Pursuit hampered by object in center; what's this called?
August 27, 2013 9:58 PM   Subscribe

You know the scene, from many an old comedy or cartoon. A is chasing B. B runs around the edge of an object, such as a large table, so as to put the obstacle between himself and A. Perhaps A and B run around the table a few times. Then A starts to get tricky. A starts to go clockwise around the table, B goes clockwise to get away, A switches direction hoping to run into B coming the other way, but B also reverses, keeping the table between them. Feint back and forth a few times, usually keeping close to the edge of the table. The usual end gag is for A to somehow overcome the barrier of the table and short-cut directly to B; such as leaping over the table, throwing the table aside, or opening the table in half and walking through it (if it's one of those tables where you can add panels to the center). What is this 'circular back and forth chase around an obstacle' called?

I'm pretty sure I've seen this done often enough (it seems to be particularly common with the "male chases unwilling female" setup, but I'm pretty sure I've seen it done with cat-and-mouse and possibly something martial arts-ish) that it seems like it must have a name or a term for it, "Ok, let's have Tom and Jerry do a little table-chase right here, then on to the flypaper scene!".

You can also do this yourself, with, say, a dog or a small child, and a house with a hallway that forms a square. I grew up in such a house and skidded up may a hall rug in the process. But though the back-and-forth to avoid the pursuer, trying to keep the maximum distance between while still limited by the confines of the area, is surely harder to show in film and so it is simplified to its purest form by having the intervening obstacle area be reduced to something like a table or a shrub or something small enough to fit in one shot.

Bonus points if someone can link to an example of this routine; I couldn't find one, but I know I didn't imagine it!!
posted by The otter lady to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No idea what you'd call it, but there's an early example from Metropolis at 11:09.
posted by Wulfhere at 10:06 PM on August 27, 2013

I don't know about the film/TV trope, but in World of Warcraft, I'm afraid this is called pole-humping, which you can see demonstrated in almost any arena video because using obstacles like that is an essential tactical move.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:18 PM on August 27, 2013

My animation teachers referred to this as the classic Tom & Jerry routine. I think it's sort of a standard gag in Warner Bros/Chuck Jones cartoons.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:25 PM on August 27, 2013

"Cat and mouse" is actually a thing like this.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:21 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I always thought that was called a "chasearound" or "playing chasearound". In the cartoon I would call it a "chasearound gag".
posted by tomboko at 5:54 AM on August 28, 2013

Not sure what to call it, but the Tinkertown Museum's strange automated town has a chicken running away from a chef (they move when you hold the button down). Image source.
posted by NoraReed at 5:58 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always called it "sidling," because the parties involved frequently move around the central obstacle sideways, always keeping the obstacle--and each other--in full view, and permitting reversals of direction at a moment's notice.
posted by valkyryn at 8:09 AM on August 28, 2013

That link is just to the Recent Activity page, laconic; I think you meant a different one?
posted by NoraReed at 5:45 PM on August 28, 2013

Indeed, I meant this one.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 6:45 PM on August 28, 2013

Wow, well I'm at least glad -- or maybe surprised, or maybe even chagrined, to see that the question has indeed come up before. The first link, with the fountain, is the closest to what I'm describing-- you'd think at least TV Tropes would have something for this. Ah well.
posted by The otter lady at 11:26 AM on August 29, 2013

You might ask on TVTropes in the Lost and Found.
posted by NoraReed at 5:23 PM on August 29, 2013

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