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Bait-and-Switch Silhouette

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"You were talking to a rock."
A Visual Gag where a silhouette, outline, or shadow looks like something important, but upon closer inspection, it is something completely unrelated.

The reveal usually comes in one of two ways: Either a light is shined on the silhouette to show it in more detail, and/or the actual object is shown nearby.

Compare with Scary Shadow Fakeout, which shows a character mistaking the vague silhouette of something ordinary for a threat. This is a Comedy Trope where the silhouette is extremely specific to the point where it seems like there's nothing else it could possibly be, only to reveal an improbable arrangement of objects that replicates its outline exactly.

Subtrope of Bait-and-Switch.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first season of the Pokémon anime has an episode where the characters take a quiz identifying Pokémon based on their silhouettes. One silhouette is a perfect circle. Most assume that it's a Voltorb or an Electrode, two spherical Pokémon, but it is actually "Jigglypuff, as seen from above."

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: From "Extended Mining Operations":
    A bright light shone right into his eyes, forcing him to squint at the grossly obese visitor who was wearing a yellow helmet with a lamp in its centre. No, wait, it was actually just an imp standing behind a large metal pot.

    Films — Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts: In The Autograph Hound, Donald gawks at the silhouettes of three beautiful women belly dancing in a tent; however, as the trio dances towards an area where the tent cloth is shorter, they show, at first, that they're wearing large male shoes, and also, red, goofy-looking girdles while their bodies are no longer graceful or feminine; finally, the mystery trio leaves the tent, revealing they are the Ritz Brothers. Donald is not at all disappointed... until they start making fun of him.
  • Frozen: Olaf's Frozen Adventure begins with Olaf coming out of hiding places to yell "Surprise!" One scene shows a pile of presents, with one looking a lot like Olaf. But when a servant approaches it, Olaf instead comes up from behind him to surprise him.
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • In Mr. Ping's first scene, Po comes downstairs with a shadow resembling a panda on the floor in front of him. The camera then shows that the shadow is from Mr. Ping holding a bunch of pots and bags in front of himself, which he puts aside to reveal to the audience that Po's father is actually a goose.
    • After the final battle, Po walks toward the crowd surrounded by a dust cloud so that his silhouette matches the legendary warrior from his opening dream, complete with a rounded hat and a cape billowing in the wind. After the dust clears, it turns out he has a wok as his "hat" and an apron as his "cape".
  • The Simpsons: The short Maggie Simpson in "Playdate with Destiny" references the Simpson's new corporate overlords by opening with a silhouette that resembles Mickey Mouse before the lights come up to reveal that it's Homer with a couple donuts over his head.
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the shadow of a cloaked figure comes up behind Miles in the cemetery, and part of The Prowler's theme music plays. It turns out to be Peter B. Parker wearing a trenchcoat.
  • In Up, we see the shape of a man in the fog, and hear a male voice. It turns out, however, that the voice is Dug the talking dog, and the "man" was just a man-shaped rock.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, what at first appears to be Jessica Rabbit turns out to be a similarly dressed Lena Hyena.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Happy Birthday, Pumpkin and Beanpole, a children's book, the eponymous two witches invoke this as a prank on each other's birthdays by casting spells so the wrapped gifts resemble things they aren't. For instance, one present appeared to be a teddy bear but it was actually a hot water bottle and two pairs of bed socks.

    Video Games 
  • Early on in The Dig, Boston Low swims through a tunnel. The swim is shown from his point of view and at one point, he sees what appears to be a man's shadow. Then he rounds the corner and sees that the shadow was of a pair of rocks that happened to form a man's silhouette.
  • Fatal Fury: Andy Bogard's ending from Real Bout 2 seems to show both him and Mai Shiranui getting intimate, with the camera showing a silhouette of Mai lying down and Andy bracing above her. A second view from the other side simply shows the two are lying down on separate mats parallel to each other, Mai on her back reading a book while Andy is doing push-ups.
  • LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham ends with a silhouetted group shot framed to suggest that despite being a DC Comics game, several Marvel Comics characters like Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk are appearing. Then the lights flip on and it's revealed that no, it's all DC characters (Nightwing and Swamp Thing being the ones standing in for the two mentioned).
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: The reveal trailer for King K. Rool has a silhouette of a large, rotund crocodile appear outside of Donkey Kong's house, only for it to be the similarly large King Dedede wearing a costume and playing a prank on the Kongs... until the real K. Rool appears and smacks him out of the way, apparently none too amused with the joke. The gag was reused for the fighters of Challenger Pack #3, with the mammal-and-avian team Duck Hunt Duo pretending to be the mammal-and-avian team Banjo and Kazooie.
  • A variation of this appears in Undertale where the player character has to hide behind a lamp that is the exact shape of the character's sprite. Lampshaded (no pun intended) by Sans, who says, "quick, behind that conveniently shaped lamp!"

    Web Animation 
  • Spooky Month:
    • In "It's spooky month", Skid is introduced sitting in a dark room lit only by a computer screen, slowly swivels his chair to face the viewer with an eerie smile and stare, only for the lights to instantly turn on and he loudly starts goofing off.
    • In "The Stars", Skid confronts two burglars in his home. In the darkness, he looks like an incredibly creepy and realistic looking skeleton, scaring the beejezus out of the crooks, but cheerily greets them when they shine a light on him and he returns to normal.

