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Transformation Ray

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"Great Hera, someone made a monkey out of me!"
"'It appears to be some kind of Spielberg Ray,' said one watcher. 'All our guns have been turned into walkie-talkies.'"
Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space (referencing the alternate cut of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)

Any Phlebotinum that transforms someone(s) into something weird, usually by shooting them with a ray. It's often a machine, produced by a Mad Scientist, but Green Rocks are also common. At the end of the episode the same Phlebotinum is used to reverse the effects, or it simply wears off (for example, the puppetising spell in Angel).

Occasionally, it may be used in the first episode to set up the premise of the series, in which case, it doesn't wear off and/or can't be found for reversion.

See also Forced Transformation. For an exceptionally common specific type of Transformation Ray, see Gender Bender.

A Sub-Trope of Ray Gun. May be a type of Projectile Spell.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One episode of Urusei Yatsura featured a gun that switched its target's gender.
  • Ranma : The cursed spring waters may be considered an example of a transformation device used to establish a series' premise.
  • In the series Sgt. Frog, several Transformation Rays appear, including the Oni Girl Gun, which changes the target into a Japanese Oni or demon, the Age Transformation Ray which can de-age or age a person by around ten years, and the Animal Transformation Gun, which changes animals into humanized versions of themselves.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Majin Buu has a literal transformation ray that he fires from his antennae, he normally uses it to turn people into candy.
    • There's also Monster Carrot from the first saga, who can transform people he touches into carrots.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • In The Attack of the Annihilator, the Big Bad builds an evolving raygun to transform other humans into psychic mutants.
    • From the late 1950s through the early 1960s, due to Executive Meddling prompted by the monster-movie craze, many Batman stories featured rays or other Applied Phlebotinum that transformed the Caped Crusader into a fish-man, a human buzz saw, a giant genie and other bizarre creatures.
    • One of the regular features of the 1960s Mystery in Space comic was the story of a space explorer who had been shot by four different Ray Guns at the same time, each wielded by a different kind of alien. The result was that each ray changed the part of his body that it hit to be like that of the owner of the gun. Now a freak, the man decided to change his name by combining parts of the names of his assailants (whose motives were never made clear). Strangely enough, the letters made a perfectly pronounceable word and so was born Ultra, the Multi-Alien. One arm (and the part of his torso it was attached to) had become super strong, the other could generate magnetic force, one leg could shoot lightning, and with the other he could fly, even though it had just one tiny wing on it. Naturally, he became a crime-fighter.
    • In Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Kara swallows a Red Kryptonite pill and grows fiery flaming wings.
    • Superman and Supergirl every so often encounter Red Kryptonite which has various transformative effects on Kryptonians. Pre-Crisis, each chunk of red kryptonite had a different effect on Superman which lasted for 24 hours before wearing off, and then he would be immune to the effects of that one chunk.
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, exposure to three different Red-Kryponite asteroids turned Kara into a wereworld, a balloon woman and a mermaid in the same story.
    • In "The Unknown Legionnaire", the Proteans are exposed to an evolution ray which changes their spherical bodies into humannoid blobs with the ability to shape-shifting.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Cosmic rays created the Fantastic Four.
    • The gamma radiation that turned Bruce Banner into The Incredible Hulk has repeatedly been weaponized or otherwise used as a transformation ray, usually to round out his supporting cast or give him someone new to fight for a big event. Walter Langkowski of Alpha Flight created one such gamma ray device to use on himself so he could give the nascent team some needed muscle... except he inadvertently tapped into the realm of the Great Beasts and was fused with one of them instead, creating Sasquatch.
    • A radioactive spider gave Peter Parker his Spider-Man powers.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin turned his water pistol into a Transmogrifier Gun. Calvin and Hobbes end up getting into a Shapeshifter Showdown of sorts with the gun, which goes on until neither can remember which they originally were.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The aptly-named Anti-Morphing Ray in the Animorphs series is a variant (it's actually an un-transformation ray), but the same logic applies: stick the "Andalite bandit" in a box, hit the button, and they turn back into their true form. It's never shown whether the thing works or not, because the Animorphs arrange for the Yeerks to "test" it on Tobias; the Yeerks have no way of knowing that hawk is his true form.
  • In Below, Brenish regards polymorphosis as Awesome, but Impractical because there's no way to control what the target creature will transform into, and the result could be an even worse threat. Gareth brings along a polymorph wand anyway for a better tale to tell when they get back, believing he can handle it. He's mostly correct about that, but one shot goes horribly right enough to land the party in even worse trouble.
  • If you add eagle wings to a griffin's chariot, the chariot will grow seven heads, ten horns, a giant, and a whore. Well, that's what we learn about The Divine Comedy penultimate story from Purgatory, which is more concerned with visualizing the corruption power brought into the one true Church.
  • Not a Ray Gun, but a side-effect of technology: In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, after Ford and Arthur are picked up by the Heart of Gold, the ship's Infinite Improbability Drive briefly turns Ford into a penguin and causes Arthur's limbs to temporarily separate from his body. Later, the Infinite Improbability Drive turns two nuclear missiles into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias respectively.
    • The film version of Ford and Arthur being picked up be the Heart of Gold has them turned into sofas.
    Arthur: Ford?
    Ford: Yeah?
    Arthur: I think I'm a sofa.
    Ford: I know how you feel.
  • The title character of Tamora Pierce's third The Immortals book, Emperor Mage, is a dictator whose time is up. At the end of the book, he's been hunted down by the protagonists, whereupon he plays what he thinks is his trump card, announcing, "I have Stormwing magic!" and sticking a sharp metal feather from a Stormwing (half-human, half-bird immortal) into his arm. To his unhappy surprise, the effect is to turn him into a Stormwing — and once you've shapeshifted into immortal form, you can't go back. He's whisked away to be subjected to some Stormwing justice — it's not clear what exactly this will entail, but he's done a lot to piss off the Stormwings in the past, and they're not known for being soft touches.

