The primary hazard faced by jungle-swingers, Giant Flyers, and even people at a fast run are not the Mooks in hot pursuit, the thunderstorms brewing up above, or the cars moving at Mach 1 in the street. It's... trees.
Well, trees, poles, walls and other decidedly immobile hazards, anyway. If a character is flying, swinging or even simply running through an area, and he happens to get distracted, he will wrap himself around the nearest obstacle in fairly even time. His momentum generally sees to it that he either gets completely flattened, or ends up with his arms splayed at weird angles.
This also happens a lot to people on skis, either comedy beginners or even good skiers who get overconfident. The viewer sees the hapless skier whose feet spread so that the skis are spread to left and right of a fast-looming inconvenient and very unyielding tree... and then... Ouch! That's Gotta Hurt!
A hazard on horseback, too. A horse is smart enough to avoid trees and branches — but it might not notice that a branch is just the right height to brain the unfortunate rider. Or worse, the Moody Mount might invoke the trope, maybe hoping to unseat the rider or just For the Lulz.
Moody mounts aren't the only risk of intentional attack. An enemy can lie in wait and pull a flexible branch back out of your path, compelling you to proceed, only to release it to whip you just as soon as you get in range. Similar to shutting the door in someone's face except you don't even know there is a door or a shutter.
While trees and poles are common targets, windows are as well. If a character runs into a window, expect to see a shot of his smushed face from the other side. Also expect to hear the slow squeaks as he peels off and slides to the ground. This specific subtrope is Glass Smack and Slide.
Named for George of the Jungle, who did this so frequently, it's mentioned in his theme song.
- In Angel Beats!, Yui misses her turn for a Heroic Sacrifice (in a series where Death Is Cheap) due to a beam jutting out from the slope the characters were sliding down. When they reach the bottom, they look back and conclude that their enemies must have gotten her.
- In Cardcaptor Sakura, this happened to... Sakura's Cute Clumsy Girl of a mother, Nadeshiko, when she and her best friend Sonomi were skiing.
- Fubuki faceplants into a pole while training in the 2nd episode of Kantai Collection.
- It happens at least once in the Naruto Shippuden anime (to Might Guy, of course).
Might Guy: Me? My battery never runs down!
[slams into a tree]
- In One Piece, while in Skypiea, Zoro, Robin, and Nami use vines to leave the altar where Going Merry is marooned and explore the jungle of Upper Yard. Zoro even does a Tarzan yell when he swings away. Nami has some difficulty, nearly hitting a tree trunk.
- In the episode "Pikachu's Goodbye", Ash is swinging on a vine, and Misty says, "Ash, look out for that tree!" Then, Ash slams into said tree.
- In an Orange League episode, Team Rocket slams into a tree while reciting their motto. They were sliding down a zip line. They finish a garbled motto on the ground.
- Team Rocket, Pikachu, and Ash all swing off a ship in EP274, the last episode before Pokemon Advanced, and slam into a wall.
- And in Diamond and Pearl, the Buneary Dawn eventually caught got shy because she had developed a crush for Pikachu, covered her face in her fur, and hopped right into a tree trunk.
- Slayers: Lina barrels into a tree, eliciting a pained mutter of "koala".
- An Archie Comics parody of Tarzan features Archie as Tarbland, who, like the story's apparent inspiration George, constantly manages to smack into trees or fall from vines. Betty co-starred as his smarter, long-suffering "Jane" counterpart.
- In Knightfall, Maxie Zeus attempts to escape Arkham Asylum, but runs into a tree and is knocked out.
- FoxTrot: "We need to find softer trees."
- From Calvin and Hobbes, during one of the titular duo's sled runs:
Hobbes: There's a tree! Hit the brakes!
Calvin: Trees are my brakes.
- One Garfield strip went something like this:
Odie is eating his dinner when it vanishes in the next panel. Jon is also eating his dinner, when it too disappears in the next panel.Garfield: (Carrying both Odie and Jon's food) You can't stop what you can't see. (The following panel shows Garfield crashed face first onto a wall.)
