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Tree Buchet

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Tree: 1, Dwarf: 0.

In animation, seeing a tall, skinny tree anywhere is a sure sign that someone is about to go flying.

In the world of cartoons, any sufficiently tall, flexible tree can be transformed into a trebuchet. The formula is generally as follows:

  1. Have the villain chase the hero through a forest, tree farm, or any other sufficiently wooded area.
  2. In an attempt to escape the villain, have the hero run up the tallest, skinniest tree available.
  3. Have the villain chase the hero up the tree. The fairly fragile tree will begin to bend beneath the weight of both people trapped within it, frequently doubling over.
  4. The hero must now jump out of the tree.
  5. We have a few seconds to register the look of terror on the villain's face before the tree, freed of the excess weight, snaps back up. Thwwwwpp! The villain goes flying.

A frequent variation is for a character to use a tree snare — a tree purposefully bent low, with a trap tied to one end. Usually, the hunter will find himself either riding the tree out of town, or thrown back and forth after they get caught in their own trap.

Another variation is the villain choosing to catapult himself with a tree, either to reach something higher or to jump over a wall. The effect varies from catapulting directly into the ground to missing the target by one inch.

Yet another variation is the hero using it to launch himself. This works, unless it's too early in the story for success.

Tree Buchets are named after trebuchets (pronounced 'treh-byu-shay'). Note that the classic Tree Buchet is not an actual trebuchet: trebuchets work using a lever with heavy counterweights. Tree Buchets work because trees are apparently perfectly elastic. The tree snare variant does work, but only with very young softwood saplings. Mature trees might still be skinny, but just aren't this flexible. Most likely to appear in worlds where Bamboo Technology is prevalent. Can be a result of Watch Out for That Tree!.

Compare Catapult to Glory, where this is done with an actual catapult. Note that to some extent this has been deemed "Busted" by MythBusters.


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  • There's a commercial for McDonald's that results in Ronald flying over the city with apples that drop randomly into the hands of children so they have healthy snacks.

  • In the Motu Patlu episode "Motu Banega Don", John the Don and his minions, Number 1 and Number 2, are running away from Motu and Patlu, who are chasing them on pogo sticks. Motu and Patlu hit the opposite end of the cart John the Don's gang is using, sending them flying onto a big, skinny tree... only for them to get catapulted off of the tree and into the sky.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 45, Paddi triggers a Hair-Trigger Avalanche to escape from Wolffy and Wolnie. Paddi is still in their cauldron when the snow from the avalanche is dragging him around, and the cauldron ends up hitting a tree that the wolves climb to avoid the snow, causing it to catapult them into the sky.
  • Simple Samosa:
    • In "Dhokla's Typewriter", one of Samosa's attempts to reach the window outside Dhokla's bedroom is to have Jalebi and Vada catapult him with a tree.
    • In "Toast Malone", as Dhokla mindlessly wanders through town while listening to Toast Malone's music, he climbs a tree and ends up being catapulted into the air by it.

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Code Name: Gravedigger: In Men of War 12, Gravedigger bends back a tall, skinny tree and uses it to hurl a grenade far ahead of German patrol as a distraction.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • Subverted in Carl Barks' 1953 Uncle Scrooge story "Back to the Klondike". A hungry bear chases Donald Duck up a tree; the tree bends down... but rather than Donald jumping off the tree, the bear falls off... and Donald is sent flying.
    • Dick Kinney's 1965 Donald Duck story The Pioneer. An hungry bear chases Donald's cousin Fethry up a tree; the tree bends down and Fethry jumps off, sending the bear flying. Later, though, the bear gets even, chasing Fethry up another tree and beating him to jumping off.
  • In "The Devil's Daughter" in Rulah, Jungle Goddess #17, the villains bind their victims to flexible tree which they then use to fling them into the ocean where they are eaten by a Threatening Shark.
  • One issue of the old Sgt. Rock comic has a soldier obsessed with Superman comics use a tree to launch himself over a gunner's nest so he can grenade it.
  • During the Time Skip in Suicide Squad, Waller stranded Captain Boomerang on a Deserted Island. When she turns up to collect him a year later, Boomerang claims he doesn't need her, as he has spent the time constructing a giant boomerang that will carry him to the mainland; launched from a tree-turned-catapult. Waller calmly cuts the rope and launches the boomerang, which crashes into the ocean a few hundred metres offshore. Boomerang then agrees to join her reformed Squad.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: During a short arc where Garfield was hanging from a tree by his mouth, Odie tries repeatedly to get him down. His final idea was to simply bend the tree branch down, lowering Garfield, who congratulates him for doing something right. Odie lets go to do a victory clasp, which causes the branch to snap back, sending Garfield flying.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Brave Little Tailor, a giant the tailor encounters bends a tree nearly to the ground and puts the fruit in the tailor's hands so he can eat. When the giant lets go the tailor is sent flying and the giant belittles him for his lack of strength, to which he retorts that he jumped over the tree to avoid being shot by a couple of hunters.

    Films — Animation 
  • Happens to one of the two dogs that were constantly pursuing Edgar during their first chase scene from The Aristocats.
  • Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget: After his and Ginger's daughter, Molly, is kidnapped by a new farm, Rocky decides to go in and get her out before anyone can even come up with a plan. With some help from Fowler, he uses a tree as a catapult to launch himself over the electric fence. However, unfortunately, a rope on his leg swings him back towards the other side, getting him painfully (but non-fatally) electrocuted.
  • In the beginning of Enchanted, a troll chases after Giselle in a tree to eat her. As she progresses along a thinning branch, he follows and the branch starts bending. Then Giselle falls, and the troll is sent flying.
  • Horton gets rid of Vlad the vulture this way in the 2008 film version of Horton Hears a Who!. The elephant manages a Pre-Asskicking One-Liner ("Sorry, this is where we get off!") before he does, then mentions that he usually doesn't come up with those until later.
  • Ice Age:
    • The first two movies do something with this. In one it uses a tilting rock to launch Sid the Sloth.
    • In the other, the classic tree. The tree in question is not only a full-grown pine, but also being held down by Manny the Mammoth.
    • Crash asks Manny to do this to him with a skinny tree in Ice Age: The Meltdown. It doesn't go well.
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • Po tries to launch himself with a bamboo catapult, but he's just too heavy. When he gets off, the bamboo hits him in the face as it snaps back, then hits him again in the head on the rebound.
    • When escaping from prison, Tai Lung does this with a huge ballista bolt embedded in the floor to give him initial thrust for his Stepping Ballista Bolt scene.
    • Tai Lung cops a tree in the face when Po uses this technique against him once they've fallen to the bottom of the temple steps.
  • The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure uses it as a way to close up a hole in the Great Valley wall. Littlefoot was in awe of his grandfather earlier in the film for being able to bend a large tree, and it turns into a sort of Chekhov's Skill by the end, when Littlefoot uses it on a smaller tree to knock stones down over the hole.
  • Happens to Agent Pleakley in Lilo & Stitch when he sits in a tree with Jumba, spying on Stitch.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (1986), Megan does this with a giant sunflower to escape the Smooze.
  • In the first Shrek movie, Shrek bends a tree to use as a bridge for Fiona. After she crosses, he lets the tree go... unwittingly (or maybe not) sending poor Donkey flying.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Baahubali 2, an entire army uses trees to fling themselves into enemy territory. Six men per tree, forming an impromptu cannonball using their shields in midair.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, an amphibian vehicle lands on a huge tree that was growing on the ravine's side. The car is gently lowered into the river below, then the tree recoils and hits the cliff wall, knocking down several Soviet soldiers.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jack launches himself from palm tree to palm tree to get across the Spaniards' encampment and escape.
  • In the wuxia film The Twelve Gold Medallions, protagonist Miao Lung use a bamboo tree to launch himself flying a few hundred meters horizontally so that he can reach the main villain with his sword. It works.

  • An Urban Legend version of this story turned up in the Darwin Awards. According to this tale, a heavy storm caused a tree to get bent over and wedged under the eaves of a house. The homeowner climbed up the tree to saw the top of the tree off to free it from the eaves. Once he cut through, the tree sprung back, catapulting the owner to his death (four miles away according to some versions).
  • There's an Urban Legend that goes something like this: An elderly woman is in a panic because her cat is stuck in a tree. Her neighbor notices this and wants to help, but is unsure of what to do since the branch the cat is on is too small to support his weight (and the cat is too terrified to climb down on its own). Thinking quickly, he goes and grabs some rope and lassos the end of the branch pulling it down hoping the cat will simply climb down. However, the cat swats at him causing him to let of the rope in surprise and send the kitty flying. A few weeks later, the elderly woman is in the grocery store when she notices a younger lady buying some cat food. When she asks the younger lady if she has a cat, the lady replies, "Yes, we named him Angel, since he fell from the sky and into my lap like a miracle."

