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Disastrous Demonstration

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Uh, back to the drawing board.

In Real Life, a product's design may be rejected because it's not cost-effective to make, because it infringes on someone else's patents, because the expected market for it has diminished, or many other dull-but-practical reasons. In fiction, that's not good enough: for a product to be abandoned, something must go disastrously wrong at a meeting of investors or shareholders, or even at a press conference announcing the product's debut. This always results in the product being cancelled, even if the catastrophe has nothing to do with its quality or lack thereof.

May also apply to demonstrations intended to win a prize or a single sale, rather than to be produced en masse. In the former case, the contestant's entry will be disqualified for a disastrous failure, even if said failure was in no way its creator's fault.

A subtrope of Gone Horribly Wrong. Compare Sabotage to Discredit, where this is deliberately arranged to insure that the product is rejected, Confidence Sabotage, where this is deliberately arranged as a psychological attack on the designer, and Flawed Prototype, where the product simply doesn't work as planned. If a competitor flagrantly stages one of these with an otherwise-safe product to make their own gadget look better in contrast, see Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket. See also Testing Range Mishap and Education Through Pyrotechnics. Not to be confused with the term "demonstration" as a synonym for "protest".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Invoked in Neon Genesis Evangelion with the Jet Alone demonstration. Gendo is worried the competing mecha will be a problem for NERV so he has the demonstration sabotaged (possibly by Ritsuko). Having a combat vehicle go out of control and nearly suffer a nuclear meltdown in a populated city was enough to get it scrapped. As an added bonus for NERV, Shinji and Eva 01 are instrumental in preventing the meltdown.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: In the original The Amazing Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko), Dr. Octavius has problems during his new invention's demonstration, which sets him on the path to becoming supervillain Doctor Octopus. The movie Spider-Man 2 carried over this element of his origin story.
  • Mega Man (Archie Comics): Played with in the comic. Blues' power failure during the test fight convinces the military to simply scale back the nature of the combat robots they want to order from Dr. Light instead of cancelling it outright.

    Comic Strips 
  • A famous New Yorker magazine cartoon by Peter Arno, which shows the disastrous aftermath of a test plane flight, is actually what popularized the phrase "Back to the (old) drawing board." with its caption.
  • A common event in Dilbert. For example, when Dilbert demonstrates his team's 3-D holographic interface for the new VP, the Dark Angel of Product Demos shows up inside the monitor (alongside Wally who's pretending to be the interface), tells the VP the product is a fake, and shows her some dirty photos the male engineers have been storing on the server.

    Fan Works 
  • The Palaververse: Wedding March: When talking about the demonstration of a new Asinial toaster:
    “It … was an exciting variation on a combustion engine, I’ll grant it that much. Is there nothing less lethal we can give the poor couple?”
    “No donkey actually died during the demonstration, Arch-Minister,” said Silhouette

