Disaster Dominoes

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    "So it was the mosquito
    who annoyed the iguana,
    who frightened the python,
    who scared the rabbit,
    who startled the crow,
    who alarmed the monkey,
    who killed the owlet,
    and now Mother Owl won't wake the sun

    so that the day can come."
    King Lion, Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears

    Basically, instead of a single mess-up, the character manages to chain a lot of them into a bigger one. Slipping on the Banana Peel while holding a two-by-four, hitting someone behind him holding a lit cigarette who lands on a pool of gasoline... etc. Usually ends with the site of said mess-up being completely destroyed.

    Dojikkos, as well as young or especially ignorant characters who are Just Trying to Help, are especially prone to this phenomenon. The Motorcycle Dominoes are a specific subtrope.

    If someone sets off, or claims to have set off, Disaster Domino(e)s on purpose, that's Exactly What I Aimed At.

    Almost real-life version of Butterfly of Doom. If the result is death, that's Necro Non Sequitur. To some extent, this trope is For Want of a Nail played for laughs.

    In Real Life most disasters are caused by a combination of different failures, which combined manage to defeat normal safety measures. Making this somewhat Truth in Television.

    Not to be confused with Bookshelf Dominoes, in which bookshelves are, literally, knocked over like giant dominoes.

    Compare Rube Goldberg Device, where the chain of events is set up intentionally.

    Examples of Disaster Dominoes include:


    • A whole series of TV ads for Dutch insurance Centraal Beheer use this trope as well, ending in the phrase "Even Apeldoorn bellen" ('I haveta call Apeldoorn' - the place where Centraal Beheer is headquartered.)
    • A GE medical technology ad involved a guy, distracted by a pretty girl, running into a guy on a bicycle and then stumbles into a vegetable stall which collapses over onto something else, et cetera, et cetera... Eventually the camera cuts away from the mayhem to show this huge dust cloud over the city. Then it cuts away to the doctor's office, where the guy that caused the mess is being treated for multiple broken bones; his doctor walks in... and it turns out to be the pretty girl!See it here. The rest of the merchants in the bazaar are also in the waiting room.
    • In one of The Discovery Channel's "Know More Than You Should" ads, a woman witnesses a squirrel run out into the street. She remarks to a coworker, "Great, now there'll be cats everywhere." Her coworker gives her a funny look, but as she predicted, a car swerves to avoid the squirrel, a truck swerves to avoid the car and tips over. Said truck was a tank-truck full of milk, and as milk pours out onto the street, hundreds of cats arrive to lap it up.

    Anime and Manga

    • Played straight in Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru with the main character Hotori Arashiyama being able to pull off clumsy combos.
    • Played seriously in a rapidly-escalating disaster in Macross Frontier episode 20. A few Vajra hatch within Island 1 and attend Ranka's concert. Ranka finds Alto and Sheryl together on the roof and misunderstands, unwittingly sending her pain out to the Vajra, who become hostile and start attacking.
    • Done in Nichijou, where an attempt to make a donation turns a shrine into ruins within seconds.

    Comic Books

    • Played straight in Watchmen, when Jon's transformation into Dr. Manhattan is triggered by his date dropping her wristwatch at a carnival.
      • Or, taken even further back, the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima could be the first domino. The news report on the bomb prompted his father, a watchmaker who had been training his son to follow in his footsteps, to instead push his son into a career in nuclear physics. Which results in Jon meeting said girlfriend at his first job after getting his PHD and in him volunteering to fix her watch when it is broken using the skills his father taught him as a young man.
    • A rather less amusing example was Humpty Dumpty in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, whose attempts to take things apart and put them back together, with disastrous results, culminated in a rain of collapsing novelty signs on the Gotham skyline.


    • Played straight in Bernard Werber's "The Thanatonauts", in which the angels use a rat to engineer a series of events, eventually leading to a plane crashing into the main characters' apartment building, killing them all.
    • Done with a series of mummified relics, of all things, in Nation. The main characters flee the cloud of noxious dust that is quickly filling the cave, stopping halfway because there's a gap in the mummies and they think the chain will stop... until a flying rib manages to score a perfect hit.
    • The Hunt for Red October introduces a Soviet submarine, with an overworked technician failing to notice that one gauge is a bit too high. Ten pages later, a sphere of molten metal has destroyed the sub.
      • Hell, it's worse than that. He noticed the gauge was a bit too high, but he was prevented from fixing it by the urgency of their mission. The book then goes into detail about how, to save money, the Soviet Navy used steel instead of titanium for a small "flapper" valve which, when subjected to the hot radioactive water of the nuclear power plant cooling system, warped ever so slightly, causing small "waves" in the cooling pipe water. These waves grew larger and larger over time until eventually the system, not designed to deal with the pressure variation, sprung a leak. This then results in the reactor going critical, melting down, and every single person on the submarine dying from either drowning or asphyxiation. Because of a ten-cent savings in metal costs.
        • As if that's not bad enough, the US then uses the sunken submarine to steal the Soviet Navy's highly advanced and extremely expensive new missile submarine. So really, because of a ten-cent savings in metal costs, the Soviet Navy loses the Red October.
    • Lelldorin's escape from Arendia in The Belgariad starts with him getting into a fight with his cousin and ends with him instigating a minor war and having a price on his head. All because he fell for a Mimbrate girl. On the plus side, he did get the girl.
      • This is implied to happen rather frequently in Arendia, always ending in war.
      • In The Mallorean it's played very seriously when Garion learns he nearly caused a global environmental catastrophe after creating one little thunderstorm for special effects triggered off a series of natural disasters around the globe that were acting and reacting with each other trigger more and more that was eventually going to culminate in a full-blown globally-affecting ice age.
    • In David Eddings' The Elenium, Disaster Dominoes is taken to hilarious and literal levels when Talen decides on a good way to deal with undead soldiers who guard a single flagstone: push one onto the flagstone of another. It gets messy.
    • The Dr. Seuss book Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! starts with a sneezing bug and ends with the people rescued from a sinking boat getting tangled up with a circus parade. All, of course, done in a humorous manner.
    • The children's book The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash. Jimmy took his boa constrictor along during a class trip to the farm and the snake ate the farmer's wife's washing, then crawled into the hen-house, which frightened the hens, which caused one to lay an egg, which broke on a student's head and lead to an all-out egg fight amongst the students, which then resulted in them using up all the eggs and running to use the pigs' corn instead, which then caused the pigs to raid the bus to eat the kids' lunches, which distracted the farmer who crashed his tractor into into a hay bale and pushed it on top of a cow!
    • This is pretty much Jamethiel's superpower.
    • The West African folk tale Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears (which the page quote is from) tells the tail of Mosquito, who tells a lie to an iguana and sets off a chain of events that results in one of Mother Owl's children being killed, and thus she refused to wake the sun so the day would come until she knew who was responsible.


