a lot of info about the characters and backstory that hasn't been seen in the show, some of which has been shared from the creators and the Tumblr page People of Motorcity, such as the production bible.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Mike Chilton, his sister Capri, Tennie, Kaia, most of the Terras.
  • Animal Motifs: The four main cars are named and designed after animals. For example, Mike's car Mutt not only has dog designs but the engine often literally snarls and growls. Subverted with Jacob's car, if you don't count cryptids.
  • Animal Theme Naming: As per above:
    • Mike: Mutt (dog)
    • Julie: 9 Lives (cat)
    • Dutch: Whiptail (scorpion)
    • Texas: Stronghorn (rhino)
    • Jacob: Sasquatch (Sasquatch)
  • Artistic License – Physics: Anything the Burners' cars do.
    • Prime example in "Power Trip": Mike stopping his car, going up, at pretty much a 90 degree angle.
  • Art Shift: In "Going Dutch" the style shifts to brightly colored style reminiscent of graffiti to illustrate Dutch's backstory.
    • "Mayhem Night" had some downright terrifying ones for the Burner's hallucinogen-induced visions.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Detroit Deluxe, in this case the "clean pretty environment hides the oppressive regime" use of this trope.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Terras have plant-like ones they attach to their wrists.
  • Battering Ram: Stronghorn has one.
  • Be the Ball: In "Off the Rack", one of the tactics used by Kane with the Safety Suits is taking control of Detroit Deluxe citizens and combining them into a ball.
  • Be Yourself: Basically every other episode.
  • BFG: Stronghorn uses on in "Reunion".
  • Big Fancy House: The Duke has one in the middle of his own junkyard.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Subverted. Near the start of "The Duke of Detroit" Whiptail gets blown to pieces, seemingly taking Dutch with it. But of course he's fine thanks to Texas.
    • Averted completely in "Going Dutch" where Dutch ends up being the last uninfected human in all of Motorcity during a zombie outbreak; luckily he manages to whip up a cure and turn everyone back to normal.
  • Bond One-Liner: Texas tries time and time again to pull one off in "The Duke of Detroit Presents"—key word being "tries".
  • Book Ends: Both the first and last episode of the first season end with the Burners going out for a joyride after a private conversation between Mike and Julie.
  • Bring It: In the finale, Mike does this to Red while chained to a wall. Mike wins.
  • Broken Pedestal: Mike was Kane's protege before he realized Kane was evil. After that he split.
  • Butt-Monkey: Cyborg Dan. Poor, poor Cyborg Dan.
  • Call-Back: Two of the robots from "Threat Level" reappear, still being friendly Kane Co. bots.
    • "A Better Tomorrow" has a major one to the show's unaired pilot. The Chopper-Mutt, and Kane emerging from the ruins of his War Pod.
  • Cast of Snowflakes
  • Chekhov's Gun: Some of Texas' ideas, mainly "Texas-ify It", but also his plan of sneaking into Kane Co in "Power Trip" or idea of the dragon shooting lasers in "Going Dutch".
    • The container of metal-eating machines Mike had in his pocket in "Vendetta".
    • The fire extinguisher Claire was put in charge of in "Julie and the Amazons".
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Jacob's talk of when to fight and when to run to Mike in "Battle for Motorcity".
  • Clip Show: "Threat Level: Texas" is the subversion/parody type, in which all flashbacks either match Texas' Self-Serving Memory or he's just bluffing to Tooley.
  • Close-Call Haircut: In "Fearless", Tenny shoots a Kanebot behind Dutch, shooting a part of his afro in the process.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: White and light blue = lives in Detroit Deluxe. Other Colors = you live in Motor City.
  • Combination Attack: Mike holding onto Texas's legs as the latter performs the Texas Twister to fight the Terras in "Texas-ify It".
  • Company Town: Detroit Deluxe
  • Cool Car: OH yeah.
