Transformation Ray

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Any Phlebotinum that transforms someone(s) into something weird, usually by shooting them with a ray. It's often a machine, produced by a Mad Scientist, but Green Rocks are also common. At the end of the episode the same Phlebotinum is used to revert the effects, or it simply wears off (for example, the puppetising spell in Angel).

Occasionally, it may be used in the first episode to set up the premise of the series, in which case, it doesn't wear off and/or can't be found for reversion.

See also Baleful Polymorph. For an exceptionally common specific type of Transformation Ray, see Gender Bender.

A Sub-Trope of Ray Gun. May be a type of Magic Missile.

Examples of Transformation Ray include:

Anime and Manga

  • One episode of Urusei Yatsura featured a gun that switched its target's gender.
  • The cursed spring water in Ranma ½ may be considered an example of a transformation device used to establish a series premise.
  • In the series Keroro Gunsou, several Transformation Rays appear, including the Oni Girl Gun, which changes the target into a japanese Oni or demon, the Age Transformation Ray which can de-age or age a person by around ten years, and the Animal Transformation Gun, which changes animals into humanized versions of themselves.

Comic Books

  • Superman encounters Red Kryptonite which has various tranformative effects on him. Pre Crisis, each random chunk of red kryptonite had a different effect on Superman which lasted for 24 hours before wearing off and then he would be immune to the effects of that one chunk. Post-Crisis and subsequent media adaptations have been a little more meta about it.[1]
  • Mystery In Space: One of the regular features of the 60's comic was the story of a space explorer who had been shot by four different rayguns at the same time, each wielded by a different kind of alien. The result was each ray changed the part of his body that it hit to be like that of the owner of the gun. Now a freak, the man decided to change his name by combining parts of the names of his assailants (whose motives were never made clear). Strangely enough, the letters made a perfectly pronounceable word and so was born Ultra, the Multi-Alien. One arm (and the part of his torso it was attached to) had become super strong, the other could generate magnetic force, one leg could shoot lightning, and with the other he could fly, even though it had just one tiny wing on it. Naturally, he became a crime fighter.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin turned his water pistol into a Transmogrifier Gun.
  • An atomic bomb blast that turned Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk.
  • A radioactive spider gave Peter Parker his Spider-Man powers.
  • Cosmic rays that created the Fantastic Four.
  • Batman: From the late 1950s through the early 1960s, due to Executive Meddling prompted by the monster-movie craze, many stories featured rays or other Phlebotinum that transformed the Caped Crusader into a fish-man, a human buzz saw, a giant genie and other bizarre creatures. This was pretty much a staple of Silver Age plots, especially in DC Comics.

Fan Works


  • The movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids employs a Transformation Ray as its central premise. The eventual TV show had a smorgasbord of them.
  • Inverted in X-Men: The Last Stand, in which the curative syringes and ammunition turn mutants into something not weird, namely ordinary humans.


  • In Stanley Kiesel's young adult book The War Between The Pitiful Teachers And The Splendid Kids, the adults utilize a sinister device called the Status Quo Solidifier machine, which turns the defeated kids into well-behaved and well-dressed Perfect Young People.
  • Not a Ray Gun, but a side-effect of technology: In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, after Ford and Arthur are picked up by the Heart of Gold, the ship's Infinite Improbability Drive briefly turns Ford into a penguin and causes Arthur's limbs to temporarily separate from his body. Later, the Infinite Improbability Drive turns two nuclear missiles into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias respectively.
    • The film version of Ford and Arthur being picked up be the Heart of Gold has them turned into sofas.

Arthur: Ford?
Ford: Yeah?
Arthur: I think I'm a sofa.
Ford: I know how you feel.

  • The title character of Tamora Pierce's Emperor Mage is a dictator whose time is up. At the end of the book, he's been hunted down by the protagonists, whereupon he plays what he thinks is his trump card, announcing, "I have Stormwing magic!" and sticking a sharp metal feather from a Stormwing (half-human, half-bird immortal) into his arm. To his unhappy surprise, the effect is to turn him into a Stormwing—and once you've shapeshifted into immortal form, you can't go back. He's whisked away to be subjected to some Stormwing justice—it's not clear what exactly this will entail, but he's done a lot to piss off the Stormwings in the past, and they're not known for being soft touches. Unfortunately, he escapes and is even more powerful because of his transformation. Even the Stormwings are surprised at how quickly he learns to use magic in that form.
  • The Well World series by Jack Chalker: The Well of Souls provides a one-way (and usually Karmic) transformation for anyone who winds up there.