- Double Rainboom: Unfortunately for Scootaloo.
- Alabaster: The Doomed Session: Cauchemar's end.
- Breeze Rider smacks into a tree while flying in the intro of Dusk's Dawn.
- Pony POV Series: In the Pearls Arc, Onyx Tiara gets turned into a child and tries on roller skates. He gets so excited that he doesn't watch where he is going and smacks into a tree.
- Domoverse: Caroline runs into a tree when running with Dr. Chance while marveling at the sensation of seeing the auras of everything around her.
- This Bites!: Kizaru in his light beam form ends up flying into a mirage, gets refracted out the other side and out of the fight... and right into the Red Line.
- In FernGully: The Last Rainforest, the decidedly absent-minded Batty Koda does this... several times. It's not so much that he's blind as it is that his wiring is on the fritz. Similarly, in FernGully 2, he crashes into several windows. Interestingly, this is Truth in Television — fruit bats fly perfectly well, but they have a lot more trouble landing than most other bats. Although they rarely face-plant into the trunk the way Batty does.
- BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui: This is a running gag for Matau, as he flies into a pillar, the interior of a Force Sphere, and a telescreen.
- In The Iron Giant, Hogarth hits his head on a branch as he runs from the giant.
- In the Hundred-Mile Dash scene from The Incredibles, pretty much all of the hovercraft are destroyed by crashing into trees or rocks.
- In Spirited Away, Chihiro's rapid barreling down a flight of narrow steps reaches its inevitable conclusion when her momentum carries her into a nearby wall.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack runs straight into a signpost at the end of the song "What's This?"
- Likewise, in Corpse Bride, Victor runs into a tree when running away from the eponymous bride. He then runs into the tree again.
- In a sequence in The Lion King, Zazu is flying sideways and hits a rhinoceros.
- Similarly in Aladdin while the Sultan is flying around on the magic carpet, Iago is trying to avoid being bowled over and is looking behind him, not noticing the pillar he's about to crash into.
- And in Hercules, as they're flying away on Pegasus, Phil gets snagged by a low-hanging tree branch while trying to get a love-struck Herc to keep his eyes on the road.
- Star Wars:
- Ugh in Carry On Up the Jungle.
- Peter Parker has this problem during the How Do I Shot Web? sequence of the first Spider-Man movie.
- Intacto makes use of this. One of the games that play has its players wearing blindfolds and running full speed through a forest. The winner is the one who is able to avoid the trees longest.
- In Death to Smoochy, Rainbow Randolph's victory dance after framing Smoochy as a Nazi is cut short by a wall.
- Buster Keaton built an entire career on this trope.
- Sapphire in Almost Famous, while running alongside Stillwater's tour bus to give William a message, runs straight into a wall.
- Happens in Kung Fu Hustle during the chase scene, in good old fashioned Looney Tunes tradition. It's both hilarious and implausible, as the impact causes the victim to lose accessories and clothing that by all rights they shouldn't have lost.
- In In the Land of Women, Carter is out jogging, and is so caught up in his Flashback about his former girlfriend that he runs into a tree.
- A rare time this trope is Played for Drama; in Tequila Sunrise, Cody, when he's surfing, goes straight into the pier (or one of the poles holding it up).
- Given its source material, this is a given in George of the Jungle. Every swing George takes ends with him crashing into something. The Animated Credits Opening itself features baby George as well as many jungle animals doing vine swinging and repeatedly smashing into trees.
- In Airplane! a woman is chasing after her fiancee who is going into the military, and is standing in the doorway of the moving plane. As she chases it the way someone might follow a train, she keeps crashing into things. Like a lamp post, a steel crane, a telephone pole...
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Benny the Cab crashes on a lamppost after slipping on Dip.
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka runs into the Great Glass Elevator twice: once because he's caught up in his excitement about the successful results of the tour, and the other because he's talking over his shoulder to Charlie.
- Joke time! On one particular clear night, one particular bat comes flying into a cave with his face smeared with blood. Naturally this piques the interest of the other bats, who all flock round doing whatever the bat equivalent of licking one's lips is. So they say, "Well? Spill the beans. Where'd you find all that blood?"
"Don't wanna talk about it," he says, wiping his face.
"OK," he says, raising one batty wing in a pointy fashion. "See that village over there?"
"Yes?" they say.
"See that hill?"
"YES?" they say, nodding.
"See that tree?"
"YES?" they say frantically.
- This is how Yorick died in Firewing. To his credit, it was during a storm.
- In Equal Rites, Granny Weatherwax forcibly imposes this trope on a hungry bear, causing it to walk headfirst into a tree and knock itself out.
- In Moving Pictures, when the Librarian — an orangutan for those unfamiliar with the series — tries to do a Tarzan moment to stop an Eldritch Abomination that was in the form of a giant woman, he misses it and smashes into the Tower of Art. This then leads to a King Kong spoof with an ape being held hostage by a giant woman. Only Pratchett could do that many spoofs in that little time.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the title character and his best friend Ron Weasley drive a flying car headlong into a tree on the grounds of Hogwarts. Of course, "Watch out for that tree!" becomes even more urgent when they find that the tree hits back. Harry actually says the trope name in the U.S. version of the book. In the original version and the movie, it's "Mind that tree!"
- A beautiful double aversion done by Dutch entertainer Rudi Carrell in Germans Great-Saturday-Family-Show Am laufenden Band: In a closing-sketch he walks through a city, absent-mindedly reading a newspaper. Lamppost approaching... approaching... elegantly sidestepped. Carrell, to the audience: "You expect me to fall for THAT lame old gag?" Walks on and falls into an open manhole.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles walks straight into a tree when Buffy reveals that she knows about one of his previous... misadventures. A beautiful case of Throw It In!: Anthony Stewart Head wasn't paying attention to what's going on so he actually did hit the tree, but the timing was so serendipitous to the scene that they kept the take.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor (Matt Smith) walks straight into a tree in "The Eleventh Hour", mainly because he hadn't gotten used to his new body so soon after regenerating.
The Doctor: Early days. Steering's a bit off.
- On The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Secretariat has a bit of a mishap.
- The Not the Nine O'Clock News skit "Rowan walks into a lamppost" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- In Power Rangers Time Force, the rangers are once scattered through different film genre parodies, Eric being in a Tarzan-like setting where he's chased by aborigines. Luck has the dimension vanish just as he swings from a rope, getting his yell cut short as abruptly as he's stamped flat against a conveniently placed brick wall prop.
- The West Wing: In the first episode, President Bartlett gets hurt riding his bike into a tree because he was distracted thinking about his granddaughter being threatened by a Christian fringe group.
- Our Miss Brooks: "Skis in the Classroom" see Miss Brooks' runaway skiing stopped in this fashion:
Mr. Boynton: Look out, you're heading right for that big tree! Look out for that tree!
Miss Brooks: It's the only way I can stop! Oh, if I can just grab one of the branches! Here goes!
- The Trope Namer is, of course, George of the Jungle. This was a key part of the series' theme song. "George, George, George of the Jungle — WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!"
- DuckTales (1987): Happens to Launchpad, naturally enough, in "Jungle Duck".
- A running gag in most Warner Bros. cartoons. Becomes an Overly Long Gag in Robin Hood Daffy, that alternates between hilarious and painful to watch: "YOINKS... AND AWAAAY!" *WHAM* Daffy eventually chops down all the trees in his path, then tries again — only to crash into a huge boulder on the ground.
- A popular variation on Tom and Jerry is for Tom to knock off the bit of tree (or pole) he hits, causing the rest to fall on top of his head, flattening him.
- The same gag appears in the Yogi Bear short The Buzzing Bear.
- In the Classic Disney Short Ben and Me, Amos Mouse tries to warn a distracted Benjamin Franklin:
Amos: Post, Ben, post.
Ben: Oh, how do you do, Mr. Post. (clunk!)
- The Simpsons:
- Homer Simpson, singing while driving...
- And in another episode, he walks into a cactus... Then does the same thing about three scenes later.
- The Mighty Mightor episode "Cult of the Cavebearers". After L'il Rok is grabbed off his back by the Cavebearers, Ork continues flying right into a tree.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- The opening features Aang crashing into a statue while riding his air ball.
- Aang also crashes into Sokka's snow tower in the first episode, to Sokka's despair.
- Later, in season 3, he runs into a pole while chasing after the Painted Lady.
- Armand conjure a tree right into Sadlygrove's path during their duel in season 1 episode 19.
- In season 1 episode 21, Yugo runs straight into rock walls a few times, as he's trying to master Aura Vision with his eyes sealed shut.
- Baby Grougal chasing after Az in season 2 episode 6.
- And then, Adamaï chasing after Baby Grougal in season 2 episode 9.
- In The Legend of Ogrest special, Ogrest's first attempt at flying leads to a crash against a stone pillar, and then a boat.
- In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Bubblevision", Bubbles needs glasses. When she doesn't wear them, she hits trees, a building, and a pole.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Keeping Up With the Eds", Ed tries to search through a field of tall grass for his little sister Sarah, and runs into a tree. "Ow... That wasn't you!"
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In the episode "Griffon the Brush Off", after Rainbow Dash flies away from a running and shouting Pinkie Pie:
Pinkie Pie: But...
Rainbow Dash: I said, not now! *thud!*
Pinkie Pie: I was going to tell you to look out for that mountain.
- Rainbow Dash is a great flyer, but she really has a habit of hard landing if she ever get distracted, earning her the nickname of "Rainbow Crash".
- In "Winter Wrap Up", Twilight Sparkle ends up victim to this trope and so much more during her various misadventures in trying to help.
- In "Dragon Quest", when Spike and the other dragons venture out in their hunt for phoenix eggs, the teenage dragons crash into a tree when chasing the phoenix parents and when chasing Spike and the ponies.
- In "No Second Prances", Derpy Hooves gets distracted by waving at Twilight while flying, and smashes her muzzle against a hanging sign.
- "School Raze – Part 1" opens with Derpy delivering mail to the school. The mailmare is just as clumsy as ever, smacking into the school's blason because she was busy checking out the address on a letter.
- In the episode "Griffon the Brush Off", after Rainbow Dash flies away from a running and shouting Pinkie Pie:
- Adventures from the Book of Virtues episode "Humility" (1998): At the end, Socrates the bobcat slides down the snow hill on a snowboard and accidentally crashes into Aristotle the prairie dog, resulting in both of them rolling into an Animal Snowball, and finally, they (especially Sock) crash into a tree.
- American Dad! had this happen in the episode where Stan finally learns to ride a bike, arriving at the courthouse in time for his father's probation hearing, he approaches the courthouse triumphantly, and then...
Stan: Look, I can ride a bike! But I don't know how to stop! Quick, move the building!
- Happens to Candace in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Run, Candace, Run"
You're light on your feet
you're almost home free
Nothing can stop you
Look out for that tree!
- Atomic Betty: Betty to Noah in "Beach Blanket Betty" while they were surfing.
- Huckleberry Hound does this in "Spud Dud" when a giant monster potato throws him through the air.
Huck: (just swoops over a chimney) I didn't miss that by much...(runs into another chimney) I didn't miss that one at all!
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "The Cuckoo Patrol," the Squadron—disguised as birds—tail Yankee Doodle Pigeon as they fly into seclusion in clouds. Unfortunately for them, a mountain peak is concealed within the next cloud to which they hop.
- 2 Stupid Dogs: Hollywood suffers this in "Stunt Dogs" while filming a movie.
- Kaeloo turned this trope into a Running Gag where someone is driving a car and crashes it into a tree.
- In the episode of Blinky Bill Panda Pandemonium, this phrase word for word by Basil Circus to his brother Cyril as he is pedalling a bike and not looking where he's going.