Paddleball Shot

"Did someone say cheap 3-D tricks?"

A trope exclusive to 3D movies. When making a film specifically for a 3D release, many filmmakers like to play with the 3D effects by making people and objects appear to reach out from the screen at the audience. More often than not it's simply done for its own sake to show off the 3D effects, but this can also be used to invoke a sense of danger, such as throwing sharp objects or driving cars right at the camera. The effect is unfortunately lost, however, when the film is eventually released on DVD in 2D, leaving viewers wondering why these characters enjoy shoving stuff into the camera so much.

Depending on one's personal preference toward 3D movies, it can be seen as either using the medium to its full potential, or just adding a gimmick onto another gimmick.


  • Trope Namer comes from the famous scene from House of Wax (1953) where a person playing with a paddleball turns toward the camera and bounces it right at the audience.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens makes a shout-out to that same scene in the opening sequence, with a man at a radio station also playing with a paddleball.
  • The Minions from Despicable Me deliberately do this in teasers for the film. The first one has them see who can reach out to the audience the farthest, and the second film's teaser involves a chorus of Minions singing a parody of "Barbara Ann" while blowing a noisemaker at the screen.
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift has several instances, especially in the scenes involving the pirates, where their weapons constantly being swung, thrown or thrust towards the audience.
  • Paddleball shots are a staple of IMAX 3D films.
    • This wasinverted for the opening credits of the 2002 documentary Space Station 3D, which, with the aid of rear and side surround-sound channels, gave the impression of massive block-letters, not jumping towards you from the screen, but flying from behind you, going into the screen. Sadly, encoding for the 3D Blu-Ray release has a glitch that makes the image for both eyes identical for the first three and a half minutes, negating this effect.
  • Parodied in a sketch on The Lenny Henry Show in which one of two doomed men in the opening scene of a spoof horror film keeps waving his fishing pole around. The other guy asks him what he's doing, and the first says he's making the most of the 3D effects (the sketch is not shot in 3D, although the pole behaves like a bad 3D effect).
  • The 1982 Disney theme park effort Magic Journeys has several such shots. The most famous is one of a kite in flight — anecdotes of viewers reaching out to touch it are the stuff of Disney legend — but there's also a carousel's brass ring, a montage of spooky imagery highlighted by a Wicked Witch shooting lightning from her hands, drifting balloons, etc.
  • Captain EO, its replacement, has similar hijinks. Among them: a floating rock blown up by a laser in the opening shot, starship debris, the Supreme Leader's claws, and two extended bits in which Fuzzball floats out towards the audience.
  • Muppet*Vision 3D:
    • To put the page quote into context, Kermit the Frog had just assured the audience that they will not stoop to cheap 3D tricks, which is Fozzie's cue to blow a noisemaker at the audience.
    • Jim Henson said in an interview that a goal of this film was to top the Magic Journeys kite. So other examples of paddleball shots include the flying remote controled pie and Waldo the Computer Graphic seeming to point his nose right at the viewer (joking that everyone else in the theater thinks he's personally addressing them). Even Sweetums gets in on the fun with an actual paddleball!
  • Taken to its logical conclusion at the Corkscrew Hill ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. A wicked witch reaches into the audience and pulls out one of its members.
  • Parodied in the Monster Chiller Horror Theater segments on SCTV, which ocassionally show fake 3-D films that consist of nothing but this - minus the 3-D. ("Have some pancakes!")
  • On the Home Improvement Three-Dimensional Episode, Tim and Al spend all of Tool Time shamelessly shoving things at the camera.
  • Used in the 3D Looney Tunes short "Lumber Jack-Rabbit", where the WB shield flies into the audience in the opening.
  • Used very blatantly in Spy Kids 3D, where things like frog tongues, cogs, fists, cars and all sorts of stuff get thrown straight at the viewer on every possible opportunity, which is VERY visible if you're watching the movie in 2D.
  • Parodied by The Cinema Snob when reviewing Friday The13th Part 3, given the movie is equally guilty.