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You need a certain character to be involved in some sort of activity. The certain character cannot/doesn't want to/will hurt you if you approach him/her. So what are you going to do? That's easy: you get a piece of cardboard and draw a crude image of the character on it. Or draw his/her face on a melon. Or anything like that. Nobody will know the difference.
And in most comedic settings, it works.
Contrast with Companion Cube.
- In Nerima Daikon Brothers. Whenever the three main characters need to sing to Nabeshin for his assistance and are missing a member, they always fill them in with a crude looking cardboard cut out with a Hiragana Face.
- In Grenadier, Mikan Kurenai often evades captivity by creating a balloon sculpture of herself, which always fools the captor for exactly the length of time it takes her to escape.
- In Happy Lesson, Kanna Togakushi kidnaps the protagonist and replaces him with a crudely made robot programmed to speak a handful of abusive stock phrases. The ruse fools every other cast member for the duration of a hot springs trip.
- Taking a leaf from Sherlock Holmes' book (see below), one early Batman story had him using a dummy of Bruce Wayne positioned in a window to fool an assassin.
- Tintin uses this trick in Tintin in America.
Film - Live Action
- Carried out on a grand scale in Blazing Saddles, where the citizens of Rock Ridge built a mock-up of the whole town, complete with cardboard versions of themselves, so that the bad guys would attack the wrong town.
Film - Animated
- Toy Story: Woody uses Buzz's arm to prove the other toys Buzz is with him.
Folklore and Mythology
- Pygmalion intended to create "the perfect woman" out of stone, since he believed flesh and blood ones to be inferior. Except Cargo Ship ensues, ultimately resulting in a Pygmalion Plot.
- A tar baby is used to capture Br'er Rabbit.
- Sherlock Holmes uses a waxwork bust of himself to lure a would-be assassin in "The Adventure of the Empty House".
- In The Vor Game Emperor Gregor complains "I think I could be replaced at half my functions by a life-sized plastic model, and no one would notice."
- In one episode of Scrubs the Almighty Janitor is "ordered" by JD to leave him alone. He gets around this by making a cardboard cut out and using it to set him up for various sexual harassment complaints.
- In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Hobgoblins, Mike and the 'bots get so fed up with the titular movie, they actually make cardboard cutouts of themselves and place them in the theater and the bridge along with some poorly acted messages playing on a tape recorder. They manage to fool everyone but Observer.
- During the ending credits, they perform a mock interview of the film's director Rick Sloane using another cutout and Crow doing the voice. The real Sloane was reportedly not amused: understandable since they claim that Sloane was "high on crack" and "had his brain replaced by rat droppings".
- In The Goodies epsiode "Bunfight at the O.K. Tea Rooms", Graeme creates a dummy of himself out of a frying pan, a mop and some other odds and ends to fool the others while he sneaks away to register the cream claim. Tim and Bill converse with it for some time before they notice anything is amiss.
- In an episode of Men Behaving Badly, Tony and Gary have fallen out, so Gary constructs a fake Tony out of an inflatable sex doll and Tony's clothes so they can continue to have their Seinfeldian Conversations on the sofa while drinking lager. It gets awkward when the real Tony returns halfway through and Gary has to hastily cram the doll under his cushion to hide and try to deflate it.
- In an episode of Friends, Ross gets out of Monica's "fun activity" of packing Rachel's stuff by saying he's looking after his son. Since his apartment is directly opposite Monica's, he then has to fashion a fake Ben out of spare clothes and a pumpkin. This works right up to the point where the pumpkin falls off.
- On The Dish, Danielle Fishell has cut-outs of most of the New Moon cast.
- In one episode of My Name Is Earl, Randy makes a full-sized Darnell doll because he misses the real Darnell. Then he makes an Earl doll after the real Earl goes missing as well.
- Stephen Colbert has a cardboard cutout that he posses with people to show that he has best friends.
- One Russ Abbot sketch is set in a World War 2 prison camp. The commandant, making an inspection, warns his sidekick that British officers have been known to escape and leave dummies behind -- so they should be vigilant. When they enter the hut, we see Russ surrounded by four obvious cardboard cutouts. Hilarity Ensues as he tries to convince the Germans that they are real people.
- In Giants: Citizen Kabuto, a trap uses cardboard versions of missing NPCs as a bait.
- In a mission in Hitman 2, you are paid to assassinate a general in an Eastern European country. If you go to the suggested snipers-perch, you can see him clearly through a window - but if you shoot at him, he doesn't fall, and alarms goes off. If you sneak into the building, however, you'll be able to see him from behind and realize that he's a propped-up cardboard cutout. The whole thing is a trap, and a counter-sniper is waiting to kill you.
- King Kutt-Out in Donkey Kong 64.
- Similarly, "Bowser-On-A-Stik" from Yoshi Topsy-Turvy.
- Octodad's main objective is building one for himself.
