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Metaphoric Metamorphosis

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In cartoons, characters will sometimes change into something that symbolizes or is associated with the situation at hand.

  1. A lollipop emblazoned with the word "Sucker" (the character has just been tricked).
  2. A donkey, with optional braying (the character is stupid or being a (jack)ass). In cases where actually saying the word "ass" would provoke the censors, this can double as Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  3. Shoe heel (this example is often aligned with guilt and remorse akin to the trope My God, What Have I Done? rather than being embarrassed).
  4. A dumbbell (a more direct Visual Pun indication of stupidity).
  5. A wolf, complete with Wolf Whistle (the character is lustful).
  6. In Spanish-speaking media, a character with a cheating partner gets horns —from the idioms "ponerle los cachos" ("put the horns on her/him/they") and "cornudo/a" ("horned/cuckold").
  7. In Japanese media, a character "turning into a tengu" (i.e. acting arrogant or boastful) will grow a tengu's long nose.

Because Tropes Are Flexible, this, of course, can be done in media other than animation. Any visual format can easily make use of this trope. Figurative speech such as similes and metaphors in written media serves the same function, if usually more frequent and at the same time done in a subtler manner.

Likewise, metaphoric transformations can and have been used for purposes other than comedy.

In any case, this trope often runs on Stock Visual Metaphors.

A specific form of Visual Pun. Compare Literal Metaphor. Contrast Narrative Shapeshifting. Related to Shameful Shrinking and Buzzsaw Jaw.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • The Violence Jack manga features a very disturbing variation of this, when the evil men of sector B attack and rape the women of sector C, they metaphorically become wolves and hyenas.

     Fan Works 

     Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin, the Genie turns into a sheep after realizing Aladdin tricked him into granting a free wish.
    Genie: Well, I feel sheepish. Alright, you ba-a-a-ad boy, but no more freebies!
  • In Gay Purr-ee as Meowrice taunts Juane Tom that he will never catch up with him on the train to save his girlfriend Mewsette, Tom calls him a dirty rat, he then gets an idea he envisions him as a giant rat which causes his hunting instincts to kick in and take off like a bolt of lightning to catch up.
  • Háry János: When the titular character rejects both the banquet's main course and the princess's hand, stating that he'd rather eat something more traditional and go back to his peasant wife, the Emperor's face bounces back from human to skeletal to convey his thunderous ire.
  • Hell Bent For Election: Horace, the wrecker train and straw political opposition, briefly turns into Hitler while ranting against "Roosevelt's war."
  • Kouka And Bibi: When Kouka convinces her to track the murderer by smell, Bibi rushes across the city to arrive at a several-store building. There, her body is shaped like an arrow with the head pointing to said building.
  • Kuzdok: The statue comes to life and begins sculpting away at its sculptor, rendering the sculptor into a shrunken old man. The metaphor of the artistic process of creation, and how creating art takes something out of the artist, is obvious.
  • In Pinocchio, this is Played for Drama since being on Pleasure Island for too long causes the misbehaving children to turn into actual donkeys, which in most cases seems to be permanent.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • The Mask: In a rare live-action example, the Mask gets a wolf head when watching Tina perform at the Coco Bongo. Mind you, he's pretty much a living Toon.

     Video Games 
  • In another live-action example that's played dramatically, in The 7th Guest, you're shown a scene after completing the puzzle in Martine Burden's bedroom. Martine is seducing Edward Knox, himself married to Elinor, to secure him as an ally in Henry Stauf's murderous game, and she pulls him in for a deep kiss. When he looks up, his head is replaced with that of a goat, showing how foolish he is to fall for her tricks.

     Web Comics 

     Web Videos 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd: When James decides he's done playing The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle games, Bugs Bunny uses Reverse Psychology and tricks him into continuing, with James turning into a lollipop after realizing he's been duped.
  • The Chairman's Ear: Almost every character appearing in episode 11 is shown as an object alluding to their role. In particular, father Tadeusz is shown as a voting urn, representing his influence over the potential voters, and the chairman is represented by an ATM, as Tadeusz wants to fund another moneymaking scheme.
  • In JonTron's review of Bubsy, he turns into a lollipop sucker after taking a passage that sends him back to the start of the level.

     Western Animation 
  • Betty Boop:
    • In "SOS - Swim or Sink", a pirate captain lusting after Betty briefly morphs into a snake.
    • In "She Wronged Him Right", Evil Debt Collector Heeza Ratt lives up to his name and transforms into a human sized rat.
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • "The Barn Dance": Mickey's head briefly turns into a donkey's after Minnie gets mad at him for his clumsy dancing.
    • "The Clock Watcher": As Donald hurries to his post in the gift wrapping section of the department store, he runs past a sexy female mannequin, but briefly doubles back to stare in lustful ecstasy, his head turning into that of a howling wolf in the process.
    • "Cured Duck": After Donald gets so frustrated from trying to open Daisy's window that he wrecks her living room, he finds himself transformed into a heel.
    • "Donald's Crime": Donald briefly turns into a skunk when he's about to steal his nephews' money to go on a date with Daisy.
    • "Motor Mania": Mr. Wheeler deliberately drives slowly down the middle of a street, blocking traffic. When someone calls him a "Road Hog!" he temporarily becomes a large, lazy fat swine behind the wheel. When he presses his car horn, it oinks!
    • "No Hunting": Donald briefly turns into a roaring lion as the spirit of Pappy, his grandfather, takes over.
    • "The Sleepwalker": After destroying a female dachshund's dog house, leaving her and her puppies without shelter, a guilty Pluto turns into a heel.
    • "Two Chips and a Miss": As they watch Clarice perform, Chip 'n' Dale become so lustful that their heads briefly turn into those of drooling wolves.
    • "The Trial of Donald Duck": As the defense attorney says that Donald found Pierre to be "hard and cold" about his situation, Pierre is shown first as a granite statue, and then an ice sculpture.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In "Comic Stripper", Dexter finds out that Mandark gets his robot fighting moves from the comic book Mister Misery, so he buys every copy of it to anticipate what he'll try next, only for Mandark to use different tactics from another comic as a result. Once Dexter realizes the hole in his plan, he promptly turns into a donkey's rear.
  • Droopy: In the short "Wags to Riches", Spike briefly becomes a skunk when he plots to kill Droopy to get his inheritance.
  • The Flintstones: When Fred is guilt-tripped by Wilma, he runs into Barney, who comments on his own still visible "heel" head, implying Betty used the same tactic on him.
  • House of Mouse: Donald gets called a "ham" by Mickey, dramatically overreacts to this and is turned into an actual piece of ham at the end of the episode.
  • I Cartoni dello Zecchino d'Oro: The boy in "Metti la Canottiera" briefly grows donkey ears to symbolize he's being overlooked in his team (in Italian, "asino" can mean "dunce").
  • Looney Tunes:
    • "A Bear for Punishment": At one point, after yelling at his wife, Henry becomes a "first-class heel".
    • "The Big Snooze": Elmer Fudd turns into a sucker after repeatedly falling for Bugs' "run through a hollow log over the edge of a cliff" gag. This episode is basically a retrace of a scene from the earlier short All This and Rabbit Stew, with the black caricature hunter redrawn as the similar proportioned (but more politically correct) Elmer Fudd.
    • In the Merrie Melodies short "Bone Sweet Bone", a bulldog steals a smaller dog's bone. The latter gets even by blowing up a giant bone-shaped balloon. When the bulldog sees what he thinks is the biggest bone ever, his greed is apparent when his head transforms into that of a lip-smacking pig!
    • "Carrotblanca": Bugs turns into a sucker as Kitty is guilting him into helping her.
    • "Daffy's Inn Trouble": Daffy tries to put Porky Pig out of business by crushing his establishment with a boulder. He rolls the boulder off the edge of a cliff, only for it to land next to Porky's establishment, bounce in the air, and crush Daffy's own establishment instead, leaving Porky's intact. Again, when he sees what has happened, Daffy becomes "ass-faced" and brays like a donkey.
    • "Falling Hare": When Bugs is tricked into running out of the airplane, he briefly turns into a donkey, complete with the words Jack Ass labelled on him. For an extra punch, the music cue that plays is the stock snippet "You're a Horse's Ass."