    Web Videos 
  • In Defunctland's Club Disney episode, Kevin discusses the restaurant play places that influenced Club Disney's creation, eventually covering Discovery Zone's ill-fated history. Several of its play places were acquired by a rival company, which Kevin represents with a silhouette of Mickey Mouse. At first, it seems Disney made the purchase, as many viewers would have expected by this point. But then, the silhouette changes to depict another mascot, representing the company that actually made the purchase: a powerful rat named Charles Entertainment Cheese. This moment plays with the trope because the silhouette is unmistakably Mickey's, while the revealed Charles uses a completely different image.
  • A variant occurring in a few Scott The Woz episodes such as "Wii Channels" and "Borderline Forever". Scott would show the silhouette of a console, only to reveal a completely different console's picture, poorly shopped and fitted onto the silhouette. An example from "Wii Channels":
    [silhouette of Wii appears]
    Scott: [...] The system with a menu setup and pre-installed software I remember the most fondly, will always be... the Nintendo Switch.
    [a picture of a Nintendo Switch suddenly appears, oriented sideways to fit into the Wii's silhouette]

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In the opening segment of "Joker: The Vile and the Villainous!", a silhouette emerging from a portal originally appears to be Batman, but turns out to be The Joker.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In the episode "If It Smells Like An Ed", the Eds see a silhouette in an old shed that seems to look like Rolf. When Eddy starts yelling at "Rolf" for apparently framing them, "Rolf" breaks apart into three separate figures, revealing it to have actually been the Kanker Sisters standing in-front of each other.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: in Castle Mane-Ia, Fluttershy is looking for Angel when she sees a silhouette of what seems a (huge)rabbit, but it is actually a pile of rocks with two leaves. A panicked Applejack knocks down a column on the rocks, making Fluttershy think her precious little rabbit was crushed.
  • In a Make Way for Noddy episode, Noddy sees what appears to be the shadow of a rabbit, but it's actually the shadow of Bumpy Dog with his ears sticking up.
  • Subverted in The Owl House episode "Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door". Luz briefly mistakes the shadow of a lamp in the basement for Amity's hair, and she remembers how stupid it would be for even Amity to be in their basement...only for it to turn out that Amity is actually trapped in the owl pellet in front of the lamp.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "Flop Starz", one gag involves Candace telling Linda that her brothers Phineas and Ferb were about to perform on-stage at the auditions for a television talent show. The silhouettes on stage end being the One-Shot Character "Marty the Rabbit Boy and his Musical Blender", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Cue Candace contemplating that she should have taken "blender lessons." This later becomes a Running Gag, where Marty and his blender show up in the unlikeliest of places.
    • Played with in "Summer Belongs to You!" Phineas and Ferb's Sun-Beater 3000 is hidden beneath a tarp that is somehow shaped like the Statue of Liberty, which Phineas doesn't even notice until Isabella points it out. The boys later reveal a scale model of the solar system behind a tarp that's shaped like The Thinker statue.
    • In the Show Within a Show That's The Norm! from the episode "Ferb TV", Suzy continually hides her giant robot friend Norm from her older brother Jeremy. In the third segment, Suzy claims to be running a lemonade stand, and is sitting at a "lumpy table" that is obviously Norm with a tablecloth draped over him. However, once Jeremy leaves, Norm walks into frame, revealing that it really was just a lumpy table.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Love Spanked", Rocko ends up on The Love Seat dating show where the audience participants end up choosing which female Rocko is going to go out with. A dead corpse chooses Number 3 (by simply falling on the buzzer), who has the silhouette of a sexy human woman, complete with her slender arms on her Hartman Hips. Rocko gets very aroused at the silhouette as the host describes her, but then the host concludes with "...your date, HEFFER!" To which "her" window lights up and the silhouette changes into Heffer Wolfe's head from the neck up. Among seeing this, the hearts in Rocko's eyes turn into flames, and he deflates like a balloon in shock.
  • In The Simpsons...
    Hobo: Hey kid, you wanna see a dead body?
    [Bart screams and runs away]
  • South Park: The episode "A Song of Ass and Fire" begins with a female narration, then cuts to a silhouette of a beautiful tall woman... which turns out to be Princess Kenny standing on a rock.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Squid's Day Off", Squidward becomes paranoid that SpongeBob is spying on him while he takes his "day off". When he tries to take a bath, he sees a silhouette of what looks like SpongeBob wearing two Krusty Krew hats behind the curtain, but it turns out to be his toilet with a spray can and toilet-paper roll on top of it.
    • In "Graveyard Shift", a dark figure enters the Krusty Krab who bears a strong resemblance to the Hash-Slinging Slasher, the character from the horror story Squidward had told SpongeBob. SpongeBob and Squidward are scared, but when the figure moves into the light, he is revealed to be a young kid looking for a job at the restaurant.
  • Total Drama: In "Newf Kids on the Rock", Courtney and Gwen spot a silhouette on a rock outcrop near shore that resembles Duncan. They climb up the outcrop ready to berate Duncan for leaving the show, but once near they realize it's only a peculiarly shaped rock.


Video Example(s):


Arlo the Alligator Boy

Um, Arlo? That's not your dad. But hey, at least he got to cheer you up.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / BaitAndSwitchSilhouette

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