  • Used by Special Forces soldiers in John Scalzi's The Ghost Brigades to escape an enclosure guarded by automatic turrets that lacked the ability to aim up.
  • In one of the Little House on the Prairie Rose sequels, Swiney shows Rose how to grab the top of a young sapling and jump up and down until their momentum and the springiness of the tree carries them all the way over the top. Rose accidentally lets go at the apex of her flight. Wheeee!
  • In Little Men, the boys are playing by climbing up young trees until they bend all the way down and drop the boys back onto the ground. Jack picks too big a tree, leaving him dangling several feet in the air. Dan climbs up after him, and their combined weight lowers Jack safely on the ground, but as soon as he lets go, Dan goes flying. This game is also referenced in Robert Frost's poem "Birches".
  • Definitely not played for laughs in the Sven Hassel novels, when this technique is mentioned as having been used to dismember prisoners of war, by tying their feet to the ground before letting go the tree (to which their arms are tied).
  • This happens to a 102-year-old man in Charlotte MacLeod's mystery Wrack and Rune. Why he isn't killed, or at least seriously injured is handwaved that it's because he's so light.
  • The Way Things Work, in its introduction to "Springs," depicts this as the consequence of when a woolly mammoth applying the power of its trunk to a rope attached to a tree to aid a farmer in harvesting coconuts from it became startled by a mouse.
    The tree then obeyed its natural desire to return to its original configuration, thereby dispensing the coconuts — and the farmer — far and wide.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A slightly more realistic version is used in the MacGyver episode "The Road Not Taken". When he needs to throw off some pursuers in the jungle, MacGyver builds a tree-based catapult to throw stones, and puts a light-based fuse on it. First he pulls four flimsy trees together and bends them down to the ground. He routes them under a solid tree branch and ties them together with a thin vine. Then he sets down his friend's rosary to refract sunlight onto the thin vine, creating a fuse. He stakes the thin vine into the ground with a good knot on a pointed stick, and attaches the pockets from his jacket (filled with rocks) to the tree trunks.
  • MythBusters tested this trope in one episode, and found that the right sort of evergreen tree, stripped of its limbs and bent over to the breaking point, could toss Buster the test dummy about a hundred yards. However, it still failed to clear a "castle wall" and this trope was deemed "busted".
  • In episode 23 of Ultraman Taro, Kotaro Higashi and his fellow ZAT teammates use a tree to launch him up onto the face of Rodera, the episode's Monster of the Week, so that he can attempt to rescue a family who were trapped up there. Once in place, Kotaro hacked away at Rodera's eye with a bamboo weapon, dislodging everyone, but fortunately he was able to transform into Taro to rescue the falling people.
  • When Things Were Rotten: In "The Capture of Robin Hood", Robin and the merry men use a tree to launch Bertram out of Sherwood Forest and headfirst through the Sheriff's door.

    Myths & Religion 

    Video Games 

  • In The Order of the Stick, Belkar does this to Durkon after the dwarf had already climbed onto a palm tree (to fight it, of course). As a variant, the tree doesn't send him flying, but instead unbends even further and smacks the dwarf into the ground on the other side. And then his own hammer falls on him.

    Western Animation 
  • The 1960s Filmation The Atom episode "The House of Doom". The Atom uses one of these to fling himself after an escaping henchman's car.
  • The Elefun and Friends short "A Tangled Tale" features a panda trying to do this with bamboo to get over a river.
  • Done on the first one of The Fox and the Crow cartoons — the fox tries to launch himself this way, but just gets smacked back and forth on the ground. The cartoon was a direct inspiration for the Road Runner/Coyote series.
  • Near the beginning of Goliath II, the titular elephant accidentally gets knocked into a puddle while attempting to knock over a flower.
  • The Herculoids episode "The Raiders". In a light-hearted moment, Igoo uses his great strength to turn a tree into a catapult to throw Dorno into a really high dive into the water.
  • Happens in the Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "Lucius Lost". Trapped on a "Far Side" Island, Jimmy's plan is to use this trope to catapult him and Lucius to safety. When Lucius cuts the rope prematurely (he'd rather leave Jimmy on the island), the tree doesn't move. Once he gets off and complains, then the tree whips, slamming him into the sand.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • This has happened to Wile E. Coyote a time or two with trees or cacti. In one case, rather than launching Wile E. himself, a cactus launched a misaimed explosive back at the unfortunate coyote.
    • A Foghorn Leghorn cartoon played with this one, with Henry the Chicken Hawk setting up the "snare" trap, and putting corn in it. Foghorn mocks him roundly, about how a smart chicken would just pick up the corn, and then ends it with "A smart chicken would jump over it, like so!" and demonstrates. Too bad he hadn't thought of Henery building a pitfall trap right next to the snare.
  • In the Mike, Lu & Og pilot "Crash Lancelot", Mike and Og climb a palm tree to get coconuts from the top, but it bends over so that they're now upside-down on the ground when they reach the top. Alfred holds onto it so the kids can get off and it catapults him into the air.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Applejack uses a handy tree branch to catch up with Rainbow Dash in a race in the episode "Fall Weather Friends".
    • In "Family Appreciation Day", the Cutie Mark Crusaders get launched by a tree while trying to pick Zap Apples.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The season 1 episode "The Call Of The Simpsons" had Homer attempt to make a tree snare and end up launching a bunny rabbit over a mile into the horizon.
    • In the "Treehouse Of Horror XVI" segment "Survival of the Fattest", Homer did it with a full-size tree and essentially the entire supporting cast.
      Moe: Oy, ya fatass!
  • Super Friends episode "Professor Goodfellow's G.E.E.C.". When Wonder Woman and the Dynamic Duo need to get past a force field, Batman uses a grappling hook to pull down the top of a tree. Wonder Woman climbs onto the tree and when it's released, she is hurled over the top of the force field.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The plot for "Club SpongeBob" kicks off when Squidward tries to get out of SpongeBob and Patrick's cramped clubhouse, which is on top of a tall tree. When he can't get out through the small window, he grabs a smaller, thinner tree to use as a rope to climb down, causing the larger tree to double over. As Squidward is about to step out, the smaller tree snaps at the base, causing the bigger tree to fling the clubhouse, and everyone inside, through the air and down into a dense kelp forest.
    Fish: (seeing the flying clubhouse) Make a wish, honey.
  • Francis X. Bushlad uses one in one of his plans to catch Taz in Taz-Mania. It fails as spectacularly as all of his other plans to catch Taz.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: George and Junior try this in the MGM short "Henpecked Hoboes". Junior cuts the rope too early, while George is trying to explain the plan...
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "Mouse Trouble", Tom rigs up a tree snare with a piece of cheese set as bait inside the noose. Jerry replaces the cheese with a saucer of milk, which Tom happily sets to drinking when he sees it, and... yep.
  • Total Drama Pahkitew Island: Sugar manages to get ahead in a race where touching the ground was forbidden by accidentally launching herself with a tree that somehow didn't snap under her weight.
  • In the VeggieTales episode "Madame Blueberry", the main character's treehouse is eventually flung off its tree in this manner.
  • Winnie the Pooh, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In "Luck Amok", Tigger picks all the apples from Rabbit's trees to decrease Rabbit's chances of getting hit on the head by one. He then sees an apple on the top branch he claims has a worm on it and pulls it down to give to Rabbit for him to see. This, of course, sends him flying across his garden.

    Real Life 
  • Fortean Times reported on the strange case of a man in England who was clearing up damage after a serious storm which had uprooted trees. The unfortunate man was engaged in cutting up a felled tree with a chainsaw, so as to make the pieces easier to remove and dispose of. Unfortunately, he did not realize that in the tangled debris where one tree had fallen into and entangled with another, the net effect of a second uprooted tree falling into the first had been to compress a bough and bend it back on itself. The effect of the chainsaw removing the tension at one end of the bent bough caused it to catapult back into the man with the chainsaw, with horribly predictable effects. The largest part of his body was found in a garden about five hundred yards away.
  • There are several ways in which felling a tree with a chainsaw can result in Hoist by His Own Petard. The above example from the Fortean Times was a "lodged" or "hung" tree, where the felled tree gets caught on another tree instead of falling all the way to the ground. Another type is the "barber chair" in which the trunk of the tree begins to split vertically up the middle before the feller can complete the back cut to make the hinge. As the top of the tree falls, the part that would have been the hinge is too thick to break as it should, and instead flexes like the arm of a bow as the tree's crown hits the ground. Meanwhile the other side of the split tilts up and backwards in the direction of the back cut, sometimes with alarming speed and force. Barber chair can either be caused by a "Dutchman" notch where one of the notch cuts is made too deep and overshoots the end of other notch cut, or by neglecting to leave a "strap" on the outside of the back cut when cutting a leaning tree. There are at least three ways that a barber chair could injure or kill the feller: 1) the feller is standing right behind the back of the tree, and gets hit by the swinging trunk on its way up; 2) the feller avoids being hit by the rising trunk, but the split runs out of the trunk so that the trunk is dropped from height onto the feller's head (as happened in this case); 3) the previous two are avoided and the crown of the tree has come to rest, but the botched hinge remains like a tensed spring ready to go off as soon as it's released, and it is tricky to cut off this last part in such a way that the snapping back of the tension doesn't drop or throw the trunk in a dangerous way.
  • In 2010, a group of 15 monkeys at a Tokyo research institute managed to escape their enclosure by lobbing themselves over an electric fence using a tree. The scientists lured them back using peanuts.
  • During The Viking Age, Prince Igor of Kiev met his demise from this. While collecting tribute from the Drevlians and demanding even more than he was due, the Drevlians responded in kind by tying his legs to two bent-down birch trees, then letting them go, tearing him in half in the process.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Tree Snare


Club SpongeBob

Squidward tries to back out of joining SpongeBob and Patrick's club, but in the process, he pulls their treehouse down with him, until the vine he was pulling on suddenly snaps, slingshotting the treehouse off the tree and all the way into the Kelp Forest.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / TreeBuchet

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