    • Two epic ones in The Mummy 1999 and The Mummy Returns, destroying a library and an ancient temple, respectively. Alex takes after his mother in that aspect.
    • Garfield's destruction of Jon's living room in the first Garfield movie. At the end, a large shelf falls and perfectly misses Garfield.
    • The opening credits to Superman III. The Nostalgia Critic tried playing this opening with wah-wah-wah sound effects for every wacky slip up, but there were so many that they broke the wah-wah machine.
    • A staple of the deaths in the Final Destination movies.
    • Maybe the best moment of The City of Lost Children. It starts with a seagull pooping and ends with a big ship sinking.
    • In Rat Race, people are racing toward New Mexico to get a lot of money. The rival family decides to steal, of all things, a Nazi car. The father gets black lipstick smeared on his lip in the shape of a Hitler mustache. He burns his tongue, rendering his speech into incomprehensible German-sounding gibberish. And somehow gets his hands stuck in Flipping the Bird. This whole mess crashes into a reunion of World War Two veterans. Hilarity Ensues.
    • King Ralph: When the title character is at a royal banquet with the King, Queen, and Princess of Sweden Finland, he tries to cut into a roasted miniature chicken, but the pressure from the knife causes the chicken to shoot off Ralph's plate, knocking over his drinking glass. The chicken and glass set off a chain reaction that topples all the other glasses from one end of the very long table to the other.
    • The whole of the Blues Brothers can be seen as a long, long sequence of these, especially after the mall chase. The number of policemen just keeps growing...
    • In Jabberwocky, the main character manages to totally destroy a knight-in-armour repair shop by moving a bowl of rivets.
    • Chicken Little's titular hero sets off a few of these. Twice when he tries to sound the town alarm, and again when an attempt to stand up to Foxey ends with him thrown into a window and smacking the fire alarm.
    • The usual setup for oh so many slapstick routines in The Marx Brothers and Three Stooges era. Someone gets slapped in the face, they attempt to retaliate, the other person ducks resulting in someone else getting slapped who then smacks right back, knocking someone into the waiter who spills a tray of soup on someone who jumps up, pulling the tablecloth off ... next thing you know it's a full-on pie fight.
    • In Beerfest, singing the wrong drinking song at first seems to work out (BOOBS!), but it's too much for one old German fellow's heart. His stumbling around eventually leads to the entire festival tent falling down.
    • How to Train Your Dragon has Hiccup, who in the first scene does succeed in shooting a Night Fury (although nobody believes him, but then stumbles and causes a chain reaction that allows all the captured Dragons to escape and injures several Vikings.
    • The Prince of Egypt - Moses horsing about causes a set of disaster dominoes that ultimately causes the Sphinx to lose its nose.
    • The Thief and the Cobbler goes overboard with this. Starting at 2:50 here (and continuing into the whole of part 10), the last 15 minutes of the film are essentially one big game of Disaster Dominoes, causing the destruction of the Big Bad's death machine and his entire army due to Tack's Tack.
    • The Pathfinder's Crowning Moment of Awesome that sets up the climax in Ink.
    • Several of the freak accidents in the Final Destination franchise start out this way. A truly epic example is Mrs. Lewton's death in the first one, which starts with her making tea and ends with her house exploding.
    • The character Fackler in the Police Academy franchise often unwittingly sets these off.

