Follow TV Tropes


Perspective Magic

Go To

"It's all about perspective."
— Old saying, probably related to painting, possibly applicable to everything.

See that huge giant on the horizon about to come and eat us? Just close an eye, pick him up between your fingers and drop him in a bottle until he learns his lesson.

Perspective Magic is a way for characters to play with the Fourth Wall, using the fact that they live in a 2-D world imitating 3-D to their advantage. Characters likely to use Perspective Magic are usually cartoons, wizards, gods, or just someone Medium Aware enough to take a step back and manipulate their surroundings.

A few possible techniques used in Perspective Magic:

  1. Far away is small: Therefore you are the largest object in the world and can manipulate any other object accordingly. This may result in sun/moon/stars being plucked from the sky.
  2. Distance is relative: The house that looks like it's two leagues away is really just on the other end of the same page, walking "on the page" they can go there in a few steps.
  3. Tiny can be Titanic: A small object near you is no different than a large one far away, so you can do the inverse of 1 and use miniatures or toys to create life size replicas.
  4. Magnifying Glass Enlarger: By using a magnifying glass or other device, a character can literally enlarge an object.
  5. Existence requires visibility: Anything that can't be seen isn't hidden, it isn't there. Objects can thus be made to "disappear" in a Puff of Logic.

See also Depth Deception and Forced Perspective. Often used in the form of Grasp the Sun.


    open/close all folders 

  • One Starburst ad was this trope and nothing else.
  • In a Coke advert, a man takes the bottle off a billboard, drinks the contents and replaces it.
  • In a Tic Tac ad, a girl captures the man of her dreams in a transparent Tic Tac box.
  • One car advert has a little girl picking up a cow from a field like it was a toy.

    Anime and Manga 
  • A villain from one of the Read or Die episodes had this as his power. If, in his perspective, his bo-staff 'hit' you, it actually did hit you.
  • Played for laughs in .hack when Kite wins a battle by violating the laws of perspective in .hack 4Koma. He flicks his opponent off of a cliff because she looks small from that distance.
  • In Doctor Slump, an one-time character is a wandering samurai who casually punches a mountain in the background right behind him... and smashes it.
  • Taikobu manages to defeat Raishinishi in Houshin Engi through a combination of drunken boxing kung fu and changing the format of the manga to a 4koma.
  • Dana does this in UQ Holder! to grab Cutlass when she attempts to flee UQ Holder's headquarters.


    Comic Books 
  • One issue of Marvel Comics' Illuminati had the group look for the Infinity Gems. When professor X, Namor and Dr. Strange seek the gem of mind they appear on a vast, featureless blue plane... the gem itself seen from real up close. They retrieve it by changing their perspective to make it small.
  • In a 2010 Fantastic Four storyline, Reed's new man-friends (alternate Reeds) helped saved millions from a sun nova by perspective magic. They "got big" with techno-babble and pulled out the defective parts of a sun.
  • One Mortadelo y Filemón comic deals with UFOs that were coming to Earth in order to invade it. One of them appears to be really huge and far away, but in the end it turns out it is very small... and it hits Filemón right in the mouth.
    • The point 2 example, "those far away houses are just on the other side of the page", is used in another story. With those literal words.
  • In the Franco-Belgian comic Philémon, this is used to great effect to travel to the "Lettres de L'Ocean Atlantique". By looking through either end of a magic telescope, the subject is either increased or decreased in size proportional to the image seen through the scope.

    Eastern Animation 
  • One of the first episodes of Staflik a Spagetka had this with a long spyglass which was used to get crow off the chair and then trap it into spyglass itself.
  • A 10-minute-short film, Time Out, features this quite a few times.
  • Frequent in the Armenfilm Animated Shorts. Look here around 1:00 for two examples.

    Films — Animation 
  • There's a short animated film called Shhh! that was featured on Channel 4 in the UK where the protagonist's grandfather had the ability to make people disappear by placing his thumb over them and simply 'wiping' them from his field of vision.
  • In Bill Plympton's first feature film, The Tune, as the main character approaches the town of Flooby Nooby, he notices that the trees seem to get smaller as he approaches them. The mayor explains that perspective is an illusion: things really do get bigger when one gets nearer as a defense mechanism. But at Flooby Nooby, everyone is so relaxed that the opposite is true.
  • The Secret of Kells features a non-size related variation: the film's distinct flat style is just decorative for most of it, but in one scene it allows Brendan to trap a Celtic god in a chalk circle.
  • In Inside Out, Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong take a shortcut to the Train of Thought through Abstract Thought and become abstracted. When they become 2-D shapes, the door that was far away is now too small for them to go through until they become lines and are able to wriggle through.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has the awesome "Leap of Faith scene", where Indy steps onto a stone bridge that has been crafted to appear invisible from where he is standing.
  • Contact. The alien sky of "Pensacola" is closer than Ellie thinks.
  • The fate of Mike Teevee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sadly, miniaturizing is easier than biggifying.
  • Done in the Nina Paley video "Fetch".
  • Bruce of Bruce Almighty, after pulling the moon closer to the earth, casually creates a few stars, then wipes one out, by poking the sky with his fingers. Considering the effect the moon's gravity had, the star manipulation has some pretty horrible implications.
  • A sight gag in Top Secret! used a phone which appeared to be huge from being extra close to the camera. Wrong! The phone really was huge.
  • Played with in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Jack looks at Davy Jones through a telescope. He then puts down the telescope, only his view hasn't changed, because Davy teleported to the exact right location in the instant the telescope was moved.
    • Parodied in the LEGO video game, where Jack then puts Davy Jones back onto his ship by looking through the telescope backwards.
  • Played for Drama in At First Sight. When Val Kilmer's character regains his sight after having been blind since childhood he's incapable of distuingishing distance. See the trailer a 1:37.
  • Technologized in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Using an extremely hi-tech television screen that's as thin as fabric, and a camera that tracks the eyes of a viewer, IMF agents can sneak down a hallway in "plain sight." Aside from the obvious necessary advancements in screens and cameras, it's actually pretty realistically handled: the trick works on one viewer, but when a second enters, the system can't handle it and switches back and forth between their two perspectives, breaking the illusion. Watch it here.
  • Possibly invoked in Mermaid where Alice seemingly shields Aleksandr from oncoming cars by steepling her hands around him.

  • There's a folk story about a little boy bemoaning that he's getting too big to sit in his mother's lap; his mother tells him that he can always walk to the horizon and be tiny again. Hilarity Ensues when he does just that and ends up two inches tall ("As tall as my thumb" was the measurement given in the story).

  • A guru in one of the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books has the ability to step between a series of pillars and the mountains behind them.
  • In the Discworld novel Sourcery, the Sourceror has this power.
  • David Macaulay's book Great Moments In Architecture contains a picture of the "discovery of the vanishing point," a bunch of cowboys standing around looking at a spot where parallel train tracks meet.
  • Number four is inverted in E. Rose Sabin's A School for Sorcery where a girl's vision of a terrible monster is defeated when she looks at it through a reversed telescope.
  • Zorya Polunochnaya uses version 1 in American Gods to pick the moon out of the sky and give it to Shadow, in the form of a coin.
  • In The Scar, a grindylow magical artifact can give its user this power, and is used by a human spy to impressive effect. However, it comes with the price of starting to mutate him into something that doesn't quite seem human or grindylow...
  • In Xanth perspective is said to be one of the types of magic that works in Mundania as well. Notably, in the Anti-Magic zone inside Xanth, perspective doesn't work, so things are the same size no matter what distance you are from them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Robots of Death", the Doctor tells Leela that that this is the principle that enables the TARDIS to be much Bigger on the Inside than it is on the outside. How serious an explanation this is, no-one knows. It makes perfect sense as long as he has a black hole somewhere inside the TARDIS; later dubbed the "Eye of Harmony". So Time Lords Hand Wave black hole husbandry, not conventional physics.
  • Mr. Tyzik (a.k.a. "The Headcrusher)" from The Kids in the Hall seems to think he has this power. He would hold his hand close to his eye, and pretend to crush people's heads with his fingers. And putting your thumb up to obstruct your view of some meant there was "nobody home".
  • In the Merlin miniseries, he plucks the moon out of the sky and it becomes a glowing coin that he rolls around his fingers. He then says something about appearances being deceiving and points at the sky to show the clouds pulling back from the moon.
  • In one of Spike Milligan's sketches Milligan walks over to a perspective backdrop of a street and leans over the rooftop to shout at the supposed occupants.
  • In the Coco Loco episode of series 2 of British sitcom The Mighty Boosh, the protagonists are trapped on an island, and a boat appears on the horizon. Howard begins trying to signal it, but Vince interrupts him, saying "It's just really small." as he plucks it from the apparent horizon and reveals it to be tiny.
  • A famous scene from an episode of Father Ted has Ted attempting to explain the concepts of 'small' and 'far away' to Dougal with the use of some toy plastic cows and a view of some real cows in a field.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for Final Fantasy's This Lamb Sells Condos features a character that jumps between buildings as if they're all on the same plane, and eventually jumps to a small paper buildings close to the camera.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Scion, heroes with the "Moon" and "Sun" Purviews can use this trick to, respectively, pluck the moon or the sun out of the sky (and pocket it for later use). The sun can be used to create a Sun Crown, which is basically a halo that will shoot incoming projectiles out of the air with a solar laser, while the moon is a reflective disc that hovers around the user, deflecting energy-based attacks. Combining them both on a single character, either by having both powers, or by having two characters combine their abilities, and you get the rather scary Eclipse Crown...
  • In Godlike, there's a Talent who can use his shadow's hands to move objects — and the larger his shadow, the stronger his power.
  • Exalted
    • One of the spells in the sourcebook The Black Treatise creates a giant war machine. The sorcerer builds a miniature model of the device, holds it up so that it looks to him like a big machine on the ground far away — and when he lets his hand drop, there is no model, but there actually is a giant mecha on the distant ground.
    • Also, in the Wyld, Reality Is Out to Lunch, resulting in this trope being applied very frequently.

