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Dish Dash

"Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
...
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So, carefully! Carefully with the plates!"

The animated and/or comedy trope wherein a character has to pretty much dash madly around a room catching stacks of falling breakable dishes/plates/cups/mugs/lightbulbs/vases before they hit the floor and smash into a million pieces.

Inevitably, the character ends up precariously balanced on one foot, with dishes in both hands, balanced on his head, in the crooks of his elbows, tilting dangerously on the point of one knee. If it's a comedy, it's meant to elicit sympathy for the character's plight. If it's action, it's meant to display the dexterity, nimbleness and quick-handed, sure-footed prowess of the character. But either way, the outcome is meant to elicit a laugh.

The most common variations of "what happens next" involve someone or something disturbing the rescuer of dishes, knocking into or startling them, and:
  1. the most important dish falls and breaks, leaving the person still holding dozens of breakables
  2. the most important dish falls and breaks, which also happens to be the heaviest, and then since they are now off balance, everything goes in rapid succession
  3. everything goes, leaving the character to stand in the middle of the destruction, having failed to save anything
  4. everything goes except one piece, which the character hugs protectively
  5. everything goes except one piece, which the character then throws over his shoulder with a sigh just to make the destruction complete
  6. everything goes except one piece, which an antagonist then smashes just to be a Jerk Ass
  7. everything goes except one plate, which rolls on out of the destruction, then slowly spins to a halt.
  8. They get scolded for breaking things and banished from the kitchen/room/house

There's also a Discredited Trope variation of the Dish Dash — when someone is showing off their skills at keeping dishes balanced atop spinning sticks. It used to be popular in Variety Show TV, this is rarely seen in modern TV (anything after the 1970s).

This trope frequently is accompanied by the Standard Snippet "Sabre Dance" by Khachaturian, as a Mood Motif for how frantically the character is dashing around to save all the breakables.

Not to be confused with Diner Dash, its mobile game equivalent.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Sanji and Robin perform this move in one of the One Piece opening songs.
    • Also from One Piece, when Luffy is chasing Chopper around Doctorine's castle, he surprises him and causes a bunch of test tubes, beakers, bottles, etc. to fall. Chopper catches all of them (with his hooves an antlers, which of course makes no sense), and ens up balanced precariously on one foot. Luffy then grins, chuckles evilly, and says "But what if I...?" before proceeding to tickle Chopper mercilessly. Apparently, none of the 'dishes' broke in the end.
  • A few examples come from Ranma ˝. In one, Kasumi drops the dinner pan in shock, and Ranma rushes in to catch the pan and then the pan's contents. In another, Ranma has to wait tables at the Cat Cafe and caught multiple ramen bowls tossed at himher by Cologne — and she actually does the dishes atop spinning sticks variant later.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chachamaru is acting as waitress for Chao Bao Zi, and is carrying two stacks of dim sum bowls seven high ... and trips. Asuna, Setsuna, and Negi catch all the bowls
    • Earlier on, during the Library Island arc, Kaede does this with books falling off of a bookshelf.
      • Nearly a hundred chapters later, having had enough of Fate bad-mouthing Asuna, Negi kneed the table they were hostily sipping tea/coffee (they had an argument over which was better) at and flew into a punch toward Fate's face, which he blocked simply. A Moment later when the table came falling down, Negi caught its' base leg on the tip of his finger, of which the beverages atop it remained completely unspilled.
  • In Black Butler, Sebastian frequently ends up catching multiple dishware, food, and other items due to the clumsiness of Maylene and the other household staff. He never drops anything — by accident, anyway — because he's just that good of a Battle Butler.
    • The triplet butlers of the Trancy staff do this in episode 5 of the second season after the Phantomhive staff makes a mess of things.
  • Pikachu does this in an episode of Pokémon. After Pachirisu, who's floating through a steamboat's kitchen after tying some balloons to its tail, knocks over a bunch of dishes, Pikachu catches them all with his front paws, back paws, and his own tail.

Comics
  • In one Tintin album, Snowy chases the Marlinspike resident cat around and runs into Nestor, triggering an acrobatic sequence as the man attempts to save the palace of bottles and glasses that culminates with the cat toppling the entire thing.
  • In one of the first issues of Impulse, the title character's mentor who has Super Speed is having a cup of coffee while in his civilian identity. He knocks the cup off the desk and instinctivly catches it, hot liquid and all. This is done in front of his Love Interest who at the time, had no idea of his superhero persona. He tries his best to play it off.

Film
  • In Mary Poppins, the Banks household must engage in this every time their neighbor Admiral Boom shoots off his cannon. (Luckily he has precise military timing; unluckily he does this every day. Mr. Banks actually sets his watch by it.) Nothing ever gets broken, although the piano requires tuning.
  • A newly empowered Peter Parker rescues Mary Jane's upended lunch this way early in the first Spider-Man movie.
    • Made all the more impressive by the fact that this wasn't a special effect; other than adhesive sticking his hand to the tray, that was all Tobey Macguire's natural reflexes.
  • A watered-down version happens in the Fantastic Four movie, when Reed reaches out to catch a glass Sue knocked over, and discovers his powers this way.
  • Similarly, in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith catches a falling wine bottle in front of her husband, which confirms him that she was an undercover assassin, and her that she just screwed up in front of him.
    • Later on Mr Smith is sneaking through the house when he knocks over a china vase. He catches it in mid-air, only for the lid to slide off and shatter on the floor, revealing his position to his shotgun-toting wife.
  • Commonplace in Jackie Chan movies.
  • Astroboy (2009): The title character does a scene like this, even though he realizes it could give away he's a robot.
  • Tiana in The Princess and the Frog DishDashes as part of her work, as seen early in the movie during the number "Down in New Orleans".
  • There's a monster in the background on the floor in the penultimate scene of Monsters, Inc. spinning plates on sticks now that they've discovered laughter is 10 times more powerful than scream.
  • In a tie-in comic for Ratatouille, Linguini bumps into one of the other chefs who was carrying a lot of dishes, and thanks to Remy's quick manipulation, he catches them all, making the other chefs wonder about his crazy skills. Linguini then gives Remy a break, and when he comes back in, Skinner tries to create the situation a second time, only for Linguini to drop every single one of the dishes. The other chefs conclude that the earlier event was just a fluke.
  • A mother bird from Alice in Wonderland actually does this with her own eggs.

Live-Action TV
  • Family Matters: Steve Urkel frequently does this. And sheepishly asks after the dust settles, "Did I do that?"
  • The Young Ones: Neil can't get the lentils out of the cupboard because if he opens the door all the plates will fall out and smash, so he enlists Vyvyan's help to knock a hole through the wall into the back of the cupboard. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" has a subversion. Quark has his employees dropping his glasses down on him from the second floor on purpose — so that he can improve his catching skills for the big game.
  • BBC2 once had an ident using the "discredited" version. Darren Meldrum has it here; scroll down to "Spinning Plates".

Video Games

Western Animation
  • Three Delivery opened with an earthquake, and Sid used martial arts moves to rescue all the breakables. He even managed to save Mr. Wu's favourite mug; unfortunately, Mr. Wu came in and startled Sid, resulting in the mug falling to the ground and breaking.
  • Subverted disturbingly in an episode of The Wild Thornberrys in which a troop of macaques play "Smash and Crash" and completely destroy anything breakable they can get their hands on.
  • In the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Out of Scale", the eponymous chipmunks are captured and presented to Ignatz "Ratso" Ratskiwatski to give to his daughter Buffy as playthings. She dresses them in a robe and dress, respectively, and places them into a dollhouse. Dale gets a little too much into the role, though, and when Buffy simulates an earthquake by shaking the house...
    Dale: My good china!
    He's too late for most of it, though, and is forced to drop the rest when Chip bonks him on the head.
  • Hanna-Barbera is a popular supporter of this trope:
    • Tom and Jerry have had several variations, including the first film, "Puss Gets the Boot".
      • "Royal Cat-Nap" includes one with Jerry and Tuffy/Nibbles throwing dishes to force Tom into the Dish Dash.
    • The second-season Pac-Man episode "Goo-Goo at the Zoo" did this with Pac-Man and the escaped zoo animals in a china shop.
    • The Christmas Special The Town Santa Forgot has a failed Dish Dash caused by Jeremy Creek throwing a temper tantrum so severe it knocks all the dishes from the cabinets to the floor before his mother can even attempt to catch any.
  • Tex Avery's short "Rock-a-Bye Bear".
  • Family Guy: Brian goes out to dinner with his ex-girlfriend Jillian and her new beau. A waiter walks by and trips, causing him to drop his full tray, but Jillian's boyfriend catches everything with no problems. Wanting to one-up him, Brian then trips the next waiter who walks by and tries to do the same thing. He winds up covered in food and hurting the waiter's wrist (which Jillian's boyfriend 'fixes' with some fancy handwork).
  • A Popeye cartoon has him landing in Olive's arms, sending the dishes she was carrying flying. He catches the whole big pile as they fall, sees one more spinning down, and drops all the others with a crash to grab it. Olive snatches it from him and beans him on the noggin with it (and it's apparently made of metal).
  • The "discredited version" of this trope was used on Recess, when Spinelli first tried her hand at plate-spinning.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot uses both versions of the trope:
    • In the episode involving the school play, Tucker auditions for it with the spinning plates before somebody realizes he's in elementary school.
    • In the episode "Tradeshow Showdown", Jenny is forced to do a Dish Dash when a robotic teapot struggles to get away from her. She releases the teapot, and it crashes into the wall, knocking over the dishes. Nora Wakeman shouts, "XJ-9!" startling Jenny so she drops all the dishes to the ground.
  • Occurs in a museum of priceless artifacts on Kim Possible. Surprisingly, none of them ended up breaking.
  • This happened in the My Little Pony film A Charming Birthday, where Rainbow Dash had a bunch of teapots, until Minty bumped into her. At first Minty caught all the teapots on her head, but dropped them all when she took a bow, saving only the green one.
  • Dennis The Menace (US): In the opening titles sequence, Mrs. Mitchell finds herself in this situation after Dennis, riding on Ruff, sends her armload of clean dishes flying.
  • Jadeybug does this with packages in the Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures episode "Berry Bitty World Record."
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Apple Bloom can do a Dish Dash in the "spinning on a stick" manner, and the "sure-footed, quick hand—er hoofed" method.
    • At the Grand Galloping Gala, Rainbow Dash ends up saving the pie of one of her heroes this way.
  • Kick Buttowski, "Stand and Delivery" - Kick insists he's fast. He gets the chance to prove it when Gunther loses his grip on a huge stack of dishes. Kick plucks them all out of the air.
  • Done with a twist to Tom in the Tom and Jerry short "Quiet, Please!" (1945): Jerry throws lightbulbs onto the floor trying to wake Spike the Bulldog (who has threatened Tom with dire punishment if he gets wakened). Tom catches them all— and then Jerry plugs his tail into an electrical outlet, making Tom light up like an old movie sign.

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