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Construction Zone Calamity

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How irresponsible! They forgot their hard hats!

"Don't worry, boy. Another girder always swings in for you to walk on right when you get to the end."
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "The Fool Monty"

A once-common stock setting, the construction zone, normally pictured as the skeleton of a skyscraper made up of steel beams, tends to be the place that every sleep walker or escaped baby inevitably wanders into, giving way to crazy slapstick antics as their pursuer tries desperately to catch up with them and keep them out of harm's way. Said constructions zones almost always have No OSHA Compliance, so when our bumbling protagonist gets a job working at one, there's bound to be trouble.

Things to watch out for include super-heated rivets, malfunctioning elevators, wooden beams or steel girders dangling from cranes (which have an eerie way of positioning themselves at just the right moment to prevent someone from falling), or spilled grease upon a high steel beam threatening to send a character sliding off a ten-plus story drop. Also, expect to see a Literal Cliff Hanger, though if someone actually falls, they're likely to just safely land in liquid cement and become statues when they try to climb out.

It doesn't show up very often today, but Western Animation kept it alive long after it mostly fell out of use in Live Action Film. It also served as a convenient setting for arcade and platform video games for a time.


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  • In one commercial, a granny walks into a construction site and into the path of an out-of-control steamroller. Chevy Chase comes to the rescue!...but it turns out he only wanted to save the bag of Doritos Tortilla Thins she was carrying. An alternate version depicts the commercial being interrupted (complete with Letting the Air out of the Band) by the news that Chevy got cancelled out of it. Chevy manages to keep the Doritos bag, but the granny steals it back from him the same way he took it from her in the original commercial.
  • In a commercial for Energizer batteries, two construction workers on their lunch break are seen on a skyscraper, talking about Vintage Farms Deli Loaf, the fictional product being advertised. Just then, the Energizer Bunny (who is dressed in a hard hat) interrupts the commercial by marching across the skyscraper. As the Bunny does this, he falls off the skyscraper, but lands on a steel girder being lifted by a crane, much to the bewilderment of the two workers.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The end of the Doraemon episode "Shizuka-chan Disappeared!?" takes place in a construction site, with some girders falling on a stray cat named Nora who had saved Shizuka earlier. Shizuka tries to saves him despite his insistence that she not follow him, with Nobita saving her from some more girders by transforming into a dinosaur kaiju.
  • The plot of Tokyo Ghoul is kicked off by the tragic event that happens at a construction zone. The harmless date between Rize and Kaneki ends in her taking him to a deserted area, then revealing her nature as a ghoul and attacking him. However, before she could eat him, several steel beams from the construction zone fell on her and crushed her. They both get taken to the hospital, where Rize's organs get transplanted into him to save his life.

