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Painted Tunnel, Real Train

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Batman: I would paint a tunnel on the side of the cliff, because you'd run at the tunnel thinking it was a tunnel when it was actually a cliff and you hit a rock and it'd hurt really bad and you'd fall down unconscious.
Flash: But what if I ran into the tunnel and it was an actual tunnel but when you tried to follow me it turned back into a cliff?
Batman: ... The simulations did warn me about that.

A lot of times, a predator is trying desperately to catch his prey but the prey proves to be much too quick. How do you stop a creature that never stops moving? Have it run into a wall, of course! How do you do that? Simple, draw a tunnel over it.

So the villain takes his brush and creates a realistic-looking tunnel in three seconds! The prey comes along and the villain hides behind a rock to see the creature stupidly run into the solid wall. The prey runs towards the tunnel and disappears into it. The villain may be baffled, but decides that he needs to go after his prey. He begins to run into the tunnel, and either crashes directly into the solid wall or gets run over by a train or bus that has somehow come through the tunnel.

We usually never see where the prey ends up after entering the tunnel, nor is it ever made an issue.

Compare Portal Picture for when Applied Phlebotinum is involved and the characters are taken to Another Dimension. Also related to Art Initiates Life.


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  • A 2010 commercial in the United States for the Sour Patch Kids candy uses this as part of the "first they're sour, then they're sweet" campaign.
  • A 2010 Coors Light commercial has an artist painting a tunnel onto a wall, then adding a little bit of light for an oncoming train...which turns into the "Silver Bullet", the ice-cold Coors Light train that automatically lowers the temperature of the air surrounding it to the ''perfect'' temperature for enjoying Coors Light.
  • A commercial for Energizer batteries features who else but Wile E. Coyote himself paint a tunnel on the wall to try to catch the Energizer Bunny. Just like the Road Runner in the cartoons, the bunny goes through the tunnel, but when Wile E. tries to chase after him, he slams into the wall.
  • In this McDonald's commercial, the Hamburglar paints a tunnel on the wall to get cheeseburgers from Ronald McDonald, who is riding a scooter. Ronald goes through the tunnel, but when the Hamburglar tries to chase after him, he slams into the wall. Feeling bad for the Hamburglar, Ronald gives him one cheeseburger from inside the tunnel.
  • M&M's: In "The Chase", Red and Yellow chase after the Minis in a rocket car. The Minis then form a landscape but fly away when the rocket car catches up to them, revealing a cliff that Red and Yellow fall off of.