    Live Action TV

    • Joan of Arcadia had one at the end of the first season episode "Jump".
    • Practically the plot of every episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.
    • In the CSI episode "Loco Motives", an ordinary man begins by dropping a bowl of Jell-O and ends up accidentally killing his wife and neighbor and is caught when he gets stuck in quick-set concrete trying to bury his wife's body. After his crime, his pocket is picked and he loses a bet with Brass (and confesses) when his neighbor's daughter accidentally identifies him as he is being released.
    • An interesting variation from an episode of The X-Files: a man unconsciously caused improbable chains of events to happen around him. However, the results were always good for him—for example, knocking out the mobsters who were after his wife and freeing him from the closet they'd locked him in. He couldn't control this ability, and usually didn't even begin the specific chain of events. However, his good fortune meant that in order to balance the cosmic scales almost anyone around him was just as likely to suffer from something horrible happening to them as a direct consequence.
    • Happens to Basil Fawlty in pretty much every episode of Fawlty Towers.
    • Subverted in Fresh Prince of Bel Air when Carlton says they're falling into "the domino effect", and foresees a chain of events that will end with (paraphrasing) "Dad getting fired and all of us having to work at Domino's to make a living".
    • The accident which caused the deaths of 99.9% of the crew of the Red Dwarf was described in the novels as happening this way.
      • The way Lister accidentally causes the death of Cassandra is a hilarious example of this trope.
    • Used frequently on Seinfeld. In one episode George accidentally got his coworker fired and then got his position. Kramer promised a little kid a Yankees baseball player would catch a fly ball in his hat, Elaine ruined her friendship with her cousin, several New-Yorkers missed their wake-up calls, and Seinfeld broke up with the aforementioned cousin due to her bad cooking. The trigger event was Jerry eating a grapefruit.
    • German comedian Vicco von Bülow, better known as Loriot, did a classic sketch that starts with him trying to straighten a picture hanging askew and ends in the destruction of every item of furniture in the room.
      • A similar thing happens in a sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus, where a man is waiting in a room for someone, and a piece of furniture inexplicably falls apart. By the end, a butler, a maid, the man he's waiting for, and a policeman are all dead, and then the house inexplicably collapses, and he's left standing in the middle of the rubble, saying, "Sorry!"
    • Father Ted attempts to bang out a minor dent in a new car with a hammer. After a cut, all four windows are now smashed and bits of metal are hanging off it. Dougal comments that he almost had it for a while there.
    • Kamen Rider Den-O's Ryotaro Nogami has this sort of thing happen to him on a regular basis. His very first appearance in the series has him stuck on his bike at the top of a tree; a flashback shows that he lost control of the bike just as a sign fell over, launching him skyward. When someone comes by with a ladder to help, he replies that he's used to this sort of thing.
    • This happens in one sketch on the One-Episode Wonder sketch show Out of the Trees written by Douglas Adams and Graham Chapman. A young couple pick a flower from a peony shrub, and this sets in motion a chain of events that ends with the world blowing up.
    • Although a pretty frequent occurrence on Frasier, one notable example involves Niles preparing for a date. It begins with Niles noticing a tiny crease in his trousers. It ends with Niles unconscious without pants and Frasier's apartment on fire.
    • In the Fringe episode The Plateau, a man puts a pen on a mailbox. Another man eating nearby leans over to examine the pen as it falls a few moments later. A bike messenger swerves to avoid him, and crashes into a fruit stand. Meanwhile, a woman walks out of a florist's shop next to the incident. A hobo tries to grab some of the fallen fruit and gets in an argument with the vendor, which distracts a bus driver coming down the street. He does not see the woman as she steps out into the street and collides with her, killing her instantly. The man who left the pen in the first place? He planned all of it.
      • Another such chain is narrowly averted only because Olivia does something very stupid and thus actually avoids the final danger that would have killed her. This Olivia is from an alternate universe and does not know all the proper safety protocols.
    • In the Corner Gas episode "Telescope Trouble," Hank borrows Wanda's TV. As he's walking down the porch steps with it, he bumps into her birdbath and breaks it. This causes the TV to fly out of his arms . . . right through the window of Wanda's car. And this cycle only repeats itself. Hank decides to get Wanda a new birdbath. He leaves it outside the gas station, where Wanda promptly bumps into it while trying to carry her large telescope. The birdbath breaks and the telescope flies through Brent's car window. Birdbaths can cause widespread destruction if you're not careful!
    • In Alphas, Marcus is able to deliberately engineer these situations, thanks to his ability to intuitively understand how everything around him will act and react. He throws a single quarter and causes a four-car pileup in the opening scene, and that's just for starters.
    • Everybody Loves Raymond: The season 6 episode 'Tissues'. Ray complains that his wife won't allow him to make household decisions, like the style of kitchen curtains to buy, and she gives him more freedom. His decisions are all critized by the family: the garden hose is too short, the tissues he buys are oily, etc. Later, he is alone in the kitchen and distracted by a phone call, when every decision he made contributes to the chaos. the oily tissues catch fire, which spreads quickly because of a flammable bug spray he purchased. Ray scrambles for his hose, which doesn't reach the kitchen. Finally, Debra stops the domino rally by grabbing a fire extinguisher she purchased and putting out the flames.
    • Every second or third episode of Casualty is based around this idea. In the first episode of 2012 for example, a dog escapes from a back garden, this leads to a major traffic accident taking out 5 or 6 cars, which leads to one man being delayed in stopping a suicide attempt, in trying to save the suicide victim and dealing with the traffic caused by an accident, a gas main is acidently destroyed causing an explosion which rips apart a housing estate. This in turn causes some nearby chemical drums to burst, creating a huge cloud of Hydrogen chloride, which ends up getting into the drain system causing part of the town to be evacuated. We end up seeing several hundred people affected by various burns. Oh and all this happens on the same morning that the A&E department first reopens after a major fire so all the equipmenet is new and most of it untested. And this is just one episode.
    • In the fourth season of Castle, it's the entire plot of a Double Episode where a CIA mathematician found a small, almost insignificant action that will trigger World War III .


    • The Joe Diffie song Third Rock from the Sun (which inspired the name of the sitcom) is one gigantic chain of disaster, started with a cheating husband (who turns out to be the police chief) lying to his wife on the phone.
    • "The Wreck of the Crash of the Easthill Mining Disaster" by Brooke Lundeville. But did she have to bring in the puppies?
    • And from Flanders and Swann, we have "The Gasman Cometh".

    Tabletop Games

    • A staple of Paranoia, especially in the adventure Send In The Clones ... where the Gamemaster is given instructions on how to make this happen even if the PCs are specifically guarding against it and still make them think it's their own fault.
    • Mousetrap! I guarantee! It's the craziest trap you'll ever see!


    Video Games

    • Your inevitable fate in Dwarf Fortress. Dwarves can be aggravated through grief or dissatisfaction to a point of murderous, crazy rage. The thing is, one dwarf rampaging around smashing property and killing friends, pets and spouses will often upset other dwarves enough to go nuts too. Players refer to this situation as a 'tantrum spiral'. Cases often follow a pattern like:

    Dwarves A B and C are unhappy, but not enough so for madness.
    Dwarf A doesn't get enough sleep and goes over the edge into madness, in the process cutting Dwarf B's wife in half.
    Dwarf B finds out his wife is dead, pushing his grief over the edge too. He promptly goes and smashes a statue Dwarf C really likes.
    Dwarf C finds out about the statue and... well you see where this is going.

      • See the saga of Boatmurdered, an epic tale of mismanagement and bloody death which ends with legendary former leaders beating dwarves to death while on fire and the inferno causes the entire fortress to devolve into a massive flaming brawl while the flaming corpse of a monarch butterfly wedges open the front gates and keeps the Doomsday Device from being activated. Arguably this is the entire reason Dwarf Fortress is so awesome.
    • In the game, Eric the Unready, the titular protagonist manages to set off one of these during a banquet, burning down the entire building.
    • Spectacular failures in Left 4 Dead can often be traced back to a single event, most likely a Boomer vomiting on all four survivors at once.
      • On harder difficulties the AI director seems to play up the smallest mistakes into really, really big and tragic messes. One stray bullet hitting a car, alerting the horde, and wouldn't you know it, a Boomer spawns 15 seconds later, which is almost impossible to avoid since the players are already getting swarmed. Inevitably, one or two will be dead, the remainder near death, and no medpacks to be found... wait, what's that rumbling noise?
    • Some World of Warcraft raid bosses such as Archimonde and Anub'Rekhan are based around this; something bad happens whenever a character dies, which may end up killing another, then another two, then... And in a more literal "dominoes" sense, there are a few raid bosses, such as Kel'thuzad in Naxxramas, who have attacks that can "jump" from player to player. One player makes the wrong move at the wrong time and everyone can quickly end up dead from the chain reaction.
      • The Lich King. Dear god, the Lich King. One of his attacks called Defile targets a player to create a black puddle at his feet. Every tick of damage it does, it grows a bit larger in radius. If a player gets caught as it grows, it keeps growing. If another player who had cleared the danger radius stopped just short of the edge, it gets caught again, taking more damage, growing it a bit more. All it takes is two players doing this two step forward cha-cha a couple of times, and the puddle soon covers the ENTIRE playfield, wiping out the raid.
        • His Valkyrs are pretty awful too. They will pick three random players and drag them to the edge to drop them over, and they cannot do anything until the other players kill the valkyr (preferably BEFORE being over the edge). If one or more players get dropped, there will be FEWER players for the NEXT wave of valkyrs, who will more easily throw more off the edge, and so on, until the wipe is inevitable. Oh yeah, and defile STILL gets cast through all of this.
      • Setting off such a chain of disasters is how the original Leeroy Jenkins caused a wipeout of his entire raid group.
        • Not the case. The Leeroy Jenkins incident was not so much a chain of dominos, as it was one full run through a room, intentionally spawning and aggro'ing everything in it. Ignoring the fact that it was also obviously intentional, as the strategy being discussed in the video, and the actions of the character on screen are clearly intended to cause exactly what happens.
    • Any strategy game where morale is a major issue. X-COM is a good example. One of your soldier dies, causing another to panic and drop his gun, leading to him dying as well, which causes a third guy to snap and start firing wildly, killing two of his allies, and next thing you know, your entire squad is wiped out without even engaging the enemy.
      • Enemies with Psionics don't even need to raise their guns - a handful of Panic Attacks later, the squad that was assigned to fight them will end up killing itself for them through berserked firing of HE rounds and panicked dropping of primed explosives.
    • Can be a frequent occurrence in the Fallout series. A stray bullet can graze an innocent bystander who then returns fire, he misses and grazes another bystander. It's sometimes an option to avoid conflict by letting an entire town kill itself.
      • This is similar to a common strategy in Doom; get one enemy to shoot another, often by strafing/streaking through, and next thing you know, they're fighting each other.
    • The goal of many levels in The Incredible Machine is to place the last missing domino for this to happen.
    • Many of the deaths in Scorched Earth and other tank games can cause a cascading ladder of death from a single kill.
      • Two friends and I sat back helplessly as one tank (the very first one, in fact) blowing up cascaded far enough to wipe out every tank on the screen.
    • This is extremely common when playing a strategy game on the hardest difficulty or when the game is always just that hard. To succeed you need to spread your resources very thin indeed, and with multiple aspects of your defense or offense relying on the proper functioning of other aspects, all it takes is one bad decision or unlucky RNG result and your entire army falls apart. For example, you're playing a that one mission where you start with one dysfunctional base and your enemy has several fully-powered bases opposing you. You have -just- enough supply or power to keep your base running and your army full and can't spare any money at all to get more supply/power, as you're massing for an attack to take out one of the bases before you get overwhelmed. While your defensive line kills a hundred small, fast units, a single one gets through to melee range. Your artillery kills that unit plus all of your units that were in nearby with Splash Damage. The next wave runs through the hole in your defenses, kills your artillery and blows up a power plant/farm/overlord, and then you can't rebuild those lost defenders quite fast enough, and before you know it your whole base is on fire and your army crushed. Every strategy gamer who flirts with masochistic difficulty has experienced this many times.
    • This can occur in Skyrim. In Markarth, the Dragonborn gets involved in a conspiracy that climaxes with a prison riot and the Forsworn carving a bloody path across the city, killing an important nobleman in the process. It all started with a drinking contest with a stranger in a tavern across the continent.
      • Well, in the end, it depends on the order in which the player does the quests and visits cities, but the thought of a drinking game leading to a prison riot makes a funny quest even funnier, and the game seems to nudge you in that direction as well.

