Our understanding of the properties of matter holds that both liquids and gases assume the shape of whatever container they are placed in. This is decidedly not a property of solid materials, which tend to have a definite shape that resists change. Whoever codified these properties, however, neglected to study Toon Physics. The bodies of many cartoon characters, despite seeming as solid as our own, have the tendency to change shape given sufficient force. This may be because many toons are not made of regular flesh and bone, but a combination of extremely strong rubber and a forcemeat-like paste which contains few to no bones to break, organs to damage, or blood to spill. This enables them to accomplish feats of contortion, stretching, and endurance that no living being could.
The Forcibly Formed Physique trope describes situations in which all or part of a character's body is reshaped into an unnatural shape by some kind of force. Some of the more common methods include stretching, molding, extrusionnote , striking, pounding, or being "cut" by a blunt object. Naturally, these physical changes are almost never permanent and rarely stick for more than a few seconds — the character is almost always back to their default shape by the next scene. Rarely, the character is left in this shape when the story concludes, but they're generally back to normal by the next episode.
While this trope appears sporadically in different media, it is most strongly associated with the particular style of Slapstick found in American animated shorts from the The Golden Age of Animation, and later cartoons directly influenced by them. Outside of this specific category of animation, this trope is decidedly less common than you might think, given how it's considered a big part of the visual language of Western animation. Nevertheless, it's both prevalent and influential enough that it's not in any danger of becoming a Forgotten Trope.
For obvious reasons, comedic versions of trope occur almost exclusively in animation and sequential art. Human beings, and most other complex lifeforms, have pesky things like bones that would make this trope impossible to replicate in real life, and difficult to pull off convincingly in even the most whimsical of live-action media. CG has changed this somewhat in recent years, but this involves Medium Blending as CG is itself a form of animation. note
Subtrope of Amusing Injuries, though it's worth noting that not all examples of this trope are clearly injuries in the usual sense.
- Squashed Flat, a version of this trope that specifically involves being flattened
- Accordion Man, where a character is reshaped like an accordion
- Be the Ball, where a character is reshaped into a sphere and then (usually) used as a ball in a sport
- Dinner Deformation, which is when force reshapes a character from the inside, as when swallowing a very large or oddly shaped object.
Contrast Rubber Man, in which similar abilities are acknowledged In-Universe as a character's superpower, rather than an occasional by-product of the Rule of Funny. Contrast also Impact Silhouette when someone/thing crashing through/onto a surface leaves a nigh-perfectly shaped imprint or hole onto said surface.
Be careful to remember that this is a Comedy Trope, so all examples should be either neutral or Played for Laughs. For examples of similar phenomena being Played for Horror, see Fold-Spindle Mutilation.
- Silver Spoon: After betting what little money Hachiken and friends have left after their student project on a horse race, Shin'ei Okawa gets kicked in the face so hard his face caves in. Moreover, he's still like this several panels later, and is even shown drinking via a straw through the crater in his face. This is especially notable as Silver Spoon is fairly down-to-earth as manga go, and rarely deals in these kind of gags.
- Cinderella: While Jaq and Gus are gathering materials in the stepsisters' bedroom, Lucifer chases them into a square hole in the wall moulding and gets his snout stuck in it. When he pulls himself out, his snout is briefly cube-shaped.
- A Goofy Movie has Goofy and Max sneak backstage during a Powerline concert, hidden inside instrument cases. Max emerges from a bass drum case with ease. Goofy opens the lid to his bass fiddle case, and stares ahead stultified. Goofy had been folded into a preposterous yoga position to fit, causing his limbs to go numb. Ultimately, he simply falls out of the case onto the floor.
- Winnie the Pooh (2011): During the theme song, Pooh stumbles out of his house with a honey pot over his head. Christopher Robin pulls it off, revealing Pooh's head to be shaped like the pot.
