Moving Pictures

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Moving Pictures
Written by: Terry Pratchett
Central Theme:
Synopsis: The concept of cinema invents itself in the Fantasy Kitchen Sink that is the Discworld, but it looks like "the magic of the silver screen" is not just a metaphor...
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: Discworld
Preceded by: Eric
Followed by: Reaper Man
First published: 1990
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The tenth Discworld novel and one that changed the nature of the series in many ways:

  • An end to the practice of Klingon Promotion by the wizards of Unseen University due to Mustrum Ridcully taking over as Archchancellor, and therefore a single recurring faculty cast appearing in later books.
  • Though introduced in Guards! Guards!, the characters of Detritus and CMOT Dibbler were made the three-dimensional fan favourites they would become. The book also introduces Gaspode the Wonder Dog, a later recurring character.
  • The start of a theme that would run until The Truth of ideas or inventions from our modern world (or magical analogues) threatening to break the Discworld's Medieval Stasis, but this usually being subject to the Reset Button at the end. Other books to use this include Men at Arms and Soul Music... and, in a change that is not reset, Raising Steam.
  • The last book to use the idea of the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions invading as a generalized threat - later books would shift the idea of extradimensional threats to the elves and others, while former are simply used as reasons why Wizards are careful about using magic.

The plot is set in motion when the alchemists of Ankh-Morpork discover a way to capture moving images and project them onto a screen. It doesn't take long before the moving pictures become an entertainment sensation, and our protagonists, two aspiring actors named Victor and Ginger, quickly rise to stardom. But all is not well in Holy Wood—something dark is lurking behind the silver screen...

Not to be confused with the Rush album of the same name.

Tropes used in Moving Pictures include:
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: An in-universe example which also provided the page quote.
  • Atlantis: It's implied that the people of Leshp were involved with the last breakout of Holy Wood, and this caused the drowning of Leshp, with only its underwater brass gongs heard echoing mournfully across the bay. Leshp would later appear in Jingo.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: When the movies break the barrier between reality and the Dungeon Dimensions, a giant copy of Ginger steps out from the screen.
  • Ascended Extra: Student wizard Ponder Stibbons is introduced as a very minor character. He will end up appearing in another dozen books (so far), and while never the main character has a pretty substantial appearance in most of them.
  • Brainless Beauty: Laddie is a dog version.
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Victor. In a very specific way.
  • Completely Missing the Point: Dibbler thinks that if a single frame of advertisement convinces people to go eat there, then five minutes of that frame will work even better.
  • Cosmic Horror: The Things make their last major appearance, along with the Necrotelicomnicon.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster for the click Sword of Passione shows "a picture of what might just possibly be Ginger" and in the background erupting volcanoes, dragons and cities burning down. The movie doesn't actually have any of that, but it's still a great success.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: A bit of an inversion; Dibbler does find a pen, but doesn't find paper, so he writes the story of Blown Away on his bedsheets.
  • Damsel in Distress: Ginger always plays this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gaspode.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: Victor would score high enough not to get kicked out, but low enough not to pass.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Invoked, but as tape doesn't exist yet, Gaffer Bird cites string instead.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This is the first appearance of the UU wizards who would later be a recurring cast of comic characters. Although they are already quite well formed here, there's one inconsistency where the Chair of Indefinite Studies is described as the enormously fat one, while in later books the Dean would have this description.
    • The Dean is fat in this novel. Ridcully describes him as looking as if he "swallered a bed".
    • The Dean is also shown as the most conservative and rules-following member of the Faculty, reluctant to go out and see the Clicks until the other members push him into it; in his future apppearances, he is usually the most eager to get involved in whatever weirdness is going on.
    • The Bursar is also, strangely enough, the Only Sane Man in the University, a role that's later taken by Ponder Stibbons (who also appears in this book as a very minor character lacking in the traits he gets in the later books); Bursar's not the insane, Cloudcuckoolander we see in later books, but it's implied that Ridcully is slowly driving him to madness, so it might be justified.
  • Everything's Better with Chickens: A recurring trope in Holy Wood movies is crashing into a barn and coming out the other side covered in squawking chickens. This later happens with the wizards on Windle Poons' wheelchair, even though there was only cabbage in the barn.
  • Executive Meddling: CMOT Dibbler's role as the Corrupt Corporate Executive who will stop at absolutely nothing to work Product Placement into the Clicks is an in-universe example.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: When you finally fully understand what is going on, it puts a very sinister slant on the phrase "the magic of the silver screen".
  • Forgotten Trope: Not tropes but catchphrases and running gags from the 19th century, which Pratchett uses to demonstrate how out-of-touch the ancient wizard Windle Poons is, such as "Tuppence more and up goes the donkey!" and "How's your granny off for soap?"
  • For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: The wizards disguise themselves with "False False Beards", by twisting loops of wire through their real wizardly beards until they look like they're wearing very badly-made false beards.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Parodied with Mustrum Ridcully. He does talk to the animals, but usually to say things like, "Winged ya, ya bastard!"
  • Functional Magic: In one memorable sequence it's described why magic is so rarely used to accomplish anything on the Disc, and why wizards' real job is to stop magic being used:

Real magic is the hand around the bandsaw, the thrown spark in the powder keg, the dimension-warp linking you straight into the heart of a star, the flaming sword that burns all the way down to the pommel. Sooner juggle torches in a tar pit than mess with real magic. Sooner lie down in front of a thousand elephants."

  • Genre Savvy: What enables Victor to beat the things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
  • Heroic Dog: Gaspode, though he hates being one.
  • If I Had a Nickel: Windle Poons says that if he had a penny for every time the Watch chased him home, he'd have "fivepence-ha'penny" (because they once gave up halfway).
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: when the wizards go to the cinema, about eight of them are seeing a movie; two go to the stalls and buy an enormous amount of food. "That seems about enough." "Okay ... do you think we should get something for the others?"
  • In a World: Ideally, a click should be set against the epic backdrop of A World Gone Mad! And it should include a thousand elephants!

"Why are all Mr Dibbler's stories set against the background of a world gone mad?
"Because Mr Dibbler is a very observant person."

  • Just in Time: During a chase sequence, Victor realises that the Theory of Narrative Causality means he will dramatically arrive just in the nick of time, but has to run flat out anyway - trying to invoke this and stop to catch his breath would break the 'story'.
  • Kill It with Fire: Victor's solution after the wizards say they can't do anything because the Things feed on magic.
  • King in the Mountain: The Guardian of the Silver Screen (who looks just like my Uncle Oswald, or something like that) is awoken from his slumber by Detritus beating the gong.
  • Laborious Laziness: Victor is one of the masters of this trope.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: Ginger dreams of this scene. Later, when the Odium gets blown up, the gust of hot air lifts the 50-foot Ginger-thing's skirts around its waist.
  • More Hero Than Thou
  • No Man of Woman Born: There are plenty of (accurate) legends about reading the Necrotelicomnicon causing men to go insane, or worse. Fortunately, the Librarian is not a man, so the worst he gets is a migraine.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Inverted. Victor is reluctant to spend the night watching over Ginger, lest it affect her reputation. Ginger dismisses his fears, as she doubts her landlady will guess that he'd guarding against her possibly possession by supernatural forces: "She'll just think we're having sex." Indeed, she does think just that, and heartily approves.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: Troll version: "Is that the legendary Sceptre of Magma who was King of the Mountain, Smiter of Thousands, Yea, Even Tens of Thousands, Ruler of the Golden River, Master of the Bridges, Delver in Dark Places, Crusher of Many Enemies (takes a breath) in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"
    • It loses something in the translation.
      • see also a much later use of the name "King of the Golden River" for a VERY different character...
  • On One Condition: The reason Victor's still a student. The condition is that he must get above a certain mark on every test to keep getting his inheritance - so Victor carefully answers just enough questions correctly that he gains his inheritance but never actually passes.
  • Or So I Heard: When the wizards see a poster for a "click" with Victor on it:

Chair of Indefinite Studies: It's a Victor all right, but not our Victor. Says here he's "Victor Maraschino".
Lecturer in Recent Runes: Oh, that's just a click name. They all have funny names like that. Delores De Syn and Blanche Languish and Rock Cliffe and so on... Or so I'm told. By the porter. He goes to see a click nearly every night.

  • Performance Anxiety: Despite having appeared in dozens of films, Ginger is terrified to step out of a coach in front of an actual audience of cheering fans. Justified, as she'd never acted in front of anyone but a camera crew before.
  • Poster Gallery Bedroom: Ginger decorated her bedroom with the posters of her "clicks" (movies).
  • The Power of Acting: Some of the actors actually gain these due to Holy Wood's influence.
  • Recognition Failure: Since the wizards have mostly avoided the "clicks", when Victor Marachino and Delores DeSyne are given the red-carpet treatment, they're totally perplexed by the whole thing and wonder why the two celebrities are getting all the attention.
    • Also, one clicks fan refers to the Patrician as "some local bigwig" trying to get reflected fame.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:

Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler: Trust me. Have I ever lied to you?
Bezam Planter: Well, one night last month you sold me a sausage in a bun and you said-
Throat: I was speaking rhetorically.
Bezam: Oh. Well. I dunno about rhetorically.

The Dean: Twas beauty killed the beast (He liked to say things like that)
Chair of Indefinite studies: No it wasn't, it was it splatting into the ground like that.

    • And let us not forget the climax, which involves a 50-foot tall blonde woman climbing a tall building, clutching a screaming ape
    • The cat and the mouse also suggest making a click of... well, a cat trying to catch a mouse. And meanwhile someone has invented the conventional mouse-trap...
    • Then there's Ruby's Troll cover of "Falling in love again", and Detritus' version of "Let's face the music and dance"...
      • She also quotes Mae West at one point.
    • Holy Wood Hill, a.k.a. the ParaMountain, is supposed to evoke a worn remnant of the Paramount Pictures logo—it's even noted that the stars around it seem unusually large, as in the circle of stars in the logo, but this is also Fridge Horror because the stars of the Dungeon Dimensions are similarly large and hint at what lies beneath.
    • Detritus beating the gong to awake the Guardian is a reference to the Rank Organisation's films' "Gongman" opening.
    • Mr Silverfish's name is a rather obscure one: Samuel Goldwyn of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer originally anglicised his Yiddish name as 'Goldfish' before switching to Goldwyn.
    • "What's up, Duck?", said the rabbit.
  • Stage Names: Victor and Ginger are credited as Victor Maraschino and Dolores De Syn.
    • subverted in that Ginger rejects her name, presumably having never heard of Fred Astaire and....
  • Subliminal Advertising: CMOT Dibbler is introduced to the idea and persistently tries to work it into Blown Away after being sponsored by Harga's House of Ribs, for instance putting fireworks in the city set so they'll go off when it's set on fire and spell out "Hottest Ribs In Town". He also seems to get the wrong end of the stick, reasoning that if one single frame of advertising can do it, five full minutes will be even better!
  • Super Wheelchair: Windle Poons' wheelchair.
  • Talking Animal: Several, most notably Gaspode. The animals are all unhappy with their increased intelligence.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: This always exists on Discworld to some extent, but this book incorporates movie and movie tropes into a universe where previously only oral and written stories existed. As the climax is about a Genre Savvy dashing movie star and his love interest saving the world from a giant inter-dimensional monster attacking the city while the town people watch, this trope gets turned Up to Eleven.
  • Thing-O-Meter: The "resograph", which measures changes in the fabric of reality. Thanks to the influence of Holy Wood, it starts going crazy and eventually self-destructs.
  • Timmy in a Well: Parodied with Laddie and Gaspode. When Victor and Ginger are trapped in a cave, they go to a troll pub to get help. Gaspode, who can speak, tries to tell the trolls about the problem, but they don't listen. Laddie only barks, but the trolls recognize the trope from the movies he starred in, and follow him.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Necrotelicomnicon.
  • Twinkle Smile: Victor gets one, but without an Audible Gleam, because sound "clicks" haven't been invented yet.
  • Verbal Tic: "Good boy Laddie! Laddie good boy!"
  • Wingding Eyes: As usual on Discworld, the eyes reveal something about someone's nature that cannot be hidden. In this case, anyone who has been infected by the Wild Idea literally has 'stars in their eyes', a small golden one in the middle of each pupil.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The Librarian usually gets aggressive, when he's called a monkey, but when Ginger does it, he just pats her hand.
  • You Cannot Kill an Idea: Literally. Moving pictures are inspired by a Wild Idea that escapes into the world from what lies beyond, drawing the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions along in its wake. The priests on the beach could hold it back by remembering Holy Wood, but not destroy it.