- Cardboard Marzipan and Cardboard Homestar in Homestar Runner. Cardboard Marzipan was a cardboard cutout with a crude rendition of Marzipan on it that Homestar produced whenever Marzipan went on vacation, presumably because he misses Marzipan. However, the dialogue that Homestar provides for her is an exaggeratedly abrasive version of her own, decrying everything as offensive and hitting on Bubs and The Cheat, indicating Homestar's paranoia. Contrastingly, Cardboard Homestar gets pulled out when Marzipan wants some peace and quiet and doesn't want people inquiring after the whereabouts of the real Homestar. Cardboard Homestar is an indication that Marzipan feels greatly unappreciated, because she provides all of his dialog and his only lines are variations on "Marzipan, you're so smart".
- Although, conversely, Cardboard Marzipan also throws into sharp relief the fact that Marzipan compensates for Homestar's bad-boyfriend-osity by being an even worse girlfriend. Cardboard Marzipan's behavior, though exaggerated, is otherwise such an expert mirror of real Marzipan's that she even provides insights (such as "are you just using galvanized nails to hide the fact that you don't know how to build a deck") that Homestar shouldn't actually be aware of, and illustrates that paranoid as Homestar is he still values the time he spends with the genuine article and pays attention to her. Marzipan, on the other hand, just plain doesn't care enough to notice anything about Homestar except that he's kind of dim.
- In one strip of Loserz, Jodie's part is played by a broomstick, for no apparent reason.
- Occurred in the last event of Akuma TH's "Last Chance" Arc. The Event was a four-on-four cage match between some of the strongest fighters in the series, with each fighter entering one at a time. W Hen the Big Bad enters the ring, he immediately walks over to the ref, causing everyone to worry about foul play... until he nudges the ref, revealing him to be a cardboard prop ("Are you seriously telling me that no one noticed this?"). As it turns out, the referee is watching the match through a live feed from outside the arena, as he was nearly killed while refereeing the first event.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer creates a new Marge by sticking a paper face on a potted plant.
- Another episode involves Sideshow Bob trying to figure out who is attempting to kill Homer, so they place a fake Homer (made of a sack and a pillow) outside on the lawn, whereupon 'he' is attacked by Moe, Patty and Selma, Reverend Lovejoy and real Homer, none of which are the true attempted murderers.
- Another episode has Homer leaving a dummy of himself (made out of buckets, rubber gloves and other odds and ends) and tape recording of him singing "She Works Hard For the Money" to cover for him at work. The dummy gets promoted before bursting ito flames.
- Yet another episode had Homer use a dummy of himself to fake his death, in order to skip a day at work.
- An episode of the cartoon of the UK Dennis the Menace featured a villain who was a rather odd inventer (inventing things like the toothless comb for bald men), one of his inventions was the Foldable Friend, which was essentially a cardboard cut-out of a person that could be folded down.
- When Eduardo goes missing in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo builds a crude dummy of him to fool Mr. Herriman until they can find the real one. It actually works, as Herriman is seen playing chess with it.
- The second chapter from Dexter's Laboratory shows how Dexter has a thinly-veiled robotic clone on standby, just in case his mom enters his room. Of course, it works just fine.
- A thinly-veiled robotic clone that is apparently only capable of saying the words "Hello, Mother" over and over. Again, it works just fine.
- In an episode of Ed Edd 'n Eddy, the Eds try to help Johnny replace Plank (a piece of wood with a face drawn on it) with other inanimate objects with similar faces. Johnny is very disturbed by a few of these, particularly when they forget to draw a second eye on Bob the Traffic Cone.
- In another episode, Eddy makes a home movie for his older brother to prove that he's not a little kid anymore, and near the end has a big party with all the kids in the neighborhood replaced with crude cardboard cutouts strapped to the backs of Rolf's stolen chickens.
- When Max, in the Sam and Max Freelance Police animation episode "Max's Big Day", refuses to leave a primitive tribe, Sam makes an effigy of his "little buddy" and takes it away with him.
- In the My Gym Partner's a Monkey episode "Sick Day", the other animals create a fake Adam for Jake to pal around with to prevent him from freaking out when Adam takes a sick day. Jake is completely fooled until he knocks the head off.
- In an episode of The Proud Family, Penny's cousin wants to take her driving, so they make a cardboard copy of Oscar. It works... until his head gets knocked off by a passing car.
- Camp Lazlo: In "The Weakest Link", Scoutmaster Lumpus creates fake scouts after all the scouts go missing on the day when Commander Hoo-Haw is due to make his inspection.
- On Animaniacs, the Warner Brothers (and Dot) create nodding dummies of themselves to allow them to sneak of a boring chat show they hosting.
- Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka, after being dumped by Alma Mahler (widow of the famous composer Gustav), ordered a life-sized replica of her to keep as a lover.
- As a prank the folks at All Too Flat once created a large cardboard cutout version of the guy on the crosswalk sign, then put it in the middle of the street and see what happened.
- Just for the sake of completeness, here's the link.
- In the Fleetwood Mac video for the song "Tusk", bassist John Mc Vie was in Tahiti and was unable to come to the filming at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. To make up for the absence, Mick Fleetwood had a cardboard cutout of Mc Vie made and carried it around the stadium, eventually placing it with the rest of the band.
- When Tom Baker refused to take part in the Doctor Who special "The Five Doctors", the BBC created some publicity shots of all five Doctors by having the actors playing the other four Doctors pose with a waxwork of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor.