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"The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all."
Russian proverb

Any work of media that attract viewers not because they're particularly entertaining--many of them, in point of fact, are dull or otherwise pointless--but because of some gimmick involved in the production: Any work for which the method by which it is created is more interesting than result.

Featuring noteworthy non-actors in major roles can qualify something for this trope: we don't go to movies with Paris Hilton in them to see how well she acts, after all. Particularly large casts, shockingly difficult productions, unique production methods... anything that's used to sell a work more than its actual content can qualify it for Bear status. The Oner is usually a Bear as well, and Live Episodes too.

Note that this doesn't include works in which outside events make us more interested in it - The Dark Knight certainly got a considerable amount of attention as a result of Heath Ledger's death, but it wasn't a Dancing Bear. For that, see Reality Subtext.

See also Come for the X, Stay For the Y, which a Dancing Bear may become if it's genuinely good, and Overshadowed by Controversy, where a Dancing Bear is especially well-known for controversial moments irregardless of other factors.

And no, it's not meant to be followed with "painted wings".

Examples of Dancing Bear include:

Anime & Manga

  • Voices of a Distant Star is an amazing short film as it is. What largely drew people's attention to it, on the other hand, was the fact that it was entirely animated by one man on his home computer.
  • Tite Kubo's previous work Zombie Powder began to draw attention in the West, not because its story was lauded or its artwork was praised, but because he was the Mangaka of Bleach and fans were interested in seeing his first work.


  • The primary reason people read 100 Months is because it is the last work John Hicklenton completed before he died, and indeed completing it was the only thing that delayed him taking his own life.


  • Cupcakes - Pinkie Pie tortures and murders Rainbow Dash. As with The Human Centipede mentioned below, the premise is more horrifying than the execution, and the fic is better remembered for leaving an impact on the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fandom than for the actual quality of the writing.
    • Also, Rainbow Factory, partially because it's sometimes described as "Cupcakes, except it's Rainbow Dash torturing/killing Scootaloo" and partially because of WoodenToaster's Creepy Awesome song of the same title (Fun fact: The fanfic was inspired by the song!).
  • Many of the most well-known fanfictions, like My Immortal, are notable for being so unbelievably horrible that they circle around and approach masterpiecehood from the other side. That is to say, the draw is not so much the content, so much as the legendary badness of the work itself.


  • Avatar - The whole fuss about the technological achievements necessary to pull the movie off: 3D digital film cameras, motion capture refinements, etc. Arguably the never-fully-disclosed but definitely astronomical budget and the marketing-induced hype.
  • The 2003 film Russian Ark is a Dancing Bear. A 90-minute exploration of Russia's legendary museum and historical building the Hermitage, the film moves over centuries, features a literal Cast of Thousands, has amazing costuming, good performances, and so on. It's also The Oner.
  • Similar to Russian Ark, Alfred Hitchcock regarded Rope as a failed experiment in stretching the limits of making a film as few cuts as possible. Film critics and historians would agree that the technical execution left much to be desired, but the writing and performances are still well regarded.
  • Gladiator wouldn't have qualified purely as a result of Oliver Reed's death ... but the fact that the producers made a big deal about how they used special effects to allow the movie to be completed puts it deep into this territory.
  • Tron was viewed by the Hollywood community, when released, as a Bear. Many people who went to see it went simply to see the computer animation, not out of any expectation of high entertainment.
  • While the extreme difficulty of the production of The Abyss was not explicitly used as a selling point in the advertising, it came up again and again in entertainment news coverage of the film.
  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, a 2002 film produced entirely by Inuit, is a reasonably good movie ... but the fact that it won 20 international awards and was nominated for ten more can really only be explained by people's appreciation for the fact that a film made by, for, and in the Inuit community was able to dance at all.
  • The film Redline specifically went for this by getting star Eddie Griffin to crash a car as a publicity scheme. It failed miserably because car fans, presumably the target market, were outraged at the destruction of an extremely expensive and rare car as part of the stunt.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian was marketed in Sweden as "the film so funny it was banned in Norway."
  • The movie Timecode is not just done in Real Time, but in real time with a four-way split screen throughout.
  • The sole selling point for the movie The Cure for Insomnia was that, with a running time of 87 hours, it was the world's longest movie.
  • Incubus, filmed entirely in Esperanto and starring William Shatner.
  • Andy Warhol's Sleep and Empire.
  • This was William Castle's entire schtick. Perhaps the most famous example is The Tingler, which involved the "spine-tingling" sensation people experience when afraid being caused by a deadly monster. Certain seats in theaters showing the film had devices installed so that at certain points the viewer would feel something crawling up their back...
  • The Dark Knight isn't an example, but Heath Ledger's last film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus certainly is. Ledger only managed to film half of his role before, um, dying, and Colin Farrel, Jude Law and Johnny Depp were brought in to play the character when he was in an Alternate Dimension. Quite a few people watched the film just to see if they could pull it off.
  • For Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) Blake Edwards and MGM/UA used mostly-unused scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) of the late Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau for the film's first half by putting them into a different storyline via new scenes with the series regulars. The second half, after Clouseau "goes missing", is a Clip Show of his greatest hits tied together with a reporter investigating the matter. Pitted against a number of production obstacles, Edwards' new film became a dancing bear that spiked the audience's curiosity to come out and judge if he could make it funny. The fact that Edwards couldn't became clear when Sellers's widow successfully sued him and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's image. This proved a bad omen for the next film, 1983's Curse of..., which picked up where this left off to introduce Clouseau's Replacement Scrappy.
  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is built around the clever editing and production tricks that make it seem like Steve Martin is directly interacting with the characters in old movie clips. Without those, there wouldn't be a movie.
  • The films of Ray Harryhausen have this kind of appeal. Most of them are not what one would normally call "good" movies, but they still fill people with a sense of wonder at Harryhausen's skill, patience, and attention to detail.
  • The Human Centipede, which is about three people getting sewn together anus-to-mouth. The premise is far more horrifying than the execution. Film critic Roger Ebert refused to give it a star rating because it was so absurd (the only other movies he did this with were Pink Flamingos and I Spit on Your Grave).
  • The Terror of Tiny Town, a 1938 Western movie with an all-midget cast.
  • Samuel L. Jackson claims he was in the movie Snakes on a Plane only because of the title. The title only made it vastly popular on the Internet.
  • The movie Distant Drums is remembered only because it was the first film to use the Wilhelm Scream.
  • Fitzcarraldo is best-known simply because of its Troubled Production, and the fact that you're really watching people moving a ship through the jungle, even using techniques more difficult than the ones of the real event it's based on.
  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow and Sin City were novel when they came out in the mid-2000s because they were among the first major films to use a "digital backlot" which blended live action characters with entirely digital backgrounds.


  • The most widely publicized fact about Eragon was that the author finished the first draft when he was fifteen - he was nineteen by the time it was published (after extensive revision) and also received a lot of critical slack for that reason. Whether or not it has outgrown its beardom is a matter of debate.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby received a lot of attention for the laborious way the novel was written. The author suffered "locked-in syndrome" and blinked his left eyelid to respond to a transcriber repeatedly reciting a French language frequency-ordered alphabet until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. This took ten months. The book itself was well-received.
  • Look upon this lipogrammatic work Gadsby, in which a story is told without using a particular glyph commonly found in this script.
  • To many people, War and Peace is remembered because it's one of the longest classic narratives ever written.
    • Similarly, Clarissa is remembered for being the longest novel in the English language.
  • Though Finnegans Wake is made by the same author as the better known, better studied Ulysses, most people know the book for its odd, stream-of-consciousness writing style.


  • The MMORPG genre (at the very least until World of Warcraft.) Just the idea of playing with hundreds or millions of other people simply by plugging in your modem makes even the worst balanced exposure to the most annoyingly ill-behaved players tremendously appealing.
    • Many modern MMORPGs, especially the scads that South Korea churns out each year, sell themselves this way. Promos typically highlight the one or two things a game does differently from others while glossing over the fact that the rest of the game mechanics are identical to its competitors. When this is done well the token differences alone can hold hardcore players for years even when more innovative new titles appear, but if the new-ish parts of the experience aren't a big enough part of core gameplay the game won't be able to hold its userbase.


  • Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch - a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (which typically runs 65-70 minutes) digitally stretched to 24 hours without pitch shifting.
  • The Stockhausen opera Light contains a piece that is supposed to be played by a string quartet sitting in four different flying helicopters, their music then transmitted to a big hangar for people to listen to.
  • Erik Satie's "Vexations" is a single page of piano music with a suggestion to play it 840 times in a row. The first performance to follow Satie's suggestion to the letter took place in 1963, with a tag team of pianists, and lasted over 18 hours.
  • The 1984 album Neptune by “one man band” Celluloid is notable for being entirely played on the Mellotron.
  • Similar to Duke Nukem Forever below, while critics are mixed on the quality of Chinese Democracy, fans are amazed it was released at all.
  • John Cage's 4'33". It's literally four minutes and 33 seconds of silence.

Puppet Shows

  • The Muppet Movie had an extremely well-received scene of Kermit riding a bicycle when he first sets out on his journey to become a Hollywood star. This scene was popular because it was assumed that it must have been difficult to film, but it was actually pretty easy to film and, to the annoyance of the producers, it took focus away from the extremely difficult scene in which Gonzo is carried away by a bunch of balloons.

Video Games

  • The Nintendo Wii was the console version of this when it first came out: the platform was sold not on the quality of its games, which varies between Nintendo-grade all time classic (the titles made by, well, Nintendo) and crimes against humanity (the infamous third-party minigame shitfests)--but on the fact that it has a different control mechanism. The Wii is moving away from this, though it does play up the motion controls as part of its current campaign: the aim towards "casual gamers." Hardcore gamers still deride it as a dancing bear, not that it hurts its popularity.
  • Fracture, made even more egregious with the fact that it's sole selling point - terrain deformation - feels underutilized.
  • Red Faction, with its groundbreaking GeoMod technology and physics simulation went almost completely unused.
  • Heavy Rain has [ARI] - Cool Shades that do all kinds of awesome things via Cyberspace; Fingerprinting Air, accessing the FBI Magical Database, turning a prison cell of an office into Scenery Porn, and letting you bounce a ball off a wall like in a prison flick without a ball or a wall. The Holy Shit Quotient on this thing is roughly Eleven Fantastic Confusion Units Off The Scale. You only use it in six of the fifty-one chapters. Oh, and It Eats Your Soul. The developers insist that they have surpassed the Uncanny Valley while saying VR EATS YOUR F****** SOUL.
  • For all its flaws, Kane And Lynch:Dead Men was certainly an ambitious game, and yet IO Interactive decided with the sequel to strip nearly all of the most unique qualities of the first game and simply focused on a typical (if perhaps more functional than the first one) cover-based Third-Person Shooter with a documentary-style visual gimmick (and a Last Stand perk). The results were rather divisive.
  • All of the mindjacking didn't prevent Mind Jack, the underlying game based around it, to be just another mediocre and gimmicky cover-based shooter that's likely to be forgotten soon.
  • The mediocre NARC (2005) banked on controversy over its drug use mechanic to help sell games. Although it did get media attention, it sold poorly.
  • Reasonably complex / commercial-grade games made entirely by one person tend to get a lot of attention for this, irrespective of their actual quality. Some examples include:
    • Cave Story
    • Dwarf Fortress
    • Touhou, although the fact that the cast is made up almost entirely of Cute Monster Girls might also have something to do with it.
      • It's also a Dancing Bear on another front: If it weren't for its characters and massive array of fan works, it would be simply be dismissed as yet another Shmup series. In fact, many fans don't even play the games.
      • Also, it's one of the few Bullet Hell games most people are familiar with. And for good reason! Some of the bullet patterns are mind-blowingly complex! (Just look at the page image for Bullet Hell.)
  • Duke Nukem Forever definitely qualifies, if only for the fact that it's spent over twelve years in development and has already won numerous awards for its repeated delays, even outliving the game's own developers after they were axed by their publishers. At this point, just the fact that this game exists and can actually be played is reason enough for many to buy it.
  • Though not developed by one man any more, Minecraft allows each player to become their own "one-man/woman development team" in-game, due to the absolutely huge game world [1]and seemingly infinite building possibilities boggles the mind to say the least.
  • Eversion would just be another Retraux platformer if it wasn't for Zaratustra's inclusion of a button which allowed you to bend reality.
  • Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a fairly enjoyable game, however what makes it stand out (aside from being a Spyro game) is the toy gimmick. You have to purchase toys in order to play certain characters.
  • A lot of people picked up Katawa Shoujo specifically because they expected it to be cripple exploitation porn, which they would either masturbate to or criticize in their blogs as symptomatic of deep societal issues. Only the people who'd been following it from the beginning expected it to have as soft a touch as it did.
    • Even if the idea of "cripple exploitation porn" didn't draw people in, the fact that it got its start from 4-Chan, home of Anonymous, drew more people in. And the fact that it not only has high-quality art and storyline, it's completely free!


  • Axe Cop is popular in large part because of the sheer novelty of a comic written by a 5-6 year old boy, albeit with art and interpretation by his 30 year old brother, a talented professional cartoonist.

Web Original

  • Youtube Poop is considered by many to be so amazingly nonsensical it's worth watching.

Western Animation

  • Fred Perry's Gold Digger animated miniseries The Time Raft. Its poor acting, rudimentary animation, and extreme Schedule Slip are forgiven because Mr. Perry did everything (besides the voice acting). He wrote the script, created the music, and drew every single panel of this hour-long animated movie by himself.
  • The reason how Clutch Cargo penetrated into pop culture as far as it did is solely because of its Trope Codifier status in using Synchro Vox. The show The Higgins Boys and Gruber even claims that "If it weren't for the lips, it'd be a filmstrip!"


  1. How huge? How about approximately eight times the total surface area of the planet Earth? Of course, you can go beyond even that, but the game glitches up very badly.
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