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Bright Eyes escapes and rampages through the biotech company's facility, until she's shot right in front of its board of directors. The serum that made her intelligent is immediately shelved, even though her escape was a result of handlers' errors and her own Mama Bear nature, not the serum.
  • RoboCop franchise:
    • In RoboCop (1987), the demonstration of a glitching ED-209 results in one of the company's lesser executives becoming Ludicrous Gibs. (Maybe using live ammo in a demonstration was a bad idea here.) The ED design is sent back to the drawing board in favor of Robocop.
    • In RoboCop 2, the Robocop Mk. 2 prototypes end up committing suicide within seconds of being unveiled. The first one also shot several technicians, which is why they didn't give the second one a gun. Also, Robocop Mk. 2 goes on a withdrawal-fueled rampage in front of a large press corps when OCP holds an event to promote its new police-cyborg.
    • Averted in RoboCop (2014). At first it looks like it'll be played straight — Murphy suffers a Heroic BSoD while downloading the police database, including CCTV footage of the car-bombing that maimed him. Ordered to get him on his feet immediately for Robocop's first press conference, Dr Norton tampers with Murphy's neurochemistry to completely repress his emotions. Murphy stomps past his family and ignores the Mayor's outstretched hand, scanning them and everyone else in the crowd for potential threats. Fortunately he sees one — a man wanted for murder — and leaps into the crowd and tasers him. The event is then spun as an example of Robocop's amazing abilities in comparison to regular law enforcement, who failed to notice a wanted man in their midst.
  • In Splice, the transgenic organisms Fred and Ginger tear each other apart during a live TV promotion for their creators' gene-splicing technology, thanks to the scientists that should have been monitoring their development being preoccupied with their new pet project and not noticing that Ginger has become a male. As a result, the program that created them is cancelled.
  • Young Frankenstein: Freddy introduces his monster in a song-and-dance routine, which goes fine until a stage light bursts into flame, which scares the monster into going on a rampage.
  • Something always goes wrong when introducing Kong to the general public.
  • Charlie Chaplin's like this trope:
  • In Honey We Shrunk Ourselves, Wayne's less-than-impressive presentation is implied to have lost a major deal, with the investors leaving looking dissatisfied.
  • In Young Einstein, Preston Preston steals Einstein's beer-bubble-maker and, in his ignorance, nearly nukes London in his attempt to demonstrate it.
  • In Deal of the Century, when a UAV is launched at a military aircraft demonstration, it malfunctions and destroys the expo. The design is justifiably scrapped when these technical difficulties are found to have resulted from the drone not being water-resistant.
    General: This is a great day for the Air Force, Senator!
    Senator (about ready to run for his life): Why is that, General?
  • Invoked in Iron Man 2, when the villain deliberately waits until the new military drones are being displayed at a massive product-premiere event before usurping control of them and siccing them on Iron Man. Tony also plays footage at the Senate hearing of this trope afflicting North Korea's, Iran's, and Hammer's attempts to build power armor.
  • Hal's defeat of the drone planes in Green Lantern (2011) came close to this, but Carol's fast-talking subverted her company's loss of its contract.
  • Played for Laughs in J-Men Forever. Admiral Ballsy demonstrates the dangerous effects of rock & roll music to the FCC (Federal Culture Control). The sound waves destroy a flask of milk being used as the target, then the window behind it, then an entire skyscraper.
  • In Scanners, the famous exploding-head scene takes place at what was supposed to be ConSec's official debut of its scanner program before representatives of other intelligence agencies.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Magneto hijacks the Sentinel prototypes at their public debut to provide a high-profile platform for his attack and New Era Speech.
  • In Joy, the man hired to demonstrate the mop Joy invented live on a shopping channel obviously didn't bother to touch the thing before stepping in front of the cameras and trying to sell it. Needless to say, the demonstration went poorly.
  • Those Fantastic Flying Fools (aka Jules Vernes Rocket To The Moon) opens with a montage of these, such as the first house to be illuminated by electric lighting (which promptly burns down), a Prussian Helmet Cannon that nearly kills the Kaiser, and a suspension bridge that collapses during the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony.
  • In Jurassic Park, John Hammond, who boasts that he "spared no expense," invites renowned paleontologists Allan Grant and Ellie Settler to endorse the park on behalf of the paleontological field. Mathematician Ian Malcolm is brought in to oversee/calculate the potential shortcomings and risks of the park. Lawyer Donald Genaro is sent by the company to reassure investors that the enterprise is not a waste of money or time. Hammond's grandchildren, Timmy and Lex, are on the island to test the interest of the park's target demographic. As the story progresses, a monetary dispute results in lead programmer Dennis Nedry shutting off the park's security, which leads to Malcolm, Grant, Lex, Timmy, and Genaro getting attacked by an escaped T.rex, which seriously wounds Malcolm and eats Genaro. A Dilophosaurus then has a chance encounter with Nedry and eats him. The Velociraptors also escape their enclosure and kill another programmer and the park's game warden, and would have killed the survivors if it wasn't for the T.rex's timely intervention. Grant then tells Hammond he refuses to endorse the park as they flee in a jeep, though to Hammond's credit, he doesn't mind, as he himself has come to the same conclusion.
  • In Pacific Rim: Uprising, Liwen Shao, head of Shao Industries, had been lobbying for their drone program to compliment and eventually replace the Jaegers as a means of protecting Earth from the Precursors and their Kaiju. After a rogue Jaeger attacks a summit in Australia, Shao Industries is given the go-ahead to start mass producing and implementing their drones. On their first patrol, they go haywire and start attacking the Jaegers and start opening the Rift again to allow more Kaiju to cross over. When Hermann Gottlieb and his friend Newton "Newt" Geizler try to find out what's going on, it's revealed that Newt, who had kept a piece of Kaiju brain in his apartment, had been taken over by the Precursors and used his mind to create a Jaeger/Kaiju hybrid that would destroy the Jaegers and bring more Kaiju to Earth.
  • In Spider-Man 2, Harry Osborne brings in Doctor Otto Octavius and gives him a budget of $50 million to fund his fusion reactor experiment, in the hopes that this will lead to OsCorp becoming a leader in energy production, as well as net a profit of several billion dollars later on. During the reactor's trial run, the energy output proves to be greater than what Octavius calculated and the research lab is destroyed. The only reason things don't get any worse because Spider-Man shows up and severs the cables that were powering the reactor. In the end, several of the attendees are injured by the mishap, Octavius's wife is killed in a hail of broken glass, OsCorp has to deal with the fact that they just wasted a 50 million dollar investment, and Octavius has his powered tentacle arms fused to his spine, transforming him into Doctor Octopus.
  • Double-dose in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps:
    • After stealing a sample of Sherman Klump's Fountain of Youth, Buddy Love sabotages the rest of it with Miracle-Gro. As a result, Sherman's televised demonstration goes off the rails when the hamster test subject abruptly grows to roughly twenty feet tall and attacks the audience.
    • Buddy later holds a demonstration of the stolen formula before the boof a biotech corporation, only for Sherman to trick Buddy into accidentall a dose of it. In the ensuing chaos, Buddy is regressed to infancy, flees the room naked, urinates in the Dean's face, tears the top off a female onlooker, and melts into a puddle of slime. Ultimately subverted: once it becomes clear that the formula belongs to Sherman, the board is willing to pay any price he wants for it.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Howard Stark shows off a Flying Car prototype, declaring that in a few years, cars won't need wheels. The prototype sputters and falls to the floor; Stark recovers by reminding the audience that he did say "in a few years".
  • In M3GAN there are three demonstrations, all of which hit snags:
    • Gemma tries to justify her work on M3GAN to her boss with an impromptu demonstration of her capabilities, only for an improperly installed component to cause her body to glitch, then catch fire.
    • Subverted when Cody breaks in grief down during the presentation to the board, as M3GAN is able to step in and comfort her, making it more effective at showing off her adaptability and ability to bond than it would have been otherwise.
    • At the public unveiling for M3GAN, an elevator opens to reveal two bloody corpses. This is before it's gone online, so it's only shown to hastily assembled seat-fillers, but obviously stymies the launch.
  • And now I’m going to tell the computer exactly what it can do with a lifetime supply of chocolate…”

