[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tincantelephone_7099.jpg]]
->''"It's The Homestar Runner, speaking into an empty soup can, with a length of twine coming from the 'neath. Hello, empty soup can. Hello, length of twine."''
-->--[[SpellMyNameWithAThe The]] WebAnimation/HomestarRunner, [[http://www.homestarrunner.com/answer13.html Marzipan's Answering Machine Version 13.2]]
''"Tin [[{{Memes/Advertising}} can you hear me now?]]"''

Ah, childhood. Treehouses and sleepovers and talking to your friends on tin can telephones. It's made of junk: just two old tin cans and a length of string, but it's the stuff that memories are made of. Occasionally you can see a variant that has a tube that travels underground. This variant is derived from early nautical vessels.

TruthInTelevision, of course, although the real thing only works if there is no slack in the string at all. In visual media, the string is just as likely to be portrayed as slack or winding its way around, under, or over things, which wouldn't work.

Of course, now that cellular phones are cheap enough that even children have them, this is a sadly disappearing relic.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Advertising]]
* The Mueller commercials used this.
* Also used by Progresso Soup [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFmzugixNrE here]], among other examples.
** They also now have their soup cans showing video. In one scene, the chef responding looks into the video screen on his tin can and says to the customer, "Let me put you on webcan." (Which is a [[JustForPun cute pun]] on "webcam".)
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[[folder:Anime/Manga]]
* A chapter of ''Manga/{{Yotsuba}}'' has [[CheerfulChild Yotsuba]], [[TomboyAndGirlyGirl Miura, and Ena]] playing with paper-cup versions. Yotsuba keeps hers, which shows up in later chapters as her "cell phone".
* An episode of ''Manga/HanamaruKindergarten'' has two toddlers playing with one of these only a few feet long, in a very loud classroom.
* ''Anime/NegimaSecondSeason'': Kaede and Setsuna tried to make these work between their rooms however as [[http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_arigato_3431.jpg Konoka explained]] they don't work between doors, much to their dismay causing them to gain [[RPGEpisode +5 Absentmindedness and -3 intelligence]], however it lets them hear the invisible CuteGhostGirl nearby leading to screams.
* Manga/BlackButler officially takes this trope UpToEleven in chapter 71: '''''[[MomentOfAwesome paintings and gramophones?!]]'''''
* Tamako and Mochizou from ''Anime/TamakoMarket'' uses these to communicate from their rooms. In episode 2, [[TalkingBird Dera]] sabotaged their discussion by standing on the line. [[ArtisticLicense Actually, their line was not taut enough for the vibrations to pass through some of the time.]]
* The pirate captain in the first episode of ''SpaceshipAggaRuter'' has several paper cups attached to strings on the bridge of her ship, which she uses to, among other things, communicate with other vessels. The rest of her ship is fairly normal.
* In ''Anime/BlackRockShooter'', Yomi and Kagari communicate with this, as they are next door neighbors.
* ''Anime/NinjaScroll'' has a variant. The baddies can communicate over moderate distances by holding wires in their mouths, because one of them is a user of RazorFloss and can control it to make the sound transmit well.
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[[folder:Comic Books]]
* One of the official ''Franchise/SlyCooper'' tie-in comics shows the gang pulling their first heist as gap-toothed youngsters in the orphanage, the cookie jar caper, using one of these as a communicator. [[spoiler:When Sly is almost sprung, it, seemingly accidentally, doubles as an extraction device, with Sly being pulled to safety before he is spotted when Murray pedals the getaway trike away.]]
* They've probably done this in ''ComicBook/TheBeano'' or ''ComicBook/TheDandy'' at least a hundred times.
* One WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck comic had Huey, Dewey, and Louie set one up between Donald and Neighbor Jones after their feuding starts taking its toll on their house. "Have a war of words!" Unfortunately, Jones feeds the business end of a live wire to his can, giving Donald a nasty shock.
* Used and mocked (because of the need to keep the string taut) in a Harvey Comics story involving Little Audrey with Melvin and Echo (two of the main male characters). When Audrey wants to ask if the girls can borrow the boys' clubhouse for a meeting, Echo tries to "contact the chief on this" via a tin-can telephone - with the string just lying on the ground leading into the nearby bushes. Naturally, he has to shout to Melvin (hiding in said bushes) and Melvin likewise has to shout back since the tin-can phone is useless with the string slack. Echo dutifully relays the message even though Audrey can obviously hear Melvin clearly. Then, to cap it all off, Audrey takes the tin can Echo was holding and shouts her reply to Melvin into the tin can instead of just plain shouting (which obviously would have been just as effective). Although perhaps justified as Audrey "playing along" with the game, it's still funny from an adult POV.
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[[folder:Fanfiction]]
* In ''Fanfic/RainbowDoubleDashsLunaverse'', Trixie and Lyra use this when confronted by Octavia, a pony with remarkable hearing. Knowing that Octavia will hear Lyra if she's anywhere in the room, they go outside and run a tin-can telephone to her. This lets her eavesdrop on the talk between Trixie and Octavia without Octavia sensing her presence.
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[[folder:Film]]
* Exactly what the boys use to communicate with the girl across the street in ''Film/ThreeNinjas''.
* ''Film/ScaryMovie 2'' parodied this. After getting high-tech goggles and weapons, the heroes didn't have enough money for cell phones. So they used tin cans. Tin cans that have only about 3 feet of string between them.
* Used by the kids in ''Film/MilkMoney''.
* Short appearance in ''Film/WalkTheLine''.
* Shaggy and Franchise/ScoobyDoo do this in ''[[Film/ScoobyDooMonstersUnleashed Monsters Unleashed]]'', except Scooby gets confused and holds the can to his mouth when he should be listening and to his ear when he should be talking.
* Used by Adam Sandler and the kids in ''Film/GrownUps''.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* One of Anthony Buckeridge's ''Literature/{{Jennings}}'' novels features a brief craze for tin can phones at the title character's school.
* In ''Henry and the Paper Route'' (in the same world as the Literature/RamonaQuimby books), Henry Huggins is excited when a boy his own age moves into the neighborhood. In his first conversation with the kid, Henry suggests a tin can phone, but he's told that it probably wouldn't work and, at any rate, they both have actual phones in their houses.
* Kristy of ''Literature/TheBabysittersClub'' recollects doing this with Mary Anne when they were children.
* Also appears in ''Alfons Zitterbacke'', a children's book from UsefulNotes/EastGermany. It doesn't work, probably because the kids knot the string to places (they're trying to make a really long line, between their respective rooms).
* In [[http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Nancy_Springer Nancy Springer's]] ''They're All Named Wildfire'', the two main characters live in the opposite sides of a duplex. They drill a hole in the wall so that they can pass a string through to use a tin can telephone. (Interestingly, the fact that the string has to be taut rather than slack ''is'' mentioned, as it affects the position of the hole they create.) The tin-can telephone becomes thematically important as a symbol of the PowerOfFriendship in opposition to racism.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/MisterRogersNeighborhood'', the Neighborhood of Make Believe has tin phone cages that lower out of nowhere, allowing for communication.
* Used in ''Series/PeeWeesPlayhouse'' with the Picturephone, except this one is actually a telephone. In Pee-Wee's world, *everyone* uses a tin can on their Picturephones.
* ''Series/DadsArmy'' attempted to use this as a form of emergency communication in one episode but were foiled by the verger with his hedge shears.
* This exchange from ''Series/{{Friends}}'':
--> '''Ross:''' It would be so cool to live across [the street] from you guys!
--> '''Joey:''' Yeah--hey, then we could do that telephone thing! Y'know, where you have a can, and we have a can, and, and it's connected by a string!
--> '''Chandler:''' Or, we could do the [[DeadpanSnarker actual telephone thing]].
* Mentioned in the second series of ''Series/{{Torchwood}}''. Apparently they don't work when the "entire. telephone. network. is down."
* ''Series/YoungBlades'': In "To Heir is Human," [[GadgeteerGenius Siroc]] invents a tin can telephone-like device using metal cups and some string, which he uses to eavesdrop on the Cardinal's Guards.
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[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* Used in ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'' once or twice.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' had them at least twice. In a 1980s SundayStrip, Lucy gave Charlie Brown part of a tin-can telephone for use during a baseball game. In a 1999 strip, Sally was playing with one when she asked, "How do you get an outside line?"
** One of the very earliest Sunday strips shows Shermy giving one of these to Charlie Brown. After failing to contact him a few times, Shermy finds out that "the line is busy" - Snoopy is chewing on the string.
* A cartoon in ''Future Life'' magazine showed a flying saucer hovering next to an observatory. The alien pilot is talking to the astronomer on a tin can telephone, explaining (paraphrased): "Yes, our technology is ahead of yours in many ways but behind you in others."
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[[folder:Video Games]]
* Referenced in ''VideoGame/KingdomOfLoathing'', during a side-quest to the Frat/Hippy War quest if you offer to help promote a hippy jam band. If you go back right after accepting the quest, the promoter will complain that he'll have to use tin cans on a string for the PA system if you don't get some more publicity for the concert.
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[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Webcomic/HarkAVagrant shows that [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation Crazy]] [[Literature/NancyDrew Nancy]] [[http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=299 has one.]]
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[[folder:Web Original]]
* [[WebAnimation/HomestarRunner The Homestar Runner]] (you know, the 1930s version) was implied to be talking to modern-day Marzipan's answering machine on one of these.
* The two hosts of the weekly Website/{{WrestleCrap}} Radio podcast, R. D. Reynolds and Blade Braxton, are implied to be conversing on one of these.
* One episode of ''WebAnimation/HappyTreeFriends'' had Cuddles and Lumpy playing with one. This being ''HappyTreeFriends'', it results in Cuddles' eardrums being blown out.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The WesternAnimation/WonderPets receive their calls of distress primarily through a tin can phone.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', Bart's tin can phone was once wiretapped.
* D.W. once bugged WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}'s room with one of these.
** Also, Arthur and Buster sometimes communicated this way.
* Used on the ''WesternAnimation/SuperMarioWorld'' cartoon, with coconut halves and vines.
* Used a few times on ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy'', with some very bizarre SplitScreenPhoneCall effects going on (people actually travelling ''through'' the string, for instance, or [[{{Cloudcuckoolander}} Ed]] using a sponge instead of a tin can).
* Played with in ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark's'' "Wacky Molestation Adventure": After the kids have taken over the town and the actual phone system is ruined, we see a scene where Cartman yells into a tin can that isn't connected to anything. Then another kid puts a lid on the can and leaves with it. He ends up coming back, Cartman removes the lid and gets a response.
* This was done a few times in Creator/HannaBarbera's version of ''WesternAnimation/TheLittleRascals''.
* The farm on the ''U.S. Acres'' portion of ''WesternAnimation/GarfieldAndFriends'' has an entire system of tin cans for when intrabarnyard communication is desired.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/SpongebobSquarepants'', Squidward used one of these to apologize to [=SpongeBob=] without actually doing so to his face; however, the attempt was foiled because Patrick was [[{{Squick}} using the string as dental floss]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' episode "Party of One", Pinkie Pie uses this to eavesdrop on Twilight Sparkle.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/SchoolhouseRock'' short "Where the Money Goes", the father facetiously suggests to his son that if they stop paying the phone bill they can always resort to using "tin cans and a string."
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'': In "Impeach Fuzz", when notorious hillbilly Fuzzy Lumpkins is elected mayor, he replaces the Powerpuff Hotline with a tin can.
* This has been used a few times in ''WesternAnimation/{{Recess}}''.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/TennesseeTuxedoAndHisTales'' short "Telephone Terrors", Tennessee and Chumley set up a network of tin-can telephones throughout the zoo to tell the other animals about Stanley Livingston's upcoming piano recital. Guess where Chumley got the wires?
* WesternAnimation/MrBogus and Brattus both communicate on one of these at the beginning of the episode "[[Recap/MrBogusS2E7BogusPrivateEye Bogus Private Eye]]".
* On ''WesternAnimation/{{Rugrats}}'', Angelica turns her lemonade stand into a drive-thru service by using one of these as an intercom system.
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