Shooting a person out of a cannon is done in Real Life
as a stage act. In fiction, it's a practical way to travel long distances instantly. This is especially popular in video games.
Fiction treats being shot out of a cannon in a very literal way. Cannons used for this purpose in Real Life
are powered by a large spring or compressed air, but those in fiction use gunpowder, and are often set off by lighting a fuse. (Any explosions you might see in circus acts are just for show. Using gunpowder to fire a living person becomes less like a human cannonball and more like human grapeshot
.) Their range is even longer than that of real artillery — often on the countrywide or even interplanetary scale.
Expect the ballistic passenger to make a sudden stop by hitting a wall or a solid piece of ground (or water
) at the other end. In some works, there will be no apparent effect of gravity on anyone in midflight, meaning their flight path will be a completely straight line from point A to B
May be done with a large medieval catapult
in comical settings.
Anime and Manga
- The Circus of Crime in Marvel Comics is, you guessed it, a traveling circus that doubles as a criminal outfit. One of its mainstays is the Human Cannonball, who is fired at enemies while wearing a suit of armor that makes him invulnerable to harm.
- In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, Lilith is placed in a canister and blasted out of a magnetic railgun. In a nod to what would normally happen in such situations, it's handwaved by saying the gun fired at "minimum power." Plus, she's a Siren, so her physiology is more robust.
- Wonderful: When Wonder Shadow formed her giant crossbow, Vicky became the ammo.
It took perhaps a few more moments than it had for her—which likely said something about the relationship between Sophia and the rest—but in a matter of moments, Sophia was holding out a massive, glimmering black crossbow.
Despite its size, Sophia held it up with ease, took careful aim, and fired.
Glory Girl, encased in a black forcefield shaped like a bolt, led out another startled cry as she was shot towards the tank, piercing straight through it.
- In the Crosby/Hope comedy Road to Zanzibar one of the scams the duo run is a human-cannonball act; it turns out Hope's character hides in a secret compartment in the base of the cannon and it's a dummy that gets launched out. (And catches fire, and crashes into a tent, and causes an entire carnival to burn down.)
- On Glee, Sue decides to use a Human Cannonball as a gimmick in the cheerleading routine to win another National Championship. Sue has a very cartoonish way of looking at the world and in her delusion completely ignored how dangerous this stunt is outside a cartoon. Her top cheerleaders tell her she is crazy and quit the team in protest.
- This is the deployment method for the Super Zeozords, Red Battlezord, and Warrior Wheel in Power Rangers Zeo: Being shot out of a cannon.
- King David's Spaceship or "A Spaceship For The King" by Jerry Pournelle uses a variant of this because... supposedly they weren't sophisticated enough for orbital rockets and yet were inexplicably able to build a cannon firing a steady stream of explosive propulsion shells at the rear end of the capsule.
- Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, although the characters at least use a vehicle there. While Verne's calculations are surprisingly close to the truth considering the lack of data at his time, in Real Life the resulting G-forces (around 22000 g) would have crushed the vehicle and its passengers.
- "Hugo the Human Cannonball" by Ray Stevens. One of his darker songs. The title character flies 250 feet into the air, looks down and realizes he's going to miss the net, then splatters all over the upper bleachers.
- Dilbert had to use a cannon as transportation when his company was cutting back on travel budgets.
- DT 3 has cannons that launch the player so fast that you apparently trail rainbows
- In the A Boy and His Blob Wii game, one of the jellybeans transforms a blob into a cannon. A boy is one of things that can go in the cannon to be shot and there occasionally happens to be an enemy that can be shot from there too.
- Averted in Aero the Acro-Bat. Aero on several occasions launches themselves out of a cannon to get somewhere, but it's the air powered circus type complete with 'FWHOOMP!' sound effect.
- The artillery cannon in Clonk provides a quick way of getting clonks over large canyons or mountains.
- Most matches in Custom Robo start out like this, if Transforming Miniature Robot Cannon Cube doesn't stretch the definition too much.
- Donkey Kong Country. Barrel cannons. Heck, the spinoff Donkey Kong Barrel Blast/Jet Race uses them as jetpacks!
- Used offensively in Dwarfs!? Each outpost has a cannon that can be loaded with its patrolling warrior dwarves and fired at whatever you need dead.
- A catapult version is done in Hexen 2, to get over a wall at one point in the game. However, you have to position yourself so that it only flings you far enough to pass the wall: letting it toss you high enough into the air will cause you to take falling damage when you land.
- Kirby sometimes uses these to get from place to place. They serve as "beat the clock" challenges, because Kirby has to light the fuse and get inside the cannon before it goes off.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and in a similar minigame in Skyward Sword, although the catapult used before the stealth scene in The Wind Waker might also count.
