The process of creating an animated series involves a whole lot of still drawings that are then broadcast in sequence so that the stills (whether hand-drawn or digitally created) appear to "move" when they broadcast in sequence. So, for example, an arm might be in one spot in the first drawing, slightly higher in the second and even higher in the third; when you broadcast them together very quickly, it looks like the arm is actually lifting itself. It's the magic of animation! Therefore, when you pause the television during a cartoon, you're going to freeze it on a single scene. That scene was never intended to be viewed by itself, but only in the context of an animated sequence.
The upside of this is that sometimes, while you are in the midst of doing a very normal action, at one point in the sequence, it might look like you're doing something entirely different and often these freeze frames capture the characters doing what look to be very unsavory actions. We've picked out 15 hilarious examples from cartoons over the years (courtesy of the Out of Context Animation Tumblr).
15 MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Oddly enough, while everyone remembers the friendship between Spike (the human who hung out with the Transformers in the cartoon series) and Bumblebee, when the series began, it was actually Hound who was the main companion for Spike. Hound was actually one of the main characters overall in the series in the earliest episodes of the cartoon.
In any event, in an amusing sequence in an early episode, Spike helped save Hound's life, but almost drowned in the process. Hound, not fully understanding how humans worked, thought that Spike had "flooded his engine." As he revived him, however, the sight of Hound seemingly mounting Spike was quite out of place. Hilariously enough, this is not even a matter of a single frame being off, there's a good five-six seconds of this in the cartoon.
14 DONALD WANTS TO SEE MORE
An interesting aspect of the art of the screen grab is picking just the right moment for the perfect screen grab. For instance, in this Donald Duck screen grab, there are a few seconds where it looks like he is basically touching himself, but then he gives the side eye, which makes it seem all the more lecherous of a moment than if he was just looking straight ahead, like he is earlier in the sequence.
In any event, this is from a 1947 Donald Duck cartoon called "Wide Open Spaces," where Donald is sleeping outside on an air mattress, but there is a rock underneath his mattress that is so big, it ends up protruding up and through Donald's body! It moves around his body and at one point, it is in his crotch area. Donald's side eye is him trying to figure out what's going on.
13 EAT YOUR HEART OUT, PATRICK SWAYZE
The very first video game to get its own cartoon series, Pac-Man was popular enough that it actually got a second season, at which point more Pac-Man related characters (like Pac-Man Jr.) joined the show. The villains in the series were the same as the villains in the game, a group of dastardly ghosts.
Here's the thing, though: when it comes to inappropriate screen grabs, there is nothing better than ghosts, because you inherently pass through them because they are immaterial. Of course, because of that, it means that while you are passing through them, if you freeze the shot at just the right place, it looks like you just plunged your hand into their body. Hence, this above disturbing looking screen grab from the show.
12 HIS NAME IS LICKITUNG
In the world of suggestive names, the Pokemon character known as Lickitung has got to be very high on the list. Once you've established the concept of a little monster that walks around with a giant, slobbery wet tongue, it is more of a question of "when" you're going to find something dirty, and not "if."
In this instance, it seems almost hard to believe that it was an accident. The scene took place in the episode "Princess vs. Princiess," and had Lickitung knock Jessie from Team Rocket down with its tongue. She of course lands in just the right (by which we mean "wrong") spot, so that Jessie's position looks downright scandalous. It certainly could be a coincidence, but let's be real, it seems unlikely.
11 CARE BEAR OVERSHARE
There is a certain type of cartoon design element that you will experience a few times on this list, which is namely the fact that a good chunk of animal-based cartoon characters don't wear pants. That's just how it goes with their designs, for whatever reason. Maybe it has something to do with infantilizing them, or somehow making them more innocent -- we're not sure -- but it's just how they "dress."
With that in mind, here we have a Care Bear with a towel around its back, exposing its front. This, of course, would be the case of exposing oneself if the Care Bear were a human. However, it being an innocent cartoon show, it is simply a matter of a Care Bear drying themselves off. Just remember, if you walk around without any clothes on, it doesn't count as exposure if you wrap a towel around your body and then remove it.
10 DOWNSTAIRS PLUMBING
The genius of animation is that it plays upon optical illusions in our brains. We are seeing a series of still images, but if you produce them quickly together in a row, our brain will combine them into one moving image. Similarly, it will add depth where none technically exists. These are all simply two-dimensional flat drawings that we are seeing, remember.
Therefore, when you remove the depth perception element of a drawing, like in this still from the Super Mario Bros. cartoon series, it can look like the man-eating plant that is trying to attack Mario is actually right around his groin area. In actuality, it is well past his body and his crotch area was never in any danger... well, at least no more so than every other part of his body when a man-eating plant attacks.
9 THE PEN IS MIGHTIER
In most of these cases, the cartoons at the heart of the out-of-context moment were never intended to be untoward at all. However, in the case of Squidward Tentacles from Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob's neighbor and co-worker, that guy is supposed to be super creepy. His whole deal is that he absolutely detests Spongebob but Spongebob thinks that they are best buds. Squidward is anti-social, he's mean, he's manipulative, he's just not a good guy, period.
Thus, when something happens "out of context" in Spongebob Squarepants, it is a lot more likely that it probably wasn't an accident, like in "Squidville," when Squidward began to use his reef blower to prank people. At one point, he's sitting with the reef blower and it looks like he is using it to pump up a certain area of his body.
