The term "cartoon physics" is used to describe the bending of the basic laws of physics which occurs in most animated cartoons. Animation allows creators a great deal of leeway to play with the laws of physics, and to generate scenes which could not happen in real life. Cartoons also have a set of laws of their own which remain quite consistent across multiple studios, however, suggesting that there are in fact specific laws of cartoon physics which are almost universally obeyed by animators.
In perhaps the most classic example of cartoon physics, a cartoon character runs or drives over a cliff, and continues to proceed in a straight line in midair until he or she looks down. Upon realizing that she or he is suspended over empty space, the rules of gravity promptly take over, and the character plummets to the ground. This particular phenomenon is used to great comedic effect in numerous cartoon series. Likewise, all objects fall faster than anvils under the laws of cartoon physics, and priceless objects will always hit the ground before their rescuers, regardless of density or size.
Cartoon physics governs things like the speed at which characters move, the ability to be in multiple places at once, and the tendency for characters to leave holes shaped like their bodies when they pass through solid matter. Cartoon physics also makes it difficult for cartoon characters to die, and in fact several series are built around the concept of having one character repeatedly try to kill another, without success. Horrific explosions only create brief puffs of smoke and momentarily blackened characters, and dynamite always appears to be in plentiful supply.
Many individual characters are able to bend or move in ways which are not physically possible, and of course many cartoon animals defy the laws of physiology and speak. Those who don't speak can pull signs out of thin air or command planes to skywrite messages. Cartoon characters also routinely defy gravity in other ways; for example, many are capable of jumping straight up into the air when poked in the rump.
The suspension of disbelief and the normal rules of nature has been a part of animated cartoons almost since their inception. What is more intriguing to observe is the fact that an entire set of laws of cartoon physics appears to have arisen spontaneously, with many animators adhering to these unspoken laws when they work on projects. Apparently, defying the laws of physics in specific and predictable ways can be quite amusing for viewers and animators alike.