- A good way to get around in Little King's Story is to purchase and use giant cow cannons, which made getting back to places like the Skull Plains a lot less difficult.
- In Jumper, there are "shooters", pink boxes which Ogmo can hop in to be shot in direction indicated by spinning cursor. Variations include blue faster ones (Jumper Redux) and one-time use yellow ones (Jumper Two Editor). Money Seize, a game by the same author, features those as well.
- CarnEvil has the player getting into a cannon to launch them up to the top of the tent.
- Near the beginning of The Secret of Monkey Island Guybrush can earn some money by letting the acrobatic Fetuccini brothers use him as a guinea pig for their human cannonball act, with a cooking pot as a makeshift helmet. Much later, he uses the same technique to shoot himself out of his ship's cannon in order to reach the shores of Monkey Island.
- In the final stage of Miner 2049er, Bounty Bob has to load a cannon with TNT and then shoot himself out of it. Overloading the cannon will produce a fatal explosion.
- A bonus event in Pilotwings 64 has you launch yourself into a target in this manner.
- The Mistralton Gym in Pokémon Black and White is rife with this kind of transportation. The second-to-last one before your meeting with Skyla is... maladjusted.
- Rocket Knight Adventures:
- In the original game, King El Zebulos launches Sparkster out of a cannon as a means of getting from Stage 3 (Lethal Lava Land) to Stage 4 (airship).
- In the SNES spin-off, Sparkster, in the seventh level, Sparkster is shot into space with a cannon, starting up an Unexpected Shmup Level.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the only way out of the Russian unit Bullfrog is via the "Man Cannon". It's portrayed more realistically though since the infantry units descend with parachutes after being fired from the cannon.
- In Runescape's "A Clockwork Syringe" quest, firing yourself out of the cannon directly is too dangerous, so you weld a chain to the cannonball, attach a barrel to it, and ride in that instead! In "Between a rock" quest. player is launched out of the cannonball towards a rock wall with a golden helmet on.
- Comes up occasionally in the Sonic the Hedgehog series:
- In the Carnival Night Zone in Sonic 3, circus cannons appear throughout both acts, and allow the player to launch themselves into the air, and one is used to enter the next zone after the boss battle.
- Sonic Heroes features cannons where how it fires will depend on who the team leader is when you enter it.
- Also in Sonic Heroes, during the Bullet Station Zone the player team will occasionally use a really big cannon, which is the size of an entire building.
- Spyro: Year of the Dragon has a ninja level that allows you to do this, though human cannonball might be a bit of a misnomer.
- Several stages in the Subspace Emissary mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl feature the barrel cannons as a Shout-Out to Donkey Kong Country.
- Mario Kart has many tracks, often those based on the Donkey Kong Country series, where you get launched out of a cannon.
- From Mario Kart: Double Dash!! there is DK Mountain.
- From Mario Kart DS there is Waluigi Pinball.
- Mario Kart Wii has three tracks where you are fired out of a cannon: DK Summit (DK's Snowboard Cross) in the Flower Cup, Maple Treeway in the Star Cup, and DK Mountain, which returns in the Lightning Cup.
- Super Mario Bros., probably once per game now. There are pipe cannons in Super Mario World, cannons in various levels in Super Mario 64, a giant cannon that launches you to Pinna Park in Super Mario Sunshine, cannons in space in Super Mario Galaxy, cannons used as a Warp Zone in New Super Mario Bros...
- In Terramex, you need to do this to cross a lake. By the time you reach the cannon, you will have collected three kegs of gunpowder of varying sizes. Use too much gunpowder and you will end up smashing yourself against a mountain, too little and you will fall into the lake. Choose wisely. It's the medium sized keg.
- Wario Land Shake It has this as a way of travel in several levels. Sometimes even with moving cannons.
- In Kid Icarus: Uprising Pit gets shot out as more an "Angel Cannonball". He doesn't like the idea one bit.
- Used as an actual Improvised Weapon in one level on The Outfoxies.
- May's new Instant Kill move in Guilty Gear X-Sign is basically this. She grabs her opponent, stuffs him/her inside the Mayship's actual cannon and, with the help of her best friend April, she shoots him/her off from there. It's both awesome and hilarious.
- Cannon travel is a staple of World of Mana games (featured in Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3)—just hop in and shoot off, as your characters don't ever have to worry about fall damage!
- Unsurprisingly, the Atari 2600 video game Human Cannonball is all about this trope. The player must set the cannon's position, angle, and blast strength in order to shoot the subject into a water tank.
- In The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, the protagonists are offered a ride to Izumo in a "Miracle Flying Transport," which turns out to be a cannon. It misfires, and they wind up at Tengu Mountain instead.