    Unfortunately, he escapes and is even more powerful because of his transformation. Even the Stormwings are surprised at how quickly he learns to use magic in that form.
  • In Stanley Kiesel's young adult book The War Between The Pitiful Teachers And The Splendid Kids, the adults utilize a sinister device called the Status Quo Solidifier machine, which turns the defeated kids into well-behaved and well-dressed Perfect Young People.
  • The Well World series by Jack Chalker: The Well of Souls provides a one-way (and usually Karmic) transformation for anyone who winds up there.
  • In A Scholar of Magics, the secret Agincourt Project turns out to be working on a weapon that turns people into animals.
  • Xanadu (Storyverse): In "Against Type", the Mad Scientist Max creates a flying ray gun whose blasts can transform victims into whatever the weapon is set to produce. In his case, he mainly uses it to turn humans into Fox Folk like himself.

    Live Action TV 
  • Both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel use this a few times, for example Xander being split into two in "The Replacement" and Angel being memorably turned into a two-foot tall muppet in "Smile Time".
  • Doctor Who: The "chameleon arch" turns a Time Lord into a human, altering their biology and filling their mind with a false identity and memories, storing the real them in a pocket watch for later retrieval. It's been used by the Doctor twice and the Master once as of series 12.
  • Family Matters showed these sometimes:
    • Urkel's transformation booth thing.
    • There was another episode with a shrink ray.
  • Krofft Supershow features an episodic adventure series called ''Dr. Shrinker'', where every episode (as well as the premise of the show) featured the effects of the mad scientist's laser ray.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "DNA", a DNA transmogrifier turns Kryten human, turns Lister into a chicken (and later, a pint-sized Robocop), and makes a giant bug-eyed monster out of, erm, vindaloo. Said monster would later be killed by lager - "the only thing that can kill a vindaloo".

  • The EXcellent Ray from Bally's Dr. Dude, which turns dweebs and losers into totally cool dudes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Genius: The Transgression has one of the eight super-sciences being about this. If it's in Shapeshifting, you can probably put it in hand-held ray gun format, or dispense it with an injection.
  • GURPS: Magic : The Wraith spell from creates a trinket that turns the target into a undead horror.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space includes a 'Boy/Girl Gun'. As the name suggests, it causes awkward Gender Bender situations.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Chaos sorcerers, particularly sorcerers of the Tzeentch persuasion, have access to a transformation ray as a psychic power. The results turn the victim into a Chaos Spawn.

    Theme Parks 

    • Roodaka's Rhotuka Spinner permanently mutating the target into whatever shape she wants. She can also use it to reverse those same mutations, as seen with the Toa Hagah/Rahaga.
    • The Spear of Fusion has the power to fuse two or more beings together into any kind of monstrosity. It also works in reverse - directing it at only one being causes them to be split into two, as seen with Vezok and Vezon.