    Web Animation

    • Parodied in the notorious flash cartoon The Demented Cartoon Movie, in which tiny accidents cause massive cascades of toppling city buildings, ultimately winding up with the earth falling into the sun.
    • In The TV Show a sequence of events that starts with a man in a ski mask holding up a video game store ends with what appears to be a city in ruins. And it was awesome.
    • Happens in an episode of the Knights of the Dinner Table Flash cartoon when the GM, B.A., starts implementing his new chart of randomly-determined consequences for critical failures. A single roll of natural 1 on an attack leads to major injury for the whole party.
    • There is an animation called Safety @ Work that reminds us the importance of workplace safety. One man fails to wear his hard hat, and, well...


    • Teh Gladiators features Vallant, master of the Pinball Projectile, epitome of Accidental Aiming Skills. When he gets to Booty Bay and is asked to "commemorate" the launch of a new ship, well... see for yourself.
    • In the backstory of Drowtales, the collapse of a project known as the Skyhole caused a chain of these.
      • It effectively destroyed a great Clan, leaving a power gap that was eventually filled by the Jaal'darya.
      • The area around the collapse was rendered next to uninhabitable thanks to the dust and debris.
      • The collapse trapped many Sarghress troops on the surface and cut them off from the rest of Chel.
      • Taking advantage of this, Diva'ratrika had the Sharen led by Sarv'swati attack the weakened Sarghress.
      • This led directly to the battle where Sarv'swati fought Quain'tana and made her barren which has huge effects on the main story.
      • The Sarghress survived thanks to their cavalry making a forced march from the surface and coming to the rescue to their clanmates and Ill'haress just in time.
      • The collapse and its after effects ruined the good will that had been building among the clans, setting the stage for the distrust and indifference that would later show itself in the Nidraa'chal War.
      • The collapse also took many of Chel's most creative and progressive thinkers with it, and set back the colonization effort for many years.

    Western Animation

    • In the What A Cartoon short Larry and Steve, Larry's car gets cut in half, and the one with Steve in it crashes first through a house, then through a barn full of chickens, and when Steve sees the car headed towards a big pile of explosives lying (in)conveniently in the middle of the road, he briefly stops screaming to say, "Waaait a minute, isn't this a bit contrived?"
    • Happened once to Blossom in The Powerpuff Girls. The weird thing is that she could fly away when she tripped the first time, but noooo...she was carrying the Idiot Ball that day.
    • Turned into a literal site/sight gag in Disney's |Hercules. The title character bumps into a column, which tips over and falls into its neighbor, causing a chain reaction to go all the way around the agora.
      • Especially when he threw the pillar that caused the first part of the reaction, causing the second part, a repeat of the first one, all over again.
      • A similar moment occurred in the beginning another Disney film Duck Tales the Movie Treasure of The Lost Lamp when Launchpad's airplane landing knocked down two columns causing a chain reaction from both sides.
    • Played seriously in an episode of The Batman, where the simple theft of a watch escalates into a tumult of destruction that lands the thief in prison for fifteen years.
      • A similar set of disaster dominoes (started when someone told an otherwise punctual, slightly OCD guy to relax) creates the Clock King in Batman the Animated Series.
    • The title character in Dumbo has to jump on top of a pyramid of elephants. He trips on his ears, which causes him to knock over the pyramid, which in turn topples the entire circus tent.
      • They could probably have spotted the problem during rehearsal... if only they had any.
    • Toy Story: Woody tries to knock Buzz down the back of a dresser with a remote control car. The car causes a bulletin board to fall off and hit a globe, which rolls into a lamp, which then swings and knocks Buzz out the window, setting in motion the second part of the film.
    • The movie Robots plays with this trope using literal dominoes; a few get knocked over, leading to a chain of increasingly complex setups that ends with a wave of dominoes large enough to surf on.
    • Ed, Edd n Eddy: This is how Ed manages to destroy the Eds' cardboard city in "Urban Ed".

    Ed: Cool, dominoes! Let's go again!

