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The boulder helped, too. He only had to push it a little. Mostly it crawled on its own. That was nice, but he wished it wouldn't moan so. Boulders shouldn't moan. Especially not in French. It wasn't fair to make him listen to it.
—David Brin, Sundiver
It's common in media to allow inanimate objects the power of motion. Sometimes this is done for plot reasons. Sometimes this is done to add an element of surprise or the supernatural to a work. Whatever the reason, this trope is for when typically inanimate objects are self animated in a work.
When this happens, it is always obvious to the viewer and to any characters aware of the process. Depending on the object and whether there's a Masquerade going on, it might be obvious to everyone. Often objects that have this trope applied to them are anthropomorphized to a degree. Normally they are just given faces, but they may also be able to interact with their environment and hold things in ways that you wouldn't think a sofa would be able to.
How and why this happens varies from work to but there are some common variations. They were always animate to begin with, but they often have to maintain a Masquerade. They were made animate by the Power of Love. They absorbed some kind of Applied Phlebotinum, are Haunted Technology, or A Wizard Did It. (See also Instant AI, Just Add Water). They are transformed humans. They are possessed. Or simply Rule of Funny.
There's actually a Japanese mythological phenomenon based on this, called Tsukumogami, where objects come to life after a hundred years. (usually an umbrella for some reason)
Object shows like Battle for Dream Island will always have this as a base trope.
- Anthropomorphic Food
- Living Statue
- Living Toys
- Love Imbues Life
- Talking Appliance Sidekick
- Talking Poo
- Talking Weapon
- Sentient Vehicle
Anime and Manga
- BoBoBo-Bo Bo-BoBo Where the hell do we start?!! Main characters are: an egotistical sugar confectionery Don Patch, soft service ice-cream for a head, Softon, walking jelly mold Jelly Jiggler, and Torpedo girl. Non-main characters are hamburger men, the dynamite brothers, a green onion man (or is he garlic?), and talking fries and chocolate.
- Houshin Engi has supernatural humans, animals, and objects; one mischievous spirit turned out to be that of a biwa and was able to return to human form once she absorbed enough moonlight.
- Moe from Love Hina - see the Japanese example in Myth and Legend, below.
- Beatrice from the manhwa 13th Boy is a walking talking cactus with a face. He only talks and moves when around Hee-So Eun, the main character. Hee-So wonders if he's some sort of mutation. The truth is that Beatrice was given a heart by her first boyfriend Whie-Young Jang, who possesses a mysterious magical power. He did something similar to his friend Sae-Bom's stuffed rabbit Mr. Toe-Toe, though he is no longer "alive."
- Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo has several of the household items in Ureshiko's home are alive, thanks to her magic.
- Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation has the ability to move on its own and can also grasp and hold things like a second pair of hands.
- The Colbert Report: Stephen is defeated in a health care reform debate by a table and a desklamp. He is the only one who can hear them though.
- In Doctor Who In Nine Easy Steps, the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe is known thoughout as "Simon Pegg's evil ceiling".
- In the The Darker Knight, the television comes to life and teams up with Batman.
- In the fanfic The Annoying Mole, A Hetalia Trollfic Austria's mole is alive, and as you can guess, it is very annoying.
- The Chaotic Evil Volleyball of Terror from Calvin at Camp.
- The Brave Little Toaster
- Cars, only there's no need for a Masquerade as they are the only inhabitants of the earth.
- Toy Story
- Night at the Museum has the contents of the museum come to life in secret every night, though the Masquerade seems to have been given up by the sequel.
- Inverted in Beauty and the Beast, where people are transformed into objects by a vengeful enchantress; they also pretend to be regular objects around strangers.
- Aladdin: Magic Carpet.
- Fantasia: Mickey the Sorcerer's Apprentice (no, not that one) animates some brooms to help him out. It does not go smoothly.
- Regular appliances became Transformers when exposed to the MacGuffin in the live-action movie.
- Eddie Valiant's gun and bullets, plus the taxicab, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
- EVERYTHING in Toontown! Even the buildings had eyes, and sometimes mouths.
- Pixar's corporate logo is the titular lamp from their animated short Luxo Jr. It appears in the opening title of all of their films.
- The killer tire from Rubber.
