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Western Animation / Spies in Disguise

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"Being a pigeon can make you an even better spy. Pigeons are everywhere, and nobody notices them. In fact, pigeons can see in slow motion. And pigeons can fly up to ninety-two miles per hour."
Walter Beckett

Spies in Disguise is an animated spy comedy film loosely based on the short Pigeon: Impossible, produced by Blue Sky Studios and starring Will Smith and Tom Holland. It was released on Christmas Day 2019, and was the first and only Blue Sky production released through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Lance Sterling (Smith) is the world's greatest spy, who uses gadgets designed for him by the socially awkward genius Walter Beckett (Holland). An unexpected event forces them to rely on each other more than ever in order to save the world, but there's one small problem... namely, Lance was turned into a pigeon by Walter. Hilarity Ensues.

On a somber note, this ended up being Blue Sky's final release before Disney shuttered it in April 2021.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2, Trailer 3.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Lovey, Walter's pet pigeon, takes an instant liking to Lance's pigeon form (to his displeasure).
  • Accidental Misnaming: Lance repeatedly calls Walter "Wilbur" for a while but eventually starts getting his name right. Made extra funny when Lance drives to Walter's and the Title In says "Wilbur's House" before hastily correcting itself to "Walter's House".
  • The Ace: Lance is the best agent the agency has, and it shows.
  • Actor Allusion: When Walter can't see or hear, he says his other senses are heightened.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Marcy found out about Lance turning into a pigeon as the main reason she wasn't able to track him down during her pursuit against him, she goes into a laughing fit before noting how messed up that is.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Ever since he was a kid, Walter has had to deal with being called "weird". Even among his fellow scientists at the agency, he is still labelled this, due to his odd, non-lethal gadgets.
  • Advertisement:
  • All There in the Script: Killian's name is never said onscreen. Lance and Walter both casually refer to him as "Robo-Hand".
  • Morphic Resonance: Lance's pigeon form is bright blue, with a small mark resembling a bow tie on his chest.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The opening scene of the movie focused on a young Walter and his mother.
  • An Aesop: The bad guys may not care if you're nice to them, but they will care if you're nasty to them. When Killian lost his crew, he went from being a generic spy villain to taking up a vendetta to bring down Lance personally and destroy all he held dear.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Lance and Walter are reinstated into the agency to do things Walter's style, and are last seen doing a mission together using Walter's gadgets.
  • Animal Talk: Being turned into a pigeon allows Lance to understand what other pigeons are saying. All we hear onscreen is cooing, though.
  • Artistic Title: The opening and closing credits pay homage to the stylish credit sequences of the James Bond films.
  • Ascended Meme: Yes, the Will Smith character really did say "that's hot."
  • Attractive Bent Species: Lovey finds pigeon Lance very attractive.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The glass ceiling beneath the Reflective Pool and over the agency base may look cool but it's an obvious weak point especially when Killian has his drones cause an EMP surge that prevents them from closing the armored shutters.
  • Benevolent Boss: Killian who truly cared about his original crew and hates Lance for killing them in a past mission.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Lance turns himself back into a pigeon briefly to lead the other pigeons to save Walter from falling after he stops Killian.
  • Big "NO!": Lance lets one out when he believes Killian just blew Walter up.
  • Body Horror:
    • A more mild, kid-friendly version happens with Lance during his transformation; he suffers a bad stomachache, possibly meaning that his organs were being rearranged, his hands shrink, goosebumps starting forming on his skin signaling that feathers are about to grow out of it, and his eyes get larger and start moving to the side of his head. While it's Played for Laughs, the entire experience is obviously terrifying to Lance as it would be to anyone suffering it.
    • One of Walter's inventions is a device that seemingly turns a victim's bones into rubber, leaving them a shapeless mess on the ground that can't move at all. When it's used on Kimura, Lance and Walter are forced to push him over to the door, the criminal looking like human silly putty. And when Marcy finds Kimura like this, she struggles not to throw up.
  • Bloodless Carnage: We see Walter with bruises on his face at various points, but no blood is shown. Though at one point after the final battle, the two main characters mention internal bleeding.
  • Bookends: The opening scene ends with Walter's mom hugging him calling them part of Team Weird. When Lance and Walter are reinstated, they both declare themselves Team Weird.