    • A scene of this nature from Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers is initiated when Goofy bumps Mickey and causes him to drop shoe polish into the bucket of water Goofy was using to mop. Amazingly this leads to Pete's bathtub to fall through several floors. Later, a sequence where Goofy runs through a window from a high tower not only causes a chain reaction of painful events, but also proves to be a solution when Goofy gets the idea to use the perfectly duplicatable sequence to his advantage.
    • The Venture Brothers - The Monarch needs to create a diversion at the Venture yard sale (so he can sneak inside and use the bathroom). The place is full of super-scientists and archvillains, so one well-placed flying projectile starts a fight that becomes an all-out riot in seconds.
    • Played with in a Time Travel-Groundhog Day Loop episode of Jacob Two Two. Jacob broke his brother's priceless record and every attempt to save it makes the situation worse. He puts it down to keep it from falling out of its case and his brother sits on it, he doesn't put it down and it falls out, rolls away and his brother trips on a skateboard and suffers a broken arm, he warns his brother about the skateboard and gets him in a full body cast instead, one more reset and their entire house ends up completely demolished. And the record ends up broken in all cases.
    • The stories of Pat and Mat have a tendency to go this way, usually as a result of causing disasters of ever-increasing magnitude to cover up their tracks. They often start from a minor everyday annoyance, like a stain on the wall
    • Happens in Happy Tree Friends regularly. Someone will get hurt, the others will panic, leading to more severe, fatal mistakes being made, which leads to more panic, leading to...
      • For example, in the school play episode "Class Act", Nutty, who is obsessed with candy and will eat anything remotely resembling it, bites a chunk out of Sniffles, who was dressed like a massive sugar cane, who runs off screaming and somehow manages to get Giggles face sliced off. The sliced off face manages to fly off and hit The Mole, who is controlling the spotlight, which he fumbles and directs straight into Lifty and Shifty's eyes, who were holding Flaky upside down and who, blinded, drop her, which causes her to get skinned falling down a chimney, before getting deposited on the stage floor with her muscles exposed. All this finally triggers a panic, leading to one of the characters dropping a candle and creating a fire while Cuddles blocks the escape route with his costume, leading to him being pushed out of it in a cylindrical shape. Most of the characters get out safely, but are all killed when the school explodes at the end.
    • Happens in Flushed Away when Toad is showing Roddy around his shrine dedicated to British royalty. Roddy backs into a statue, knocking it over but just managing to stop it crashing on the ground. However the impact from this leads to a domino effect with many of the other artifacts in the room ending up being broken.
    • Seen in a few episodes of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
      • In "Winter Wrap-Up", Twilight Sparkle's attempt to use magic to help clear the snow from the farmlands literally snowballs out of control.
      • At the start of "Stare Master", Sweetie Belle's attempt to help Rarity leads to this, creating a huge mess in Rarity's shop.
      • The climax of "The Best Night Ever". Applejack makes a fancy layer cake to impress the upper-class ponies at the Grand Galloping Gala, and carts it into the ballroom. Pinkie, who's trying to liven things up, does a stage dive onto the dessert cart, sending the cake flying towards Rarity and Prince Blueblood. Blueblood hides behind Rarity, who decides that getting Covered in Gunge is the last straw and chews Blueblood out for being so self-centered all night, splattering cake on him in the process. Blueblood backs into a pedestal, causing a statue to fall towards the partygoers. Rainbow Dash decides this is her chance to save the day and impress the Wonderbolts, and manages to catch the statue, only to end up knocking over a row of columns. Just when Twilight Sparkle thinks things can't possibly get any worse, an angry Fluttershy chases a horde of panicked animals into the ballroom, causing complete pandemonium.
    • Dexters Laboratory had this happen to an ice cream man: Dexter paid him for a very expensive ice cream with a heavy jar of pennies, which he dropped when trying to put it in the safe, leading to him being unable to account with the daily income, causing him to lose his job, his car, his apartment, and even his girlfriend, and live under a bridge. Plus he chipped a tooth.

    Urban Legends

    • There's always the bricklayer story, which inspired this song.
    • Also the story of how the dog died He died from eating all that horse meat after your barn caught on fire due to the candles from your mother's funeral after she died of a heart attack after catching your wife cheating with the farm hand and the death of a family four The mom died after slipping on the stairs that were wet because she left the bathtub running which drowned the children; the husband died after trying to open the door which became electrified due to the water soaking the floor.
    • And then there's the piece of sheet metal that came loose, decapitating a biker, and the motorcycle rides past the driver's window with the headless corpse on it, giving the driver a fatal heart attack, causing his truck to plow right into a bus stop full of people.

