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"Hey, didn't we already pass that couch, chair, and lamp?"
—Wanda, Fairly Oddparents, "Channel Chasers"
Animated characters running, driving or in a chase scene will pass the same two bushes, three rocks and four trees over and over again. It is, or was, a cost-cutting measure—the eternally-looping background saves a lot of time and effort on the part of the animators, no matter where the characters are going and how they're supposed to get there. In the industry, this is known as a "repeat pan."
Wrapping backdrops are not limited to outside settings either. Tom and Jerry can chase each other past the exact same door and window five times in a small room with no corner in sight.
The effect was most frequently seen in products made by Hanna-Barbera, but can be spotted in shows from other studios, too. For instance, the page image is a storyboard sketch of a repeat pan for The Smurfs.
Wraparound Backgrounds are actually constructed with specific rules. They are generally five "fields" -- roughly a screen width -- wide. (Three-field pans are possible, but are harder to blend one end into the other, oddly enough. Also, because of their relative brevity they tend to be uninteresting.) The left and right ends of the background are identical, so that they visually overlap when animated; to make matching them easier, they also tend to be the least complex portions of the image.
The Wraparound Background is rarely found in anime, which when cutting animation costs means mostly avoiding long running sequences or using an abstract background when doing so (speed lines, pastel versions of cityscapes, and other easy-to-draw things).
Today, largely a Discredited Trope.
Not to be confused with Wrap Around.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross features a number of scenes with Wraparound Backgrounds. There is one scene in the "Pineapple Salad" episode where this trope is made incredibly obvious by the fact that the perspective of the streetscape suddenly 'jumps' when the loop is restarted!
- There's a subtle visual lampshading of this trope in an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist in which Ed and Mustang are in a carriage with a wraparound background of factory buildings. When they get out of the carriage the perspective shot shows dozens of identical factory buildings receding to infinity.
- This was played for laughs in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The SOS Brigade's film showed Mikuru running through the same shopping district several times in a bunny suit, growing increasingly exhausted in each take.
- In a homage to classic animation, the live action Speed Racer film uses incredibly obvious wraparound backgrounds, particularly in the scene where Rex and Speed are driving down the road: the loop is short, has an element that makes sound to bring your attention to it, and is the same on both sides of the car. Even when the camera angle is pointing behind the car so you can see the two identical sides meet.
- In The Matrix, if you watch closely, you can see the background wraparound as Neo is being driven to the Oracle for the first time. Like Speed Racer above, the scenery is the same on both sides.
- The characters of Be Kind Rewind are seen setting up a revolving drum of cars on a street, which is used to film the the scene in Men in Black where they drive upside-down in the tunnel.
- In the 1953 film of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, it was used quite obviously, as well as being lampshaded in the lyrics of the song in "We Open In Venice". Video clip here
We open in Venice,
- Back in the days of rear projection backgrounds, live-action car chases often had these.
- And before back projection, a revolving drum was used.
- The revolving drum technique was revived by Gerry Anderson's puppet shows. Runway shots of aircraft used a more sophisticated technique involving separate conveyor belts painted with wraparound details for the runway, land background and sky background, all of which were run at different speeds to simulate perspective.
- Or they'd just have the actors run through the same set, over and over, and over...
- Referenced in Lost, when Libby mentions how this was done in The Flintstones and then points out that they have passed the same tree several times.
- Played straight many times in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The stretch of corridor running between the Ten Forward set and the crew quarters set was only about thirty feet long, and when "walk and talk" scenes were filmed there, the actors would frequently walk off-camera at one end of the set only to re-enter (after a cut) at the opposite end. The most Egregious example of this comes at the end of the two-part episode "Gambit," with Picard, Riker, and Data discussing the fate of the mercenaries.
- More subtly, the window in the Captain's Ready Room showed a moving star field at warp. This star field was on a drum.
- Subverted in an episode of Corner Gas. Oscar and Emma are shown in the cab of their RV, and trees passing by in the background indicate they are moving. Cut to an outside shot that shows the RV is parked outside The Ruby and a convoy of flatbeds full of trees is driving by in the opposite direction.
- The opening and closing titles of Taxi show a taxi driving across New York's Queensboro Bridge. The original footage was too short, so it's repeated a couple of times. The overlaid titles, and the fact that the bridge has a repeating pattern of girders, make this less obvious.
- One showing of the musical adaptation for Ben-Hur used a wraparound background (on a drum) for the chariot race sequence.
- Most train or elevator levels in 3D games (generally, they loop indefinitely until you defeat a boss or complete some objective).
- Telltale Games' Sam and Max seasons do the same thing during the driving segments. Possibly Lampshaded in the Season Two finale, where the DeSoto is in its own personal hell - driving down the same endlessly looping streets at an insanely slow speed - and the buildings in the distance are just painted onto the wall.
- The Sega CD game Lethal Enforcers has a level where a car chase happens alongside a never-ending block with "a lot of National Rubber Stamp Co.'s", as The Angry Video Game Nerd points out in his Sega CD review.
- Justified in Odin Sphere, as all battle stages are circular.
- Almost every 2D Platform Game ever made uses this for outdoor levels, with a panoramic backdrop that that loops endlessly.
- Resident Evil 0 uses this trick for the train in the beginning. Every shot of "outside" is a looping FMV.
- Strong Bads Cool Game for Attractive People - Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective (which is basically an interactive Movie Within A Web Animation Licensed Game) had a badly made Wraparound Background in its "car chase". The Cheat was carrying a single branch back and forth in the background.
- This is similar to the effect used on Rayman Raving Rabbids. Several of the shooting sequences take place on a train. However, it's actually a movie set, with the train stationary and the Rabbids running by with bushes and cacti every few seconds.
- This exact type of wraparound was used in the Homestar Runner web series this game was based on, in the Strong Bad Email dangeresque 3, where Strong Bad as consolation for not making Dangeresque 3 by June 2004 (and starting production only four months previous to the Email) shows a "director's cut" of the first film.
- The 1980s arcade game Operation Wolf used these.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty uses this to simulate the Tanker moving down the Hudson River. The combination of rain, fog, the fact that it's evening and the spray from the ship disguises this unless you're looking for it.
- Not played straight in Ratchet and Clank 3, but one of the levels requires you to 'act' your way through a programme studio, which uses an obvious-to-the-player wheel of a sky background for a chase scene.
- Chapter 2 of Paper Mario opens with a train taking Mario from Toad Town to Mt. Rugged with a repeating background between the locations.
- Many of the levels of the original Super Mario Bros had the exact same hill, bush, and cloud repeating itself as Mario moves across each level.
- Wally Bear and The No Gang featured levels that looped several times.
- In the video game version of Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, the Hogwarts Express level has an in-game engine Forced Perspective background which loops on a virtual revolving drum.
- In Homestar Runner, the Strong Bad Email little animal ended with Strong Mad chasing Strong Bad past a wraparound background.
- Subverted in this Ozy and Millie strip, in which two characters discuss this trope while walking in front of what appears to be a wraparound of a coffee shop storefront. The last frame pans back to show that the entire block comprises coffee shops; one character observes, "This is Seattle, after all."
- The Flintstones was guilty of this in nearly every episode, as were quite a few other Hanna-Barbera shows from the sixties and seventies. A Cartoon Network promo hung a lampshade in which, after running across such a background, Barney Rubble taps Fred Flintstone on his shoulder using the "wraparound". Another promo was a music video of Soul Coughing's "Circles," where Fred, Barney, and other Hanna-Barbera stars were literally "walking around in circles" when they got stuck in the Wraparound Background and tried to get out. Check it out!
- This trope is referenced in an episode of Family Guy. Peter and Meg are having a discussion while walking down the streets of New York City, which suddenly become the repetitive thoroughfares of The Flintstones' Bedrock.
- Parodied and lampshaded in The Fairly OddParents Trapped in TV Land episode "Channel Chasers".
- One especially blatant example occurred in one of the Flintstones Christmas specials, where Santa arrived at a party and Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm led a large group of children across a stationary background to meet him. This large group was then followed by... Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm. That's right, Wraparound FOREGROUND.
- Particularly noticeable in Scooby Doo, since every episode involved exploration and chases
- Also used in a Terry Gilliam Monty Python's Flying Circus cartoon.
- The Simpsons skewered it. The background behind Bart and Lisa repeats itself, complete with the same janitor, while they take a tour of the Itchy and Scratchy Show cartoon studio.
- And of course, during this scene, the tour guide mentions the fact that backgrounds are often recycled to keep costs down, thus driving the point home.
- The commentary mentions that they had to put the woman mopping because people are almost trained NOT to look at the backgrounds. They had to use a very short loop and movement in the background to draw attention to it.