  • Cool Shades: "Kane Shades" are advertised in "Off the Rack".
    • The Duke of Detroit and most of his grunts sport these, along with seemingly every member of the Skylarks. Texas even dons a pair himself when he tries to go undercover as a Skylark in "Julie and the Amazons".
  • Crapsaccharine World: Detroit Deluxe is a spotless, clean, utopian city with the latest technology used for everyday needs, but beneath that veneer is an oppressive regime controlled by Kane that bans individual freedoms as simple as car ownership, or even the choice of clothing colours and styles to the point all citizens must wear mandatory leotards or whatever else Kane tells them. The citizens have to start each activity by tapping a secret code and their faces are hardly happy. Kane also gears the city efforts towards spreading propaganda about the Burners, fueling his own ego by building monuments to himself, and even tried to make sure defectors cannot leave the city out of sheer paranoia.
    • A World Half Full: Old Detroit, a.k.a. Motorcity, is exactly the opposite- run-down, dingy and dark, but everyone lives free and the landscape has a lot more variety. They even have a theme park with a bobsled ride, and have such events as Halloween costume parties.
  • Cut Short: Sorry Burners, it just wasn't meant to be.
  • Darkest Hour: At the end of "Vega," Mike gets captured by Kane and is detained and beaten for three days before Kane tells him that he's to be executed. Motorcity in the meanwhile has been under constant attack, and thanks to the Duke, Kane will be able to complete the Genesis Pod that will wipe the city off the map.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "Texas-ify It," "The Robo-Roundup," and "Threat Level: Texas" for Texas.
      • "Robo-Roundup" also counts for R.O.T.H. as well.
    • "Going Dutch" and "Reunion" for Dutch.
    • "Blond Thunder", "Fearless" and "Ride of the Fantasy Vans" for Chuck
    • "Off the Rack" and "Like Father" for Julie.
    • Mike is the main character, but he still gets "Vendetta," which focuses on his backstory.
  • Defector from Decadence: Mike, Jacob, Dutch and Julie (to an extent). It's probable that a sizable chunk of the population of Motorcity used to live in Deluxe.
  • Deranged Animation: The Mushroom Samba sequences in "Mayhem Night" are some of the trippiest of its kind, and rarely anything seen in a kid's, much less Disney, cartoon.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted. Red chose to fall to near-certain death rather than be saved by Mike, but ends up alive.
  • Domestic-Only Cartoon: Animated by Titmouse at both its Los Angeles and New York studios.
  • Doomsday Device: The Genesis Pod.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Happens to some of the Burners (and Claire) as a result of the Terras' pod's gas that shows them their greatest fears.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: As Mike recalls how he wasn't able to save a few dozen Motorcity tenants from having their homes destroyed, he picks up an old teddy bear still left behind in the rubble.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Detroit Deluxe.
  • Evil Counterpart: Kaia to Mike. Just as eager to bring down Kane, but she has no qualms about innocent citizens going down in the process.
  • Evil Gloating: Abraham Kane LOVES this.
  • Face, Nod, Action: Done by Mike and Chuck in the beginning of "Reunion".
  • Faceless Goons: The KaneCo soldiers, with glowing red eyes under their helmets.
  • First-Episode Twist: Julie is the daughter of the Big Bad.
  • Flipping the Table: not enough for Texas in "Ride The Lightning." He instead opts to swing it and smash it to bits. And then tear up.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: In the series finale, Chuck and Mike ride on a motorcycle into the camera and the last credits roll.
  • Frame-Up: "Julie and the Amazons" has the Burners framed by an unknown gang using an explosive compound in attacking other gangs. It would seem the titular Amazons are responsible for the False Flag Operation since they have access to and use the same compound. Turns out it was actually the Duke of Detroit who was responsible, as he created the fake Burner vehicles as well as purchasing the compound from the Amazons.
  • Funny Bruce Lee Noises: Texas, possibly because of all the action movies he watches.