  • Brains and Brawn: Walter and Lance, respectively. Although Lance definitely isn't a Dumb Muscle as he has very quick wits and is able to crack down on a mission while taking the form of a small animal, he has better fighting and acrobatic skills compared to the scrawny Walter. Meanwhile, Walter is a Gadgeteer Genius who has a lot more knowledge in science than Lance.
  • Brick Joke: In the beginning, Lance gives one of his co-workers a fist-bump, which excites the coworker and prompts his friend to tell him to never wash that hand. When the drones start invading the headquarters, the two of them put the fist Lance touched in front of them as if it will protect them; when the drones are deactivated, they clearly believe that the fist is the reason why.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Lance's response to Killian asking if he remembers him while the former is being strangled is...
    "What can I say? I meet a lot of bad guys."
  • Can't Stay Normal: Lance is turned back into a human about halfway in, but when Walter is falling after defeating Killian, he has to transform back into a pigeon to save him.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The bread crumbs Walter always carries around to feed pigeons with comes in handy in Venice, allowing him to escape from Killian.
    • In the beginning of the film, a previous mission Lance went on is mentioned, with the implication that it went south. Turns out Killian's entire crew was killed on that mission, providing his motivation for going after Lance.
  • Cool Car: Lance drives a custom Audi e-tron GT.
  • Curse Cut Short: A few. This includes instances of a "kick our -" and a "Holy s-" from Walter, and a "son of a -" from Marcy.
  • Cyber Cyclops: All of the drones seen in the movie have a single red eye incorporated into their designs.
  • Daydream Surprise: Happens to Lance, when he suddenly kills Walter by ejecting him out of the airplane along with his bird Lovey, but it turns out it was all just in his mind.
  • Disney Death: Walter and the pigeons are apparently blown up by Killian when they try to rescue Lance, but they later show up unharmed, having been protected by Walter's inflatable hug.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Walter's mother Wendy, a police officer who encouraged him to use his ideas to save people, died when Walter was stll a kid.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After Lance lays an egg, Walter realizes why his first attempt at making the antidote didn’t work.
    Lance: Walter… what happens in the submarine, stays in the submarine.
    Walter: You just laid an egg. (gasps) You laid an egg!
    Lance: It just- it just kinda… slipped out, man…
    Walter: You just laid an egg! Lance, this is amazing! Do you not realize what this means?! You’re a girl!
    Lance: Oh... ‘scuse me?!
    Walter: Of course, of course! That’s why I couldn’t figure this out! I used Lovey’s DNA in the serum!
    Lance: And that helps us how?
    Walter: Because now all I need to do is change one variable in the antidote, and you’ll be human again!
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Killian greatly cared for his original crew who were killed by Lance in a past mission and is motivated to avenge them.
  • Eye Cam: Done when Lance awakens after his pigeon transformation and is looking at Walter.
  • Eye Scream: Towards the end of the first car chase, Walter gets sprayed in the eyes with a flying bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Facial Horror: Along with allowing him to impersonate Lance, Killian's masking technology also hides the horrific scars and robotic implants on the left side of his face.
  • Foreshadowing: It's actually not hard to piece together that Lance as a pigeon is actually female. He suffers from mood swings, his feathers puff up when riled, and he has eyelashes. Of the last two characteristics, which does he share with the three pigeons that form his flock?
  • Frame-Up: Lance is framed as the perpetrator behind the drone attacks, and must fight to clear his name with Walter's help.
  • Freudian Excuse: Played with. While Killian is sympathetic in his motivation for hating Lance since he did care for his crew and got scarred, considering they were criminals it was rather justified what Lance did. Killian most surely goes to far when he attempts to kill all the spies in the world.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Averted, as it's made clear most of the drinks ordered or served are alcoholic.
  • Furry Reminder: This bit after Lance is transformed into a pigeon:
    Walter: Lance, look at me.
    Lance: L-look at you?! I can't not look at you, Walter! I can see my butt and your face at the same time!
  • Gender Bender: Played with. Lance himself remains male when he is transformed, but the body he takes is actually that of a female pigeon, with him being able to lay eggs. Walter realizes that the feather he used in the serum came from his pet pigeon, Lovey, and this oversight was the reason the initial antidote formula didn't work.
  • Groin Attack: Lance and Walter evades several of Marcy’s agents in Mexico by sliding through their legs, Lance pecking each in the crotch.