- Merlin in Disney's The Sword in the Stone owns a whole house of animate furniture, most prominently the tea set with the insolent sugar bowl. He also magically animated an entire castle's worth of things to clean themselves.
- Screwy the baseball and Darling the baseball bat from Everyones Hero
- Stephen King's Christine is one. Then again, his usage of this trope (from Killer hedge animals to laundry machines is so prevalent in his work it has been parodied in Family Guy, where a Stephen King running low on ideas (implicitly due to this trope and his prolific output) is reduced to pitching "Oooh, Scary Lamp!". The pitch is accepted.
- The Luggage from the Discworld novels is made of sapient pearwood and runs around on a hundred tiny legs. This being Discworld, there is no Masquerade involved. People just naturally get out of the way of the box that could eat them.
- Sapient pearwood Luggages see a fair amount of use in the Agatean Empire. However, the Luggage, the best-known in the novels, has been noted to be a little more aggressive than its siblings.
- Judging by some descriptions of The Luggage's trip around the Counterweight Continent, it can also mate and have children. Yes, that's right two wooden chest are implied to have you knowed, try that out of your heads folks.
- It didn't mate with the other Luggage, they built their offspring. There were sawing and hammering noises when the two slipped off alone together, presumably into a grove of sapient pearwood trees.
- Discworld's trolls and gargoyles are implied to have originated when rocks and statues respectively invoked this trope. The Power Of Faith can also have this effect, as shown in Pyramids when Dios's snake-headed staff becomes animated.
- Sapient pearwood Luggages see a fair amount of use in the Agatean Empire. However, the Luggage, the best-known in the novels, has been noted to be a little more aggressive than its siblings.
- The titular protagonist of The Velveteen Rabbit.
- A variant is seen in the novel Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls; the protagonist can speak to any inanimate object that has been handled by humans enough. Some of them have... unique... personalities, like the bomb that really, really wants to explode.
- The title character of the Garrett P.I. series has a painting of a woman named Eleanor that may or may not be inhabited by her ghost. He's the only one who can see it move (since he was the only one who could see her ghost to begin with) and often talks to it, although she never answers.
- Of course, Garrett has a tendency to invoke this trope facetiously, like when he describes tripping over furniture in the dark as if he's being attacked by a homicidal chair. With sixteen legs.
- Everything in The Annals of the Chosen can develop to at least an animal's intelligence. In areas dominated by nature, this means Everything Trying to Kill You unless you make some sacrifices, so to speak. Artificial objects are imbued with a desire to fulfill the purpose of their creation, which can still be a bad thing if the objects are weapons.
- While Dor from Xanth can't animate, he can still talk to any inanimate object (and they answer back).
- The toys in Susannah York (yes, the actress)'s novel Lark's Castle are inanimate but able to think, until some of them are animated by a "lifestone".
- In Thomas Baum's It Looks Alive to Me!, the premise is that once the moon rock exhibit was added, all the exhibits shaped like living creatures came to life.
- Inverted in Stationery Voyagers. Cowardice in war results in ordinary humans being placed under a curse that turns them into living writing tools (that can nevertheless reproduce!)
- The Ice-Cream Cone Coot and Other Rare Birds features many "birds" that are really just Animate Inanimate Objects that resemble birds.
- All of the characters in Lemony Snicket's book The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming (a Christmas Story), including the eponymous latke, a string of lights, a candy cane, and a fir tree. Lampshaded, of course:
"This may seem like unusual behavior for a potato pancake, but this is a Christmas story, in which things tend to happen that would never occur in real life."
- Notably, the quote from David Brin's Sundiver is not an example—the narrator is just very, very loopy at that point in the action.
- In the Choose Your Own Adventure book Return to Brookmere, the protagonist is accompanied by a magical talking amulet named the Mouth of Mimulus.
- The protagonist of Seanan McGuire's Velveteen stories has this as a superpower, though it only works on inanimate objects that have been made to look like living things. She can also modify them to an extent to give them weapons, i.e. a stuffed bunny rabbit growing claws and sharp teeth when she brings it to life to combat her enemies.
Live Action TV
- The Nestene Consciousness' Autons from Doctor Who. Dime store mannequins are the most famous type, but they can be made to resemble any object made of plastic, including an evil doll, a man-eating trashcan, or a comfy chair of doom.
