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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, 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 replicate its outline exactly.

Sub-Trope 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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 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 
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb: The Running Gag where we see a silhouette of Phineas and Ferb, only to reveal that it's "Marty the Rabbit Boy and his Musical Blender".
  • 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.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lemon of Troy", Bart is looking for the Springfield Lemon Tree. He is about to give up, until he spots a "lemon-shaped rock" in the grass. The audience assumes that this is actually a lemon, but then he says, "Wait a minute...There's a lemon behind this rock!" The camera pans to a lemon nearby, revealing that the lemon-shaped rock really was just a rock.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Total Drama World Tour: In "New Kids On The Rock", Courtney and Gwen see a silhouette on a mountain that resembles Duncan, but turns out to be a rock that is coincidentally shaped like him.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Rocko's "Love Seat" date

But where did her arms go when the silhouette lit up?

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BaitAndSwitchSilhouette

Media sources:

Main / BaitAndSwitchSilhouette