  • Heel Realization: A very minor and implied one. When the agents point out Walter saved Killian, Killian's eye actually goes from red to blue implying he knows they are right. Though it was likely a moment of remorse than outright reforming.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A photograph in Walter's house shows his mother's coffin being draped in the American flag, implying that she was killed in action. The framed newspaper besides it hails her as a hero and it is later mentioned by Marcy that Wendy gave her life protecting her fellow officers.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: This is Walter's primary reasoning for using pigeon DNA in the formula, as they are commonly seen in every major city in the world with no one batting an eye at them. This is later proven when he and Lance are in Mexico, with Kimura's minions barely batting an eye at the sight of pigeon Lance.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Lance's retrieval of the drone appears to have gone without a hitch, but as he's being briefed, Marcy comes in to arrest him for stealing the drone, and the briefcase is revealed to be empty.
    • When the time runs out on the formula and Lance appears to have not turned into a pigeon, he laughs at Walter… and suddenly disappears in a flurry of feathers, the transformation happening more suddenly than anticipated.
    • The antidote is ready after incubating for eighteen hours, but when Walter tests it on one of Lance's feathers, it explodes in a blackish goop, indicating that it hasn't been perfected yet, and would have been lethal if ingested.
    • Lance takes out Killian's drone quite easily, only for Killian to reveal that he's built thousands more.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Many of the characters are modelled to resemble the actors voicing them, particularly Lance, Walter, Killian and Eyes.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Lance's amusing "Sleepy night-night" catchphrase is used by Killian to sinister effect after the latter knocks him out.
    • Moments after, after seeing that Killian is about to target Walter and the pigeons, Lance freaks out and starts using the same nonviolence phrases Walter would use but to no avail.
  • Kill Them All: Killian's plan is to kill every operative at the agency Lance works for, as payback for Lance killing his entire crew and permanently scarring him during a previous mission.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Kimura tells the Yakuza to kill Lance in Japanese, Lance states "I'm guessing that subtitle was not in my favor".
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Lance invokes this after he ends up laying an egg.
    Lance Sterling: What happens in the submarine, stays in the submarine!
  • Missing Mom: Walter's mom was a cop who was killed on the job.
  • Morphic Resonance: When Lance becomes a pigeon, he retains his Big Ol' Eyebrows from his human form, while his lower body is deep blue-black as a holdover from his suit. His bow tie also appears as a bow-shaped mark on his tummy.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Kimura has his butt exposed several times in one scene.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Walter considers a codename and chooses "Bond. Hydrogen Bond."
  • Nonchalant Dodge: In the first trailer, Lance deftly moves around a mook's attempts to hit him before ending the fight with a chop to the neck.
  • Noodle Implements:
    • Lance telling himself he once "broke into the Kremlin using a piece of duct tape and a napkin".
    • When Lance tries to get information out of Kimura, he calls for a funnel, jumper cables, and a Nickelback album.
  • Noodle Incident: Near the beginning of the film Joy warns Sterling not to make another mess like his previous mission in Kurdistan. It is not specified in detail what actually happened on this mission, though Killian's disfigurement suggests that it wasn't pretty.
  • Not Quite Back to Normal: After returning to human form the first time around, Lance displays some bird characteristics, such as bobbing his head when he walks, and an inability to see glass. The second time, his right hand is still small.
  • Not So Different: Lance and Killian are both motivated by the deaths of their comrades.
  • Oh, Crap!: Walter's reaction when Lance drinks the formula, complete with his goggles flying off his head.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Killian's name is never mentioned and he is only ever referred to as "Robot Hand".
  • Orbital Shot: Done when Lance is freaking out upon realizing he turned into a pigeon.
  • Pain to the Ass: During a car chase while suspended in slow motion after careening off an overpass ledge, Lance gets poked in the buttocks from a compass and slowly screams in pain.
  • Painful Transformation: Lance's transformation into a pigeon is this.
    Lance: What's happening to my HAAAAAANNNNNNDDDD?!
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Kimura checked into a hotel in New Mexica under the name "Not Kimura".
  • P.O.V. Cam: From Lance's perspective as a pigeon, he can see everything around him due to pigeons having 360 vision.
  • Product Placement: Lance's Audi e-tron GT counts as this, even though this film's target audience is too young to drive one.
  • Red Right Hand: Taken literally-ish as a robot left hand. Killian can disguise himself as another person, but his robot hand doesn't look any different.
