M.C. Escher (1898-1972, full name: Maurits Cornelius Escher) was a Dutch graphical artist whose art is known for being both mathematical in nature and brain-bending. Some common elements in his prints include:
- Structures or situations in which each individual element is plausible, but which become impossible when taken as a whole.
- Tessellations — that is, patterns which could extend over the entire plane if repeated indefinitely.
Many works will reference some of these constructions he invented or popularized — some common choices are Relativity, a room with various staircases and landings using different directions of gravity, Drawing Hands, in which two hands are each drawing the other into existence, and Ascending and Descending, a staircase which goes up or down forever (based on the Penrose Stairway).
(Escher also happens to be a close contemporary of René Magritte, whose works also mess with the viewers' heads, though not in the same way.)
A long list of Escher in popular culture can be found in this page.
References to his works:
- A commercial promo for Syfy has a lot of weird stuff going on inside a house, with one of them being a football pass among three people in a setting based on that painting.
- An episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei concludes with a fake show-within-a-show involving the character Kaere as a Hot Teacher. Since she's teaching geometry, she's shown strolling through several famous Escher works.
- The first time we meet the Godhand in Berserk, they're in a Relativity-esque dimension filled with multidirectional staircases and a shot that resembles Another World.
- Cardcaptor Sakura has the Maze card being able to make this case real.
- There's a scene in Owarimonogatari where the visuals show Ougi and Koyomi Super-Deformed in cat-filled cartoony versions of Another World, Print Gallery, Relativity, and some sort of Tessellation.
- A strip in an early issue of Marvel's Epic Illustrated is about a demonic architect boasting to a lady friend about the new house he's designed, which is finally revealed to be based on a mixture of Relativity and other works. The strip concludes with a dedication "to MCE" in the shape of Escher's own logo.
- Mount Olympus in George Perez' run of the Post-Crisis Wonder Woman is based on this.
- Labyrinth: The Goblin King's final chamber was clearly based on this, and Sarah has a print of Relativity in her room.
- During a fight/chase scene, several characters in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb fall into a Relativity Portal Picture, causing the action to become more confusing with the inconsistent gravity of the place.
- Protector by Larry Niven: Jack Brennan uses gravity generators to build Relativity inside his mad scientist-style castle.
- In Half World, by Hiromi Goto, Melanie's mother keeps Escher prints on the wall. Later, when Melanie goes Down the Rabbit Hole, to the magical realm Half World, the staircases go both up and down like Relativity.
- Warehouse 13 has the "Escher Vault," which is a room constructed like Relativity, which is constantly changing at high speed. You need special equipment of one kind or another to get through it. According to Mrs. Frederic, at least one Warehouse Agent has gotten lost in the room because they forgot to wear safety goggles when venturing inside and hasn't been seen since. It's called the Escher Vault because the man himself was an architect on that iteration of the Warehouse. His initial design involved it folding up like a tesseract and the model of it is artifact.
- The Haunted Mansion at Disney World now includes a "Relativity" room, complete with ghostly footprints appearing on the steps, usually at extreme angles to the direction of gravity.
- Ipsen's Castle in Final Fantasy IX seems to be based on this. Described as an architectural marvel, many rooms are upside down and in one room the visitor has to slide up a pole. While in Ipsen's Castle, weapons will do more damage the lower their attack power is.
- A choice adventure in the Kingdom of Loathing — more specifically, the Haunted Art Gallery — starts here, and all directions seem to be as if this work was providing directions (up, down, or sideways).
- In King's Quest VII, you have to get through a room shaped like this in Archduke Fifi's manor.
- Echochrome is a puzzle game based on the works of M. C. Escher. The geometries are as weird as you might expect. To elaborate, in the game, you are allowed to "cheat" the laws of perspective because only the camera angle's perspective counts as "real". If there is a beam covering up a hole, the hole then ceases to exist. This is a necessary skill to guide the main characternote to safety.
- DUSK: E2M5 is named "The Escher Labs". The level starts unconspicuous enough, but soon degenerates in a Mind Screw of epic proportions.
- In Tales of the Questor, one part of the Castle of Tir Na Nog in the Fae realm resembles Escher's famous stairway room. It becomes hilarious when a human boy subjected to it promptly loses his lunch.
- The cover of volume 1 of Dumbing of Age. It's titled "This Campus is a Friggin' Escher Print".
- Exterminatus Now: After a Scooby-Dooby Doors scene, this page features a textbook example of Escher's Bizarrchitecture room.
- Quantum Vibe has The Weapon Shop of Escher. See it here. Justified in that it's on a low-gravity asteroid so the local gravity can be manipulated easily.