Live-Action TV

  • Both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel used this a few times, for example Xander being split into two, and memorably Angel being turned into a two-foot tall Muppet.
  • Family Matters showed these sometimes:
    • Urkel's transformation booth thing.
    • There was another episode with a shrink ray.
  • Krofft Supershow features an episodic adventure series called Dr. Shrinker, where every episode (as well as the premise of the show) featured the effects of the mad scientist's laser ray.
  • Tom of T.H.U.M.B.: The premise behind this 60s cartoon show is that the eponymous character was transformed by a "shrinking laser beam ray gun".
  • In Red Dwarf, a DNA transmogrifier turns Kryten human, turns Lister into a chicken (and later, a pint-sized RoboCop), and makes a giant bug-eyed monster out of, erm, vindaloo. Said monster would later be killed by lager - "the only thing that can kill a vindaloo".

Tabletop Games

  • GURPS: Magic : The Wraith spell from creates a trinket that turns the target into a undead horror.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Chaos sorcerers use transformation rays as a staple tool, particularly sorcerers of the Tzeentch persuasion. The results are horrifying.
  • Genius: The Transgression has one of the eight super-sciences being about this. If it's in Shapeshifting, you can probably put it in hand-held ray gun format, or dispense it with an injection.
  • Teenagers From Outer Space includes a 'Boy/Girl Gun'. As the name suggests, it causes awkward hilarious Gender Bender situations.


  • Bionicle: Roodaka's Rhotuka Spinner permanently mutating the target into whatever shape the user wants.

Video Games

  • In Sin, lead character and Badass police officer John Blade is turned into a mutant by Alexis Sinclaire, the head of a pharmaceutical company marketing a dangerous designer drug. After surviving through a number of tests you are forced into completing by Sinclaire's private security force, you find the magic machine that transforms you back into a human again (making this a transformation needle, not a ray). Coincidentally, you also get your gun, your uniform and your wireless communication with your sidekick back once you've gone through the process.
  • Secret of Evermore's sidekick, the dog, has this happen early in the game as a side effect of chewing on the wires to the world creation device. This causes it to change form in the different realms of Evermore, taking a shape appropriate to the world its in. The dog is fine once the hero and dog eventually escape Evermore at the end of the game.
  • In Singularity, the time device the character wears on his arm can either advance an object or person along its "personal timeline" and either powder them, or drag it back along same and create a horrific alternate timeline where they never matured past month four in the womb before being born, and thus never developed eyes or skin.
  • Sudoku's Transformation Ray in the Flash game for Banana-nana-Ninja! can turn characters into pies, as well as generally being a Swiss Army Weapon.
  • The Ratchet and Clank series contains various weapons which transform enemies into either useless animals or makeshift animal allies.
  • World of Warcraft's gnomes bring us the Gnomish Poultryizer.
  • In Attack of the Mutant Penguins, the alien penguins will take tickets for the Mutation Station, then walk in and get zapped, which changes them to their true form: mean green mutants from outer space.

Web Comics

  • In El Goonish Shive, resident Teen Genius Mad Scientist Tedd used alien technology to construct the "Transformation Gun", which can reshape a humanoid into one of many different forms. The scary part here is that Tedd uses the gun for recreation, often changing his gender. A teen-ager given the means to go be someone else for a while? *ZAP!!*
    • And now Ellen has this as an innate power. Currently, it's limited to either transforming other people into well-built women, and turning herself into whatever she zapped. The latter turns out to be compatible with some magically augmented forms. Also, yet another magical accident allowed a mix of transformation beam and something with more punch, though heads or tails are yet to be made of that.
  • In Girls in Space, the girls' VW Bus was converted into a spaceship in the first story, when the Universal Upgrader (a prototype made by an intergalactic electronics company) fired a transformation ray at it. The Protoype also transformed character Fergus Macrumble from a fat gambler into a muscular hunk and a horse called Asthmatic George into Athletic George.
  • Narbonic had one. Originally it could only turn people into other people, leading to a bizarre arc where there were three Daves running around on the moon. Later Helen adjusted the transmogrifier for cross-species transformation, leading to Humanity Ensues when Artie is stuck shifting between human and gerbil forms.
  • Sailor Sun: The "fanfiction studio" (don't ask) has a Gender Bender ray, which they used on an unsuspecting male actor to replace a diva. They're much too expensive for "normal" people to rent, though, and her Kid From the Future not knowing she was ever male is not a good omen...
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, the aliens Princess Voluptua and Fructose Riboflavin both use "shapeshifter units" to appear human, instead of their normal insectoid appearance. Galatea also invented a hat with a holographic projector which can disguise the wearer's identity.

