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Guess which bush Amuro pushes aside.

In some cartoons, it is obvious that a part of the background will be used. What makes it obvious is that it is strikingly lighter in color than its surroundings. It might also have an obvious difference in detail or color saturation. Another telltale sign would be clear black outlines on the object: the three clearly outlined rocks on the cliff would be the ones to tumble.

This is an unintentional artifact from the animation process. Foreground/animated objects are drawn by the main animators separately from the background and matte painters. Because the two processes were done at different times and locations and by different artists, consistent matching was very difficult. Additionally, the unpainted portions of cels are not perfectly transparent, so the colors on lower cels became more and more muted as additional layers were added to the top of the stack.

Film critic Roger Ebert has called this the "Fudd Flag", after Bugs Bunny's nemesis, who uses it to determine which tree Bugs is hiding behind, which rock he needs to trip over, etc.

Nowadays, digital ink-and-paint and compositing has largely displaced the use of painted cels, meaning that colors can be matched accurately. The issue of lavish backgrounds contrasting with simple animated elements remains to some extent, but it is often avoided. Many TV cartoons now use backgrounds rendered in the same simplistic style as the animation, while theatrical films can now use CG to render "background" elements that can be animated... which can lead to a whole new set of problems.

Something similar occasionally appears in older live-action productions. In particular, you may see an oddly colored sheen around the characters in shows featuring heavy use of Chroma Key. In his review of the Star Wars prequel trailer, Mr. Cranky dubbed this slight Special Effects Failure a "mystical aura." The technique has since evolved to the point where it is mostly no longer noticeable. Mostly.

This also applies to mid-era point-n-click Adventure Games, when the background would be painted or 3D rendered, while objects would usually be drawn sprites. However, this had a practical use, allowing players to easily locate collectible objects, even small ones. Especially small ones. A similar version can appear in action games that require you to destroy parts of the environment to proceed, again, mostly in older ones. The breakable parts would usually be a different color, and one can sometimes even see the seams where the object is supposed to break apart.

In early console games, some interactive objects might use a noticeably different palette than the background, since sprites and backgrounds have their own color spaces.

Occasionally inverted by allowing the cel/object to exist and making it readily visually apparent, and then moving the background art instead of the cel.

This trope is particularly prominent in cartoons made during The Golden Age of Animation.

Examples of Conspicuously Light Patch include:

Straight Examples

Anime and Manga

  • The Touhou doujin-anime Musou Kakyo: A Summer Day's Dream has this almost constantly.
  • When the elephant eats bricks on Black Cat Detective... god that show sounds weird when you write about it.
  • Dragon Ball Z had it, though not as bad as some other cartoons of the era. For example.
  • Quite obvious at one point in Yu Yu Hakusho, when the part of the Saint Beasts' castle is collapsing. Two guesses on which part.
  • Parodied in episode 15 of Pani Poni Dash!. When the bus is teetering on the edge of the cliff, literally every external shot of the cliff shows the edge of the cliff very obviously animated this way, indicating that the cliff is about to crumble. It never does.

Video Games

  • The video game Serious Sam, interestingly, features these. Behind a lightly colored spot on a wall, you could expect to find a secret by moving to it or shooting at it.
  • Conspicuously Light Patches, along with other texturing and lighting tricks, were pretty much a staple in FPSes since Doom, as they were often a clue to where a secret could be, or where monsters would come from.
  • Wolfenstein 3D pulled a major dick move in not doing this most of the time; if you wanted to find every secret, you had to move up and down every wall repeatedly hitting the action key.
  • The newer, Crystal Dynamics-developed Tomb Raider games constantly use white ledges to signify which parts of the wall Lara can grab.
  • Mods for the Quake-derived shooters such as Half-Life have this quite often, based on rendering limitations, until dynamic shadows became more prevalent in engines starting in 2004. Lighting effects were determined when the level was built, and didn't change during play, even if an object moved to a differently lit environment. Similarly, interactive objects didn't block light, meaning a bright light would shine right through a door or destructible wall as though it were glass. Levels had to be designed with the limitations in mind, by having near identical lighting on both sides, or leaving the light off on the opposite side until it was triggered.
  • In the Super Mario All Stars version of Super Mario Bros 3 brick blocks with jumping Goombas hidden inside became easier to pick out, as they didn't have the "shine" effect normal bricks did.
  • Invoked in the LEGO Adaptation Games, where non-LEGO scenery serves only as background. All interactions involve only LEGO items.

