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Trapdoor

The Trapdoor is an easily activated door in the floor of the Supervillain Lair, activated by a convenient switch or lever. Though a favorite of the Diabolical Mastermind, it might also be installed in the office of a Corrupt Corporate Executive. Somehow the hero (or minion who has disappointed the Big Bad) will always be sitting or standing exactly where the trap door opens, where it will usually lead to the Death Trap. If generous, the trap door will include a slide, otherwise it's just a drop.

And somehow, the seams around the trap are always invisible before it opens and after it closes. This is easier to do in animation, of course, unless it's given away by a Conspicuously Light Patch.

Mostly spoofed these days, often with a pun so old it creaks; "Nice of you to drop in!" Also often subverted by Trap-Door Fail — having the would-be victim end up standing next to the trapdoor when it opens.

For its intentional use on some game shows, see some of the examples of Eject The Loser.

Not to be confused with the series about one of these working in reverse.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • One of Pepsi's Superbowl ads featured Elton John as a bored king who dropped various performers through a trap door in his throne room into the dungeon if they fail to entertain him. Naturally, the commercial ends with the king getting dropped through it himself.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Used straight/spoofed in The Castle of Cagliostro; the title castle is rife with secret passages, Portrait Painting Peepholes and of course trap doors.
    • When Lupin pays Clarisse a visit, the Count's men subtly herd him to the room's trap door and drop him like a bad habit.
    • More laughable is one that's an actual trap in the main entrance hall: It's even hooked up to a fake bust that spits out pictures, Polaroid style, of whomever it drops into the dungeon — Poor Zenigata gets to be the film's demonstration. Lupin, thus informed, manages to turn it on Jodo and one of his guards. The Count is merely amused when he sees the picture of them nearly falling in and commends Jodo for confirming that the trap works.
    • On top of those, when Lupin and Zenigata team up to escape from the castle dungeon, they start a large fire as a distraction; this works out beautifully when smoke starts pouring out of all kinds of danged places, many of which all but scream the presence of even more chutes and trap doors.
  • Spoofed and used as a Running Gag in Excel Saga. Excel is "trapdoor'ed" almost constantly by her employer, Lord Il Palazzo, as punishment for being, well, herself. In one episode, the trap door is implemented as a form of transcontinental transportation.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 uses this whenever the Nightmare Group wants to get rid of someone. They come back, though.
  • Used straight by Desler/Dessklok in Space Battleship Yamato.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, when Bandit Keith confronts Pegasus at gunpoint (in the dub, he merely points at Pegasus) in a last-ditch effort to get revenge. Pegasus nonchalantly opens a Trap Door that dumps Keith into the ocean. In the manga, he uses his MacGuffin to WELD THE GUN to Keith's hand, and have Keith shoot himself. (Keith in the anime, even in the original Japanese, survives the fall.)
  • Bleach anime #159. Trap doors open up under Renji Abarai and Dondochakka Bilstin, sending them into an arena where they confront the Espada Szayel Aporro Granz.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Tai La Verite. In episode 5 Ikyo Suzuki uses one to send Ryuuka down the garbage chute.
  • One of the few comedic points of Space Battleship Yamato is a Gamilas general annoying Deslar with an inappropriate laugh, only to get a trap door opened under his feet.
  • In Kill la Kill, Ryuko is dropped through one by her Stealth Mentor into a hidden Creepy Basement under her house, where she encounters a Clingy MacGuffin.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
    • In Tintin in America, gangster Bobby Smiles presses a button with his foot to make Tintin fall through the floor and into a room with some Knockout Gas.
    • Later, when Tintin is being given a tour of a meatpacking plant, Smiles arranges for him to lean against a trick guardrail, in the hopes of turning him into Human Resources.
    • In King Ottokar's Sceptre, Tintin is involuntarily ejected from a private plane by the pilot opening a trap door underneath his seat.
  • Scrooge McDuck, of Disney ducks fame, has one of these in his office. He uses it quite often, be it to get rid of inconvenient salesmen or even of his own relatives.
    • Exactly where people end up changes between stories, or even within the story. On one occasion, the first person dropped landed outside on a mattress with a sign "And stay out!" next to it. The second landed in a bramble-bush. "I warned you!"
    • According to Don Rosa, Scrooge's trapdoor drops people in a tank filled with skunk oil.
    • In one of the stories of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion, Scrooge uses a stage trapdoor to drop Donald out of his dream so he can have some private dream time with Glittering Goldie.
  • Wolverine: in the one-shot special "The Jungle Adventure" (written by Walt Simonson, pencilled by Mike Mignola), Wolverine falls through a trap-door while investigating a high-tech lab in the Savage Land, run by Apocalypse who provides the lampshade: "Greetings, Wolverine. You'll forgive me, but I'm required by law to say this, how nice of you to drop in so unexpectedly."
  • Thorgal, "The Fall of Brek Zarith": In the villain's treasure room, the entire floor is one giant (and very deep) lever-activated trapdoor, as a particularly greedy and careless Viking finds out the hard way.
  • In Action Comics #765, set shortly after Brainiac 13 has turned Metropolis into a 64th century city, Lex Luthor is informed that his control panel in the new Lexcorp building's conference room activates trapdoors beneath all the other chairs, leading to a Acid Pool. He decides he loves the future.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dilbert, Dogbert recommends trap doors as a method of disposing of disgruntled employees who take advantage of "open door" policies. One strip shows him activating one from a desk, and another has him presenting one that drops the employee into rush-hour traffic to the Pointy-Haired Boss, who's dumb enough to fall into it himself.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Yellow Submarine. After they pass through the Sea of Science a creature drops into the sub. Ringo pushes a button and a door opens under the creature, dropping it out into the Sea of Monsters.
  • In Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Pete drops a few of his minions down "The Pit", followed by the required scream fading out... only to subvert it when the short one stands up on the floor to reveal that it's roughly two feet deep. They are later seen playing poker inside and hop out when Pete needs them again.
  • Heavy Metal segment "Captain Sternn". After the title character pays Hannover Fiste the 35,000 zulaks, he pulls a lever that drops Fiste out of the space station and out of orbit, causing him to burn up on re-entry.
  • The Man Called Flintstone, the Green Goose uses one on Barney Rubble.
  • There are two of them in The Emperor's New Groove, both used to comedic effect. One apparently leads to a crocodile pit. The other leads to a random hole on the side of the palace.
  • My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks: Right before the finals of the Battle of the Bands, Trixie and her two bandmates trap the Rainbooms under the stage by pulling a lever and opening a trap door right under their feet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: During his introduction, Doctor Evil sends numerous minions into fiery pits with the push of a button, but when he reoccupies the Evil Lair thirty years later, the mechanisms are a bit rusty and the goon he incinerates is Not Quite Dead. Although, same said henchman survived a fall off a cliff with two broken legs and a bear mauling him at the end credits, so you can't blame it on the mechanisms themselves.
    Mook: I'm still alive, but I'm very badly burned.
  • The vampire superhero film Blade (1998) had a character named Dr. Karen Jensen fall down into a trap chute near the end of the film, where she found and killed her former research partner (who had been turned into a vampire slave), but climbed back out of the chute using an old bone for leverage.
  • Ringo Starr falls through at least two trapdoors in Help! One of them is in a pub and uses a beer glass (glued to its coaster) as a switch; fortunately for those trying to rescue Ringo, its seams are just visible. Another one is inside the area covered by an electrified cage somewhere in the Bahamas...
  • James Bond:
    • Used straight in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me where the villain had it set up in his elevator to drop into a Shark Pool. Bond defeated it by straddling the walls.
    • In an earlier film, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond suspects the same trick, only to be felled by gas instead.
    • Subverted in You Only Live Twice, when Japanese Secret Service chief — and Bond ally — Tiger Tanaka uses a Trap Door with slide to bring Bond to their first face to face meeting.
  • Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi: Jabba the Hutt uses one to have Luke Skywalker drop in on his pet rancor. Unique in that you DO see that he's standing on some kind of grill, and earlier Jabba's minions made sure Luke was standing on the middle of it.
  • Kim Jong-Il had one in Team America: World Police. It's not outside the realms of possibility that this is Truth in Television. North Korea is that kind of country.
  • In one segment of Disney's Mars And Beyond, the Martian leader pulls a rope and a trap door opens under the kidnapped heroine.
  • Labyrinth does this three times. First is when she gets past the guards with the riddle and says that the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake", the second is when Ludo is whisked right to the Bog of Eternal Stench, and then when Sarah gives Hoggle a kiss.
  • DEBS Lucy installs one inside a bank vault to bring Amy to her.
  • At the end of Charade, the bad guy is killed off with one, on a theater stage with sections of floor designed to open with a switch.
  • Wild Wild West. Dr. Loveless has one installed on the command deck of his giant mechanical spider. He uses it to drop Jim West down to the engine deck for a "whuppin'".
  • In Sinbad Of The Seven Seas, Sinbad is dropped into a pit with snakes in it by Jaffar, the wizard of all that is evil. You know him, don't you?

    Literature 
  • L. Frank Baum used this trope a few times in his Land of Oz.
    • For instance, Tik-Tok in Oz features a trapdoor used by the Big Bad over a hole so deep it goes to the other side of the world.
    • Rinkitink in Oz contains a subversion, where the villain opens a trap door under one of the heroes, but, unknown to the villain, the hero has an artifact that protects him from harm, so he floats over the gap instead of falling through.
    • Ruth Plumly Thompson used trapdoors frequently in her continuation of the Oz series. One notable example is in The Silver Princess in Oz.
    • The Muppet Wizard of Oz has the Wizard use a trapdoor to send the heroes out of his throneroom. The Muppet characters all fall through, but Dorothy is standing in the wrong place, and has to be asked to jump.
    • Also used in the stage version of Wicked; saying more would spoil.
  • Used by Dickens in Oliver Twist. Mr and Mrs Bumble go to meet Monks in a derelict warehouse overhanging a river. After their conversation Monks reveals that they'd been sitting on a trapdoor over the millrace. "I could have let you down quietly enough when you were seated over it, if that had been my game." He didn't, but he'd clearly planned for the possibility.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Slithering Shadow," Conan the Barbarian runs from soldiers into a woman's room. She uses this on him.
  • In Live and Let Die, one of Mr. Big's men has a trap door in his fish warehouse over a shark enclosure that he gets Felix Leiter to fall through - later on, he does so himself in a fight with Bond. The basic elements of this scene are used in the movie Licence to Kill.
  • In the K.J. Parker short story "I Met a Man Who Wasn't There", the narrating Villain Protagonist is a Boxed Crook police spy, and has a carpenter build a trap door built under the place in which a suspect sits, as a safety measure should a suspect try to attack him. Unfortunately, the first person he tries it on has magical powers including levitation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spoofed in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, when the Master accidentally falls down the same trap door three times. The journey back up takes three hundred and twelve years apiece, though he re-appears mere moments later due to Time Travel.
  • Get Smart: Affectionately parodied in a scene where Maxwell Smart and 99 are breaking into the villain's lair.
    Smart: (picking the lock) We'll be alright as long as this door isn't connected to a... to a...
    99: To a what, Max?
    (they fall through a trapdoor, which drops them into two chairs directly in front of the villain)
    Smart: Trapdoor.
    Villain: Mr Smart, nice of you to...
    Smart & Villain: (simultaneously Drop in, yes...
  • The Merchant Banker in Monty Python's Flying Circus gets rid of a charity collector this way (but keeps his collecting tin).
  • Used as the gimmick for the game show Russian Roulette, where contestants are eliminated by dropping through the door they're required to stand on (although, as the show's name suggests, whether or not a contestant is eliminated is a random process). To make the gimmick's usage even more Anvilicious, there's a lever to activate the Trap Door in front of each player, essentially forcing them to eliminate themselves in this manner. Another Anvilicious aspect was the fact that the platform was designed to look like the chamber of a revolver, with the six contestants as the "bullets".
  • On NBC's short-lived game show, Who's Still Standing?, one contestant (the "Hero") stands on a trap door on the center of the stage and faces off against a circle of 10 competitors also standing on trap doors (the "Strangers") in a series of trivia duels. Eliminated contestants drop 10 feet into a padded room below the stage. If the Hero decides to walk away at one point and keep their winnings, they have the option of either walking out of the studio or by dropping through the floor. And at the end of each episode, Ben Bailey (of Cash Cab fame), also drops through the Hero's trap door.
  • The SyFy game show Total Blackout uses trap doors in a slightly different way. After each round, the remaining contestants stand in front of trap doors and, on Jaleel White's command, are told to jump onto them. The contestant with the least amount of points in the round drops out of the game, while the other contestants' doors stay shut.
  • One Saturday Night Live parody commercial was for a trap-door company. It began with scenes of malfunctioning trap-doors, complete with the voiceover, "Don't you hate it when this happens to you?"
  • Played straight in the second season The Man From UNCLE episode "The Bat Cave Affair".
  • The Grand Master in MI High has one in his office for disposing of annoying underlings. It's not clear exactly what happens to those who fall through it, but the offscreen voice of one victim was heard complaining that it was uncomfortably warm in the cellar.
  • The "Sock It To Me" bits on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In frequently showed a character (usually Judy Carne) falling through a trap door.
  • Spoofed in a segment from That Mitchell and Webb Look where the architect working for the Evil Genius has built the trap door compliant to safety requirements. That is, with a red light, an announcement warning to clear the area, and yellow signs. The guy in the chair escapes.
    "Trap door? Is there a trap door?"

    Pinballs 

    Video Games 
  • The use of a trap door goes all the way back to Interactive Fiction text adventures of the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Zork/Dungeon that slams behind the player if the step down through it.
  • Ryu Hayabusa is constantly punked by such pitfalls in the Ninja Gaiden games for the NES.
  • Both played straight and inverted in Chrono Trigger. First, Crono and team are dropped down at least one trap door. Later in the game, Crono and team are the ones who force a villain down a trapdoor (in his own lair, no less). This becomes a running gag, as the protagonists use this against the same villain again, and can use this against mooks at several points in the game.
  • In Les Manley in: Search for the King, the boss will drop you down a Trap Door if you try to steal the keys while he's watching, and you can Have a Nice Death.
  • The Mill levels in Donkey Kong Country 3 feature trapdoors which buckle open when jumped upon. Sometimes these are locked and the monkeys have to unlock them first before proceeding trough them.
  • Subverted by Leon Kennedy in Resident Evil 4 where the villain pulls this on him; if the player successfully Presses X To Not Die, he flings a Grappling Hook into the shaft wall to break his fall, stating that he "Won't fall for this old trick!" ...Leon, are you telling us that since Resident Evil 2 you've seriously fallen victim to this so many times that you've taken preventative measures?
  • The Sceptre of Lord British is being guarded by all three of the Shadowlords and a demon in their earthly fortress of Shadowkeep in Ultima V. Getting around that in bad enough. However, in addition, there are trap doors in the floor all around the sceptre itself; which leads to a lava pit and an instant Total Party Kill. If you're paying attention, you might notice the small dot in the floor that is usually only present for secret doors in the walls.
  • There's a Trap Door in Castle Oztroja that you'll find when playing Final Fantasy XI. It's right in front of a locked door that has a two switches in front of it. One opens the door, the other springs the trap. It changes randomly each game day. It's possible to hit the switch and run away before you fall down, but if you don't know that, this can be annoying(Or deadly, if you're low enough in level).
  • A variation of this is present in Overlord II, in which the Villain Protagonist proceeds to magically activate a hole underneath the Too Dumb to Live civilians who add unreasonable demands to their notifications of rebellions in his village (borrowing the Minions, becoming Mayor of a town of his, borrowing his mistress, taking his Evil Chancellor in as a pet) and dumps them into the sea of Lava at the bottom of his Netherworld. It's ineffective when used on Rose however due to the character's magical hovering.
  • In the SNES adaptation of Prince of Persia, Jaffar drops you down a trap door after the Boss Rush in the penultimate level.
  • In Paper Mario, this happens a couple of times.
    • The first time is in the Koopa Bros. Fortress. When you enter one room, you (the player, not Mario) see the trap door being installed under a question block. Yes, you have to hit it. It drops you into a dungeon where you meet your next party member...
    • That same party member comes in handy later, as a Bowser-face shaped door in Bowser's castle drops you into a dungeon the first time you try to go through.
  • NetHack. "A trap door opens up under you." Usually preceding some kind of death.
  • Tomb Raider is full of these, whether sprung by Lara's doing or her stumbling into them. The latter usually has instant death traps such as spikes.
  • Becomes a Running Gag in Tales of Symphonia: If there is a trap door, you can be sure that Sheena will fall into it.
  • Used by you in Mastermind World Conquerer to dispose of your henchmen whose services are no longer needed.
  • There's a number of these in a storage area in Metal Gear Solid. They're pressure-activated, and you can hear them buckle just before they open. If Snake's too slow to get off them, he dies.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, after the crossdressing incident, Don Corneo uses a trapdoor to dump Cloud and friends into the Midgar sewers.
  • In Tekken 5, Panda's ending involves her dropping a lackey down a trap door, followed by falling through herself when a friend gets curious about the Big Red Button.
  • Night Trap has this, and many other traps, and manipulating them is an essential part of the gameplay.
  • Double Switch. A number of the traps are essentially this, but some of them are a little more complex than that.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Flander's Company: Hippolyte Kurtzmann has one in front of his desk in the "Super Pouvoir" music video, to get rid quickly of pesky supervillain candidates. Not seen in the series proper, though.

