A common animated gag, based on subverting expectations.
A character is falling from a large height; this is going to hurt. Luckily, there's a soft object that will break his fall.
Unluckily, the character then falls right next to the object, onto something hard. Usually, the camera will initially show the cushion in the center of the screen and then pan to the side as soon as the unlucky person falls.
In a variant, there's another person waiting to catch the falling person, and the catcher misses.
- Iznogoud: In "Good Sports in the Caliphate", Iznogoud and the Caliph both wind up on a sled, descending a slope at high speed towards a building.
Narrator: Fortunately, there is a door. And fortunately, it is open.
[next panel: sled crashes to the right of the door, Iznogoud cushioning for the Caliph]
Narrator: Unfortunately, it's a little to the left.
- In the Get Smart movie, when about to land after a big skydiving scene, Max tells Agent 99 to aim for the haystack because it's softer. She ignores him and they land on the ground next to it.
- In Freaked, Stewie Gluck falls out an airplane and smacks into the ground a few feet from a giant hay pile.
- The Great Race - Professor Fate flees a high-up boardroom by arranging for his flunky Max to be waiting below in a car with a trampoline fixed to it. He lands perfectly, but bounces high, Max takes off at that point, and...
- In Hardcore Henry, a mook cuts a line that Henry was trying to climb onto a helicopter. It looks like Henry is about to land in a pond, but he lands right next to it.
- One Captain Underpants book had the titular hero lose his superpowers without realizing it until he tries to fly out the window. He falls three stories and misses a haystack, a trampoline, and a truck full of soft pillows, before landing on his head.
- Burn Notice had an episode where Michael and Larry are trying to save some guy. They're in a high-up hotel room and throw a mattress into the pool to help break their fall. The guy they're helping misses the mattress and hits the bottom of the pool, breaking his ankle.
- Get Smart: A KAOS agent falls victim of this trope at the end of a Courtroom Episode when he jumps off a window after his plan to discredit key witness Maxwell Smart is foiled. Notably this is the first time Max used his "missed it by that much" Catch Phrase.
- Mac has a variation of this in one of his Project Badass clips in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He actually does land on the mattress. He just bounces off and lands on the street a couple of feet below, still managing to hurt himself.
- A trailer for a BBC sketch show showed a man falling off a roof, with a lorry below marked "Soft and Fluffy". Then it pulled away, and another one marked "Sharp Porcelain Objects Inc." took its place.
- Stevie from Malcolm in the Middle hits a massive ramp and gets launched into the air. Quick cut to a man raking a huge pile of leaves in his yard, and then Stevie crashes into a tree trunk in the background.
- Accidentally invoked on Opposite Worlds due to No OSHA Compliance. The first contestant eliminated from the show was thrown past a narrow ring of protective cushions surrounding the platform for the first challenge and hit the floor after a 10-foot fall. He broke a leg and left the show in an ambulance.
- In Bastion, a Running Gag has the Kid dropped from the sky onto objects that really shouldn't be used to break a fall. When the Sundown Path opens on a bale of hay, he lands off to the side of it.
- In Prince of Persia 3D, the prince reaches a guard standing on a high platform above a pool of water. The guard turns around and, frightened, falls off. He hits the ground right next to the pool, and the prince provides the page quote.
- Early on in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, you can find the corpse of a guy dressed up like an Assassin from Assassin's Creed right next to a pile of hay.
- Subverted in the Homestar Runner cartoon "A Death-Defying Decemberween." Homestar declares he's going to sled down the Steep Deep, not so much a hill as a vertical cliff face, but Strong Bad catches him burying a mattress at the foot of it, apparently to cushion his fall. Strong Bad naturally removes the mattress in the hopes of Homestar getting hilariously maimed on impact, but to everyone's amazement - Homestar's included - he makes it to the bottom without a scratch. As it turns out, the mattress was filled with "hammers, broken glass, and candy canes sucked down 'til they're all pointy," and Homestar was banking on getting hilariously maimed so he wouldn't have to spend Decemberween visiting Marzipan's parents.
