Follow TV Tropes


Elevator Gag

Go To

Most often seen in Warner Brothers Looney Tunes productions, this is any of several often surreal comedic bits surrounding the use of elevators in cartoons.

In the simplest variety, an improbable location (like a hole in the side of a shallow ravine) will suddenly manifest an elevator under the control of a Trickster character, complete with doors, call buttons beside them, and a floor indicator above the opening. The Trickster will then use the elevator, often "ascending" to an upper level that obviously doesn't exist.

The next variety uses a real elevator; the trickster acts as an old-style elevator operator in a department store and announces any variety of improbable items for each floor, often deceiving a villain into launching himself out of the elevator and into some unpleasant location.

Slightly more aggressive is the acceleration of the elevator at improbable speeds by the Trickster operator, leaving the villain flattened against the floor or ceiling. Sufficiently fierce acceleration will render the villain a blob or coinlike disk, from which form he must exert himself to recover.

Elevators may also pass or open onto unlikely settings, including ones that may well be inhospitable to careless or villainous characters.

Less common are elevator races or chases between Trickster and villain, running from ground floor to roof.

Because of the style of many elevators in the period when this trope evolved, they are usually depicted as having frosted glass windows in their doors, behind which a moving elevator is indicated as a band of light moving up or down. Elevator travel may also be indicated on the outside of buildings by the movement of lit windows; sometimes, like Star Trek turbolifts, they go sideways to get around the "stepping" in the sides of a skyscraper.

Elevators sometimes have clockface-style indicators above the doors with an arrow that points at the number which correspond to the floor the elevator is currently on. In comedies, it is possible to control elevators by manipulating these indicators — pulling the arrow to move the elevator car, or, alternately, trapping the elevator on or between floors by blocking the arrow.

For a much darker variation, see Hellevator.

Not to be confused with other common gags involving elevators, such as Uncomfortable Elevator Moment, The Elevator from Ipanema, and Elevator Floor Announcement.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In the European Disney Comics story "Paperino e lo spot a basso costo", an elevator in an advertisement agency has its wires crossed just as a very important customer rides it, so instead of the prestigious top floor, he is taken to Donald's zero-budget ad agency in the basement (and never catches on). His assistant even remarks how surprisingly fast this modern elevator took them to the 100th floor.
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop story "The Great Space Chase" (Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #2, Gold Key) had Sylvester Sneekly getting Penelope to be the test passenger of a high-speed elevator. However, as the Hooded Claw, he kits the elevator with Roman candles that sends the elevator with Penelope in it rocketing into space.

    Films — Animation 
  • The accelerating elevator is inflicted upon Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with Droopy Dog as the operator. It also has a unique variant: the elevator doesn't come all the way up to the floor when the doors open, and Droopy is standing on a box to reach the controls. "Mind the step, sir."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dark Star, Pinback ends up trapped in an elevator shaft after his pet alien chases him in there and removes the plank used to get out of it. He has to try to stay on a precarious ledge and eventually ends up Hanging by the Fingers from it. The elevator starts moving up and down the shaft, and this allows him to get into it through a narrow opening in the floor of the car, that he has to remove a metal plate attached with screws to access, all while Hanging by the Fingers from the bottom of the car. He eventually gets halfway into the hole and gets stuck, because it is too narrow for all of him to fit through. He tries to reach the elevator buttons, but he can only reach a few of them at the very far end of the button panel. He tries several buttons, and each one causes a silly and unhelpful things to happen, such as playing loud classical music. Finally, one button triggers the announcement, "Good for you! You've decided to clean the elevator!" and announces that the plate holding the hole he is stuck in will explode in a few seconds. This leads to panic, but fortunately the explosion finally enables him to escape the elevator.
  • One of their shorts ended with The Three Stooges in an elevator with a gorilla, who is throwing the controls to make the car speed up and down, finally crashing through the roof and hurtling through space. Just a typical day for them.
  • The Laurel and Hardy silent short Double Whoopee has The Boys employed at an expensive hotel. On three separate occasions they cause a European prince (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Erich von Stroheim) to fall down an empty elevator shaft - fortunately only from the ground floor into the maintenance pit.

