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File:33445 russian nesting dolls 1 222.jpg

"I'm full of tinier men!"
The Tick, Living Doll

A form of replication in which a container holds a smaller version of itself. Sometimes, the smallest container holds a surprise for the person who goes through all of the trouble to opening all of those layers.

Super-Trope to Nested Mouths and Recursive Ammo. Compare to Nested Story and Recursive Reality.


Anime and Manga

  • In Yu-Gi-Oh Ze Xal, Housaku Yasai uses move a called "Tomato Matryoshka" which allows him to summon another "Tomato Matryoshka" from his hand or deck when it is Normal Summoned.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The titular mech is the size of a galaxy, piloted by Choginga Gurren Lagann, the size of a moon, piloted by Arc Gurren Lagann, the size of a spaceship, piloted by Gurren Lagann, the size of a house, piloted by Simon, the size of a man. Simon pilots himself.

Comic Books

  • In a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic, Fat Freddy brought home a shrink-wrapped package of marijuana. It had another layer of shrink wrap inside, which had another layer, which had another... although just before Franklin and Phineas would have killed him for spending their drug money on plastic bags, there was indeed a tightly compressed bag of marijuana at the very center.

Film - Animated

  • In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, one waiter serves a tray containing another waiter, and so on, until a tiny one gives Cindy Lou Who a strawberry.
  • One of the toys in the first Toy Story is a nesting egg.
  • From The Nightmare Before Christmas:
    • A Mr. Hyde character that keeps a smaller Hyde under his hat, who in turn has a smaller Hyde under his hat.
    • A nested doll appears in the "Making Christmas" sequence, the smallest doll of which contains a live scorpion (We never see it opened).
  • In Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas, Scrat gets a giant acorn from Santa, which opens up to reveal another acorn inside, and another, and another and another, until eventually he gets the real (small) acorn in the middle.
  • The closing credits of Cars 2 showed Fillmore, Sarge, Luigi, and Guido as nesting dolls.
  • One of the Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a clown nesting doll, whose smallest doll contains a wind-up mouse.
  • The present Donald Duck receives from Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles at the very beginning of The Three Caballeros.

Film - Live Action


  • The Cat in the Hat: The Cat has Little Cat A under his hat, who has Little Cat B under its hat and so forth.
  • Inverted in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (also by Dr. Seuss): Cubbins' hat contains an identical hat. Removing the second hat reveals a third hat, which also looks exactly the same. At hat 451, the hats actually start to get bigger.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Star Trek the Next Generation episode "The Chase", Picard's old archeology professor brings him a Kurlan naiskos as a gift. An ancient relic, the figure opens up to reveal several smaller versions of the figure inside.
  • In the Community Christmas Episode "Abed's Uncontrolable Christmas", a gift labeled "Meaning of Christmas" has two nested boxes inside. Inside the last one is a DVD of Lost, which represents "lack of payoff".
  • Speaking of Lost, Howard L. Zukerman keeps diamonds a nested doll in the episode "Exposé".
  • The TV version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has a traditional Russian one in its intro. Each doll is revealed to have an irate expression until the final one, which is blank. This is reflecting the search for a Russian mole at the heart of MI 6.

Video Games

  • All of the characters in Stacking.
  • In Final Fantasy VII:
    • The Grangalan outside Costa del Sol can spawn smaller versions of itself known Grangalan Jr. for the second generation and Grangalan Jr. Jr. for the third and smallest generation.
    • The Black Materia is contained within the Temple of the Ancients. When the party goes in and discovers it, they discover it is actually a replica of the real thing, and the real Black Materia is actually the Temple itself that contains it.
  • Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from American McGee's Alice can open up and spawn smaller, weaker copies of themselves.
  • Some treasure chests in Donkey Kong Country games are like this, and the inner chests are inexplicably the exact same size as their containers.
  • In Kid Icarus Uprising, this is one of the forms Thanatos assumes during his boss fight.

Western Animation

  • One episode of Blues Clues has Steve opening a present with an increasingly smaller present inside each one.
  • The Living Doll from The Tick has this superpower, hence the page quote.
  • In the Daffy Duck & Bugs Bunny cartoon The Million Hare (1963), Daffy and Bugs compete to win a prize. The prize turns out to be a "million box"... which proves to be Exactly What It Says on the Tin: an enormous wooden crate, with one million tiny cardboard boxes inside. Each of the little boxes contains a $1 bill.
  • One Tom and Jerry short, "Safety Second", has Tom cornered by a large firecracker. Instead of blowing up, it breaks apart to reveal a smaller firecracker, which then reveals a smaller firecracker, and so on until all that is left is a tiny firecracker. Tom holds it in his hand and places it on his nose, and then it blows up in a huge explosion.
  • A couch gag in Season 9 of The Simpsons has Homer run in front of the TV alone and the top half of his body pops off to reveal Marge. Inside Marge is Bart, inside him is Lisa and inside her is Maggie.
  • The Playhouse Disney series Higglytown Heroes featured characters whose appearance was modeled on these types of dolls.

Real Life

  • Why, the matryoshka dolls themselves! A common variation of them is a matryoshka with faces of various Russian leaders, usually from Lenin to Putin.
  • By definition, baby mammals are smaller versions of their parents.
    • Marsupials bring up the analogy to perfection.
  • Nested functions are common in computer programming.
  • A common prank/trick at Christmas is to wrap a special item within multiple layers of boxes.
  • A more sinister example are the MIR Vs, Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicles. These are missiles that hosts many smaller missiles inside them. They may be armed with nukes.