Look out! He's got a gu—er, spring-loaded showerhead!
"With ABC deleting dynamite gags from cartoons, do you find that your children are using explosives less frequently?"
— Mark LoPresti
In an example of the nerfing of violence, almost all firearms in animated cartoons made since the late 1970s or early 1980s, if they appear at all, will be radically different from real guns, either in form or in function. Energy weapons are a popular choice.
Sometimes it gets explained — but usually, not.
Several reasons for this have been theorized:
Changes in American gun culture, akin to those that made things like smoking and drinking alcohol an increasingly rare phenomenon in American media.
Imitability. Shooting someone with a bullet is an imitable act which might result in negative publicity, but a kid can't find his Dad's laser rifle and zapfry his buddy. Yet.
Higher leeway on how much damage it deals and how it is portrayed. It is easy to accept an action hero getting blasted away by an energy beam and then jumping back to his feet, but if he got shot with a bullet, then we'd have to deal with the fact that he has a physical object lodged in his chest — or if the bullet were sufficiently powerful, that he has part of his chest lodged in a physical object behind him. Conversely, when heavy property damage is called for, it's more believable to have someone blast through a brick wall with a "laser beam" than with bullets.
The Too Soon trope. Usually when a real life tragedy involving people getting killed with guns happens, American media will often edit or redo anything in which gun violence is prevalent out of respect for the victims, sometimes by banning an episode that has gun violence and most times by editing it so the guns aren't realistic.
Note that this is usually limited to bullet-firing weapons. More destructive weapons like RPG's may still be seen in works using this trope, despite (or perhaps because of) the increased difficulty in obtaining them. In rare cases, it will have large guns fire actual bullets, but still no realistic small arms.
This trope manifests in several ways:
When characters who would be expected to own guns — such as policemen — don't have them, or don't use them in cases which they would be expected to do so.
When most or all of the guns in a particular universe are energy-based or use Abnormal Ammo, regardless of the owner or the universe's particular technological level.
When a firearm looks and acts like a real firearm, even including parts which make sense for bullets but not for lasers, but whose ordnance still looks or sounds like lasers. Inversely, when an unrealistic-looking gun fires actual bullets.
When a work which previously featured realistic guns is altered to make them less realistic, or eliminates them altogether.
This philosophy has sometimes extended to cartoons from previous decades or those imported from other countries. In general, most production houses have (under pressure from various media watchdogs who believed cartoon violence stimulated real violence) eliminated or altered anything and everything that looked like a real gun from their cartoons. Similarly, networks have gone back and Bowdlerized classic cartoons to remove firing guns and, in some cases, casual use of explosives. The reasoning behind these sometimes bizarre substitutions seems to be the belief that if it doesn't look like a real weapon, the poor child's psyche won't be warped and he won't have the desire to use a real weapon on someone else.
This trope is a fairly cyclical one, with guns going from "acceptable" to "not acceptable" and back again in the span of a handful of years, and sometimes within the same show. Whether or not it appears also depends greatly on a particular show's creator and how willing he or she is to fight for realism. A handful of exceptions seem to exist; Elmer Fudd-style double barrel shotguns and Tommy Guns seem acceptable regardless of what stage in the cycle everything else is at.
Note: if laser beam weaponry ever becomes a reality, you're kind of screwed. If Cracked.com is any indication, however, laser weaponry already exists, and someone could get hurt or killed by such technology any day now.
Goes hand in hand with The Lethal Connotation Of Guns And Others. See also Abnormal Ammo, Trick Arrow, Inverse Law of Sharpness and Accuracy. Often given to a Badbutt.
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Anime & Manga
In the first few episodes of 4Kids' One Piece dub, guns would occasionally be replaced with a sillier-looking equivalent, the most notable seen in the picture above. Originally the standard flintlock pistol seen in the OP universe, it was heavily edited into something that looks more like a showerhead on a spring. (The weapon changed back to a gun in a long shot and a few other frames that 4Kids missed.) Simultaneously, other guns would be edited or recolored to look less realistic — Navy soldiers' rifles were changed to resemble super-soakers, for example — but would still explicitly shoot bullets.
In one instance, a gun that shot spikes was changed to shoot "poison suction cups".
In the flashback to Luffy and Shank's origin stories, Shanks is held up point blank with a gun to his temple and he casually points out that the man holding the gun is in danger of a backblast if his skull causes the bullet to shrapnel, just to show how badass he is. In the 4kids version the man is holding a popgun, although Shank's lines remain mostly unchanged. Shank's man shoots the would-be shooter dead and they didn't bother changing his gun, but left in a comment that it was full of blanks and that the other man simply fainted.
Which ironically makes the scene considerably less family friendly, as it unintentionally delivers the message that guns are perfectly safe to fire at people when you're firing blanks out of them; anyone with even a basic knowledge of gun safety can tell you that it is never safe to even pretend to fire guns at people, up to and including when they're not loaded with anything at all(As an added twist, this was actually the message that the scene was originally meant to convey, with Shanks informing the shooter that he shouldn't play around with guns unless he was prepared both to kill with one and to die by one).
Kaya threatens Kuro with Usopp's slingshot. Which makes a rattling sound suspiciously similar to a gun when she trembles.
The dub of Digimon Tamers slightly modifies the names and sound effect of Gargomon's attacks (essentially done with a Gatling gun in the original).
Beelzemon, on the other hand, got to keep his realistic guns and CGI Matrix-esque bullets, though there were still laser sound effects.
The Japanese military Self Defense Forces shown were carrying real guns (apparently the Howa 89). Again, only the firing sounds were changed. Not to mention the police officers, who also get to draw their weapons.
In Digimon Data Squad, RizeGreymon's bullet sounds were changed to laser sounds, even though he was still shooting from a gun.
Oddly, the name of the attack was still "Trident Revolver".
Also in Digimon Data Squad, BomberNanimon, originally a giant bomb, attacked the amusement park. In the U.S., he was changed to Citramon, a giant orange, and a living homage to Don Pachi.
