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Shrink Ray
Amy: How can we be in here? How do we fit?
Rory: Miniaturisation ray.
Amy: How would you know that?
Rory: Well, there was a ray, and then we were miniaturised.

Examples in various media of a ray (a portable gun or a fixed installation) which can be used to shrink things (or, in some cases, alternately to expand things, probably by reversing the beam polarity). Has been subjected to Science Marches On and is a Discredited Trope; examples that do appear these days are more or less humorous, or else aimed at a target audience of kids.

Most (not necessarily all) such are usually typified by one or more of the following:
  1. The shrunk object doesn't need to be unshrunk; this happens automatically (indeed, it can't be prevented).
  2. The further something is shrunk, the less time it remains shrunk.
  3. The mass of the object changes in proportion to the size change (well, to be pedantic, in proportion to the cube of the size change).
  4. Shrunk objects are more fragile than objects which are naturally of that size; this was handwaved in Fantastic Voyage as being because shrunk objects have loads of miniature atoms crammed into the space normally occupied by one atom.
  5. Shrunk/expanded items, even living creatures, continue to function as normal. (As anyone who's read Haldane's famous essay "On Being the Right Size", about the Square/Cube Law, knows, this is unrealistic; any living creature changed in size by more than a small extent would die in short order, due to being the wrong size for its shape.)

See also Incredible Shrinking Man, No Conservation Of Mass, Shapeshifter Baggage.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • A commercial for Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters shows a bunch of guys using one of these in the woods so that one of them can shrink and sneak into the girls' tent. Unfortunately, they didn't take the owls into consideration...

    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the recurring gadgets in Doraemon is a "Small Light". A flashlight-like shrink ray which shrinks any object and person down and does wear out eventually as seen in one movie. There's also a "Big Light" which does the opposite.
  • In Anpanman, this, in the form of a pistol, is Arinkokiddo's weapon, along with a growth gun. He's a tiny ant cowboy, so a zap from his shrink gun will bring the victim down to his size, with the growth gun being the only way to reverse the effects. In return, the growth gun can be used first to grow the victim into a colossal size, with the shrink gun returning them. The guns used to be squirt guns that launched out a liquid that changed sizes, but they now blast lasers. Thanks to his already tiny size, Baikinman has a tendency to nab his guns while he's napping, leaving him defenseless.
    • In her original debut, Dokinchan's spear was also the form of a shrink ray. Like Arinkokiddo it has two color sides; red for shrinking, and blue for enlarging. It was even seen afterwards.
    • Another episode had Bakinman inventing a mobile shrink ray. He originally intended it to shrink Anpanman, but instead gets shrunk himself. Then he gets bigger later after Horrorman and Dokinchan smashed it.

    Comic Books 
  • In Silver Age DC Comics, Superman had one that could be used to allow people to enter the bottled city of Kandor (which was originally shrunk by Brainiac using a shrink ray).
    • Notably, Superman's shrink ray worked by exchanging one full-size person for one shrunken Kandorian, making them swap sizes. It was many years before he could find a way to enlarge all of Kandor on its own, and permanently. Brainiac's shrink ray, on the other hand, was this trope played straight.
  • The DC Comics hero The Atom had the ability to alter his size and weight at will.
  • Pym Particles in the Marvel Universe, which can shrink and grow things. Discovered by Hank Pym, he uses them to both shrink and grow under the moniker of Ant Man/Giant Man/Goliath/Wasp/Whatever he feels like calling himself today.
  • In 'Power Pack', the character with the mass powers, usually Jack, has the ability to shrink to miniature size but retains his full mass
  • In All Fall Down, the Order of Despots has one on the Moon, and threaten to shrink the Earth with it. It comes up again later as a possible solution to a Colony Drop-sized asteroid which turns out to be a hoax.
  • 1980's British Starblazer. The Matter Condensor could shrink a cargo to a fraction of its normal size, enabling a small freighter to carry much more. Upon arrival the process was reversed.
  • Sonic the Comic charater Nack the Weasel uses size-altering cartridges which fire a ray that can shrink things or make them larger.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, SHIELD contacts Giant Man to provide them with gas that shrinks Godzilla for more manageable size for several issues.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids hits two of the above points — the mass of everything that's shrunk is reduced, and living creatures function perfectly normally. On the other hand, everything that's shrunk has to be manually unshrunk by the same machine, and they're no more fragile than at normal size.
    • Note that non-shrunken characters do take care to never touch the shrunken ones.
  • Fantastic Voyage features a submarine crewed by surgeons which is sent into a scientist's brain to destroy a blood clot from the inside.
  • Despicable Me has Gru plotting to use a shrink ray to steal the moon. Not only are the effects temporary, but their duration are inversely proportionate to the subject's original mass (i.e., the bigger the object, the faster it grows back to normal).
  • Mars Attacks!: The Martian leader uses one on General Decker, then squashes the general under his boot.
  • Attack of the Puppet People: The puppet people don't actually attack. They've been shrunk by a puppeteer.
  • Once Upon a Spy: The Big Bad has a device that can fire a beam that shrinks large objects (like an aircraft carrier) down to the size of toys. He ends up being shrunk by his own device.
  • Not a ray, but The Devil Doll featured a shrinkage-inducing chemical process that reduced people or animals to the size of toys. Could be the Ur Example, from 1936.

    Literature 
  • In Animorphs, the ant-sized Helmacrons use a shrink ray to shrink the Animorphs down to their size.
  • Captain Underpants has the Shrinky-Pig 2000, invented by Professor Poopypants. He also invented the Goosy-Grow 4000.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat For President has Jim diGriz and his team carry items of miniaturised equipment, plus a shrinker/expander. Features only the "mass change" item above.
  • The Size Spies by Jan Needle features a shrink ray created by an eccentric inventor, then stolen from its inventor.
  • The Harry Potter books feature the spell "Reducio", which has this effect. Not to be confused with "Reducto" which causes them to explode instead.
  • In L'Homme Élastique by Jacques Spitz, a scientist invents a nearly realistic version: it shows shrunk (or enlarged) beings live just as well as regular ones, but at least it acknowledges the problem and tries to Hand Wave it. Notably, mass is conserved, and the scientist gains the attention of the Army when he shows that miniaturized soldiers are tiny, hyperdense juggernauts.
  • The Television-Chocolate setup in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory involves one. Because the image of an object on television is always smaller than the actual object, teleporting an actual object by television requires the object in question to be much larger than it ordinarily would be — the result is that a chocolate bar the size of mattress comes out on the other end as no bigger than a regular chocolate bar. When Mike Teavee decides to try the system on himself, he winds up small enough to fit in the palm of his mother's hand. Since this ray's effects are permanent by design, Mike has to be stretched out to restore him to anything close to his original height (and winds up quite a bit taller than that).

    Live Action TV 
  • Sid & Marty Krofft Productions had an episodic kids' show called Dr. Shrinker in The Seventies, in which five or six people were shrunk down to less than six inches.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master was armed in many of his appearances with a ray gun called the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which simultaneously killed the target and shrank the corpse down to a convenient-to-dispose-of size. It kept the rule about shrunk objects having less mass, but mostly averted the one about living creatures surviving the process.
      • The one case where a person miniaturized by the TCE surviving was when The Master accidentally miniaturized himself (From the dialog, it is implied that he actually died, but then regenerated at his smaller size, forcing him to remotely take control of the robot Kamelian to restore himself to normal size.)
    • "The Invisible Enemy" includes a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot (using a shrink ray based on the same technology as lets the TARDIS be bigger on the inside, allowing a bit of handwaving about the issues of shrinking living things).
    • "The Armageddon Factor", by the same writers, had another shrink ray based on the same technology, built by a Time Lord friend of the Doctor's so the two of them could shrink down and hitch a lift into the villain's base.
    • Lampshaded in "Let's Kill Hitler". The episode featured a robot that can shrink people and transport them inside itself. When Amy and Rory are captured, Rory explains that they were hit by a "miniaturisation ray" because "Well, there was a ray, and then we were miniaturized."
  • The Avengers episode "Mission...Highly Improbable" has a device that sends out a ray that shrinks objects or people down to the size of toys.
  • An episode of Eureka featured a ray designed to shrink small inanimate objects by shunting most of their mass to an alternate dimension. Only... it was miscalibrated, and accidentally shrunk the entire town. Humans thus shrunk were still capable of functioning normally, other than being unusually hungry.
  • 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.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • GURPS Supers. The Shrinking power can be given the advantage Affects Others, allowing it to act as this.
    • The supplement Supertemps. The hero Nucleus' nanosuit can generate a shrink field that affects other living beings.
  • Champions. When the power Shrinking is given the advantages Ranged and Usable On Others it works as one of these.
  • Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (SAGA System) Adventure 3 Fantastic Four: Fantastic Voyages. In the adventure "The Body Perilous" one of these is used to shrink the PC heroes to microscopic size so they can be injected into Scott Long's (Ant-Man's) body. Once inside, they must destroy several crystals embedded in his heart.
  • Carcosa: Weird Science-Fantasy Horror Setting. Space Alien shrink rays can reduce targets to 1/10th normal size for 24 hours.

