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A game of volleybomb.

"If my fireballs always form a mushroom cloud, time to tone it down a bit."
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The shape of a mushroom cloud is indelibly associated in everyone's minds with nuclear explosions. This trope is for explosions where that isn't the case—instead, the mushroom cloud is Played for Laughs, or just to show how powerful the explosive is.

It's worth noting that this is somewhat Truth in Television — the mushroom cloud effect is not actually exclusive to nuclear weapons, it's just that nuclear weapons are far beyond the heat and explosive force required to cause the effect, whereas very few non-nuclear explosions are powerful enough to result in mushroom clouds. Therefore, the two became heavily associated with each other. The Other Wiki has a nice article about how they form, but very basically, the intense heat of a large-enough explosion causes a massive updraft of air, which draws in dust and debris from the ground (the "stem"), and as it rises, the lower, hotter areas push the higher, cooler areas to the side in a swirling movement that forms the "cap".

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Virtually always involves Stuff Blowing Up. In some cases, may be a sign of an Epic Fail.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ouran High School Host Club has Honey getting angry represented with a pink bunny mushroom cloud.
  • In Aldnoah.Zero, the Landing Castles used by the Martian Orbital Knights create these when they land on a planet. Completely Justified: each Castle is a Aldnoah-powered spacecraft over two kilometers in length, and their version of "landing" is simply dropping down from orbit. The impact blast is more or less a nuclear strike minus the fallout, complete with incinerating shockwave and massive mushroom cloud.
  • A flaming mushroom cloud is on O'Brien's "Fire Back" card in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. (Ironically, it special summons a monster from his Graveyard, so it restores life, even though said life is a Pyro monster.

    Asian Animation 
  • Motu Patlu: In "Diamond Robbery", Motu and Patlu falling directly onto John the Don and his minions as they are riding on their motorcycle is somehow enough to create a mushroom cloud explosion.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1942): The Gremlins crash landing the Ytirflirks' mothership creates a giant orange mushroom cloud.
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    Fanworks 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: When Penny's severely compromised computer goes belly-up, it releases a mushroom cloud of smoke.
    To the girl’s horror, the screen flickered a couple of times and turned a solid color. “Moooom! What does it mean when the screen turns blue and has just a big frowny face and a bunch of numbers?” She frenetically pounded keys and clicked the mouse. “And… and — aaugh! Now the screen’s gone black and there’s a mushroom cloud of smoke coming up outta the computer! Moooom!”

    Films — Animation 
  • Over the Hedge has a scene where the cast open a bag of well-shaken cheesy puffs. Cue mushroom cloud visible from the moon.
  • Flint Lockwood gets a mushroom cloud in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs early in the movie.
  • In Chicken Run, an explosion of gravy looks an awful lot like a mushroom cloud.
  • During the opening sequence of Toy Story 3, a bomb dropped by Hamm's spaceship creates a mushroom cloud. Made of Monkeys. The whole sequence takes place in Andy's imagination.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, the impact of The Red Death into the ground results in a large mushroom cloud, which Hiccup and Toothless have to outrun.
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the characters at one point throw Cookie's greasy food into their campfire. The result is a miniature, oily-looking mushroom cloud. In a non-comedic example, the Viking Prologue Deleted Scene features an unlucky longship targeted by the Leviathan's Breath Weapon, resulting in a huge mushroom cloud of vaporized seawater and a few wooden splinters.
  • A small mushroom cloud is caused by an exploding gas station in Home (2015).
  • The Mansions of the Gods: When Obelix jumps in the Big Ball of Violence caused by his fellow Gauls' daily brawl, the dust cloud becomes a mushroom.
  • In Pinocchio in Outer Space, an ancient Martian nuclear reactor goes critical and explodes, producing a huge mushroom cloud.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As previously mentioned, any powerful enough explosive will create a mushroom cloud, but few conventional explosives are that powerful. The Tall Boy bomb, as seen in Rambo, is one that is that powerful, something many internet "comedians" failed to realize when snarking about how Rambo should have been poisoned by nuclear fallout.
  • During the interception of a malfunctioning agricultural robot at the start of Runaway, Officers Ramsay and Thompson jump on top of it, only for the robot to explode. Cut to a group of farmers making quips about "World War 3" as they watch a large cloud of black smoke rise over their fields.
  • In the Yahoo Serious comedy Young Einstein, his outhouse goes up in a small mushroom cloud when he "splits" a "beer atom".

    Gamebooks 
  • The Gamma World choose-your-own-adventure book American Knights has a large conventional explosion create a mushroom cloud. The main character nearly has a heart attack before his sentient Powered Armor explains this trope to him.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • In El Chavo del ocho, "Los Insectos del Chavo" ends with an explosion at Don Ramón's house after he drinks some gasoline and lights a cigar. The first version of this episode emphazises this by overlapping the scene of a nuclear explosion between the shots before and after. Seen here.
  • The MythBusters made a mushroom cloud with a 1,000 pound bomb.
  • In Game of Thrones, Tyrion's wildfire explosion in the Battle of Blackwater Bay creates a visible (green) mushroom cloud.

    Music Videos 
  • At one point in Take It Back by Pink Floyd a mushroom appears over skyscrapers of a distant city, the road the viewer is on is quickly destroyed and everything is blown away. Only it's not an explosion. The mushroom is an enormous puffball, and the whole event is nature destroying concrete jungle.

    Pinballs 
  • In Medieval Madness, destroying a castle causes it to explode in a mushroom cloud.
  • The playfield for Bally's KISS shows the band surrounding an exploding mushroom cloud shooting flames around the table.
  • The Spiritual Successor KISS from Stern has the band riding the top of an exploding mushroom cloud.

    Radio 

    Video Games 
  • The Disgaea series is fond of having attacks produce these, sizes ranging from ones slightly bigger then a character to ones extending into outer space. Some recurring mushroom cloud producers include Zetta's Zetta Beam, the Dragon's Dragon Nova, and the Prinny's Pringer Beam.
  • Pretty much every conventional explosive, from TNT-rockets, to iron bombs in Red Alert 3 causes a small mushroom-shaped cloud to appear. And this is a setting in which nuclear weapons are specifically mentioned to have never been developed.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando has the Mini Nuke, an explosive grenade that isn't nuclear.
  • Mass Effect 2:
  • In Fallout 3, cars found in the game, all of which are nuclear-powered, will explode into a mushroom cloud if attacked enough
  • The Doom-Shroom from Plants vs. Zombies is a black, evil-looking mushroom that explodes in a mushroom cloud. Granted, the explosion is pretty big and instantly kills anything short of a Gargantuar, but it is definitely not nuclear in nature.
  • The E3 trailer for Super Smash Bros. Brawl (semi-)ended with Wario preparing his fart attack — whereupon the camera shifts to a remote view of a lime-green mushroom cloud.
  • In Tales of Phantasia, the strongest fire spell, "Explode", creates a large mushroom-shaped explosion of fire.
  • At the end of Mega Man 4, Dr. Wily's lab explodes in a skull-shaped mushroom cloud.
  • In Lemmings, the "Nuke" (explode all lemmings) icon.
  • Persona:
    • The All-Out Attacks in Persona 3 result in a mushroom cloud when they finish off the enemy party.
    • Its sequel, Persona 4, added a dark gray wisps to it to give it a comical "skull-shaped" aspect, which was then put back into the Updated Re-release Persona 3 Portable.
    • And then Persona 4 Golden took a step further with a pink, skull-shaped mushrooom cloud with ponytails on the sides of the skull if you have sufficiently leveled up Rise's S.Link to allow her to pitch in during the All-Out Attack.
  • In The King of Fighters XIII, Yuri Sakazaki's Haoh Raiouken Neo MAX gives her fireball in the shape of a mushroom cloud when it hits the opponent.
  • In the DS games based on the first live-action Transformers film has a cheat what causes every destroyable object and enemy create a mushroom cloud-shaped explosion upon destruction.
  • In Duke Nukem 3D a mushroom cloud is literally the only explosion effect, which is used on everything from demolished buildings, blown-up cracks in the wall, rockets, and even the miniature Devastator missiles.
  • In the first two X-COM games, every explosion of a grenade or anything bigger creates several skull-shaped mushrooms.
  • In MechWarrior Living Legends, a battlemech's fusion reactor Going Critical goes off like a nuke; a blinding flash, an expanding pressure wave, and a massive mushroom cloud. The effect is powerful enough to level entire forests.
  • In Skyhill, you see a big green one in the intro cutscene. It's specifically mentioned to be a bioweapon, however.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • Played for drama in the AlternateHistory.com timeline Protect and Survive: A Timeline. The bombing of a NATO munitions depot with conventional weapons creates a mushroom cloud explosion. An American officer witnesses the explosion, mistakes it for a nuclear strike, orders a retaliatory nuclear strike, and things go downhill from there.
  • As the What If? physics blog demonstrates, a baseball can create one, provided you can throw it at relativistic speed.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    Sokka: Friendly mushroom! Mushy, giant friend!
    • Azula's finishing move at Volleyball in "Ember Island" is kicking the ball so hard it creates as mushroom cloud of sand on impact.
  • Since anything and everything explodes when thrown or handled roughly in Aqua Teen Hunger Force, mushroom clouds occasionally add a bit of emphasis.
  • Beast Wars: When Rhinox lets rip at the end of "The Low Road", the resulting mushroom cloud is visible from space.
  • In Dan Vs. "Traffic," the explosives used to blow up a car lot make a mushroom cloud.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Every Which Way But Ed", Ed manages to create a mushroom cloud out of supercharged static electricity. It manages to destroy Edd's house (Ed and Edd survive, of course).
  • In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Malfunctioning Eddie is in the robot asylum because he explodes whenever he is told something surprising. When he's told he's being released, everyone tenses for an explosion, but all that happens is a tiny mushroom cloud erupts from his shoulder.
    Doctor: We can control that with medication.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Fight Fighters", Rumble Mcskirmish's Super Power Ninja Turbo Neo Ultra Hyper Mega Multi Alpha Meta Extra Uber Prefix Combo produces a mushroom cloud shaped like a fist.
