It's one of the most elementary of Improvised Weapons (and indeed, is a simple machine): Take a plank, place it over a rock or barrel or some other object to create a fulcrum, place a payload (which might often be a person) on one end, jump on the other end, and voila, instant airborne surprise. Of course, it requires great expertise in ballistics to hit one's target by such rudimentary means, and many depictions have the payload sail upward only to crash down on the launcher, which is actually a fair approximation of what would usually happen.
Because this device is so basic to construct, it often occurs spontaneously, if not accidentally, during action or chase scenes. It is also seen with real playground seesaws, when a small child is launched into the sky by either a fat kid innocently sitting down, or a large bully with malicious intent.
Anime and Manga
- Discussed in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. When showing off her "knowledge" of the Earth to Kanna, Tohru refers to some seesaws in a park as a training catapult for children. Comes back as a Brick Joke 14 chapters later when Kanna repeats this while playing with Saikawa.
- In the anime, after Kobayashi's tried explaining what a seesaw actually is, Tohru and Kanna start using it to launch each other sky-high.
- In a 1930 Mickey Mouse comic (written by Walt Disney himself), Mickey tries to break into Sylvester Shyster's office by launching himself into his second-story window this way. Unfortunately, the boulder he uses breaks the board in half.
- In Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey Chance launches Sassy into the air when Hope sets her on a seesaw at the wedding reception and later recreates the same trick with a balancing stone in order to launch the mountain lion stalking him and Shadow off a cliff.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a hippo ballet dancer at the Maroon Studios sits down on a bench next to a man, launching him into the air.
- Young Frankenstein. While wandering the countryside, the monster meets a little girl and plays with her. They get on a teeter-totter and when the monster sits down on it, the little girl is flung through the air and miraculously lands on the bed in her bedroom, to the relief of her parents.
- Tales of the Magic Land has a besieging army use them to take over the Emerald City.
- The Mythbusters once tested a variant about a skydiver who crashed onto a playground seesaw after his parachute failed, launching a child who miraculously landed on a high rise and survived. After some very bizarre experiments, they concluded that A) the impact would cause any seesaw to instantly buckle that wasn't made from industrial materials (which, the Mythbusters being overdoers by principle, theirs was), and B) there's no way in hell that either the kid or skydiver would survive.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- In one strip, Hobbes turns Calvin's improvised skateboard ramp into a catapult with expert timing.
- In another strip, Calvin tries to use this mechanism to launch a giant snowball. The predictable result is that he gets a faceful of snow himself◊.
- In yet another strip, Calvin tries to use the same configuration to make a springboard so that he can jump into a pile of leaves. Predicably, the rock that he uses as a counterweight flies up and hits him in the head.
- Pink Panther: Hokus Pokus Pink has the panther use one of these to get out of the rat cave. The problem is finding something to land on the other side.
- In The Secret of Monkey Island, Herman Toothrot has built a fixture on Monkey Island that he insists is modern art, but consists of a log placed over a rock with a boulder on one end. This leads to a puzzle in which Guybrush must turn the log to the correct angle and drop a rock from an overhanging ledge in order to knock down a banana tree on a distant beach. If he gets the angle wrong, he may hit his own ship, resulting in slight embarrassment on his part and an extra scene in the ending in which his crew are marooned on the same island.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- In Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, there are seesaws in Star Light Zone and Hill Top Zone, respectively. In the former game, there is a spiked ball on one end, and in the latter game, there is a Gohla enemy on one end. Sonic can launch the projectile to the other end and stand on the end it was on originally so it can launch him in the air, causing him to reach higher places. In the former game, this is also the key to defeating Dr. Robotnik in Star Light Zone, as he drops spiked bombs onto empty seesaws. If timed perfectly, Sonic can even hit Robotnik's machine simply by launching the spiked balls back at him.
- In SegaSonic the Hedgehog, Sonic, Mighty, and Ray get chased by a giant boulder in Volcanic Vault. They eventually evade it and land on one end of a giant seesaw. The boulder then lands on the other end, launching them into the air.
- Sonic 3 & Knuckles: Mushroom Hill has a variant where there are two mushrooms with a shared stem, and pushing one mushroom down by landing on it raises the other and launches a weight into the air. When the weight comes back down, Sonic is launched into the air himself.
- Used at the end of various levels in Earthworm Jim 2. The first time works correctly, others fail in hilarious ways (one of which introduces the taxi).
- The Final Boss of the SNES/Genesis The Smurfs game had to be fought using such a device, to launch acorns dropped by a cracoucas.
- In C So! (a Compile game for the MSX and SG-1000), the object is to get rid of enemies by using the seesaws scattered around the levels to propel them into ceiling or trap them underneath. The game's name is an Engrish homophone for "seesaw."
- In the The Flintstones Licensed Game for the Sega Genesis, the boss of the Dino Express level is a giant condor that stole Betty's ribbon and is using it as a bowtie. He flies above two seesaws with boulders on them. When he is flying above one the seesaws, Fred must jump onto the other end so that the seesaw will launch the boulder into the air and it will hit the condor.