  • Subverted in the New Jedi Order series. Lando Calrissian founds a company to build high-quality battle droids to act as Elite Mooks against the Yuuzhan Vong invaders. They end the demonstration and the prototype promptly opens fire on the crowd ... revealing the Yuuzhan Vong infiltrators spying on the event. The droid did exactly what it was supposed to. And it goes further back on the rails when Lando reveals that, of course, with the head of state and a half-dozen influential generals in the next hovercar over, the droid isn't carrying heavy ordnance and has a power regulator on its blasters (meaning it can't shoot much more than a laser pointer). When this reduced arsenal understandably fails to stop the infiltrators, YVH 1-1A demonstrates a further feature, its flexible heuristic combat routines. Translation: it bear-hugs them to death.
  • In the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, during the golden ticket hunt, a machine is showcased that is supposed to be able to grab at anything with gold inside of it, allowing the owner to find the golden ticket without unwrapping the chocolate bars. Instead, it immediately went for someone's gold filling and was promptly destroyed by the outraged crowd.
  • In Jurassic Park, John Hammond, who boasted that he "spared no expense" invites a number of experts to see the park before it opens. As the story progresses, the escaped dinosaurs kill and eat a number of the park's staff and even some of the experts brought in to endorse it. Hammond himself gets eaten by a flock of Compys. As the survivors flee the island, it's firebombed by the Costa Rican air force.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids's TV spinoff featured an alternative-energy car (powered primarily by burping) that Szelinksi felt might revolutionize the industry ... however a traveler from the future warned them that something had gone wrong during its planned production, resulting in a Bad Future, and they had to find a way to stop it. It was ultimately the foul-smelling exhaust that turned investors off.
  • In a blackout sketch on The Benny Hill Show he plays a TV pitchman selling a new cleaning product; he tosses some liquid (juice?) on the wall and a man in a labcoat uses the product to clean up — except the product doesn't clean off the stain, it cleans the wall's decorative paint off while leaving the stain.
  • The IT Crowd:
    • Moss's prototype bra that he is trying to get investors for production has a bad habit of spontaneous combustion.
    • In the "4th Season" special, Moss has developed his own personal Pepper Spray, and the IT Team decide to market it as a Pepper Spray for women. Cue bad packaging/marketing causing it to be mistaken for perfume at their product unveiling.
  • When investigators on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation visit an industrial shredding operation, the foreman explains that the piece of equipment they're shredding at the moment was a prototype that broke down during a promotional demo.
  • On Hogan's Heroes, the prisoners invoked this trope when they arranged for a remote-control prototype tank to destroy an officer's car and then explode. In another episode, they sabotaged a prototype noiseless aircraft engine so that it made a hellacious racket.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the second half of the Architect Sketch, Eric's presentation model for a high-rise block of flats lists over, partially collapses, then actually explodes and catches fire...but thanks to his Freemason connections, the planning board approves it. (Note: This sketch was done soon after a newly-built state-of-the-art highrise in London actually did catastrophically fall apart — hence the flashing caption "SATIRE" over this sketch.)
  • In the shopping channel task of Series 3 of The Apprentice (UK), the cliché shown below under 'other' really happened — Kristina tried to sell a floor cleaner, but because it wasn't plugged in it only spread the dirt around. And that wasn't the most cringeworthy demonstration in that episode, either.
  • The Muppet Show:
    • The Muppet Labs sketches run on this trope. Perhaps the most notable example is in the Gilda Radner episode, where Dr. Honeydew's new super glue is spilled all over the theater, causing problems throughout the remainder of the show.
    • When Don Knotts guest-starred, he appeared in a skit as a scientist unveiling a newly discovered creature. He talks about how the cage the creature is in is escape-proof, only for it to slip through the bars immediately afterwards. As it runs amok in the lab, Knotts assures the audience that the creature is harmless, which is the creature's cue to attack him. And then the creature's mother shows up...
  • Several such mishaps occur in Stargate SG-1. A prototype energy weapon was canned after firing it once shut down the entire primary power system for Stargate Command. Played with in another occasion: they're demonstrating a new kind of body armor that should be resistant to the staff weapon blasts used by the Goa'uld. They demonstrate this by shooting Syler with a staff weapon. The blast knocks him off his feet and sets him on fire, which seems very bad... but it's then pointed out (after he's hurriedly extinguished) that other than slightly winded and a bit singed, Syler is just fine, whereas a staff blast at that range would otherwise have been lethal.
  • Some of the ghosts from the second Sapphire and Steel story were civilian workers on a 1938 submarine prototype, who died of asphyxiation after the vessel they were running through sea trials got stuck on the sea floor in mid-demonstration.
  • Invoked in Dracula (2013) when Dracula's large-scale public demonstration of his wireless electricity device causes a deadly explosion, due to being sabotaged by Jonathan Harker on the Ancient Conspiracy's orders. It's intended to destroy Dracula's public persona and power base as a wealthy, visionary industrialist, but the series was Cut Short at that episode.
  • In the 2019 Sanditon, Dr Fuchs' demonstration of his therapeutic shower bath is sabotaged by Clara, who deliberately burns herself to get Lady Denham's sympathy.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has Charlie's demonstration of "Kitten Mittens," lauding them for their ability to keep your cat quiet. He demonstrates this by the "before" of a cat lightly trotting along a table while he reacts as if he's having knives shoved in his ear, and the "after" of his cat clumsily stumbling along and making audible thumping noises before it trips. Unfazed, he merely plays loud "crashing and banging" sound effects for the first clip, and cricket chirps for the second.
  • Arrested Development has a commercial for "the Cornballer", a fried cornball-maker that happens to become incredibly hot to the touch due to the boiling oil inside. The Cornballer was banned after an infomercial where George Bluth Sr., its creator, burned his hand on it during an infomercial with a live audience, and then attacked Richard Simmons after being insulted for his carelessness. Despite this, the infomercial ran anyway in Mexico (where the Cornballer remains legal), simply dubbing the audio as George and Simmons praising the product and the audience applauding rather than gasping in horror.

  • Our Miss Brooks: Madison High School's attempt to use new technology backfires terribly — in front of the head of the school board, Mr. Stone.
    • In "The Tape Recorder", Walter Denton buys a reel-to-reel tape recorder for the school. Unfortunately, when playing back the machine to Head-of-the-Board Mr. Stone, the machine garbles its messages. The machine suggesting everyone is insulting or threatening Principal Conklin or Mr. Stone. Also, that Mr. Conklin jumps into Miss Brooks' lap!
    • In "Movies at School", Miss Brooks tries to use film as an educational aid. Unfortunately, a disgruntled worker at the film company has switched the films around within their canisters. Miss Brooks, leaving a film of the poem "Lady of the Lake" with her class, instead leaves a poem of "Sirens of the Screen, Past and Present". Mrs. Davis intends to show her Ladies Aid Club "Shearing Sheep at Big Billabong, Australia. The ladies club sees a film with showgirls in their dressing room. When Mr. Stone investigates, Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton, and Mr. Conklin intend to show the probity of the school by playing a film about the "Board of Education". Instead, they end up playing a film about gambling in Las Vegas.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has many, most of which are in the Experimental Technical Readout: Boondoggles — a collection of Flawed Prototypes. The LIB-4T Liberator had a torso design that made it incapable of dealing with its hot engine, leading to the battlemech's torso violently exploding during a live-fire demonstration when the heat caused its ammo to cook off; the design was then canned and the prototype was later used as target practice (ironically by a descendant of the tank that it was using as target practice). The Bright Star jumpship was built to explore systems autonomously with no crew. Come demonstration day, the ship goes along its assigned 10 planned jumps before going off the rails, jumping from system to system for decades or possibly even centuries.
  • Damnation Decade: The Omega Ray would have, if it worked, provided limitless energy for pennies, freeing any state that used it from reliance on fossil fuel. A suicide bomber from the Consortium blew himself up during the demonstration of the Omega Ray, causing the device to emit vast quantities of Omega particles, which ended up breaking the world and causing all the horrible things that mess it up further. Even without the bombing, the book implies that Ampersand Vole IV and his Vigorous Petroleum researchers didn't fully understand Omega and something bad (but maybe not as catastrophic) would have happened anyway.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Wondrous Inventions shows such a demonstration on the cover. This book is filled with various devices that are also hazardous in one way or another.

