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Shadow puppets are a fun manipulation of light, shadow, and one's body parts (generally hands) to create images that are unexpected given the standard human body design. However interesting they are, there's only a limited number of times you can show "doggy, deformed rabbit, hand-shaped cactus" before it gets old.

Not with this trope.

With Impossible Shadow Puppets, a character makes a shadow of something else that is clearly not possible to create using only one's hands or body, or a normal sillhouette. For maximum effect, this is usually preceded by several more plausible shadows.

Examples of Impossible Shadow Puppets include:


  • A commercial for Nationwide Insurance has the Nationwide sales rep doing shadow puppets to illustrate the company's policies to a client. The shadows become more and more improbable, even adding a third hand... at the end of the commercial the insurance agent is shown having three arms.


  • A chapter opening image early in the Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple manga shows Shigure doing a shadow puppet of Apachai (who will be starting his tutoring of Kenichi in said chapter) against a spotlight to scare Kenichi... And her hands look like she's just doing a dog or something.
  • Inverted in One Piece: Gekko Moria's Shadow Revolution allows him to manipulate shadows into any shape and, with it, the shadow's caster, as demonstrated when he turned the giant Oars into a Rubber Man and a giant ball.


  • In Killer Klowns From Outer Space, one of the Klowns makes hand shadows that come to life and kill a group of people waiting for a bus.
  • During the theater takeover in Gremlins 2, one of the gremlins manages to create Abraham Lincoln with shadow puppets.
  • At the end of Despicable Me, one of the Minions makes a perfect shadow puppet of Gru.
  • In the Austin Powers film Goldmember, this is subverted. A Mook believes he is seeing an impossible sillhouette of a man with a small arm for a penis, who shakes hands with it and bites it before giving birth. It turns out to be Austin, Mini-Me, some tubing and an apple.
  • A trailer for Mousehunt has the Mouse making shadow-puppets, one of which is the DreamWorks logo.

Live Action TV

  • An episode of Scrubs has the cast (in one of J.D.'s Imagine Spots) create an impressive naval battle out of shadow puppets.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin makes a shadow puppet which looks like, as Hobbes calls it, "a bug-eyed tentacled thing." Turns out it's the real thing, to the duo's horror.
  • Subverted in The Broons. The family have just watched a home movie and the children want to make shadow puppets in the light from the projector. The final shadow puppet is a remarkably realistic cat, which turns out to be made by a real cat that has just stolen the salmon that they were about to have for lunch.

Video Games

Web Animation

  • Strong Bad in the Homestar Runner episode "theme song" makes a "Trogdor" shadow that breathes fire. Wearing gloves without fingers.


Western Animation

 Porky Pig: "That way, no one gets hurt."

  • One episode of Futurama had Bender use his hands to make a Professor Farnsworth shadow puppet convincing enough to fool a sniper. Talented, but not that much of a stretch. He then used his circular feet to make shadow puppets of himself and Fry to match it.
  • In an episode of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, Edd manages to create a highly detailed skeleton-creature shadow (and in one commercial, the Cartoon Network logo) with just his two hands. Ed manages to invert the trope; no matter what pose he puts his two hands into in front of the light, it just looks like his hand.

 Ed: I think it's broken, guys.

  • For the talent portion of the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "May the Best Pet Win", one of the animals decided to do shadow puppets, ending with a figure of a galleon in full sail. For added hilarity, the animal that did it was a wasp.
  • During the "B-Movie" musical number in The Brave Little Toaster, one appliance stands in front of a light and casts a shadow that quickly falls apart and becomes a flock of bats, leaving behind no shadow at all.
  • This is done in at least one episode of Scooby Doo: Shaggy and Scooby entertain themselves by making shadow puppets, and the last one is the Monster of the Week.
    • In one episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Don Adams is making and identifying shadow puppets of various insects as exterminator training for Shaggy and Scooby. When the last one appears:

 Shaggy: What's that?

Don: I don't know. I'm not making it.

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