An interesting example: The Digimon Revolvermon is basically a giant revolver barrel with limbs and a cowboy hat. While the English dub changed his name to Deputymon, his appearance and attacks were not altered at all.
Probably because, if they erased his gun, he would look more like a human than a Digimon.
Strangely enough Puppetmon is seen brandishing a real firearm, in a highly imitable situation. The gun didnt make it past editing in the dub, though.
The broadcast version of the dub of Gundam SEED actually has ballistic weapons visually edited to look like lasers. They missed a few shots. Click here◊ to see examples. The editing got really inconsistent in the last two episodes, which were aired so late at night that Cartoon Network could get away with more than when the show was aired at 10 PM. And some of the "lasers" were ridiculous enough to undergo Memetic Mutation — search for "Disco Gun" for details.
This was edited much less in Canada (Gundam SEED aired at 9PM or later on Fridays) — mainly editing out the over-graphic deaths had by some "extras" (such as from the radiation weapons — swelling and popping), and toning down a bit of the (somewhat-infamous) Kira/Flay encounter.
One fan theory is that the gun edits were intentionally ludicrous: Bandai and CN both realized that the fans would see right through the edits, but it still had to be done, so they were made silly-looking to give viewers something to laugh at.
Not just the broadcast version, but the English Dub period (even on the DVD) replaced the firing sounds of the head vulcans of various Gundams in G Gundam to sound more like rapid-fire lasers.
Both the Yu-Gi-Oh!card game and TV show have monsters that wield or resemble guns edited into lasers... inAmerica!. The most notable example of this is the monster called "Barrel Dragon", which could be described as resembling several guns welded together in Japan (whether this counts as Truth in Television is arguable). An exception is the "Ancient Gear Soldier" in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, which uses a submachine gun-arm - it can be argued this was just because editing it would have looked ridiculous.
Several guns are left intact however, but are slightly redesigned to look less like real guns. One particular trap card features an old fashioned flintlock, in the Japanese version, that was covered in gold ornaments for the international release.
There's also the henchmen who had their guns removed and were considered threatening because they were pointing at someone. This was parodied several times in Yu Gi Oh The Abridged Series, which was made with the edited footage, where the Mooks were clearly holding edited-out guns:
Thug: Don't move a muscle or we'll shoot you with our invisible guns! (...) Tristan: Bakura! Don't be a hero! They've got invisible guns!
A later episode included a goon holding Grandpa at gunpoint. The editors had apparently learned their lesson from the above example: the Mooks just weren't intimidating armed with only their fingers. They hadn't learned it well enough, however, as they replaced this guy's gun with... a slingshot.
In the Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds, some character wield realistic-looking guns, but to remain child friendly, these guns shoot "lazer beams" in one arc, and in another arc in the next season, six-shot revolver style guns shoot "Stun Cannons". To be fair, 5Ds does take place in the future, and in one scene the laser beam completely dismembered a man's arm.
A painful example of this trope can be found in the Edited for SyndicationToonami dub of Outlaw Star, in which guns were edited to become lasers, but almost every scene showing Gene buying bullets stayed in the show.
Zatch Bell (a.k.a. Gash Bell) has bizarrely inconsistent censorship. In several episodes, automatic rifles are edited to fire lasers and feature large metal bulbs along the barrels. In others (namely, the episode "Danny Boy"), guns are not censored at all, even when they are fired at — and hit — Danny. However, in the very next episode, a pistol is edited to look like it's made of Green Rocks and fire glowing green bullets (clearly shown as such in Bullet Time) with laser sound effects, even though those particular bullets were blocked by a magical shield without hitting anyone. The only discernible reason for the inconsistency is that the latter gun was aimed at a girl.
Keroro Gunsou's weapon nut Giroro is especially noticeable in that his low-ordinance weapons (e.g., his trademark barrelless handgun) don't actually seem to use bullets, despite being treated as if they do.
In the anime version of the manga Reborn!, Reborn's gun is colored green and is actually a shape-shifted form of his pet lizard, and the special bullets it fires transform into energy before they can hit and power-up Tsuna (with the bleeding from the shots removed too). Similarly, Lambo's grenades are colored purple. Oddly enough, the other guns in the series remain untouched. This however was probably done in order to give the show a standard transformation sequence and the Lambo thing because it's funnier that way.
Also, instead of shooting himself with his Ten-Year Bazooka, Lambo now leaps inside of it. Kind of odd...
An interesting reversal: in the English dub of the Dirty Pair OAVs (the 10-episode ones) the lasers have had their sounds changed to sound like guns (specifically Kei's blaster has a sound reminiscent of a Desert Eagle). This was due to there not being a voiceless track to dub over so a completely new sound effects track had to be made. They still fire laser blasts, however.
The names of some battlechips, the universe's weaponry, were also altered or changed entirely if they had specific words in them. Notable changes include Sword to Cyber Sword, Mini Bombs to Mini Boomer, Shotgun to Blaster and Cannon to Mega Blaster. Strangely enough, the upgraded versions of the Cannon weapon, Hi-Cannon and Mega Cannon, retained their original names.
Several cuts were made in the English dub of Sonic X. For instance, several military troopers holding Sonic and his friends at gunpoint shot real bullets in the Japanese original, but were changed to lasers in the dub, while the weapons themselves still looked explicitly like real firearms.
This becomes even less believable when lasers that were previously guns are shown being shot around in a Space Station takeover during a flashback of an event which took place fifty years previously. Because of course, they had lasers in the nineteen-fifties. And space stations.
In Transformers Armada, Demolishor's missiles were frequently shown to stay in place but fire missile-shaped lasers. Of course, it does provide an explanation for the usual "we can see he's only got four, so how come he's been blasting away all day and never runs out?" problem that some Transformers have. Most weapons fire appears to be lasers, but Cyclonus has more than once told an enemy to "eat lead".
Actually, one episode has a store full of people aim shotguns at Ash, thinking he's a robber, and another has an Officer Jenny aim a rifle at the twerps thinking they're poachers. Both of these episodes aired in America uncensored. Only the one where the Safari Zone warden actually fires his gun was banned, presumably because the gun appeared several times and couldn't have been edited out without completely butchering the episode. That, and it could have landed them with an anti-defamation lawsuit for portraying a trigger-happy park ranger.
Asobi Ni Iku Yo both averts and plays it straight. While a lot of real guns are used, the vast majority of time the main good guys use catian weapons, which have both melee and ranged forms that are specifically designed to not harm organic matter. In both cases, getting hit with catian weapon simply causes clothing to disappear, or can apparently vaporize a tank without harming the men driving them. Lots of Fanservice abound when the female characters get hit with it.
In episode 60 (54 in the dubbed version) of Sailor Moon R, Chibi-Usa points a gun at Usagi's forehead, telling her where the Silver Crystal is. It was later revealed that it just a toy gun. This was cut out in the dubbed version.
In one part of the syndicated comic strip Dilbert, Dogbert gets a job as a hostage negotiator, telling the assailant to come out unarmed. He then orders a policeman to shoot him... with a donut that fires bullets.
According to one of Scott Adams' books, based on his blog: it was originally a gun, but this was changed to a blank panel with 3 "BAM!" sound effects due to Executive Meddling. It was subsequently changed to firing from a doughnut after he found out that he could get away with it.
When Gladstone Publishing reprinted various Uncle Scrooge stories that had first been published in Europe, they had to redraw some scenes involving firearms, leading to scenes of Uncle Scrooge apparently being threatened by having a finger waved under his beak.
While not a direct use of this trope, it is subverted in one story of The Punisher2099. The Punisher runs across a female copycat vigilante of him, who prefers to kill crooks using painful methods and weapons. The Punisher looks down on her for this, saying that he prefers clean kills and doesn't take pleasure in killing. She sneers at him because he uses lasers. According to her, lasers burn into flesh and boil the blood. The wound always go septic and the nerves rarely regrow. They may look nice in the "Holo-dramas", but they're just as nasty as what she uses.
Films — Animation
In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Carface's tommy gun is turned into a tommy gun... that fires red lasers. How they got advanced laser weaponry in 1939 is never explained. Oddly enough, they leave in the part where they violently gun down Charlie in front of the apple cart (and a bunch of other things wrong with this movie).
Fievel Goes West is a mixed example. While there are some revolvers, those only get aimed at inanimate objects or aimed so badly they don't come close to hitting anyone. When the cats (and one dog) have their shoot-out, it's with slingshots that use bullet and ricochet sound effects.
Disney averts this trope in it's films far more then it plays it straight. Guns appear in a really mind blowing number of their animated films, even in settings that would of made perfect sense for them not to have them, such as Beauty and the Beast and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In the Star Wars spin-off film Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, the Ewoks fight goblinlike creatures that live in a Dark Ages castle, get dinosaur-looking aliens to pull their wooden wagons that use log-ends as wheels, and fight with laser pistols — despite the fact that the technical manuals clearly state that projectile weapons still are used in the Star Wars galaxy.
To make things worse, Lucas at one point was supposed to be considering removing the "bullet holes" on dead stormtroopers' armors.
Yeah, but the movie happens not more than a few decades before RotJ, by which point blasters are common and slugthrowers (what projectile weapons are called in canon) are rare, so using blasters is perfectly acceptable.
On the subject of Star Wars, the laser guns and lightsabers are already guilty of this trope; Word Of God says Star Wars is intended to be a kids' series.
The 20th Anniversary Edition of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (in)famously substituted guns held by police with walkie-talkies. This was parodied mercilessly in the South Park episode "Free Hat", where all of Steven Spielberg's thugs carry walkie-talkies in such a manner that suggests they were "originally" carrying guns. They cock their walkie-talkies to threaten the boys ("Hold it! Don't make me use this walkie-talkie!"), and Spielberg himself at one point steals one and threatens to "shoot".
Even more so, the same episode has an edited version of Saving Private Ryan, featuring US soldiers being graphically killed by machine guns, while returning fire with walkie-talkies.
Better still, in Australia, so much was "altered" in the 20th Anniversary Edition that the studio was legally required to resubmit it for classification — where it was given a harsher rating of PG from it's original G, due to "supernatural themes". If they had simply released it without any changes, it would have retained its original G rating from 1982. So... yeah.
The Live-Action AdaptationG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra kinda uses it: while the Joes employ live ammo (including a Gatlingglove for Powered Armor), the Cobras instead use Concussion Rifles that fire potent beams. Then again, much is made of the fact that M.A.R.S. has been developing exotic weaponry, and the concussion rounds are extremely effective in certain situations; a near-hit will still cause a large enough impact to disable or wound an ordinary soldier.
Clockstoppers has guns that fire liquid nitrogen paintballs instead of bullets, pulling targets out of hypertime instead of killing or wounding them.
Captain America: The First Avenger has the HYDRA soldiers using energy rifles powered by the Cosmic Cube. The allied soldiers do still use real guns, though for obvious reasons they are less than effective....
The Random House novelizations of X-Men comics have an... odd view of what is or isn't to be censored. In one story, what was a bullet from a normal gun is changed to an "energy ray" from a futuristic blaster... but an alternate-future Wolverine's zapping by a Sentinel in "Days of Future Past" was described as follows:
But even as Wolverine spend toward his target, the Sentinel reacted — a split second faster. From his robot hand came a huge beam of blinding, deadly electricity. It zapped Wolverine in midair, and shredded the skin off his body. "Eyearrrgh!" The most fearless X-Man let out a horrendous, bloodcurdling scream and then he fell to the ground. The blast destroyed him and left behind only a smoking adamantium skeleton. Wolverine was dead.
Power Rangers almost always edits its Super Sentai footage to turn bullets (and during the later Disney era, missiles) into lasers.
In a particularly egregious example, in Power Rangers SPD, such an edit was made in a Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger scene with the Omega Ranger catching a hail of bullets fired at him by the bad guy with his bare, supersonic-powered hand; a physical impossibility in its unedited form, it's rendered even more ridiculous afterwards when he catches laser pellets.
Also, the red Dekaranger's personal weapon was a pair of magnum pistols, rewritten in SPD to fire laser beams. Many fans, in defiance of the Rule Of Cool, insist that bullets "look cooler" than lasers, prompting suspicions that Power Rangers fans have never actually seen bullets. In their defense, the CGI-enhanced bullets in Dekaranger did look pretty cool. But not like real bullets.
The SPD Megazord stayed unedited for a while, but eventually we lost the shots where it was seen ejecting shell casings from its gun. The Blue Ranger's Zord eventually got lasers painted over its gunfire too.
The trope isn't always in play. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue had a Megazord that had a giant gun that fired bullets (supersized bullets), and Power Rangers Time Force had Mooks that used "advanced machine guns" that fired bullets... which were useless against the Rangers anyway.
Episode 3 of Power Rangers Samurai has the monster shoot a gun with no hole in the gun barrel. There are a few, blink and you'll miss them, times when you can see there was a few bumps on the gun that were around the hole in the original Samurai Sentai Shinkenger episode.
Probably the funniest example of this is the Power Rangers US-made clone/rip-off Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills where all the protagonists sport melee weapons (e.g. sword, ax) but have to fight the monster by firing lasers from their melee weapons.
Kamen Rider Decade features a very minor version. In the original Kamen Rider Agito G3-X's weapons fired bullets and rockets. In the AgitoAlternate Universe visited in Decade the G3's Gatling gun shoots red laser beams. Very slightly justified as well since it is an, well, alternate universe equivalent and thus not the original armor.
Super Sentai is odd about its use of this. Of course, we're dealing with magical/futuristic tech, and so lasers aren't as wildly out of place as in most series that use this trope. Anyway, sometimes the same weapons will shoot beams one day and bullets the next. Sometimes beams will go Matrixy and you'll see a bullet inside. Sometimes things that really, really shouldn't shoot bullets will (ancient technology, swords, claws, etc.) Sometimes the weapon will have beamless muzzle flashes and then we see the target dodge beams, or the weapon will fire beams but there will be nothing but Bullet Sparks when the target is shown. And at one point (the Dekaranger version and SPD version are exactly the same), we get a "tink!" and Bullet Sparks off of a Monster of the Week's new armor. He turns to see Blue pointing at him with his weapon - which he fires again, only this time it's a blue beam.
Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger did finally largely pull an Author's Saving Throw on this. One murderer used a realistic revolver, which was specifically cited as "using old-fashioned bullets"; by implication, all the futuristic weapons use some sort of "charged up" Abnormal Ammo. It's still unclear whether they can shoot a "pure" beam, though.
Even the Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger Deka tribute episode gets in on the action. You know you're back in the world of Dekaranger when the same weapon can't decide what sort of ammo it'll be shooting this time.
When the Gerry Anderson series Stingray was turned into a movie by mashing a few episodes together, the scenes where the various craft fired torpedoes at each other were changed so that laser beams were fired instead.
Same creator, same principle, different series: when some episodes of Captain Scarlet were mashed together to create a movie, the missiles fired by the Mysteron saucers were turned into lasers, and shoddy-looking ones at that. It is possible that this was simply an attempt to make them more alien, but either way it failed at whatever it was trying to do.
Occurs within the Command & Conquernovelization of Tiberium Wars. Within the novel, the regular infantry of Nod (the bad guys) are armed with energy weapons. While Nod do have lasers within the game, its only limited to special forces, while the regular mooks get conventional weapons. The trope is almost invoked by one soldier "Where the hell'd they get-" after seeing the lasers. The change isn't because of censorship, but as a result of a continuity error.
In the expansion to Tiberium Wars, the Black Hand subfaction can upgrade their basic mooks to use lasers. That said, they are Elite Mooks, since the Black Hand is apparently Nod's elite.
Inverted (sort of) in Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. At first the cops use real guns to fight rampaging robots which don't do anything. Then they figure out their weakness and attack with water guns instead, which are very effective.
Disney ended up doing that in Kingdom Hearts II. In the first game, the only gun we had was in Deep Jungle (Tarzan's world), which was Clayton's, and it wasn't censored. In the second game though, there were two occasions of guns in the Japanese version, and both of them were changed in the American release — the first were the old-fashioned muskets from Port Royal (Pirates of the Caribbean world), which were replaced by crossbows (though still sounding like muskets and having muzzle flashes); the second was Xigbar's Special Attack in which he merged his two laser guns to create a sniper rifle, which was altered to... well, the same laser guns not merging.
Actually both Will and Jack had flintlock pistols unedited, and even Barbossa too in the boss fight.
There is a part in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie when Will puts a gun to his head and threatens to kill himself if his friends are not released (because the pirates can't end their curse without him). In Kingdom Hearts, he leaps to the edge of the ship, just like the movie, and threatens his own life...while pointing the gun at the ground. You probably don't want to encourage children to point guns at their owns heads, but at the same time it was a bit jarring to anyone familiar with the movie.
Oddly enough, when 358/2 Days came out, they stopped doing that to Xigbar, whose Limit Break has him again merge his gun-arrows into a sniper rifle.
They did not exactly "stop doing it", actually, as Birth by Sleep censored Braig combining his Arrowguns into a sniper rifle. This edit manages to be even more ridiculous than in Xigbar's case, as Braig's Arrowguns are pretty much stylized crossbows that shoot lasers. It probably goes without saying that the resulting sniper rifle looks less than realistic.
Clayton's aforementioned rifle was not edited or censored in any shape or form in Tarzan. It's as realistic as the guns in Pirates... whereas Xigbar's gun-arrows are decidedly not. Children are probably going to see these movies before playing Kingdom Hearts (or at least, it would be more likely for their parents to allow them to see them), so this censoring really makes little sense.
The series' iconic Keyblade was originally planned to be a chainsaw-like weapon. Disney obviously wasn't too happy about this idea.
Nintendo's Famicom Light Gun originally featured a realistic revolver design in Japan. When it was converted into the NES Zapper overseas, it was given a "futuristic" redesign to comply with U.S. safety standards. Later versions of the Zapper even changed the color of the gun's coating from its original gray to orage due to revised standards. This also applies to all light gun peripherals that had been exported from Japan to the overseas market. Light guns such as Sega's Virtua Gun (renamed the Stunner overseas) and Namco's GunCon were originally sold in realistic-looking black coating in Japan but were repainted orange for the overseas market to distinguish them from real guns.
Sort of an in-universe example: Commander Keen used rayguns in his first games, the Invasion of the Vorticons trilogy (and the opening story of Keen Dreams), then switched to a Neural Stunner for the rest of his games. This was likely due to how 1.) all the Vorticons Keen slaughtered were mind-controlled instead of evil and Keen didn't want to risk ending up responsible for the annihilation of an alien race again, and 2.) stunned enemies with stars circling their heads are more amusing to look at in a game that pioneered DOS as a gaming platform.
Chex Quest: The opening movie makes it clear that conventional weapons can pass right through the slime-based phlegmoids, so the protagonist must use "zorching" weapons to return enemies back to their home dimension.
Forgotten character Fang the Sniper from Sonic the Hedgehog was originally meant to have a revolver for a weapon. The revolver itself was never used in any games (despite some unused sprites of him holding it), but for his playable appearance in Sonic The Fighters he was given a cork-shooting popgun.
On the whole, though, many of the sonic games have realistic firearms instead of using lasers, even though it would completely make sense (for example, many of Eggman's robots have been equipped with machineguns). Then you had Shadow the Hedgehog...
Night Trap. "Weird Eddie", one of the Martin's neighbors, invented a laser gun in order to combat them and the augers. Interestingly, the SCAT team has real guns. (Though no one is shown being shot on-screen.)
How much it is this trope and how much it was to make an interesting boss battle is up to debate.
Kid Icarus Uprising plays with this, with the staves resembling sniper rifles and the Flintlock Staff being a real gun with nothing done to hide it. They also have swords that shoot normal bullets because the weapon is "Old Fashioned."
LEGO have a "no present-day weapons" rule — so it's okay for Minifig swords and laser guns, but not Glocks or anything like that. Presumably in about twenty minutes they will have to recall all the laser guns and allow muskets.
This is why even BIONICLE, easily the most violent Lego franchise ever, is restricted to energy weapons and Abnormal Ammo.
Bionicle went so far as to use the words Murder and Thieves for one of their lines, and made it very clear that Anyone Can Die in their post-Inika Story arcs (whereas in all other stories the characters would get comically blown to pieces, but survive nonetheless since they can just rebuild themselves). The closest they've ever gotten to a real weapon was the Cordak Missile Launchers, which functioned like a Gatling gun (but it only held 6 ammo rounds) and even then it was far too comically short to be taken seriously.
However, there are pistols and tommyguns in the Batman and Indiana Jones sets, albeit still cartoony. And there's always third-party Brickarms to supply your minifigs with firearms.
The Pirate Lego sets all included muskets and flintlock pistols. Not "present-day" per se, but still firearms.
What about the Western sets? They had revolvers that looked fairly realisic (for Legos) shotguns as well as 19th century rifles. see here
IIRC the "present-day" means "World War II or later".
The "present day" rule was actually relaxed at some point - no form of realistic gunpowder weapon was allowed at first, even obviously obsolete ones.
This is the main gripe of the technic fans, as these older consumers know full well that Lego has the ability to create realistic, working tanks and military aircrafts, and they would be awesome. However due to the above rule, we will never see them officially released. Lego has no problem releasing fictional, futuristic tanks however.
This is also why the Lego Starwars line is considered by all to be their best selling line, as they can make movie-accurate guns and war machines without violating their rule. In particular the old technic lines and the larger hobbysets are much well received by the older demographic, who long for realistic tanks, but get close enough with a movie-accurate scale Millenium Falcon.
The Batman sets have what look like fairly realistic semi-automatic handguns.
Transformers: G1 Megatron's original altmode was a realistic Walther P-38◊, though roughly 2/3 actual size. Subsequent releases in America had the toy partially or completely recolored with neon parts to look more like a futuristic laser (though some countries with more restrictive gun laws were not subject to this change). Future incarnations of Megatron had a combat vehicle or spaceship altmode instead, though this could be due to the main villain become an immobile object to be held by The Starscream, of all bots, was less than awesome.
Some states actually allow gun toys that look like real guns so long as they have the orange cap. However, Hasbro isn't going to make versions for each state and then deal with what happens when someone takes one with them on vacation, etc.
Averted by Masterpiece Megatron, which again became a realistic Walther P-38, but this time about half again actual size so the resulting robot mode would be on scale with Masterpiece Convoy / 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime.
Legends Class (smallest size class for non-mini-cons. Car characters are about Hot Wheels size.) G1 Megs is even getting an orange cap. Apparently we're worried about squirrel cops shooting squirrel kids, because that's the scale we're dealing in.
Playmobil sets include firearms when appropriate (or not, as the case may be) - there used to be a Police seaplane set that included not only sidearms for the police officers, but a sniper rifle too.
Referenced in an episode of Bonus Stage: Phil is able to tell that Joel has been possessed when he holds up a bank with a gun in his left had because Joel is right handed. Unfortunately, Matt Wilson accidentally drew the gun in Joel's right hand, so when he corrected it, the gun became a stupid looking, brightly colored gun.
Also, in the episode where Joel censors the show "to fit the burgeoning five-to-seven-year-old market", the word "gun" is overdubbed with "blaster" (although it's still clearly a real gun).
In "Saturday Morning Watchmen" the criminal's gun he shoots at Night Owl with fires lasers.
The comics news feed mentions the inspiration for this:
Justin Pierce: My comics hero, Steve Purcell, once got a cartoon deal with FOX in the 90s. He quickly learned that censors didn't dislike violence so much as they disliked accessible violence - the sort of violence kids could easily mimic. Thus the more exaggerated it was, the safer you were. If your knife fight doesn't work, simply replace the knives with atomic bombs. It's a good rule to live by.
G.I. Joe, is probably the first example that comes to mind when thinking of this trope. While there initially existed assorted evidence that the guns weren't meant to be perceived as lasers—more-or-less realistic sound effects, boxes labelled “ammo” with visible bullets—the show eventually came to acknowledge the lasers for what they were, including details such as power settings and whatnot. This effect actually made the Joes' laser-specialist characters, Flash and Sci-Fi, utterly useless in the cartoon. That said, the lasers don't even seem to be that particularly effective, since in the incredibly rare occasion someone gets hit, they tend to get back up fairly quickly.
GI Joe Renegades continues the tradition, but makes it clear the lasers are something new and exotic by M.A.R.S. Industries, and that they have just recently begun to replace bullet-based guns—one episode even features Flint remarking on the difference, warning his men to “watch the recoil! These are plasma-pulse rifles, not your daddy's M16's!” Flashbacks to the Joes' early days feature them carrying regular guns, but this is an exception, as nobody else actually appears to own a firearm: when Zartan and his gang threaten a small town in his intro issue, nobody, not even the town's sheriff, appears to consider using firearms, instead resorting to improvised weaponry when the Joes train the citizens to defend themselves.
While guns weren't all that prominent in Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog, when they did show up, they would inevitably be lasers—even in episodes involving time travel or references to the wild west. The only realistic firearms in the show appeared in a particular after-show Sonic Says segment, which warns about the dangers of real guns.
The short-lived Mighty Orbots had an extreme example of this. In a cartoon about a futuristic Combining Mecha team battling giant monsters and alien mad scientists led by an evil energy computer, ABC's Standards and Practices dictated that none of the weapons could bear any resemblance to gun-shaped objects. The end result? Battles waged with giant wedges and cones of light flashed from arms, legs, eyes, and whatever else was convenient. Writer Buzz Dixon noted that the show appeared more futuristic as a result.
Partially justified in Gargoyles: while the first few episodes portrayed "particle beam" weapons as being accessible only to the very rich (such as millionaire David Xanatos), everybody else carried and used real guns. However, in the episode "Deadly Force", mob boss Tony Dracon steals a shipment of these and sells several of them on the street. Thus, the writers establish that there are energy weapons available for criminals to use if they know where to look. In the end, who used what depended on which group one belonged to: members of the N.Y.P.D. (including co-star Elisa Maza) would uniformly use real guns; high-end baddies such as Xanatos, Demona, and Thailog heavily favored lasers; and anyone else would use whatever the not-always-consistent animation felt like displaying.
Superman The Animated Series and Batman Beyond both took an approach similar to Gargoyles. Energy weapons were rarer, more expensive, and generally more threatening than ordinary guns, more so in the former than the future-set latter. Both shows suffered from inconsistencies, though; sometimes sound effects did not match the visual (both ways, not always biased towards beam weapons), sometimes the same weapon design would be recycled as both beam- and bullet-firing between episodes, and sometimes the exact same weapon, carried by the same character, would do both over the course of an episode.
The 1990's X-Men animated series was a serious offender. Everything shoots "lasers". Machine guns shoot lasers. Tanks shoot big red beams that somehow arc and hit the ground like heavy artillery. Also typical for this trope, the series had the anti-mutant supremacist group stockpile what were clearly regular munitions, despite constantly using laser weapons onscreen. One of the more confusing subversions is Bishop's weapon. For all intents and purposes, it looks and acts like a futuristic shotgun, but shoots yellow lasers. Even sewer-dwelling edge-people have lasers! The animated version of the battle between Storm and Callisto for leadership of the Morlocks was fought with what looked like double-bladed lightsabers (in the original comic book, it was a knife fight). The one arguable exception in the season 5 episode “Old Soldiers”, in which more realistic sounds are heard when a few rounds are let loose.
Alongside X-Men, Spider-Man the Animated Series (known for its particularly heavy censorship and restrictions) also excessively used laser weaponry. Many realistic guns were not allowed, and no firearms could shoot bullets, so instead they fired lasers complemented by "futuristic" sound effects. This often led to preposterous scenes in which ordinary policemen wielded bizarre, futuristic pistols, and the mere appearances of realistic-looking guns (as seen in "Tombstone" and "Day of the Chameleon") were pointed out as major exceptions. The most preposterous example has to be “Secrets of the Six” where, during a WWII flashback, Captain America is leads a crackdown on the Red Skull's Nazi infiltrators, which, upon being discovered, promptly pull out their standard issue 1943 model laser guns to shoot those pesky heroes.
If projectile-based weaponry existed in the present-day X-Men: Evolution, it was never used. Policemen would never draw their weapons. The army would either use non-lethal ordnance such as taser or tear gas, or escalate to laser rifles. Even civilians created their own improvised lasers when the need arose: in one episode, high-school graduate Duncan Matthews uses what is described as modified mining tools during his short lived anti-mutant terror campaign. One clear exception, mercifully, occurs during the World War II flashback sequence in “Project Rebirth”.
The Spectacular Spider Man has cops and common criminals use guns which are meant to be realistic ones, but which are made to sound more like lasers. While a particular subset of DVD's was meant to make them sound like real guns (among other general changes, including additional footage, and the editing of the individual episodes of an arc into a pseudo-movie), only the first story arc got this treatment before the line was discontinued. Villains higher on the tech scale, incidentally, would occasionally use what were unambiguously meant to be lasers, or some other form of Abnormal Ammo.
Special beams aside, Kim Possible would often have the police, secret agents, and other authorities be completely unarmed. The base defenders at Area 51 have rifles, in one episode, but they never fire; their appearance might well be an oversight.
In the episode "The Tomato from the Black Lagoon", Zoltan and the Gang of Five were piloting warplanes and attacking Chad, F.T., and Tara with live ammo. Chad tells Tara that kids should not use guns, have to use their fingers instead!