- A rare live-action example occurs in Freaky Friday: Ellen, in her daughter Annabel's body, leads the police on a wild car chase through a canal (or maybe the Los Angeles River). She manages to ski the car through a chevron-shaped duct; the police car that follows straight through gets bent into a bizarre shape, as seen here.◊
- Son of the Mask: Otis, the family dog, while under the influence of the Mask, is forced through an air conditioning vent by his own trap, causing him to take a cube-like shape.
- MAD #4 featured the short parody comic ''Superduperman", which featured the titular character engaged in a battle with Captain Marbles. Unable to harm Captain Marbles directly, Superduperman tricks him into punching himself in the face, and the comic ends with Captain Marbles lying flat on his back, his face a smoking crater.
- Chuchel: Chuchel gets his shape rearranged in some way fairly regularly throughout the game, usually as a joke — for instance, an explosion blows him into a giant smudge shape that nonetheless can still stand upright. However, as bizarre as many of the character designs are in this game, he still doesn't really look all that out of place.
- Super Mario 3D World has a boss named Prince Bully who is normally impervious to harm...until you push him into a suction pipe, resulting in him being shot out another pipe compressed into a small helpless cylinder that you can kick around.
- In Kouka And Bibi, the fox and raccoon need to get into a guarded building, so the fox pulls a jackhammer from her pocket and makes a hole in the wall, in the exact shape of her silhouette: tall and skinny. After stepping through the hole with no problem, she pulls the raccoon (who's shorter and much stouter) through after her—stretching the raccoon into a palette-swapped duplicate of the fox. Then it gets flipped on its head at the end of the cartoon, when the duo need to dig through another wall. Obviously not wanting a repeat of last time, the raccoon takes the jackhammer from the fox, and makes a hole in her own exact shape instead. It stretches her into the same shape as the fox again, anyway.
- Invoked by the early 2000s website Bonsai Kitten, which was purportedly all about stuffing kittens into various glass jars and allowing them to grow into the shape of the jars. Despite causing an incredible amount of outrage amongst animal lovers, the site was a hoax perpetrated by some MIT students, who claimed to have intended the site as a satire of modern society using nature as a commodity. As you might expect, this explanation did nothing to quell the outrage, and the original site was taken down not long afterwards.
- In an Adventure Time and Minecraft crossover episode, Finn climbs through Tree Trunk's window, and is shaped into a cuboid. Downplayed, since he was already cuboidal.
- One episode of DePatie-Freleng's The Ant and the Aardvark has the blue aardvark go sledding down a snowy hill in pursuit of the ant. The ant passes through a wire mesh fence ... and so does the aardvark. Once the aarvarks's sled slows to a stop, he observes that his body is entirely cut in a criss-cross pattern, and examines a square piece taken from his snout. The aardvark then puts it back hastily, and sits perfectly still, hoping that nothing worse happens.
- This trope appears in almost everything Tex Avery cartoon ever made, to one extent or another. One standout example appears in "Bad Luck Blackie", where the titular Blackie comes out of a drainage pipe with his body round, thin, and elongated. How he managed to get his head and a unicycle through that pipe without effect, however, is anyone's guess.
- This trope is the entire point of Cracked, a Canadian series of 1-minute Zany Cartoon shorts featuring an ostrich(?) named Ed who tries to keep his eggs safe.
- In "The Factory", Ed finds himself flying up a rhino's rectum and subsequently being compressed into a variety of ridiculous shapes and forms by the rhino's digestive tract. Ultimately, he comes out in the shape of an egg carton.
- Ed's limbs are a frequent victim of this trope, especially in "Breakneck", where his neck is stretched to about a mile long. This idea gets revisited in "Stretch Ed" and "Bendy Bird".
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In the episode "Hanky Panky Hullabaloo", May Kanker jumps on Marie's face, grotesquely caving it in and leaving her tongue, which is now about three feet long, hanging out onto the floor.
- The Flintstones: In "The Golf Champion", Barney tells Fred that he, as president of the Loyal Order of Dinosaurs, will be confiscating his newly-won golfing trophy until he pays his back dues. A furious Fred refuses and slams the cup over his head, making it conform to its shape.
Barney: Ooh, my pointy head...
