Bees and moths whirr above you like helicopters. Flowers and blades of grass loom over you. Familiar household objects are like huge, immovable obstacles. Your fellow human beings blot out the sky with their immense, towering girth. Sound like a bad case of the Mondays? Think again: you've been shrunk!
The plots of Shrinking Man stories tend to involve hapless victims of Applied Phlebotinum suddenly becoming one finger tall (Magic Pants included), struggling to navigate a formerly friendly environment (such as a house or yard) and spending the rest of the episode trying not to get killed or eaten while attracting the notice of normal-sized folks who might be able to change them back to normal. (Don't expect the message to get acrossimmediately.)
A subset of Shapeshifting. Often times this is how the human protagonists are introduced to (and/or imprisoned in) the Mouse World.
Considered somewhat hokey to do in live-action nowadays, even in Sci Fi, owing to the Square/Cube Law. In cartoons, however, you can get away with it.
If the characters are shrunk down far enough, they could embark on a Fantastic Voyage Plot.
Depending on how the shrinking works, they may or may not get their clothes to shrink with them—resulting in Empty Piles of Clothing or something similar.
Contrast with Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever. See also Shrink Ray.
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Anime and Manga
Happens to Narancia in Part 5 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure when he's attacked by an enemy with the ability to shrink his victims by stabbing them with his dagger.
Happens in the Cardcaptor Sakura TV episode where Sakura is shrunk by the Little card.
Happens only in the manga version of Busou Renkin, when Tokiko is hit multiple times by Madoka's Bubble Cage.
Also happens in Ghost Sweeper Mikami, when the eponymous Action Girl is hit by a dart from a spirit and in few hours she's shrunk to the size of a Barbie doll. She and her assistants must find the culprit and exorcise him, lest she will keep shrinking and disappear.
Happens in one episode in the anime adaptation of Kochikame when the main character Ryotsu was shrunk by the wizard from Heaven. He goes through mishaps in the police box and later helped taking out criminals holding up hostages.
Happens to the 5 main girls in Yes! Pretty Cure 5GoGo! when one of the villains gives them a fake version of the Rose Pact that shrinks them.
In one episode of the original Dragon Ball, Bulma develops an invention that can shrink anybody. Master Roshi decides to use it to watch Bulma go to the bathroom. He doesn't get to see her go, but he does get flushed down the toilet.
DC Super HeroThe Atom had this as his power; some plots involved him or other characters shrinking and then having the size controls taken away/break.
And of course, there was the appearance of the Atom at the end of Identity Crisis, wherein he shrinks out of existence after finding out his ex-wife killed Sue Dibny.
In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman rescues him from a deserted island in a strange universe full of monsters. Except that he's actually trapped in a Petri dish, fighting what would normally be micro-organisms.
The Atom has also lampshaded some of the oddities of his powers. When questioned about how people can breathe when they're barely the size of a cell, he admits that he has no idea how and he just goes with it.
Bumblebee from the Teen Titans and Doom Patrol was accidently reduced to the size of a small toy. Unlike most shrinking superheroes, she has yet to find a way to regain her original size.
In the Superman / Superboy / Supergirl DC 'verse, an entire CITY (Kandor) was shrunk to microscopic size so as to preserve it when Krypton exploded. Superman kept it in what appeared to be a five gallon water bottle. Superman and others (notably Jimmy Olsen) would visit after being shrunk by various means but, apparently, any inhabitant who escaped the bottle automatically grew to "normal" size.
Incorrect. While Kandorians would gain superpowers upon leaving the bottle's artificial Kryptonian environment, they wouldn't expand unless some kind of Applied Phlebotinum was used.
In fact, many comic book characters have shrinking (or size-changing in general) as their primary superpower (i.e. Ant-Man, The Wasp...)
This happens to Donald Duck, Scrooge and the nephews (along with Scrooge's whole money bin) in several different comic books by Carl Barks and Don Rosa. One of these was also "adapted" into a DuckTales episode, except that the episode had almost nothing to do with the story aside from the premise of the characters getting shrunk.
One quasi-educational story from the early '60s had Donald take his nephews (through an uncannily prescient virtual-reality device) on a trip through the mundane everyday world while shrunk increasingly smaller to encounter phenomena more fantastic than any make-believe reality the nephews could think of.
Happened to Bart in an early issue of The Simpsons comic book.
Almost every incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a story of this type. The first cartoon (and subsequently, the Archie comic book based on it) did this during the "Eye of Sarnath" arc in an episode called "The Incredible Shrinking Turtles". The Mirage comic book has this as Donatello's current status quo (as of May 2009). The second cartoon had the episode "The Incredible Shrinking Serling", where time travel (don't ask) makes him the size of an action figure.
The Fantastic Four found themselves in a variant situation when they are captured by Doctor Doom and placed in a machine where their consciousnesses were transferred into miniature duplicates of themselves in a tiny simulation of a town called Liddleville. Eventually, they break out, manage to defeat Doom in their mini-versions and restore their consciousnesses to their real bodies.
In the Marvel Universe in general, anyone who shrinks below a certain limit (apparantly somewhere between cellular size and molecular size) shifts into a "microverse" - the theory is that a shrinking person is actually displacng their mass extradimensionally, and when 99.99999999999999% is over there, the rest (and consciousness) follows. Among the notable inhabitants of microverses are Psycho Man, Jarella (a lover of The Hulk for a while), and the (now out of continuity) Micronauts.
Colossal Boy has this power in the 2004 relaunch of Legion Of Super-Heroes. So why's he called Colossal Boy? Because he's from a race of giants, and has the power to "shrink" down to six feet tall. He insists on being called "Micro-Lad."
More traditionally, Legion regular Shrinking Violet, who comes from the planet of Imsk where everyone has shrinking powers.
Also from Imsk is her evil counterpart Micro Lad, part of a group of radicals that were responsible for kidnapping Violet and replacing her with Durlan actress Yera. In the Reboot continuity, there was another Imsk hero named Ion who was a candidate for Legion membership before Micro Lad killed her.
The graphic novel In the Small features this happening to every human on Earth due to a mysterious blue flash. Shrunken, terrorized by animals and unable to use most technology, they need to rebuild everything in miniature.
In the revived Xombi series from 2011, John Rozum introduced Nun the Less, a nun who gained shrinking abilities after she ingested bad shrimp when she was 16.
In Huge Success, Tony decided to look at Dr. Pym's pym particles without permission and ended up being 6 inches tall.
Some form of shrinking happens in many of GirlX2's stories, often due to "Lilliputian Syndrome."
It should be pointed out that the Square/Cube Law may have been somewhat averted in this particular movie because Scott Carey very slowly shrinks, thus giving his body a chance to adapt to his changing size.
As noted in Stephen King's Danse Macabre, Richard Matheson originally made the eponymous man shrink a constant rate of 1/7th of an inch per day rather than by a given proportion, resulting in the Fridge Logic of what happens when he gets to that height.
The Lily Tomlin vehicle The Incredible Shrinking Woman made her decreasing size, caused by exposure to too many household cleansers, food additives, and hygiene products, a parable about out-of-control consumerism.
This was the basis for the plot of the live-action movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, along with its sequel, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves and the TV series that followed, also called Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
In The Beatles movie Help!, a character uses a special injection to shrink Ringo's finger in order to remove a sacrificial ring naming him an offering to a Hindi god, but misses and hits Paul in the leg, whereupon the scene cuts away to a card reading "The Exciting Adventures of Paul on the Floor".
In Dot And Keeto, Dot goes to eat the root that lets her talk to animals so she can apologize to some ants her brother was tormenting, but she accidentally eats the root next to it, which makes her shrink down to the size of a bug (and able to talk to them). After trying to get the attention of her brother and mother, she goes on an adventure among the bugs until her friend Kangaroo shrinks down, too, and brings her some of the root that will make her the proper size again.
Fantastic Voyage, in which a submersible is shrunk to microscopic size to be injected into a comatose spy to laser away the clots that are killing him. This has been pointed out, more than once, leads to a stupid conclusion where the people abandon the ship and swim to safety, being extracted from the tear ducts before they return to normal size automatically. No mention is ever made of the sub growing to normal size and exploding the patient.
The Novelisation of Fantastic Voyage was written by Isaac Asimov, who insisted on writing in that the sub did get removed at the end specifically to avoid the whole sub expanding and killing the patient issue.
The Phantom Planet, where an astronaut lands on a tiny planetoid and, as soon as he breathes their air, shrinks to six inches tall (without his clothing). He later grows back to normal by breathing the air in his spacesuit tank. (This caused the Mystery Science Theater 3000 to riff ,"So people are just balloons?")
In Innerspace Tuck is shrink down to microscopic size for an experimental fantastic voyage through the body of a rabbit, but winds up injected into Jack when all hell breaks loose at the lab.
Happens twice in Animorphs. Once, a tiny alien race called the Helmacrons shrinks some of the Animorphs. The second time, the Helmacrons enter Marco's body, so the Animorphs have to shrink themselves in order to enter Marco's body and stop the Helmacrons from killing Marco.
The Incredible Adventures of Karik and Valya has two kids drinking some liquid and shrinking to insect size, then being whisked into nature by a dragonfly. Needless to say, the whole thing is very dangerous.
The British SF novel Cold War in a Country Garden.
Shrinking is one of the less bizarre experiences Alice has in Wonderland.
Used in one of the Danny Dunn children's scifi adventures.
Two books in the Eerie Indiana series use this. The Incredible Shrinking Stanley, in which Stanley gets splashed with special soap from the Eerie laundry mat and starts shrinking, and The Dollhouse That Time Forgot where Marshall, after exploring a house that looks suspiciously like the dollhouse his sister just bought, finds himself getting smaller and smaller. The latter overlaps with The Doll Episode.
The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, on which the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man was based (almost all modern editions of the novel even add the "Incredible" part to the book's title, as the movie is more famous).
The 1936 short story He Who Shrunk takes this beyond all limits: a Mad Scientist injects his assistant with a serum that will make him shrink indefinitely. Said assitant shrinks to subatomic sizes, discovers that every atom is actually a solar system, lands on a planet, shrinks below the size of the atoms of that planet, and so on without end. It's a handy way of visiting innumerable planets without a spaceship*
It was mentioned early on that the serum also conveniently allow you to breath in space
. The end of the story has the protagonist visit our Earth.
The plot of the young adult book "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" by Marianne Malone. Complete with a fight with a cockroach.
In one episode of The Greatest American Hero, Ralph gets another copy of the suit's manual from the original aliens - but shrinks himself while experimenting, gets scared by an ant, panics and goes back to normal size, leaving the manual shrunk... I guess they also gave him an Idiot Ball to go with the replacement manual.
In Doctor Who, a specific component of the TARDIS can change the size of things, and presumably relates to how a TARDIS can be bigger on the inside.
The early serial "Planet of the Giants" featured the first Doctor and companions trying to stay alive in a typical suburban home after a TARDIS malfunction reduced them to the size of bugs.
The First Doctor permanently crippled the TARDIS of the Meddling Monk by removing the "dimensional control" so the other Time Lord couldn't get back into his (brand new, more advanced) TARDIS; afterwards, the console room was too small for him to fit inside.
In "The Invisible Enemy", the Fourth Doctor temporarily removed the "relative dimensional stabilizer" from his TARDIS to shrink clones of Leela and himself so they could be injected them into the doctor's brain to fight a virus (in an homage to the Incredible Voyage).
Later, another rogue Time Lord weaponized one in The Armageddon Factor (but wound up shrinking himself and the Doctor instead of the enemy).
The Master similarly uses a "Tissue Compression Eliminator" weapon which kills people by shrinking them, possibly the same technology but without the normally associated life support mechanisms allowing subjects to still breathe and such.
In Planet of Fire, they meet a minaturised Master who had an accident while working on his TCE.
Some similar non-Gallifreyan technologies showed up occasionally.
In "Carnival of Monsters" the Third Doctor accidentally landed the TARDIS inside a "compression field", where the people on the outside were giants in comparison. Anything removed from the compression field returned to normal size within a few seconds. (The first thing so removed was the TARDIS, because it was interfering with the compression field. A giant hand reached in and picked it up.)
In "The Pirate Planet", the Fourth Doctor encountered a bad guy who kept the shrunken remains of planets he'd destroyed as trophies.
Farscape "I Shrink Therefore I Am". The crew are shrunk by bounty hunters to make them easier to transport and control. Sikozu immediately starts listing all the reasons why this is impossible (their brains should be too simple to function, and they shouldn't be able to breathe normal-sized air molecules) until Rygel tells her to just shut up and accept that the impossible has happened. The episode ends with a fight between Crichton and the Villain of the Week, with each trying to shrink the other and resize themselves. Needless to say, someone ends up getting squashed nastily.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "One Little Ship": A runabout is sent to study a Negative Space Wedgie whose shrinking effect is already known (the fact that the explorers will be shrunk is a matter of great amusement to those staying behind). Unfortunately the Defiant is captured by Jem'Hadar and the now miniscule explorers must help the crew take back the ship. One scene has Bashir and O'Brien having to exit the runabout to alter a circuit — because they can't breathe the full-sized air molecules outside, they beam a bubble of the runabout's air inside the circuit's casing. The episode ends with Odo and Quark pulling a rare practical joke on Bashir and O'Brien, by pretending they haven't "quite" returned to full size.
On Misfits of Science, seven-foot-tall Dr. Elvin Lincoln had been working on a treatment that would make him shorter; he overdid it a bit and wound up with the ability to make himself six inches tall at will.
"The Mighty Mites" segment of Owl TV revolved around a group of kids who shrink themselves at will to study insects and other small creatures.
The first half of the two-part Mork And Mindy episode "Mork In Wonderland" centers on Mork shrinking after taking a cold capsule (the explanation is that the capsule is supposed to shrink the nasal membranes in humans, but Orkans are entirely membrane).
In Lois and Clark, Clark got shrunk to 6 inches tall. Thankfully, he still has all of his powers.
In the Charmed episode Size Matters, the Charmed Ones get shrunk by a demon with a shrink wand.
Sesame Street had a two-part story in which Big Bird was shrunk to about the size of a Twiddlebug.
In the Wild Wild West episode "the Night of the Raven", Dr. Loveless shrinks James West and a Native American princess.
Done with Magellan in the Eureka's Castle special Don't Touch That Box!.
The 1950s series World of Giants had a secret agent who had been shrunk to 6 inches tall. In the first episode he must get past a cat then climb to a desk top and dial an immense phone.
In ABC's "Poison Arrow" video, Martin Fry gets shrunk by the unattainable love interest's magic face powder.
One memorable scenario from the early days of Dungeon magazine involved the player characters being shrunk down to the size of gaming miniatures by a malfunctioning magical orb. Unusual in that, aside from the usual small animals posing a deadly threat, many previous groups of travelers had already fallen prey to this effect, forming themselves into Wacky Wayside Tribes that feud over the resources of a small garden.
It also cuts their mass (because the Mario games already laugh in the face of physics). It does not change the strength of jumps. These two facts allow Mario to vault through the air and fall much more slowly.
In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, Guybrush uses one of the buttons on De Singe's Auto-Trepanation Helmet and gets shrunk a bit smaller than the size of a lab vole for a bit before growing back to normal size.
Teeko from Chirault gets shrunk by an accidental spell from an unlicensed mage. Finding a way to return her to her former size seems to be a major plot point.
Dream Tales has a whole series of comics featuring shrinking men and women.
Magick Chicks once had Melissa shrunk by upset Hekate. Out of clothes, not that she did wear a lot in the first place. And then turned into a flying pixie wearing only laced wings.
Some size warpers in the Whateley Universe can do this. Sizemax can either be a 30-foot giant or a couple inches high.
Small Problem is a blog ostensibly written by Debby Small, who's 6½ inches tall.
The SCP Foundation deconstructs this with the resizing device SCP-1056. Shrinking or resizing people with it usually results in their brains and internal organs undergoing re-arrangement or ceasing to work correctly. (In particular, if you're shrunk, your brain becomes smaller and thus you become dumber.)
In the Ed Edd N Eddy music video ''The Incredible Shrinking Day'' (which isn't canon), Sarah makes a shrinking potion, spikes a pitcher of lemonade with it, and offers some to the Eds, who drank the concoction and shrunk so that Sarah can play with them. It wears off after they hid from Sarah.
Happened in one episode of Jackie Chan Adventures. A miscast "disappearing" spell shrunk both Jackie and bad guy Hak Foo.
Xiaolin Showdown did both this and its opposite: Lead character Omi uses the Changing Chopsticks to make himself huge in order to defeat the giant Cyclops and loses. When he tries to go back to his normal size, Omi shrinks to mini size for the remainder of the episode.
In the Tale Spin episode "The Incredible Shrinking Molly", Molly runs afoul of a wacky Mad Scientist and his shrinking machine. The scientist eventually shrinks Baloo, Rebecca and the Sea Duck so they can save her.
This happened in the Darkwing Duck episode "Getting Antsy", where a crook was using a shrink-ray to loot the city using ants. Darkwing ends up getting zapped and reduced to the size of an ant for most of the episode and gets shrunk a second time near the end, where he ends up coming up with an unusual way of saving the day.
Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers features this reversed in one episode by Professor Nimnul to make ordinary bugs huge to fake an alien invasion, and more-or-less used straight in a later episode when some mob goons steal his device to shrink and steal buildings. In both cases, the Rescue Rangers, remaining their normal size (apart from Zipper in the earlier episode), thwart the bad guys.
Finally both played straight and reversed in another episode, where Chinese big bad used shrinking ray to increase size (and luxury) of cars, and then import sell them. By the end of the episode, Rescue Rangers grow to the size of a human, and then back.
In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Frylock invents a shrink ray to shrink down a huge microchip, which is eaten by Meatwad. Out of options on how to get the chip out of Meatwad, Frylock gets Shake to shrink him, but Shake abuses the ray for his own amusement.