    Video Games 
  • In the ZX Spectrum game "The Incredible Shrinking Fireman", the titular character, whilst fighting a blaze at a factory, accidentally gets zapped by a shrink ray and must find a way to expand back to full size.
  • Duke Nukem 3D has one that shrinks your enemies for a short time. You then have to step on them, or they return to their original size. There's a one point where you can aim at a mirror and shrink yourself to pass through a small hole into a room full of power ups. There's also at least two points involving wall-mounted shrink rays which Duke has to use to pass through a tiny hole and thereby finish the level, and one of the new enemies in the fourth episode of the Atomic Edition has a shrink ray as one of its weapons.
  • One type of Kanoka disk in BIONICLE has the ability to shrink the target.
  • The Purple Tentacle in Day Of The Tentacle invented one of these, and used it on the heroes while chasing them. They finally convince him to take out his anger on Dr. Fred instead, but the ray is reflected on his medical headband onto Purple, and that's how they manage to defeat him.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: The Strong Homogenous Residual-Interactive Neutron Kinetic beam of the allied Cryocopter.
  • The unmodified de-noodlizer in Parappa The Rapper 2 can shrink or enlarge characters (including Parappa) when a certain character presses the button on its remote control, even with help from the Guru Ant, of course.
  • You use one to steal the Eiffel Tower in Evil Genius. And to subdue a fellow supervillain.

    Western Animation 
  • Hanna-Barbera
    • In Micro Ventures, a segment on The Banana Splits show, Professor Carter and his two teenagers use a shrinking machine to reduce themselves and their dune buggy to miniature size and explore a Mouse World.
    • Superfriends 1973/74 episode "Gulliver's Gigantic Goof''. The villain Dr. Hiram Gulliver uses one on the Superfriends.
    • Space Ghost episode "The Evil Collector". The title villain uses a "minibeam" on Space Ghost, Jan and Jace.
    • Birdman
      • Episode "The Ant Ape". Dr. Claw tries to use his Ultra Diminishing Ray pistol on Birdman but hits the Ant Ape instead.
      • Episode "Meets Reducto". The title villain creates a Reduction Machine with an attached pistol. Any creature or object it is fired at is reduced it to tiny size.
  • In a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode, the tiny people that Lisa grew made a "debigulator" which shrank Lisa down to their size so she could visit their world. Their world's version of Professor Frink found the concept of a "rebigulator" to be ridiculous.
  • On The Penguins of Madagascar, Kowalski mentions that they are 700 years from perfecting a shrink ray (712 after Skipper destroys the prototype). In a later episode, Kowalski has a working shrink ray, but although the results are shown, you never actually see him use it.
    • ... in that it actually shrinks him instead.
  • Naturally, Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory has one, and in one occasion he uses it to shrink himself and spy on Dee Dee.
  • Phineas and Ferb do this twice. Once shrinking themselves in a submarine that ends up in Candace, and again later shrinking along with friends to play hide and seek inside.
  • Gerry Anderson's lesser-known (and last) Supermarionation series The Secret Service features a shrink ray that Father Unwin uses to shrink secret agent Matthew to two feet tall. This allows Matthew to infiltrate the enemy's hideouts and learn their plans (allowing the 2-foot tall marionette to appear in full-size sets, occasionally hiding from full-size human arms and legs, or pets). It can also be used to literally bring the enemy down to size.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants featured the shrink ray twice:
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Rufus vs. Commodore Puddles", Dr Draken planned to use one to infiltrate Area 51. It ended up enlarging his dog instead.
  • The Venture Bros.: Rusty Venture has a junky shrink ray gun that makes an occasional appearance. There's something rattling inside of it and the logo on its handle is a picture of the gun itself rather than a visual representation of shrinking. In "Tag Sale, You're It!" Billy and Pete try to buy it, but their jokes at its expense cause Rusty to refuse the sale. It next appears Magic Versus Science competition between Dr. Venture and Dr. Orpheus to see who could successfully shrink someone. (They both fail.) In another episode, it's used to shrink SPHINX's submarine so it could be used in a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot.
  • One of the many features of The Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle also has a portable version, called the "Porta-Shrinker".
  • In the Cartoon Network Groovies episode "Dee Dee and Dexter" (Dexter's Laboratory anime style), Dexter uses a pistol-like device to shrink Dee Dee.
  • One is used on The Herculoids in the episode "Tiny World Of Terror."
  • This is Reducto's villain schtick in Harvey Birdman.
    I'll make you fun-sized!
  • Filmation The New Adventures of Superman episodes
    • "Superman Meets Brainiac". Braniac uses a pistol-shaped device to shrink circus animals to tiny size so he can steal them.
    • "APE Strikes Again". Braniac uses his device to shrink a scientist and Perry White.
    • "The Return of Brainiac". Braniac shrinks Jimmy Olson, Lois Lane and Superman.
    • "Brainiac's Bubbles". Dr. Hekla (?), Brainac's master, tries to use on on Superman but fails.
    • "The Cage of Glass". Brainiac shrinks an entire town for the purpose of repopulating the planet Mega.
  • In the Eek! The Cat episode "Honey, I Shrunk the Cat", Elmo the elk invented one so he can shrink a watermelon. But he accidentally shrinks both Eek and Sharky (who crash into the melon) instead.
  • The 1968-69 Filmation Fantastic Voyage cartoon was based on the 1966 film. It had a large facility with three large devices generating energy beams that shrank the flying submarine Voyager and its crew.
  • The Thundersmall device in the Special Agent Oso episode by the same name
  • After a Noodle Dance in "Bye Bye Bubbles" on PB&J Otter, Jelly has an Imagine Spot in which she uses one of these to shrink away Lake Hoohaw so she and Peanut can find Bubbles.
  • On Gravity Falls, Dipper makes one out of a flashlight and a magical size-altering crystal in "Little Dipper".
  • In the original ThunderCats episode "The Wolfrat", the titular fellow releases shrinking gas inside the Cats' Lair.
  • In Talespin's "The Incredible Shrinking Molly", they meet up with a Mad Scientist who's invented a shrink ray.
  • Dinosaucers had an episode with a size-changing ray device called the 4D lens.
  • Gilligan's Planet had an episode where Gilligan discovered an alien size-changing machine shaped like a Rubik's Cube, that only operated when the puzzle was solved. Three guesses when this episode was made.
  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Terratin Incident" has the Enterprise crew mysteriously shrinking. It eventually turns out that a tiny, shrunken city on the planet below wanted to attract their attention for help, and could only doing so by subjecting them to the same Phlebotinum that shrank them.
  • The Zula Patrol episode about microscopes has the heroes shrunk down by the inhabitants of an "itty bitty city'' in a discarded pizza box. They just wanted to let the heroes know they were there, for fear they would unknowingly throw out the pizza box and destroy their city.
  • The classic Spiderman cartoon series had an episode where the title villain, the "Fifth Avenue Phantom" has robots disguised as mannequins planted in fancy department stores where after hours they are activiated, shoot shrink rays from their eyes reducing furniture down to down size in order to smuggle them out to his secret warehouse where they would be converted back to their original size to be sold illegally. Eventually, when Spiderman catches up to him, the Phantom tries to have his robots use their shrink rays on him, but the hero manages to dodge the rays long enough to overpower the Phantom, seize his control box and deactivate them.
  • The Transformers had the episode "Microbots," which revolved around Bumblebee, Perceptor, and Brawn shrinking down to enter Megatron's body and remove a power enhancing crystal.
    • Transformers Rescue Bots brings us the Minimzer, which shrinks Blades, Boulder, and Heatwave to a few inches tall, preventing them from communicating with the rest of the team.


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