8 PUMBAA, NOT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS
Very often, what sells an out of context sequence is the reaction of the characters involved. In other words, two characters can be put into a position that would at least nominally be able to be construed as looking like some sort of sexual position, but if neither character is reacting to the situation, then it doesn't really work as a funny out of context sequence.
Luckily, Timon, the meerkat who is best friends with the warthog, Pumbaa, has such an expressive face that when he and Pumbaa are investigating something between some leaves. With Pumbaa behind him, it takes on a whole other meaning (by the way, "Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!" is an actual line from their hit song, "Hakuna Matata").
7 IF IT LASTS MORE THAN FOUR HOURS, CALL A DOCTOR
For whatever reason, Donald Duck seems to keep on running into situations where it looks like he is very happy to see us, even in those instances where he looks quite angry at us at the same time! The origin of this disturbing image is that it comes from the 1942 Disney short film, Saludos Amigos, which consists of a series of short stories featuring different Disney characters, all set in Latin America. This is the film that featured the debut of José Carioca, the famous Brazilian cartoon parrot character.
In any event, one of the stories was called "Aquarela do Brasil" (it is the one that has Jose Carioca in it) and Donald accidentally swallows a bee. The bee then flies around inside of his stomach and tries to burst out. It is that attempt to burst out of his stomach that created the strange bulge in the above picture.
6 WHAT ELSE IS PART OF HER WORLD?
An amusing side effect of the advancement made in animation in the classic Disney films of the late 1980s/1990s (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) is that the increased level of attention to facial expressions has also meant that there is a greater chance that you are going to catch an odd expression if you use a screen grab.
For instance, this is really nothing any more complicated than Ariel waking up in bed and yawning. However, because of how much more detailed the animation style had become, the screen grab looks decidedly more salacious, and quickly became a viral meme online. We're not here to cast aspersions as to the character of Ariel either way, but it is pretty hilarious that something so innocuous could be taken out of context by such a big part of the internet.
One way that a screen grab can easily distort the reality of a scene is by choosing a specific angle so that it blocks out something that would provide much needed context for the scene in question. As always, it's a question of perspective. A perfect example of this approach is in this hilarious screen grab of Superman seemingly "relieving himself" in the general direction of the villainous Live Wire, presumably in order to to subdue her.
Of course, what the screen grab is hiding is that obviously Superman has just opened up a fire hydrant (or perhaps a water hose) and that is where the water is coming from, not his own body. With the water source blocked from our view, however, you get a hilarious screen grab instead, one that makes you wonder what other powers Superman is hiding from us!
4 SPONGEBOB, NO!
As noted earlier, when you have a cartoon that intentionally tries to sneak "dirty" jokes into it, you are almost inherently going to run into some bizarre out of context sequences. That is definitely the case with Spongebob Squarepants, which always excelled at hiding slightly unsavory jokes in with the rest of the otherwise very kid-friendly TV series.
For instance, while this out-of-context sequence makes it look like Spongebob is smoking some sort of drug (stay off of the crack, Spongebob!), even in context what is happening is that Spongebob is blowing up a bunch of condoms (ostensibly just balloons, but come on, they're clearly drawn like condoms) to make a balloon-animal sculpture of his good friend Squidward (who, we all know, actually hates Spongebob).
3 A LAND BEFORE SLASH FIC
The best sources of unintentionally hilarious cartoon screen grabs, by far, are instances where two characters are wrestling on the ground. It is just far too easy to freeze a frame with characters rolling around on the ground and make it look like they're doing a different physical activity other than wrestling.
That is the case with this screen shot from The Land Before Time, where good buddies Littlefoot and Spike are just wrestling and having fun. However, if you freeze it right in the middle of the wrestling, then it looks like the two dinosaurs are having a whole different type of fun. Of course, even out of context, they're dinosaurs, so it really doesn't work, but hey, people's minds take them to weird places.
2 TO INFINITY AND... BEYOND?!
As noted earlier, the level of detail in animation has made great leaps over the years. This was especially true when Pixar got into the game, as they really drove innovation in terms of how detailed the expressions can be on characters' faces. That, of course, simply means that there are more expressions to get freeze frames of... and then make fun of them!
For instance, behold this freeze frame of Buzz Lightyear and Jessie the cowgirl from Toy Story. The old trick of cutting off the image so we don't see Buzz's hands, mixed with Jessie's interesting facial expression leads this to look like something quite dirtier than it was intended (of course, Jessie and Buzz actually do get romantically involved with each other in Toy Story 3, but that's neither here nor there).
1 D.W., DON'T LOOK!
If characters rolling around on the ground are the number one source of "offensive" cartoon screen grabs, the second most common type of incident that leads to screen grabs is when one character is coming up from behind another one. Again, this is so common that we have tried to limit ourselves in how many we use. However, this particular meme has the added benefit of seeing D.W. freak out while Arthur comes up from behind Buster.
Of course, Arthur is just helping Buster move the television and D.W. is just being her typical over-dramatic self, but her expression really sells the screen grab. Arthur has been on for so long and D.W. is such an expressive character that it is a very popular source of screen grabs.
What's the weirdest thing you've seen when you've paused a cartoon? Let us know in the comments section!