  • The Great Glass Elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and even more so in the sequel, titled Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. It can go sideways, and also can crash through the roof without being shattered if it gets up enough speed. In the sequel, Willy Wonka tries to get them as high up as possible in order to break through the roof of the Chocolate Factory (Mr. Wonka doesn't want to use the hole they'd left through because "two holes are better than one"), but they don't reverse direction in time and end up shooting into outer space. In an elevator made of glass!
  • Played dead serious in the Percy Jackson series: Mount Olympus is on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The elevator in Police Squad!'s station house opened on such diverse scenes as a mountainside meadow, the stage of an opera house during a production, and a swimming pool.

    Puppet Show 
  • Muppets Tonight: In the Martin Short episode, Seymore and Pepe, operating the elevator, get into an argument over what floor the dance rehearsal is on. They keep changing the direction, sending Martin bouncing up and down until he ends up 1/3rd his size.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • This is a standard gag used by Bugs Bunny when he is operating in a skyscraper setting.
    • One of the best-known examples is the 1945 cartoon Hare Conditioned, in which Bugs announces, "Fifth floor! Rubber tires, sugar, bourbon, butter, and other picture postcards!" In the same cartoon, the villain attempts to pursue Bugs Bunny in an elevator, only to watch Bugs appear on each floor he passes, using a different edge of the elevator opening as a floor.
    • Bugs' own burrow often has an elevator. In Acrobatty Bunny it even winds along with the tunnel.
    • It makes one of its earliest appearances in 1939's Hare-um Scare-um, where a very early version of Bugs Bunny — not yet named at that point — uses it to confound John Sourpuss who is pursuing him.
    Rabbit: You don't have to be crazy to do this...but it sure helps!
    • Bugs Bunny does the acceleration variant to a construction worker repeatedly in Homeless Hare, but he overdoes it and inadvertently sends the elevator crashing through the roof of the building.
    • In "Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk", there is an elevator built into the beanstalk.
    • Wile E. Coyote builds his own elevator booth to get into Bugs' burrow.
    • In Buccaneer Bunny the platform on the crow's nest is an elevator.
  • The Donald Duck short Bellboy Donald involves much hijinks between Donald and a mischievous kid on an elevator.
  • Porky in Wackyland offers an excellent example of the "elevator out of nowhere" variation.
    • Porky also got the 'absurd speed' variation in Daffy Duck Slept Here, where he asks to go to the 30th floor of a hotel.
    Operator: Goooooing uuuuuup...
    Operator: Thirrrrtiettthh flooooor.
    Porky: Gosh, jet-propelled.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters:
    • The "Skelevator" would often accelerate so quickly that it punched holes through their Haunted Headquarters, and entering a secret code would cause said elevator to enter the strange dimension where the Transformation Sequence would occur.
    • When the Ghostbusters were out on assignment, they often relied upon a portable version to change into uniform.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle became ensnared in one of these while hunting for forged box tops (don't ask). The elevator went up and down very effectively (read: quickly), but failed to stop at the top floor..
  • In two episodes of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Hooded Claw tampered with an elevator occupied by Penelope so it would rise at an abnormally high speed.
    • In "The Hair Raising Harness Race," the Ant Hill Mob waits to catch Penelope with a fireman's safety net. When a policeman asks what they're doing, Clyde replies "Would you believe we're waiting for an elevator?" The policeman, not amused, prepares to write them a ticket for loitering until the empty elevator car crashes down on them.
    Policeman: (genuinely surprised) Well, what do you know...they were waiting for an elevator!
  • On one of the Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner shorts in The Looney Tunes Show, Wile E. is climbing a cliff to get at the Roadrunner. He feels around for a hold and stumbles onto an elevator on the cliff wall, which he then takes to the top.
  • The Fox and the Crow - Crawford Crow has an elevator in his tree home.
  • Danger Mouse: Penfold not only discovers an elevator in a tree in "Lost, Found And Spellbound," but he cracks wise about it:
    Penfold: I've heard of a trunk going up in a lift but never a lift up in a trunk!