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Paddleball Shot

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Kermit: So it's going to be a swell demonstration, and at no time will we be stooping to any cheap 3D tricks.
Fozzie: Did someone say "cheap 3D tricks"? [Blows noisemaker at camera]

A trope exclusive to 3D movies. When making a film specifically for a 3D release, many filmmakers like to play with the 3D effects by making people and objects appear to reach out from the screen at the audience. More often than not it's simply done for its own sake to show off the 3D effects, but this can also be used to invoke a sense of danger, such as throwing sharp objects or driving cars right at the camera. The effect is unfortunately lost, however, when the film is eventually released on DVD in 2D, leaving viewers wondering why these characters enjoy shoving stuff into the camera so much.

Depending on one's personal preference toward 3D movies, it can be seen as either using the medium to its full potential, or just adding a gimmick onto another gimmick.

Compare Tearing Through the Movie Screen, when something that isn't from the movie actually does tear through the screen into the audience.


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    Films — Animation 
  • Parodied in Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022): A poorly animated CGI reporter rendered in red/green 3d introduces herself as being from "3D In Your Face News" and is only shown getting uncomfortably close to the camera and shoving a microphone towards it.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens, the first DreamWorks Animation film to be released in 3D, makes a shout-out to the trope namer House of Wax (1953) in the opening sequence, with a man at a research station playing with a paddleball.
  • DreamWorks Animation's 2010-2019 Vanity Plate, debuting in their second movie to be in 3D, makes significantly more use of depth than the old one, featuring such gimmicks as the boy swinging his fishing rod around such that the hook swings past the camera, and the letters that spell "Dreamworks" flying in from the foreground.
  • The InTru 3D logo, used in Dreamworks Animation films from 2009-12, has the bouncing ball really get into the audience's faces.
  • The Minions from Despicable Me deliberately do this in teasers for the film. The first one has them see who can reach out to the audience the farthest, and the second film's teaser involves a chorus of Minions singing a parody of "Barbara Ann" while blowing a noisemaker at the screen.
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift has several instances, especially in the scenes involving the pirates, where their weapons constantly being swung, thrown or thrust towards the audience.
  • Matthew Callaghan's 3D Looney Tunes theatrical shortsnote  invariably indulge in these quite frequently. The first three Road Runner shorts and "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" have loads of them while "Daffy's Rhapsody" and "Flash in the Pain" use them somewhat less frequently.
  • The Polar Express: The train's cow-catcher coming to a halt right in front of the camera lens, certain angles during the hot-cocoa set piece, and the Runaway Ticket sequence come to mind.
  • The Lion King (1994) has a reverse example at the start of the film where, if you watch it in 3D, Zazu, while flying away from the camera, appears to be soaring directly above the viewers as he flies to Pride Rock to present himself to Mufasa for the occasion of Simba's birth.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet: Ralph throws a football a few times into the air, toward the camera, while lying down on the field next to Vanellope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Trope Namer comes from the famous scene from House of Wax (1953) where a person playing with a paddleball turns toward the camera and bounces it right at the audience. Unlike most such shots, this one has a purpose; 3D films back then had to have an intermission, and it was strategically placed just after the intermission to make the viewers wake up and pay attention.
  • This trope actually dates to 1935 and an eight-minute documentary short called Audioscopiks. In this short film, 3-D technology is explained to the audience and then several short Paddleball Shots, including a baseball thrown at the camera and a woman on a swing, are used to show off the technology. MGM followed this short with a couple more 3-D shorts, but 3-D didn't really break out until the early 1950s.
  • This was inverted for the opening credits of the 2002 documentary Space Station 3D, which, with the aid of rear and side surround-sound channels, gave the impression of massive block-letters, not jumping towards you from the screen, but flying from behind you, going into the screen. Sadly, encoding for the 3D Blu-Ray release has a glitch that makes the image for both eyes identical for the first three and a half minutes, negating this effect.
    • In the film itself, debris flies at the camera during a Soyuz rocket launch, and onboard the space station, an astronaut bounces an orange off the camera while floating in microgravity.
  • Used very blatantly in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, where things like frog tongues, cogs, fists, cars and all sorts of stuff get thrown straight at the viewer on every possible opportunity, which is VERY visible if you're watching the movie in 2D.
  • TRON: Legacy has a memorable moment in which a grappling hook is fired directly into the camera at high speed, scaring the crap out of most audiences due to a lack of such shots prior to that.
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon mostly goes for the "deep" style of 3-D where the environments appear to stretch far into the distance behind the screen, but there are a handful of moments that leap out towards the audience, such as the shot of the fossilized Gillman hand jutting out from the wall and the bat flying into the camera during the climax.