    Video Games 
  • In SiN (1998), lead character and badass police officer John Blade is turned into a mutant by Elexis Sinclaire, the head of a pharmaceutical company marketing a dangerous designer drug. After surviving through a number of tests you are forced into completing by Sinclaire's private security force, you find the magic machine that transforms you back into a human again (making this a transformation needle, not a ray). Coincidentally, you also get your gun, your uniform and your wireless communication with your sidekick back once you've gone through the process.
  • Secret of Evermore's sidekick, the dog, has this happen early in the game as a side effect of chewing on the wires to the world creation device. This causes it to change form in the different realms of Evermore, taking a shape appropriate to the world its in. The dog is fine once the hero and dog eventually escape Evermore at the end of the game.
  • In Singularity, the time device the character wears on his arm can either advance an object or person along its "personal timeline" and either powder them, or drag it back along same and create a horrific alternate timeline where they never matured past month four in the womb before being born, and thus never developed eyes or skin.
  • Sudoku's Transformation Ray in the Flash game for Banana-nana-Ninja! can turn characters into pies, as well as generally being a Swiss-Army Weapon.
  • The Ratchet & Clank series contains various weapons which transform enemies into either useless animals or makeshift animal allies.
  • World of Warcraft's gnomes bring us the Gnomish Poultryizer.
  • In Attack of the Mutant Penguins, the alien penguins will take tickets for the Mutation Station, then walk in and get zapped, which changes them to their true form: mean green mutants from outer space.
  • The Dungeon Of Doom has "polymorph wands" that will change a monster into a randomly selected other monster, letting you avoid prolonged fights with Demonic Spiders.
  • NetHack has Wands of Polymorph, which have this effect. The transformation, however, is random, unless the target has some method of Polymorph Control.
  • The accidental release of an evil sorcerer in Revived Legends: Road of the Kings was accompanied by a spooky fog that turned people into trees.
  • Flight of the Amazon Queen has Doctor Ironstein's Dino Ray, which he plans on using to transform a tribe of Amazons into dinosaur warriors who will Take Over the World.
  • Baldur's Gate has Bolts of Polymorphing, which are enchanted crossbow ammo that have a chance to turn whatever you shoot with them into a harmless squirrel.
  • In Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, Dr. Cortex's unique gimmick is that he can turn enemies into platforms with his ray gun. He can turn them into solid ones to stand on or gelatinous ones to bounce off of.
  • Space Ace had the "Infanto Ray", wielded by the evil alien Borf, which could turn people (usually Dexter/Ace) into children.

  • Addictive Science: Celia (and many other Mad Scientists) specializes in rayguns that transform people into anthropomorphic animals of various species. Though she's also used chemical mutagens, black magic, and technomagic.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • The Transformation Gun appears early on, which can reshape any humanoid into any number of pre-programmed forms (most often men into women). It was originally built by a race of shapeshifting aliens, and was repaired and modified by resident Teen Genius Mad Scientist Tedd. He often tests the gun on himself or uses it for recreational purposes, which he assumes was just Power Perversion Potential, but he eventually figures out that he's gender fluid.
    • Due to the convoluted series of events that lead to her creation, Ellen can fire beams similar to the TF gun from her hands. At first these are limited to turning the target into a busty woman, but after Awakening she's gained other beams like being able to copy someone's appearance, alter specific things about her target, or even her personal favourite: flashlight hands!
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, the aliens Princess Voluptua and Fructose Riboflavin both use "shapeshifter units" to appear human, instead of their normal insectoid appearance. Galatea also invented a hat with a holographic projector which can disguise the wearer's identity.
  • In Girls in Space, the girls' VW Bus was converted into a spaceship in the first story, when the Universal Upgrader (a prototype made by an intergalactic electronics company) fired a transformation ray at it. The Protoype also transformed character Fergus Macrumble from a fat gambler into a muscular hunk and a horse called Asthmatic George into Athletic George.
  • Narbonic had one. Originally it could only turn people into other people, leading to a bizarre arc where there were three Daves running around on the moon. Later Helen adjusted the transmogrifier for cross-species transformation, leading to Humanity Ensues when Artie is stuck shifting between human and gerbil forms.
  • Sailor Sun: The "fanfiction studio" (don't ask) has a Gender Bender ray, which they used on an unsuspecting male actor to replace a diva. They're much too expensive for "normal" people to rent, though, and her Kid from the Future not knowing she was ever male is not a good omen...

    Web Original 
  • GoAnimate: Troublemaking kids have this for for seemingly no reason and use it to turn characters into other characters, resulting in, well, you guessed it.
  • The Neopets website has a Lab Ray that does random things to the pets, like changing their stats, species, or color. The Petpet Lab Ray preforms similarly; it changes petpets' levels, species, color, or name.
  • Whateley Universe: Mad Scientist Dr. Pygmalion used this on the deviser Delta Spike, who got transformed into a brunette bombshell while trying to capture Dr. Pygmalion. (Delta Spike actually wanted both things to happen, and is extremely happy now.)
    • In the "Gen 2" stories, Lapin (Lucretia del Bosque, formerly Lucas) was turned into a watered-down duplicate of the rabbit-like superheroine Iron Bunny with one by his insanely jealous (soon to be ex-)girlfriend while she was in the middle of a Science-Related Memetic Disorder meltdown.
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum: The aptly-named Disguise Generator is used to set continuum-appropriate disguises for the Agents before they go on a mission. Going without a disguise makes it much more difficult to blend into the canon, and causes the Agents to be more likely to be noticed by the Sue, meaning that going without is very dangerous. However, it is not entirely necessary for Bad Slash missions or other departments that don't directly deal with Sues, simply making those jobs easier to carry out. The Disguise Generator/Disguise Outfitting Ryticular Kostume System (DORKS) has a similar purpose for the agents while they're already inside the continuum, allowing them to change disguises on the fly (including, in one case, disguising the Agent as a chair).

