Human Cannonball

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
  • One filler villain in the Fist of the North Star anime has developed a martial art based on being a human cannonball. His entire army uses it.
  • Kuukaku Shiba sent Ichigo and co. to the Sereitei this way. It's also the only to get around the the "Palaces" of the Zero Squad and then to the Spirit King's palace.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Yahiko befriends a girl named Marimo who performs this act in the circus she works for. At the end of the episode, Sanosuke picks up the cannon and uses it as shoulder-mounted artillery to fire her at the Villain of the Week.

Comic Books
  • 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 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.)

Live-Action TV
  • 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.

Newspaper Comics
  • Dilbert had to use a cannon as transportation when his company was cutting back on travel budgets.


Video Games
  • 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 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 Kings 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.
  • Carn Evil has the player getting into a cannon to launch them up to the top of the tent.
  • Monkey Island has two of those.
  • 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 has the human opossum cannonball routine as your means of getting from Stage 3 (Lethal Lava Land) to Stage 4 (airship).
  • 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.
  • Used as a method of transportation in Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3
  • 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: 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—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.

Web Comics
  • 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.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • 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 Klown 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."
  • 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 is multiple new ways to injure himself.