- In Snoopy's Grand Adventure, the boss of the Peppermint Jungle is a giant wooden mask that resembles Peppermint Patty, who tosses baseballs at Snoopy. When the baseballs land on one end of the seesaws, Snoopy must jump on the other end to launch them back at her.
- In the bonus rounds of Flicky, there are a pair of Tigers on seesaws that launch Chirps into the air. Flicky must catch as many of them in her net as she can.
- In the The Jungle Book Licensed Game, there are seesaws that have boulders on one end. Mowgli can jump onto the other end to launch the boulder into the air, and when it comes back down, it will launch Mowgli into the air.
- A common puzzle element in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It usually requires the player to shift around other parts of the level so that a heavy object will fall on the opposite end of the seesaw.
- Used by Kano to inflict a fatality on Johnny Cage in Kombat Kids.
- Adventures of the Gummi Bears had an episode where Igthorn tries to get into the King's castle before a potion which put everyone inside to sleep. His final attempt is to use one of these... so the heroes drop the drawbridge upon it. Igthorn flies over the castle, and his Mooks run after him.
- The Early reel of The Amazing World of Gumball sees Gumball and Darwin waiting at one end of a seesaw while a series of Batman Gambits turn their classmates into a living Rube Goldberg Device designed to get Hector to step on the other end, launching Darwin and Gumball over the schoolyard fence to freedom. The good news: the sequence happens exactly as planned. The bad news: the actual launch from the seesaw instead wedges them between Hector's buttocks. The actual show homaged this scene in "The Bumpkin": Gumball again tries to catapult away on seesaw, except he's by himself this time and just asks Hector to step on the other side. He just goes straight up, and then straight back down.
- This happens in several of Chuck Jones's Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons, with the teeter-totter being made of stone. The Coyote would either use the teeter-totter rock as part of his scheme or end up falling on it as a result of a scheme. He would be flung into the air when a large rock fell on the other end of the teeter-totter rock. Or when he tried to fling the rock into the air, it would fall on him instead.
- Chuck Jones also directed some Tom and Jerry cartoons, one of which is "Bad Day At Cat Rock." The concluding scenes of this cartoon occur at a construction site where a building's framework is being erected. Tom assembles a fulcrum and plank for this mechanism, aiming to launch himself up to Jerry Mouse, who's perched contentedly on a higher crossbar. Six efforts in a row fail horribly, and the cartoon irises out on Jerry shaking his head as if apologizing to the audience.
- In the episode, "Circus Angelicus", when Angelica stages her own circus in Tommy's backyard, she wants Chuckie to be a "human candyball". However, Chuckie can't remember what he's supposed to do, and as Angelica tries to explain it to him by sitting on one end of a seesaw, Phil and Lil jump onto the other end, launching her into the air.
- In the episode, "The Turkey Who Came to Dinner", the babies befriend a live turkey and try to protect him from getting cooked and eaten by the adults. They attempt to launch the turkey out of Tommy's backyard by putting him on one end of the seesaw and having Phil, and later Chuckie, jump onto the other end. They only end up getting the turkey to land on Stu and Drew's satellite dishes, causing interference with the many football games they're watching.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode "Applebuck Season", Rainbow Dash intentionally invokes this, asking Applejack to jump from a height onto the seesaw to launch her for an aerial trick. Things don't go as planned: AJ keeps missing due to her sleep deprivation, and when she finally does land properly, it's at a moment when Rainbow Dash isn't ready for it. Hilarity Ensues.
- Lou (2017): During the chase around the playground, Lou ends up on a seesaw, and then J.J. lands on the other side, catapulting Lou into the air.
- In the The Loud House episode, "Kick the Bucket List", Lincoln and Clyde attempt to complete all the activities on their Spring Break bucket list in one day. When they split up so they can each do half the things on their list, Clyde uses a rock as a substitute for Lincoln. When Clyde plays on the seesaw with Rock Lincoln, he gets launched into the air and lands on Lola and Lana's sandcastle, destroying it and prompting them to beat him up.
- Happens twice in the short, "Bag that Bunny" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "It's Buster Bunny Time". When Elmyra interferes with Calamity Coyote's second attempt to catch Buster with the ACME Bunny Extractor, she presses a button that launches Calamity into the air, causing him to land on the playground seesaw. Hamton is on the other end, eating a popsicle, and is launched into the air, where he lands on Calamity. Calamity later gets launched by another seesaw when he sets off the trap from his third attempt to catch Buster.
- The pierrette is possibly the simplest form of catapult device used in ancient and mediaeval warfare and works pretty much on this premise. Depending on size, between eight and twenty-four people working as a team would pull on ropes in unison on a centrally balanced beam. The other end on the beam would carry a payload, which was propelled purely by the force put in by those operating the opposite side. A properly trained and experienced team could deliver a large rock with surprising accuracy - but a lot depended on their being trained to pull their ropes with exactly the right amount of force at exactly the right moment.