Toon Physics

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Redirected from Cartoon Physics)
"Toons don't do 'normally' things! It makes us so adorable."
Bonkers D. Bobcat
Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.
First Law of Cartoon Thermodynamics

Animation Tropes, of course, occur in most Western cartoons of the classic era. Like any genre trope, they became consistent enough to be considered the "natural laws" of that setting.

Toon Physics hangs a lampshade on those tropes, by explicitly and consistently pointing out how creatures of ink and paint operate under different rules from those of flesh and blood, while coexisting in the same setting. Toons living in or visiting a flesh-and-blood world will still operate under their own unique laws of nature.

Humans visiting a cartoon world may operate according to the local laws—or may not. This doesn't have to be consistent even within a given work. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, for example, Eddie experiences many Animation Tropes first hand—but his brother was killed by a falling piano (admittedly this may have been a real piano that was dropped by a toon; it was also presumably dropped outside of Toon Town, onto a normal human).

Seen in any Trapped in TV Land tale that includes a jaunt into a cartoon.

Contrast Refugee From TV Land and Welcome to The Real World, where characters from a "fictional" milieu enter the "real" world and, more often than not, find that the world doesn't work the same way anymore.

Examples of Toon Physics include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Toon World theme from Yu-Gi-Oh takes this and runs with it. In the anime, they're made nigh-unkillable by it, with Toon Mermaid's armless clam catching a sword, and Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon taking the opportunity in-manga to contort its body to dodge its normal counterpart's Burst Stream of Destruction.

Comic Books

  • The Awesome Slapstick, aka Steve Harmon. After being transformed into "living electroplasm" from an accident with an alien portal, Slapstick is essentially a Toon—he is able to freely abuse Toon Physics, making him a Nigh Invulnerable minor Reality Warper. He can recover from all injuries almost instantly with no damage, and has performed otherwise impossible feats, such as swallowing a box of bullets and rapidly firing them by spitting them out like a machine gun.
  • In one of the first appearances of Mr. Mxyzptlk after the John Byrne reboot, he makes cartoon characters real and attacks Superman. The creatures (expies of, among others, Fred Flintstone, the Smurfs, and Mighty Mouse) obey Toon Physics and are thus somewhat of a chore, but when Superman himself turns toony when Mr. Mxyzptlk gets bored, he exploits it (pulling a cat from Hammerspace in his cloak to scare the Mighty Mouse expy, for instance).


Newspaper Comics

  • The lead characters in Sams Strip had almost Seinfeldian conversations about the physical laws in their comic strip world.

Tabletop Games

  • Steve Jackson Games published a roleplaying system called Toon. It obeys this trope to the letter; characters are unkillable (though they can Fall Down for a few rounds), failing an intelligence roll can allow one to ignore gravity, and sawing through a tree branch has a fifty percent chance of causing the tree to fall with the branch suspended in midair. The entire point of the game is to be as funny as possible.

Video Games

  • Team Fortress 2 is a rather unique example. The game's physics are very consistent with real life, due to using the havoc physics engine, however:
    • The Pyro's Flamethrower comes equipped with an air compressor that can reflect rockets.
    • Scout can jump in midair (common in video games, but also common in cartoon physics as well).
    • Soldier can shoot explosives at people's feet, which propels them upward (including his own feet).
      • As can the Demoman.
    • The recoil from one of the scout's weapons is so strong that he can propel himself in mid-air with it.
    • Heavy can shoot people by making his hand into a gun-shape and shouting "POW!".
    • Saxton Hale from the self-named mod can jump 100 ft in the air on a whim.
    • EVERYONE stores their weapons in Hammerspace.
    • Eingineers fix their stuff by nonsensically whacking it with a wrench.
    • One can die by being hit with a fish 4-5 times from full health.
    • A bomb on a stick is a viable weapon outside of suicidal charges, leaving the demoman using it still alive.
    • The scout can send someone flying across the map with the swing of a bat. Bear in mind he has normal human strength. Mostly.
  • Leisure Suit Larry combines this with Medium Awareness in the second game. For one task, Larry needs to get a 32-gallon Bladder Buster soda, which comes in a cup almost as big as he is. After filling the giant cup (which takes two full minutes of playing time) Larry wonders how he's going to carry it around, but then he remembers he's in a video game and stuffs it in his pocket.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In the Ed Edd and Eddy episode "One Plus One Equals Ed", the Eds explore Toon Physics, which don't apply in the Show, and end up tearing the Universe apart.
  • Bonkers—in which the humans, while animated, aren't considered "toons", and don't get the benefit of Toon Physics.
    • Although Toon Physics aren't necessarily aware of this. In one episode, a chase through Toontown leads Lucky and Bonkers to the intersection of Squash and Stretch Streets. Their influence forces Bonkers through some pretty bizarre contortions, much to Lucky's amusement—until they start trying to make him do the same thing.
      • Sometimes non Toons can use Toon Physics, if the person is willing. Lucky walking on thin air and Miranda changing into a disguise outfit instantly as examples. They arguably have the advantage here, as Toons seem compelled to finish the gag and make it funny, over making Toon Physics useful, as seen when Lucky is able to resist looking down and breaking the "walking on thin air" joke, while Bonkers and the villain have to look down and fall.
  • Animaniacs—Ditto.
  • Walt Disney himself referred to this phenomenon as "The Impossible Plausible", i.e. animating actions that would be physically impossible(a character walks off a cliff and still stands in mid-air) and making them seem plausible in the animated setting(said character then looks down, realizes his predicament and starts falling).
  • Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has many toony abilities no other pony is capable of. These almost never amount to any practical effect, however, and are generally accepted as "Weird things that Pinkie Pie does, just ignore it" by anyone around to witness them.
    • Winter Wrap-Up shows that other ponies are capable of Pinkie's antics (much to Dash's confusion) but only during elaborate musical sequences.
  • The trope was collectively codified in Looney Tunes and Tex Avery shorts.
  • Darkwing Duck does not only lampshade these "Physics" - he also (ab)uses them to his advantage!
  • An episode of Johnny Test had a pair of cartoon characters transported into the "real world" and cause havoc. They were virtually unstoppable due to Toon Physics, as they were functionally invulnerable.
  • In the Heckle and Jeckle short "The Power of Thought", Jeckle tells Heckle that he has realized that as cartoon characters, they can do anything they can think of. They then proceed to make a bulldog policeman's life a living hell, until he realizes that he, too, is a cartoon character.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures has a lot of this, seeing as it takes place at a school for young Toons to learn how to do what Toons do best.
  • The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.
  • In Family Guy, the laws of physics seem slightly more realistic than most cartoons. For instance, Peter's attempt to emulate Scrooge McDuck and leap into a pool full of money reduces him to a bloody mess with a bone protruding from his leg. His attempt to compose poetry while skydiving causes him to impale himself on a replica of the Eiffel Tower. And his crazy attempts to invent things - which tend to have sharp blades more often than not - only result in more bloody injuries. Still, he always survives these horrible injuries, so maybe physics for him is slightly adherent to this Trope.
    • Regarding the Scrooge McDuck reference, Scrooge actually addresses this in DuckTales, telling Dewey most people would be hurt trying to dive into money the way he does, claiming it's a skill he spent years perfecting. He doesn't elaborate, but given the physical feats he can do that others cannot, it's not much of a stretch.