    Video Games 
  • One optional mission in Starcraft II Wings Of Liberty begins with a public demonstration of the Dominion's new super-high-tech Humongous Mecha, the Odin, which unbeknownst to the crowd has been hijacked by Raynor's Raiders. Emperor Mengsk's prerecorded speeches about how his scientists and engineers have created "the ultimate response to the zerg threat" play periodically as a counterpoint to the Odin stomping over parked cars and blowing apart military bases.
  • Professor Layton and the Unwound Future begins with Layton and Luke witnessing a public demonstration of a time machine. It explodes, with the prime minister as the test subject in it. All according to plan, it was staged to capture him. It is later revealed that this isn't the first time a time machine has exploded.
  • Fallout 4 has the Mega-Corp HalluciGen, Inc, a company whose goal was to develop non-lethal products to assist police and military in controlling riots and crowds. Their sheer incompetence in developing anything effective or safe can be hilariously shown in their observation room, where the player can press buttons showing various demonstrations on a group of Gunner mercenaries trapped in the chambers below. None of them will make it out alive, even from the pacification gas.
  • The backstory to Disciples has the angel Bethrezen use the power granted to him by the Allfather to create the world of Nevendaar (the game world). After getting the other gods to populate the world with life (with Bethrezen himself creating humans), he departed to call the Allfather to see his creation. The other angels, jealous at all this, sabotaged Nevendaar, so when the Allfather came to see it, all he saw was war and destruction. Angry at Bethrezen, he cast him down and imprisoned him in the molten core of his own creation. Eventually, Bethrezen became this world's version of The Devil.

