Follow TV Tropes


Rubber Hose Limbs

Go To

This is when a cartoon character moves without any visible elbows or knees, so their limbs aren't stiff, but rather bendy, like rubber hoses. Just watch pretty much any black-and-white cartoon, to give a broad example. In cartoons made before the mid to late 1930s or so, this was intentional, for practical reasons rather than artistic ones. It all started with Felix the Cat animators Otto Messmer and Bill Nolan, and it was meant to prevent the motion of the limbs in question from looking like they were drawn through a strobe light and flickering — the basic idea was that if you didn't draw joints, you could make absolutely sure that the limbs in one frame overlapped with where the limbs were in the last frame. Higher frame rates, the development of Squash and Stretch, and an awareness of camera blur sharply reduced the need for this kind of animation as time went on, and cartoon characters all of a sudden had joints. These days, this is a deliberate artistic decision on the part of the animator — either to creep you out; to create a fun, zany, or cute character; or as a deliberate nod to The Golden Age of Animation. In the early days, however, it was just how things were done.


In anime, it's often used in conjunction with Super-Deformed, possibly to accentuate the childish nature of the Art Shift. In Western Animation, it was revived with the Thin-Line Animation style of The New '10s.

Related to No Knees, though that's mostly a side effect of a Lazy Artist. Not to be confused with Noodle People, which is about having skinny arms, though the tropes aren't mutually exclusive. A Rubber Man may be a justified version of this.



    open/close all folders 


    Anime & Manga 
  • Guu in Haré+Guu usually has no elbows or hands. This is a deliberate choice to emphasize Guu's other-world-ness.
  • Azumanga Daioh: Sakaki turns all noodly when she goes to pet the cat.
  • Excel in Excel Saga does this whenever she gets excited, which is to say, all the time.
  • So does Poemi in the spiritual successor Puni Puni Poemi
  • Luffy in One Piece — he actually is made of rubber.
  • Kuro from Kodomo no Jikan displays an extreme version of this during one of the show's endings.
  • Happens quite a bit in Yotsuba&!
  • Fuu from Tamayura undergoes this when she becomes scared or excited.
  • Leeron from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann occasionally has these, particularly in the more comical scenes. He even has rubber hose fingers.
  • Jyuushimatsu seems to have these by default in Osomatsu-san to go along with his Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies.
  • Happens to quite a few characters in Uzumaki, although the effects are significantly more serious than in most other works.

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Mask, The Mask gets rubber hose limbs during the "El Pachuco" dance number.


    Video Games 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog. His original design is based on Mickey Mouse.
  • In Splatoon, the humanoid Jellyfish that wander Inkopolis have wildly flexible limbs, those being their tentacles, that they can even extend. As for the most of the rest of the species around, it is actually inverted; despite the fact that almost all of the known species are humanoid invertebrates, the squid-based Inkling protagonists included, they have clearly defined limbs.
  • The titular character from Dropsy has rubber hose arms, which is just one of the things that sets him apart from any other characters in the game who all have normal arms.
  • Bendy and the Ink Machine: the titular Bendy and his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Boris the Wolf are drawn like this as an homage to these kinds of cartoons, particularly black-and-white Disney shorts.
  • Mettaton of Undertale is a robot whose arms are basically long, flexible pipes with White Gloves for hands. He does not have distinct elbows or wrists so much as just places that bend.
  • Being a very deliberate homage to the 1920s and 1930s era of cartoons, the animation of Cuphead is full of this. Characters have very fluid animations but not much in the way of distinct joints. There's often the implications of knees or elbows, but very little that follows the laws of anatomy.
  • Super Daryl Deluxe - Daryl's arms, legs, and spine are all extremely bendy, to the point where his normal walking and running animations don't look like anything a human could do. Everyone else is animated as if they have bones, setting Daryl apart.
  • Mega Man (Classic):
    • Clown Man from Mega Man 8 has stretchy, bendy arms, which he can use to channel his Thunder Claw attacks and swing from a trapeze (one of his pasttimes).
    • Pump Man from Mega Man 10 is a literal example.

    Web Animation 

  • Kate Beaton's comics.
  • The trollface comic took it Up to Eleven, forever associating "schwoopy-loopy limbs" with the meme.
  • Some strips of minus. gives these to the eponymous character. In this case, it's wholly intentional, to show how wrong her movements have become.
  • Tove: Dag's arms are extremely bendy and can even curl, which stands out when compared to Tove, whose arms move fairly realistically. Femhamu's arms are a bit bendy as well, although it's justified as he's part of an alien race.
  • The Handbook of Heroes: Characters usually lack elbows and often knees.

    Web Original 
  • Characters in the animated "Thought Bubble" segments of the Crash Course series are animated this way.

    Western Animation 
  • The Mr. Men, especially Mr. Tickle.
  • Olive Oyl from Popeye is like a walking pipe cleaner.
  • Referenced in an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer is mimicking Popeye while Marge calls for help and randomly starts flailing her wobbly arms like Olive Oyl.
  • Gumby's legs, and those of his horse, Pokey. Justified here though as they're made of clay.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Hill Billy"; when Billy cheers up the chicken juggler Uncle Chokey, he uses some sort of magical record player to turn the world around them into an old-timey cartoon (complete with Grim doing an homage to The Skeleton Dance), and Billy quips "Hey Mandy, I'm from the rubberhose school of animation!"
  • Mickey Mouse, his predecessor, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Felix the Cat, Flip the Frog - basically any cartoon character created before 1935 will have these, as it was the standard style at the time. The 1929 Walt Disney Silly Symphonies The Skeleton Dance does this — even on the skeletons, which looks pretty odd!
  • A major exception is Betty Boop, notable for being the first character with anything resembling proper anatomy. (She couldn't have been the original Ms. Fanservice otherwise.) She had these in her earliest appearances, but got proper elbows as part of her general humanization.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has these from time to time, as he is an invertebrate. The same thing applies to Squidward's tentacles, especially during his dance in "Culture Shock".
  • The Fairly OddParents episode "The Good Ol' Days!", where Timmy and his grandpa become '30s cartoon characters.
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • The Marvelous Misadventuresof Flapjack has several human characters, mostly the title character of Flapjack, with this.
  • This happens from time to time on The Ren & Stimpy Show.
  • The entire cast of Adventure Time.
    • Oddly enough, when Jake gets his shape-shifting powers taken away, his body suddenly has properly jointed limbs, though this is never an issue with powerless characters like Finn.
    • Although in the episode "The Creeps", Princess Bubblegum's arms are randomly more realistic than in other episodes.
    • One might say this show brought about a renaissance for this art style, as it has been imitated since as part of Thin-Line Animation.
  • This is seen on Fanboy and Chum Chum quite regularly, even within a few seconds of the show's opening.
  • Joe Swanson from Family Guy has legs which seem to follow no real joints due to being a paraplegic. It makes sense.
  • Everyone in WordGirl.
  • Used on occasion in Tiny Toon Adventures, especially the Kennedy Cartoons animated episodes.
  • The Warden in Superjail! has these, which makes him stand out as looney even more amongst the normal-jointed inhabitants of the rest of the world.
  • Zig-zagged in The Amazing World of Gumball: most of the 2D characters have hose-like arms, but depending on the scene they may gently curve, bend at angles with distinguishable elbows, or some combination thereof. In general, anyone who wears clothes over at least part of their arm (the Wattersons minus Darwin) tends usually bent arms, while those who don't (Principal Brown, Tobias, Penny) tend toward curved arms. Some of the 3D characters (including Anton and Banana Joe) also use a version of this trope where their arms are just rubber lines that bend at curves only.
  • Characters in Gravity Falls who have thin limbs often make use of this. Lampshaded in the episode "Fight Fighters":
    Dipper: What was I thinking? I can't fight! I've never been in a fight before! Look at these noodle arms! [his arms make a wavy motion]
  • In The Crumpets, Pfff Crumpet and his Stalker with a Crush neighbor Cassandra McBrisk have arms that are normally like this.

    Real Life 
  • Popper Phillip Chbeeb can create this illusion with his arms.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: