A character needs to do something with an object, and instead manages to entangle themselves in said object. Not just make a hopeless mess, but making themselves part of the hopeless mess.
The classical version is for Comedy and uses celluloid meant for a film projector, where it was a Stock Joke, but other long, narrow, and possibly sticky objects are also possible to use, eg cassette tape, bandages, duct tape, or just a long string.
Contrast All Cloth Unravels.
- Poor old Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame not only never manages to keep his kite in the air, but often ends up incapacitated by the kite string, ranging from a few strands wrapped around him to a huge snarl of twine that hides him completely from view.
- One very early FoxTrot arc had Roger, in the beginning of his life as a Hopeless With Technology Walking Tech Bane, end up wrapped in printer paper while trying to use a computer. We don't see what happened.
Peter: It's the Mummy!
Paige: No, it's the daddy!
Roger: You laugh— that thing tried to kill me!
- In The Three Caballeros, Donald is watching a film about birds; when it ends, he finds the film has unspooled off the projector and is now wrapped around his feet.
- In Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, Mike and the 'bots get an unscheduled break from the movie when the film comes unspooled and then melts. The scene cuts to Dr. Forrester, whose tie is caught in the projector reel, and his arm is somehow on fire. He uses the film to put out the fire, and just gets his hands tangled in it.
- Star Wars: A New Hope. After the TIE fighter attack on the Millenium Falcon as it escaped from the Death Star, we see C-3PO tangled up in wires as a result of the ship being hit.
C-3PO: Help! I think I'm melting! This is all your fault.
R2-D2: [Electronic snickering]
- In an invoked example, Victor from Moving Pictures uses octo-cellulose film to entangle and restrain the giant Dungeon-Dimensional duplicate of himself that emerged from the theater's screen.
- In The Night of Wishes, Maurizio and Jacob wants to toss a piece of pergament with a spell on it into the fire. The pergament becomes animate and starts to strangle the two like a python.
- In an episode of Thunderbirds, International Rescue erases a television videotape with a remote magnetic pulse device in order to protect their secrets. When the cameraman unloads the (now smoking) tape from the truck-mounted camera, the tape starts to unravel all over the announcer standing below.
- In The Muppet Movie, the Swedish Chef has the role of operating the film projector, which goes about as well as you would expect. When the film suddenly stops playing and Kermit inquires what happened, the Chef shows up tangled in film and says, "Derversh de flim go flipflipflipflip!"
- In The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, this happens to Bean Bunny when trying to run a film of Henson's early years, possibly as an Internal Homage to The Muppet Movie.
- ''Ctrl+Alt+Del: Ethan somehow manages to do this to himself with duct tape. Even Lucas, who is pretty thoroughly desensitised to his roommate's misadventures, is a bit perturbed by this.
- At the end of the lost episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Patchy the pirate tries to replay the VHS tape of the lost episode, only for the film to become unraveled while the tape is still in the VCR, and for Patchy to get tangled up in the film.
- Done without a film reel in the Peanuts animated special Shes a Good Skate, Charlie Brown. When Snoopy is trying to get the music ready for Peppermint Patty's skating session, the cassette tape breaks with the celluloid getting everywhere and all over Snoopy.
- Happens in the first act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Class Clown Bogus", where Tommy's teacher is the poor victim of this trope when the tape gets unraveled while in the VCR.
- Animaniacs: In the first Slappy Squirrel cartoon, Slappy "accidentally" gets a dog wrapped up in a videotape's tape. When she re-winds the tape to get it back in the cassette the dog ends up Trapped in TV Land.
- At the end of the Roger Rabbit Short "Roller Coaster Rabbit", Roger crashes into the camera and is tangled up in film.
- Super Friends 1973/74 episode "Dr. Pelagian's War". While Miss Caraway is checking stock market reports on a ticker tape machine, Dr. Pelagian takes control of it and makes it spew out yards of ticker tape that entangles her.
- Die Sendung mit der Maus: The fold-out beach chair (pat. pend.) is a surefire way to run into this trope. Even the otherwise very apt Mouse gets into trouble.
- Kim Possible: While Kim is trying to fix up the hand-me-down car her dad gave her, Ron finds himself entangled in wires for no particular reason.
Ron: I wasn't even helping! How'd this happen?
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In episode "Party Pooped", Applejack and Rainbow Dash try to set up a party without Pinkie Pie's help. It results in Rainbow Dash getting hopelessly entangled in a banner and hanging from the ceiling by ribbons after bouncing a bit.
Applejack: Heh-heh. We panicked and tried to plan our own party.
Rainbow Dash: It's sort of panic-themed.