  • Gang of Hats: Every Motorcity gang sans the Burners have some sort of unique wardrobe motif.
    • Excepting No. 2 and obviously Cyborg Dan, all of the Duke's grunts have sharp suits and hats, evoking the mafia boss motif of the Duke.
    • The Skylarks wear formal suits with giant numbers on the back and sunglasses.
    • The Amazons wear brightly-colored racing suits with matching helmets.
    • The Momma's Boys wear overalls.
    • The Electroblades all wear hockey uniforms; no one's been seen with their mask off.
    • The Weekend Warriors wear standard military garb.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Terras.
  • Generic Graffiti: Totally averted, the backgrounds will often feature unique graffiti reminiscent of actual tags in Detroit. Most noticeably averted in "Going Dutch."
  • Good News, Bad News: In the "Both News are the Same" variant. Julie manages to get the Kane Safety Suit off, unfortunately, that happens when she's confronted by a Kane Bot.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Is how the Burners defeated The Terror Dome of Destruction, we even get teased about it at the end of the episode.
  • Green Thumb: The Terras
  • Halloween Episode: "Mayhem Night".
  • Hazmat Suit: Used in "Going Dutch" by Kane's men and Mike.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mike in "Going Dutch." Luckily, he's cured at the end along with everyone else.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: The pilot episode has this exchange:
    Julie: And [Kane] said- ready?- he wants to obliterate all of us and all of our cars.
    Mike: Our cars? But we love our cars.
  • Involuntary Dance: This is one of the first things Tooley does with the people wearing Kane Safety Suits. Later, this happens to him when he's in a suit that was hacked by the Burners.
  • Irony: Mike claims that he knows Kane best to Julie, whom he doesn't know is Kane's daughter. Though he may be partly right, considering Kane's never manipulated Julie to destroy a building with innocents inside.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): The remains of old Detroit are known as Motorcity. The Motor City is one of the most common nicknames of Detroit.
  • It's Raining Men: In "Off the Rack", one of Kane's tactics with the Kane Safety Suits.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Kane would help himself a lot if he just got rid of Tooley.
  • Le Parkour: Mike gets around in this fashion when not driving.
  • Leitmotif: Several characters seem to have these.
    • Tennie has one heard in "Fearless" and "Mayhem Night," which is notably calmer and more beautiful-sounding than the show's standard rock soundtrack.
    • The Duke of Detroit has 80's glam rock (not surprising, when the actor is Dee Snider.
    • Kane has an odd one - total silence, with ambient/machine sounds.
    • The episode Attack of the Fantasy Vans, being a spoof of MMORPG culture, has an European Power Metal (think HammerFall) background score thrown in occasionally, and is indirectly a spoof of the style.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Justified in Detroit Deluxe, due to Kane's rule.
    Kane: (tagline for any fashion accessory made by KaneCo) It's mandatory!
  • Light Is Not Good: Detroit Deluxe is clean, sun always shining, and is represented by the color white. It is also an oppressive Dystopia that denies basic rights.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Kane has a variety of these, thus far we've seen dog like robots and basically floating refrigerators with lasers.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Red thinks Mike destroyed his house, when it was his subsequent employer, Kane, who ordered it.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Julie does this in "Off the Rack."
  • Moment Killer: Julie is about to tell Mike that she's Kane's daughter, but is interrupted by Chuck relaying that the suit can be deactivated by overloading its safety threshold.
  • Mood Whiplash: Due to Disney XD's hectic order of airing episodes, we get "Threat Level Texas" which is just a barrel of laughs and then the following week, we get "Vega" (ouch).
    • Three notable instances in "A Better Tomorrow":
      • The very beginning, when a cheesy KaneCo commercial plays as Motorcity is under siege.
      • After a rather sweet and intimate moment between Mike and Julie in Mike's prison cell, Tooley walks in on them, leading Julie to comedically slap Mike to keep her cover up.
      • After an extremely tense fist fight with Kane, Mike drops from the War Pod, falling to his death and peacefully resigning to it... and then the Duke drives in with Mutt to pick him up mid-air. He's even turned on elevator music for the occasion, which makes it all the more hilarious.
  • Mushroom Samba: In "Mayhem Night" Kaia and her group use a hallucinatory gas to send the burners on a trip where their fears come to life, as a way to incapacitate them.
  • Nanomachines:
    • The cause of the Zombie Apocalypse in "Going Dutch".
    • The Burners had to combat metal-eating robo-bugs in "Vendetta".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "Ride the Lightning", the Burners, save Mike, tamper with Kane's weather control machine and only make it worse. Lampshaded by a hot tub lounging Kane.
    Kane: Burners, are you actually making things worse?
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Kane Safety Suits, though they do have a threshold before shutting off.
  • Nitro Boost
  • Non-Action Guy: Chuck.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Burners' finishing move in "The Duke of Detroit Presents" is this, both in- and out-of-universe.
  • Opening Narration: Subverted with the first episode, where Mike narrates the state of affairs at Old Detroit and Deluxe. No narration was used since.
  • Painting the Medium: The theme song is metal, as is most of the soundtrack. Which would make sense given that this is a show about cars, but the term "Detroit metal" specifically refers to its auto industry.
  • People Puppets: Kane Safety Suits.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: The Utility Bots in "Ride the Fantasy Vans".
  • Real-Place Background: As the show is set in an aged Detroit, there has been a few examples of this. Notably, in "Going Dutch" Dutch goes to Central Station, a heavily modified, tagged up version of Michigan Central Station.
  • Recap Episode: "Threat Level: Texas" is probably among the most overblown subversions of this trope there is.
  • Running Gag: Texas getting Julie's name wrong.
  • Rule of Cool: Seems to be what the show runs on. Look at the climax of the second episode: see the boys use a bomb that could blow up the state to power a car into a jump across the canyon, ending with them ejecting the engine midair!
  • Rule of Perception: During "Power Trip" (1x02) "ERROR" comes up on a screen Chuck is viewing, but given the angle the camera is at, it would be backwards to him.
  • Save the Villain: Mike to Red in Vendetta.
  • Scary Teeth: Why the Terras wear gas masks.
  • Scenery Porn/Scenery Gorn:
    • Motor City may be an absolute dirge compared to the spotlessly sanitized Detroit Deluxe, but its varied locales are breathtaking to look at.
    • Heck, Deluxe itself can look really pretty depending on the time of day. Look at it in the pilot, it is even more eye pleasing with some plants and even a waterfall.
  • Selective Magnetism: At the very least, Mutt and Whiptail have magnetic wheels which their drivers used to hide them under a bridge in "Reunion".
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Chuck and Mike fit this like a glove, although in Mike's case the glove would, past the first glance, be discovered to have been reinforced with the thick leather necessary of the Team Mom.
  • Shout-Out: EVERYWHERE.
    • Dutch's repair drone is called Roth.
    • Mutt's logo is a Rat Fink.
    • Mike's last name is Chilton.
    • Jacob is a lightly modified Goat from Megas XLR and Downtown.
    • When the Duke's Reality TV show featuring the Burners (The Duke of Detroit presents) goes off, amongst several characters watching the show are a group of four, which includes Expys of Jamie and a very thin Coop from Megas XLR.
    • The Burners' logo is EXTREMELY similar to the flaming 8 ball on Megas' right arm.
    • Episode 1 has Dutch suggest modifications to Mike's car, one such modification being the addition of "Magmortars".
    • One scene in the first episode has a bit of animation that the animator openly admitted was a reference to FLCL.
    • The giant monster fight in "Ride Of The Fantasy Vans" seems to be a reference to Shadow of the Colossus. Mike climbs around on it a bit in the same fashion Wander does, the creature's faceplates brings the colossi to mind, and it's defeated by attacking one spot on its body.
