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Cartoon Bug-Sprayer

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"Stand back!" ordered Mr. Wonka, and suddenly, from some secret place inside his coat-tails, he whisked out a spray-gun. It was one of those old-fashioned things people used to use for spraying fly-spray around the room before aerosols came along...

Cartoon characters still use old-fashioned "flit gun" bug sprayers, in much the same way they still use Cartoon Bombs, Plunger Detonators, and Big Electric Switches.

Flit guns were in common use from about the late 1920s until the mid-1950s, which coincides almost exactly with The Golden Age of Animation. While Golden Age cartoons with flit guns are just reflecting contemporary technology, it's their use of such devices which established flit guns as the Universal Cartoon Symbol for Bug Sprayer and they've remained so long after the technology became obsolete in the real world, replaced by the aerosol spray can.


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  • The name "flit gun" is a Brand Name Takeover, referring to the insecticide company Flit. Flit rose to prominence in the early 20th century due to a highly successful marketing campaign. The campaign used humorous cartoons, drawn by none other than a pre-fame Dr. Seuss, and spawned a popular catchphrase, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" So successful was the campaign that, at one time, crop dusters were nicknamed "flying flit guns".

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin: The Calculus Affair has Tintin and Captain Haddock cross a mosquito-infested lake, with Haddock wielding one of these to little effect. Then he hears a particularly loud buzz, looks for the Giant Mook... and sees a helicopter instead.

     Comic Strips 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion arms himself against the Wicked Witch with one.
  • In Animal Crackers, Harpo uses one (filled with chloroform) at the end of the movie. It knocks everyone out, including himself.
  • In Labyrinth, Hoggle uses one of these against flying fairies.
  • Used by Don Corleone's grandson in The Godfather.
  • In Field of Dreams, upon learning that Ray is "from the '60s," Terrence Mann sprays him with one of these.
    Terrence Mann: Out! Back to the '60s! Back! There's no place for you here in the future. Get back while you still can!

  • Willy Wonka uses one in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Roald Dahl explicitly lampshades it as the kind you'd see "before Aerosols came along," part of Wonka's trademark eccentricity and anachronism, but he also clearly expects his young readers to be at least dimly familiar with the things.
  • A very early version appears in one of the Borrowers books; it takes the form of a bellows once used to stoke a fireplace, but with a mixture of herbs which got rid of pests.
  • Mr Brooks the beekeeper in Lords and Ladies has one, filled with a green liquid made of old tobacco and herbs even the witches don't know about, which he uses on wasp nests. It also works on The Fair Folk, who Mr Brooks sees as just another kind of wasp.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the opening credits to Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray uses one of these to swat away his annoying and intrusive parents.
  • Buggs Zapper carries one of these in Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego.
  • In the Lizzie McGuire episode "When Moms Attack", animated Lizzie uses one during one of her interludes.
  • Hawkeye and co. have one of these inside the Swamp on M*A*S*H. In one episode, Klinger uses one to try and disinfect his office when an outbreak of mumps occurs in camp. It doesn't work.
  • Ellery Queen: One of the comedians in the burlesque show uses a comically oversized one as a prop in his act in "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils". It was also the murder weapon; used to spray poison in the face of the Victim of the Week.

    Video Games 
  • The 2002 remake of Resident Evil requires you to use one on the massive hornet's nest before grabbing the key beneath it.
  • This is what your character uses in Donkey Kong 3, and in the Game & Watch game Greenhouse.
    • Mr. Game and Watch went on to use the same bug sprayer for one of his attacks in the Super Smash Bros. series.
  • Lots of time management games that involve either farming or flower growing will invoke this trope when fighting off bugs. There are a bunch of them on Big Fish Games.
  • In Scratches, Micheal Arthate can examine a fumigator of this type in the greenhouse of Blackwood Manor, though it can't be used. Considering the estate's owner lived here up to the early 1960's, it's somewhat justified.
  • In Legend of the Crystal Skull, Nancy Drew must use one of these against wasps to gain access to a tree's fruit.
  • Blood II: The Chosen features the Insect-a-Cutioner, with a lit Zippo lighter attached to the top - primary fire shoots out extremely caustic bug spray, secondary turns it upside-down to use it in the same manner as an Aerosol Flamethrower. It's a poor weapon overall, and its ammunition is better put to use as grenades for your assault rifle.
  • Appears briefly in a cutscene in Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!. A robotic farmer uses one of these to clear a swarm of bugs. A larger bug then shows up and uses its own cartoon bug sprayer on the farmer. And that's the last the player sees of the farmer, except for his hat.
  • One appears in the apiary in BioShock, presumably as a smoker for the hives. It's actually an in-joke among the developers; the model was originally going to be a usable weapon that would fire the equivalent of the Insect Swarm and Enrage plasmids among other things.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The 1934 Betty Boop cartoon Theres Something About A Soldier has an Army regiment battle giant mosquitos. The soldiers have middling success with giant swatters and peculiar artillery until Betty Boop arrives at the front with a huge flit gun. It takes four men to pump it, but its gas cloud eradicates the mosquitos, for which Betty is given a hero's parade through town.
  • Countless episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The page image is from Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too.
  • That Tom and Jerry episode, "Trap Happy", with the Mouse Exterminator cat.
  • Mickey Mouse uses one in "Mickey's Garden". In "The Worm Turns" he uses one to dispense Super Serum.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Applejack has one during the defense of Sweet Apple Acres in "Swarm of the Century".
  • One of the common methods of attempting to dispatch the cockroaches in Oggy and the Cockroaches. Jack has a tendency to fill them with his own homemade pesticides, which often end up turning the odds even further in the favor of the roaches.
  • The Joker uses one of these briefly in the first episode of The Batman to disperse his trademark Joker Venom.
  • King Koopa used one to try and spray the Mario Bros. with pesticide in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "Princess, I Shrunk the Mario Bros.".
  • A Bullwinkle's Corner segment has Bullwinkle reciting "Morey Had a Little Lamb" (the name changed from Mary since Rocky, who is participating in the visual, is a boy). Bullwinkle's sheep costume has fleas that cause him to scratch frantically until Rocky applies bug spray to it.
    Bullwinkle: So if you have a little lamb,
    Just take a tip from me.
    If it has fleas as white as snow...
    Rocky: Just use some DDT!
  • In the Super Friends episode Termites from Venus, Batman shouts "Quick Robin! The Bat Repellent!" (which, it seems, is bug repellant branded by Batman, not repellent to repel bats). They pull out collapsible old-fashioned bug sprayers from their utility belts and spray the giant termites... to no effect whatsoever, as they are immediately captured along with the rest of the Super-Friends
  • Looney Tunes: In Transylvania 6-5000, a Running Gag has Bugs Bunny mistaking Count Bloodcount's bat form for a huge mosquito, at one point spraying him with a flit gun.
    Bugs: Another one? They oughta screen this place.

    Real Life 
  • You can still find these in Ace and True Value hardware stores, but they're quite obscure.
  • They're oddly linked with Nickelodeon, at least in toy form. The first instance was a small water-sprayer in a Happy Meal series; the second was a larger water-sprayer.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Flit Gun


Rabbit with Bug-Sprayer

Rabbit uses an old-fashioned "flit gun" sprayer on the bugs in his garden.

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