In another episode, "Streets of Ketchup", after Chad and Tara gets assaulted by tomatoes, Chad reaches into a shrub, and whips out a pair of guns. The Censor Lady raises a fuss, but Chad tells her that they are water guns, loaded with salt water. However, the water sprayed onto her reveals a well-delivered Take That:
Tara: A tomato!
Chad: Nah, a prune... now we're gonna hear from the Prune Board!
Although Static Shock mostly plays the trope straight, exceptions were occasionally made for particularly serious episodes, such as the Pilot (where Virgil is almost goaded into murdering a tormentor), an episode dealing with school violence, and another dealing with his mother's death.
Unlike its Bruce Timm-produced predecessor, The Batman played this trope straight. While it's unclear what kind of ammunition the weapons used by the GCPD and other criminals used—the more-graphic movie and the series proper are somewhat inconsistent in this regard—the guns themselves were very sci-fi looking, in a way that made them look way out of place in a world that tried to remain somewhat realistic.
Averted in The Batman Vs Dracula, though - at one point, Batman is pursued by a SWAT team whose guns are quite clearly firing bullets, even though they look rather sci-fi-ish.
Teen Titans plays this trope straight, although the fact that the world established in the series appears to be different from our own in several key ways means their use is not as jarring as some other cases.
Godzilla The Series, is actually an interesting example of lasers being acquired during the series. In early episodes, real guns (including M16s) are used. During the "Monster Wars" story arc, the invading aliens end up leaving some of their Energy Weapons on Earth when they retreat. Soon after that, lasers show up as military weapons, in all likelihood reverse-engineered from the alien ones—unfortunately, they prove to be as effective as the projectile weaponry.
Everyone in the various Ben 10 series uses lasers. While it make sense for characters who are connected to the numerous alien races that are a series mainstay, the fact that regular people—such as the security detail assigned to protect a to-be-released videogame—also use them without explanation can be rather off-putting, if you care about stuff like that.
While the trope was initially in full effect (with some exceptions, such as a scene involving a wild west shoot-out) in the early episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), more realistic-looking guns started appearing as the series went on. The second season featured stylized guns which shot ambiguous-looking ammo which appeared to be designed for maximum plausible deniability, which evolved into more realistic automatic weaponry in the third season. It wasn't until the fourth season that handguns began appearing. While laser weapons did appear throughout the series (and far more frequently than "real" firearms), the producers attempted to justify them by showing that they were only accessible to the particularly well-funded; however, once an alien invasion left a large amount of advanced ordnance lying around, a black market was created, and street gangs began using them as well.
The original Ninja Turtles cartoon, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction. While initial seasons featured characters using what where meant to be “real” firearms (although the animation, as was typical for the show, was rather inconsistent in this regard, showing what looked like lasers at the same time lines like “eat hot lead” and “the bullets aren't stopping them!” were being said) by its final season you'd have security guards using some very sci-fi-looking lasers.
While early episodes of Transformers Generation 1 featured humans using normal guns, the fact that the writers take steps to justify the existence of energy weapons (via the use of a short montage where Chip and leading industrialists are shown "developing weapons for humanity to combat the Decepticon threat" or some such line), which then completely replace conventional weaponry, suggest that this trope may have been an issue.
Transformers Prime seems to zigzag with this trope at times. On one hand, Agent Fowler's helicopter is armed with what looks like a pretty accurately-modeled M230 Chaingun, and when he fires it at Laserbeak in the third episode, it clearly makes gun-like sounds and even runs out of ammo. When it appeared again in episode 17, however, the same gun fired bullets with a laser sound effect. It's even weirder with MECH's various weapons; Silas' personal chopper clearly fires some kind of energised projectile, while his goons carry futuristic assault rifles that fire both laser-sounding bullets (which are animated like normal gunfire and make obvious ricochet noises against Breakdown and Bulkhead's armour) and blue, energy-like stun blasts from a secondary barrel. Meanwhile, ordinary US troops carry normal-looking M16s, but never fire them. In Nemesis Prime, we get some rather awkward scenes where said troops point their M16s at targets, but all actual gunfire comes from offscreen, and sounds like lasers; it's implied that they're firing their rifles at the eponymous MECH robot, but not once is anyone shone pulling the trigger of their weapon on-camera.
Danny Phantom plays the trope straight. While the protagonists' weapons were designed to fight ghosts (who would naturally be immune to bullets) no other characters appear to carry firearms.
Although it is rare for most of the scenarios to make sense for firearms to be used. Most of Danny's battles are with ghosts, and take place in a highschool. The few humans he actually fight invariably use super science and plasma based weapons.
Exo Squad's inconsistent animation meant that EVERYTHING fired lasers, no matter what it looked like or what it fired a second ago. That grapefruit thing on the right arm of the Neosapian mook armor was alternately a laser blaster, a missile, a club, or some kind of bomb depending on what the animators felt like doing. Scopes fired lasers, missile launchers fired lasers, odd pointy bits that don't really look anything like a weapon sometimes fired lasers. If it was on the arm of an e-frame, it shot a laser at some point. However, closeup shots of weapons sometimes show belts of linked ammunition.
In The Adventures of Sam and Max: Freelance Police, the title characters never got to use their guns, but they did use all manner of explosives and blunt instruments, and the occasional flamethrower. Even so, the roach terrorist at the end of "Bad Day On The Moon" uses a realistically-drawn AK, although it's never fired.
Young Justice toys with this. Some villains are armed with lasers and otherworldly weaponry, but soldiers and thugs still carry standard firearms.
Played straight with Arsenal. In the comics, he has a pair of handguns and other realistic firearms, but in the show he simply uses a laser built into his bionic arm. Of course, chances are the censors wouldn't have reacted too kindly to a teenage superhero using realistic real world firearms to begin with.
Both played straight and averted in Wolverine and the X-Men. Most instances of firearms tended to be cartoonish lasers, but realistic handguns were infrequently seen as well.
Odd example in Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Some episodes show what are clearly normal firearms (complete with bullets and discarded shell casings) but play cartoonish laser sounds when the guns actually fire.
The American Street Fighter animated series has an episode featuring a Chinese drug cartel using laser guns. Also in the "Final Fight" episode, Belger uses a wheelchair equipped with missiles and lasers instead of his bowgun.
This trope is part of the reason why the Rambo franchise was able to be turned into a cartoon, despite its trademark violence and Vietnam setting.
Similarly, the original RoboCop animated series has villains using laser weapons instead of regular guns. May be justified by RoboCop being set Twenty Minutes into the Future, but certainly unfaithful to the movies.
The fantasy world of Perim in Chaotic featured this trope via Fantasy Gun Control: while the Tribes can churn out arsenal fulls of flamethrowers, hand-held water cannons, and boom sticks powered-by the classical element air, gunpowder-based firearms appear to be completely alien to their world. Likewise, in the episode "Chaotic Crisis" featured a conflict between the creatures of Perim and real-world humans, who, instead of using the expected arsenal, instead used tanks with flamethrowers.
Not-quite-a-gun example: in the cartoons based on The Legend Of Zelda, Link couldn't kill the enemies by stabbing them with his sword like in the games. Instead, he had to defeat them by shooting them with the Sword Beams — which are also in the games, but are only available at full health and thus aren't used as much as regular stabbing. In one episode, Link foolishly trades his sword for a fancier one which, he discovers at a critical moment, does not shoot laser beams. This renders him entirely defenseless despite the fact that the replacement is still a fully functional sword.
The Powerpuff Girls featured real guns during the first two seasons, with cops, robbers, commandos, and even Miss Bellum wielding threatening, bullet-firing weapons with appropriate sound-effects. One episode even points out that the girls are bullet-proof, with Blossom wondering why criminals even try as bullets bounce off of her. This changes in the third season, in an episode which shows policemen fire fully-functional pistols and machineguns which are inexplicably coloured fire-hydrant red, and eventually the trope is played straight, with a bank robber shooting at the girls with a laser pistol.
Parodied in South Park, where George Lucas and Steven Spielberg set out to release remakes of ET and the Indiana Jones movies where all the guns have been digitally replaced with walkie-talkies.This is later taken a step further lampshaded when the boys are being held captive by real soldiers, all armed with machine gun sized walkie-talkies.
Justified at great length in The Zeta Project. Two things: one, bullets strong enough to damage Zeta will probably destroy him and the antagonists have orders to capture him in-tact, as he's a very expensive piece of equipment. Two - and Agent Bennett goes off at great length on Agent West for this - real bullets will ricochet off of Zeta because his body is built specifically to deflect bullets, and therefore endangers innocent bystanders. Bennett, despite being a Jerk Ass most of the time, enforces the no bullet firing guns rule based on this. The only time anyone uses a real gun is when Agent Lee goes up against a serial killer/mercenary who had tried to kill her earlier. The rest of the time, they used energy based weapons. Zeta adheres to Thou Shalt Not Kill so strictly that he refuses to even carry a gun.
While Generator Rex generally has little problem with featuring conventional firearms, these are occasionally—and inexplicably—absent in episodes where their use would actually be effective against the threat of the week, making the show an example of the first listed version of the trope. The best example probably occurs in the second episode, which involves an outbreak of humanoid E.V.O.s who are individually rather weak; Providence is initially seen trying to contain the monsters using net guns and other non-lethal weaponry, and after this proves ineffective, White Knight gives the order to escalate, skipping automatic weaponry and heading straight into weapons of mass destruction.
In Doug's First Movie, Mr. Bluff has hired the police who are armed with high powered assault rifles and orders them to shoot the monster once it's released from the giant Valentine box, at the last minute the kids switch the monster with Roger's robot and they fire upon it but for some reason they fire lasers.
While The Legend Of Korra explicitly takes place in a fantasy setting where Elemental Powers are commonly used, the Equalists field a variety of mostly-plausible early 20 century-styled weapons and vehicles which, at times, seem rather awkward due to their complete absence of any kind of projectile weaponry. The most shining example comes in the finale, whereupon we witness the introduction of WWI-esque biplanes; while they carry bombs and torpedoes, they conspicuously lack machine guns, and when it actually comes down to aerial combat between planes, we are treated to the bizarre sight of one of them launching bolas that wrap around and immobilise the opposing plane's propeller. Meanwhile, the friendly United Forces' battleships have what appear to be naval cannons, but are actually just tubes that amplify the power and range of Firebending attacks.
Realistic firearms appear in Darkwing Duck, used by many criminal elements and law enforcement bodies. However Darkwing himself relies primarily on gadgets like his trademark gas gun and Abnormal Ammo on the Thunderquack. Laser weapons and other odd types also appear.
Primarily averted on Tale Spin. Realistic side and longarms (Colt .45-style pistols, Thompson Submachine Guns, etc) are used on the ground, Don Karnage's pirates and Cape Suzette fighter planes are armed with very realistic machine guns, and the cliff guns defending Cape Suzette from outside threats fire realistic anti aircraft artillery.
And then you have the Tembrians flinging bathtubs at enemy aircraft...
Realistic guns also appear on DuckTales (with also the occasional laser and other heavy fictionalized weapons).
Police officers and (human) criminals on Bonkers carried realistic firearms. Toon criminals tended more into the ridiculous, though.
Seeing as they're the size of, well, mice, weapons used by the Rescue Rangers were pretty universally of the Abnormal Ammo variety. Real guns do make an appearance, however, though given the scales involved generally functioned as artillery so were much less imitable in this context.
This trope was, ironically, averted by a bizarre case of Executive Meddling in the case of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Originally, the episodes set in World War Two were supposed to actually be the Marvel Universe conception of World Wartwo, Nazis and all. Realistic firearms were also called for. However, according to original showrunner Christopher Yost, Disney's BSP unit made them a deal — they could either have Nazis in WW 2, but they had to use lasers, or they could have realistic firearms but no Nazis. Hence Captain America, the Howling Commandos and James Howlett all shoot hot lead at Hydra, who is apparently the main enemy in the Avengers-universe's conception of the war.
Totally averted by Regular Show. All kinds of firearms presented are realistic.