    • Motorcity has been described as REDLINE every week, and REDLINE has been confirmed as inspiration for the show by a staff member. Heck, the Duke of Detroit is confirmed to have been inspired by the mob boss Inuki Kumichou. To quote a staff member that may or not be the same guy:
    "If you ever wonder, 'Was this scene inspired by REDLINE?' the answer is most likely yes."
    • The tactics with the Kane Safety Suits in "Off the Rack" look a lot like action sequences from the Indian version of Terminator. See for yourself here.
    • The motorcycle sequence is based on the same action in AKIRA..
      • It is also very similar (in origin) to The Batmobile/Batpod sequence in The Dark Knight
    • There is a mention of a Henry Ford painting in the Pilot.
  • Sigil Spam: Kane's stylized "K" is all over Deluxe. The Duke of Detroit tends toward this, too. (Incidentally, his sigil is... his face.)
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Detroit Deluxe being on the far side of "shiny," Motor City on the low end of gritty.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Lampshaded by Texas in "Fearless":
    Texas: What do you mean, that's not Julie? She's a girl. What, now we got two of them?
  • Spoiler Opening: Kaia and the people of Terra are introduced as allies in the show proper, but the fact that they appear alongside Kane in the opening sequence makes it easy to deduce that they end up being foes of the Burners. Somewhat averted with the Duke of Detroit, he seems to be a Friendly Enemy at worst. As of "Vega", he is a full blown enemy. But later he double crosses Kane after he was double crossed.
  • Tractor Beam: The Burner's vehicles have them so they can tow each others' cars. Kane's Warpod also has one.
  • Tempting Fate: Tooley works with a bunch of snow-trooper mooks on one mission and they leave him to guard Mike. One protests this because of Tooley's lack of intelligence, but the commander basically says "He's Kane's right-hand man, how dumb can he be?" Tooley of course is tricked by Mike and knocks out the four soldiers in a scuffle, trying to punch him.
  • Traintop Battle: between Mike and Red in "Like Father, Like Daughter".
  • Tricked-Out Shoes: The Electroblades have rocket-powered skates, tying in with their hockey theme.
  • Troperiffic: The show takes many plot and character archetypes common in kids' action cartoons and gives them a twist, subversion, or just plain amps them a notch, both for drama and for Rule of Cool. For some basic examples, the team leader wielding the chainsaw spark-staff doubles as the Team Mom and even has a Mook–Face Turn for his backstory, and the Five-Man Band has technically two people to act as The Smart Guy (and realistically, each of them handle very different areas of technical expertise).
  • Turns Red: Kane Safety Suits when overridden.
  • Weather-Control Machine: Used in "Ride the Lightning" by Kane on Detroit.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • The Terras, though not so much as of Mayhem Night.
    • Kane. He truly wants to provide the best society possible for the people of Deluxe. His methods in order to get to that point, however, are what causes him to cross the moral event horizon.
  • Wham Episode: "Vega." And according to one staff member, it's "child's play" compared to the final part of the season finale.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Doctor Hudson is nowhere to be seen after "Power Trip," despite him presumably still being with the Burners. He does, however, reappear in "Threat Level: Texas" as part of Texas's Unreliable Narrator flashbacks, detailing the events of "Powertrip", his dialogue is... Totally Radical as per Texas's story.
  • World Half Empty: Entire sections of old Detroit appear to be completely abandoned, and even the inhabited areas aren't that crowded.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The driving conflict in "Going Dutch".


Video Example(s):


Stretch Limo Cannon

The antagonistic Duke of Detroit's massive limousine-tank boasts twin gold-plated turrets that fire full-size limos as ammunition. Each magazine holds at least ten limos, and each limo is equipped with two of the Duke's mooks.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AbnormalAmmo

Media sources: