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A character dangles some kind of treat on a stick in front of an animal, or even another character, in order to make it run, usually to make it win a race, get the character where they want to go, or run on a treadmill to power something.
Examples of Motivation on a Stick include:
Anime & Manga
- In Sasami Magical Girls Club, while riding on a cart pulled by an ox-like creature, Anri complains about how slow it is, so Washu pulls out an "Acceleration Device" that turns out to be a bundle of hay hanging from a stick. The ox takes off like a rocket and catches the hay once they reach their destination, with the quick stop flinging everyone out of the cart.
- The Pokémon anime episode "Pokemon Food Fight": Ash and his friends plan to lure a sleepy Snorlax into moving up and over a mountain by luring it with an apple attached to the end of a pole with a string. It wakes up just enough to eat the apple, then goes back to sleep before they could get it to move.
- How the Flying Dutchman is moved in De Cape et de Crocs. It involves a giant octopus and a really, really, really big fish.
- Jughead Jones of Archie Comics was convinced to ride a stationary bike (using a bag of potato chips) this way in one story.
- In another story, a variant is used to motivate to run faster for the track team. Jughead is outfitted with a special harness with a mirror in front that's positioned to let him see the photo mounted in back, so it looks like his Abhorrent Admirer is always right behind him.
- A very common Political Cartoon metaphor, for whatever the artist wants to lampoon.
Films -- Animation
- In Mulan, the title character uses a dog and bone to feed the chickens. The bone-on-a-stick is tied to the dog's back so the bone is always in front of the dog, and the dog runs around with a feedbag leaking grain behind him.
Films -- Live-Action
- One of the Mad Max films used this with the hero being sent into exile on a donkey with a small jar of water hanging in front of its head.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids did this with an ant and a piece of the discarded food the kids found.
- In The Boondock Saints, Detective Greenley humorously suggests that the only way they're going to catch the MacManus brothers is by "...dangling a potato on a string" -- of course, they walk in just as he's saying this.
- In Jack Vance's novel Cugel's Saga, ships are powered by large wormlike sea creatures bound to either side of the vessel. Bait is hung in front of the ship to make them move.
- Unseen Academicals features a scene with the wizards riding on the backs of the university porters and motivating them with a bottle of beer on the end of a stick.
- In one short in The Little Rascals series, the boys had a "taxi" that was powered by a mule/donkey pushing from the back and a carrot on a stick in front of it was used to make it push.
- The Benny Hill Show: In a sketch, Benny is at a weight-loss camp and is jogging. Three girls show up in front of him and flash their breasts at him, so he speed up. He gets tired and slows down; they flash him again and he speed up again, etc.
- The "Chow-Man Motor" in The Incredible Toon Machine. Drop some food, usually an egg, in front of him, and he'll start walking on his treadmill.
- This appears as a trinket in World of Warcraft. It increases mount speed by 3%. Awkward Zombie even points out some Fridge Logic with that particular item.
- Scribblenauts allows you to set this up using a "plank", "glue" and something the character wants.
- In Zettai Hero Kaizou Keikaku, the Appetite Engine accessory is a carrot on a stick worn on the player's head. It reduces EN consumption by 50% while equipped, and can be eaten to restore EN in a pinch.
- In one strip of The Order of the Stick, Roy does this with a spice-infused Belkar to use a sandworm as transport.
- A variation with a treadmill and a sign which read "plot" was used to keep Karn occupied in one strip of Adventurers.
- The Devil does this to several characters at once in Sinfest, tempting each of them with their most precious vice.
- Sam, the Cthulhumanoid protagonist of Freefall, has done this with one of his own tentacles in order to ride an emu. (He's edible to most Earth species, including herbivores.)
- Used in this strip of And That's How Equestria Was Made!!
- TinkerBell and the Lost Treasure: Used in the dust mill to make a millipede run on a wheel to help with the dust sifting process.
- Yogi's Gang and Yogi's Ark Lark: The Ark was powered by Magilla Gorilla pursuing a banana while running on a treadmill, as seen here at 2:25. Note that he occasionally ate the banana.
- In the Family Guy episode "He's Too Sexy for His Fat", Peter gets Chris to run on a treadmill by sticking a plumber's helper to his forehead with a twinkie hanging from it. Chris eventually figures out how to the get twinkie.
- In "Road to the North Pole", Brian and Stewie use a mutant elf's arm to make the mutant reindeer fly pulling Santa's sleigh.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender does this on the episode "The Great Divide", where the heroes use it to ride fearsome creatures up a cliff.
- In Kick Buttowski, Garth's backside is used as the carrot on the stick to get the crazy little dog to chase him and thereby pull the sled to rescue the schoolbus full of kids from a snow-filled gully.
- In Hanna-Barbera's version of The Little Rascals, the Rascals have a wooden vehicle which Pete pulls while pursuing a bone.
- The Beast With a Billion Backs opens with a pastiche of 30's cartoons, and has Zoidberg powering the Planet Express ship by chasing a fish on a stick.
- At the end of Bender's Game, with dark matter rendered useless as a fuel, Professor Farnsworth proposes an alternative fuel: Nibbler power! Which turns out to be a fair number of Nibblonians motivated to pull a ship by a single chicken hanging from a stick.
- In an episode of Trollkins where most of the cast take part in a road race, the Sheriff modifies his car for the race. His idea of tuning? By having a male rabbit, in a treadmill that powers the car, run like crazy when he's shown a caged female.
- Popeye had one episode where he and Brutus are in a joust, only Popeye's mount is a stubborn mule. He finally gets it to run with a carrot dangling from his lance.
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