  • The "flying fish" scene in Life of Pi in which the aspect ratio inexplicably shifts to display black bars along the top and bottom during a quiet scene, until flying fish leap toward the viewer, extending out of the frame into the black bars.
  • Amusingly, there are some really blatant 3D gags left in finished cut of Them! despite the fact that, due to a 3D camera malfunction on the day filming began, they ended up filming in 2D. They apparently didn't alter the shots they had planned at all, which is why most of the climax revolves around long tunnels and flamethrowers being fired directly towards the camera.
  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is guilty of doing this several times, some of which were achieved via cheap Jump Scares, and a particularly memorable example during the brain storm where Linus takes a brain and throws it onto the camera, causing it to slowly slide down, leaving a trail of...something.
  • Jaws 3-D wasn't at all subtle about its use of this trope, even going so far as to have fragments of the shark's titular jaws come flying out towards the audience when it's blown up.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road is a post-conversion job whose 3D effects are generally rather subtle, but the obligatory paddleball shot does show up during a particularly memorable car wreck when a skull-emblazoned steering wheel flies directly at the audience.
  • Final Destination 4 uses this both in-universe and for the audience in a case of The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You. In the second premonition, Janet's death occurs at a movie theater showing a 3-D movie, in which a fire at a construction site behind the screen triggers an explosion that sends a fireball and all manner of sharp debris flying through the screen. The camera is positioned in the audience so that the (real-world) viewers watching the movie in 3-D get the full effect. For bonus points, it happens during an explosion in the movie that Janet's watching.
  • Used to good dramatic effect in Dial M for Murder, when Grace Kelly thrusts a hand straight at the camera while being strangled by a hired killer.
  • The 1970s wuxia, Dynasty, is one of the few non-Hollywood movies that utilizes this technique, notably in action scenes which extensively features darts and throwing knives being flung at the audience, and rendered in 3D. There's a Money-Making Shot featured in the trailer where an assassin jabs his blade from behind paper windows, right at his intended target (and the audience, of course).
  • The remake of Fright Night (2011) did this with a few shots, most notably when Jerry flicks a pebble at Peter Vincent during the climax. Astonishingly, the 2D DVD release approximates the 3D effect surprisingly well.
  • Friday the 13th Part III employs several, which includes Jason shooting a harpoon right at the camera while wearing his signature hockey mask for the first time.
  • The 3D version of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call was shown completely in letterbox, with the exception of one scene, and the 3D effects were achieved by having things pop out from the black bars.
  • Early on in Gravity, a nut drifts toward the camera in zero-g before Stone reaches out and grabs it.
  • Taken to extremes with Comin' at Ya!, a 1981 Western which devotes at least one-third of its runtime to these shots, giving the movie a Double-Meaning Title (it's a Revenge story of a gunslinger out to reclaim his kidnapped bride from vicious bandits). Among the items thrust, thrown, dangled into, etc. at the camera: items upon which the opening credits are printed, bodies, spurting blood, gold coins, gun barrels, bats, rats, snakes, spears, arrows, burning arrows, machetes, a yo-yo, and playing cards. The 3D Noir restoration adds a Credits Montage of various paddleball shots. Tropes Are Not Bad — the movie ended up a Sleeper Hit that singlehandedly launched the second wave of 3D films.
  • Kiss Me, Kate announces its 3D nature immediately as the title spins onto the screen word by word. While lower-key than most examples, from there scarves and dice are tossed at the camera on occasion and the opening scene of the Show Within a Show has a shower of sparkling confetti filling the screen. During the first rendition of "Why Can't You Behave?" there's a shot in which the sole of Bill's shoe seems to come dangerously close to the viewer's nose! An interesting variant on the trope has Harold deliver Petruchio's "kill a wife with kindness" monologue directly to the camera, with the framing suggesting a close-up, head-on view of an actual stage performance.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in a sketch on The Lenny Henry Show in which one of two doomed men in the opening scene of a spoof horror film keeps waving his fishing pole around. The other guy asks him what he's doing, and the first says he's making the most of the 3D effects (the sketch is not shot in 3D, although the pole behaves like a bad 3D effect).
  • Parodied in the Monster Chiller Horror Theater segments on SCTV, which ocassionally show fake 3-D films that consist of nothing but this - minus the 3-D. ("Have some pancakes!")
  • On the Home Improvement Three-Dimensional Episode, Tim and Al spend all of Tool Time shamelessly shoving things at the camera. A prime example of 3D effects looking ridiculous in 2D reruns, but at least given justification in-show as it was the characters playing around with a 3D camera for their Show Within a Show.
  • Subverted in the Three-Dimensional Episode of The Drew Carey Show. There's a scene in which Drew is about to throw up, but recovers at the last second. The caption which normally urges viewers to don their 3D glasses instead chastises viewers for wanting to see Drew throw up in 3D.
  • In the late 90s, Nickelodeon did a week of programming called "3D Nogglevision." Some of the 3D shots did not necessarily rely on this, but one notable exception was The Secret World of Alex Mack, which included two shots where a character shoots video game balls at the viewer, and another using the paddle ball.

