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Mood Whiplash / Western Animation

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  • Moral Orel, once a lighthearted farce of small-town America, eventually fully transformed into a dark character study of its characters' depressing lives. Which is made even worse with the occasional heartwarming episode. No one is sure if it'll end with them all killing themselves or finding some kind of redemption.... They do. Or rather, Orel does, rising above the pain of his childhood to finding a legitimate version of the facade his parents "enjoyed." His parents, on the other hand...
  • Teen Titans was fond of these, although fans eventually picked up that any Theme Tune switches meant the episode could be much darker.
    • On the flip side, if the intro song was in Japanese, that meant the episode would be wacky (featuring Mad Mod, Larry, etc.)
    • The "best" example of this would be "Birthmark", one of the darkest episodes in the series. It involves the end of the world, Raven's evil father Trigon preparing to conquer earth, Slade coming back from the dead with new powers courtesy of the aforementioned Trigon, and Raven being informed that she will bring about the apocalypse. Then the next episode is about Beast Boy working at a fast food joint and battling evil tofu.
    • Also very high up, "Crash" and "Haunted" aired back-to-back and used Mushroom Samba to very different effect:
      • "Crash" involved Beast Boy accidentally infecting Cyborg with a computer virus that caused him to have Big Eater hallucinations while a shrunken-down Gizmo and Amoeba!Beast Boy tried to travel from his butt to his brain to stop them.
      • "Haunted", on the other hand, featured Robin inhaling a lungful of psychotropic dust from an old mask of Slade's, causing him to think Slade was back from the dead and trying to cause an earthquake. Worse, Robin's attempts to fight the Slade delusions hand to hand resulted in him nearly beating himself to death before he realized the truth note . And on top of it all, Cyborg discovers that the dust was activated remotely, hinting that Slade might not be dead after all.
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    • The dark Season Finales of 1, 2, 3 (though season 3 wasn't really that dark), and 4 featured a very humorous (usually involving an alternate dimension) episode right before them.
      • In Season One, sandwiched between the first Red X ( actually Robin) episode and the Apprentice Season Finale was Mad Mod trapping the Titans inside his school.
      • Worth noting this wasn't entirely intentional, the episode Car Trouble, a relatively straight forward action story was supposed to air before the Apprentice season finale, but Cartoon Network switched the order so it went Mask, Mad Mod, Apprentice two parters, Car Trouble; instead of Mask, Mad Mod, Car Trouble, Apprentice part 1 and 2. No doubt this inspired the writers to do the wacky before finale intentionally in the later seasons.
      • In Season Two, sandwiched in between the episode where Terra betrays the Titans by allowing Slade's minions to attack the tower and when Terra attacks the Titans under Slade's orders features Larry, a reality-warping dwarf version of Robin.
      • In Season Three, before the episode where Cyborg moves out of the Titans Tower to form Titans East with Aqualad, Bumblebee, Speedy, and Mas y Menos to fight Brother Blood, we have Mumbo trapping the Titans in an alternate dimension inside his own hat.
      • In Season Four, before the three part season finale featuring the end of the world through Raven, we have Mother Mae Eye, a witch who basically makes everything the Titans see an acid trip via cursed pie.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The episode where Aang learns to earthbend ends with the Avatar's group triumphant and proud that yet another element has been learned. Cut to Zuko suffering a mental breakdown.
    • An episode that reveals the largest city in the entire Earth Kingdom is ruled by a Government Conspiracy that has no intention of helping them win the war is followed with an episode about the various everyday activities of the characters in that same city.
      • And one of the shorts in that Day in the Life episode has Uncle Iroh cheerfully dancing and singing through the city on a shopping errand, with the short ending on him, still singing that happy song, breaking down sobbing over a small memorial shrine for his dead son; ending with a dedication to Iroh's deceased voice actor.
    • The whole Ba Sing Se arc has a lot of Mood Whiplash. Take the episode "Lake Laogai" — Jet has just been left for dead in the shadowy headquarters of the Dai Li in what many fans consider one of the darkest and saddest moments of the season, if not the whole series. What follows immediately after? The triumphant return of Appa, complete with uplifting music and a dramatic rescue; and a joyous, tearful reunion between Aang and his beloved companion. And Jet is never even mentioned again until the third season. "The Earth King" seemed to be ending on a victorious note for everyone—which was, over the course of perhaps two minutes, mercilessly torn apart.
    • Season 3 has the ninth episode, "Nightmares and Daydreams". It's a Breather Episode after one with a slight Downer Ending and before an event the show had been leading up to for a full 20 episodes. The episode also contains internal Mood Whiplash: Aang has some weird dreams, then a freakish and creepy and absolutely blood-chillingly terrifying one, then a bunch of crazy hallucinations.
  • Danny Phantom plays this trope like a harp.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force has a couple of episodes of this. The sixth episode, "Max Out", is very serious, with the kids discovering that the DNAliens are actually people infected by an alien xenocite and ends with Grandpa Max blowing up himself and the Highbreed Overlord. The seventh, "Pier Pressure", is very upbeat - it's about Ben's date with Julie, and is only minorly inconvenienced by the alien Ship's antics; there's no real villain. The eighth episode, "What Are Little Girls Made Of", is fairly serious, and gives a nod to the ending of episode six with Gwen moping a bit at the beginning. The sad thing is, by production numbers, "Pier Pressure" should have been aired sixth, and then "Max Out" seventh; as it is, Gwen spends an entire episode happily encouraging her cousin to ask his crush out, and then bantering with Kevin on why he's slow to ask her out, before suddenly snapping back into grief.
  • Garfield: His 9 Lives goes from standard Garfield humour, to a surreal take on the Garden of Eden story, to a tribute to Krazy Kat, to a sad story about a pianist's first cat, to a nightmare-inducing scenario involving a lab cat. And at the end Garfield meets God. If you think that's bad, try to find the graphic novel it was based on. Most of the stories made it into the animated special, but not the one that ends with Garfield, drawn as a realistic orange tabby that's either driven crazy by time travel or possessed by evil spirits, leaping with fangs bared and claws outstretched right into the face of his owner, an elderly woman. (Who's not even looking at him, and saying "come play with maw maw" right as he's pouncing.)
  • Transformers Animated does this a lot during the third season. The first two seasons were relatively light-hearted, with most every death being ambiguous. "Transwarped" rolls around and we have Blurr crushed into a cube, Sari nearly killing Bumblebee after accidentally overupgrading herself, and Omega Supreme begging Ratchet to shut him down after he's possessed by Starscream. Then it's on to "Three's A Crowd", featuring the wacky antics of Bulkhead and the Constructicons. Then it's on to "Five Servos of Doom" where Prowl's ninja mentor Master Yoketron dies in Prowl's arms during a flashback.
  • Speaking of Transformers and mood whiplash between sequels, Beast Wars, despite deep and emotional episodes such as "Code of Hero" and "Transmutate", was generally thought of as light-hearted and humorous. Its sequel series however, Beast Machines, was much darker with an entirely different tone, look, and feel. Even Simon Furmon commented on how dark it was. This led in part to fan backlash.
    • Speaking of "Code of Hero", we have Dinobot's last conversation where the Maximals are solemnly discussing Dinobot's sacrifice and Rattrap speaks up in a Call-Back to a previous conversation they had that episode about where Dinobot stands. Still in pain, he says "upwind of you for preference", putting a smile on Rattrap's face, knowing his best friend won't let his imminent death stop their verbal sparring matches.
    • This happens a lot with the Bilingual Bonus substitution cipher that is cybertronix. For example, there is one passage in the Transformer equivalent of the bible, quoted in the dialogue as "And a great dragon was cast out onto the earth, and his followers with him", something treated with appropriate religious and prophetic weight. Translating the onscreen text, however, reveals that the sentence continued "two corks, one fork, and a bowl of beans between them".
    • Season 3 has a lot of this, following up on S2's darker and more serious stories with an added dose of slapstick, visual gags, silly plots and an overall way more cartoony feel, while still maintaining the "more intense" tone. Even such dark scenes as Tarantulas firing a missile to disturb the Maximals who are performing a life-saving operation on the unconscious and helpless Blackarachnia, and successfully (if only temporarily) killing her, gain a touch of comedy with the force of the blast splattering Tarantulas on a cliff. Probably the result of Executive Meddling forcing the writers to make the season less serious and more fun.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog:
    • "Last of the Starmakers" tends to go back and forth between the last moments of the life of a space squid, and some silly antics with some Ninjas only marked "1", "2", and "3". It's rather jarring.
    • "Night of the Weremole" has some particularly disturbing scenes of the monstrous Weremole (and Muriel, who got bitten) threatening Courage and Eustace, with a much sillier scene with Eustace playing Whack-a-mole with weremole Muriel constantly dodging his mallet thrown right in-between.
  • South Park
    • The show stuck to this trope since season 5, with episodes such as "Kenny Dies", "Raisins", and "Guitar Queer-O", dealing with the death of a friend, a painful break-up, and the drama between good friends respectively.
    • Most of the first half of season 15 was lighthearted goofiness, often showing how stupid various characters (or the South Park-verse's inhabitants as total) are. "You're Getting Old" is a Wham Episode where the group breaks up, Stan's parents divorce, and Stan thinks the whole world sucks... Also Kyle and Cartman seem to be friends now. The following episode has nearly everything Snap Back, quickly and easily, just as Stan had come to accept the new circumstances and was ready to move on with life.
    • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut does this a lot, especially in the second half where the horrors of war are combined with hilarious one-liners and sight gags.
  • Futurama is notorious for sudden mood whiplashes, and for doing it numerous times within an episode, not just the show's infamous tear-jerker endings.
    • "The Sting" is probably the best example — you could be severely depressed, sniffling, and in agonizing pain as a guilt-consumed Leela descends into madness, her hopes dashed for the THIRD time, yet laugh your ass off as her warped mind imagines the entire crew launching into a broadway-style musical number, complete with flashing lights, and then be knocked into a shivering, sobbing mess by the following scene.
    • The funeral scene is a perfect example of this: in a matter of seconds, we go from Leela's "It's All My Fault" response, the Professor denying this in an attempt to comfort her, to him loudly telling Bender "I'm lying to make her feel better!"
    • "Jurassic Bark". The entire episode, you're built up to expect that he'll get his dog back, wacky hijinks ensue, and then Fry discovers that his dog lived for twelve more years after he was frozen, so he had a full life, it's not right to bring him back, and the dog probably wouldn't even remember Fry anyway. Then we discover that the dog spent those twelve years waiting faithfully for Fry to come back, only to die of old age.
      • Hell, that ending was so sad that the writers ended up retconning it in one of the movies.
