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This happens when someone with poor or minimalistic drawing skill has drawn something and another person misidentifies it. It does not necessarily mean the drawing sucks though, often the drawing is so simple that anyone could have mistaken it.

This isn't tied to drawings. Clay arts, handcrafted gifts, needlework or any handicrafts can also be classified into this trope.

Compare Terrible Artist.

Examples of Playing Pictionary include:

Anime & Manga

  • Rukia in Bleach is known for loving to draw Chappy the Bunny, being absolutely horrible at drawing, and using her bad drawings to explain concepts with different people being different colors of bunny. Most of the other characters are never really sure what her drawings are supposed to be.
  • In Kyou Kara Maou, nobody ever figures out what Gwendal's knitted animals are supposed to be.
  • In Azumanga Daioh, not even Sakaki can identify what species her knitted dolls are.

 Sakaki: "That one's a dog, and that's a cat... Or is it the other way around?"

  • The Strawhats' second ship in One Piece looked like a lion, made by Franky. But everyone else thought it looked like a sun or a sunflower. Franky even intended to name the ship Lion Gang Champion though in the end everyone else went with the Thousand Sunny instead.
  • In an episode of Ranma One Half, Akane bakes some cookies for Ranma in a variety of animal shapes, but they came out so poorly Ranma can't manage to correctly identify a single one of them, with Akane getting increasingly incensed every time she corrects him.

Comic Books

  • The "What a horrible ugly monster! It's a picture of mommy..." variant is used in Le Chat, a Belgian comic.

Film

  • Subverted in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in which Scott draws a blank circle with scribbles at the top, and it's immediately recognized as a picture of Ramona.

Literature

  • In The Little Prince, the narrator explains how he once drew a picture of a snake that had swallowed an elephant, and all the adults told him it was a very nice hat.
  • In The Baby Sitters Club, it is suggested that one say something along the lines of "What a nice picture! Can you tell me about it?" when confronted with a child's drawing, because "you don't want to say 'what a lovely elephant!' and have it turn out to be a picture of their grandmother."
  • In Just So Stories "How The First Letter Was Written", written language was invented to avoid this sort of confusion, after a picture intended to convey "Daddy has broken his spear, he needs his spare one, and this man who doesn't speak our language will bring it back" was interpreted as meaning "Daddy is being attacked from all sides by men with spears".
  • In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Camera Obscura, everyone who sees the Doctor's attempted map of a London neighborhood wonders about the round shapes he's drawn. Fitz tries to guess what they might be ("trees", "gardens", or "duck ponds") until Anji gets annoyed and sarcastically suggests they're "gigantic pools of jam". Oddly, Fitz and Sabbath both describe them as "puffy". It's never explained what they were actually meant to be.
  • In Nation, Daphne/Ermintrude sends Mau an invitation to join her for dinner. She writes it out, then, in case he can't read, draws a picture of a stick figure with an arrow pointing towards the boat. Mau interprets it as meaning that, when the sun is at a certain angle in the sky, he's supposed to throw a spear at the boat.

Newspaper Comics

  • A For Better or For Worse comic has a young Elizabeth showing her father a painting after a day of preschool. Her dad starts to comment on what a nice face it is, until Elizabeth interrupts to tell him that it's just a pizza.

Live Action TV

  • Played with in Stargate SG-1. Daniel and Sam are presented with a thermal image of the symbiote inside of Teal'c, and they play dumb:

 Daniel: Oh, that's very good! Did you draw that yourself?

Sam: What is it?

Daniel: That... That's a duck, isn't it?

  • From Criminal Minds. Morgan looks at a picture drawn by an autistic kid and can't figure out what it is. Hotch makes a glance, says "It's obviously a dog" and keeps on with what he's doing, leaving Morgan absolutely befuddled.
  • The game show Win Lose or Draw revolves around avoiding having your teammates misinterpret your drawings.
  • Pictionary is played in Community episode Basic Genealogy and the game devolves into a fist fight when an attempt to draw a windmill looks more like a swastika.
  • In one episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned tries to paint abstract art and the entire school thinks it's a naked lady. At the end of the episode, he tries again and people see it as a fire truck.
  • In one episode of Engine Sentai Go-onger, the heroes are stumped, trying to think of a way to defeat the Monster of the Week. When it's Gunpei's turn to offer an idea, he starts his explanation with a drawing of... something.

 Sosuke: What's that?

Saki: A koinobori? [1]

Hant: Nope, it's a log.

Renn: I'm sure it's UMA.[2] [gets stared at] UMA is...

Gunpei: (exasperated) It's a PENGUIN!

The others: No way! This is a penguin?

  • One episode of The Bill Engvall Show has Paul with a sculpture of himself, only for it to be mistaken for one of Don Cheadle.
  • The Friends good-naturedly mock Monica for the horrifying "Pictionary Incident," wherein she threw a plate in a moment of frustration at one of her buddies' poor drawing. She insists she was just gesticulating forcefully and the plate slipped out of her hand.

Webcomics

  • The Chapel Chronicles, in a reversal of the usual trope, Chapel draws an photo-realistic Mona Lisa, but her opponent Fred can't identify it.
  • In Homestuck, Jade Harley owns a Pictionary Modus. It misidentifies an advanced bass for a mecha, the Tangle Buddies for a pair of gloves with some coins and the Magic Cue Ball for the Magic 8 Ball.

Web Original

  • A skit from The Whitest Kids U' Know has a child showing a picture he drew to his parents. While it appears to be something rather inappropriate (read: penis), he explains to his parents after they fail to recognize that it is actually an elephant. Subverted moments later, when the child shows them a drawing that looks exactly what it meant to be.

Western Animation

 Peter: Stewie, uh, how long you been all messed up and evil like this?

Stewie: Oh, so now you're interested in Stewie. Last week when I made that macaroni picture of an owl, you didn't give a damn!

Peter: That was an owl?

    • Another episode features a flashback gag where Stewie is actually playing pictionary with a complete stranger. The stranger keeps asking "Is it a jackal? Jackal! It's a jackal!" no matter how many non-jackal details Stewie adds.

 Stewie: If it wasn't right the first time, why the hell would it be right the next ten times?!

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this happens to Sokka several times.
  • The Simpsons
    • In "A Milhouse Divided," the Simpsons host a dinner party with a game of Pictionary. Maude Flanders guesses "cornstarch" from three dots drawn by Ned, while Kirk Van Houten is unable to draw "dignity," though Luanne is. Homer thinks that Kirk is also unable to draw "a door".
    • In "You Kent Always Say What You Want", Maggie and Marge play some amazing rounds of Pictionary against Selma and Patty, but despite Maggie's drawings being incomprehensible, Marge always knows what they are.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Julien and Marlene are missing and Kowalski shows a picture he drew of them to Fred the squirrel.

 Fred: Which one's the otter?

Kowalski: This one, obviously. Note the whiskers?

Fred: Oh, I thought that was a cat.

Kowalski: Did I ask "have you seen this lemur and cat?"

Fred: No, that's why I thought it was odd that you drew a cat.

Kowalski: It's not a cat.

Fred: Then why does it have whiskers?

Kowalski: You know what? Forget the otter.

Fred: Cat.

Kowalski: Whatever!

Notes

  1. Streamers that look like carps, usually seen in Japanese summer.
  2. Short for "unidentified mysterious animal".
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