Danny Phantom episode "Micro Management" where Jack shrunk Danny, Skulker, and accidentally, Dash down to size. Had the added bonus of Danny slowly losing his powers because of it, risking his Secret Identity to the local Jerk Jock as the two tried to make their way up with The Hunter in pursuit.
The 1967 Fantastic Four cartoon took this to a whole new level, shrinking the heroes until they wound up in a subatomic universe, then shrinking them some more, making them tiny within that context.
The latest cartoon adaptation also did a shrinking episode, but they were able to reverse the effect (with help from Ant-Man) before it got anywhere near that far.
The animated version of Mork and Mindy did this plot as well; when Mork shrunk, he found himself in a microverse populated with warped (or even evil) duplicates of his friends.
The solo 1980s Spider-Man cartoon shrunk its hero in, aptly enough, "The Incredible Shrinking Spider-Man".
Also done in the early comics, but turned out to be one of Mysterio's illusions.
Also done in 1994 series, as a part of Nightmare Fuel, during a nightmare.
There's also an episode where he shrinks down to have a chat with his (not making this up) evil, undead, pet gerbil, only to discover that it's Ax Crazy and out for revenge.
There's also the episode where Timmy wishes he could have one last adventure with his Crimson Chin doll, upon which Cosmo and Wanda shrink him down to toy size. Much of this episode is very reminiscint of the movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.
Inch High, Private Eye was a 1970s series about a very short detective.
There was an episode of the Mega Man cartoon where Dr. Wily plotted to shrink cities so he could hold entire populations hostage. Naturally Mega Man and Rush were shrunk also.
In the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "Small Stuff", our duo is shrunk after going through the dryer.
One episode of The Venture Brothers cartoon has a shrink-ray gun Dr. Venture designed being sold at his yard sale. A later episode has Venture and Dr. Orpheus squaring off and betting over whether science or magic was better, deciding on shrinking as a challenge. Orpheus's incantations only shrink furniture, and Venture's shrink-ray gun is defective...testing it on Billy Quizboy has disturbing results.
The fairies in Winx Club who have earned their Enchantix form can shrink into tiny versions of themselves. Bloom initially doesn't have this power since her Enchantix is incomplete, but she gains it after The Secret of the Lost Kingdom.
The Magic School Bus featured many episodes in which at least some (if not all) of the students shrinking to explore nature and its phenomena up close.
Phineas And Ferb do this to themselves in "Hide and Seek" to make the game more enjoyable, but Baljeet gets trapped in front of the air conditioner, and Candace has the shrinking machine.
Spoofed in the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "The Incredible Shrinking Fanboy", where Fanboy only thinks he's shrinking, after the flower where he marks his growth grows overnight. Yo uses this to her advantage, giving him a helmet with magnifying lenses to help with the illusion while she takes Chum-Chum to her room to play with.
The Alvin And The Chipmunks episode "Funny We Shrunk the Adults," is one where Dave and Miss Miller are shrunken by Simon's "matter compacting" ray. At the same time, the Chipmunks and some neighbor kids who they are trying to impress are wrecking the house with their rowdy playing and bringing in things like a circus, including the animals. In fact, it was the rowdy playing that made the shrink ray turn on and zap Dave in the first place.
Inverted in an earlier episode with Dave walking from a dream about him shrinking.
In an episode of Eek! The Cat called "Honey, I Shrunk the Cat", both Eek and Sharky were accidentally shrunken down by Elmo the elk's shrinking machine. After a failed attempt to grow back to their normal sizes, Eek and Sharky put some astronaut suits on and go to a sick president's nostril and travel inside his head to get a raisin off his brain (despite growing a little bigger amount every single time). After Eek and Sharky remove the raisin, the president sneezes them out of his nose. They did grow back when they eventually fly out the window and crash into the ground.
In the Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders episode "Full Circle", after the villainess Lady Kale tries to harness the ultimate magic of the Crown Jewels, it becomes too much for her and the power ends up shrinking her in size before she fades out to dust.
Happens in The Jetsons once. It's George who gets shrunk.
Princess Gwendolyn being magically shrunk by the Evil Duke is the event that kickstarts the plot of Gawayn.
The Smurfs episode "The Incredible Shrinking Wizard", which combines this trope with a Green Aesop. Gargamel shrinks after drinking from a muck pond polluted with his potions, and negative emotions cause him to shrink even further. Only by doing good deeds can he grow back to his original size.
Another episode where Slouchy wishes to be the tallest Smurf also causes the other Smurfs to be shrunk to bug size.