    • Or "Luck of the Fryish" where Fry is weeping at the revelation of how much his brother loved and missed him... while in the background Bender collects enough skulls for a Mousketeer reunion.
    • "The Late Phillip J. Fry" has an extremely dramatic Commercial Break Cliffhanger when Fry, trapped at the end of the universe due to a time machine that can only go forwards, discovers the beginning of a message to him on the ground.
    • Happens In-Universe in "Amazon Women in the Mood" when the Amazons sentence Fry, Zapp and Kif to death by snu-snu. On the one hand, they're horrified at the expectation of death. On the other hand, Fry and Zapp are hornified at the thought of banging lots of scantily-clad Amazons. Their mood switches about every second or so.
  • Justice League Unlimited does this on occasion
    • One example being the episode "Kid Stuff," which manages it with one line of dialog. After a relatively lighthearted adventure featuring magically pre-teen versions of Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Superman, and Batman and drawing much humor from the fact that Kid!Batman's attitude hasn't changed a bit, Wonder Woman comments that it was nice being a kid again. Batman responds with, "I haven't been a kid since I was eight years old".
    • And it's followed almost immediately with the scene of Mordred, a shriveled old man, doomed to age and wither for all eternity, being taken care of by his mother. In contrast to how he was in the episode as a kid, it's kind of a shock.
    • One that even has effects in-universe is the ending of the battle against Chronos, where Batman and Green Lantern go from an extremely tense moment while trying to alter his time belt before they end up at the beginning of time itself, unable to brake or slow down... to a very chill scene with the two at the Watchtower cafeteria, with literally zero seconds between both. And that is exactly what the two experience, needing a few seconds to process that they really did win, and thus nothing happened at all. It's almost hilarious.
  • Batman: The Animated Series does this from time to time.
    • Robin's constant puns and one-liners can be a bit distracting in serious fights or chases.
    • It also may have been intentionally invoked with Baby Doll and her rapid switching back and forth between her real voice and her disgustingly cute persona.
    • Worst of all is probably "Feat of Clay: Part 2" - the one in which actor Matt Hagen becomes Clayface. After realizing that he's been turned into a large, blobby clay monster, Hagen screams "I'm not even a man!" and begins sobbing. The very next time we see him, not only has Hagen apparently resigned himself to spending the rest of his life as a freak of nature, he is now gleeful about it, because now he can "morph" himself into various nonthreatening characters, sneak up on people he doesn't like, and kill them.
    • In "Harley's Holiday", Scarecrow interrupts a rant to calmly greet Harley Quinn, then goes right back to bombastically declaring himself to be "the all-terrible God of Fear!"
    • After Batman was supposedly killed in "The Man Who Killed Batman", the Joker delivers a eulogy with apparently genuine regret (or, at least, regret that he didn't get to finish off the Dark Knight himself). He then turns on a dime from a sad sigh to a jaunty "Well, that was fun! Who's for Chinese?"
  • Batman Beyond wasn't above this either. The third act of the extremely tragic episode "Meltdown" is an emotional roller coaster, involving some of the most poignant moments of the Batman mythos. In the middle of it is a scene where a superpowered villain gets a comedy moment when he realizes he's Surrounded by Idiots after his henchmen come to rescue him from a frozen-over river, bringing blankets 'just in case he was cold.' Please note that the villain in question is radioactive and superheated, and visibly none the worse for the wear after the ordeal.
  • The Oscar nominated film, Screen Play, starts out as a quiet romantic Japanese tale that seems to end happily, until a jilted character suddenly bursts into the stage and starts killing everyone in sight, starting with the narrator.
  • Schoolhouse Rock's "The Tale of Mr. Morton" ends in a sweet but undeniably disorienting way, since it goes straight from Mr. Morton wallowing in despair over his inability to ask Pearl out to Pearl proposing to him (I'd pothole that to Fourth Date Marriage, but it's more like Zeroth Date Marriage) and the two of them living Happily Ever After. Even the music does a 180.
  • The first Star Wars: Clone Wars show, when General Grievous kicks his way into the Chancellor's office to try and kidnap him. The Jedi rush the Chancellor out, leaving the clones behind to stall him in scenes of what is very nearly explicit carnage (only the lack of blood kept it from being truly horrific). Cut to the Jedi waiting for the elevator to arrive, with screams, blaster fire and chainsaw sounds coming from the office. And then one of the Jedi reaches out and pushes the elevator call button 6 times to make it get there faster.
  • Megas XLR begins with a Humongous Mecha space battle presented in the tried and true Space Opera style. This lasts for over seven minutes as female lead Kiva Andru runs off with the enemy's Super Prototype and tries to send it back in time a few years so it can change the desperate last stand in favor of humanity. The alien forces attack, and things go wrong. After the title and commercial break, cut to two Clerks-style slackers from New Jersey...
  • The Simpsons
    • "MoneyBART"'s Couch Gag intro. It goes from the standard sequence, then becomes a meta reference to the show's animation process in South Korea, interpreted by graffiti artist Banksy as a sweatshop. Warning: High Octane Depression Fuel.
    • "The Boys of Bummer", has Bart being hated by everyone in town and being Driven to Suicide because of it in one of the most disturbing plots in the show's history. It alternated between a light-hearted subplot of Homer becoming a mattress salesman and accidentally trading his with the Lovejoys.
    • Homer does it to himself when in the video store, alternating between looking at two screens, one showing a comedy and the other a Tear Jerker.
    • In "Homer the Moe", Moe's professor commits suicide by walking into the campus lake on-screen. Cut to Homer singing a chirpy ditty - "I'm-a-walking down the street, going to open Moe's bar…"
    • In "Treehouse of Horror III", Homer is in a store selling forbidden objects and frozen yogurt (referred to as "frogurt"), leading to a back-and-forth containing this trope between Homer and the shopkeeper.
    • A scene in the first act of "Brother from the Same Planet" has Homer dozing off while taking a bath and dreaming about being very late to pick up Bart from soccer practice (which, in fact, he is). The dream shows him driving in a wild panic up to the field, only to find a skeleton in soccer clothes with Bart's famous "hair-spikes" at the top of its skull; apparently Homer kept Bart waiting so long that Bart starved to death. Homer gathers up the corpse, screams, and sobs - which prompts him to wake up, leap out of the bathtub, and frantically run out to his car dripping wet and completely naked (causing Ned Flanders to remark: "Homie, I see your doodle!"). Then, in the next scene, the "serious-to-silly" shift reverses itself with a very upset Bart getting in the car as Homer tries to hand him a hot-fudge sundae (which he bought to apologize), only for Homer to spill the sundae right on top of Bart's head. Homer then does his best to make up with his son as Bart just sits there glowering straight ahead, the ice cream and hot fudge dripping down his face and neck, getting angrier and angrier. The scene ends with Homer urging: "How about a hug?" Bart finally glares over at his father...and imagines him as an emaciated, eyeless zombie. Pretty jarring, but certainly keeping up the Black Comedy overtones of the series's earlier seasons.
      • And after that, we cut to Bart at home watching an episode of Tuesday Night Live hosted by Krusty the Clown.
    • "Strong Arms of the Ma" has a pretty intense scene of Marge getting robbed at gunpoint by a hobo thug, causing her to develop agoraphobia...after a humorous opening of the Simpsons going to Rainer Wolfcastle's garage sale and Homer arranging the family and objects into the car Tetris-style.
    • In "Lisa the Skeptic" the town's deepest religious beliefs are tested after the discovery of a fossilized angel. The whole episode builds up to everyone clutching their loved ones as the fossil levitates into the air and speaks to them in a loud, booming voice. At that point it is revealed to be a cheesy mascot that has been used to promote the opening of a new shopping mall.
    • In "Homer the Smithers", Homer is picked by Smithers to substitute as Mr. Burns' personal assistant (as somebody being so woefully incompetent that Burns would appreciate Smithers more), and we see him humorously struggle to keep up in his work. Until Homer gets so sick of being berated that he punches Mr. Burns so hard it knocks him out, and Homer seriously worried he'd killed him.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show was quite fond of this trope back in the day.
    • "The Cat That Laid The Golden Hairball", as the title would suggest, starts with a news announcement that hairballs became more valuable than gold. Knowing this, Ren used his feline companion Stimpy for making hairballs — it goes fine up until he learns that Stimpy has overused his hairball gland. He, Stimpy and a Kowalski lookalike named Bubba all start tearing up. Out of nowhere, Ren and Stimpy state that it's over and start singing and dancing cheerfully while happy jazz music plays in the background.
    • "Man's Best Friend" starts out rather cheerfully with happy Raymond Scott-like music played in the background... and then very unexpectedly cuts into a loud dramatic sting and a sinister-looking "Starring George Liquor" card.
    • There's a literal in-universe example caused by a device called "the happy helmet". It's an invention of Stimpy's that can change moods from any sort of anger or sadness into absolute happiness with varying levels of intensivity.
    • "Sven Hoek" features Ren acting insanely angry when describing how he's going to hurt Sven and Stimpy before stating perfectly normally that he has to pee.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: After the horrifying ending of "SquidBob TentaclePants" in which the characters are melded together, there is no episode that come after and transitions us out for comic relief! That's the B episode in that pair! It ends there and goes straight into the upbeat end credits!
  • Family Guy
    • The two-parter where Stewie kills Lois. For the first 8 minutes, it's the usual post-cancellation FG humor, and then, Stewie sneaks aboard onto the cruise ship and shoots Lois, who appears to have died as Stewie intended, and fell from the ship into the ocean. Joe had to call off the 6-day search for her, and a year has passed since. Brian finds out that Stewie killed Lois, suspicion from Quagmire, Cleveland, and Joe falls on Peter when he recently takes a life-insurance policy on her, Stewie throws away his gun and drawing of himself killing Lois, and Peter's friends find the evidence and believe that Peter did it, leading to Peter's testimony in court. He was found guilty, but then, Lois shows up, alive, and tells everyone that Stewie killed her.
      • Part 2 reveals how Lois came back to Quahog. She was saved by a Merman, which isn't the kind of what you had in mind. Lois lost her memory and worked at a summer camp for fat kids, preventing them from eating each other. She then meets a man named Derek, who was a White Supremacist. At a meeting, Lois' opinion gets her a bottle to the head, restoring her memories. Stewie then holds his own family hostage, kills Cleveland, and forces Brian at gun point to do as he says and later on, drive him to the CIA, where a Crossover with American Dad! ensues, and then Stewie becomes the tyrannical president of America, in which he makes up absurd laws (i.e. banning direct-to-video Disney sequels and throwing apples at Peter). Lois can't take it anymore and plans to take down Stewie on her own. As Lois and Stewie took each other on, the fight ends with Peter killing him, but luckily, it was all just a simulation.
