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A heartless developer plans to buy out and then knock over the local Orphanage of Love because they haven't paid their bills in ages. Despite the horrible fate awaiting the adorable ragamuffin orphans and their caretakers, it seems all hope is lost. Enter the hero, who will embark upon a quest to gather the necessary funds...or at least stop the developer from being able to knock the place down.

This trope serves a a popular stock plot for a number of reasons. It's a simple enough goal for the audience to grasp and support, plus it's a pretty easy way to establish a black and white good vs. evil theme. After all, who but a truly good person would devote their time and welfare to saving an orphanage that can't offer much in the way of reward but its gratitude? And who but a truly evil person would dump a bunch of orphans onto the street so they can build a parking lot over it?

Plus, since there's a number of ways to reach this goal, you can pretty much insert any kind of film into it. Want a funny Road Movie? Just have the Hero hop into his van with his quirky sidekick and drive cross-country to pay the rent. Need to sell a soundtrack or musical? Have the centerpiece of the film be a fundraiser concert. Want a Downer Ending drama which explores the good and evil of mankind? Just have the heroes fail and watch the orphans cry their eyes out as their only chance at a loving home gets demolished before their eyes.

This plot doesn't have to center around an orphanage. Another popular variant is saving a family farm, followed closely by a youth or community center. Really though, as long as the building has someone's welfare tied up into it, there's probably an evil developer lurking in the shadows and planning its demise.

Furthermore, those wily developers also don't always need cash. Sometimes, saving the orphanage may require a fight to claim the deed to the building or land, or a battle over the will over a recently deceased building or landowner that determines who gets to keep the place.

Compare the Childhood Memory Demolition Team where the structure being knocked down isn't necessarily going to result in catastrophic circumstances for anyone.

Examples of Saving the Orphanage include:


Save The Orphanage

Anime and Manga

  • This turned out to be the reason behind Phantom Thief G, a.k.a. Timothy's crime spree in D.Gray-man. This being DGM, of course, the obviously-supernatural methods attracted enough attention that It Got Worse. In the end, the Black Order wound up paying to save the place anyway.
  • Gleefully abused in an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, in which the saintly nurse Clara claims that she took on the role of master thief Psiren in order to obtain the funds to save the hospital where she works from being closed down and demolished. And then the hospital gets demolished anyhow... as do the church and the orphanage and probably a couple of other struggling establishments that follow it. This example may be considered a Double Subversion, since at the end of the episode it's revealed that the city in which it takes place is dying a slow death and Psiren's exploits are drawing in much-needed tourism. Alternative Character Interpretation suggests that Psiren was just coming up with another lie. And it worked.
  • The reason Naoto Date aka Tiger Mask betrays the Tiger's Cave and starts to get hunted by them is to save the orphanage where he was raised and to make the life of the orphans (who he sees as his family) better.

Comic Books

  • The Belgium comic book series Orphanimo! has this as the main plot for the first half of the series, and as a subplot for the second half.

Film

  • The Blues Brothers, of course! When Jake and Elwood Blues attend church service at a black church, Jake sees the light and gets his Mission From God: get the band together, and save the orphanage from getting closed. In this example, the orphanage supposedly has to pay "back taxes", which actually fails the logic test since orphanages, as non-profits, don't pay taxes. However, at the time the film was in production, the state of Illinois was debating legislation that would have required some religious buildings to pay property taxes - though by the time the film was released, this had been struck down.
  • In The Devil's Backbone, an orphanage full of children is threatened by the Spanish Civil War. They end up killing the bad guy with spears.
  • The four-minute short film 80s Ending included this trope as one of many 80s tropes it lampooned.
  • In the appropriately-named film The Orphanage, Laura moves into her childhood home in the hope of turning it into an orphanage for handicapped children.
  • The plot of Santa with Muscles, starring Hulk Hogan.
  • The 2012 film of The Three Stooges involves them engaging in a series of wacky schemes to raise enough money to save the orphanage they grew up in (and still live in since nobody would adopt them.)

Live Action Television

  • Leverage: In "The Miracle Job", the team of former crooks tries to save a church from being bought by a real estate developer by faking a miracle.
  • There was a plot or three of this in MacGyver.
  • Night Court pulls this off, with a rich stereotypically-Texan mogul offering to put up the money to save the orphanage, if Harry could beat him in an arm-wrestling match. Harry wins after Christine secretly flashes the Texan.

Stand Up Comedy

  • Bob Monkhouse once joked that in his few serious drama roles, he had ended up being typecast as the sort of villain "who would keep his cocoa warm by burning down an orphanage".

Video Games

  • A more direct attempt at destroying The Orphanage occurred in the video game version of The Darkness. It worked.
  • King the First in Tekken is a masked wrestler who fights to raise money to save his orphanage.

Web Original

  • Parodied on Homestar Runner. In the game "Kid Speedy", if you beat all the tracks, Kid Speedy wins a two-dollar consolation prize for coming in "not dead last", and when he tells his mother the good news, she remarks "Now we have enough to get the orphanage its operation!"

Western Animation

  • A standard plot for Dudley Do-Right, though subverted several times when it's revealed that Snidely Whiplash is entirely within his legal rights to foreclose on nearly every property in town for non-payment (including the Mountie Fort), and indeed has been ordered by the Canadian government to do so (fortunately, Horse is able to win enough money at a casino to save the town... with the side effect that now Horse starts threatening to shut down the orphanage).
  • South Park made fun of this.


Save The Farm

Film

  • Subverted by the light-hearted Jesse James film American Outlaws, which opens with James failing to save the family farm and thus taking out revenge against the railroad barons.
  • Arthur and the Invisibles (aka Arthur and the Minimoys) involves a quest to save the family farm.
  • Babe: Pig In The City had the title character leaving on a plane to save his farm, though this didn't go over well.
  • The Hannah Montana movie has Hannah saving a farm in Tennessee from greedy land developers.
  • Tall Tale used the plot of a boy in the 1800s trying to protect his family farm from an evil developer, leading him on a long quest across the country to protect the deed to the farm and meeting legendary heroes of American tall tales who join him.
  • The David Giancola "classic" Woodhead Saves The Farm.
  • Field of Dreams.

Literature

  • In Stone Fox, Little Willy's owes the state $500 in taxes, and they're threatening to take away his farm. So Little Willy and his dog Searchlight decide to sign up for a sled dog race with $500 dollars as the prize money, placing all their hopes of saving Grandpa's farm on the race.

Western Animation

  • An episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, literally entitled "Save The Farm", had the duo raising money to save a farm from evil developers.
  • The entire plot of Home on the Range was to save the farm the animals lived on lest they be shipped off to a meat-packing plant.


Save The Home

Literature

  • A short story by Garth Nix used this, centering on the conflict between a father and son over whether to sell the land or not.
  • In The Roman Mysteries book Dolphins of Laurentum, bankers threaten to seize Flavia's house in because of her father's debts. This inspires the characters to try to recover treasure from a sunken ship.


Save the Community Center

Film

Radio

  • In Adventures in Odyssey, Whit's wife was trying to save an old rec center that children played at, which was going to be torn down for a strip mall. She fell ill during a town hall meeting while campaigning for it and later died, but Whit took up her cause and had the building declared a historical landmark. He then turned the building into a soda shop and hang-out place for children--and that's how Whit's End was created.


Save Various Other Things

Anime and Manga

  • An episode of Sailor Moon featured a town park that was about to be bulldozed by a greedy developer, with an old caretaker as the only man willing to stand up for it. Ironically, the heroes have nothing to do with saving the park. The old man gets possessed by a youma, gains power over nature, and sics butterflies, birds, and squirrels on the developers, thus saving the park himself. The heroes have to save him when the youma steals his life-force, but by this point the developers have already abandoned the park and don't return.
  • Sakura Taisen V has a plot where an evil developer is trying to knock down Harlem and rebuild it - without the poor people in it, of course. Shinjiro goes through an Ace Attorney style mock trial to try and save Harlem, as well as talking fellow party member Sagiita (Cheiron in the dub) out of helping them.
    • The game's creators may have been running low on ideas, since a similar plot was previously used in the second Sakura Wars OAV (wherein the Teikoku Kagekidan stopped an evil developer from knocking down a poor neighborhood of Tokyo).

