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Rise of the Guardians is a 2012 animated action-fantasy film from DreamWorks Animation. The film acts as a sequel (albeit in Broad Strokes) to William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood series, and feature many of its characters (albeit with altered designs). As in the books, popular mythological characters such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman and Jack Frost co-exist with the real world, having sworn under the Man in the Moon to protect childhood around the globe. However, as Pitch Black, also known as the Boogeyman, threatens to spread the power of his evil nightmares, the Guardians must unite and fight against their greatest threat.

Not to be confused with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. This movie is also the final DreamWorks Animation film to be distributed by Paramount; their next films would then be distributed by 20th Century Fox, and then after NBCUniversal's acquisition of the company, Universal.

A sequel was planned but was scrapped after it underperformed in theaters and home video.


This film provides examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: While it was considered that Bunnymund be given a coat to match his appearance in the books, the production team ultimately decided to have him be this.
  • Acquainted with Emergency Services: Jack Frost has become acquainted with the yetis guarding Santa's workshop after trying to get inside for years, he says "Hey, Phil" to one guard, who gives him an "I'm watching you" gesture.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Toothiana and Bunnymund. Though occasionally referred to by those names by the creators, within the film they don't seem to have any names but Tooth and Bunny.
  • Adaptational Badass
    • Santa is a dual blade wielding Russian, the Easter Bunny is a six-foot one inch tall Australian fighting rabbit with aboriginal boomerangs, the Sandman wields dual whips made from his sleep-sand with devastating effect.
    • Somewhat inverted with Tooth, who used to be a dual-wielding Stoic and a Deadpan Snarker. Though this was probably to make her more appealing to younger viewers.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Your children go out ice-skating. One of them breaks through the ice and drowns.
    • The Boogeyman is real, and he wants nothing more than to destroy the best parts of your kids' childhood, on top of making sure they have nightmares every time they go to bed.
  • All Myths Are True: Early in the film, the big four talk of other potential guardians. The Leprechaun and the Groundhog are specifically mentioned. They even acknowledge the Tooth Mouse, which is the Tooth Fairy equivalent in a number of Latin-American and European countries. (In the movie, it seems to be the French variant).
  • All There in the Manual: The back-stories of the Guardians can be found in the novels and picture books written by William Joyce himself.
  • All There in the Script: Pippa, Monty, and Claude's twin brother Caleb are only named in the script and credits, not in the movie proper. This led to some early confusion in the fandom, as Pippa's actress also voices Jack's unnamed little sister, leading some people to attach the name to the wrong character. Onyx, Cupcake's once-unicorn dream and Pitch's right hand Nightmare, is also only given a name in the script.
  • And This Is for...: Tooth preemptively tosses Pitch a quarter just before she punches out one of his teeth.
    Tooth: And that's for my fairies
  • Anti-Hero: Jack falls under Type 2; brave and heroic at heart, but also an incorrigible trickster.
    Jack: Am I on the naughty list?
    North: On naughty list? You hold record.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Some elves fit a shoe onto one of Santa's reindeer shortly before the sleigh takes off. Although there are such things as "reindeer shoes", they generally consist of two pieces of metal, allowing the hoof to splay out naturally, and they definitely aren't just a normal horseshoe nailed on backwards.
  • As Long as There Is One Man: Children across the world have lost belief, but there's one child out there who clings to hope and he immediately becomes Pitch's main target. Jack Frost rushes to protect him and learns that the belief of one child is all good needs to make a comeback.
  • As Long as There is Evil: Pitch boasts that they'll never truly defeat him since fear will always persist. The Guardians retort that they'll be around to beat him every time.
  • Audience Surrogate: Jack Frost, and Jamie to a lesser extent.
  • Award-Bait Song: Still Dream by Renee Fleming.
  • Awesome Aussie: Bunnymund; keeping with the books giving him the backstory of constructing Australia when resculpting parts of the planet in ancient times, he's given a rather prominent Australian brogue in the film, courtesy of Hugh Jackman. Lampshaded when Jack calls him "the Easter Kangaroo."
    Bunnymund: It's the accent, isn't it?
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The story makes it clear Bunnymund resents Jack for causing a blizzard on Easter Sunday in 1968. However:
    • When Jack seemingly falls off North's sleigh, Bunny panics and looks over the edge ... to see Jack casually leaning against the side.
      Jack: Awww; you do care.
      Bunnymund: Oh rack off, you bloody show pony!
    • Later, when Pitch mocks Jack's invisibility to children because of their lack of belief, Bunny immediately attacks him for it.
  • Badass Adorable: Sandman, Tooth Fairy, and Jack may look small and helpless, but can definitely put up a fight. Also, Bunnymund, who is cute and fuzzy no matter how fierce and surly he tries to be. It's even worse when the children stop believing, because then he's cute, fuzzy, and tiny.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Pitch and Jack trade these in one of the trailers.
      Pitch: You can not kill fear, Jack.
      Jack: I'm not afraid of you.
    • In the actual movie, Pitch starts his Breaking Speech after Jack makes this boast.
  • Badass Santa: This version of Santa is portrayed as giant bear of a man of Russian decent, wielding dual sabers, tattooed forearms with one reading "Naughty", the other "Nice" and addressed by his last name, "North".