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Variation in an early Sonic the Comic strip, where Robotnik paints a tunnel on the wall in the hope Sonic will run into it and knock himself out. Sonic proceeds to run into the tunnel. A confused Robotnik attempts to follow and, of course, knocks himself out against the wall.
  • In The Sandman (1989), Merv Pumpkinhead is charged with making alterations to Dream's palace. He does so by pasting up posters of corridors on a blank wall. Dream then walks out of the posters, which are now apparently as real as anything else in The Dreaming, just as Merv starts complaining about how his boss is a big stick-in-the mud. Fridge Brilliance when you realise that any corridor in a comic is just a picture.
  • In a comic book story based on Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly theorizes that the others can cross the painted tunnel because they don't know it's not real and, he and Muttley can cross it as well if they believe it's real. They test the theory and fail, prompting Dick to blame Muttley for not believing. As part of a new attempt, Dick has Muttley hypnotizing him into believing the tunnel is real and it fails because Muttley gave the wrong hypnotic command.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Sea of Holes in Yellow Submarine is an example. The fact that Ringo picks up one of the holes and takes it with him ("I've got a hole in me pocket!") becomes a plot point later on.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 2005 film version of Bewitched, Michael Caine walks out of a series of stone arches to speak with Nicole Kidman; a moment later, as the camera pulls back, a pair of stagehands come by and pick up the large canvas flat on which the arches are painted.
  • In a couple of his movies (The Playhouse, Steamboat Bill, Jr..) Buster Keaton uses an old vaudeville gag in which a comedian performing against a backdrop painted to look like a body of water dives into it — he actually jumps through a horizontal slit in the canvas.
  • Parodied and subverted in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Brendan Fraser's character is chasing Daffy Duck around Warner Bros studios. Daffy runs into a painted backdrop of a hallway, as if it were really there. Fraser follows, but because the picture is painted on canvas, he is able to tear right through instead of the traditional injuring himself. Daffy deems this cheating.
  • The film The Villain has this trope. While trying to trap Handsome Stranger and Charmin, the titular Cactus Jack Slade paints a rock formation with black paint. The heroes' carriage goes right into it, prompting the villain to try it himself, with predictable results. (Much of the film is essentially a live-action Roadrunner cartoon.)
  • In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a painted landscape is hung under a bridge in an attempt to trap the pirates.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Farscape, a (relatively) serious live-action show, spends an episode inside the subconscious of the main character John Crichton, which is apparently highly influenced by old Looney Tunes cartoons. Crichton and an animated version of the angry alien warrior D'Argo engage in a series of Coyote-and-Road Runner style chases, a few of which center on D'Argo painting wormholes onto the wall, which act as this type of tunnel.
  • Taken to a truly maniac extent in The Goodies episode "Movies": Characters jump in and out of the cinema screen, then in and out of the cinema screen which is on another cinema screen, then running off screen, appearing in the cinema screen inside the cinema screen, then jumping through all the cinema screens. The amazing thing is that they avoid Special Effect Failure despite the episode being from 1975, and live-action television.
    • Done earlier in "Invasion Of The Moon Creatures", when Bill, dressed as a rabbit (It Makes Sense in Context, promise) runs next to a hole and jumps down the rabbit hole to get rid of Graeme, who is chasing him. Graeme attempts to jump in also but hits the ground. Confused, he touches the hole, and manages to pick it up — it's just a piece of round, black paper. Frustrated, he throws the hole away as he stomps off-screen. When the hole lands, Bill crawls out of it again.
  • Subverted in Community, when Abed attempts to convince Troy that he's found a way to cartoon land by adding a cartoon visage of himself at the end of a tunnel painted on a wall and throwing his voice from behind a nearby trash can to make Troy think it's real. Troy comes *this close* to running through the "tunnel," before Abed pops up and stops him. You have to believe!
  • Referenced on The Daily Show, 10/17/2012, after the second Obama/Romney debate. When Romney is about to make his main argument, Obama answers, "Please proceed, Governor."
    Jon Stewart: There's your first clue. When you feel that you are about to spring what you, Governor Romney, believe is the checkmate moment in the debate, and your debate opponent says to you, "Please, proceed. Are you trying to open that door? Allow me to open it wider. The door that you appear to want to go through!" But when your opponent does that you might want to take a breath and wonder if, à la Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, that door you want to go through is merely paint on a rock.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In a sixth-season cast sketch on Sesame Street, Bob and Luis are trying to figure out how to assemble a billboard picture of a railroad tunnel. No sooner do they assemble the picture properly than a train comes out.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Toon uses this trope as a stock example of the Cosmic Shift schtick: the prey running into the tunnel may just be Achievements in Ignorance, but Cosmic Shift allows the train/bus/etc. to come out of it.
  • Rifts had a spell or two one could use to create an illusory environment, one spell creating an illusory forest. Sometimes when you see that it's an illusion you won't see what it is hiding, and many an adventurer has wrapped his vehicle around a real tree hidden amongst the fakes.

    Video Games 
  • King's Quest VI: One of the ways to sneak into the castle is to paint a door on the side with a magic paintbrush, then simply open it.
  • In LEGO Star Wars, you come across a solid wall. So you build a door into it, and then blow up the door to reveal a passageway.
  • Cosmic Osmo has a White Void Room with a magic pencil, which can be used to draw other areas of the game around you. Naturally, you're then actually standing in the location that you drew.
  • In Sonic Robo Blast 2, Arid Canyon Zone features, among many other tropes inspired by Looney Tunes, paintings of tunnels to deceive the player. One such painting explodes to reveal a real continuation of the road.