- Or its most impressive accomplishment: real people.
- Also from Doctor Who, the Weeping Angels as a special example, in that they have always been animate, but can only move when no one is watching them. They most frequently take the form of ultra-creepy statues but, anything that holds the image of an angel can become an angel if one of them is close. So a photograph, a TV screen, or even a sketch might come alive. Don't put them near other statues.
- Inverted in Soap Bob is strictly a ventriloquist doll but often characters will forget and talk to him like he's a separate character from Chuck, the one who controls him. The Only Sane Man, Benson, is one of the few who never gets confused.
- This is the entire premise of the Brian Fuller show Wonderfalls though only the main character can see them.
- An episode of Haven has machines start acting on their own and killing people. Turns out they were all repaired by a Troubled mechanic who is unaware of his "uniqueness".
- Another episode has stuffed animals and people come alive.
Myth and Legend
- The myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, told by Ovid, which makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.
- According to a Japanese legend, objects owned and used for a hundred years (teapots, umbrellas, etc) become alive. Fridge Logic waves away some problems by explaining electricity repels such creatures, hence modern examples of are rare. Also serves as a commentary to the effect that people don't really save things for that long anymore. Tends to cause major problems if the objects were MIStreated....
- Wizards (and Clerics with the Chaos domain) in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 can cast the spell animate object.
- In the role-playing game In Nomine, one class of angels, Kyriotates in the service of the Archangel of Lightning, can possess inanimate objects.
- Promethean: The Created is based on this trope. Prometheans are formed from dead body parts, machines, or other things and come to life. For many the goal is to become human. For others...
- Parappa the Rapper features P.J. Berri, a living teddy bear, Sunny Funny, a daisy with a human body, and Chop Chop Master Onion, an anthropomorphic take a guess.
- Chu Lip contains (among other things) a stone lion, a gravestone, an eggplant, and a telephone pole as characters. And yes, you kiss all of them.
- Most of the shopkeepers and some of the potential townsfolk in Magician's Quest are anthropomorphic objects, for varying degrees of anthropomorphic. Shopkeepers include a wineglass, a dressing dummy, a lightbulb, and a barber pole. Townspeople include an anthropomorphic Russian Doll, a brownie townsperson and a watering can shopkeeper—although they may just be people with unusual head wear.
- The Japanese legend that objects can become animate (see "Myth and Legend" above) is used in Touhou with Medicine Melancholy and Kogasa Tatara, although in these cases they were unused for a hundred years (hence the name of Kogasa's theme song, "Beware the Umbrella Left There Forever").
- Pokémon has a number of examples.
- Banette used to be a doll that was thrown away by a child, and now seeks revenge. By extension, this also applies to its unevolved form, Shuppet.
- Rotom can possess objects, as revealed in Pokémon Platinum, where it can possess a washing machine, a lawnmower, an oven, a freezer, and a table fan. Specifically, it possesses technology that uses a special kind of motor. The aforementioned objects are specially prepared for research purposes.
- Voltorb is also implied to be a Pokeball turned sentient, through an unknown cause.
- Its SoulSilver Pokedex entry specifically states that it was discovered when Pokeballs were invented. An entry in another game says its components are not found in nature.
- Shedinja is the discarded exoskeleton of a Nincada after it evolves into Ninjask. Exactly how it is animated, especially considering the former occupant still lives, is not explained.
- A few more that are based on inanimate objects, yet are not implied to have been animated by outside forces, include Magnemite (magnets), Gardevoir (possibly anesama ningyou, a style of paper doll), Bronzor (a bronze mirror), and Bronzong (a bronze bell). Black and White have many more, including Trubbish (a garbage bag), Klink (a pair of gears), Munna (a Japanese form of incense burner), Darumaka (whose line is based off daruma dolls), and Litwick (a ghostly candle, which evolves into a lamp, and then a chandelier.)
- The Hag from Thief: Deadly Shadows animate statues with her magic.
- The majority of enemies in zOMG are this. In fact, they're even called the Animated.
- The same with Cartoon Network's MMORPG Fusion Fall, though there it's a type of goo fusing with the object.