Western Animation

  • Just about every Looney Tunes or Hanna-Barbera cartoon ever made. Hanna-Barbera took it to a fine art, animating only the moving parts of the characters for the various scenes. In fact, almost all the males (even animals) wore bows or neckties, and females wore necklaces, so that when their heads moves, the bodies didn't need to be animated. This brought down production costs and thus brought animation to television. Animators affectionately refer to this style as "non-amation".
  • Subverted (perhaps unintentionally) in one Roadrunner cartoon, where Wile E. Coyote cuts a suspension bridge that's clearly drawn on a cel, but the fully painted cliff he's standing on falls instead.
  • "Falling Hare" does it several times, but it's most noticeable on an entire section of a wall that Bugs Bunny backs up into in order to ram open a door.
  • An episode of Extreme Ghostbusters featuring "The Piper" had this exact trope. When the characters were standing on the pier, one could see the foreground planks in a richer shade of mahogany shortly before they were smashed to pieces.
  • The Real Ghostbusters displayed this trope a great deal.
  • The New Adventures of Alvin and The Chipmunks had this all the time, from a door that was shortly going to be opened, to a boulder that was going to fall down on the heroes.
  • In the animated feature American Pop, one character is seen playing the piano, and as he moves his arm his sleeve repeatedly flickers to a lighter shade than the rest of his shirt.
  • DuckTales (1987) had an instance that was particularly obvious due to the fact that it appeared in the title sequence (about twenty seconds in).
  • Scooby Doo: Trap doors, curtains hiding monsters, vases that activated secret passages, paintings with moving eyes, it was everywhere. Quasi-subverted in the theme song, however, with an obviously-background-painted Scooby-Doo covered in bubblegum, which is cleared away by an animated tongue to reveal the lighter, animated Scooby.
  • In the second episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the snow wall Sokka is standing on has plenty of these, including his snow watch tower, which collapses as Prince Zuko's ship approaches.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (the old series) you could tell which rocks were going to fall as they'd be coloured lighter.
  • In Gargoyles, there was a scene where a blind man pulls out a book from his shelf. All the other books are generic browns and reds, the one he pulls out is bright blue. For the aversion, see below.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants, although the ones in older episodes could be attributed to the fairly small budgets at the time, the newer, more Nickelodeon-backed episodes have no such (weak) excuse.
    • One particularly Egregious example is the episode "Can You Spare a Dime?", where SpongeBob pokes Squidward's animated nose, and the entire rest of his head is a much-darker matte painting.
  • No form of animation being intrinsically immune to the Fudd Flag, Claymation-animated works are wholly capable of falling prey to it, too. Davey and Goliath did it nearly every episode.
  • While it wasn't so bad in the original black and white sorts, Ted Turner's recolored Popeye shorts suffered immensely from this trope.
  • CatDog, for example in the taco restaurant in the episode "All You Can't Eat" where CatDog crawl under the floor tiles and you can see the path they take outlined on the tiles.
  • Lilo and Stitch uses this deliberately as part of the art style, as all the characters are cell animated on top of watercolour backgrounds.
  • Arthur on PBS is prone to this, at least in the earlier episodes. For example, Arthur frequently visits the library, and it's pretty obvious which books he'll take off the shelf.
  • Don Bluth's The Pebble and the Penguin does this several times in the film, but this becomes the most obvious during the climatic battle between Hubie and Drake at the end, where the cel-shaded pieces of staircase are the ones that Drake punches away while trying to attack Hubie.
  • There's a fair bit of this in The Secret of NIMH too. While the characters' fairly straightforward animation is understandable in contrast to the sumptuously painted backgrounds, when something in the background needs animating, it can be rather jarring. The mud sloshing around the Brisby's house as they're trying to move it is particularly obvious.
    • Plus the scene where Mrs. Brisby pushes out the water dish to escape the cage. It changes between static painting and movable cartoon in pretty much every edit.
  • The ant-infested tile Judge Frollo picks up in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He then uses said tile to kill all the ants underneath when he is talking about his plan to eradicate the Gypsies.
  • Visible, though subtle, in the early Swat Kats episode "The Giant Bacteria," at the very beginning, parts of an oil refinery blow up, and you can tell which is which ahead of time.
    • Swat Kats had it far less subtle most of the time, however, as the backgrounds were drawn in a rather lavishly detailed style reminiscent of a comic-book, but the animated pieces were less "stylized," and more similar to other animated series of the time.
  • During the "Planet Song" from Animaniacs, the planets Venus and Saturn are for some reason both drawn as individually-animated cels, while the other planets of the Solar System (Uranus Is Showing is completely absent due to Yakko Warner accidentally leaving it out) are all drawn as backgrounds.
  • In the climatic fight scene in The Princess and the Goblin Curdie rushes to get a sword from the weapons room. It's extremely obvious which weapon he's going to pick up because of this trope.
  • The Bridge Logic scene from Atlantis the Lost Empire.
  • During the "Baby Mine" scene from Dumbo, when we see the montage on baby animals and their mothers after Dumbo and Timothy visit Dumbo's mother still in the cage, a mother zebra for some reason actually has her head drawn on an individual cel while her body is drawn onto the background! (her colt is also drawn on an individual cel).
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, individual objects are animated while background objects are live-action.
  • Just about every single object in Word World that's shaped like its name.
  • In the Lion King during the elephant graveyard scene this becomes very obvious, all background bones are dark grey but animated bones are a light cream color.
  • The book Belle checks out at her village's library during the song "Belle" at the very beginning of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Several of the older animated Disney films would occasionally have characters for some reason be drawn as a background rather than on a cel. Examples include a closeup of Monstro the whale's eye in Pinocchio, a giant Alice's leg (and bloomers) sticking out of the White Rabbit's house in Alice in Wonderland, an unconscious Princess Aurora lying on the ground after touching a spinning-wheel in Sleeping Beauty, and Ariel's tail at one point during the song "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid.

Mystical Auras


  • There's a particular bit in the 80s Flash Gordon movie where, as a rocket travels forward entering the Imperial Vortex, this bright, transparent... thing moves behind it. Instead of moving steadily behind the rocket, it sort of jumps whenever the rocket's going to go past it.
    • Seen in many space films, actually. Exterior shots of the Leonov in 2010 have an aura, most noticeable when the ship moves toward the camera. Likewise, small ships in the original Star Wars trilogy are often surrounded by a light rectangle, particularly in VHS and earlier DVD releases.
  • In the B-Movie Xanadu, Sonny gets one as he enters the muses' world, as seen at the bottom of this page.
  • While Back to The Future Parts II and III did chroma-key well (managing to disguise, for example, when the flying DeLorean was actually a model), the original had two obvious Special Effects Failures: When the car first disappears, leaving the fire trails; and when Marty's hand begins to fade in front of his face.
  • Hitchcock's classic North by Northwest has the climax take place on the front of Mt. Rushmore. If you look very carefully in the moments in which you can see the full monument, you can see the blue-tinted line.

Live-Action TV

  • Extremely apparent in some Muppet productions, as Jim Henson liked using Chroma Key a lot in the mid-80's. It gets to the point where you can tell something's up when you see that "mystical aura" around a character.
    • Done intentionally in the "Secrets of the Muppets" episode of The Jim Henson Hour. Henson explains how the room he is hosting the show from is blue-screened, then holds a bright blue necktie in front of himself, making his chest transparent and demonstrating the Chroma Key technique.
      • And then subverted later on. Jojo (the Audience Surrogate) claims that he can now tell when Chroma Key is being used. When a Doozer from Fraggle Rock enters the room, he claims that it's obvious the character isn't really there, and is probably about three feet tall and standing in front of a blue screen somewhere. Jim then picks up the Doozer, demonstrating that it is actually a radio controlled puppet, and then begins the segment on how characters like that are made.
  • On Babylon 5, some special effects failures let you see the characters were suddenly in front of a blue screen such that someone was going to do something that required a special effect to depict.
  • Lampshaded on The Daily Show. During the 2004 election, a segment is done with Rob Cordry lying handcuffed on the street, with an extremely obvious Aura. After the segment, Jon Stewart comments that it "looked like the street was melting away from him."

Point-And-Click Version


  • World of Warcraft frequently has quests where you have to pick up objects on the ground. These objects are scenery and can't be manipulated (and don't even light up when the cursor hits them) unless you're on the relevant quest. Since finding which book among the thousands of books you see in a building is the one you're supposed to pick up is annoying, Blizzard eventually made quest objects sparkle and glow to make them easier to discern.
    • A variation on this is used in at least a couple of places, including the mines underneath one of the Mana Forges in Outland and during one of the Harrison Jones quests in Uldum. Dead NPCs that will spawn additional creatures lie on the ground. The ones that will spawn creatures use a different model and are rendered in higher detail than other "background" elements, making it very easy to tell which bodies will spawn mobs.
    • Happens in most MMOs sooner or later, thanks to Players Are Morons (sort of justified on the side of the developers, because only the players who can't find the items will write long ranty bug reports saying finding the objects is impossible).
  • In the City of Heroes computer game, items that must be found to complete a mission not only pulse with light, but emit a sound to alert players to their presence, earning them the nickname of "glowies" among players. This falls under the category of Acceptable Breaks From Reality, mind.
    • The "glowies" in City of Heroes didn't originally include the sound clue for finding them, but since some were tucked into corners and nearly impossible to locate by sight alone, the sound effect was added to relieve frustration and reduce GM calls. You can alter the file and make them emit any sound you care to, if the "wom wom wom" noise is too disruptive or irritating.
    • A more traditional example appears in the final mission of the first "Shining Stars" arc received from the contact Twinshot: a secret door in a mansion's library is a bookcase that is noticeably lighter than the other shelves around it. Almost certainly a deliberate invocation of the trope, as there is no technical reason why the bookcase would have to be a different shade.