  • Animusic: "Beyond the Walls" was originally made in stereoscopic 3D, and frequently moves things close to the camera. The first instrument blows bubbles at the camera, and the last shot has various instruments taking turns moving towards the camera.
  • Parodied in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Nature Trail To Hell" ("...See severed heads that almost fall right in your lap / See that bloody hatchet coming right at you....")
  • The Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers concert movie Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert was shot and originally released in 3D. While most of the 3D effects are subtle, the classic paddleball shot does appear during "Start All Over" when the drummer throws a drumstick in the air, flying towards the audience before landing back into his hand.

    Theme Parks 
  • The 1982 Disney theme park effort Magic Journeys has several such shots. The most famous is one of a kite in flight — anecdotes of viewers reaching out to touch it are the stuff of Disney legend — but there's also a carousel's brass ring, a montage of spooky imagery highlighted by a Wicked Witch shooting lightning from her hands, drifting balloons, etc.
  • Captain EO, its replacement, has similar hijinks. Among them: a floating rock blown up by a laser in the opening shot, starship debris, the Supreme Leader's claws, and two extended bits in which Fuzzball floats out towards the audience.
  • Shrek 4D has many, many shots of objects and characters sticking out of the screen - a statue with a sword, Shrek's finger, Pinocchio's nose, and even Donkey's entire body at one point.
    Shrek: Donkey!
    Donkey: I just soared into another dimension!
    Shrek: Oh for the love of pete!
  • Muppet*Vision 3D makes good use of this, which is lampshaded right near the beginning. Jim Henson said in an interview that a goal of this film was to top the Magic Journeys kite. So other examples of paddleball shots include the flying remote controlled pie and Waldo the Computer Graphic seeming to point his nose right at the viewer (joking that everyone else in the theater thinks he's personally addressing them). Even Sweetums gets in on the fun with an actual paddleball!
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Studios Florida features these throughout, to the point that Jimmy lampshades it.
    Jimmy: What else is good in 3-D? Oh yeah, t-shirt cannons!
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg:
  • SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D (also known as SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D Ride, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Ride or SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D) has several of these shots, such as the intro where Painty the Pirate reaches out of his painting to grab the audience and transport them to Bikini Bottom. The climax liberally thrusts several objects and tools right into the viewer's face, such as a buzzsaw, claw, and the traditional paddleball, most of which are from a robot Plankton made to attack the viewers.
  • On the ride Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disney Theme Parks, riders fly through 3-D vignettes in various Star Wars locations in a tourist shuttle. On Naboo, the shuttle crashes into a fighter ship, whose long pointed nose comes through the windshield at the riders' faces.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: Parodied at the end of the Strong Bad Email "stunt double", where Strong Bad turns into an anaglypic 3D image ("Check out all my dimensions! I got height, width, and now, for a limited time only... depth!") and throws 3.5" diskettes at the camera.
  • Also parodied in the promo for the 3D episode of Nate Craddock's Super Console Wars, which shows Obi-Wan Shinobi playing with a paddleball. The actual episode lacks this.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 


Friday the 13th 3D yo-yo

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Main / PaddleballShot

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