The Big Guy, but a common enough gag is to have the person at the bottom be the smallest one in the group. Hilarity Ensues when they topple over. Add a coat to become a Totem Pole Trench. Contrast I Need No Ladders, the other option where there are no nearby ladders. See also Chain of People.
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- The Three Musketeers do this in a 2004 ad for the 3 Musketeers candy bar.
- In a Lucky Charms commercial, some kids do this to look over a marshmallow barrier that Lucky made. He tells them that milk is the key ingredient to open a key hole in the wall.
Anime and Manga
- Naruto occasionally uses his clones to do this (as well as making a Chain of People)
- Made strangely epic despite being very silly when dozens of waddle-dee's form a literal latter that many more dozens waddle-dee's use to get back inside Dedede's castle in Kirby of the Stars.
- One Piece makes use of this during the climax of the Alabasta Arc, when, in a pinch due to the ticking time bomb at the top of few hundred foot high clock tower, Vivi is literally catapulted up the side of the tower by her crewmates, starting with Usopp on the ground, Chopper on his shoulders in his deer form, and Vivi on his back. Nami uses her Clima-Tact to create energy to send Chopper and Vivi into the air, where Sanji and Zoro, both at various points on the tower, jump off the side and give the two a boost, until finally Chopper tosses her to the time bomb's location. Cue Vivi's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Digimon: Agumon and Palmon are involved in a Digimon pyramid with other Digimon. In this case, they were forced to do it by Nanimon.
- A bunch of the Ham-Hams stack up on one another to see if they can reach the stars thinking the stars are candy.
- In another episode, the Ham-Hams all stack up to try to form a big shadow to see if they can chase away what they think is a monster.
- Monster Rancher: When they needed Suezo to see out over a field they form a pyramid; he can't get high enough, so in the end they just throw him in the air.
- There is a Mind Trap card that involves this. Two people are trying to reach something in a tree — one is five feet tall, one is six feet tall. The five-foot person stands on the shoulders of the six-foot person, but the object is just out of reach. Would it help for them to switch places? Yes, because the taller person will probably have longer arms.
- In the comic MadroX: Multiple Choice by Peter David, Jamie Madrox (AKA Multiple Man) creates several duplicates of himself to create a ladder so he can get over a fence into someone's property.
- Suske en Wiske: The main characters form a human tower on the back cover of every album. They even provide a shout-out to it in the album De Woeste Wespen, where Jerom has to transport everybody as quick as possible and therefore carries them off in the same pose.
Films — Animated
- Mulan: The soldiers pile on each other to better see where Mulan and Shang are. In this version, Chen Po, The Big Guy is on the bottom; Ling, the tall thin one is in the middle; Boisterous Bruiser Yao is on top.
- The Lion King: Being at the bottom of one of these is the fate of Zazu at the end of "I Just Can't Wait to be King" (although, it technically isn't a human ladder)
- Dumbo: The pachyderm pyramid.
- DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp had the nephews stand on each other to allow Webbie access the security room in the Money Bin.
- The dogs in All Dogs Go to Heaven do this during the "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down" segment.
- Four of the main protagonists in The Land Before Time do this to try to get leaves down from a tree. Since Petrie couldn't fly, they formed a ladder. Spike was supporting Littlefoot, who was supporting Ducky, who was supporting Petrie. Cera was pointing and laughing.
- In the My Little Pony movie, the Grundles do this to help Lickety Split and Spike find their home.
- In Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, Grumpy Bear, Tenderheart and Brave Heart did it to try to steal a key from Dark Heart.
- All four of the Beatles do this to take out the apple-boppers in Yellow Submarine with John at the top and George at the base.
- In Oliver & Company, during the "Perfect Isn't Easy" number, five dogs stack up on each others shoulders up against a tree to get a better view of Georgette. Ironically, this occurs at the part where she sings, "You're barking up the wrong tree."
- Antz features a truly epic example near the end.
- In Frozen, the Rock Trolls do this a lot during the "Fixer-Upper" number.
Films — Live-Action
- The Count of Monte Cristo: In the 2002 film Edmond allows the priest to stand on his shoulders so he can see out the window.
- One of the Pink Panther films had a gag where Kato is standing on Clouseau's shoulders to see through a window, but can't. Clouseau orders them to switch positions "because I'm taller than you!"
- In The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, the final climactic scene is where the American small town police force and milita are facing off against the deck guns of a Russian submarine, with the rest of the town watching. Two boys climb up the church tower to get a better look, one of them falls and is caught by a protruding nail and left dangling 30 feet in the air. The Americans and Russians both drop everything and work together in forming a human pyramid to rescue the boy, releasing the tension and allowing cooperation between the groups to help the submarine get away.