    Video Games 
  • This is basically Lisa's superpower in one Simpsons videogame.
  • Super Paper Mario could be an example: in 2D things are blocking your way, but if you flip into 3D you can go around.
  • Similarly, the Cutout mechanic in Paper Mario: Color Splash works in a similar way: When objects line up into geometrical shapes or straight lines from the camera's perspective, Mario can then use those shapes. For instance, if a rectangle of a particular size and dimensions is created onscreen, Mario can then place a Thing card there to summon an object at that location.
  • It's the major gameplay element on Echochrome. If it's covered, it doesn't exist. If it appears to be above, below or connected, it is. Echochrome 2 does Perspective Magic with shadows instead of objects.
  • In Crush, you can choose to view the level in 3D or in 2D; in 3D, normal physics apply, but when viewing the world in 2D, this trope comes into full force. You can jump to the other end of the map just by stepping from a block in the foreground to one in the background.
  • Commodore 64 offering Realm of Impossibility featured this sort of dungeon design in the titular Realm. It also took full advantage of the 2D graphics to blur the lines between horizontal and vertical surfaces.
  • Missile the Pomeranian eventually gains the powers of the dead in Ghost Trick, but unlike Sissel's, his are based on switching objects with the same silhouette according to the game's static camera angle. These objects may not have the same shape in all three dimensions, but if you catch them at the right moment and the object has been rotated properly, it'll work.
  • Revolver360 Re:Actor has this as its central mechanic. Collisions of ships and bullets in 3D space is handled on the screen's 2D plane. One of the central mechanics, being able to rotate the game's viewpoint, means you can take advantage of this by moving a far away enemy into the background so you can shoot it, or rotate a massive wave of bullets into an easily dodged line.
  • In Fez, you rotate the world in a way so it is treated as a single plane and therefore many gaps suddenly appear and disappear.
  • The Mad Hatter has this power in the game version of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. It's mainly a way to fix Broken Bridges, but can also be used to crush enemies between his fingers.
  • When the Savior, a massive demon-powered Living Statue activates in Devil May Cry 4, Dante notices it from some distance away. He covers it by bringing his hand up to his face, mockingly saying that it's not so big before he crushes his fist.
  • In God of War III, Kratos has to navigate the Gardens of Olympus with the help of a magic gemstone that lets him see things through the eyes of a nearby statue. In order to escape the player has to shift stairways and bridges so that, from the statue's perspective, it forms a continuous pathway straight to the exit. After completing the puzzle the camera does a fly-by of the garden, showing that the path you crossed is actually made up of pieces that are all dozens of meters apart, which leads one to wonder exactly how trippy it must have been from Kratos' perspective.
  • The Digipen game Perspective has this as its gimmick. Your character moves in 2D within a 3D world and can jump from any blue surface to any other blue surface no matter how far away it is (from the player's POV), as long as it's visible. You can also move the camera as if it were a character in a first-person game, in order to make platforms "appear" and "disappear".
  • A significant part of Monument Valley is making continuous paths by clever use of perspective.
  • The last point has an example in Closure, where it's the entire game mechanic. The whole level is dark save for certain places illuminated by portable globes, spotlights, or ambient lighting that is there for puzzle purposes. You pass through everything that's not visible. See a path that looks easy to reach, but when you go to it with your light, there's a tall wall? Drop the light in a spot it doesn't show the wall and jump across.
  • Fate/EXTRA: Passionlip can take any object that will fit between her giant clawed gauntlets and crush it down to a 5cm data cube, which is then stored in the Hammerspace between her breasts. Passionlip's perception of reality is so distorted that it asserts itself on the world around her, and she believes the Exact Words of her ability - anything she can see through Finger Framing can be drawn into her claws and crushed, with no defense or escape. Even the other characters note what a Story-Breaker Power this is. The only things keeping her in check are a mental disconnect that means she never thinks of using a "data processing" ability for combat, and a total lack of independent drive the keeps Passionlip from fighting even in self-defense unless ordered.
  • Superliminal has this as its main gimmick. You travel through a dream world where you solve various puzzles based on picking things up and placing them in a way so that they change size based on your point of view, shrinking obstacles or enlarging ordinary objects to serve as ramps and stepping stones.

  • One of Coyote's tricks for Annie in Gunnerkrigg Court is to pluck the moon from the sky between his paws. Antimony initially thinks that Coyote's trick is nothing more than a flashy bit of illusion (hence the "poke" to see if it's real)... telescopic evidence later reveals that the "poke" left some difficult-to-explain evidence on the surface of the moon.
  • Homestuck seems to have this as the signature power of Jade, the Witch of Space. Notably, even the author seems afraid of messing with her now.
  • Keychain of Creation features a character who uses the webcomic format this way. She can strike multiple opponents at range because the panel's viewpoint angle makes her strike appear to hit them all. She can look across panel borders to see what happens in the "future," and then jump between panels to teleport across time and space. She also knocks a chunk out of the panel border to use as a projectile, which then freezes as soon as it hits the target, immobilizing them completely.
  • minus.. The eponymous Reality Warper does this quite often.
  • Paranatural has a Spectral with the power to squish things using a plastic grabber toy and this trope.
  • In this xkcd strip, the setting sun is about to be captured with a butterfly net.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Chowder exploited this by using glasses and making himself smaller.
  • The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "1 + 1 = Ed" did this when the Eds ended up taking apart parts of their cartoon reality. Eddy stumbles behind some houses in the background like they're standees, then plucks the sun out of the sky and takes a bite out of it, turning it into a crescent moon and turning day to night.
    Jimmy: Jumpin' Jehoshaphat! Who turned off the sun?
  • Used on Tiny Toon Adventures when Montana Max air-drops garbage and toxic waste in Wackyland. Gogo Dodo stops him by picking his airplane out of the air.
  • On one episode of Muppet Babies, Gonzo uses a magnifying glass to make a mouse hole big enough to go through.
  • In a Futurama episode, Kif tries to pluck the moon for Amy in the Nimbus holodeck. But while he is able to grasp the moon, he is not strong enough to remove it.
  • In the ReBoot episode where Hexadecimal gets her hands on an art program, perspective gets worse the farther you go into Lost Angles. Her "cat" Scuzzy gets in on the fun by appearing normal-sized at a distance and HUGE close up; when he's frightened by the heroes he runs away to become tiny. Never mind when she was literally cutting and pasting things around: since it was based on the size of the windows, at least one building disappeared from one area, and reappeared grossly out of proportion in another.
  • Although he doesn't break reality, the concept shows up in Invader Zim when GIR brings his fingers close to his eye and pretends to crush Zim's head. The DVD commentary confirms that this is a Shout-Out to The Kids in the Hall example above.
  • In the Super Friends episode showing Apache Chief's origin, he grows to about a hundred feet tall, picks up a bear that had been menacing him, and sets it down behind a mountain on the horizon. The creators chuckle over the scene on the DVD Commentary.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In "Your World Is an Illusion", Holo-Jane tries to convince K.O. that he's just a cartoon character. K.O. doesn't believe her, until he sticks his hand out and accidentally knocks down a pterodactyl flying by in the background.
  • Johnny Bravo: A kid trying to act like Johnny says, while hitting on a girl twice his height, "I'm not short, baby, I'm just really far away."

    Real Life 
  • You can move around certain famous landmarks with perspective magic for holiday snaps. Probably the most common is pushing over (or pushing back up) the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • This trope seems to be at work in this cat video.
  • The fact that the (much closer) moon and (much larger) sun look roughly the same size in the sky is the reason we can have total solar eclipses.
  • Changing the apparent size of a limb in pain (e.g. by looking at it through the wrong end of binoculars) can change the amount of pain the person is experiencing. This paper on the subject is the easiest to find.


Video Example(s):


Eddy Holds The Sun

And eats it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / PerspectiveMagic

Media sources:

Main / PerspectiveMagic