While in a cartoon, always beware of falling anvils! These large solid metal objects weigh a ton, are invariably dropped from great height and are used to crush heads, though hands, feet and rib cages sometimes create soft landing spots. Sometimes used to create Accordion Man. They may drop without warning, or they may be heralded by the Shadow of Impending Doom and the Bomb Whistle. The victim usually just has time to look up and see the falling object before it lands on him.
In some cases, especially if full-body crushing is desired, an n-ton weight may be substituted for the anvil. This is a metal weight shaped like a pyramid with the top cut off, a ring at the top for attaching a rope, and the exact weight (usually 1, 10, or 16 tons) painted in white on the frontnote 16 tons was the heaviest weight commonly used for weighing things. Why 16? Because it had 8, 4, 2, and 1 junior brothers which allowed you to, between them, get any tonnage up to 31 tons with as few weights as possible, and weigh something up to 31 tons in as few rounds of moving those weights around as possible (neither being a trivial concern when dealing with objects weighing that much).. The 16-ton weight was favored by Monty Python's Flying Circus. In cartoons, if the toon is driven completely out of sight, often a Cranial Eruption will shove the weight out of the way. Or, if the cartoon is very zany, the victim might have either the "NO SALE" eyes, or the Circling Birdies.
And once in a while, it's a safe. In those, occasionally the safe's lock whirls open and the character, who has somehow wound up inside the safe, falls out. Grand pianos are used as well, in which case the character will either end up inside where the strings are, or with a mouth full of piano keys for teeth. Another sometimes used option is for a tree or telephone pole to fall over on top of the character, repeatedly bouncing on their head and driving them into the ground like a piledriver. In anime, it's usually a washbasin.
Often results in an Accordion Man, a Squashed Flat or a Hammered into the Ground.
May have its origins in the real life practice of inverting an anvil, putting gunpowder in the hollow in the bottom, laying a fuse leading out of it, and then placing a second anvil right-side-up atop the first. This was used as a Fourth of July celebration. Obviously the real-life consequences of this trope place this FIRMLY in Don't Try This at Home territory.
Not to be confused with Dropped a Bridge on Him or Anvilicious. If something more surreal than an anvil is used for the purpose, that's Drop The Cow.
In a commercial for Geico, the Geico gecko is in an unusual place, what appears to be Monument National Park, where he narrowly avoids getting nailed by a dropping Acme anvil and a grand piano. Cue Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote appearing. When Wile E. stops to ponder having the gecko for a meal, he has an Acme safe drop on him while, once again, narrowly avoiding the gecko.
The Americaphilic author of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure included a semi-serious version of this. The heroes, during a gritty seinen action/adventure story, drop an anvil on a zombie's head. Of course, the results are realistically gory. And of course, there's also the steamroller.
Another semi-serious version: In the anime version of Naruto's fight against the Deva Path, which bears an odd resemblance to Looney Tunes in general, this happens to the Deva Path.
The first issue of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW)'s third page has a 100 weight that was apparently dropped by Snowflakenote The big muscle pony from "Hurricane Fluttershy", prompting an "OUCH!" from the pony underneath and laughter from a pony in a doorway nearby.
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the movie opens with a cartoon short that ends with a refrigerator being dropped on Roger. Later, toon prop magnate Marvin Acme is killed by a safe falling on his head. Halfway through the film, Eddie Valiant reveals that his grudge against toons stems from his brother Teddy's death, which was caused by a rogue toon dropping a piano on him.
Related is, in the final confrontation scene, Roger Rabbit's "Come down on you like a ton of bricks" being made literal.
Used, quite horribly, and even literally, in Hot Fuzz. Ewww.
Terry Pratchett uses that frequently to deal with minor characters in his Discworld books. One petty thug dies when he's hit with an armadillo, another one - falling bed, and the alternate universe Carrot dies when he's hit with an aardvark. A vampire in bat form was stunned by a thrown (garlic) sausage and then eaten by a cat.
Of course, the cat in question was Greebo, whom Nanny Ogg still sees as a tiny, adorable kitten, and everyone else sees as death on four legs who will attempt to fight or rape anything up to and including a four-draft-horse logging wagon, the local equivalent of a Mack Truck.
In Small Gods a villain is killed when a tortoise is dropped on his head. The tortoise is actually the god Om and in addition to saving the life of the hero it is his way of sending an Anvilicious message to the citizens of Omnia.
The Eyre Affair pays homage to the anvil tradition in the subplot involving the Minotaur who has been tagged with a slapstick marker.
In Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano is assassinated by someone throwing a log off a tall building on him.
A Crowning Moment of Funny in one Dresden Files book is when Harry redirects a curse, causing a frozen turkey to fall out of a passing plane and impale a vampire. Quoth Harry: "For my next trick, anvils!"
Really powerful wizards like to drop old communication satellites on their enemies from orbit.
In season 3's "Mystery Spot", there's a "Groundhog Day" Loop where each day Dean dies a different death. The beginning of the day always starts the same way, and when he and Sam go outside, one of the things they see is movers trying to get a desk into a building from the ground floor. At the end of one Tuesday, out of nowhere it drops on our hero and kills him. Turns out the movers had spent the rest of the day trying to get it in the window.
In the eighth season episode "Hunteri Heroici", the villain, who is using a senile Reality Warper to inflict cartoon physics on selected portions of the world in order to facilitate burglary, drops a literal anvil on an unfortunate security guard. Dean later tries to drop one on the villain.
LazyTown - literally. Robbie attempts to knock Sportacus out by putting a small anvil on one side of a seesaw and catapulting it at him, but misjudges it. Hilarity Ensues.
The Slammer: Gimbert rigs up a 'burglar alarm' that consists of a 10 ton weight that drops on the burglar's head. Naturally it ends up falling on the Governor's head, giving him Easy Amnesia.
A Far Side cartoon had children being warned not to play under the Anvil Tree.
Ignatz Mouse's pastime is dropping bricks on the head of Krazy Kat, who seems to take it as a sign of affection.
The aptly named homebrew Falling Anvil discipline for ''Dungeons and Dragons' (versions 3.X) includes this in varying degrees, starting with flowerpots, and ranging upwards through anvils, safes, and finally Viking longboats. Of course, it also includes a wide variety of other toon-like attacks and defenses.
Toon mentions that an anvil is about the limit of what you can viably carry in your Back Pockets. Given that Toon is one long love letter to slapstick animation, it can be taken as read that you are not expected to use it to make horseshoes.
In the opera house scene in Final Fantasy VI, Ultros tries to kill Celes by dropping a four-ton weight on her while she is on stage.
In Final Fantasy VII, the enemy skill ???? (yes, that is its name) takes the form of a falling weight.
Rarely when using the Chocobo Summon Materia, instead of the charging Chocobo, the enemy is hit with a "Fat Chocobo" which drops from the sky. The attack name is listed as ???.
Similarly, the skill "Press" in Star Ocean: The Second Story drops a weight on an enemy, with the upgraded "Gravity Press" dropping a whole bunch of them.
In Discworld II: Mortality Bytes/Missing Presumed...?!, one of the puzzles requires you to smash in a wall. At a different point in the game, you steal a prop 1 ton weight. If you try to swing this at the wall, it bounces off and clobbers you. Once you add a 0 to make it a 10 ton weight, puzzle solved.
The SNES game Yoshi's Safari got a boss where you need to shoot a flying (wings included) anvil so that it falls on the boss.
Lemmings (the first one) had the 10-ton weight version as one of the many traps that could eviscerate the green-haired critters.
In the old video game Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero?, breaking into the wrong room drops a guard Antwerp on your head. (They're basically very large creatures said to be nearly impossible to defeat, much less capture.)
The 16-ton weight version occurs in Dark Castle, should you take the wrong key in the dungeon.
In the online flash game, Jelly Battle, the "Random Drop" attack will make an anvil, heavy weights, or a piano fall on an opponent.
This is often the primary attack method of the Stone copy ability in most Kirby games. Kirby Super Star and its remake in particular allows the user of the ability to transform into various heavy objects, including a heavy weight. The ability to change into a weight is also seen in the Super Smash Bros. games as one of Kirby's special moves.
Banjo-Tooie's obligatory end of the game game show segment has massive anvils hovering over the contestants which Gruntilda will drop on the loser of the round. She seems to have little concern for the fact that two of the contestants are her sisters, or the fact that she could just drop the anvil over Banjo and Kazooie without any reason besides the fact that she's evil. In fact, it's not until after she flees the room that she actually considers this. Fortunately Banjo is already gone when the weight drops.
In Sonic Shuffle, Eggman would drop a 16t weight on the character who was unfortunate enough to be the furthest away from the Precioustone after it has been collected, causing the victim to lose half his/her rings.
Sid & Al's Incredible Toons, and its successor, The Incredible Toon Machine, use both anvils and pianos. Unsurprisingly, when a piano lands on Al E. Cat, he pokes his head out of the rubble with a mouthful of keys.
In the Wii version of A Boy and His Blob, the Anvil transformation is not only handy as a stepping stone, but, if you push it on to most enemies' heads... They go "splat" very quickly. The ones which don't can be used for Cranium Ride.
In the 'Polar Push' and 'Crate Crush' subsections of the minigames in Crash Bash, one of the hazards that the player can pick up is an icon resembling a weight (as described on top of this page). If picked up, the icon appears over the player's head, who now has a limited time to pass it onto another player by touching them. When this time (roughly 8 seconds) elapses, a weight marked as being 16 tonnes heavy will drop on the head of the poor sap who's left with it, OHKOing them.
A whole line of attacks from Toontown Online focuses on this trope. Starting from a flower pot, to a sandbag, to an anvil, to a big weight, to a safe, then a grand piano, and finally, an ocean liner
In the VGA remake of Space Quest I, the droid in the weapons room would sometimes kill Roger by dropping an anvil on him instead of just vaporizing him with a blaster.
Throwing an anvil is possible in the roguelike ADOM. In case of hitting a small enough monster, it could count as hitting from above...
Used as one of the sketch items you can use in Epic Mickey, you can crush NPCs or enemies with it its also used as something to trigger switches that mostly involve you pressing one switch while the anvil holds the other one down to trigger whatever the switches do. It can also be used as something to help you climb to reach stuff but its not really used for that purpose all that much with the exception of one pin you can get in the very definite final dugeon.
If you stay too long in the Tetris room in I Wanna Be the Guy, a giant capsule from Dr. Mario crushes you. There's also the falling error message box in a dead-end room.
In Exile, a mage named X is obsessed with researching a spell which would teleport an anvil above somebody's head.
In Fantasy Zone, Opa-Opa's "Heavy Bomb" is a falling 16-ton weight. One of the humorous illustrations in the Japanese manual for the PC Engine version showed Opa-Opa being squashed under one, though this doesn't actually happen in the game. The tonnage was increased to 100 in Fantasy Zone II.
16t, an obscure Mega Drive game, is entirely about dropping 16-ton weights on enemies.
In the Office JerkSpin-OffOffice Zombie, every so often an anvil will lower from the top of the screen which you can drop on the Zombie's head.
Rayman: Raving Rabbids has a mini-game where you have to lead a blindfolded Rabbid into painful objects in order to score points. The mini-game ends with a huge-ass weight landing on him.
Minecraft has craftable anvils that are mostly used to repair enchanted weapons and tools. As an homage to this trope, anvils can also be used in Awesome, but Impractical traps to crush enemies, dealing damage roughly proportional to the distance the anvil falls.
They also sound like a ton of iron hitting the ground even if you're just dropping it down for the repair function.
In the North American and European releases of Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, whoever loses a Janken match will have a giant weight dropped on them. Their eyes and feet pop out of the weight, and they scramble around using their feet. This got a Shout Out in Sega Superstars Tennis, in which Alex Kidd's All-Star move involves him playing Janken, then dropping weights on the opponent(s).
Peacock in Skullgirls has this as one of her special attacks, in which she summons an object to fall on her opponent. These objects range from a flower pot or a teacup to Andy Anvil or Tommy Ten Tons (Assist Characters who are an anthropomorphic anvil and 10t weight, respectively) to a piano or an elephant.
Homestar Runner favors the "Heavy Lourde", a weight of indeterminate mass. Oddly (for a cartoon), we're initially led to believe that Homsar was killed in this manner, but it is later revealed that he was merely hospitalized.
The end of Savlonic's "Electro Gypsy" music video has a giant synthesizer fall on the drummer (and a smaller one bounce off the singer's head.)
Webcomic example: Stickman and Cube has been known to drop quite a few weights on characters. Some of them weigh "infinity tonnes" and others weigh "N tonnes". At one point, a dropped weight was so heavy it smashed through the bottom of Panel 3 into Panel 6. It must have pretty cheap panels.
Used brilliantly by Deux Ex Machina Man in this strip.
producing a sign reading "Yipe!" or "Eek!" (favored by mute coyotes and hunting dogs)
Saying a quick, murmuring prayer
Taking a step to the side out of the path of the falling object (only to have it fall on the victim anyway)
In Duck Amuck, Daffy Duck is falling with a parachute when the cruel animator erases it and replaces it with an anvil. Daffy is then seen pounding with a hammer on the anvil, which the animator proceeds to replace with a bomb.
More recent Warner Bros. works such as Animaniacs introduced an entire ficticious country full of them called "Anvilania". In one episode, Tiny Toon Adventures parodied the song Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head replacing "Raindrops" with (what else?) anvils, and in another, they had a mini-episode of anvils falling on Plucky Duck's head, scored to the Anvil Chorus. In the sequence, Plucky demands to know who wrote it, and when the scene cuts to a gigglinganvil doing it, Plucky yells, "Rewrite!". After it was over, the audience loved it and demanded more. Plucky, enjoying the spotlight, agrees to do more. Unfortunately for him, the next sequence consisted of Plucky being blasted repeatedly by cannons, scored to the 1812 Overture.
Another episode had Buster made a deal with an impish anvil to write a script for Plucky, "Ducklahoma", where all the songs were anvilised showtunes. "Duuuuuucklahoma, where the anvils come screaming from the sky!"
Also, the episode where characters were dressed in lab coats and running experiments, dropping ever heavier weights on Plucky's head in front of a focus group to gauge which weight was the optimum for comedic effect.
And in "Thirteensomething", Plucky (facing unemployment as part of the episode's story) holds up a sign citing 'Will take falling anvils for laughs'. 'Ah ... that actually felt good.'
There's also the Animaniacs episode "Baloney and Kids" a parody of Barney & Friends in which they ended up singing a song about anvils while dropping them on the eponymous Baloney. It was the extremely rare case where they actually asked the question "where do the anvils come from"?
Tom and Jerry pretty much used all of these for random humour. And pretty often used grand pianos and trees/poles in place of falling anvils whenever something different was needed.
Tex Avery's MGM shorts often had these as well. In Bad Luck Blackie, for instance, an anvil is but one of a series of hilariously improbable objects that fall on an unfortunate dog from above throughout the cartoon: flowerpots, a cash register, a piano, a safe, various large and heavy modes of transportation, and...well, you know.
Disney seems to have originated the trope, with anvils crowning a hapless ape in Alice the Whaler (1927) and Pegleg Pete in Building a Building (1933).
In another episode, he thwarts Orson's brothers by triggering his new rain-dancing robot's "27 pianos" dance.
Garfield, too, has an Illogical Safe and some other heavy object dropped on him during his Mondaymare. Later in the episode, a piano falls on him while he believes himself safe out in the open.
There was a Taz-Mania episode where they research the optimal heaviness of an x-ton weight by dropping several weights on Bush Rats and gauging the reaction of the audience. The audience is silent for the 5, 10, and even 15.99999999 ton weights (though they "briefly crack smiles, and then fall into a deep depression".), but laugh hysterically when the 16 ton weight drops.
Bonkers had an episode during the Miranda season in which Bonkers told her nephew an old-west style story in which claim-jumpers are stealing valuable "Anvil Fields" and it was up to a Western version of the Bobcat to prevent the theft. This is rather curious, since Bonkers is a Disney license, which tends to as a rule to not embrace the funny violence favored by other Animation studios.
Bonkers was a bit of an exception to that. So was Darkwing Duck, actually. And most recent things involving Donald Duck.
Launchpad: He's heading into Andy's Anvil Factory!
Darkwing: I've got a bad feeling about this...
Another Darkwing Duck variation, where DW got the drop on Negaduck:
Darkwing (ringing a doorbell): Flowers for Negaduck.
Negaduck: I hate flowers!
Darkwing: Did I say "flowers"? I meant "skulls".
(Negaduck answers the door, only to find himself facing a huge slingshot.)
Darkwing: Oh, did I say "skulls"? I meant, "ANVILS"!
KLANG. Darkwing: Oh dear, I dented my anvil.
And, of course, the Humiliation Conga at the end of that particular episode, which includes Negaduck getting propelled upward into several such objects, each heavier and more painful than the last. They are, in order: a pie, a flowerpot with plant, a small anvil, a safe, and a 100-pound weight.
CGI/Live-Action combination show Ace Lightning has a villain by the name of Anvil. Who is basically a giant, mutant rhino, with an actual anvil in place of one hand. He's usually brought into play when they want to bash the characters about a bit and not much else. It's almost a Lampshade Hanging, when you think about it...
In the Simpsons episode "The Day The Violence Died", Itchy & Scratchy creator Chester J. Lampwick tells Bart and Lisa the story of how Roger Myers Sr dropped an anvil on him after he requested royalties for his creation. (Luckily, he says, he was carrying an umbrella at the time.)
Another episode had Chief Wiggum believing a giant rat was infesting Springfield Mall. He then set a trap to make an anvil fall on said rat. Another plan was releasing a puma which fell into the trap. Wiggum then released another one.
In the Popeye cartoon "Shoein' Hosses", while fighting over a position at Olive Oyl's blacksmith shop, Bluto throws an anvil at Popeye's head. This is perhaps the only time in this trope, ever, that having an anvil around was logical.
Independent animator Patrick Smith did a film called Delivery, which featured two brothers beating each other up over a package. In this case, the beatings were animated realistically, with visible blood, injuries, and subsequent Neck Snap. According to Smith it was meant to subvert this trope (and slapstick cartoons in general), saying that if an anvil falls on his character, he will die and the person who dropped it will feel remorse.
On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Heloise has taken over a show by dropping a safe on the original host, then popping out of it.
I Am Weasel once parodied this mercilessly in "I Am Cliched".
Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Urban Ed": As Ed and Eddy sit on top of a skyscraper pretending to be pigeons and dropping yoghurt on Nazz and Edd below, Ed produces an anvil out of nowhere and drops it on them.