- The Johnny Bravo episode "A Star is Bruised":. Johnny the stuntman falls right next to the big air-cushion (after it seemed like this would be the end of his series of painful accidents).
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, episode "A Plain Shortage of Planes": Seeing Dick Dastardly fall, Muttley quickly sets up a water-filled inflatable pool, then snickers as this trope happens to Dastardly.
- Used as a Running Gag in The Fairly OddParents whenever Crocker (or Timmy) enters the "Crocker Cave." Each time he ends up missing the mattress he was supposed to land on and moves it over to where he was.
- This happens to Yosemite Sam in the Looney Tunes short High Diving Hare. It's especially playing with expectations because throughout the skit he usually lands in the water.
- There's at least one Goofy cartoon where he keeps trying to open his parachute as he falls, but it pops out after he's already hit the ground.
- The Simpsons:
- When sneaking out of work to go on the Duff Brewery tour, Homer perfectly hits the mattress attached to the top of his car... or at least he would have, if Barney hadn't driven forward about 8 feet to look at something he thought was Diana, Princess of Wales.
- In one episode, Barney is subject to a series of three or four nasty injuries based on an industry of soft items - e.g., falling onto the roof of a mattress company, then being run over by a truck carrying pillows, etc.
- When Krusty fakes his death to escape the Intimidating Revenue Service, he jumps off a plane to fall on a net. He hits one of the rocks the net is tied to before hitting the net.
- Played with in "Homer the Heretic" with Ned, trying to help the unconscious Homer out of his burning house, tosses his mattress out the window so he can throw the man down to the ground safely. Homer does hit the mattress, only to have it spring him back up and through the ground-floor window of the still-burning house.
- Played with in the Futurama episode "Bendin' in the Wind". As Bender is falling, he cries, "Someone fat get in my way!" The camera is focused on a fat guy on the bottom, but Bender lands instead on the skinny woman next to him.
- In one of the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons, Wile E. decides to be Crazy-Prepared and put a trampoline at the bottom of a cliff so that he lands safely when he falls. Sometimes he misses. Sometimes he hits the trampoline but simply rips through the canvas and hits the ground. Sometimes the canvas separates from the frame and wraps around him. Once, the trampoline worked perfectly, only for him to hit his head on an overhang, fall on the ground next to the trampoline, then get hit again when the dislodged overhang fell on him.
- One Dexter's Laboratory episode begins with Dexter entering his lab by dropping in through a tube and landing next to a chair. He drags it into its proper place, muttering about Dee Dee moving it again.
- In Animalympics, an official has to move the landing pad for the high jump when the contestant goes up too high. He still lands short of the pad.
- Played with in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Wallaby". After getting thrown from his horse, Rocko flies over such hazards as a patch of cacti, a utensil graveyard full of forks and knives ("Pointy End Up"), and a toxic waste dump, only to land in a mattress junkyard. As he comments "What an unbelievable stroke of luck," a spring pops out of the mattress Rocko landed on and catapults him onto a cactus.
- In the first episode of Kuu Kuu Harajuku, the girls try to escape an annoying song, go up an elevator and hear an equally annoying song, then run through a window falling down several stories. They miss a pile of mattresses below and fall into a Dumpster.
- From The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Pud'n is free-falling from terminal height, and the mayor of the town is introducing a new tourist attraction: the world's largest pillow. It looks exactly what Pud'n needs to land on... before the mayor points out said pillow will be on display next to the cactus farm. Guess where he lands?
- Uglydolls has Wedgehead introduced to Uglyville by being launched out of her conveyor belt place (due to being a misfit doll), where a target has a mattress about to be set up for her. Unfortunately for her, the mattress is being moved by Willard, a slow-moving tortoise Uglydoll, causing her to land on the ground before it gets there for her, head-first. This also ends up giving her her trademark wedge-shaped head (her original head was shaped like a duck's tail, as she was a wrongly-assembled duck doll).