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Toon Physics
aka: Cartoon Physics
Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.
First Law of Cartoon Thermodynamics

Animation Tropes, of course, occur in most Western cartoons of the classic era. Like any genre trope, they became consistent enough to be considered the "natural laws" of that setting.

Toon Physics hangs a lampshade on those tropes, by explicitly and consistently pointing out how creatures of ink and paint operate under different rules from those of flesh and blood, while coexisting in the same setting. Toons living in or visiting a flesh-and-blood world will still operate under their own unique laws of nature.

Humans visiting a cartoon world may operate according to the local laws — or may not. This doesn't have to be consistent even within a given work. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, for example, Eddie experiences many Animation Tropes first hand — but his brother was killed by a falling piano (admittedly this may have been a real piano that was dropped by a toon; it was also presumably dropped outside of Toon Town, onto a normal human).

Seen in any Trapped in TV Land tale that includes a jaunt into a cartoon.

Contrast Refugee from TV Land and Real World Episode, where characters from a "fictional" milieu enter the "real" world and, more often than not, find that the world doesn't work the same way anymore.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Toon World theme from Yu-Gi-Oh! takes this and runs with it. In the anime, they're made nigh-unkillable by it, with Toon Mermaid's armless clam catching a sword, and Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon taking the opportunity in-manga to contort its body to dodge its normal counterpart's Burst Stream of Destruction.
  • Ouran High School Host Club occasionally takes advantage of this. Mostly in the anime, though.
  • Jungle wa Itsumo Hare nochi Guu does this almost all the time.
  • Kill la Kill has Mako Mankanshoku and Nui Harime, who operate by this while everybody else uses standard shonen anime physics. The former of the two uses them for their traditional comic relief purpose, while the latter weaponizes them.

    Comicbooks 
  • The Awesome Slapstick, aka Steve Harmon. After being transformed into "living electroplasm" from an accident with an alien portal, Slapstick is essentially a Toon — he is able to freely abuse Toon Physics, making him a Nigh Invulnerable minor Reality Warper. He can recover from all injuries almost instantly with no damage, and has performed otherwise impossible feats, such as swallowing a box of bullets and rapidly firing them by spitting them out like a machine gun.
    • Specifically, Slapstick is a character in the 616 Marvel Universe, just like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. However, he has super powers that *just happen* to make him resemble a cartoon. He has a normal human form, but when he transforms to his Slapstick form, he has Rubber Man powers, meaning that he can be stretched harmlessly and turn into an accordion when crushed, and a very powerful Healing Factor, meaning that he can be riddled with bullets, and burned to ash and leave his eyes unharmed long enough for a few blinks. He also has gloves which can access a "sub-spacial storage pocket," or, in layman's terms, Hammerspace. Finally, he has the personality of a practical joker. Put it together, and he's a cartoon character who could reasonably interact with the X-Men.
  • In one of the first appearances of Mr. Mxyzptlk after the John Byrne reboot, he makes cartoon characters real and attacks Superman with them. The creatures (expies of, among others, Fred Flintstone, the Smurfs, and Mighty Mouse) obey Toon Physics and are thus somewhat of a chore, but when Superman himself is turned toony by Mxy, he exploits it (pulling a cat from Hammerspace in his cloak to scare the Mighty Mouse expy, for instance).

    Film 

     Live Action TV 
  • The basis of the season 8 Supernatural episode "Hunteri Heroici". A powerful telekinetic loses his grip on reality and retreats into a dream-world made up of his childhood cartoons. His abilities go full-on Reality Warper and apply toon physics to everything in his vicinity.
    Dean: In toon-town, a pretty girl can make your heart leap outta your chest. Anvils fall from the sky. And if you draw a door or a black hole on the wall, you can stroll right through it.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The lead characters in Sam's Strip had almost Seinfeldian conversations about the physical laws in their comic strip world.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Steve Jackson Games published a roleplaying system called Toon. It obeys this trope to the letter; characters are unkillable (though they can Fall Down for a few rounds), failing an intelligence roll can allow one to ignore gravity, and sawing through a tree branch has a fifty percent chance of causing the tree to fall with the branch suspended in midair. The entire point of the game is to be as funny as possible.