    • "The Hep Cat": The cat turns into Victor Mature when he calls himself a "gorgeous hunk of man", and into a wolf while romancing a lady cat.
    • "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt": After Hiawatha realizes he's hanging in midair, Bugs calls out " Sucker!" while Hiawatha momentarily becomes a sucker, just before gravity kicks in.
    • "The Million Hare": After Daffy Duck inadvertently donates his million dollar prize to his "best buddy" Bugs Bunny. The touched announcer asks Daffy for some words, to which an "ass-faced" Daffy donkey-brays.
    • "Plane Daffy": After telling valuable military secrets while being drunk to a Femme Fatale Spy, one of the pigeons briefly changes into a jackass.
    • In the short "Tom Turk and Daffy", after realizing he's been had by Daffy, Porky first wears a Dunce Cap, then turns into a bottle of dope, and finally a sucker.
  • Norman Normal: A childish argument where Norman's boss tries to pressure him into making a sale easier by getting a potential client drunk results in Norman and his boss both regressing into children.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: Rad is suddenly wearing clown gear after he's humiliated by Enid bringing up the failure of his Radwing.
  • Plastic Man: In "Puddle Trouble", Plastic Man shifts his head into a donkey after realizing he stuck the Human Puddle in a cell with a toilet. His dumbass mistake allowed the crook to escape.
  • Popeye: A recurring gag has Bluto become a Wolf when he listed after Olive Oyl and in another instance, he became a rattlesnake when he eavesdropped on Popeye and Olive’s treasure-hunting plan.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: In "Stimpy's Fan Club", Ren turns into a human ass, accompanied by a donkey braying, when he realizes he's being a jealous jerk to the only person who appreciates him.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Christmas Who?", Squidward initially revels in SpongeBob's promises about Santa Claus visiting Bikini Bottom being proven wrong, which leaves the sea sponge a sobbing, heartbroken pariah. However, upon seeing that SpongeBob made him a custom mechanical clarinet as a Christmas present (in case Santa didn't give him anything when he showed up), Squidward realizes how cruel he acted and states that "I feel like a... I feel like a...," at which point a braying donkey is superimposed on his head — in other words, he feels like a jackass. Squidward then finishes his sentence with the words "...big jerk!"
  • Superjail!: The Warden exploits his shapeshifting ability to make a lot of Visual Puns.
    • There's that time when he turns himself into a beer glass when talking about coworkers spending quality time in a bar and, shortly after, into a worker bee when declaring that it's time to go back to work.
    • In another episode, the Warden intends to miniaturize a couple of inmates so they can battle the forces of nature. Cue to him dressing them as a gladiator and a XIXth century soldier.
    • While lamenting over how he and fellow prison guard Alice have ruined the purest thing in Superjail, aka love (born of convenience and limited options), he is suddenly wearing baby cupid's typical diaper and feathery wings.
  • Teen Titans Go!: Subverted when Beast Boy transforms into a wiener after claiming Trigon is one.
  • In old Tex Avery cartoons, men would often bug out and even literally turn into wolves at the sight of an attractive woman.
  • Tom and Jerry:
    • "Solid Serenade": When Tom tricks Spike into playing a game of "fetch", Spike is about to pick up the stick when he realizes what he's doing and momentarily morphs into a "jackass".
    • "Puppy Tale": Tom has an Imagine Spot caused by his guilt from casting Jerry and an abandoned puppy out into the rain, with him becoming a skunk.
  • In one Woody Woodpecker short, Woody and Buzz Buzzard turn into wolves when they see a beautiful woman. When they realize they are unable to buy her expensive gifts, they turn into giant ice skates with $1 price tags- a pair of cheapskates, if you will.


Video Example(s):


Captured by Pirates

Betty Boop, Bimbo and Koko the Clown are captured by pirates.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ReflectiveEyes

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