  • Ditto on Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • Justice League Unlimited: Green Arrow and Speedy resort to their "quantum arrows" after Wade Eiling shrugs off everything they and five other heroes can dish out. The result is a building-sized mushroom cloud.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Lesson Zero", Rainbow Dash makes a rainbow-colored mushroom cloud while helping to tear down Applejack's old barn (which she accomplishes by slamming into the ground at supersonic speeds).
    • In "Maud Pie", Maud throws a boulder to the horizon, and it makes a mushroom cloud on landing.
    • In "Tanks for the Memories", a snow mushroom is unleashed on Ponyville after Rainbow Dash messes with the weather factory.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "So Its Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show, Homer is sent to the hospital due to Bart's April Fools prank. He took a can of Duff beer and stuck it in a paint mixer at the hardware store, then tricks Homer into opening it. The resulting mushroom cloud of beer ends up blowing the roof off the house, and can be seen by Chief Wiggum from a few blocks away. He initially pays no mind to it until Lou points out that it's beer.
    • In "Krusty Gets Cancelled", after a pickup truck driver drops a Duff Beer can in front of Bette Midler, she angrily throws it back at him. The can makes the truck spin out of control, go off the guardrail and crash into the nearby cliff, exploding and making a mushroom cloud.
    • In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming," Sideshow Bob takes Bart and Lisa hostage next to a 50's A-bomb. His demands are refused, he pushes the detonator, and a mushroom cloud explodes... before the camera pans out to reveal the cloud is, at most, two inches tall. Sideshow Bob then comments that "he HAD to go for the retro charm". The nuclear bomb had a very explicit expiration date written on it: "Best Used Before 1959."
  • Seems to happen a lot in SpongeBob SquarePants, where even being thrown off of a seahorse or falling off one's bike and down a cliff results in massive explosions that give off a mushroom cloud.note 
  • Total Drama: There are a lot of mushroom explosions in the series, courtesy of animation recycling. There are two variants: a big flawless mushroom and a smaller mushroom composed of yellow smoke that quickly dissipates.
    • Part of the challenge in "Up the Creek" is for the teams to put together a proper rescue fire. Izzy creates a potent firestarter from tree sap and sand and warns the others to stand back as she chucks it into the small fire they've got going. The warning is worthwhile, because when the firestarter is ignited, it generates a double-capped mushroom which height reaches up to Chris's helicopter. The Screaming Gophers win that challenge.
    • Chris spices up the toboggan race in "Who Can You Trust?" with some leftover explosives. Each explosive creates a mushroom upon ignition.
    • Chris spices up the second half of the bike race in "That's Off the Chain!" with landmines. Each landmine creates a mushroom upon ignition.
    • In "Awwwwww, Drumheller", there's oil around the entrance ramp of the Total Drama Jumbo Jet from the day's final challenge when Sierra steps outside with Cody's birthday cake. The sparks of the sparklers on top land in the oil and cause the plane to partake in a giant double-capped mushroom-generating explosion.
    • In "Planes, Trains, and Hot Air Mobiles", the sea mines the Final Three have to travel past go up in mushrooms.
    • In "Backstabbers Ahoy!", the sea mines the teams must bring to explosion go up in mushrooms.
    • Zoey is hurled off the island before she receives her Toxic Marshmallow of Loserdom in "The Enchanted Franken-Forest". Chris tells Chef to dispose of it safely, which Chef doesn't take seriously. He drops the radioactive marshmallow in the campfire, which brings about a mushroom.
  • In Xavier: Renegade Angel, the titular character pulls out a tobacco pipe when he starts getting philosophical at one point, and a tiny mushroom cloud puffs out of it, for whatever reason.

    Real Life 
  • In real life, aside from nuclear weapons, mushroom clouds can be caused by very powerful volcanic eruptions and certain very powerful military bombs such as the conventional GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb and thermobaric (such as "fuel-air") bombs.
  • When the German city of Hamburg was deliberately targeted with thousand-bomber raids loaded up with incendiary bombs, the weather conditions were such that all the smaller fires joined up into one enormous firestorm. RAF pilots reported seeing the city as one enormous mushroom-shaped cloud, created by the intensity of the fire and the ground-draft piling it up into one huge plume.
  • The devastating explosion at Beirut in August 2020 created a mushroom cloud like shape that lead to several media sources identifying it as such. This lead to many theories that it was caused by a nuclear device until it was shortly discovered it was from a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate catching fire.
  • Particularly violent volcanic eruptions have been known to create mushroom-shaped ash clouds.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Mushroom Cloud

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Overshaken Duff Can

As part of an April Fool's prank on Homer, Bart shakes up a beer can so it'll spray in his face. Unfortunately, due to overshaking it with a paint mixer, it ends up exploding.

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Main / SodaCanShakeup

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