Video Games

  • The Playstation titles of the Final Fantasy series (VII, VIII, and IX) all use pre-rendered backgrounds to create pseudo-3D environments, and only use real-time 3D models for characters and certain interactive objects. Because games of the era have a much lower polygon count, real-time objects look jagged against the much smoother scenery. (The main character in VII remarks on it once or twice in the Beginners Hall.)
  • Want to know if a corpse in PlayStation-era Resident Evil is just a corpse or if it's going to bite your legs off as you walk past? Just check whether it's rendered like the background or like a character model. Smooth-shaded = dead dead, jagged polygons = zombie.
    • Not nearly so easy in the Nintendo GameCube remake, however. The increased render capabilities make the zombies blend in a lot better to the remade backgrounds.
    • Occasionally the series will fake you out, though, with a polygonal body that doesn't get up and try to eat you.
    • Occurs with other objects as well, such as doors, paintings, etc. as they're usually noticeably brighter and more jagged than background objects. If a door looks like this, you can bet something'll come crashing through it sooner or later. Averted with breakable windows, which are hidden surprisingly well.
  • In Super Mario Bros 3, one level featured enemies who hid in brick blocks; the blocks concealing enemies were easily distinguishable because, due to palette limitations, they didn't shimmer the way that normal blocks did. Naturally, in the Super Mario All Stars remake, there was no such giveaway, due to the SNES' more advanced graphics capabilities.
    • They're still a slightly different color in All-Stars, though that's probably intentional. Another example would be underground hidden blocks—on the NES, the starry background would be a noticeably (though not too noticeably) different color where a hidden block would show up. No dice on the SNES.
  • Near the end of World 8-3 of the original Super Mario Bros, if you look very closely at the last brick wall in the background (it's behind the last Hammer Bros. there) before the flagpole, you can easily tell that one of the bricks making up the wall contains coins. What makes this obvious is the fact that the coin brick has a thin white line drawn above. In the SNES remake however, that brick is completely visible all the time as those walls have been removed and placed in a different background.
  • The "different palette" version shows up a lot, albeit totally unplanned, when playing a monochrome Game Boy game on a Game Boy Color or Game Boy Advance. Backgrounds are colored green and sprites are colored red. Fortunately, there's a couple different palettes you can choose when turning the game on that negate this effect.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, the area of floor you have to bomb in order to reach King Dodongo uses a texture that doesn't quite mesh with the floor around it; if you look closely you can see the seams. Also, the rocks that you can bomb tend to be very obvious, as they all use the same model.
    • The Nintendo 64 Zeldas were terrible about this. Most of the interiors and one very key town in Ocarina would be created with a painted background, thus the interactive objects would be very obviously rendered. Majora's Mask was a little better about this, but still suffered from the limitations inherit in the console. (ONE rock is in this canyon, guess which one you have to bomb?)
    • This is pretty much true in any Zelda game - a stretch of wall or piece of floor or what have you that needs bombing will have something that makes it different from the rest of the area. This would be justified in that it serves as a clue for players to figure out how to move forward in dungeons and gives them a rough idea of where exactly to bomb (so that they don't use up all of their bombs trying to hit the right spot). Secret areas will seldom have this, requiring you to slash the wall in different places with your sword (bombable walls go "zipt" instead of "clang" when you slash them, a fact pointed out by a Goron in the Fire Temple.)
  • If you see a patch on a wall in Mondo Medicals that is lighter than the rest of the wall, you can walk through that part. This is key to solving many of the game's puzzles, including "Counts to Fifteen" (15 is hidden behind one of the walls).
  • While the first Monkey Island game featured pixel-art backgrounds that meshed convincingly with foreground elements, backgrounds in the second and third were hand-painted. This was mostly averted; items that could be picked up were often also hand-painted and pasted in, and disappeared when you picked them up. This convention was completely thrown out in Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island, in which everything is 3D but the backgrounds are all pre-rendered and, more importantly, anti-aliased. So just look for the items with jaggedy edges.
  • Circle of Blood averted this; everything (everything) was in the same cartoonish style, including things two or three pixels wide that you needed to pick up. People took to calling it Circle of Mouse because if you didn't mouse over every pixel in a new area, you missed something.
  • Conspicuous in King's Quest VII: the Princeless Bride, the first SVGA King's Quest game, where the cartoonishness of interactable objects, in contrast to the backgrounds, sometimes make it ludicrously easy to figure out that, say, a statue is actually going to come to life and kill you.
  • By extension, in almost every 90s Sierra adventure game you could tell what elements of the scenery were potentially inventory by the fact that they were lighter in color and simpler in appearance than the hand-painted backgrounds. This was practically the only way to figure out which items were inventory in some rooms.
  • In Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, Koga's Gym has "invisible walls" that you have to find your way around to get to the Gym Leader. However, the tiles with "invisible walls" on them have differently-colored corners than the normal blocks, allowing you to find the right path fairly easily.
    • This was most likely intended as a hint for players, since it's not hard to make a tile have the properties of a wall but the image of a floor. It still wasn't THAT easy, since you sometimes walk into dead ends.
  • Occurs often in Kingdom Hearts and The Legend of Zelda. If there's an object that looks like its not literally stuck onto the scenery, chances are it's an important tool for continuing the game.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has one companion perk which causes certain items to glow when the player aims. Useful in some of the darker caves and buildings.

Parodies and Aversions

Anime and Manga

  • The anime Blue Seed had an Omake sequence after one episode which parodied this; one character stops and monologues on the properties of a set of desk drawers, noticing that one is drawn more simply and in a different palette—therefore it must be the only one that moves, and contains the item he is looking for.
    • In the same sequence, Matsudaira warns Kunikida not to step on a part of the cliff that was colored differently. Instead, the more complex part of the cliff collapsed.
  • Averted Trope in Spirited Away; the art book points out that CG was used to animate the dishes when Chihiro's parents start nudging them around with their pig snouts.
  • Inverted like hell in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, where the titanic Ohmu insects are made up of animated backgrounds.

Video Games

  • The creators of Doom 3 made a point of rendering both fixed and dynamic objects the same way for this reason, among others.
  • The original The Legend of Zelda has identical dungeon walls whether a bomb will punch a hole in them or not. Fortunately, only the middle of any given wall needs checking.
  • Spoofed in Telltale Games's Point and Click Game Back to The Future episode 3. A bricked-up doorway features a obviously discoloured brick, the only selectable object upon the surface. It's just there to have Marty make a joke about it being "another brick in the wall". Subsequent clicks confirm its useless nature, with Marty commenting that it is just a brick.
  • Peasant's Quest subverts the game version. At one point in the game, a conspicuously light candle appears on the screen. If you try to get it, the game says "It seems like you should be able to do that, doesn't it? Sorry. No dice."

Web Original

  • Don't step on it!
  • RWBY, especially in Volume Four and onward, is a strong aversion. The "backgrounds" are themselves fully-rendered 3-D models that act as "stages" on which the characters are placed. As such, any moving elements are already built in and do not need separate renders, nor are separate models or images needed for close-ups. For a fantastic example, see the hidden "elevator" in Haven Academy in the final episodes of Volume Five.

Western Animation

  • Animaniacs made fun of this. In one episode, the Warner Brothers (and Sister) were rented out to a Hanna-Barbera-esque company, and placed in a Yogi-Bear-esque cartoon with plenty of these.
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood averted this by having certain objects painted on the animation cels so that the characters could use them without them looking conspicuous beforehand.
  • Averted Trope in The Simpsons by painting the backgrounds on cels, same as the characters. It succeeded most of the time, but there were still tell-tale "Fudd flags" visible at times until the production switched to digital rendering methods.
  • In Gargoyles the animators worked very hard to keep the stone gargoyles from being Fudd Flags. When stone, the gargoyles are in background animation, appearing as any other inanimate object. When they come to life, they are in cel animation.
  • Russian animation often averts this. Some of the examples are Firing Range and The Singing Teacher.
  • Parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (which is animated digitally) when Apache Chief picks up a telephone pole and it's suddenly a different color from when it was a background object.
  • Mystical aura is spoofed in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with the Mayor's ad for Sardine Land, in order to make it all the more crapstastic. Ironically, since the film is made with state-of-the-art CGI, it took a bit of doing to properly simulate the look of bad Chroma Key.