- In the Herman and Katnip short "Felineous Assault", Katnip runs headlong into a cast-iron skillet, and pops back out in the exact shape of the skillet interior.
- 101 Dalmatians: The Series: The main characters fall into this several times throughout the series, such as in "You Slipped a Disk", in which Rolly squeezes himself through a crack in the wall taking a triangular shape for a few seconds. In "Leisure Lawsuit", the 3 puppies and Spot the chicken end up squeezed into a cube shape together trying to squeeze through an air vent.
- In The Owl House episodes "Senses and Insensitivity", Piniet's magic box shrinks to pressure the writer trapped inside into finishing their book. If they don't in time, it compresses the victim into a still-living cube Piniet will keep in his briefcase.
- Puppy Dog Pals: In "Cousin Cody", Cody, while chasing his favorite chew toy through an airport, has his path blocked by falling luggage, which leave a triangle-shaped gap. He slides through the gap, emerging on the other side with a triangular body.
- The Simpsons deconstructs this with the Show Within a Show "Itchy and Scratchy", which is in many ways a response to shows like Herman and Katnip and its more popular, Lighter and Softer cousin Tom and Jerry. While Scratchy is frequently subjected to the same brand of slapstick as Tom and Katnip, the results are less about temporary comedic deformity than extreme pain, horrifying screams, and some rather stomach-turning injuries that toe the line between Bloody Hilarious and outright Gorn.
- A common gag on SpongeBob SquarePants, usually involving the title character, who is, after all, a sponge.
- In "The Secret Box", when SpongeBob puts on a Stocking Mask before sneaking into Patrick's home, his head briefly snaps into the form of a female leg.
- In "Pre-Hibernation Week", Sandy has all of Bikini Bottom looking for SpongeBob. Frank the bodybuilder fish picks up a smaller fish, Francis, claiming to have found him. When Sandy points out that SpongeBob is square, Frank squeezes Francis into a square shape.
Francis: I'm ready, I'm ready?
Sandy: No, you ain't!
- This is a signature Sight Gag in Tom and Jerry that almost exclusively happens to Tom as he pursues Jerry.
- One notable example occurs in the short "Jerry and the Goldfish" (from which the trope illustration is taken). Tom forces himself through a mouse hole and a radiator, and in both cases comes out the wrong shape.
- A single-part variation happens twice in "Kitty Foiled", where Tom shoves his muzzle into a mouse hole and finds it shaped like the entrance when he pulls back.
- Another instance occurs in "Designs on Jerry". When Tom's Rube Goldberg mousetrap drops a floor safe on Tom (not Jerry, who'd sabotaged the blueprints while Tom slept), the safe door opens, and Tom steps out. Tom is shaped exactly like the safe's interior.
- Another short features a variation: Tom gets his muzzle snapped in a mousetrap, and after he pulls it off, it's flattened to the point that it snaps back into a roll like an old-fashioned window blind.
- In "Jerry's Cousin", Tom is Punched Across the Room by Jerry's stronger cousin Muscles and lands inside a vase. When Muscles spits at the vase and it breaks apart, Tom has been contorted to fit its shape, including having his arms bent like the handles.
- It's not uncommon for newborn babies who undergo vaginal birth to come out with a so-called "cone head", which is caused by the baby's still-soft skull being forcibly pushed through the narrow birth canal (and, possibly, whatever tools are used to extract them from it). While extremely odd-looking, this condition is not harmful to the baby and will resolve over the course of a few days.
- This is essentially how Japan's famous "square watermelons" are produced. Despite their luxury price, there's nothing particularly special about the melons themselves; the fruiting bodies are kept in square boxes as they grow, and eventually the boxes force them to grow into a square shape.
- There are also forms of bodily modifications that likewise use physical force over a long period of time to change the shape of one's body, with the wearing of earlobe gauges being a particularly popular example. However, much more extreme forms of this exist, such as the archaic Chinese practice of binding girls' feet and forcing them to grow into so-called "lotus feet", or the practice of some Asian and African cultures to use metal rings to gradually elongate a person's neck.