- Flipside University here. The page is actually called M. C. Escher.
- Protectors of the Plot Continuum HQ has Escher Rooms where gravity is weird.
- One of the apartments Fry and Bender look at in the Futurama episode "I, Roommate". Bender fell down, up, and across the stairs. Fry decides they don't want to pay for a dimension they won't be using.
- Briefly seen in The Simpsons Movie during Homer's dream quest, with the stairs shaped like the inside of Homer's head. One of the show's Couch Gags uses it too.
- Family Guy referenced it twice. Once Stewie obtained a copy while posing as Brian's college roommate; on another occasion Peter referenced "that rap video by MC Escher", prompting a cut to Escher dressed as MC Hammer doing an incredibly bad rap song and dancing on the stairs.Stewie: I think it's called... Crazy Stairs...
- Phineas and Ferb:
- In "The Doof Side of the Moon", the same coaster goes through such a room on four different tracks at the same time, as Phineas explains that it's 'the M.C. Escher Floor!'
- Even earlier, in "Gaming the System", they made a section of their video game based on Relativity.
- A version appears in Jackie Chan Adventures, in the Lotus Temple.
- In the second episode of Drawn Together, Toots convinces Clara she's pregnant after her Les Yay kiss with Foxxy, just so she can push her down a flight of stairs for laughs. When Clara "still smells pregnant," they next try the "M.C. Escher room," where Clara falls down the iconic set of circling stairs for like three minutes to kill her non-existent baby. Yes, it was that kind of show.
- In one of the last episodes of CatDog, one of Winslow's rooms hidden in CatDog's house is directly based on Relativity.
To other works
- Look out for an animated version of Waterfall in this Smarties commercial.
- Secret Origins #10 (the famous issue containing multiple irreconcilable origins for The Phantom Stranger) had a cover based on Another World.
- Christopher Nolan was inspired by Escher in Inception, which has two sets of Ascending and Descending (and hence Penrose stairs)-inspired stairs: Arthur shows a fairly large one to Ariadne during her training and later makes good with an ass-kicking use of a second one in the second dream level's hotel.
- Escher's work Eye is seen in Donnie Darko, as a poster on Donnie's wall.
- In the novel Moving Pictures, the layout of the Library of Unseen University is described as "a topographical nightmare, [...] that would make M. C. Escher go for a good lie down, or possibly sideways."
- In Guards! Guards!, old-fashioned bookshops are said to be looking like "as though they were designed by M.C. Escher on a bad day".
- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid includes (along with many other references to Escher, as one might infer from the title) a dialogue in which the characters find themselves inside "Convex and Concave" and "Reptiles".
- In the Young Adult novel Before I Fall, it's revealed that the school bike Anna Cartullo likes M.C. Escher. Sam gives her a book of his drawings on her final day.
- James Gurney's Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara features a university structure with an impossible staircase based on Escher's work known as the Scholar's Stairway; the "Pen and Rose Fraternity" that Gurney invents as the scholars associated with the stairway is a further homage to Roger Penrose and his son.
- The Bridge is the game that resulted when M.C. Escher met Isaac Newton and learned programming.
- Illusions was based on elements of several Escher prints.
- Dante's Inferno has a room evocative of "Other World".
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess features the Oocca, which resemble the human-bird... things in Another World. They can walk on walls, furthering the allusion when seen doing so in their city in the sky.
- In AdventureQuest Worlds, the town of Mobius is the victim of the First Lord of Chaos: Escherion. The entire quest chain to confront him is filled with M.C. Escher references, fitting of a Lord of Chaos.
- In Chrono Cross, a sojourn through a place that appears to be outside reality, or something, features a tower with an endless staircase like that in Ascending and Descending.
- In Quest for Glory I, when you navigate the Brigand warlock's maze, one of the comments you make is that M.C. Escher would love this place. The maze in question is somewhat reminiscent of Relativity, but also of other Escher drawings.
- The 78th level of Lemmings is titled "Tribute to M.C. Escher". The main solution to the level involves building a confusing zigzag stairway.
- Monument Valley has perspective and impossible paths as a major element of game play. One of the levels in the "Forgotten Shores" expansion pack is a recreation of Waterfall.
- Atari Games' Crystal Castles has one level with a looped staircase based on Ascending And Descending.
- HyperRogue has graphics inspired by the hyperbolic tilings in the Circle Limit series.
- SaGa Frontier: Appropriately for the master of Space magic, Kylin's domain is full of Alien Geometries, one room in particular◊ that is extremely evocative of Escher's art style.
- The animated short Hallucii features Penrose stairs in an urban environment.
- In 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, part of Castle Grayskull's internal architecture appears to be based on Belvedere.