    Web Videos 
  • In a Solid jj short called "Batman's Contingency Plans", Batman ends up trying to use Looney Tunes traps, specifically those for Wile E. Coyote as his ways of trapping the Flash. When his first two attempts fail to impress the other Justice League members, it seems as if Batman is going to come up with a clever trap for Barry... only to reveal this very trope as his final plan for getting Barry which leads to the quote posted at the top of the page.
  • At one point in Return of the Cartoon Man's climactic chase scene (an extended homage to Roadrunner Vs Coyote cartoons), Roy paints a picture of a tunnel that Simon can somehow run right into, but he himself cannot.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • A tunnel painted on the side of a cliff face may act as a real tunnel when the Road Runner escapes into it, but for Wile E. Coyote it remains solid rock (as in their first cartoon, "Fast and Furry-ous"). Or it may injure the Coyote when a very real truck or train exits it and runs him over as he stands in front of it. Wile E. may also paint a fake bridge over a real canyon. That one is reversed in "Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z", where Wile E. puts a painting of a broken bridge in the middle of the road to get the Road Runner to stop. When the Road Runner just rips through the canvas, Wile E. goes after him, enters the painting, and falls off the cliff therein.
    • The 2020 short "Tunnel Vision" provides a new twist on the gag — this time, Wile E. actually enters the tunnel, and is even surprised by this. However, when he tries to get back out, he finds that he can't. Then the Road Runner uses a hose to wash the painting and Wile E. away.
    • Wile E. eventually gets to use this trick against him in Space Jam: A New Legacy, trapping the Road Runner in a painting to steal the ball during practice.
    • Bugs Bunny tries this against Cecil Turtle in Rabbit Transit, painting a tunnel onto a tree. Cecil runs through it, but it doesn't work for Bugs.
  • In an early Pac-Mania short, Pac-Man does the "painted cave entrance" trick to evade the pursuing Ghost Monsters.
  • The exact same thing happened in an episode of Johnny Test with a lot of Shout Outs to old Road Runner cartoons.
  • Big City Greens: Spoofed in "Chipwrecked" as the last entry in a montage of Chip Whistler's schemes to destroy the Green family shows him running into a wall after Tilly successfully went through the painted-on tunnel. Chip admits he might have hallucinated that particular one due to sleep deprivation.
  • A U.S. Acres segment on Garfield and Friends did the tunnel version of this gag with Booker and the Worm. According to Orson, this gag is required in every chase scene.
  • Wacky Races used quite a number of the original Road Runner gags, thanks to Mike Maltese, Road Runner's primary writer, having written a few Wacky Races episodes, and this gag was one of them.
    • Dick Dastardly used a landscape painted on a piece of upright solid steel to try to wreck the other racers. Not only did they drive into it unharmed, but a bus drove out of it and flattened him.
    • One episode set in a desert had a variation of the gag, where Dick Dastardly finds a Jackass Genie, and tries to enlist his help. The first wish Dick uses is to make a mirage river to stop the other racers. Unfortunately, Peter Perfect sees through it and encourages the other racers to just imagine that there’s a bridge, which they use to cross. When Dastardly attempts to cross, fully knowing that it’s just a mirage, he falls into the river instead.
  • One episode of I Am Weasel made fun of this. Weasel paints a tunnel on a cliff to escape Baboon in a Road Runner parody, but neither of them can go into the tunnel.
    Red Guy: What kind of idiots are you guys, trying to run through a rock wall?
  • The Fairly OddParents! takes it a step further: In "Back to the Norm", Crocker paints a cliff so it appears to be Trixie Tang holding two ice cream cones and standing in front of a tunnel. As a cherry on top, on top of the cliff is a rock that would fall when someone hits the cliff. Timmy rides into it, but instead of crashing, "Trixie" hands him an ice cream cone and jumps on his bike as they ride through the tunnel. Crocker starts to chase after them as one would expect, but he stops just before he is about to hit the cliff the tunnel is painted on, because he realizes that the cliff will be solid again when he tries to run through the tunnel. But he then spazzes out and hits the cliff and the rock falls on him.
  • Clyde Crashcup from The Alvin Show "invents" by drawing things in midair.
  • In the 1930s, there was a whole slew of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts in which the pictures on book and magazine covers, food labels, or billboards came to life.
    • The Animaniacs episode "Video Review" revives the concept, using the covers of VHS tapes in a video store.