    Real Life

    • In real-life engineering, this is called an "error chain", "failure chain", or "disaster chain". One of the key considerations in design of high-importance safety systems (such as those in nuclear reactors) is breaking the chain.
      • The Chernobyl disaster is the sort of thing that happens when you don't break the chain.
      • Seemingly the Bhopal disaster was the result of this, too. So was Apollo 13. It could even be said that the Love Canal disaster was a long winded version of this.
    • The Titanic. Any one of about twenty things happens a tiny bit differently and 1,500 people don't die. To recap the more memorable screwups:
      • The pre-voyage hype. The largest ship in the world, the pinnacle of technology and luxury, White Star Line's crown jewel. Oh, and any four compartments can be completely filled with water and it won't sink. Even better, the ship has a double-bottom hull. Somehow, this leads to truly stupid comments like "God himself couldn't sink this ship!" Hubris is the first misstep. Always.
      • It's headed into the Atlantic with enough lifeboats for about half the people on the ship at the time, due to some outrageously obsolete law that no one's ever bothered to fix, and while the Titanic technically had more than required, it still wasn't enough. The designer intentionally meant for the ship to carry forty-six boats, but the Powers That Be hacked down that number to twenty, and they still felt that it was more than necessary because it was more than the legally required number of sixteen boats. And two of those boats were stowed on the roof of the officer's quarters, a completely and utterly ridiculous place to stow them, as getting them to the davits from there was all but impossible. Aw, heck, it's not like we're gonna need them or anything.
      • Then there's the intrepid Captain Smith, a seasoned veteran who never blunders due to indecisiveness (i.e. has long since forgotten when caution is needed and thinks he can handle anything). BTW, this is going to be his last voyage before retiring (you can't make this stuff up, folks).
      • There's a coal fire in one of the front coal bunkers. They can't just put water on it because it would ruin the fuel. So instead they use a combination of smothering and removing the coal from that part of the bunker. Trouble is, that constant heat weakens the metal on one of the bulkheads. They don't put it out until two days before the disaster.
      • Four days out. A few ice reports come in. No prob, says Smith, just change the course ever so slightly southward, and we can continue charging ahead full speed without having to see if the correction was enough or any such foolishness. What, slow down and wait until light so we can see if we're in danger? And even if we're not, at worst we've lost a few hours? What kind of stupid greenhorn sissy baby wimp do you take him for?
      • Uh oh, turns out the correction wasn't enough; the Titanic gets several warnings that it's headed right for a big ice field. Radio operator's response? "Hey, I work for the Marconi Company, I'm not part of the crew. Bug off." Yes, he failed to inform the bridge of an unbelievably hazardous condition that threatened the lives of everyone aboard ship because HE DIDN'T GET PAID TO DO THAT.
      • The day of the disaster, there was a scheduled lifeboat drill. Canceled.
      • So sure enough, someone sees that the ship is headed right toward a massive wall of ice. At the speed it's going, the ship is hard to turn. What makes it worse is that the first mate puts the ship in reverse. This isn't a sissy car! This is a 66,000 ton ship in water! The churning water actually messes up the proportionally small rudder's ability to turn even more than the speeding! Furthermore, while the two wing props are run by reciprocating engines, the middle one, the one that's right in front of the rudder, is connected to a turbine, and it doesn't go in reverse. Congratulations Officer Murdoc: You have made a near miss into a solid hit. Epic Fail.
        • This wouldn't have been a problem had the iceberg been spotted earlier, but the lookout didn't have his binoculars with him. On top of that, the sea was calm, meaning that the lookout had to rely on moonlight (which was rather difficult as the new moon wasn't even up) rather than waves to notice a giant block of ice in the ship's path. Ironically, had he not seen it at all and they just rammed the thing, the damage would probably not have sunk the ship.
      • Remember that double-bottom hull? That would only be of any help if the ship runs aground. The sides of the ship are still just an inch of steel, made of plates essentially stapled together. And the rivets-said "staples"-were weaker in this area. Not because of budget cuts, but because there was a machine used to drive these rivets in, but it couldn't work properly in areas where there's a lot of curved metal to navigate: such as the extreme forward and aft ends of the ship. Therefore, they had to use rivets with more slag (a glass-like substance that in trace amounts strengthens steel, but in higher ones weakens it) to make it easier to be hammered in by hand. And that bulkhead next to the coal fire? It's believed that the steel was so weakened that the water pressure actually burst it later on in the sinking, accelerating the flooding.
      • Five compartments flooded. Four, the ship can be salvaged; five, forget it, it's toast. The flooding water will go over the top of each bulkhead of the compartment as it goes down, like in an ice tray.
        • This occurred because most of the Titanic's supposedly watertight compartment bulkheads do NOT extend all the way to the the first continuous watertight deck like they're supposed to. The gap at the top allows water from a flooding compartment to slop into adjacent compartments. While watertight compartments with properly designed bulkheads probably wouldn't have prevented the Titanic from sinking, it has been speculated that truly watertight bulkheads would have slowed the rate of sinking significantly and could have enabled the ship to remain afloat long enough for help to arrive.
        • In fact, the compartments made the ship sink faster. As the forward compartments flooded, the front of the ship went down first, causing the tail to stick and the ship to break in half. Also the ship had pumps, but they were located in the rear, which wasn't getting any water. If the water had flooded the ship evenly, it would have taken much longer to sink (as much as ten hours).
      • There were ships close enough to lend assistance, but their radio operators had already gone to bed. (Thereafter, radios were required to be manned around the clock). The Titanic fired off flares, but the other ships thought they were fireworks (being the maiden voyage and all).
      • And just in case this whole apocalyptic mess wasn't nearly hellish enough yet, despite the ship having enough lifeboats to save the lives of about half of the people on board, they don't even save that many, due to numerous lifeboats being launched at well below capacity due to confusion among the crew. Poor Communication Kills indeed.
      • Remember that Lifeboat Drill that got canned? Yeah, none of the crew were familiar with the new davits put on the ship because of it, causing a few close calls in the unloading process. These boys had to learn on the fly, costing time and potentially lives.
      • A few more people died due to a smaller, lesser-known boatyard hearing about the disaster that was the Titanic. One of their ships sank because it was carrying too many lifeboats.
      • And, lest we forget, none of these screwups would've mattered if the iceberg hadn't been in that exact spot, at that exact time. Even a few minutes' difference in the movement of either ship or iceberg—movement, which thousands of fine shifts in current, wind, and surface chop dictated, never mind human intervention—and they'd have missed each other completely.
        • Yes, but if that had happened, the regulations for ship safety wouldn't have been updated and we'd probably still have ships with too few life boats and radio transmissions wouldn't be manned around the clock. So because of this disaster, we have updated rules and regulations for ship travel and safety.