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate features the Artillery Mask for your Shakalaka companions to wear. The mask's special power is to turn the wearer into a cannon and fire the other Shakalaka out of it, making for a surprisingly effective projectile.
- In Scribblenauts, you can summon a Human Cannon, which spawns with a clown already inside. Firing the cannon launches the clown, after which you can reload it with other people.
- In Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, in the ice mountain levels, when Buster finds a cannon, it launches him into space. As he falls back down, he can collect airborne bonuses if he is positioned correctly.
- In The Simpsons: Virtual Bart, the goal of the Baby Bart level is to get Baby Bart into the cannon at the end of the circus tent. The cannon fires him out of the tent and into the ice cream truck he pursues in the following cutscene.
- Subverted in Schlock Mercenary, in the Barsoom circus arc.
- Variant in A Miracle of Science: A one-man pod is shot into space with a giant cannon, design courtesy of a mad scientist. When it fails, Ludicrous Gibs result. (Fortunately the failure rate isn't very big...)
- In Sluggy Freelance Zoe dated a professional Human Cannonball for a while. They met after he crash landed on another guy Zoe was trying to chat up.
- In one User Friendly story arc, Pitr is launched to the moon by trebuchet.
- In 8-Bit Theater, the main characters have once to use a cannon to travel to their next destination. Of course, the first test is with Black Mage and the explosion happens, but Black Mage isn't sent on the way.
- In Hazard's Wake, Talon delivers Fluffy to Maple by firing him out of a cannon. Fluffy is resilient enough to survive this, but his impact destroys Maple's ship.
- Cuddles is shot out of one in an episode of Happy Tree Friends, with gruesome results (due to Toothy misinterpreting Mime's instructions to put two scoops of gunpowder in; Toothy put two barrels in instead).
- Krusty the Clown in The Simpsons once shot his half brother Luke Perry out of a cannon. The shot missed, sending Luke out of the studio, through a sandpaper factory and a display of half-price acid at the Kwik-E-Mart before he landed in a mattress warehouse. Which was then blown up. He also often shot Sideshow Bob out of a cannon, which contributed to Bob's hatred of him in "Krusty Gets Busted." (This later comes back to good use in "The Great Louse Detective", when Bob has to shoot himself out of the cannon on one Mardi Gras float in order to save Homer from getting Impaled with Extreme Prejudice in the swordfish museum.)
- The Tick had a supporting cast member called The Human Bullet who was frequently fired at the episode's climactic battle scene by his child (or neighbor in one case). He usually had little beneficial effect on the fight.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Pinkie Pride, Pinkie Pie fires herself out of her party cannon, followed by Rainbow Dash being fired out of Cheese Sandwich's party artillery piece.
- Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: Wile E. has attempted to fire himself out of a cannon multiple times in his neverending quest to catch the Road Runner. What he has achieved are multiple new ways to injure himself.
- Cannonbolt is shot out of Rex's Slam Cannon in Ben 10/Generator Rex: Heroes United. Justified in that Cannonbolt can survive reentering Earth and the Slam Cannon is designed to shoot projectiles the size of small cars.
- Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
- In the opening credits of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Coconuts attempts to shoot Grounder out of a cannon at Sonic. He tugs so hard on the detonator, that it thrusts Grounder into the direction of him and Scratch and explodes.
- In the Sonic Boom episode, "Circus of Plunders", Knuckles becomes one of these when he, along with Sonic, Amy, and Sticks get jobs at T.W. Barker's Circus of Wonders.
- In the episode, "Unlucky Knuckles" from the same series, in an attempt to shift the luck balance of the universe (the idea given to him by Sticks), Knuckles fires himself out of a cannon at the bottom of a deep pit.
- In "Role Models", another episode from the same series, Knuckles launches Tails out of a cannon and Tails lands in a trash can. Before Knuckles can do the same with Amy, he is stopped by D.B. Platypus. When Sonic protests against D.B. calling him and his friends bad role models, he hits the cannon, launching Amy into a tree.
- In the Rugrats episode, "Circus Angelicus", when Angelica stages her own circus in Tommy's backyard, she wants Chuckie to be a "human candyball". However, Chuckie can't remember what he's supposed to do, and as Angelica tries to explain it to him by sitting on one end of a seesaw, Phil and Lil jump onto the other end, launching her into the air.
- The human cannonball is, of course, an old circus staple that still sees some use today in many performance acts. Obviously, no explosive propellant is used, so springs or compressed air is used to eject the human, with the housing still structured to look like a cannon to keep the idea of the trope alive. The targets are usually nets, air bags or bodies of water, but as noted on The Other Wiki, it still comes with its share of risks, specifically during the landing part of the act.