    Western Animation 
  • Special mention goes to The Trap Door, which is basically this in reverse. Instead of the heroes falling in, the bad things come out.
  • Used plenty of times in Scooby-Doo. Daphne had a talent for finding them and getting stuck at the bottom...
  • Used twice in American Dad! when George W. Bush comes to their house for dinner. When Haley tries to confront him about his policies, Stan causes her to fall through a trapdoor. The second time, she puts her feet on the sides of the trapdoor, but then he widens the trapdoor with another button, causing her to fall in again.
  • Spoofed in an episode of Family Guy, when Mayor Adam West tries to drop a protesting Peter through a trap door, except he's wider than the door and gets stuck. (The mayor apologises, "My malcontents are usually a lot skinnier.")
  • Common in Kim Possible:
    • The first thing Shego does "in person" (after having appeared only in security footage) is walk into Drakken's lair, drop through a trapdoor into a waiting chair, and ask Drakken, "Ever considered a normal door?"
    • Another episode of Kim Possible features a gag where the bad guy used said devices on mooks that failed him. As the mooks begin to wise up and not sit in the rigged chair, he opens another door that the mooks were standing on. One instance even has said bad guy directing his mooks to the point before pressing the button.
  • On the Looney Tunes short "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", Daffy (as detective Duck Twacy) finds the Gangster's Hideout and spots a welcome mat on the front door conveniently labeled "Trap Door". Daff catches on immediately, steps to one side of the door and rings the bell, when a trap door opens up underneath him and sends him to the basement.
  • Filmation
    • In the New Adventures of Batman, Batman and Robin are in a house owned by the Joker that has many trapdoors. They enter one room so equipped and Batman realizes that, although unaware of the exact danger, they have to exit the room now. As they race for a door, Joker starts opening trapdoors throughout the floor, but the Dynamic Duo manages to dodge them all. Unfortunately, the Joker is ready for that too, and suddenly the entire floor surface reveals itself to be a massive trapdoor itself and the Duo are captured.
    • Justice League episode "Bad Day on Black Mountain". After Mastermind teleports Superman to his lair, he activates a trap door under him and drops him into a cell lined with kryptonite.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Spoofed by Mr. Burns often. Homer has, however, stood in the wrong position, or was too fat to fall into the hole, or it had been removed for safety violations, or it happened to be malfunctioning and making the victims fall back into the scene through the ceiling. (Although Lenny hasn't been as fortunate.)
      Mr. Burns: Oh, it's doing that thing again.
    • Then there's the Buzz Cola Trap Door: Fall into the flavor hole!