Film

  • The plot of The Absent Minded Professor, as well as its remake Flubber, was the Professor's attempts to create something of value in order to raise enough money to save Medfield College.
  • The main plot of the film Batteries Not Included. The apartment block of the main characters is under threat of property development, but it's saved with the help of some living alien machines that take residence there.
  • The Country Bears ripped off The Blues Brothers wholesale - except instead of needing to save an orphanage, they had to reunite the band to save Country Bear Hall in a subtle Anvilicious bit of product placement. The only distinct part is that the developer (played by Christopher Walken) isn't bulldozing for any reason except that he hates the bears and spends all of his free time destroying models of the building.
  • Ernest Goes to Camp deals with the summer camp variety.
  • The Forbidden Dance involved a Brazilian jungle princess coming to America to save the rainforest by dancing the lambada on national television in the most bizarre version of this trope ever recorded to film.
  • The plot of The Goonies was set into motion by the children trying to find a lost treasure in order to save their neighborhood from evil developers.
  • Subverted in Gremlins 2: the movie starts off with a wealthy property developer offering a large reward to the Obi Wan for selling his antique store, since he is the only holdout for a big new construction project. However, he has an offscreen death, and the big new construction subplot is never heard of again.
  • It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie focused on saving the Muppet Theater from a greedy developer that wants to bulldoze it and put up a club. The Muppets at first successfully raise the money, but Fozzie accidentally loses the money bag. The money problem becomes moot when Pepe gets the building saved by turning it into a historical landmark, preventing it from being bulldozed. Oh, and the money bag wound up in a Salvation Army bin, thus doing more good in the hands of a charity.
    • The 2011 revival, The Muppets, pretends as though the above never happened, and shows the theater having money troubles. In this movie, a greedy oil magnate wants to buy it, bulldoze it, and drill for precious oil underneath. In this case, the Muppets actually fail to raise the money despite a charity telethon. However, they decide as a family that it's more important that they gave it their all and they can start from scratch again. Just as the credits start, Gonzo smacks the villain in the head with a bowling ball, causing him to finally gain the ability to laugh, so he gives the property back for free anyway.
  • The 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street added a subplot that the "good" department store staffed by the main characters was in danger of being bought out and shut down by an evil rival shopping chain, Shopper's Express. This went so far that the film's villain, the owner of the chain, had his minions conduct an elaborate scheme to discredit Kris Kringle in order to stop their new-found success, thus leading to the trial that takes up the last third of the film.
  • Both Sister Act films involved a plot like this. The first film didn't use this as a main plot (the real plot was Dolores hiding out from the mafia). Instead, it used this trope as a subplot where the abbey was in bad shape, but Dolores' work with the choir and getting them into the community reversed its fortunes. The second film more explicitly used this plot in which the nuns were now teachers at a Catholic high school that was about to be shut down and turned into a parking lot by a greedy executive. Once again, Dolores disguises herself as a nun and reforms her music class into an award-winning choir to save the school. So, to recap - in both Sister Act films, forming a kick-ass choir can solve all your problems.

Literature

Live Action Television

  • The A-Team have saved farms, small businesses, and everything in between.
  • Massacred in a two-part episode of The Golden Girls. Rose is attempting to get an old lighthouse into the National Registry of Historic Places and ensure its preservation. She organizes a telethon to raise money, but none of her planned guest stars show up due to a hurricane which completely destroys the lighthouse.
  • The Mork and Mindy episode "Dueling Skates" involved saving a daycare from being turned into a roller rink.
  • On Parks and Recreation, Leslie tried to stop a snobby Gold Digger from having a historically-significant gazebo demolished so that she could have her husband's birthday celebration at the nearby mansion without having to look at "that ugly thing". In the end, the gazebo was destroyed.
  • VR Troopers, a Power Rangers-esque Saban series in the mid-90s, featured an evil dimensional warlord disguised as an Corrupt Corporate Executive that was usually trying to take over and destroy things like forests and schools and such, thus making almost every episode of the show an action-show version of this trope.
  • In a Wishbone episode, the kids save the town park from developers.
  • In the two-part Happy Days episode, "Westward, Ho!" Marian's uncle's Dude Ranch is in danger unless they win the rodeo. Naturally the Cunninghams compete in the rodeo and do better than the locals. You know, those people who actually work on ranches for a living. Plus Richie is the announcer and Uncle Ben is the judge - conflict of interest much?

Video Games

  • In Amateur Ninja, Mega Corp buys out all the local hangouts, turning the skatepark into a panda bear hunting range and the orphanage into a child labor camp, but don't reap any consequences until they take the community center/ninja dojo. Naturally, the ninja students seek vengeance, but all of them are killed when they get to Megacorp HQ... except for new recruit Willow Stiletto, who was getting pizza at the time. Now it's up to her and her extremely basic ninja skills to succeed where true masters have failed and get the community center back in the hands of her master.
  • The original Fable had a quest where the main character has to save a brothel that's been taken over by a particularly abusive owner by recovering a missing deed. Of course, this being Fable, the hero can either give the deed to the Madam (who will convert the brothel into a women's shelter), or the hero can keep the deed and run the brothel himself.
    • Played relatively straight in Fable III. After you rise to power as king/queen of Albion, one of the royal decisions you have to make is to either re-open the Bowerstone Orphanage... or let Reaver open a brothel instead.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In Barbie Presents Thumbelina, a skateboard factory is going to be built on an empty field that is actually the home of the Twillerbees. The Twillerbees use their nature magic to keep the construction crew at bay, while the main character befriends a girl whose parents just happen to be the owners of the company that's building the skateboard factory. In the end, the girl convinces her parents not to build the factory, and they build a nature preserve instead, keeping the Twillerbees (and more importantly, the Twillerbabies) safe.
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