This is an article called "The Laws of Cartoon Motion" adapted from the book, Elementary Education by Mark O'Donnell.

The Laws Of Cartoon Motion

by Mark O'Donnell

  1. Any body suspended in space will remain suspended in space until made aware of its situation.

    Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing fippantly until he chances to look down. At this point, the farmiliar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.

  2. Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly.

    Whether shot from a cannon or in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination the stooge's surcease.

  3. A body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter.

    Also called the silhouette of passage, this phenomenon is the specialty of victims of direct-pressure explosions and reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout-perfect hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.

  4. The time required for an object to fall 20 stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down 20 flights to attempt to capture it unbroken.

    Such an object is inevitably priceless; the attempt to capture it, inevitably unsuccessful.

  5. All principles of gravity are negated by fear.

    Psychic forces are sufficient in most bodies for a shock to propel them directly away from the surface. A spooky noise or an adversary's signature sound will introduce motion upward, usually to the cradle of a chandelier, a treetop or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a running character or the wheels of a speeding auto need never touch the ground, ergo fleeing turns to flight.

  6. As speed increases, objects can be in several places at once.

    This particularly true in tooth-and-claw fights, in which a characters head may be glimpsed emerging from a cloud of altercation at several places simultaneously. This effect is common as well among bodies that are spinning or being throttled, and stimulates our own vision's trailing retention of images. A "wacky" character has the option of self-replication only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off walls to achieve the velocity required for self-mass-liberation.

  7. Certain bodies can pass through a solid wall painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.

    This trompe I'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but at least it is known that whoever paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to pursue him into this theoretical space. The painter is flattened against the wall when he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a problem of art, not science.

  8. Necessity plus Will provokes spontaneous generation.

    Dangerously palpable objects--such as mallets, dynamite, pies and alluring female attire--can be manifested from what might previously have been considered "thin" air, but only when the friction of immediate jeopardy makes the object's appearance imperative. This controversial "pocket" theory suggests these objects are drawn from unseen recesses of a character's costume, or from a storehouse immediately off-screen, but this merely defers the question of how any absolutely apt object is instantaneously available.

  9. Any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent.

    Cartoon cats possess more deaths than even the traditional nine lives afford. They can be sliced, splayed, accordionpleated, spindled or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed. After a few moments of blinking self-pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap back or solidify.

  10. For every vengeance, there is an equal and opposite revengeance.

    This is one law of animated cartoon motion that also applies to the physical world at large. For that reason, we need the relief of watching it happen to a duck instead.

Copyright 1996, Lynn Gold.
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