  • Jonny Quest episode "Dragons of Ashida". The title character has a servant pull a rope, which drops the floor out from under the Quest party.
  • The Herculoids:
    • "Sarko the Arkman". Used by the title character to capture Dorno, Tundro and Gleep.
    • "The Antidote". The Spider Men ruler pushes a button to open one under Dorno.
  • Naturally, Lucius uses one of these on Jimmy Two-Shoes. He uses it to get rid of Samy's stuff, but it only takes one glare for Samy to drop himself down.
  • She Ra Princess Of Power:
    • Hordak had one to drop his hordsmen into. On the rare occasion one of them would avoid it, another trap would get them, some of which were far less pleasant. The mooks couldn't see it, since the whole throne room was paved in squares, and the danger spot was also the most respectful place to stand.
    • At one point, Mantenna jumped off the trapdoor to the side. The neighboring tile tipped up and slid him down into the hole anyway.
  • The Adventures of Young Gulliver episode "The Dark Sleep". One is used on Gulliver while he's in the witch's castle.
  • An old Popeye cartoon "The Dance Contest" has judge Wimpy dropping couples through trap doors if they're not good enough - or if they don't have any mustard handy.
  • G.I. Joe:
  • DuckTales:
    • In the first episode Scrooge uses one to cheer himself up:
      Solicitor: Mr. McDuck, would you like to tip to the Retired Hand Hawkers of America?
      Scrooge: No! (pushes button)
      Solicitor: Ugh! (falls down while Scrooge laughs)
    • The first time Scrooge met Fenton Crackshell, he dropped him down a trapdoor. Fenton's persistent, though.
  • In the 1940s Fleischer & Famous Superman cartoons, Superman couldn't fly yet and wound up dropped down a trapdoor in one episode. Of course, he was still stronger then a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...
  • In the always unintentionally awesome Mister T cartoon, there was an episode where a big New York Chinese restaurant has one of these near the door, with a big lever by the cash register. Naturally, it's there so that at one point it can swallow up our heroes as they try to flee, but you really have to wonder why it's there. To echo the Agony Booth recap, do they have that big a problem with customers who dine and dash? (Check it out here.) Also, it opens on a hundred-foot drop into a warehouse full of stolen merchandise, which ... makes you wonder about the thinking behind this particular criminal syndicate. Not to mention the architecture of New York's Chinatown restaurants.
  • Samson & Goliath episode "Operation Peril". After Samson and Goliath reach the ship's control room, the Big Bad pushes a button and the floor slides open underneath them and they fall into a containment area.


Stuck on a Ski LiftDeath TrapTrap-Door Fail
Swiss Cheese SecurityInsecurity SystemTrap-Door Fail
Tragic MistakeNarrative DevicesTrap-Door Fail
Indy EscapeThis Index Is in the WayThe Walls Are Closing In
Indy EscapeDeath CourseSurprise Slide Staircase
BlackhawkImageSource/Comic BooksBlack Lightning

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