  • Revenge: This is Killian's motivation; Lance led an attack by the agency that killed Killian's comrades, and disfigured him.
  • Save the Villain: Walter insists on bringing Killian into custody non-lethally by putting him in an "inflatable hug", even though this causes Walter himself to almost fall to his death.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Walter and Lance. Walter is a geek who loves korean dramas, k-pop music and cute things, while Lance is a Boisterous Bruiser who loves grenades and kicking bad guys' butts.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: When Lance changes into a pigeon, he shrinks out of his clothes. During the final scene, he is seen wearing clothes when he is turned back into a human, suggesting Walter may have refined the formula to aid in this.
  • Shoe Phone: Walter has a gadget he calls the multi-pen with various settings, including a Truth Serum spray, freeze ray, "Serious Putty", and an electric bolt that rubberized people.
  • Shown Their Work: Many of the challenges that Lance encounters as a pigeon are true to life, from having nearly 360-degree vision to excreting from a cloaca. The pigeon facts that Walter shares are also accurate.
  • Stealth Pun: The title is this when you realize it technically stands for spies in the skies.
    • Walter's "epigenetic modulation" serum is actually an "e-pigeon-etic modulation" serum.
  • Sticky Situation: One of Walter's inventions is "Serious Putty", sticky pink goo meant to nonlethally immobilize targets.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • While Bloodless Carnage is still used, Walter gets visible bruises on his body after some rough action scenes.
    • Lance attempts to knock out Kimura the same way he did when he was human, only to find that a pigeon wing doesn't have as much of an impact as a human hand.
    • Lance initially assumes that taking out the one drone Killian had would foil his plan...except he already figured he would do so and made hundreds more. A villain is going to have a lot of time on his hands, so why would he just use that one drone? Killian actually lampshaded how silly it was for Lance to have that mindset.
    • When Walter and Lance defeat the Big Bad, they are ecstatic to finally get their jobs back, only for both of them to end up terminated for treason among other crimes. Subverted in that they actually do get rehired shortly afterward, although Walter leads the duo now; it's implied that their initial firing was just for theatrics to establish their cover stories.
  • Take That!: When Lance has Kimura at his mercy, one of the Noodle Implements he needs to torture the information out of him is a Nickelback album.
  • Tap on the Head: One of Lance's signature moves, used to easily knock out the big and burly Kimura almost instantly.
    Lance: Just a ''few'' ounces of pressure to the vagus nerve, and look at your boy! Sleepy night-night.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Lovey, oddly enough. When Marcy's agents corner Lance and Walter in Venice, she suggests that they Kill Them All. Lance, who has no qualms about killing when necessary, calls this "dark". During the Final Battle, she saves Marcy from a drone that was behind her shoulder, then claims she was aiming for Marcy's head.
  • Toothy Bird: Lance notably has teeth in pigeon form.
  • Tragic Villain: Downplayed. Killian was evil before he got scarred and his crew died but while he isn't justified for targeting all the spies in the world, the loss of his crew is played in a sympathetic way since he truly cared for them.
  • Transformation Trinket: At the end Walter is shown to have refined the antidote into a bowtie that transforms Lance back on contact, with him wearing it with his other clothes in human form.
  • Truth Serum: Walter made one; it smells of lavender.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Lance discovers that his pigeon body is actually female when he accidentally lays an egg. This ends up cluing in Walter as to what went wrong with the antidote.
  • Wham Line: As Lance destroys the drone Killian had and points out that his plan won't work because of this, Killian chuckles and asks this:
    Killian: You really thought I was gonna use one drone to take out every name on this list?!
    Lance: I-I mean I did, until you asked that question that way. It casted some doubt.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kimura seems to disappear from the film after Marcy catches up to the duo in Mexico.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Throughout the movie, Walter has firmly believed that it's better to use non-lethal methods to deal with criminals. During the climax, Killian points out that if Walter shuts down his drones while they're both flying through the air, Walter will kill them both. Walter does shut down the drones — but he also wraps Killian in an "inflatable hug" device, saving the criminal's life even though this puts Walter himself at risk of falling to his death.


Video Example(s):


Spies In Disguise - Opening

The opening scene focus on Walter as a child along with his mother where he is shown to have been interested in making weird gadgets long before he joined the H.T.U.V. (Honor, Trust, Unity and Valor).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

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