      • Despite how dark the two-parter was, there were some funny stuff between all of the drama, even though most of the funny stuff were cutaway gags.
    • In "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.", the episode starts off with its usual shenanigans until it slowly shows off a very realistic spouse abuse between Quagmire's sister and her boyfriend. Everyone gets uncomfortable and they even try to convince Quagmire's sister to dump her boyfriend, but she refuses due to being engaged to him. Quagmire and Peter then plot to kill the boyfriend, but Joe refused to get involved since it would be against the law until he witnesses Quagmire's sister getting beaten, causing Joe to darkly say "Let's waste this dick." The entire episode is very dark and grim with very little humor compared to the other episodes and it's rather jarring to see spouse abuse used realistically when the entire series showed the Griffin family abusing each other for shits and giggles and appear to be fine afterwards.
  • ReBoot had an episode with alternating scenes of Dot and Bob's wedding preparations and Glitch-Bob slowly dying in the Supercomputer. He got better, but then it got a LOT worse.
  • There was a cut-away gag once about TV announcers who "lull you into a false sense of security" by alternating announcements of zany comedies with those of dark, disturbing dramas.
  • Animaniacs. It could go from a show in which cute cartoon characters run around eating sweets or singing nonsense songs to a show in which cute cartoon characters look for a home or get taken into care in THE SAME EPISODE. And it's AWESOME.
  • The theme song for the Hanna-Barbera The Godzilla Power Hour. It starts off big and epic, emphasizing how frightful a creature Godzilla is...and then they get to Godzooky.
  • Happens barely two minutes into the My Little Pony pilot. One moment the Ponies are frolicking around, being Moe and all other sorts of unimaginable adorable, and then demonic dragons come flying out of the sky complete with a thunder storm and kidnap several of the ponies to become slaves.. Yup. It happens a few other times in the pilot, too; One moment they're singing, and the next, something horrific happens.
    • The scene when Applejack falls from the broken rope bridge into the river and Megan tries to save her is quite dramatic. We watch Applejack helplessly sink towards the ground and Megan dive after her. Cue the singing seaponies.
    • The ending of it is the reverse of the beginning. You get an epic fight sequence with Tirek, an extremely dark and menacing villain, ending with the heroes blasting him apart and vaporizing him, after which it immediately shifts to a lighter atmosphere complete with the My Little Pony theme.
  • The first My Little Pony special featured killer dragons, an Omnicidal Maniac villain and very little fluff, and was mostly action based. The next special is considerably more sweet—though still dark.
  • Happens somewhat frequently in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Every time there's a two-part story, the first part ends in a dark cliffhanger... followed by the happier ending tune. It's almost a Running Gag, though there's no evidence it's deliberate.
      • The series premiere ends with a cliffhanger as the Big Bad brings about eternal night, then suddenly the happy ending tune kicks in.
      • The Season 2 premiere takes it Up to Eleven and beyond in both directions. Start with an argument between the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Move on to cotton-candy clouds raining chocolate milk and corn popping off its stalks. Then we have Discord turning all the mane cast (except Twilight) into their polar opposites and tricking them into losing his challenge to find the Elements of Harmony. Just as he gets ready to unleash total chaos on Equestria, cue the happy ending tune.
      • The Season 2 finale — is there an Up To Thirteen? Because it gives us Twilight Sparkle, emotionally crushed, allows her a split-second Hope Spot — and then, to all appearances, 'banished to the Underworld in a circle of green hellfire'. Cue "Doot doo doo doot doo, Myyyy Little Pony". If they hadn't shown the two parts back to back, the bronies would have rioted.
      • Part one of the season four premiere ends with Twilight witnessing Princess Luna transform into Nightmare Moon, before cutting to the happy credits music. Luckily, it was only a flashback.''
      • The first part of the season four two-parter finale ends with Twilight learning that Discord has joined forces with Tirek, and all of the princesses need to transfer their magic to her to keep it away from Tirek, otherwise he'll steal it and rule everything. Cue the upbeat credit music!
      • Once again, in the first part of the season five premiere, Starlight Glimmer strips the mane six of their cutie marks and viciously tells them they're going to spend the rest of their lives without them. Cue happy credit music.
      • In the season five finale, Thanks to Starlight Glimmer, Twilight and Spike find themselves in a base camp of rebels in a Bad Future where Queen Chrysalis and the Changelings have conquered Equestria. The rebels surround Twilight and Spike with spears pointed, believing them to be Changelings and threatening to kill them. Twilight Gulps. Cue up that cheerful My Little Pony theme song, folks!
      • In the season six premiere, Princess Cadence and Shining Armor's new alicorn baby in a crying fit, screams so loud that it shatters the Crystal Heart. With the Crystal Heart broken, the protection of the Crystal Empire falls away, putting it in complete danger of being enveloped and turned into a frozen wasteland by the Arctic storm outside, dooming everyone inside unless they fix it, No cheerful theme song this time, instead we have an unfitting jaunty slapstick theme.
      • Then in the season six finale, Starlight and her team (Discord, Trixie and Thorax the changeling) approach the Changeling kingdom and Starlight fears what would happen next. Cue happy ending music.
      • The season seven finale has Twilight release Star Swirl the Bearded and the Pillars of Equestria from Limbo, only to free the Pony of Shadows along with them. Cue up the upbeat credit music!
      • Then in the season eight premiere, Chancellor Neighsay discovers non-pony creatures are enrolled at Twilight's School of Friendship and is enraged, believing they could be against Equestria and shuts down the school. As Twilight looks in shock, it then cuts to the happy ending theme.
      • Somehow also happens in the season eight finale as well. After Cozy Glow is arrested for her plan to take over Equestria, she is imprisoned in Tartarus next to her pen pal, Tirek. She asks him, "Wanna be friends?", complete with a Nightmare Face as ominous music is heard... then it cuts to black, before cuing up the happy closing theme.
    • Done in-story when Twilight Sparkle realizes her "friends" aren't interested in helping her stop the Big Bad.
    Twilight: (dejected) I never thought it would happen. My friends...
    Twilight: (angry) ...have turned into COMPLETE JERKS!
    • Near the end of episode 17, we go from the Cutie Mark Crusaders playing around in the woods to Fluttershy finding Twilight turned to stone. It gets even more horrifying a few moments later when we see a snail crawling slimily across the surface of Twilight's petrified eyeball.
      • This becomes more And-I-Must-Scream-worthy when taken into consideration that petrified characters are still cognizant of their surroundings.
    • In "Owl's Well That Ends Well", the transition from Twilight gently praising Spike as he sleeps to angrily confronting him about her burnt astronomy book is very sudden and shocking.
    • The song "Becoming Popular (The Pony Everypony Should Know)" from the episode Sweet and Elite is a very upbeat tune about Rarity's happiness at being accepted into high society...until the last bit, when it suddenly turns very somber and somewhat saddening as she realises she is just too exhausted to complete her friend's birthday dress in time.
    • Something similar happens in "Pinkie Pride". Cheese Sandwich's "I Am" Song, which is every bit as silly and upbeat as you'd expect a character voiced by Weird Al Yankovic to sing, ends on an incredibly solemn note as the viewpoint shifts to Pinkie Pie feeling depressed and unwanted.
    • The episode "Baby Cakes". One somewhat short scene in the second half of it could be considered a shout out to horror movies in general, what with creepy children laughter and SOMETHING CRAWLING ON THE CEILING! Oh, did I mention the plot is Pinkie Pie babysitting children?
    • In the season three finale Magical Mystery Cure, All of the Mane Six are cured of their scrambled Cutie Mark problems, there is a triumphant song and dance parade back to the library, everyone is standing proudly around the triumphant Twilight Sparkle... and then the various Elements of Harmony ignite and fire magical lasers at her, apparently disintegrating our heroine. There's even a scorched spot where she was standing! Cut to commercial...
    • In Twilight's Kingdom Part 1, immediately after the Award-Bait Song "You'll Play Your Part", Lord Tirek arrives in Canterlot and begins his spree of draining the ponies' magic.
    • A Mood Rollercoaster in Twilight's Kingdom Part 2— between scenes of Tirek conquering Canterlot, then heading to Ponyville to drain Twilight's friends of their magic and invoking You Have Outlived Your Usefulness on Discord, we're treated to mostly comical scenes of Twilight trying to get her new powers under control and botching her spells.
    • The first season finale, "The Best Night Ever", has the Mane Six hoping to enjoy themselves at the Grand Galloping Gala. The whiplash hits during Pinkie's "Pony Pokey" song where the ponies realize their dreams are being crushed. It's perhaps most evident with Fluttershy who aims to make friends with the Canterlot animals. When she screams "COME OUT!" during her verse, it's very sudden and jarring.
  • A cartoon simply called The Snow Man (no, not that one) starts out with sickeningly sweet Disneyesque cheeriness and dancing. Then suddenly, the snowman comes to life with its blank snow face melting into a monster face and it goes on a rampage trying to kill everyone.
  • Adventure Time
    • The episode "Holly Jolly Secrets". For the most part, it's a holiday episode where Finn and Jake find some of the Ice King's abandoned video tapes and decide to decipher them for "evil secrets". Many of the tapes are of the Ice King playing with his penguins, attempting to work out, and making fake news interviews with captured princesses. Then, when the Ice King barges in to reclaim his tapes, Finn quickly puts the last video in. It's a video of a human professor telling the camera how he purchased a mysterious crown from a Scandinavian merchant. This crown gave him horrific visions when he put it on, frightening away his fiancée. As the clips progress, the professor becomes more and more resembling of the Ice King, his mental state deteriorating until he only wishes to find "his princess again". Finn and Jake's reactions are the same as the audience's.
    Ice King: (sobbing) Now you know my secret... I used to wear glasses!
    • The second installment of the Ice King's backstory, 'I Remember You', begins as a lighthearted story about the Ice King trying to record a song with Marceline. Cue a couple Odd Couple gags, and she relents. After a few bars, the Ice King begins to sob wildly, pushes Marceline, and runs away to hide on top of the refrigerator. At this point, it becomes a straight up Tear Jerker. It could be especially jarring to watch the episode the second time through with the knowledge that the Ice King :has crown-induced Alzheimer's. Many of his wacky actions in this episode give neck-breaking mood whiplash to people who can recognize Alzheimer's symptoms once they have a general idea of his condition. Word of God has said this was intentional. The show's Tear Jerker section has more details in case you want more Mood Whiplash.