- In Super Meat Boy, the ground in chapter select screen has a face which gets progressively creepier as the chapter number goes up.
- Earthbound features several of these (electrical guitars, coffee cups...) as enemies.
- A large chunk of Banjo-Kazooie's supporting cast is made up of these, all possessing Rare's now-trademark "googly eyes". This was toned down a lot for the sequel, Banjo-Tooie, and in the third installment, Nuts & Bolts, there are no characters like this at all.
- Both Mario and Muddy Mole get attacked by THE SUN; the former's case being a recurring Mook-ish enemy in Super Mario Bros. 3, while the latter's case is the World 2 boss. Naturally, you KILL THE SUN in both instances.
- Mole Mania also has Muddy fighting Funton, an animate 100-ton weight who occasionally jumps sky-high and delivers a damaging tremor if you're foolish enough to stay underground when he lands.
- Grimoires Weiss, Noir, and Rubrum in Nie R are all ancient books that are capable of speech and float around on their own. Weiss lends help in the form of magic attacks (and British-accented snarky commentary) to the main character. On the other hand, Noir and Rubrum are mustache-twirlingly evil and bugfuck insane, in that order.
- Circuit very much Humanizes internal computer parts.
- Sexy Losers takes this in a disturbing direction. Blowup dolls have minds and can remember everything that's been done to them. A fairy occasionally shows up to animate them as full humans, whereupon they usually a): kill themselves, b): kill their former owners and / or or c): become prostitutes and remain as objectified as before, since they lack the education and skills to make decent lives for themselves. This being Sexy Losers, all three of those fates are Played for Laughs.
- My Milk Toof is about two walking, talking milk teeth.
- Perry Bible Fellowship loves this trope, often taking it to dark and scary places.
- Order of the Stick, while not featuring them as major characters, did bring us a brief intermission starring anthropomorphic movie snacks.
- The Fourth has ghosts possessing swords and plant pots.
- The Soap in The Gamers Alliance. The people of the world need it for the sake of clean, happy mouths everywhere!
- Chocolate Man and Chocolate Lady from Nameless. There's really no explanation for it-it's that kind of a series.
- Banana-nana-Ninja!: "In a world where a banana can be a ninja, one extraordinary little banana... is a ninja!"
- The Clock Crew use clock faces as their actual faces.
- The Annoying Orange not only has talking produce, but tons of talking inanimate objects as well.
- The Insane Cafe Series features living vehicles that help fight against Chong.
- Some of the characters from Weebl and Bob.
- Adventure Time has BMO (pronounced Beemo), the sentient video game console.
- In a Darkwing Duck episode, Megavolt gained the ability to turn machines into sentient beings.
- In another, Bushroot figured out how to imbue plants with intelligence.
- South Park: Towlie and Mr. Hanky.
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Rat Talisman is the Applied Phlebotinum.
- Frosty the Snowman! The magic hat gives him the ability to animate (although it's partly also the Power of Love).
- Numerous objects in The Ren and Stimpy Show, including nipples.
- Played for Laughs in many Flip the Frog cartoons where inanimate characters frequently come alive to be involved in various gags.
- The Sushi Pack, along with The Legion of Low Tide and The Fried Food Fighting Force are all humanized versions of various food stuffs (sushi for the Pack and Legion, fried foods for guess who.
- Blue's Clues, of course! Sentient salt and pepper shakers, shovel and pail, side table drawer...
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force has the titular crew, Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad. Exactly what they sound like.
- Veggie Tales is about the adventures of animate produce.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes has this as part of its Bait and Switch Credits in season 2. The series proper has some examples, including Bill the Ball and an unnamed sock.
- Regular Show has Benson, a walking, talking gumball machine.
- Speaking of gumballs, The Amazing World of Gumball has sentient cacti, balloons, clouds, potatoes, bananas, toast and so on. And that's just among the main characters; literally anything can come to life in its setting.
- The Heart of Jong from Xiaolin Showdown, which can bring otherwise inanimate objects to life.
- An episode of Kim Possible (which dealt with Kim having to deal with learning how to drive), many of the appliances and a car in the episode possessed the ability to talk and move on their own. Justified in this case, as it is heavily implied that they possessed advanced AI created by the scientist that Dr. Drakken kidnapped.