    Videogames 
  • Team Fortress 2 is a rather unique example. The game's physics are very consistent with real life, due to using the Havok physics engine, however:
    • The Pyro's Flamethrower comes equipped with an air compressor that can reflect rockets.
    • Scout can jump in midair (common in video games, but also common in cartoon physics as well).
    • Soldier can shoot explosives at people's feet, which propels them upward (including his own feet).
      • As can the Demoman.
    • The recoil from one of the Scout's weapons is so strong that he can propel himself in mid-air with it.
    • The Heavy can shoot people by making his hand into a gun-shape and shouting "POW!".
    • Saxton Hale from the self-named mod can jump 100 feet in the air on a whim.
    • EVERYONE stores their weapons in Hammer Space.
    • Engineers fix their stuff by nonsensically whacking it with a wrench.
    • One can die by being hit with a fish four to five times from full health.
    • A bomb on a stick is a viable weapon outside of suicidal charges, leaving the Demoman using it still alive.
    • The Scout can send someone flying across the map with the swing of a bat. Bear in mind he has normal human strength. Mostly.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is also like Team Fortress 2, in that it mixes Toon Physics with realistic physics done in Nintendo's own proprietary physics engine. In fact, all in-game physics is realistic, with impressive simulation of rope bridges, string, hair, and cloth, and generic Newtonian dynamics, while Toon Physics only appears during cutscenes, which have scripted animations that are rendered within the game engine.
    • Small enemies can be squashed flat by a giant hammer in regular gameplay, though.
  • Skullgirls characters all operate under some degree of cartoon physics due to it being a fighting game, but none moreso than Peacock. Peacock's entire gimmick is being a superpowered cyborg whose appearance and abilities are all heavily based off of Golden Age cartoons. She is explicitly described as being able to bend reality to fit her cartoonish fighting style. Peacock pulls a plethora of weapons out of Hammerspace, summons Shadows of Impending Doom to drop random objects such as pianos and other hefty objects on her opponents' heads, shoots Abnormal Ammo from her comically oversized revolver, pulls opponents into a Big Ball of Violence, can summon an entire backup squad of cartoon cronies including a multitude of walking bombs, and utilises many other playfully painful fighting techniques that operate under Toon Physics rules.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • After being transformed into human cartoon characters, the (live action) characters in The Cartoon Man begin operating on toon physics.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "One Plus One Equals Ed", the Eds explore Toon Physics, which don't (overtly) apply in the Show, and end up tearing the Universe apart (which then goes back to normal near the end (Sort of)).
  • Bonkers — in which the humans, while animated, aren't considered "toons", and don't get the benefit of Toon Physics.
    • Although Toon Physics aren't necessarily aware of this. In one episode, a chase through Toontown leads Lucky and Bonkers to the intersection of Squash and Stretch Streets. Their influence forces Bonkers through some pretty bizarre contortions, much to Lucky's amusement — until they start trying to make him do the same thing.
      • Sometimes non Toons can use Toon Physics, if the person is willing. Lucky walking on thin air and Miranda changing into a disguise outfit instantly as examples. They arguably have the advantage here, as Toons seem compelled to finish the gag and make it funny, over making Toon Physics useful, as seen when Lucky is able to resist looking down and breaking the "walking on thin air" joke, while Bonkers and the villain have to look down and fall.
  • Animaniacs — Ditto.
  • Walt Disney himself referred to this phenomenon as "The Impossible Plausible", i.e. animating actions that would be physically impossible (a character walks off a cliff and still stands in mid-air) and making them seem plausible in the animated setting (said character then looks down, realizes his predicament and starts falling).
  • Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has many toony abilities no other pony is capable of. These almost never amount to any practical effect, however, and are generally accepted as "Weird things that Pinkie Pie does, just ignore it" by anyone around to witness them. Among other things, she's able to pass through walls by ducking out and into frame, abruptly pop out of things far too small to hold her (Including Rarity's hat), chase ponies a la Pepe Le Pew, stretch like she's made of rubber, and devour a cake several times her size (an act which even shocked Princess Celestia, the kingdom's ruler and Physical Goddess who is well over 1000 years old).
    • "Winter Wrap-Up" shows that other ponies are capable of Pinkie's antics (much to Dash's confusion) but only during elaborate musical sequences.
    • Fanfic writer D. G. D. Davidson points out that one of the reason My Little Pony fanfiction tends to seem grittier than the show is that the loony, ubiquitous Toon Physics that work seamlessly in animation don't translate very well to writing, and so the setting has to be made more realistic and less cartoony and carefree.
    • The characters are often startled by her antics, but seldom actually comment on them, shrugging them off as Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash does, however, call her on it in "Too Many Pinkie Pies", when she slows down her fall in midair in order to slip into a lake quietly. However, Pinkie's explanation of how she did it, as per usual, is completely unhelpful.
  • The trope was collectively codified in Looney Tunes and Tex Avery shorts.
    "I know 'dis defies da laws of gravity, but I never studied law."
  • Darkwing Duck does not only lampshade these "Physics" - he also (ab)uses them to his advantage!
  • An episode of Johnny Test had a pair of cartoon characters transported into the "real world" and cause havoc. They were virtually unstoppable due to Toon Physics, as they were functionally invulnerable.
  • In the Heckle And Jeckle short "The Power of Thought", Jeckle tells Heckle that he has realized that as cartoon characters, they can do anything they can think of. They then proceed to make a bulldog policeman's life a living hell, until he realizes that he, too, is a cartoon character.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures has a lot of this, seeing as it takes place at a school for young Toons to learn how to do what Toons do best.
    • An episode from the second season of the show was titled, "Toon Physics", and featured Orson Whales, a whale expy of Orson Welles, who explained to the viewers how Toon Physics differ from Real World Physics.
  • The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.
  • The Saturday morning cartoon of The Mask. Ace Ventura even lampshades this in the crossover episode "The Aceman Cometh."


ToonAnimation TropesToon Town

alternative title(s): Cartoon Physics
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