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 done 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 
  • 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.
  • Guu in Haré+Guu usually has no elbows or hands. This is a deliberate choice to emphasize Guu's other-world-ness.
  • Kuro from Kodomo no Jikan displays an extreme version of this during one of the show's endings.
  • Luffy in One Piece to a degree, since he actually is made of rubber. This eventually gets taken to its logical extent when he awakens his Devil Fruit and achieves Gear 5, which effectively grants him Toon Physics powers. Notably, Luffy indeed has visible elbows and knees when he isn't stretching, but this trope is played straight as he gains noodle-like limbs in his Gear 5 form.
  • Jyuushimatsu seems to have these by default in Osomatsu-san to go along with his Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies.
  • Poemi does this in the spiritual successor to Excel Saga, Puni Puni Poemi.
  • Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro: The titular protagonist often gets drawn with her arms getting noodly and waving around without visible hands or fingers when she gets particularly mischievous/playful with her senpai.
  • 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.
  • Happens to quite a few characters in Uzumaki, although the effects are significantly more serious than in most other works.
  • Happens quite a bit in Yotsuba&!

    Comic Strips 

    Films Animation 

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


    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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- and octopus-based Inkling and Octoling protagonists included, they all have clearly defined limbs.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 

  • The trollface comic would forever associate "schwoopy-loopy limbs" with the meme.
  • Kate Beaton's comics.
  • The Handbook of Heroes: Characters usually lack elbows and often knees.
  • 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.

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

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Crumpets, Pfff Crumpet and his Stalker with a Crush neighbor Cassandra McBrisk have arms that are normally like this.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "The Good Ol' Days!", where Timmy and his grandpa become '30s cartoon characters.
  • Joe Swanson from Family Guy has legs which seem to follow no real joints due to being a paraplegic. It makes sense.
  • This is seen on Fanboy and Chum Chum quite regularly, even within a few seconds of the show's opening.
  • 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]
  • 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!"
  • Gumby's legs, and those of his horse, Pokey. Justified here though as they're made of clay.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack has several human characters, mostly the title character of Flapjack, with this.
  • 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!
  • The Mr. Men, especially Mr. Tickle.
  • Olive Oyl from Popeye is like a walking rubberband.
  • This happens from time to time on The Ren & Stimpy Show.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Used on occasion in Tiny Toon Adventures, especially the Kennedy Cartoons animated episodes.
  • Everyone in WordGirl.

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



Ongo gets a little tied up.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / RubberHoseLimbs

Media sources: