The ability of animated characters to hide behind items clearly smaller than them, be it a tree, a lamp post or a drawing pin. Perhaps they disappear into hammerspace?
Sometimes two characters will lurk behind the same narrow object, clearly unable to see each other back there. Frequently the front end of one will emerge from one side, while the rear end of the second waggles out the other side. Or both front ends will emerge, spot one another, and resume the Chase Scene.
Tree Cover is a related trope, done seriously, and generally at least plausibly (courtesy of a nice thick tree).
- Averted for humour in Beetle Bailey twice.
- Beetle has a hunch Sarge is watching him from hiding... mainly because Sarge is far too obese to fit behind the object he's standing behind, and the attempt just looks silly.
- Another time, inverse to the above, Beetle annoys Sarge by letting him know he's hiding behind a pole that can hide him because he's so much thinner. (Kind of played straight, sort of accidentally, in that the pole doesn't quite look thick enough to really cover him. But it's nothing like as extreme as the usual example, and the idea is that only someone so skinny could do it.)
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- One strip shows Hobbes hiding behind a standard lamp as he sneaks up on Calvin.
- Lampshaded when Calvin tries hiding behind a swing set but notices that the poles don't do a good job of hiding him.
- Both Garfield and Odie hide behind a lamp in one Sunday strip.
- In one Krazy Kat Sunday strip, Krazy hides (from the stork) behind an egg roughly the size of Krazy's head.
- Spoofed in two early Peanuts strips — Charlie Brown first tries this with a normal-sized tree but it doesn't work because his enormous round head protrudes on both sides of the trunk, so in the second example he finds a tree with a big square sign nailed to it at the right height...
- In Caliph-Stork, advisers hid behind very narrow pillars.
- Thirty Hs: A ten-foot-tall character appears "from behind nothing much".
- In The Peanuts Movie, Snoopy hides behind a lamp while spying on the Little Red-Haired Girl.
- This is one of the "cartoon tricks" that the main character of Badly Drawn Roy can do.
- Hurley tries to do it behind a table leg in G-Force.
- Hans Richter's 1928 short film Ghosts Before Breakfast features a number of men disappearing behind a lamppost.
- Freddy Kreuger does this in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), though it's justified as he exists within dreams.
- The Villain: Cactus Jack, being primarily inspired by Looney Tunes, does this at one point, with the title character and his horse hiding behind a cactus.
- In Horrid Henry: The Movie, Henry does this to hide from and ambush Margaret.
- One physical humor joke involves placing two knuckles on either side of an upright finger and asking the viewer to identify what it's depicting. The answer, of course, is "Dolly Parton hiding behind a tree." (Substitute any other well-known busty woman, as appropriate.)
- "Have you ever seen an elephant hiding behind a lamppost?" "No." "They're so damn good at hiding..."
- Doctor Who: In "Time-Flight", the Master's TARDIS takes the form of a black classical column that is only just wide enough for him to stand behind unseen, and too narrow to include any kind of normal door.
- At one point, Sesame Street had a closing credit sequence in which Barkley the dog played hide-and-seek with a large group of children, who hid behind a tree too narrow to conceal them all.
- The ITV live-action children's series Woof had a variation where walking past a pole hid the main character long enough to allow him to transform into his dog form. Though this was probably due to technical restrictions on this mid-90s low-budget series.
- Starting in 3rd Edition, some character classes in Dungeons & Dragons could get the Hide In Plain Sight ability, which allowed them to hide even if there was nothing for them to hide behind and even while hostile creatures were looking directly at them.
- Explicitly possible in the tabletop RPG Toon. If you succeed on a Hide/Spot Hidden skill check, then you are hidden. Somehow. It doesn't matter whether there's something you could have plausibly hidden behind. In fact, the skill is demonstrated in the rule book by an illustration of an elephant hiding from a hunter behind a parking meter.
- In Warhammer 40,000, there is an ability (originally unique to Lord General Ursarkar E. Creed) called 'Tactical Genius', allowing you to infiltrate almost any unit using the same rules as camouflaged scouts. This will lead to situations such as a super-heavy tank the size of a house hiding behind a lamppost, or a 45-foot tall 'Scout' Titan hiding behind a man-sized bush. A related meme is to scream CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!!!!!! as you reveal your unit, since Creed is so notorious for this ability, both in and out of canon.
- Improbable Island: Your first encounter with the sneaky bastard lion starts with you spotting its signature tail poking out from behind a two-foot-wide tree. Upon hearing your terrified mutterings, the seven-foot-long feline leaps at you. Lions are sneaky bastards, of course they can do that.
- Used in the same manner as many cartoons in Justice League Heroes: The Flash. Occasionally, when you break a traffic light, a Mecha-Mook will be revealed as either having been hiding behind it or inside of it, despite the fact that the robot is several times wider than the post.
- In Mass Effect 2, as Thane's loyalty mission starts, he manages to vanish completely behind two passers-by, each walking in opposite direction.
- In Undertale, Sans tells the player character to go hide behind a "conveniently-shaped lamp" as Papyrus approaches. It fully conceals the player character, but only during the cutscene.
- Parodied in Bar'd, where the entire staff of the Leafy Bar sans Shelia tries to hide behind a tiny plant from Dejero, the true boss of the joint.
- Played with in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire.
- At one point, an alien ninja (and the narration points out that every culture in the universe has its own version of ninja) is sneaking down a passage, then decides to hide in a small, somewhat shady corner... which shouldn't by any rationale be able to hide him. When he gets close to it, however, the dozens of other ninja already hiding in there tell him to go away.
- He also pulls it off straight shortly after.
- In this strip for The Whiteboard, during a paintball match Bandit peeks out from behind a tree that in no way is thick enough to actually hide him, even with his normal slenderness. His peeking out almost makes it look like his head and neck are sprouting from the tree like a branch.
- Done in One Man Band to Animusic alongside other camera tricks.
- In The Mercury Men, Edward attempts this, hiding behind a two-inch-wide narrow pole.
- 1d4Chan, taking the Warhammer 40,000 rule that "tactical genius" Lord Ursarkar Creed can infiltrate anything (except cavalry), notes that he could hide a Baneblade behind a light post, a Titan in a swimming pool, or an army under your desk.
- Done a few times on Homestar Runner. At least twice, characters have managed to hide behind The Stick, an aptly-named local "landmark" consisting of a stick stuck in the ground. In one Strong Bad Email, "hiding", as part of a game of hide-and-seek, Strong Mad hid behind himself hiding behind The Stick. However, the fake Strong Mad was visible.
Strong Bad: Uh, Strong Mad? Buddy? That's the same spot you hide in every time we play.
(Strong Mad emerges from behind "himself")
Strong Mad: DAWWW!
Strong Bad: Whoa! Did you make a hiding spot out of you hiding in your usual hiding spot? To hide behind?
Strong Mad: I STAYED UP ALL NIGHT!
Strong Bad: (sarcastically) And it was well worth your time.
- Attempted by an enemy player in one of Galm's sessions playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. It works about as well as you'd expect.
- The self-billed "Honest Politician" Gil Fulbright has a series of satirical videos that include a tendency to walk out from behind a tree to promote his political campaigns (and it may be worth noting that he's on the hefty side). For his presidential campaign video, it escalates at the end to stepping out from behind a tiny tree that's clearly smaller than him.
- This is one of the oldest tropes in animation history, dating back to Charles-Émile Reynaud's pioneering 1894 cartoon Pauvre Pierrot. When Harlequin's romantic rival Pierrot shows up, Harlequin hides behind an impossibly thin marble column.
- The 1933 Ub Iwerks Willie Whopper short Spite Flight has its Simon Legree-type villainous landlord lean out of his improbable hiding spot behind a 2-inch-thick tree trunk.
- A few years later, Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes stable were fond of this.
- A common joke they would also have is where a character based on Frank Sinatra would be able to do this behind his microphone stand. Not as a trick, but because he's just that skinny.
- In Confessions of a Nutzy Spy, Missing Lynx manages to replicate himself for a moment by looking out from both sides of a tree at once.
- Played with in Ed, Edd n Eddy, "Three Squares and An Ed", which features a rare example of displaying the back of the pole. The Eds are shown to somehow be able to alter their anatomy to resemble that of spaghetti while using the banisters in Ed's house to sneak past Sarah and Jimmy (who are trying to make sure the grounded Ed stays in his room). This manages to look hilarious and oddly creepy at the same time.
- Played straight in The Ed-Touchables. Eddy and Edd hide behind a pole while Ed keeps banging into it.
- Done in at least one (and probably many more) Tom and Jerry short, in which the front and rear ends of the titular characters emerged from round the side of the pole in various combinations before either of them realised what was happening.
- Spoofed in, what else, The Simpsons, in which Fat Tony steps out from behind a tree sapling after hearing that the school would need construction for a wheelchair ramp.
- Played straight later in "The Fool Monty" when Mr. Burns steps out from behind the microphone stand.
- An EPA agent pops out from behind a thin tree when the Simpsons find a screamapillar in their backyard.
- Spoofed in an untitled animated short, in which a character hides behind a thin flagpole. His pursuers run by, and the camera moves in behind the pole, revealing at least four other people along with the character in a lavish room with several large chairs and a fireplace. One of the others inquires who he's hiding from.
- Used in the Beast Wars when the recently-baseless Predacons evade a Maximal patrol.
- Subverted in a 1958 cartoon, Sick, Sick Sidney. In it, Sidney the Elephant tries to hide from safari hunters by getting behind a very thin tree. However, Sidney is too fat and thus unsuccessful, saying "Oh they just don't make trees like they used to."
- ReBoot has Bob do this while inside a pirate ship's prison cell to make the pirates think he's escaped. It's implied that Mouse had hacked that cell when she was previously forced to occupy it and installed hammerspace into it.
- Used on Jimmy Two-Shoes, including Heloise popping out of the thin-as-a-pole Jimmy.
- The Yellow Submarine does this a couple of times to hide from Ringo behind lampposts.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Green Isn't Your Color", Pinkie Pie repeatedly hides in places where she can't possibly fit, such as a small apple stand and a basket of sponges.
- Pinkie Pie is seen hiding under a rock in "Feeling Pinkie Keen", despite the rock still touching the ground with no gap underneath.
- In "The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows", Pinkie Pie hid herself and a large wagon loaded up with baked goods behind a thin tree.
- Spoofed in the Tex Avery short "Northwest Hounded Police". An escaped convict has been trying in vain to get away from Droopy, and eventually ends up on a tiny island with only two small rocks.
Convict: (to the audience) Yeah, I know. (points to the larger rock) He'll probably be right under that rock.
Droopy: (popping up from beneath the smaller rock) Nope, under this one.
- In the short Caballero Droopy, the villain jumps out from behind a cactus to stick Droopy up. Later, he goes behind the cactus and comes back out riding his horse.
- Negaduck does this is in a Darkwing Duck episode while spying on the titular hero and Morgana.
- The Tex Avery short One Ham's Family has the wolf hiding behind a thin tree, then coming out disguised as Santa Claus.
- The cat in Coraline can do this, teleporting by vanishing behind one object and then appearing from behind another.
- Parodied in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends when Bloo is trying to sneakily follow Uncle Pockets, we see an object the perfect shape and size for him to hide behind, but he instead hides behind a lamp that doesn't cover him at all (also he's on the wrong side). When Bloo mentally revisits this scene he was properly hidden behind the lamp because he was wearing an invisibility cloak.
- A Gravity Falls short features Dipper investigating the Hide-Behind, a tall, skinny creature that can fold its body up so as to hide behind just about anything.
- In an episode of Shaun the Sheep, Shaun and Bitzer hide behind a very narrow tree while trailing a fox who raided the henhouse.
- The Wacky Races episode "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock" at one point has a scene where Dick Dastardly and Muttley manage to hide behind a cactus that's much thinner than both of them.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Voice", when Gumball admits to asking Darwin to make a surrogate confession to Penny, he comes out from behind a football goalpost. The former two try to do this in "The Guy", but are still visible.
- Private Snafu: In "A Few Quick Facts about Fear", Snafu and his warhorse manage to behind a tree trunk that is far narrower than the horse is wide.