    Western Animation 
  • Superman: The Animated Series
    • In the pilot, the "Lexo-Skel Suit 5000" is stolen by Kaznian mercenaries during its demonstration. Turns out, however, that this disaster was planned by Lex Luthor to get the military to buy even more powerful and expensive versions from him since there wasn't anything wrong with the machine itself. Also, the "theft" was a sham; in fact, Luthor had illegally sold the suit to the Kaznians.
    • In a later episode this is played somewhat more straight, with an anti-missile weapon called the Sky Sentry failing to activate during its unveiling. After Lex had ordered two actual missiles fired at the building it was unveiled at. Ultimately it's revealed that Brainiac had sabotaged the machine to lure Lex to him.
  • In the episode "Critters" of Batman: The Animated Series (Well, technically The New Batman Adventures), Farmer Brown's demonstration of giant farm animals goes awry when the giant sheep he's presenting breaks out of its cage. The idea behind the giant animals was to create a means to end world hunger, but because of the incident, Farmer Brown was ordered to stop his work, which of course led to him becoming the villain of the episode.
  • Almost every Sumdac Systems prototype in Transformers: Animated, from the pilot episode onwards.
  • The Jetsons:
    • In the 1962 episode "Uniblab", Mr. Spacely is trying to persuade the other members of the board of directors at Spacley Sprockets that the robotic employee in the episode's title is the way forward for the company. However, George, who has lost his job to Uniblab and is in the office to clear out his desk, conspires with Henry Orbit to spike the robot's oil. The "drunk" Uniblab spends the entire demonstration suffering from Alcohol Hics, gives the baseball scores when Spacely asks for the latest stock market figures, sprays the board with hot coffee, and plays a recording of George calling Spacely "a stupe" and "king of the crabs" on a continuous loop. The unimpressed board tell Spacely to fire Uniblab.
    • The 1985 episode "Hi-Tech Wreck" sees Spacely aspiring to win over the Megabucks Group, a consortium of wealthy investors, by interesting them in his "Executive Perks" programme of in-office luxuries, including massages, food and drink, and dancing girls. However, RUDI lacks the computing power to handle the routine at anything other than the lowest setting, so when Megabucks Group head Mr. Bigbyte cranks it to the highest setting, the system overloads and he is beaten hollow by the various luxury machines, scuppering the deal.
  • An episode of The Simpsons has Doctor Nick showing off his new product, the Juice-Loosener, on Troy McClure's show. He shoves about a dozen oranges in the thing and turns it on, it makes a sound like a set of forks in a garbage disposal, and then a drop of orange juice oozes from the nozzle. Troy, inveterate shill that he is, still lauds the thing for being whisper-quiet. The folks of Springfield still buy the product en masse, and because of a sick worker packaging them, they end up getting an epidemic.
    Troy: You got all that from just one bag of oranges?
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "A Tale of Two Stans", Stanley accidentally broke Stanford's science fair experiment, a Perpetual Motion Machine, which led to his dream college rescinding its offer.

  • The classic cliche is the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, who starts by dumping dirt (or worse) on someone's carpet to demonstrate the amazing cleaning power of his vacuum, only for something to go terribly wrong. One joke goes like this, after the victim repeatedly tells the salesman he has no use for a vacuum: "If this vacuum can't clean up this pile of garbage, I'll eat it!" *click* *click* *click* "They cut the power a week ago... you want some salt and pepper?"
  • In IT circles this is known as the Demo Gods. These angry deities ensure that new and exciting bugs with whatever software you were working on will, in accordance with Murphy's Law, manifest whenever you're showing it off to someone. Especially a boss or customer.

    Real Life 
  • A man fell to his death from his law firm's high-rise office building while attempting to show off the sturdiness of the glass windows by ramming into them. In a way, he was right, for it wasn't the glass that broke — the window popped out of its frame. This story won a Darwin Award.
  • The original launch of the Advanced Passenger Train in the winter of 1981 was a publicity disaster from which the project never recovered. The train was one of the first to use an active tilting mechanism designed to counteract centrifugal forces on high-speed turns. However, on the maiden voyage, full of reporters, the tilting mechanism induced nausea, one of the carriages was stuck in tilt mode and the brakes came close to failing.
    • The nausea might have had more to do with the free booze onboard.
    • And the mechanical failures - which eventually meant the train did not reach its' intended destination - were mostly down to the fact that the West Coast Main Line crosses first Beattock, then Shap inclines - two fairly exposed locations , and the aforementioned winter was one of the worst since that of 1963. Mostly.
    • It was also not helped by British Rail management being determined to do things as cheaply as possible. The technology developed by the APT project was eventually implemented, after a more thorough development and testing process, in the Pendolino trainsets, which have a good record of reliability and performance.
  • One of the reasons why "bat bombs" — real bats rigged with minute explosive charges — were never deployed in WWII was because the wrong ones were released during a demonstration, and carried their live explosives into the rafters of the building where their military potential was being studied. Ka-boom.
  • When the Columbia Mark IX, a prototype automobile with the Entz Magnetic Transmission, was taken out on its test run, the transmission threw out a spark that hit the gas tank. The resulting fire destroyed the car.
  • The prototype of the M247 Sergeant York self-propelled anti-aircraft gun suffered a case of Epic Fail akin to the plot of Deal Of The Century. When demonstrated in front of a group of high-ranking officers and Congressmen, the system malfunctioned and started aiming its guns at the VIPs.note  After this was fixed, the prototype that was supposed to win a $6.97 billion dollar contract spent the next few hours hitting the ground in front of it rather than the remote-controlled helicopter it was supposed to hit. In yet another test, the targeting radar seemed much more interested in the ventilation fan on a nearby building than the target drones (which were deliberately made much more radar-reflective than a real aircraft). A manager from Ford, the manufacturer, blamed it on the fact that it had been washed the evening before, messing up the electronics. A critical report wondered if it ever rains in Europe, the intended area of deployment. It's widely suspected that Ford must have bribed somebody at the Pentagon to get their XM247 selected for production, since even before these disasters it had been consistently outperformed by General Dynamics' competing XM246 prototype.
  • Windows 98 infamously crashed during its 1998 COMDEX Unveiling, showing the consumers the first of many Blue Screens Of Death to come. Rather than being cancelled, however, this didn't even so much as slow its release.
  • A tool-assisted Speedrun of Gradius, running on an actual Nintendo Entertainment System, desynced at the 2014 Awesome Games Done Quick.
  • The Vasa, a huge warship built at great expense at the orders of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. When tested during construction it turned out to be too top-heavy and unstable, but the king was impatient for the ship to be launched and no one had the courage to tell him it was too dangerous. On 10 August 1628, the ship embarked on its maiden voyage from Stockholm in full view of hundreds—if not thousands—of local residents as well as several foreign ambassadors. A few minutes after encountering a slight wind it heeled so far to the side that water got in through the lower gun ports, ruining its ability to right itself and quickly causing the ship to sink. The King was furious and there was a huge Blame Game during the inquest into the cause of the sinking. When it started looking like the person who bore the ultimate responsibility was the King, the whole thing was quickly swept under the rug, attributed to an act of God, and never spoken of again.
  • In the late 1930s, Lockheed was developing a new interceptor, the twin-boomed XP-38 Lightning. The Army was so impressed with the secret project, that they made it public and arranged for Lockheed to perform a transcontinental speed run to demonstrate the new aircraft's performance. Unfortunately, the pilot undershot the runway and crash-landed, totaling the plane. In a subversion of the trope, the Army was still delighted with the aircraft and ordered a development run of thirteen more YP-38s with various changes and improvements. The P-38 Lightning would go on to be one of the most successful American fighters of the war.
  • In 1950, Captain William Brown assumed command of the USS Missouri, his first capital ship command, which was at Norfolk, VA preparing for a cruise to Cuba. Due to several miscommunications with the other officers, Captain Brown, on his first voyage on a battleship, managed to run the ship aground in full view of a number of admirals at Hampton Roads, not to mention other high-ranking military personnel.
  • Similarly to the Lockheed XP-38 Lightning, Boeing had a crash with one of their prototypes, the Model 299, being developed to compete for a new Army requirement for a long-range heavy bomber. The prototype crashed on takeoff on 30 October 1935, resulting in the deaths of two of the crew. A crash investigation revealed that a safety pin had not been removed from one of the control surfaces, resulting in the plane being uncontrollable. One long-term result of this is the modern aviation practice of using checklists to ensure no minor or major detail is overlooked. Like the Lockheed Lightning, the Boeing 299 was still able to enter service as the B-17 Flying Fortress, one of the most successful bombers of the war.
  • An intended disaster gone off plan was the controlled impact demonstration in 1984. Meant to test anti-mist kerosene, fuel with additives to keep it from atomizing, a remote-flown plane was deliberately crashed into some concrete structures to create holes in the fuel tanks and see what happened. On the day, one side of the plane hit the ground first, causing it to skew and hit the structures at an angle instead of straight on, slicing through an engine that managed to ignite a typical crash fireball. The demonstration was both a goof in the botched landing and for anti-misting fuel, which still ignited in the crash, possibly being less dangerous at first but taking a long time to extinguish. However, the test still served its purpose and collected useful data.
  • When Airbus, trying to compete with the Boeing 737-dominated market of medium-range narrowbody jet airliners, got its A320 model complete, the company decided on a spectacular demonstration during an airshow, where one of the top Air France pilots would demonstrate a stunning if dangerous maneuver to show the plane's capability. A combination of rushed preparation and overconfidence ended in the plane crashing into a forest and killing 3 of 136 onboard in plain view of hundreds of spectators and dozens of TV cameras. Almost miraculously, the A320 survived the debacle and made it to be one of the most successful airliners in history.
  • The presentation of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword during the E3 2010 was catastrophically botched. Promising a Zelda experience with full motion controls, the demo quickly turned into a mess. The Wiimotes did not seem to be calibrated correctly or were suffering from interference. The input was so bad that if someone were to casually walk into the conference without context, they would quickly assume the game was a broken disaster. The game escaped relatively unscratched from the ordeal but it is theorized this is one of the reasons, along with the legendary awful E3 2008 show, why Nintendo eschewed live presentations during E3 in lieu of the prerecorded Nintendo Directs that continue to this very day.
  • In a live demonstration meant to show how hard it was to break Tesla's "armor glass", Elon Musk had an assistant throw a metal ball at a car's windows. Both windows broke.
  • A New York Times article had a journalist accompany owners of self-driving Teslas as they boasted about the vehicle's abilities, growing quieter and quieter as lethal accidents were barely avoided.
  • An electrical engineer attempted to popularize the concept of remote-controlled driverless cars in 1925, by having a modified Chandler sedan remote-steered down Broadway as a New York City press event. The radio-directed armature he'd installed to manipulate its steering wheel came loose halfway through the demonstration, and the "American Wonder" drove itself straight into one of the press vehicles.
  • The infamous New Jersey amusement park Action Park once tested the Bailey Ball, designed by a ride enthusiast park owner Gene Mulvihill met at an amusement convention. It was a plastic sphere big enough for an adult to fit in, partially covered with small wheels, with another ball inside equipped with a seat and a shoulder harness. The idea was guests getting in the ball, then being sent down a slope made of PVC that would direct them to the bottom of a mountain. The issue they didn't take into account was the PVC expanding under the summer heat, which caused the ball to go off the track during a test in front of an inspector. The ball and the park employee inside careened uncontrollably down the mountain, through the parking lot, crossed a road, and ended up in a small lake in the Motor World area of the park. The park employee got out covered in blood. The park owner didn't even ask for the inspector's report, the PVC track was removed from the mountainside and the ball was disposed of in the woods.
  • The magician Ronald Markham, known professionally as Romark, staged a demonstration where he was to drive blindfolded through Chelmsford, Essex. It went off ok.... for 300 yards before he crashed into the back of a police van! Romark later said "That van was somewhere that logic told me it wouldn't be". Gee, you think, Romark?


Video Example(s):


Glitchy ED-209

Maybe giving it live ammo for a demo wasn't such a good idea...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisastrousDemonstration

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