    • The Tenerife Airport Disaster 1977 which has been the worst aerial disaster ever, claiming 583 lives on two Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets, which collided. Likewise, if just one of twenty or so causes had been otherwise, nothing would have happened.
    • This video. To sum up:
      • Forklift guy hits a shelf.
      • Shelf falls down. (Shouldn't they be more stable than that? Yes, they should.)
      • On its way down, shelf hits other shelf.
      • Other shelf falls down.
      • Everyone is unhappy.
    • The series of events leading to the outbreak of World War I is not unlike this trope, combined with a few hefty doses of War for Fun and Profit and Home by Christmas. Basically, it all boils down to two countries wanting to go to war with each other and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as the trigger. Then, as treaties are suddenly called into account, a two-country war engulfs two continents.
    • The 2010 saga of Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. To hit the highlights:
      • The blowout causes an explosion and fire on the rig which cannot be put out before the rig sinks;
      • The blowout preventer, specifically meant to stop this sort of thing from causing the well to release oil uncontrollably, fails;
      • Everyone suddenly realizes they have no freaking idea how to deal with a blowout in over a mile of water, nor do they know what the released oil will do at that depth;
      • The plan for dealing with a spill is ridiculously out of date, to the point where one of the experts supposed to be called in to assist has been dead for 4 years...before the plan was filed;
      • To make matters worse, the plan turns out to have originally been written to deal with arctic oil spills, and never adjusted for the different conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. It has more to say about how to protect walruses from the leakage than sea turtles.
      • And just to put the icing on the cake, it appears that the well suffering the blowout would have been one of the most productive in the Gulf of Mexico, meaning that the volume of oil escaping is freaking huge.
      • Last, oil is a very valuable resource. All that oil is completely wasted and the reservoir is unlikely to be tapped again in the near future.
    • Although this "disaster" does not have the potential to cause lives, it is Serious Business for many people—namely, college sports fans. The very existence of the Big 12 Conference—and maybe the Big East—is in jeopardy.
      • The Big Ten announced in late '09/early '10 that it was looking into the possibility of expansion and that it was considering teams like Nebraska, Missouri, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Notre Dame to add to its eleven teams. (Yes, the Big Ten has eleven teams.)
      • The Pac-10 also expresses its interest in expanding from 10 to maybe 16.
      • Talk of expansion dies down somewhat for a few months, but there are a few rumors that pop up that eventually get denied. These rumors cause the conferences to become even more antsy.
      • The antsyness increases when Missouri is rumored to be seriously interested in the Big Ten, which gets some of the other Big 12 schools thinking they have to hurry and beat Missouri to the punch.
      • On June 10, 2010, the first domino falls when Colorado decides to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10. Later on, it is announced that Boise State is leaving the Western Athletic Conference for the Mountain West Conference.
      • The following day, the second domino falls when Nebraska decides to leave the Big 12 in favor of the Big Ten. Interestingly, the Big 12 is down to ten teams while the Big Ten has 12 teams.
      • In addition, the Pac-10 has sent invitations to five more Big 12 schools: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
      • Texas's board of regents is expected to meet on June 15 in order to decide which conference to choose. If it leaves the Big 12, the other four invitees are likely to leave. A&M is considering the SEC as well, but at least part of that is due to the fact that they don't want to look like they're following the leader. In any case, the Big 12 would be down to 5 members and would no longer be a viable conference. The Mountain West Conference appears ready to accept 4 of those 5: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Missouri—but not Baylor.
      • If the Big Ten attempts to poach Notre Dame, Syracuse, and/or Rutgers in addition, the Big East would become dangerously unstable and could collapse as well, leaving more teams ripe for the picking by eastern conferences. The ACC and SEC could both look into expanding.
      • The potential result could be an NCAA ruled by 5 superconferences: the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, MWC, and Pac-16.
    • The Donner Party.
    • The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix resulted in this: with typical wet weather at the location, conditions were slippery, causing David Coulthard to lose control of his car in the first lap. He crashed into the wall and ricocheted right into traffic, causing a thirteen car accident, many of them caused simply by being too close to the initial one. Miraculously, there were only a couple injuries, and most of the drivers could take the restart, one missing due to injuries, three because there was no car for them to start with.
    • In 2010, a Tunisian set himself on fire as a protest. Later, two governments fell, two others decided to leave, and thousands died.
    • The March 2011 disaster in Japan could be disaster dominoes WITHIN disaster dominoes. First you have the most powerful earthquake in the country's history, which triggers a huge tsunami, which damages the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and then things at the plant get progressively worse and worse and WORSE!
    • The main element in most disasters that are investigated in the National Geographic Channel series Seconds From Disaster and Air Crash Investigation.
    • The ill-fated Soyuz-1 mission, due to many tests being skipped in haste of Moon race.
      • One solar panel failed to open, and the remaining panel couldn't be aimed well because center of mass shifted (thanks to now-asymmetric panels), optical orientation sensor failed, solar wind sensor worked, but exhaust of maneuvering thrusters interfered with it (making it useless for automatic orientation purpose), and manual attempts wasted too much of propellant. Which left the spacecraft with too little power to recharge and on a wrong trajectory. The ground control team, naturally, decided that it's best to not wait and see whether backup batteries are going to kick in properly, and figured out the least dangerous way to perform braking and emergency landing with what was still usable, assuming that's the deadline. Then the reentry capsule impacted hard enough to go knee deep into the soil and Vladimir Komarov became the first in-flight (rather than on launch pad) casualty of The Space Race. But that was a separate cascade of catastrophic failures, rather than a consequence of any previous problems. In fact, the stuck panel averted a worse outcome: if the mission wasn't aborted, Soyuz-2 with the crew of three would be launched a few days later, they would dock, two would join him in that capsule... and the third would stay on orbit longer, but eventually have to return in a capsule exactly like the first, probably with the same result.
      • The extraction parachute deployed, but failed pull the main parachute out (commission decided it happened due to deformation; later it was demonstrated to be very unreliable due to improperly handled installation, but either way thorough redesign helped); then the backup parachute driven by independent systems deployed, but it wasn't filling properly because air flow got interrupted by the extraction parachute; when the capsule crashed, thruster oxidant (peroxide) leftovers got spilled, so heat from final braking rockets broke down peroxide and ignited pretty much everything it touched into inferno that melted almost everything else, including the flight record.


    Ouch. Bad day all around.