Hammerspace

clown car

magic satchel

Hammerspace (also known as malletspace) is a fan-envisioned extradimensional, instantly accessible storage area in fiction, which is used to explain how animated, comic and game characters can produce objects out of thin air. Inexplicable production of items dates back to the very beginning of animated shorts and was a fairly common occurrence during the golden age of animation. Warner Bros. cartoon characters are particularly well-known for often pulling all sorts of things — guns, disguises, bombs, anvils, mallets— from behind their backs or just offscreen. However, the explanation for this phenomenon was mostly just left to suspension of disbelief.

The term ‘Hammerspace’ itself originates from a gag common in certain anime and manga. A typical example would be when a male character would anger or otherwise offend a female character, who would proceed to produce, out of thin air, an oversized wooden rice mallet (saizuchi) and hit him on the head with it in an exaggerated manner. The strike would be purely for comic effect, and would not have any long-lasting effects. The term was largely popularized first by fans of ‘Urusei Yatsura’ (a comedic manga, popular in the 1980s).

The theory of Hammerspace can also be applied to many video games, as game mechanics often defy those of the real world: for instance, a character might be able to carry a sword larger than himself without any sign of it before use, and inventory capabilities are commonly implausible. This is particularly visible in traditional adventure games and RPGs. Early first person shooters tend to have the player character carry an entire arsenal of weapons (with full ammunition) without any visible drawback such as loss of pace or fatigue. Many humorous adventures make gags on space in items inventory. In the ‘Space Quest’ series, its protagonist Roger Wilco crams a full-sized ladder into his pocket. In ‘The Secret of Monkey Island,’ as a recurring gag, Guybrush Threepwood usually barely fit an oversized item in his clothes, including a huge idol’s head statue and even a monkey (which is shown moving underneath his coat).

Although there are numerous examples from the genre hammerspace usage is not just limited to adventure games. In The ‘Sims 2’ the sims make extensive use of hammerspace, regularly pulling items out of their back pockets which could not possibly fit there. Examples include rakes, hairdryers, watering cans and bags of flour. In addition they have seemingly limitless personal inventories in which they can carry round almost anything, from a mobile phone to a sports car without actually having anywhere to store it. These items are also occasionally pulled from the back pocket when used in game (as in the case of mobile phones). Although the game is supposed to mimic reality in many ways it retains cartoon like elements and hammerspace was probably implemented to prevent sims having to trek to a storage shed/closet/drawer etc every time they wanted to use a certain item, something which would no doubt have been both boring for the player and impractical in terms of gameplay.

The term ‘Hammerspace’ is often used synonymously with ‘magic satchel’; however, Hammerspace is an actual extra dimension where items are stored, whereas a magic satchel uses magic to either contain these items or to access Hammerspace itself. A similar to the way The Doctor (from ‘Doctor Who’) uses sufficiently advanced technology in his space-time machine the TARDIS to achieve the same results. More often than not, non-animated occurrences in film or television are explained as a plot hole rather than Hammerspace access, and dismissed due to suspension of disbelief. Examples include the live-action ‘Highlander’ TV series, where the sword-wielding Immortals often have their weapons readily available despite their lack of a suitable container or article of clothing in which to carry a concealed sword.

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