  • The Pink Panther: In one short, Pink sees a picture of a sailboat hanging crooked, but when he straightens it, the water on the picture spills out of the frame.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Scratch and Grounder try this trick on Sonic. Of course, they botch it.
    • Another episode inverts it, where Sonic finds the perfect place to paint a tunnel, only the tunnel's already there, so he simply paints over the tunnel, leaving Scratch and Grounder confused when they hear a train coming, but don't see where it could be coming from until they're hit by it.
  • An episode of House of Mouse involving Donald Duck and the Aracuan Bird featured a scene where the Aracuan can be seen drawing a door on the wall, then opening it to reveal a stampede of wildebeest who then trample Donald.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: In one Droopy cartoon, Spike paints a tennis court blue and installs a diving platform so that when Droopy tries to dive in, he would drop to his death instead. Droopy dives, but instead of splattering on solid concrete, he splashes into what is now real water. Spike then tries it himself... and shatters into a million pieces.
    • Spike rolled with it in "Mutts About Racing". During a car race, when Droopy drove into a sign, he simply shoved said sign off a cliff. Droopy later came rolling out of a painting and kept going.
    • Avery's "Jerky Turkey" does this as the screwball turkey runs right into the scenery painted onto a brick wall. The 4-F pilgrim trying to catch the turkey smashes right into the wall.
  • In the Bonkers episode "Basic Straining", passing through a painted tunnel is the only thing that saves Bonkers and Lucky from a villain's bulldozer. Lucky had difficulty passing through since he's not a toon. After they pass through, a train takes care of the villain.
    Bonkers: Toon rule #9: Can't have a tunnel without a choo-choo!
  • Spoofed in an episode of Turbo F.A.S.T., where Hardcase draws a road on a trampoline hoping to cause the snails to bounce off over a cliff. When they seem to go through it, he tries it himself and gets launched off instead. Pan to the snails who simply went around the painting instead of through.
    Smoove Move: Did he really think we can't tell a road from a painting?
  • Yogi Bear: The original title sequence featured Yogi driving a jeep into a billboard for the sponsor (Kellogg's), then driving out of an adjacent billboard bearing the show's title.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch has one of Wile E. Coyote's tunnel paintings on display in a museum. When Road Runner runs through the tunnel, Wile E. tries chasing after him, but slams into the painting. This being Robot Chicken, Wile E. dies from his injuries.
    • Another had Wile E. slamming into a painted tunnel followed by the Road Runner zipping up with a sign that says "fake tunnel." Wile E. holds up a sign that says "No shit."
  • The Bunsen Is a Beast episode "Hall of Justice" has Amanda Killman try to create a trap by painting a blank wall to look like a stairway leading to free tacos. Her assistant Beverly and the school's teacher Miss Flap manage to go down there and get tacos in spite of it just being a painted wall, but Amanda ends up hurting herself by running into a wall when she tries to go down the painted staircase herself.
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: During the chase sequence in "Don't Fool With a Phantom", Shaggy and Scooby paint a fake door on the wall before fleeing the room in another direction. When the Wax Phantom catches up to where they had been he opens the fake door... and promptly crashes into (and through) the very real brick wall behind it.
  • Dennis the Menace: In "Chitty Chitty Moon Walk", a pair of spies after Henry's solar-powered moon walker place a landscape over their van as part of their plan to steal the walker from Dennis and Joey. Dennis and Joey are chased by a pair of bikers who also want to steal the walker, and when the walker powers down due to a cloud hiding the sun, the bikers drive past it and end up getting caught by the spies instead.
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: "The Making of..." has several shout-outs to other shows, movies, and cartoons. One of them is a scene parodying the Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons, with Cruella in the role of Wile E. and Spot in the role of Road Runner. Cruella paints a tunnel on a wall and chases Spot toward it. Spot goes through the tunnel, but when Cruella tries to follow her, she slams her car into the wall. Then a train comes out of the tunnel and knocks her off a cliff.

Alternative Title(s): Artistic Expression


Trixie Wall

Crocker devises a scheme to lure Timmy into a trap by painting Trixie on a wall.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / PaintedTunnelRealTrain

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