- In The Monkees movie, Head'', after Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter get sucked into the giant vaccuum, they notice that Davy is missing. The other three do this to see if they can find Davy in the hole they came out of.
- The Parent Trap: Sharon and Susan do this while they're in the lake to try to fool Vicky into thinking the water is shallow.
- The Muppets do this upside down in The Great Muppet Caper to steal the baseball diamond before the bad guys.
- A horrific verison in the film of World War Z with thousands of zombies clambering over each other to climb a wall.
- The final scene of The African Queen shows Rose standing on Charlie's shoulders to fix the mast of the boat.
- In The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond stands on the shoulders of Lt. Hip, Bond's contact in Hong Kong, to get a view into Hai Fat's residence. Despite seeing loads of security, Bond hops the wall and lets himself in.
- In The Nut Job, Buddy, Andie and a female mole do this to try to reach a latch that will open the trailer door to the truck they are trapped in.
- In Space Jam, during the montage of the Tune Squad taking advantage of the Monstars and gaining the lead in the game, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Foghorn Leghorn form one of these to make a slam dunk.
- In G Force, Darwin, Blaster and Juarez form one of these to try to get out of a hamster cage with Juarez on top.
- In Beverly Hills Cop, Taggart and Rosewood try this to scale a wall during the infiltration of Victor Maitland's mansion while Axel goes around. They struggle with it several times before they finally get over the wall, much to Axel's amusement.
- Dr. Seuss' Yertle the Turtle: Yertle commanded all his subjects to stand on each other so he could see further.
- In one of the Olga Da Polga books, Olga tells a story about how ages ago, all the guinea pigs decided to go to the moon by standing on each others' shoulders. It doesn't end well.
- Used in Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion and David Drake's Belisarius series as part of standard assault tactics to get over the wall of a fort. Falkenberg's Legion also goes one better. To quickly cross a (small) barb wire entanglement, an armored soldier lays on it, providing a makeshift path for his fellow soldiers. This duty is generally performed by the newest soldiers, being lowest on the totem pole, and being the least experienced.
- Goosebumps: Two kids did this in R.L. Stine's book, "Ghost Beach".
- Used several times in Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series, most notably in The Moment Of The Magician by a hunting party of anthropomorphic otters in an attempt to escape an oubliette. The attempt fails, not that it matters...
- In one Encyclopedia Brown story, the mystery is who was picking apples from someone's tree. The suspects prove that, even one standing on the other's shoulders, they can't reach the apples. But if they switched places and the boy with longer arms was on top, then of course they could. And did.
- In The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks states that this is the inevitable consequence of a large enough horde of zombies trying to get past an impenetrable wall at once: eventually, they start climbing over each other and forming a human ramp over the wall.
Live Action TV
- In Smallville, Jimmy let Chloe stand on him to try and get help as they are trapped in an elevator.
- The Big Time Rush episode "Big Time Concert" had Jo and Kendall do this to hang up a Big Time Rush poster. (She was sitting though, not standing.)
- In the "Archeology Today" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, an interviewer (Michael Palin) pays more attention to a tall archeologist (John Cleese) than a short one (Terry Jones). Eventually jumping on top to become taller happens.
- In the series finale of Robin Hood, Robin, Much, and Gisborn are caught in a trap that is rapidly filling with limestone. They realize that if one of them stands on the other's shoulders, he'll live. Robin is picked to stand on them.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Patterns of Force''. An imprisoned Kirk and Spock do this so Spock can get close to a light bulb and use his crude laser to cut open the door lock. Watch it here, starting at 6:50.
- The Twilight Zone Classic episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit". Used by the title prisoners in an attempt to escape a large room they were trapped in.
- In Castle episode "Cuffed" Beckett and Castle are handcuffed together and Beckett climbs on Castle's shoulders to open a hatch in the ceiling. Complete with reference to Someone's Touching My Butt
- Red vs. Blue A human ladder is also used by Sarge and Caboose to see into a square window.
- Taller wrestlers such as The Big Show or The Great Khali have let Rey Mysterio stand on their shoulders to give more elevation to his splashes.
- On a September 2001 edition of Raw, Molly Holly gave a Molly-Go-Round to Lance Storm from the Big Show's shoulders.
- Long before Show or Khali, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka did his Superfly Splash from standing on André the Giant.
- While they were tag team champions in 1994, Shawn Michaels and Diesel's team finisher was for Shawn to do a splash from Diesel's shoulders.
- This was done to mock the team they were feuding with , the Headshrinkers, whose finisher was a splash from the top rope.
- Low Ki is agile and coordinated enough to leap onto the shoulders of another man. Though the intent in this case is to drive them down under his weight, some such as Montel Vontavious Porter are big enough to remain standing.
- The Muppets perform an astounding Muppet Ladder at the climax to Muppets Most Wanted with Gonzo at the top and Sweetums at the base.
- In The Goon Show, Seagoon, Eccles and Bloodnok attempt to escape from prison by climbing on each other's shoulders to reach a high window. Even with all three of them, they still aren't high enough, so the person at the bottom climbs up onto the top person's shoulders. Three times.
- This is actually mandatory for the balcony scene in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Using a tree or some other form of support as the balcony breaks the spirit of the play.
- The step jump in Army of Two is pretty much this.
- Goes a bit crazy in Time Crisis 4 where a lot of National Guards goes into this mode so that the main characters can climb them up to stop the Big Bad and the nuclear strike.
- In Mother 3, this is the Mr. Saturn race's favorite pastime.
- Disgaea had an interesting game mechanic that allowed you to stack your WHOLE TEAM on each others' shoulders, allowing you to throw members across the map. Of course, the guy on bottom takes damage proportional to the weight of the team on top of him every turn, so it's a somewhat advanced tactic.
Buffed up a bit from second game onwards with two improvements. First, you no longer take damage when carrying allies, and second, the tower itself can attack enemies within a short range (one hit for each person in the tower,) making the human ladder viable for more uses than simply quick transport across the map.
- In the Sega Genesis game, World of Illusion, during the 2-player mode, there are some instances where Mickey and Donald have to pile up on each other to reach certain areas.
- You can use this technique with Yakko, Wakko and Dot in the Animaniacs game on the Super NES.
- One boss fight in Contra: Hard Corps involves this, probably to block you from jumping across them. Luckily, there are other ways to dodge their attacks.
- In Paper Mario, the Koopa Bros. do this when they're battling Mario in their second form.
- Donkey Kong Coutry Returns has yellow versions of Itty Bitty Biters that stack up on top of each other and and lunge at the player.
- Drawn To Life has stacking baki enemies with one large baki at the base and three small baki's on top.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep there is a totem pole-like enemy that uses elemental magic. In the original Kingdom Hearts game, there are certain parts of the game where Sora, Donald and Goofy need to stack up on each other's shoulders to reach certain things.
- Legend of Mana: During the end of the quest in Lake Kilma, the sailors make a ladder to get back to the top of the lake cliff.
- Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory's co-op mode includes a nifty two-part move. One player can give the other a boost onto ledges they can't reach by jumping, allowing them to either climb up, or remain hanging there so the booster can use them as a ladder.
- The Order of the Stick: "thog always dreamed of being footstool, thog never thought dream come true. *sniff* it everything thog imagined and so much more." (thog not human footstool. thog HALF-human footstool.)
- Homestar Runner: In the toon "The Search for the Yello Dello", Homestar and Pom-Pom do this to boost Strong Sad up to the Yello Dello so that he could tell it a boring story that would put it to sleep so that they could catch it.
- In the Wallace & Gromit short "A Close Shave", a ladder of sheep, with Wallace at the bottom, helps break Gromit from prison.
- In the PAW Patrol episode, "Pups Save a Flying Frog", Rubble piles up onto Rocky and Zuma so that he could look into a parascope.
- In the episode, "Pups Save the Circus", Marshall, Rubble and Skye do this while they're pretending to do a series of circus act. Skye calls this move "The Triple-Decker Pups". However, Ryder calls the pups while they're doing this, and Marshall (at the bottom) forgets that he's carrying the other two!
- The Simpsons: Springfield did the "human pyramid" version, trying to get into the Duff Book of World Records. There's also a gag where a group of cheerleaders do this in a sandstorm, which leads to them getting buried, and looking like an actual pyramid.
- The kids on Recess did this quite a few times. Once they did it to time a clock to get out of school.
- In the animated short, Little Wolf, a group of wolves climb onto each other to help a little wolf get down from the moon.
- The babies would do this in Rugrats with Phil and Lil forming a base, Chuckie standing on them and Tommy standing on his shoulders.
- The Amazing Spiez. In "Operation Spy-Sitter" three of the title heroes form one to reach a sprinkler control on a wall.
- In Captain Planet, Kwame and Wheeler do this to access an air vent after the gang is trapped in a mine shaft.
- In one episode of Invader Zim, Zim persuades fellow prisoners to form a human pyramid so they could escape. Well, so Zim could escape.
- In another, Zim orders soldiers under his command to hold onto each other and fall across a pit to form a bridge he can use to cross. There is a tree right next to them that they're clearly meant to cut down and use for the bridge.
- The Three Musketeers (part of The Banana Splits show) episode "The Haunted Castle". After being trapped in a well, Athos, Porthos and Aramis form one to escape.
- A standard technique of the main pups in 101 Dalmatians: The Series.
- Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The monster protagonists do this sometimes.
- Done quite regularly by Donald Duck's nephews, Huey, Dewey & Louie.
- Done frequently on Scooby-Doo.
- Scooby-Dum once took it to another level, using Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress to climb to the top of a human ladder when he was the initial base.
- In an episode of Doug, Doug and Skeeter do this to try to achieve a frisbee while Porkchop distracts the bull dog guarding the yard.
- Done quite a few times in the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise.
- In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, Buster, Babs and Plucky did it to listen in on something Yosemite Sam was plotting. Only Buster heard what was going on since he was on top, while Plucky was in the middle, and Babs was on the bottom.
- Done frequently by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
- In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the turtles (excluding Donatello) stacked up to fix a light. The totem collapsed when Michaelangelo (at the base) got up to do something not realizing he was still supporting the totem.
- In Animaniacs, the Warners do this sometimes, but not very often. Yakko is usually on the bottom since he's the "big" brother.
- In the Dexter's Laboratory episode, "D2", Dexter and Dee Dee do this throughout the episode taking Dexter's brains and Dee Dee's stature to their advantage.
- Powerpuff Girls
- In the episode, "Silent Treatment", the girls do this to try to reach a phone. In this case, they had to since they were unable to fly.
- In the episode, "Him Diddle Riddle", the girls do this again to try to reach a phone. In this case, they had to since one of the rules of the challenge as said by Him was "No flying."
- Done a number of times by the Ed's and by Sarah and Jimmy in Ed, Edd n Eddy.
- In an episode of Sheep in the Big City, Sheep is shown standing on top of a human pyramid, but he is soon chased off by Lady Richington, who winds up taking his place at the top of the pyramid causing people witnessing this to cheer.
- On an episode of Kipper, Kipper climbs onto Tiger's shoulders so he can return a baby bird to it's nest.
- In order, Alvin, Theodore, Simon and Dave stand on each others shoulder in The Alvin Show so they can spy on their neighbor.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Hearts and Hooves Day," the Cutie Mark Crusaders do this to reach a cloud that they need for the love potion that they try to make.
- In "Games Ponies Play", the main 6 form a pyramid when doing their cheer for the chairman of the Equestrian Games. Their formation is Apple Jack and Pinkie Pie on the bottom, Twilight Sparkle and Rarity in the middle, and Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash on top. They attempt to do this while practicing their cheer but instantly fall due to their train coming to a screeching halt. When they perform it for real in front of who they think is the chairman, however, they had to do it without Rarity since she was busy fixing up Princess Cadence in the Salon.
- The main 6 form another pyramid in "Magical Mystery Cure" with Twilight Sparkle on top.
- The Cutie Mark Crusaders do this again in "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls" to try to break into Sapphire Shores' dance club because they couldn't get past the security at the front door. Scootaloo tried to fly up to the window using Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom for extra support. Unfortunately, her wings still failed her, and they all crashed.
- In an episode of Cow and Chicken, Cow, Chicken and Flem do this to spy on the new school bully. Similar to the Pink Panther example above, Cow put herself on top because she was the tallest.
- WordGirl: Lady Redundant Woman can do this with her army of duplicates.
- Had been done a few times in The Magic School Bus.
- After much infighting and dithering, Tina puts together a human ladder to rescue Louise from the old taffy factory in Bob's Burgers.
- Discussed in the Toy Story made-for-TV featurette, "Toy Story of Terror". While most of the toys are locked up in a cabinet, Jessie makes it out but isn't tall enough to reach the lock. She decides to go rescue Woody so that she can climb onto his shoulders to reach the lock. When they both make it back, Woody fortunately had the same idea, but Jessie came up with a better idea at the last second.
- In the Season 2 Premeire episode of Littlest Pet Shop (2012), the pets all pile up on each other to keep themselves out of view of a webcam so Blythe can't see them with Zoe on the bottom.
- The pets have actually started to make this a standard technique of theirs starting in Season 2, usually so that one of them (usually Russell) could get at eye level with Blythe.