    Films — Animation 
  • The construction of a skyscraper comes up several times during the Rhapsody in Blue sequence of Fantasia 2000. Duke works on a construction during the day, but quits to pursue a jazz job. At the end, Jobless Joe picks up the night shift. Also, Margaret gets picked up by the crane, allowing her husband John to go to a night club.
  • The climax of Monster House takes place in a construction site.
  • The climax of Mr. Bug Goes to Town has the bug characters scrambling up a skyscraper under construction on the vacant lot where they used to live, staying within a hairsbreadth away from being crushed by bricks being laid or shaken off by riveters.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Darkman offers a clever excuse for having its final confrontation take place at the top of a skyscraper under construction because the Big Bad Strack is savvy enough to arrange his encounter with Darkman in a way that works to his advantage (as he shows to be at ease and having better balance for being around construction zones since he was young). Strack and his goon further complicate things for Darkman by swinging crane hooks at him and using a large rivet gun.
  • The Three Stooges' short How High Is Up? has the Stooges taking jobs as construction workers and ending up working on the 97th floor. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Harold Lloyd was the Trope Codifier, and probably the Trope Maker, in Never Weaken, in which his character ends up being whisked away by a steel girder whilst attempting suicide, and is carried onto a building still under construction.
  • Charlie Chaplin's Pay Day features the Tramp's zany antics as a construction worker. The main gag that falls under this trope is malfunctioning elevators, with some mishaps involving falling bricks and a blow torch for good measure.
  • The Laurel and Hardy silent short Liberty climaxes with the duo getting stranded atop an unfinished skyscraper...with a live crab in Ollie's pants, no less.
  • The film Baby's Day Out makes use of this trope after three crooks chase a kidnapped baby into a construction zone.
  • Gooby: Gooby accidentally drives into a construction zone in a panic, mistakenly stepping on a concrete slab that is about to be lifted in the air, and the next thing we know Gooby's dangling over a 50-story building by a small hook. We even get to see shots of Gooby holding on for his life with nothing but the sky in frame.
    Gooby: Trust me, you donít want to be hanging over a 50-story building.
    • Gooby mentions that he had to jump off the concrete slab and landed in cement. Miraculously, he only gets a cut on his arm.
  • Freddy vs. Jason: During the final fight, Freddy has a hard time against Jason, until they stumble upon a construction zone where he makes creative use of gas tanks (that he pops open "firing" them at Jason like missiles), a multitude of rebars that he drops on Jason impaling him and pinning him down and a hanging cement mixer that he swings at him before trying to push a cart full of sand that gets stuck, but then the swinging weight ends up catching Freddy's foot making him hang helplessly as Jason frees himself and resumes fighting him until the cart gets unstuck and goes down sending them both flying towards the pier.
  • No Deposit, No Return: Jay, Bert, and Duster end up on one of these after accidentally sliding off the roof of their apartment.
  • The climactic fight between Holmes and Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes (2009) takes place on London's half-built Tower Bridge.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Soap: Burt owns a construction company and brings stepson Danny into the business. At one point they're up on the high iron talking and accidentally knock over a bucket full of rivets.
  • The 2point4 Children episode "Curiosity Killed the Cat" has Ben chasing a cat halfway across London, ending up at a building site. After following it up the building and nearly catching it in a bucket of sand, he finally sees it sitting at the end of a very narrow beam. So he carefully crawls along the beam ... at which point, inevitably, the cat jumps back down.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Alice (2022): The game is about someone having to navigate their way through a construction sight in Japan at night to get home... while being pursued by the angry ghost of a hooker who's body was found there.
  • Chaos Faction 2: Scaffold Scuffle has the fighters duke it out on several girders in a construction site.
  • The original arcade classic Donkey Kong takes place entirely in a construction site, where Mario famously has to fend off rogue barrels, piles of sand, and living fire. Later games occasionally had references to that girder-filled setting, whether that be the construction levels of Big Ape City in Donkey Kong Land or the girder areas of New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey.
  • The 1990s Cult Classic Game Sleep Walker had a few levels centered around this.
  • In Elite Beat Agents, the Bonus Level using "ABC" by the Jackson 5 where the Agents have to help a cat keep its owners' baby from getting into trouble as it wanders through a construction site.
  • In the Toy Story 2 Licensed Game, the fourth level, "Construction Yard" takes place at a construction site. The mini-boss of the level is a jackhammer, whom you defeat with a disc launcher you unlock in the same level.
  • Looney Tunes games:
  • In McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, In the second half of the second world, Ronald comes across a skyscraper, which is half-finished. As he tries to climb to the top, sumo wrestlers bend the skyscraper at horizontal slants.
  • In the Darkwing Duck Licensed Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Moliarty's stage takes place in a construction site, where Moliarty is developing a monstrous machine at the top of the tower.
  • The fourth stage of Kendo Rage takes place in a half-finished factory site.
  • Splatoon:
    • The first game has the multiplayer stage Hammerhead Bridge, which is a suspension bridge under heavy construction. The stage is actually split into two levels, with the top layer built primarily out of grating that players can slip through. As the bridge is unfinished, there are several chasms around the various platforms, forcing players to watch their step. Averted when the stage returned in Splatoon 3, as the bridge had finally been completed in the intervening years.
    • Splatoon 2 introduced the stage Sturgeon Shipyard, which takes place on a large ship being built in a shipyard. Like the original Hammerhead Bridge, there are several chasms and platforms made of grating around the stage. This stage also features several platforms that periodically rise and fall like drawbridges, altering the movement options available to players.
  • The thirteenth level of Word Rescue is titled "Construction Zone" and has you running around looking for words on the support structure of a half-finished building. The level is bordered by brick walls on each side and third wall that has barely been started takes up part of the background on the first floor.
  • The Simpsons games:
    • In The Itchy and Scratchy Game, the sixth level, "A Site For Sawed Eyes" takes place at a construction site. The boss of the level is Scratchy driving a bulldozer.
    • The fourth map of The Simpsons Skateboarding takes place in a construction site consisting of half-finished buildings, monorail tracks and an army surplus store with tanks.
  • Appears when the player briefly ventures through Toy Town in Episode 2 of Scooby-Doo! First Frights.
  • Cartoon Network Racing: The I Am Weasel tracks primarily take place on a construction site.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner used this and other old-timey tropes in "The Ballad of the Sneak," a cartoon supposedly from The '30s.
  • In Lackadaisy:
    • Downplayed and Played for Drama as Marigold Gang's Consummate Professional Mordecai armed with a pistol and Lackadaisy's Reluctant Warrior Freckle armed with a Little Useless Gun have a shootout in a maze of steel beams at Sable Stone and Quarry. Freckle has Roof Hopping and impetuousness, while Mordecai has patience and accuracy in Counting Bullets. Out of ammo and grazed by a ricochet, Freckle is only saved by the distraction of his cousin Rocky's Construction Vehicle Rampage.
    • That rampage then goes badly wrong when Rocky blindly tosses a lit stick of dynamite that bounces off a water tower support, right back into the dynamite-filled steam shovel bucket he was riding in. Rocky hastily drops out of it in slapstick fashion, but the shovel heads straight to the water tower. Rocky narrowly avoids being run over as the shovel makes impact, the dynamite blows, and the explosion ruptures and knocks the Water Tower Down, flooding the quarry. It does confound their Marigold Gang pursuers in equally comedic fashion just enough to aid Rocky and his runners' escape.

    Western Animation 
  • There are several examples from the Popeye shorts:
    • "A Dream Walking" has Olive Oyl sleepwalk into a construction site, as Popeye and Bluto try to stop her from killing herself.
    • A Recycled Script short "Nix on Hypnotricks" has Olive wander into a construction site after being hypnotized.
    • In "Child Shockology", Popeye and Bluto chase an escaped Sweet Pea, who wanders into a construction site.
    • The short "Bridge Ahoy!" has Popeye, Olive and Wimpy building a bridge to compete with Bluto's ferry business, and Bluto attempts to sabotage them. A rare non-skyscraper example.
  • Tom and Jerry has had this a few times:
    • The short "Tot Watchers" has the duo try to protect a baby who wanders into a construction zone.
    • The later Chuck Jones shorts "Pent-House Mouse" and "Bad Day at Cat Rock" take place at construction sites.
    • Tom and Jerry Tales also had this as a setting in the shorts "Deconstruction Junction" and "Jackhammered Cat".
  • A number of Classic Disney Shorts feature variants of this:
    • The Donald Duck short "The Riveter" has Donald work as a construction worker, and incurring the wrath of his boss after his jackhammer goes out of control.
    • In the short "Clock Cleaners", Goofy unknowingly wanders into one after being hit on the head and put into a daze.
    • The early Mickey Mouse short "Building a Building" has Mickey working at a construction site.
    • And before Mickey, there was the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short, "Sky Scrappers", with the same concept.
  • This was also used in The Garfield Show episode "Jon's Night Out".
  • Animaniacs used this trope a few times:
    • Buttons and Mindy short "Cat on a Hot Steel Beam" has Mindy chase a kitten into a construction site while Buttons chases after her. Eventually, some actual workmen find her and take her to safety, leaving Buttons to take the blame as usual. At one point, both Popeye and Tom and Jerry make a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo chasing after babies in homage to their respective shorts that used this trope.
    • In fact, Buttons is also briefly shown chasing Mindy through a construction zone during the show's opening theme song as well.
    • "Slappy Goes Walnuts" begins with Slappy watching an old cartoon of her working a skyscraper.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon "Homeless Hare" features a battle between Bugs Bunny and a burly construction worker on a building site. One sequence has Bugs, dazed after taking a girder to the face, walking through a harrowing series of moving girders and other objects.
    • Chuck Jones' "Cat Feud" takes place at a construction site, with a dog trying to rescue a kitten.
    • The late '60s short "Skyscraper Caper" has Daffy Duck sleepwalking into a construction site, and Speedy Gonzales trying to rescue him.
    • 1941's "Rhapsody in Rivets" has a construction team assembling a skyscraper to the ubiquitous Liszt Rhapsody.
  • The Fairly Oddparents has an entire short tributing this trope. Pappy describes to Timmy how one can wander into a construction site almost by accident and be saved from falling off it by a moving girder.
    • A little later on in the series, Timmy is watching Poof while Cosmo and Wanda go out to eat at a fancy restaurant. They up the ante with 3 construction sites, the last one being in space where Dark Laser is building a brand new Death Ball.
  • On The Penguins of Madagascar the penguins chase a baby into a demolition site, with Kowalski Lampshading it all the way through.
  • The 2 Stupid Dogs episode "Seeing Eye Dogs" have the two dogs leading a mostly-blind Hollywood on a "shortcut" through a construction site.
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Fool Monty", Homer leads a dazed and amnesiac Mr. Burns to a construction site in the hopes of bumping him off via this manner.
    • In "King Size Homer", Homer wanders into a hardhat area in an attempt to deliberately injure himself so he can be put on disability at work. After he tries and fails to get hit with falling construction tools, a worker gets crushed by a wheelbarrow full of cinderblocks.
      Homer: Hmmm... Probably better that didn't hit me.
    • In "Frink Gets Testy", Ralph Wiggum wanders into a construction site. Chief Wiggum lampshades the use of this trope in cartoons:
      Chief Wiggum: I've seen this in cartoons lots of times. Swee'Pea, Mr. Magoo, they all come out fine.
      Lou: What about Sylvester the Cat?
      Chief Wiggum: Never be a cat in a cartoon, Lou. Never.
  • In the episode "The Mysterious Mare Do Well" of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the titular mystery heroine saves construction workers from a collapsing construction site.
  • This happens in Fluppy Dogs while Jamie is taking Stanley out for a walk, not realizing that he is actually a sentient being. When Stanley escapes and leads Jamie to a construction site, Jamie tries to climb up a ladder to a support beam, only for the ladder to give away, leaving Jamie dangling off the beam, prompting Stanley to reveal his true nature by saving Jamie.
  • In their ABC debut, Scooby-Doo and his teenage pals encounter a spectre haunting a construction site in "Hi-Rise Hair Raiser".
  • In the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Last Train to Cashville", Dale is sleep-deprived as the Rangers try to foil Fat Cat's plans, and begins to sleepwalk, right into a construction zone, narrowly avoiding death several times thanks to his friends chasing after him and some conveniently placed girders. The scene ends with Chip falling down multiple stories and landing in a pile of cement.
  • In the Mr. Magoo cartoon "Trouble Indemnity", Magoo goes to collect an insurance claim, but wanders into the construction site next door. The insurance agents see him and scramble to keep him from hurting himself; as he's their only client, "If he falls, the company falls!"
  • The Pink Panther causes this in two of his shorts, "The Pink Blueprint" and "Prefabricated Pink".
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) featured construction sites as frequent places for the turtles to fight, though usually they just chased the bad guys there rather than there being any plot-relevant reason for them.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "Return to Omashu", Aang had his first encounter with Azula on the construction site of Fire Lord Ozai's statue on the capture city of Omashu. It was originally a trade deal for the captured King Bumi for Mai's little brother, until the deal was called off and fighting ensued.
    • It is also based on the pilot episode of the show where Aang fought Zuko on the construction of a statue.
  • Wacky Races (1968): In "Rhode Island Road Race", Dick Dastardly tricks the Wacky Racers into wandering into a construction site as part of his plan to win the Wacky Race.


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