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cartoon physics

n. The physics as present in cartoons, especially when not conforming to physics in reality.

Cartoon physics

Cartoon physics is a jocular system of laws of physics that supersedes the normal laws, used in animation for humorous effect. Normal physical laws are referential (i.e., objective, invariant), but cartoon physics are preferential (i.e., subjective, varying).

Many of the most famous American animated films, particularly those from Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, unconsciously developed a relatively consistent set of such "laws" which have become de rigueur in comic animation. In one common cartoon scenario example, when a cartoon character runs off a cliff, gravity has no effect until the character notices and reacts.

In a neologism contest held by New Scientist, a winning entry coined the term "coyotus interruptus" for this phenomenon—a pun on coitus interruptus and Wile E. Coyote, who fell to his doom this way many times.

In words attributed to Art Babbitt, an animator with the Walt Disney Studios: "Animation follows the laws of physics—unless it is funnier otherwise."