    • When Lemongrab is discovered watching the candy people while they sleep, he slinks out through a window backwards, his voice emotionally tortured as he states "No one understands, I am alone, and you made me like this." The next scene is Lemongrab running away from the castle while tearing his clothes off screaming "You made me!" It's somehow heartrending and simultaneously hilarious.
    • "Jake the Dog" goes from Alternate!Finn being corrupted by the Ice King's crown and Alternate!Jake becoming the Lich to the regular Jake happily hanging out with Prismo and Cosmic Owl.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door did this quite a lot, especially in later seasons when Cerebus Syndrome kicked in.
  • Mood whiplash occasionally happens in Wakfu. The biggest offender would have to be the 15th episode of season one. We close on "à suivre" (French for "to be continued"), our heroes apparently engulfed in a dragon's fire breath. Then we get the episode's Couch Gag, and a silly little drum ditty the gang plays on a barrel to try to wake Ruel inside.
  • Chuck Jones' Feed the Kitty is one giant Mood Whiplash after Pussyfoot falls into the batter and Marc Anthony thinks she is being made into cookies.
  • In the second episode of Goof Troop "Good Neighbor Goof", there is a shift from comedy (Pete's failed attempts to bust Goofy's house) to pathos (first instance of PJ's servitude) back to comedy (the omelette and the hedge-trimmer) then to peril (Max and PJ flying through the air and almost drowning) which leads to a heartwarming bonding moment (Max and PJ's friendship blooms) and then from dramatic tension (PJ's getting caught) to comedy again (PJ forgets he doesn't have a balcony) then back to dramatic tension mixed with pathos (Pete forbids him from seeing Max) then even harsher pathos (PJ's super-depressing line) which itself leads to more comedy (the luau scene) then pathos (Pete giving PJ the last rule) and then comedy again (Goofy giving Max the last rule) and then dramatic tension mixed with comedy (Max's plan to save the friendship) and then finally a heartwarming bonding moment ("Mission accomplished" and family portrait). This occurs because this episode follows all the characters' focus episode formulas mixed together.
  • Motorcity: Due to the wacked out order that the episodes were being aired, we get the hilarious "Threat Level Texas" and then next week we got "Vega" which has a whole lot of "Oh Crap!" moments to put it extremely lightly.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Switches from dark to comical, to melodramatic, every so often. The Devouring for example, has a climax where Scooby and Shaggy get incredibly obese and beat the monster at a sumo contest. She's rolled away, with one of the recurring characters, Dr. Spartan, repairing his relationship with his wife soon after. Immediately after that it cuts to the villains with Pericles having put mutated cobra venom into Mr. E's spine to poison and torture him if he gets out of line.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: In the episode "The Great Egg Heist", Professor Calamitous uses a robot suit of a a Chinese woman to convince Jimmy and the rest of his gang to steal a jade egg from the museum. When they give it to him, Jimmy points out that his friends helped him and Calamitous comments in the suit's voice "Then I suppose it is only fitting that your friends" then adds "Share in your ultimate downfall" in his actual voice.
  • The Legend of the Titanic: The group of mice try to fix the telegraph by having one of the mice use their mustache to connect the wires with hilarious results of the signal going through but then he dies.
  • The "What Do They Fear?" Episode of DuckTales (1987) "Nothing To Fear" starts with Magica's spell making everyone hallucinate pretty silly fears that are all played for laughs (a limousine and a banana turning into monsters, the boys' video game's villain coming to life, Scrooge being chased by bill collectors). Then, out of nowhere, it gives the boys (who, keep in mind, have already lost their parents and just had an uncle leave them to serve in the Navy) a vision of Uncle Scrooge telling them he never wanted them and can't stand having them around, and Scrooge hallucinates the boys telling him they never liked anything about him except his money. All four of them are in tears before they finally realize what's going on. No wonder it remains one of the most unforgettable episodes of the series!
  • Rick and Morty takes this to an art form, able to switch from wacky humor to stunningly straight-faced drama and pathos on a dime. One example of many involves an episode's story cutting between an all-out brawl between dozens of comical, wish-granting Mr. Meeseeks, Rick drunkenly singing karaoke in a tavern full of silly fantasy creatures, and Morty fighting off a giant jellybean intent on raping him in the tavern's restroom. That last one sounds like it might be played for Black Comedy, but no, it is not.
  • Steven Universe, being for the most part a light-hearted comedy, can veer into some emotionally-heavy territory. The most notable instances so far are:
    • The episode "So Many Birthdays", in which the first half focuses on Steven trying (and failing) to teach the Crystal Gems about birthday parties, and the second half about Steven becoming depressed and accidentally aging himself to an old man via Power Incontinence. The climax has him almost kill himself from old age while the Gems are pushed to their breaking point trying to save him.
    • "Steven the Sword Fighter", where Steven is amazed by Pearl's sword-fighting skills and tries to get her to teach him some of it. Moments later, he unintentionally distracts her while she's sparring against a hologram of herself, causing her to get stabbed through the gut and explode into smoke, leaving only her gemstone behind. Thankfully, she's not actually dead and she comes back at the end of the episode, but as a part of another Mood Whiplash, right after Steven almost gets murdered by the same hologram in a dark room.
    • "On the Run" starts with Steven and Amethyst as Vagabond Buddies, until they enter the Kindergarten, the dilapidated Gem breeding ground where Amethyst was created. The place brings up plenty of old memories for Amethyst; some are nostalgic, others... not so much.
    • "Maximum Capacity" has Steven and Greg clean out the latter's storage unit, with Amethyst's help. Soon, they rediscover an old TV show they used to watch together, and Greg and Amethyst are quickly absorbed in it. Things go downhill quickly when Greg realizes he's missing his chance to watch the New Year's fireworks with Steven. Amethyst tries to convince him to stay via Shapeshifter Guilt Trip, transforming into Steven, then Greg, then Rose Quartz (after implying that she resents Greg for taking Rose away from her), as Greg looks away and pleads for her to stop.
    • "Keeping it Together" goes from a cute scene with the Gems helping fold Steven's laundry, to a hilarious display of Peridot being nerdy, to nightmarish shard-fusion experiments that put Garnet on the edge of an emotional breakdown, right back to cute scenes with laundry.
    • "Chille Tid" is basically a rollercoaster ride that goes from funny dream moments to heartbreaking Lapis scenes and back again in seconds.
    • The big battle between Smoky Quartz and Jasper in "Earthlings" ends with Smoky winning and happily celebrating it... Until they notice that Jasper is corrupting. This deadly serious moment is then immediately ruined by Peridot.
      Peridot: (in the background) EW, that's DISGUSTING!
    • "Back to the Moon" ends with the Ruby Squad fusing, nearly getting sucked out the door of the moon base, then defeated by Sardonyx and sucked into space anyway. It's played for triumph, until one of the Rubies gets a hold of Steven and drags him out with her.
    • "Bubbled" is filled with these, ranging from whacky hijinks with Steven and Eyeball, to a sudden reminder that they are still extremely lost in deep space, to funny gem-healing moments, to Eyeball trying to stab Steven with a chisel and him being forced to fling her out of the bubble, followed by him curling up in the fetal position until the Gems find him.
    • "Steven's Dream" is a serious episode... If you don't count the Good-Times Montage of Steven and Greg goofing off in Korea.
    • "Off Colors" has perhaps the most extreme moment of this. Steven, Lars and the Off Colors battle the Shattering Robonoids but fail at it until Lars takes a level in badass and shields the Off Colors from the Robonoids. Eventually he leaps on top of one and stabs it in the eye, leading to an explosion. Lars is flung into a wall and killed instantly, and as Steven cries over his corpse, his tears miraculously bring Lars back to life. Then Padparadscha chimes in with a "prediction" that Lars will undergo a strange transformation and turn pink.
  • Greg from Over the Garden Wall has a tendency to provide moments of hilarity even in the most heart-wrenching of scenes. The best example is probably the climax, when Wirt and Beatrice find him turning into an Edelwood tree, weakly coughing up leaves. Their fear that he's becoming a tree on the inside too quickly proves unfounded. He was just eating leaves.
  • Rejected by Don Hertzfeldt zig-zags wildly between Surreal Humor and Surreal Horror. One segment has a character rip out another character's belly and beat them with it while the victim bleeds to death. Then the first guy wears it as a hat, says "I am the Queen of France!" in a silly voice, and does a weird dance while strange music plays.
  • Kaeloo: If anything sad happens, it's certain to be followed by a funny moment.
    Mr. Cat: As a kitten, I was tied up in a sack and thrown into a rushing river. I was saved by a salmon, raised like her own son. Her greatest quality... she couldn't talk at all.
    • In the episode "Let's Play Spies", everybody is injected with Truth Serum. Bad Kaeloo reveals that she considers herself to be ugly, Mr. Cat confesses that he was abused by his family, and Stumpy reveals... that he enjoys dressing as a girl when nobody else is around.
    • In Episode 104, Olaf gives Kaeloo and Mr. Cat a tragic flashback... and is interrupted by the sound of them snoring, having fallen asleep out of boredom.
    • In one episode, Kaeloo, Stumpy, Quack Quack, Pretty and Eugly are watching TV. The show they're watching has a wedding scene. Pretty remarks, in admiration, that the actress playing the bride is beautiful. Then, she suddenly turns angry and calls the actress a "bitch" for being prettier than her.
    • In Episode 119, we see Mr. Cat slapping Stumpy in the face using the elastic of a pair of underwear to threaten him into not telling Kaeloo one of Mr. Cat's embarrassing secrets, which is funny until we find out that Mr. Cat's original plan was to murder Stumpy with a chainsaw so he wouldn't be alive to tattle.
  • In the first episode of the final season of Samurai Jack, it's quickly established that Jack has suffered from Sanity Slippage due to years of constant battling with Aku's minions and being around death and large scale destruction. Part of this includes enduring traumatic hallucinations, especially those of people begging for his help. During his battle with Scaramouche Jack suddenly has one of these visions, which consists of a group of ragged children begging Jack for help. As Jack pleads with them to understand why Jack couldn't save them, we then see the scene from Scaramouche's perspective... who sees that Jack has stopped in the middle of their fight to talk to himself. Scaramouch immediately decides that Jack has gone nuts.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: In "Chick Magnet", Shake buys a "chick magnet" which ends up pulling the Aqua Teens' feminine side to the surface and making them act like women. Frylock wants to get rid of the magnet, but due to becoming more feminine, he can't bring himself to tell Shake to get rid of it because he thinks Shake's feelings will be hurt. When he finally does, he apologizes to Shake and Shake apologizes to him for not getting rid of it earlier. While they're still talking, Meatwad drags the magnet outside and since they're back to normal now, Shake and Frylock start yelling expletives and violent threats at each other.


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