- And don't forget the Couch Gag where the family runs past their own living room over and over.
- And of course, during this scene, the tour guide mentions the fact that backgrounds are often recycled to keep costs down, thus driving the point home.
- Subverted, with Lampshade Hanging, in an episode of Dexter's Laboratory that was itself an Homage to Wacky Races. Dee Dee asks her imaginary friend Koosalagoopagoop (whom she is also using as her vehicle) why the background keeps repeating. Koos explains that it used to be a popular cost-cutting measure, but then the racers discover that they are stuck in a trap set up by Mandark, in the form of a treadmill with a painting of various rocks going by them again and again. Koosie even gave this an appropriate name: the Repeat Pan.
- Similarly parodied in an episode of Angry Beavers. In "The Big Round Pink Sticky Fish Thingy", Norb tries to get away with the titular "fish thingy" [a rare sturgeon egg] after tricking Dagget into looking for it elsewhere. Norb finds himself going past a repeating background of absurd images, including a reproduction of "Washington Crossing The Delaware", and realizes he's running on a treadmill with a scrolling background hastily constructed by Dagget.
- Subverted at least twice in Little Dracula, where some character is riding a car or a horse in front of what turns out to be a Wraparound Background.
- Parodically lampshaded in Ruby Gloom, during the episode "Name that Toon". As Skull Boy leads Scaredy Bat past the backdrop sheets for his cartoon, he says he'll try to avoid Repeat Pans, another name for this trope, and Scaredy Bat agrees that they invariably look cheesy. This entire sequence is shot in front of a Wraparound Background, made particularly obvious as the same two distinctive backdrop sheets are repeated over and over.
- Parodied by Peter Kay, who compares the layout of a wedding buffet to this trope, referencing Scooby Doo. (Vol-au-vents, chicken wings, cheesecake, vol-au-vents, chicken wings, etc.)
- Parodied in one Invader Zim episode, A Room With A Moose. To keep his class distracted while he sends them to pocket dimension containing a moose, Zim puts them on a bus and has a wraparound background playing on the windows.
- Some of the really cheap DC Superhero cartoons are very guilty of this. The worst example is in a Flash short in which Flash and Kid Flash chased Zoom throughout the world, including a chase in Egypt in which they pass by thirty pyramids. Note: there are only three "True Pyramids", and about half-a-dozen failed attempts.
- It wasn't just the cheap DC toons. The DCAU did it, too.
- An episode of Garfield and Friends lampshaded it during one of its chase scenes. After several seconds of Garfield chasing a mouse around the house, Garfield turns to the audience and remarks on how cartoon backgrounds tend to repeat themselves.
- Lampshaded by Cartoon Network in its "Shorties" series, specifically the Pixie & Dixie short "Harasscat" in which Mr. Jinks gets a pounding by the police for violating the restraining order issued on Pixie and Dixie's behalf. Jinks attaches the restraining order to a grandfather clock, which the police start pounding—As Jinks chases Pixie and Dixie, they pass by the grandfather clock and the police some four times.
- Justified? They were running in a circle around the room, with the camera perspective in the middle following them.
- At least one Golden Age cartoon is guilty of this. In Porky's Road Race (Warner Bros., 1937), the Cheerio Special (an auto race with a quartet of British figures) passes the same scenery many many times in a 30-second period.
- Lampshaded in Dave the Barbarian. Dave and Oswidge are running through the castle halls while devising a plan to get out of their crapsack situation. About 20 seconds in, Oswidge looks at the background for a few seconds. "Is it just me, or have we passed that same door about 10 times?"
- Here Comes the Grump is full of them, thanks to the many chase scenes.
- Lampshaded in Spy Groove. While the guys are driving through Miami, the narrator points out how they pass by "another palm tree and juice bar".
- Lampshaded in an episode of Johnny Test, where Johnny gets turned into a mouse and then chased by his intelligent cat nemesis Mister Mittens. Along with several other Shout Outs to Tom and Jerry, at one point while fleeing he muses "I never knew this room was so long... and how many times have I seen that computer? There it is again!"
- In its 19 December 2006 headline on the death of Joseph Barbera (of Hanna-Barbera), Fark.com acknowledged this trope with a joke that had been floating around Usenet: "Joseph Barbera dies. Funeral procession to pass same three buildings every two seconds."