The One About ‘Toon Physics

I love animation. Been a huge fan for years. Decades. And the reason is that I always feel there are amazing nuggets of truth in these simple children’s cartoons that can speak to me as an adult.

Take, for example, a show from Tom Ruegger at Warner Bros. Television animation. The idea was small versions of Looney Toons characters. Well, they got this famous guy named Speilburg involved as well, and presto, “Tiny Toon Adventures” was born. And it had the greatest concept – a new generation of toon characters going to school (“Acme Looniversity”) to learn how to be funny.

Even better, their instructors are the original famous Looney Tunes characters we all know and love.

Sheer brilliance.

Elmer Fudd was of course introduced as a professor, teaching the course “Introductory Toon Physics.” Now, I myself would have probably cast Wile E. Coyote as the physics instructor, considering how often gravity and simple machines turned out to be his undoing, but the reason behind using Professor Fudd are quickly evident – he’s mesmerizing as he delivers a lecture. The way that unique speech deformity wends its way through the language as he uses it is a sight to behold.

Or a joy to listen to.  Bad habit I have as an author, slicing and dicing my metaphors. But I digress.

Today’s lesson is on gravity. Now we think of gravity as a constant. But in Toon Physics, it is a variable. This is why a toon can walk off a cliff and continue several steps past into thin air without falling. It is only when the toon looks down and sees there is no support that gravity reasserts itself.

It’s not instantaneous, either. It’s three steps. It’s look down, look up and recognize the truth, and then gravity hits. That second moment is the “Oh, shitake mushroom” moment.

At first, when I saw this, I though, “Funny moment in a cartoon.”

Then I learned I was bipolar. And learned that I have cycles, both manic and depressive. Manics are bad, because you lose all sense of self control. You throw yourself 110% into a project, without regard for consequences.

In other words, you walk off that cliff without looking down. And then the moment comes when you look down.

It’s that moment when your stomach twists and you realize you are floating with zero connection to the planet. But you also know it’s all about to change – and that you’re about to have your reality altered dramatically.

Usually involving an impact with a hard surface.

And a puff of cartoon smoke.

For me, that moment usually comes when I’ve thrown myself, wholeheartedly, into a project, and just before I’m supposed to be somewhere or do something publicly, reality arrives. And it doesn’t matter how well meaning I was, or how awesome a job I was doing, or how worthy the cause…

I looked down.

Gravity must, MUST, exert itself.

Them’s the rules.

There is another way to describe it outside the realm of Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation).  It comes from the pen Katherine Craster in the 1800’s and is known as the Centipede’s Dilemma:

A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg moves after which?”
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.

The idea behind the concept is that if you think about the process, reality breaks the bubble and you lose the ability to function.

I go through this, in some degree, every time I go through a manic phase.

The funny thing is, this time, that stomach flipping, turning over because of gravity moment, is happening right now over Louisiana at 38,000, according to the flight data info on my tablet.

I realize what I’ve just done…and what I’ve committed myself to…and where I’m not really wanted…and for how long this is going to last…

I’m looking down again…

It’s a long way down.

I should have paid better attention in physics class.

About D. G. Speirs

D.G. Speirs is a storyteller, novelist and voice actor living in central Florida. He keeps searching for better stories to tell, even if he has to make them up himself. His latest novel, TRIANGLE: WILDCARD, is now available on Amazon.com.
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