  • Bag of Kidnapping: How Jack is "recruited" by the others. It was North's idea though Bunny is more than happy to go through with it.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • All of the guardians are pretty much nice guys, although a couple of them have more of a hardened streak to them. Threaten a child in any way though, and well... the kid gloves come off and they go into full Papa Wolf mode.
    • Sandman is the shortest, plumpest, and easily the most overtly friendly and adorable of the Guardians. Then he goes up against Pitch one on one, and completely wrecks him.
  • Big Bad: Pitch Black, the original childhood Big Bad, "the Boogeyman".
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Even without his memories, Jack acts very much like a fun-loving, older brother to the children around him. In his memory flashback, the moment that caused Jack to become a guardian was sacrificing himself to save his little sister.
    • Bunnymund seems to have shades of this towards Jack. He leaps to attack Pitch after he mocks Jack's invisibility due to lack of belief and later when he sees Pitch attacking from behind Jack in the climax and tries to knock Pitch's scythe out of his hands with his boomerang.
    • Ironically, in earlier versions of the movie, Pitch was intended to be this toward Jack. In some others official artworks and fanarts, (mostly drawn by rufftoon), Pitch and Jack have a classic Aloof Big Brother and Annoying Younger Sibling relationship, or Odd Couple one.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Sandman, after he recovers from his Disney Death.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Santa employs yeti to make toys. Jamie also has a book on them.
  • Big Fun: Jack Frost who's revealed to be the Guardian of Fun and to a lesser degree Santa who's the Guardian of Wonder.
  • Big Good: Man in the Moon, who bestows guardians their powers and when the time is right, officially brings them into the fold.
  • Big "NO!": Jack yells this when Sandy is shot by an arrow of Nightmare Sand and then again after Sandy is killed.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In Shanghai, the billboard that the Tooth Fairy flies into is an advertisement for toothpaste, in Chinese. Also, when the sleigh crashes, Santa calls after his fleeing reindeer "Moi deti!" ("my children!").
  • Bizarrchitecture: Pitch's lair; it pretty much looks like a straight up M. C. Escher painting. According to the art book, it's based on Pompeii.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Sophie, Cupcake, and Pippa at the end.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Pitch breaks Jack's staff, effectively rendering him powerless, then blasts him into a ravine. He then tosses the broken staff in the same ravine, allowing Jack to fix it and get back in the fight.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends at the frozen pond Jack Frost was first seen in. At the beginning it was where he drowns and the Man in the Moon makes him the spirit of winter. At the end, it's where he officially takes the oath to become a Guardian.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: The only character who ever says "Ho ho ho" is Bunny - twice.
  • Break Them by Talking: Pitch to Jack, about his fear of never being believed in by children or accepted by the Guardians.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Early on, Pitch doesn't feel very threatened by the Tooth Fairy and makes a sarcastic remark about her putting a quarter under his pillow. Later, she does give him one. Right before she socks him hard enough to knock out a tooth.
    • Jamie is shown reading from a book about Bigfoot, and his friends make fun of him for his beliefs. It turns out that Bigfoot is actually one of North's yetis named Phil and in The Stinger, he signs Jamie's book under the Bigfoot entry and we see that its Bigfoot photo is an exact match of Phil.
    • A small one happens with Jamie's sled ride interrupting a moving truck at the beginning. The sofa that fell out of the truck hits him later and knocks out one of his teeth.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: All of the Guardians are a little dysfunctional (and one of them, of course, has actual bunny ears). Santa AKA North is probably the worst offender.
  • Burning with Anger: Sandy makes "steam" come out of his ears when the other guardians finally notice him pointing at the Man in the Moon and wonder why he didn't say so earlier.
  • Butt-Monkey: While he's still a badass in his own right, Bunnymund does find himself as the butt of many of the gags in the film, almost like Daffy Duck.
  • Call-Back:
    • When Jamie's playing in the snow with his friends, his mom first mentions Jack Frost by saying "Don't let Jack Frost come nipping at your nose." Later, when Jack tries to get Jamie to believe in the Easter Bunny again, it snows in his house, and a snowflake falls on his nose. This is how he comes to see Jack.
    • When North first takes them all riding in his sleigh, he tells them to "buckle up", only to reveal when Bunny asks where the seat belts are, that that was "just expression". Later, when they have to go to the Easter Warren, Bunny summons a slide-hole portal and turns those words back on North whose response when they land is simply a good-natured "Buckle up...very good!"
  • Cheerful Child: Jamie and Sophie.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Jamie. The fact that he is woken while the Guardians and Jack are in his room means that he's seen the Easter Bunny and thus keeps believing in him long after the other children have stopped. This allows him to be the one left who Jack has to keep on believing and that action leads to Jamie being the first person to believe in and see Jack - which in turn leads them both to turn the tide in the belief battle.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: How much power a Guardian has depends on how much the children believe in them. Belief in a Guardian can cause them to become more powerful and bring them back from the dead, while disbelief causes them to degenerate in power and appearance and become Invisible to Normals.
  • The Chessmaster: The Man in the Moon is some sort of benevolent, child-loving deity who operates by making sure the Guardians and Jack end up in the right places at the right time, rather than directly interfering himself.
  • Chimney Entry: North, being Santa Claus, can hop into chimneys and pop back out at eye-blink speed.
  • Christmas Elves: They're given a twist in that they don't actually build the toys and the Yetis are the ones doing the grunt work. North lets them believe they're heavily involved and they do seem to function as a sort of "quality control tester" given that their mischief makes sure that the toys work and can take a beating.
  • Circling Monologue: Pitch seems to like this a lot.
  • City of Adventure: Action happens in many different locations in the movie, but for one reason or another they always find themselves back in Jamie’s home town of Burgess.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Tooth Fairy is like this when it comes to her love of teeth.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Each character has a distinct color and identifying shape. Both Bunnymund and Tooth are interesting cases, because while the art book gives their symbols as thus, in advertisements, and in the movie proper, Bunnymund is often associated with green, and Tooth purple. (Look at both of their respective headquarters.)
    • North is a red square.
    • Bunny is a light purple triangle (pointing downwards).
    • Sandy is a yellow circle.
    • Tooth is a green diamond.
    • Jack is a blue hexagon.
    • Pitch is a black hexagon (although his hexagon is shaped to resemble a coffin).
  • Condensation Clue: When Jamie asks the Easter Bunny to give him a sign that he exists, Jack frosts over his window and draws an Easter egg in the frozen condensation.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Sandy vs Pitch, when they first meet one-on-one. And when they last meet one-on-one.
    Jack: Remind me never to get on your bad side...
  • Cute Bruiser: Cupcake. She's significantly bigger than the other kids and at first they seem afraid of her, but she has posters of unicorns everywhere in her room and later is seen having fun with the others.
  • Dark Age Europe: Although not called out specifically as being in Europe, Pitch spoke very fondly of this time period as that when he was at his most powerful.
  • Dark Is Evil: Pitch is a textbook example.
  • Darkest Hour: Sandy is dead, the Guardians are losing their powers, and Pitch has estranged Jack from the rest and snapped his staff in two while Jack lies in despair at the bottom of a ravine... until Baby Tooth goes into his pocket and pulls out the memories that can give him hope.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Seems so for Jack Frost, Bunnymund, and Pitch.
  • Death-Activated Superpower: Jack was originally a mischievous human boy who drowned in a frozen-over lake while saving his sister and was made into Jack Frost by the man in the moon after his death.
  • Death by Irony:
    • In the end Pitch is driven away by his own nightmares.
    • Winter killed its future spirit. Justified in that Man in Moon may have given him such ironic powers on purpose.
  • Defiant to the End: When Sandman was consumed by the nightmares, he simply throws a glare at Pitch.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The source of Jack's indifference towards the Guardians and refusal to adhere to rules was mostly because of his frustration with the Man in the Moon never answering his questions about who he was or why he was created, and also because no human, child or adult, was able to see him for centuries because no one had believed in him.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Bunny says "bloody" repeatedly throughout the film. In the US, this is fine, but the film is completely unedited in the UK, where bloody is considered much ruder. (It still received a PG certificate.)
  • Disney Death: The Sandman.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Because Jack had his shoes off when he saved his sister, leading to his own death, as an Immortal and then Guardian he does not wear shoes, even though his powers relate to freezing things. But then, since Jack appeared to be from a very poor family, he probably never wore shoes in the first place.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The Guardians are really behaving like a family in every sense, where everyone has a role in: North is the father, Toothiana is the mother figure, Sandy could be like an uncle, Bunnymund and Jack are the siblings.
    • Pitch's reaction to Jack's rejection could be interpreted like a possessive friend or a jealous lover who just had been dumped. This is even pushed further when he threatens Baby Tooth in front of Jack, and doesn't let her go despite having given his word.
    Jack: Now let her go.
    Pitch: You said you wanted to be alone. So be alone!
  • Drives Like Crazy: North in the sleigh (to the terror of Bunnymund and amusement of Sandy and Jack).
    North: Everyone, to the sleigh! Buckle up!
    Bunnymund: Where are the bloody seat belts?!
    North: *laughs* That was just expression!
  • Dual Wielding: North dual-wields swords, Sandy wields golden whips made of his sand, and Bunny wields two boomerangs.
  • Easter Bunny: The Guardian of Hope and snarky, boomerang chucking hero!!!
  • Elemental Powers:
  • Escalating War: When the Guardians help Tooth collect her teeth, Bunny and Jack begin to playfully challenge each other, but North is the one who really turns it into a competition. In their mad dash to get to the teeth first, they start pulling all kinds of tricks (occasionally upto Comedic Sociopathy levels) in order to constantly one-up each other. At the end of their run, it's revealed that they were so focused on collecting the teeth as quickly as possible, they completely forgot to leave presents behind and have to do it all again.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Several.
    • North's first appearance shows off his Naughty and Nice tattoos and has him draw a sword at signs of trouble, showing that he's not the typical holly, jolly Santa. At the same time, his delighted expression when taking a bite out of his cookie and obvious glee at the train set he just carved out of ice alludes to the more familiar, warmer parts of himself.
    • Bunny races through his tunnels and pops out at the North Pole to stirring, dramatic music, only to immediately start complaining about the cold. He's a serious character, who's going to have the piss taken out of him all movie.
    • Jack in modern times is first seen flitting around having fun with his ice powers, but in ways that unintentionally cause harm, like someone slipping and falling on a patch of ice he made. He's a good guy and well-intentioned, but still a troublemaker.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In rufftoon comic, Pitch doesn't attack North during the Christmas Truce of 1914, and even shares a moment with him although he doesn't like it.
  • Evil Brit: Jude Law gives Pitch an insanely smarmy voice, which isn't that far off from his regular vocals.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Pitch is one to the Sandman. Pitch delivers fear and bad dreams, Sandman gives hope and good dreams. They even use dust which reflects their color-schemes. This is probably why Pitch's attack affects Sandman so adversely, temporarily killing him, and why Sandman's return creates a huge advantage for the Guardians near the end of the movie.
    • Jack and Pitch. Both simply want to be believed in, seen, acknowledged for what they do. This is even used in a sort of Sympathy for the Devil fashion in the later part of the movie when Pitch tries to get Jack to come to his side, reasoning that they both want to be acknowledged and seen and heard. But while Jack's purpose (and thus his method of getting recognition) is to spread fun and joy, Pitch's is to spread fear and darkness.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold:
    • Inverted. North and Jack are associated with cold temperatures but are the embodiments of wonder and fun respectively.
    • Pitch invokes this to a degree when he tries to tempt Jack, saying that dark and cold go very well together.
  • Evil Slinks: Pitch, being almost a Living Shadow, slinks naturally, and gets better at it the more fear he senses around him.
  • Exact Words: The reason (other than being a Manipulative Bastard) that Pitch refuses to give back Baby Tooth: "You said you wanted to be alone? Then be alone!"
  • Fanfare: The elves try to give Jack one as he announced as a guardian, but he cuts them off. Even at the end of the movie, they are still clearly annoyed by that.
  • Fangirls: Tooth and her fairy helpers openly swoon over Jack at various points, though they soon prove less interested in his looks than in his teeth.
    North: Tooth! Fingers out of mouth.
  • Finger Wag: Toward the end, when Sandy comes back, he issues one to Pitch before pounding him into the ground (again).
  • Flying Seafood Special: Many of Sandman's dreams take the forms of flying dolphins, rays, and fish.
  • Foreshadowing: Pitch, upon being repelled by Jack in their first encounter, remarks that he's finally found someone who knows how to have a little fun.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Dreamworks actually managed to hide a Precision F-Strike on Santa's globe behind the Fictionary characters, as explained here.
  • Friend to All Children:
    • All of the Guardians' main duty is to sustain happiness and hope for the children of the world.
    • This is also deconstructed. It's shown that, because of their busy lifestyles, North, Bunnymund, and Toothiana struggle to relate to children.
      North: We are always working on bringing joy to children. We have no time... for children!
    • Jack however plays this straight and calls them out on it (leading to the above response), when he realizes this after he gets his memories back, it gives him his Heroic Second Wind and is key in defeating Pitch when they get cornered at the start of the finale.
  • Fun Personified: Jack. This turns out to be his purpose as a Guardian.
  • Funny Animal: All the other Guardians are essentially humanoid in appearance, but Bunnymund is a 6 foot tall, fully anthropomorphic rabbit.
  • Funny Background Event
    • When the Guardians first meet up and North jokes at the importance of Easter, Sandy is chugging eggnog.
    • During North and Bunnymund's argument over the importance of Christmas and Easter, Tooth is giving orders to her fairies in the background. She gives a particularly long order, and just as North interrupts her, she cries, "Is that all in one house?!"
    • Jack angrily blasts ice and air at the first Guardian ceremony. North and Bunnymund slightly stumble from it. Tooth is blown off-screen from the force.
    • When Jamie's sled first starts going haywire (via Jack), his friends panic. Cupcake, however, nods with a slightly crazed smile.
  • Gentle Giant:
    • Affable North and his yeti shop workers.
    • Cupcake as well. She's clearly angry (at first) about being hit by a snowball early on in the film, but otherwise seems to friends with the other children despite her intimidating appearance and being at least a full head taller than everyone else.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Bunny says "bloody" repeatedly throughout the film. In the US, this is fine, but the film is completely unedited in the UK, where bloody is considered much ruder.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Jack has a fairly benign version of this trope, allowing him to inspire happiness in those who come into contact with his snowflakes.
  • The Ghost: The Man in the Moon, despite being the leader of the Guardians, is not shown in the film. The only indication of his presence are the various shots of the moon in the night sky.
  • Ghost Amnesia: A major plot point for Jack, despite not actually being a ghost.
  • Give Me a Sign:
    • After Easter inexplicably fails to happen, Jamie asks this of his toy stuffed bunny, having met the real Easter Bunny previously. He almost gives up, but Jack steps in at the last moment drawing bunny and egg figures in the frost on his window keeping his faith alive.
    • Jack himself has a moment like this early in the film, pleading with the Man in the Moon to give him a sign as to why he is the way he is. He figures it out by the end of the movie.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly:
    • It appears that when a mythical spirit becomes a full Guardian, their power strongly depends on children's belief in them. The exact details are hazy as Jack Frost had notable power without being a Guardian and the existence of other non-guardian mythical spirits are acknowledged (ie the Leprechaun and the Ground Hog).
    • There also seems to be an undefined threshold of belief necessary for a mythical spirit to become "visible" to the children in the "real" world.
  • Green Lantern Ring:
    • Sandy's control over his dream sand works this way, and he can make any physical construct he can imagine with it, as well as use it to put people to sleep.
    • Pitch's nightmare sand also works this way, as he copied the power from Sandy. However, we only see him use it to make a gigantic scythe, and his nightmare horses.
  • Hates Being Alone: Jack and Pitch are the most obvious examples in the movie. Jack manages to earn a happy ending at last. Pitch however...
  • Headdesk: North tells a yeti to change the color of the soldiers to red, and after the yeti sees the big pile of toys he's painted blue, he groans and does this. Becomes a Running Gag when he experiences this situation repeated throughout the film.
  • Held Gaze: Between Tooth and Jack at the end until they're interrupted by Baby Tooth.
  • Hellish Horse: Pitch's Nightmares.
  • He's Back:
    • Bunnymund in the climatic battle where he's still in his bunny form being chased into a confined space, but when dragged out he's back to his full size and power, ready to fight.
    • Sandy as well, who straight up comes back to life.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.:
    • Bunny suffers one when the children have stopped believing in him, even dropping to his knees in despair.
      They don't see me... they don't see me...
    • Jack also has a brief one when Pitch breaks his staff and leaves him in a crevice.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: As a human boy, his sister gets caught on thin, cracking ice while on a frozen lake. Jack uses his staff to toss her safety but ends up falling through his own cracked ice and drowns.
  • The Hero's Journey: The story follows this for Jack pretty closely. Including but not limited to a textbook spiritual rebirth moment in the ice chasm.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his blatant badassery, Bunnymund is heartbroken when Easter is ruined, mentioning it as being a time of hope and rebirth, and much more important than just being about eggs.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Pitch is dragged into his own lair by his own nightmares when they smell his fear. This trope is mentioned during that sequence in the audio commentary.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Pitch barters Baby Tooth for Jack's staff, as it is what channels Jack's powers.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: The movie reveals how not only North, but also Bunny and Tooth get around the world to do their jobs. North has magical snow globes that open portals to whatever location he needs and can seemingly teleport instantly between chimneys, Bunny has a series of tunnels that allows him to appear anywhere on Earth and his eggs have legs to enable them to walk to their destination, and Tooth has millions of fairies to collect her teeth along with Tooth Mice from the Latin-America and European Division.
  • Husky Russkie: North is the story's version of Santa who is giant bear of a man of Russian decent.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Bunnymund has no qualms mocking Jack about his lack of believers, but when Pitch does the same Bunny immediately tries to attack him for it.
  • I Am Not Weasel
    Jack: "And the Easter kangaroo."
    Bunnymund: "I'm a bunny."
  • I Know What You Fear: Pitch, being the Boogeyman, has this power.
    Jack: I'm not afraid of you.
    Pitch: Maybe not. But you are afraid of something.
    Jack: You think so, huh?
    Pitch: I know so. It's the one thing I always know. People's greatest fears. Yours is that no one will ever believe in you.
  • I Lied: Pitch does not give back Baby Tooth when Jack gives him his staff as promised.
  • Invisible to Normals: Any mythical manifestation who does not have active believers, such as Jack, is invisible and intangible to humans. Jack loses this status late in the story.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Right after Sandy curbstomps Pitch the first time:
    Pitch: It was stupid of me to mess with your dreams, so I'll tell you what. You can have them back. [sends nightmares at Sandy]
  • Ironic Echo: When the Guardians save Tooth first bravely get on North's sleigh, North tells them to "buckle up." Bunnymund nervously asks where they are and finds out there aren't actually any seat belts. Later, when they go to the underground warren to prepare for Easter, Bunnymund first warns everyone to buckle up.
    North: [after a ride through a tunnel] Buckle up... That's very funny.
  • Irony: When Jack asks why the guardians don't know how to act around children (like Toothiana showing teeth with blood still on them), North say's they've been too busy protecting children to actually be with them, and the irony dawns on him as he says that.
  • Jack Frost: The main protagonist who's the spirit of winter and an audience surrogate into the world of the Guardians. Ultimately revealed to be the Guardian of Fun.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bunnymund comes across as a blatant complainer and constantly angry and conceited, yet he genuinely cares about Easter and the hopes of children, and he's more than ready to take on Pitch hand to hand when he sees him for the first time. And not to mention how angry he gets when Pitch insults Jack and how well he takes care of Sophie when she wanders into his base.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: Happens to Jack as North's way of getting him to the North Pole.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: Jack is far from mean-spirited, but prefers himself as a free agent than bear any responsibility of being a hero.
  • Knight of Cerebus: There is absolutely nothing funny about Pitch. When he appears, the humor starts to disappear.
  • Lack of Empathy: Pitch appears to be a heartless villain but he seems to show some empathy toward Jack, as the two were alone for a long time. However, it's not clear if this is a true connection or if Pitch is simply pretending in order to get Jack on his side.
  • Large and in Charge: North.
  • Large Ham: Pitch, before he tries to attack Jamie again.
    "You dare have fun in my presence! I am the Boogeyman! And you will fear me!"
  • Le Parkour: Jack uses some smooth moves combined with his air control abilities to get around.
  • The Lightfooted: Jack Frost uses his agility to walk along power lines and slide over snow.
  • Light Is Good: The characters associated with light (like Sandman) are good, opposed to Pitch Black.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Though we never get to see what the other Guardians looked like as humans, Jack gets pale skin, blue eyes and white hair out of the transformation.
  • Logo Joke: Jack takes the place of the boy in the DreamWorks logo.
  • Magic Map: The globe at the North Pole, which shows believing children as points of light.
  • Magic Staff: Jack wields one which allows him to channel his frost powers.
  • Magitek: Santa's sleigh has been upgraded.
    Jack: There is no way that I'm riding in some rickety, old... *sees sleigh*...sleigh. *pause* Okay, one ride, but that's it.
  • Mama Bear: Tooth, to her fairies and the kids of the world.
  • The Man in the Moon: Is a rather mysterious force who does not take physical form like the Guardians, and only communicates with them via images. He also seems to be in charge, as he picks who the Guardians are.
  • Meaningful Name: Technically all of the Guardians, but Pitch as well- A.K.A. Pitch Black.
  • Megaton Punch: Pitch finds himself on the receiving end of one from a freshly revived Sandy.
  • Melancholy Moon: Jack has a number of moments like this when he questions his existence and demands answers from the Man in the Moon.
  • Memory Jar: Baby teeth work this way, storing childhood memories that the tooth fairy returns to children when they might forget their youthful dreams or self.
  • Moment Killer: Tooth and Jack can't seem to spend more than a minute together before someone interrupts.
  • Motive Rant: Pitch gives one to the Guardians in the Tooth Palace.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jack feels extremely guilty for allowing himself to become distracted by Pitch which gives him the opportunity to destroy all the Easter eggs.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant:
    • Being the Boogeyman and bringer of bad dreams, Pitch naturally falls into this.
    • Tooth does this when she tries to entertain Sophie with a handful of teeth with blood and gum on them and Sophie justifiably freaks out.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • In the first trailer, we see Tooth riding in the sleigh with North, Bunnymund and Sandy, but in the story they are actually on their way to see her.
    • In the trailer, Bunny says “You don't wanna race a rabbit mate” while at his warren before hopping into a portal hole. In the movie, he says this when hopping from rooftop to rooftop, in a race between himself, Jack, North, and Sandy to see who can collect the most teeth.
    • In the UK trailer, it indicates that Christmas is in jeopardy when it's actually Easter time.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Tooth and North both have a tendency towards this.
  • Not Quite Flight: Jack. Unlike Tooth, he seems to be controlling the air around him—notice his movements are much less controlled and towards the beginning he even calls the on the wind to take him home.
  • Not So Different: Jack and Pitch. As part of his plan to get Jack to join him, Pitch points out that they are both alone and ignored by the children and even mentions how well cold and dark go together.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After Jack, North, Bunnymund, and Sandy have helped Tooth in taking teeth from under pillows she asks if they remembered to leave gifts and they have this expression.
    • Pitch reacts this way when Sandy comes back to life and again later when he realizes that the Nightmares are after him now.
    • Jack has one when, while prodding at a frozen nightmare, Pitch sneaks up behind him and another one when, while frantically searching for his tooth box in Pitch's lair, he suddenly hears Pitch's voice.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: Jack, naturally as he uses this to keep Jamie believing in the Easter Bunny .
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Jack has shades of this attitude towards Baby Tooth, Jamie and Sophie and the other kids.
    • All the male Guardians are this to children in general.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Sophie's hair covers one eye.
  • Plucky Girl: Baby Tooth - when Pitch holds her hostage against Jack, she responds by stabbing his hand with her beak. Note that Pitch's fist is bigger than her.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Sandy is the smallest Guardian, but is quite devastating in the use of his dream-sand whips. In addition he is the oldest and most powerful of the guardians with the most versatile abilities and who interacts with kids every night.
  • The Power of Apathy: Pitch finds that the town's children refuse to be cowering and fearful of his powers, those powers diminish to the point where he becomes the most afraid. The children's combined disbelief reduces Pitch to insubstantial and ineffectual, his worst scenario. As a result, his nightmare mooks, who can smell fear, turn on him.
  • The Prankster: Jack Frost. The Guardian of Fun.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner:
    • Jamie gets one in the final battle:
    Jamie: (to Pitch) I do believe in you. I'm just not afraid of you.
    Jack: Looks like it's your fear [the Nightmares] smell.
    • Bunny gets one near the end of the movie when he gets pulled out from under the car, now back to his original size.
    Bunny: G'day, mate.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: Tooth throws a quarter at Pitch, confusing him for a second, and then punches him in the mouth to knock out a tooth.
  • Race Lift: The Tooth Fairy is evidently vaguely Asian in the books while in the movie she's white.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Downplayed, but Jack is definitely not happy that he never receives any answers from the Man in the Moon as to why he was created, what his purpose is, and why he is alone and invisible. This leads to a Refusal of the Call when he's selected to be a Guardian especially when he finds out the Man in the Moon spoke to the other Guardians about it and not him.
  • Really 700 Years Old: All of the Guardians and Pitch are implied to be immortal and Tooth admits that it's been 440 years since she was out in the field.
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • Partly because he's a lonely Trickster more interested in mischief and fun than obeying rules, but also due to feeling ignored by the Man in the Moon without being given a reason for his existence, Jack responds to the offer to become a Guardian this way. Jack's character arc in the story is him learning what the role of a Guardian is and why he was chosen to be one.
    • This is shown to have also happened with Pitch.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • What Bunnymund becomes after Pitch destroys all of Bunnymund's eggs causing Easter to fail and kids to stop believing in him. He doesn't take kindly to Jamie calling him "cute" though.
    • Baby Tooth, along with the rest of Tooth's helpers also count to an extent.
  • Running Gag:
    • The poor Yeti who constantly has to redo the large pile of already-done work next to him and sighs in exasperation.
    North: I don't like it; paint it red!
    Yeti: WHAT THE- *looks at pile of blue robot toys* GAH! *headdesk*
    • Later at Bunnymund's Warren...
    Bunnymund: Too Christmas-y, mate. Better paint it blue.
    Yeti: *looks at pile of red Easter eggs and screams in frustration*
    • And once more when Pitch tells the Yetis that their services are no long required.
    Yeti: *has finally finished painting the robots red when they all start to clatter* WHAAGH!
    Pitch: *laughs* You're all free to go! We won't be needing any Christmas toys this year, thank you! Nor ever again!
    Yeti: Awwgh...
    • When Jack tries to put Sophie in bed, she falls on the floor, and he leaves her there, dropping a blanket and stuffed animal on her. In The Stinger, the same sequence happens when the elves try to put her in bed.
  • Running on All Fours: Bunnymund. He stands and walks on his hind legs though.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Sandy is the first and only Guardian to be killed by Pitch, they even choose to Face Death with Dignity.
  • The Sandman: Sandy. The Guardian of children's dreams. Downplayed in that there's no mention if he also delivers good dreams to adults as per the archetypal character of the trope.
  • Santa Claus: The mythical spirit of Christmas who delivers toys to all the world's children. The Guardian of Wonder.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: North completely misses Jack's dripping with sarcasm comment "Oh yeah, I love being stuffed in a sack and tossed through a magic portal." So much so that North enthusiastically responds — "Oh, good. That was my idea."
  • Save Your Guardian: When the Guardians gets depowered because of the whole Gods Need Prayer Badly thing, the kids have to step in and protect them from the villain and his Night-Mares.
  • Scare 'em Straight: According to a backstory comic by one of the film's artists, Pitch was at one time a more or less benevolent proto-Guardian figure with this as his modus operandi. Note that this contradicts the books' version of his backstory, where he's a heroic mortal who was overwhelmed and transformed by nefarious fear spirits.
  • Scenery Porn: All over the place, highlights definitely include each bit in one of the Guardian's main base of operations—the first walkthrough of North's workshop, the flight to Tooth's palace, various shots of Bunnymund's warren, and even the first visit to Pitch's lair.
  • Ship Tease: The movie features a few scenes featuring a Held Gaze between Jack and Tooth.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A clear reference to Crocodile Dundee occurs with Bunny's line "You call that a bag of choppers? Now this is a bag of choppers."
    • North's "Naughty/Nice" forearm tattoos are reminiscent of Robert Mitchum's "love/hate" knuckle tattoos.
    • When little Bunny runs under the car and turns back into his Guardian form, the music score plays a few notes of Superman's theme.
    • Little Bunny, in turn, also thumps his foot very rapidly.
    • In his first scene, North is humming and working to Igor Stavinsky's Firebird Suite.
    • The shot when the Sandman floats upwards after defeating Pitch is reminiscent of the scene in Superman Returns when Superman flies above the clouds.
      • For that matter, Jack Frost's early flying scene (right before "Snow day!") is similar to the last flight scene in Superman Returns. Even the music is really Superman-ly. Funnily enough, both scenes involves an orange, dawn-like glow (that makes them similar to the Superman scenes) when it was clearly night in both cases.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Jack, to Pitch, in the beginning of the final fight.
    Pitch: So what do you think, Jamie? Do you believe... in the Boogey- (Gets pelted with a snowball.)
  • The Silent Bob: Sandman, who communicates mainly through the shapes he sculpts with his magic sand.
  • Sinister Scythe: Pitch uses one as one of his attacks.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Downplayed. The first official trailer goes out of its way to completely avoid mentioning or showing Jack Frost. Even to the point of showing Tooth in place of Jack in the sleigh launch scene. Since his character arc is based on how no one believes in him as much as the other Guardians, it makes sense to have the initial trailer focused on the others and he is featured prominently in the second official trailer.
  • Slasher Smile: Pitch has a few in the film. When Jack invades his lair, as Pitch says "what did you do?", he vanishes into the shadows with his eyes and creepy smile being the last to fade away. Then in the climax he dissolves into the shadows before appearing behind Jack, smiling as he's about to strike Jack down with his scythe.
  • Sleep-Mode Size: When no one believes in him, Bunnymund drops from six-foot one badass to one-foot cute critter. Getting the neighborhood kids to believe again puts him back to normal.
  • Smooch of Victory: Hilariously, North gives Jack's cheeks in celebration after Jack is formally made a Guardian. Then one elf does this to another elf, who responds by punching him out.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The Tooth Fairy is the only female Guardian.
  • Snowball Fight: Jack's specialty. He uses it for pretty much everything, from celebrations and fun-times to delivering the Shut Up, Hannibal! to Pitch.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Sandy pulls a most excellent entrance on Pitch.
  • The Stinger: Shows the aftermath and cleanup of how the kids are returned home.
  • Synchronization: A mild example. When Pitch breaks Jack's staff, Jack is visibly pained. This gives Pitch the opening needed to cast Jack into the ravine.
  • Sympathy for the Devil:
    • It's a brief scene, but the expressions on the Guardians' faces when Jamie runs right through Pitch at the end, confirming the Boogie Man is no longer feared or believed in. Knowing that this condemns a mythical spirit to being alone and ignored, they can't help but show sympathy for his fate.
    • Note the moment right after Jack turns down Pitch's We Can Rule Together speech, where there's a brief look of despair on Pitch's face before he slips back into evil rage. It invites the audience to realize his hurt at loosing someone that would help him to not be alone.
  • That Poor Cat: Lives in a building Jack and Sandy crash through while chasing Nightmares.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The Boogieman is upset that this is - at worst - all he is now, when he used to be a powerful fear entity.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: A young boy gets his tongue stuck to the frozen water from a drinking fountain due to Jack Frost freezing various things around town.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • When one remembers the scenes of the enormous long-necked dinosaurs made of dream sand strolling through the city it broadcasts that Sandy comes back from the dead because you don't see the dinosaurs prior to Pitch killing him.
    • Throughout the movie, Jack can’t be seen by anybody but the four Guardians and Pitch but one scene shows a quick clip of Jamie staring wide eyed at Jack.
  • Trickster: Jack is a clear example of this. He is shown in the early part of the movie to enjoy using his powers for pranks, often with no purpose other than pure amusement.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • The fairies to Tooth, since she's basically their mother.
    • Baby Tooth is also very loyal to Jack- she even tries to take on Pitch to help him!
  • Unstoppable Rage: When Pitch kills Sandy, Jack's anger spurs him to attack and tap into his fury to unleash a super-charged strike of ice magic that freezes all of Pitch's nightmares.
  • Unusual Euphemism: At least twice, North "swears" using the names of Russian composers, specifically (Demitri) Shostakovich and (Nicolai) Rimsky-Korsakov.
  • Visual Pun: Played with. Although Nightmares have been a part of traditional folklore for centuries, Pitch's Nightmares are dark, imposing, and physically made of Pitch's nightmare sand to create a visually striking Hellish Horse.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Jack and Bunnymund. They love to bicker and taunt each other but when the chips are down, they will have each other's backs.
  • Vocal Dissonance:
    • Jack's voice is much deeper than what his young, Pretty Boy character design would suggest.
    • Later used for comic effect when Bunnymund loses his powers and becomes the size of a normal bunny, but still speaks with the deep voice of Hugh Jackman.
  • Walking the Earth: Jack is shown to do this, as he has no specific fixed "home," but instead goes where the Wind takes him, spreading frost and ice.
  • Was Once a Man: Downplayed due to the fact that the Guardians are more mythical spirits than monsters. However, Tooth implies that they were all mortal before becoming so. Bunnymund apparently was an actual bunny. Tooth herself used to be human, or at least physically so. Jack himself was a young human boy who drowned in a frozen lake after saving his little sister from the same fate.
  • We Can Rule Together: Pitch offers this to Jack. However, Jack refuses because he wants to be believed in and not feared.
  • Weapon of Choice:
  • Wham Line: In a sense for Jack's story:
    Tooth: "We were all someone before we were chosen."
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Pitch is motivated by the fact that for generations parents have been telling their children not to fear or believe in him. Compare the Guardians who are much beloved world wide.
  • The Worf Barrage: During the first major battle, Jack suddenly unleashes enough power to beat back Pitch. During the climax, Pitch's increased power (which seems to be inversely proportional to that of the Guardians) lets him shrug off Jack's attacks like nothing, even though Jack is, if anything, more powerful now than when the attack previously worked.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: The opening sequence when Jack tests his powers, combined with Scenery Porn make for a fantastic visual.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The core of Pitch Black's plan is to insure that children fear him and have nightmares.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Every single plot development takes Pitch by surprise, often visibly. But he always quickly adjusts and is able to work it to his advantage.
  • You Can See Me?: Jack says this after restoring Jamie's belief in the Easter Bunny, causing him to believe in Jack as well, consequentially making Jack visible.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Pitch holds Baby Tooth hostage in exchange for Jack's staff. When Jack hands it over, he then demands Pitch let Baby Tooth go. Pitch's response? "No."

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