Trap Door Fail

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The villain sits in his lair, waiting eagerly to hear how his most recent plan was a success. Suddenly, a Mook comes running in. He looks frightened, and upset: He has bad news. The Mook delivers the news and winces.

The Big Bad sits a moment to comprehend this recent update, before bursting into rage. He angrily berates the Mook who has "failed me for the last time!" Convenient Trap Door time! The Big Bad pushes the button, the trap door opens... and it just happens to be right next to the Mook who was supposed to fall in. This is usually followed by a moment of awkward silence before the villain asks, "Do you mind?" The Mook will promptly jump into the trap door after this.

Of course, there are alternate varieties. Sometimes the trap door fails to kill its victims, and they continue to complain. Other times, the victim is too fat to slip through. Regardless of how it plays out, if the trap door doesn't work the way it should, you've just met a Trap Door Fail.

Usually found in comedy.

Examples of Trap Door Fail include:

Anime & Manga

  • Excel Saga has Lord Il Palazzo dropping Excel down a trapdoor on numerous occasions (the first half of the anime in particular has this happen almost Once an Episode). The trap itself works fine, it's just not as... permanent as one would expect, with Excel typically clambering back up no worse for wear.
    • There is one point early in the manga where Il Palazzo opens the trapdoor to drop Excel into the oubliette, but she wasn't standing on it. After staring at each other for a few moments, Excel apologetically jumps into the pit.


  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: In this case the trap door dumps the mook into it correctly, however:

Mustafa: But Dr. Evil, we were unable to anticipate feline complications due to the reanimation process-
Dr. Evil: Silence!
[he presses a button and Mustafa's chair tilts back, dropping him into a pit of fire]
Dr. Evil: Let this be a reminder to you all that this organization will not tolerate failure.
[Mustafa can be heard moaning from an air vent]
Dr. Evil: Gentlemen, lets get down to business.
[Mustafa's moans continue]
Dr. Evil: We've got a lot of work to do.
Mustafa: Someone help me. I'm still alive only I'm very badly burned.


  • A variation appears in the Star Wars novel Dark Saber. One of the henchmen fails his boss for the first last time, and the master pushes a button to electrocute him in his seat. The master pushes the wrong button and someone else gets electrocuted instead Fridge Brilliance: It was the right button, but it was wired incorrectly, an early symptom of how shoddily put together the entire place later proves to be.
    • The next time someone fails, everybody jumps out of his chair before any buttons can be pushed. Eventually, all the people are restrained in their chairs so they can't get up at all.

Live Action TV

  • Saturday Night Live had a skit commercial where a Corrupt Corporate Executive's trap door had been incorrectly installed so that the doors opened up instead of down, so the would-be victim was launched through the ceiling instead of being dropped into a pit. Stupid trap door company.
  • This Mitchell and Webb sketch.
  • In the Comic Relief skit Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, the Master pulls a lever to open up a trapdoor under the Doctor—and the trapdoor opens under his own feet, due to sabotage by the Doctor. (The Master eventually manages to escape the trap, only to almost immediately fall through the still-open trapdoor again. Twice.)

Video Games

  • A Running Gag in Chrono Trigger with Ozzie (boss encounters specifically). During the boss encounter with Ozzie in Magus's castle, you have to trigger the various switches behind him. Each one opens a trap door that just misses opening under a main character. Then, you trigger the last switch...which opens a trap door right under Ozzie. (Why does he even HAVE that lever?)
    • Then, later on, you encounter him again, in his own tower. The encounter is much the same. You again target the switches... and the first one doesn't seem to do anything at first. Then it opens a trap door under all your characters... which just sends you back to the previous room. You then face him again, but before the boss encounter really gets going, a cat wanders into the room and presses the last switch--which, again, opens a trap door right under Ozzie. One would think he'd have learned from before....
  • In Overlord 2 there is a Running Gag where Les Collaborateurs turn up and give you info at the begining of story related quests/missions and get dropped down a trap door for their trouble. After a while a mysterious hooded figure appears ( The mistress of the previous game's Overlord, i.e. your mother.) and floats over the trapdoor when Overlord Jr. tries to open it.
  • In a cutscene in De Blob, Comrade Black opens a trapdoor which dumps several of his minions into a furnace, but misses one. Who is then ordered to jump in, and reluctantly does so.
  • Resident Evil 4 has Leon fall through a trap door, where a Quick Time Event allows him to save himself with a grappling hook, before sending a bullet into the old speaker The Dragon is listening in.
  • The endings for Kuma and Panda in Tekken 5 do this. Both have separate endings, where they are visited by someone. Two large buttons are on the CEO desk. The first drops the visitor. The second drops the CEO.

Web Comics

Torg: Isn't this Trap Door supposed to be deeper?
Dr. Steve: Like I got nothing better to do than to dig pits. Oasis, please escort "Mr. Picky" to his cell.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Sometimes the joke is that the person who was supposed to fall through the trap door is too fat. Seen on The Simpsons and Family Guy.
    • Another Simpsons one was when the painters moved Burns' desk, so when Burns sprang it, it opened but not underneath its would-be victim.
      • In another Simpsons episode, the trap door defies the laws of physics and somehow the victims fall from the roof of the very same room. "Smithers, it's doing that thing again!"
    • In the case of Family Guy, Mayor West hadn't planned on being menaced by an especially portly malcontent.
  • In League of Super Evil, when Skullossus loses his suit of armor (due to his soldiers misplacing it at the drycleaners), he angrily yells at his minions for "FAILING ME FOR THE LAST TIME!". It even goes so far as to show a flashback of him yelling this numerous times, and the results, one of which was a classic Trap Door Fail. Ironically enough, since he's just a skull in a jar without his suit, the minions toss him into a chute that leads out to space.
  • In I Love to Singa, auditioners for a talent show are sent down a trap door when they fail the audition. One of them is a fat pigeon, who has to be hit on the head with a mallet for her to make it all the way through.
  • A rare benevolent version appears in Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit. Wallace has a device in his bedroom that causes the bed to dump him through a trap door into the dining room. He gets stuck due to his pudgy gut, and requests "assistance", which is provided in the form of a large mallet.
  • In American Dad, Stan had a trap door set up for just in case Hailey starts being liberal to a guest (in this case, George W. Bush). When she attempts to call Bush out on the whole Iraq thing Stan opens the trap door, only for Hailey to move her legs so she's standing on the sides. However, Stan thought ahead and hits a button that widens the hole, sending her down.
    • In the non-canon (for what little there is) James Bond parody, Tearjerker, the titular villain (played by Roger) opens a trap door below a scientist who failed him. The door works fine, but the scientist gets stuck on the slide it leads to, forcing Tearjerker to call someone to push him into the water tank trap.
  • Since Word Girl can fly, trap doors are useless against her.
  • In one episode of Pelswick, the titular character goes to a radio station to complain about the change in programming (and the building's doors not being wheelchair-accessible). The manager tries to drop him down a standard trap door, but Pelswick's wheelchair is too wide to even get caught in it. The manager then makes a note to self to make the trap doors wheelchair-accessible.
  • In an episode of Superfriends, Lex Luthor drops Superman down a trap door, but he simply flies out.