Web Original

  • The Neopets website has a Lab Ray that does random things to the pets, like changing their stats, species, or color. The Petpet Lab Ray preforms similarly; it changes petpets' levels, species, color, or name.
  • Erika's New Perfume: The perfume works a lot like this on the unsuspecting, though if you know what spraying in each given place causes then you can make it voluntary.
  • Whateley Universe: Mad Scientist Dr. Pygmalion used this on the deviser Delta Spike, who got transformed into a brunette bombshell while trying to capture Dr. Pygmalion. (Delta Spike actually wanted both things to happen, and is extremely happy now.)
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum: The aptly-named Disguise Generator is used to set continuum-appropriate disguises for the Agents before they go on a mission. Going without a disguise makes it much more difficult to blend into the canon, and causes the Agents to be more likely to be noticed by the Sue, meaning that going without is very dangerous. However, it is not entirely necessary for Bad Slash missions or other departments that don't directly deal with Sues, simply making those jobs easier to carry out. The Disguise Generator/Disguise Outfitting Ryticular Kostume System (DORKS) has a similar purpose for the agents while they're already inside the continuum, allowing them to change disguises on the fly (including, in one case, disguising the Agent as a chair).

Western Animation

  • Mermaid Man's belt from SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Transformers Generation 1 has the "Well of Transformation", which turned someone into whatever they were thinking of at the time. This was used, amoung other things, to trick Rumble into turning himself into a tree.
  • Dinosaucers featured a weapon that could transform whatever Dinosaucer (the good guys) or Tyranno (the bad guys) it hit back into the non-anthropomorphic dinosaur they evolved from. While transforming to their dinosaur form (called 'dinovolving') was something that the Dinosaucers could do themselves without the weapon, the catch was that the victim's intelligence also regressed, whereas it stayed the same for the Dinosaucers when they did it themselves.
  • Kim Possible had about thirty of these, most actual ray guns. (Others were superglue bombs, exploding ticks on face, emotion manipulating microchips, amulet that changed her into a monkey...) Most often, they were used on her (and her sidekick) on a mission in the first five minutes, then Act Two was spent facing the wacky challenges it posed to her school life.
  • Darkwing Duck in lived and breathed this—if the hero wasn't having his work wrecked by, say, turning into whoever he saw or getting split into two people, then someone else (like his daughter) was going through this and the plot would deal with him rescuing them. A few villains had this concept as the center of their origin story as well.
  • Totally Spies! makes use of the Transformation Ray central to a good number of plots. The girls have encountered ray devices that turned them into everything from giants to street mimes to cat girls.
  • Bionic Six. The overweight villain Doc Scarab loved to use rays to transform the heck out of things.
  • Superfriends: A villain kidnaps people for his twisted circus and shoots them with a ray gun that turns them into anthromorphic animals he uses it on Wonder Woman and turns her into an ugly rhinobeast. And with their usual amount of intelligence, The Wonder Twins manage to hold the gun backwards and turn themselves into a tree and centauress.
  • Justice League Unlimited: The concept was revisted in where it turns out Gorilla Grodd's big plan is to use an amped up transformation ray to turn the entire world into apes like him. After the plan fails, Luthor just shoots Grodd and takes over the Injustice Society weeks earlier than he'd planned.
  • Zapping their brother to turn him into various bizarre things is Susan and Mary Test's main hobby, on Johnny Test.
  • The Tick (animation): A villain held Tick captive and used a transformation ray gun to turn the hero into a small two headed bird who speaks only high school French. There was also a mindswitching gun in a later episode.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987: Shredder's retromutagen gun.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: The spider that grants Spidey his powers wasn't infused with the generic "radiation" that seems nigh-magical in the comics, but with a zap from a somehow-radiation-involving Transformation Ray that would show up again in many subsequent episodes.
  • As featured in Batman: The Brave And The Bold, the Brother Eye, an AI-driven satellite, can deliver a ray that turns an ordinary janitor into OMAC, the One-Man Army Corps.
    • In addition, Gorrila Grodd has a device that turns people into Apes, and in "Mitefall", turn people into bananas.
  • In one episode of Gadget Boy and Heather, Big Bad Spydra used one to impersonate Heather.
  1. Each time it pops up, it was made in a different way or in some cases is being used in a different way, often with effects outside the trope.