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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.
- 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.
- In the second film, guards see what seems to be Felicity Shagwell removing various different objects out of Austin's ass. It's actually a bag on a table next to Austin, who's hunched over a map.
- A trailer for Mousehunt has the Mouse making shadow-puppets, one of which is the DreamWorks logo.
- An episode of Scrubs has the cast (in one of J.D.'s Imagine Spots) create an impressive naval battle out of shadow puppets.
- 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.
- In Mortal Kombat 3, Liu Kang's Friendship has him make hand shadows of the Mortal Kombat dragon logo.
- Strong Bad in the Homestar Runner episode "theme song" makes a "Trogdor" shadow that breathes fire. Wearing gloves without fingers.
- Jason Love's Snapshots: Jimmy is pretty good at it. Or pretty tasty.
- Buzz Lightyear does this in the Toy Story Treat "Shadow Play".
- Sid the Squid in Batman: The Animated Series once makes a squid shadow on the wall, using just his fingers.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: Courage sometimes does this; one episode even has a Living Shadow that "projects" itself to scare him.
- Happens more than once on The Simpsons. In one episode, Lisa subconsciously makes a hand shadow of a California condor.
- In one episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Mr. Bighead does shadow puppets of a running deer and the Eiffel Tower. Much to his frustration, nobody can guess what they are.
- Titan Maximum: "Bunny, horsey, ducky, 10-speed bike, Eddie Van Halen, Titanic, Titanic sinking, scene from Titanic where Leo drew Kate."
- This is one of the more benign skills of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz on Phineas and Ferb.
- The Looney Tunes short "One Meat Brawl" ends with what looks like a Shadow Discretion Shot of a big fight, but turns out to be the characters using shadow puppets.
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?
- Done on Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy needs to fight boredom.
- This was also used in the Mr. Bogus episode "Bad Luck Bogus", while Bogus is trying to figure out the problem for the power failure caused by his evil lookalike. The shadow puppets that he makes are a parrot, a chicken and a horse.