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold:
    • The Brother Eye, an AI-driven satellite, can deliver a ray that turns an ordinary janitor into OMAC, the One-Man Army Corps.
    • Gorrila Grodd has a device that turns people into Apes, and in "Mitefall", turn people into bananas.
  • In one episode of Ben 10, Ben pops off the Omnitrix's faceplate, which gets found by Doctor Animo. Doctor Animo then uses it to create a "Mutant Ray", which turns whatever it hit with it into a hybrid of whatever it was before and one of the Omnitrix aliens. Using it on a bat creates a winged version of Heatblast, and when Grandpa Max get hit with it he turns into a giant larva version of Stinkfly. Gwen turns him back to normal by putting the faceplate into the ray backwards in the hope that it would make it work in reverse.
  • Bionic Six. The overweight villain Doc Scarab loved to use rays to transform the heck out of things.
  • Darkwing Duck lived and breathed this — if the hero wasn't having his work wrecked by, say, turning into whoever he saw or getting split into two people, then someone else (like his daughter) was going through this and the plot would deal with him rescuing them. A few villains had this concept as the center of their origin story as well.
  • Dinosaucers featured a weapon that could transform whatever Dinosaucer (the good guys) or Tyranno (the bad guys) it hit back into the non-anthropomorphic dinosaur they evolved from. While transforming to their dinosaur form (called 'dinovolving') was something that the Dinosaucers could do themselves without the weapon, the catch was that the victim's intelligence also regressed, whereas it stayed the same for the Dinosaucers when they did it themselves.
  • Evil Con Carne: In the two-part episode "Devolver", General Skarr gets hit by Dr. Ghastly's de-evolution ray, causing him to progressively turn into lower life forms.
  • In one episode of Gadget Boy & Heather, Big Bad Spydra used one to impersonate Heather.
  • On Johnny Test, zapping their brother to turn him into various bizarre things is Susan and Mary Test's main hobby.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Dead Reckoning", it turns out that Gorilla Grodd's big plan is to use an amped-up transformation ray to turn the entire world into apes like him. After the plan fails, Luthor just shoots Grodd and takes over the Injustice Society weeks earlier than he'd planned.
  • Kim Possible had about thirty of these, most actual ray guns. (Others were superglue bombs, exploding ticks on the face, emotion manipulating microchips, an amulet that changed her into a monkey...) Most often, they were used on her (and her sidekick) on a mission in the first five minutes, then Act Two was spent facing the wacky challenges it posed to her school life.
  • In The Magic School Bus a ray is sometimes seen transforming the bus and, occasionally, the children. It always occurs with a flash of light or the bus swirling around.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Claw And Hoarder Special Ricktims Morty", after Rick finds out that his gadgets don't work in the fantasy world, he builds a Magitek ray gun that transforms Summer into an archer and inflicts mass Forced Transformations into random things on the wizard's orc army.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: The spider that grants Spidey his powers wasn't infused with the generic "radiation" that seems nigh-magical in the comics, but with a zap from a somehow-radiation-involving ray that would show up again in many subsequent episodes.
  • The Static Shock episode "Child's Play" featured a boy who could telekinetically invoke this effect on anything, thus being a practically Omnipotent Mook Maker and the show's arguably biggest Superpower Lottery-winner.
  • Superfriends:
    • A villain kidnaps people for his twisted circus and shoots them with a ray gun that turns them into anthropomorphic animals he uses it on Wonder Woman and turns her into an ugly rhinobeast. And with their usual amount of intelligence, The Wonder Twins manage to hold the gun backwards and turn themselves into a tree and centauress.
    • An earlier episode with a very similar plot had Wonder Woman and Superman turned into an anthro zebra and lion, respectively. The Wonder Twins also manage to be sort of useful. Almost.
  • The Tick: A villain held Tick captive and used a transformation ray gun to turn the hero into a small two headed bird who speaks only high school French. There was also a mindswitching gun in a later episode.
  • Tom of T.H.U.M.B.: The premise behind this 60s cartoon show is that the eponymous character was transformed by a "shrinking laser beam ray gun".
  • Totally Spies! makes use of the ray central to a good number of plots. The girls have encountered ray devices that turned them into everything from giants to street mimes to cat girls.
  • The Transformers has the "Well of Transformation", which turned someone into whatever they were thinking of at the time. This was used, among other things, to trick Rumble into turning himself into a tree.


Video Example(s):


Transformation Remote

In a fight involving Dexter's latest invention, Dexter and Dee become pretty much every creature in the animal kingdom.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ShapeShifterShowdown

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