● The Old Frying Pan: It is undeniable that when you smack a cartoon coyote with a frying pan, his face will deform into the shape of the frying pan. Ditto on cartoon cats. No one denies this. Don’t try this in real life though.
This is perhaps the most critical item of cartoon physics because this, more than anything, removes the danger from the violence in the world of cartoons. If the best you can achieve is reshaping your opponent, then cartoon violence becomes funny rather than ominous; it would not be funny if you broke something. This is what lets cartoons be packed to the brim with violence and yet child friendly... because there are no serious consequences to the violence.
● Don’t Look Down: Unlike the rest of us, cartoon characters can walk off the edge of a cliff without falling. They don’t fall until they look down and realize that they should be falling. In effect, the rules of physics apply only when a character knows they should apply.
● The Complex Nature of Guns: For you and me, guns are simplicity itself. You load a bullet, cock the gun and pull the trigger. Whatever you hit dies. Not so in the cartoon world. First, if you try to fire a gun at a good guy, the gun won’t work. And when you look down the barrel to see why it didn’t fire, it will go off. Fortunately, however, you won’t be killed. You will instead have your hair blown back and you will find yourself covered in black powder. The same applies with cannons and bows and arrows. In effect, the laws of physics operate selectively in the cartoon world and apply only to aid the good guys.
● Flattening Defeat: Cartoon characters cannot be crushed. They can be flattened... and reinflated. They can be driven into the ground like a stake too. And you can start them on concussion protocols by dropping an anvil on their heads. But you can't kill them or break them. Not only does this maintain the unreality of cartoons, but it also prevents the good guys from being responsible for any sort of gruesome injury.
These things and others are vital to good cartooning because they create the unreality that cartoons need to be interesting and charming. In the cartoon world, the cause and effect that matters is not the actions you take, but the motivation for taking them. If you are evil, the laws of physics will punish you. If you are good, they will protect you. Yet, at the same time, they also afford the bad guys a strong bit of protection as well. The idea is to make sure that the audience gets right and wrong in the most outrageously wild ways without any permanent injury being done. If the coyote ended up with a broken face if you smacked him or died when you dropped an anvil on him, cartoons simply wouldn't work. They would lose their charm and their unique ability to teach right and wrong. In effect, they would be nothing more than animated real-life films with unreal characters, and that’s not really all that interesting.