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Depth Deception

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Because parking garages aren't baffling enough already.

"See, the apple's not giant. It's just in the foreground."
Marzipan, Strong Bad Email 166, "unnatural"

Depth Deception is what happens when depth perception goes wrong.

Sometimes, often due to uncommon conditions such as viewing through a telescope, camera or other similar optical device, people can get confused and mistake something small and close (such as an insect) for something far and huge (such as an Attacking 50 Foot Whatever ). Or vice versa. For reasons closely related to the Rule of Funny, this happens more often in fiction than in Real Life, though Truth in Television cases are not unheard of.

Subtropes include Big Little Man, where a character is introduced as being much bigger or smaller than they really are, and Profile View Gag, where an object appears shorter or longer when viewed from the side.

Compare That's No Moon, where a large object is mistaken for an equally large but more mundane object. See also Perspective Magic, where this can be used to manipulate reality.

When it's used intentionally as a camera technique — one of the oldest special effects on record — it's called Forced Perspective.

Not to be confused with Depth Perplexion, which is about illogical displays in video game graphics.


    open/close all folders 

  • Tricks such as the one in the page image are used extensively to paint two-dimensional advertising logos onto horizontal planes such as cricket pitches, football grounds, baseball fields, etc. When viewed from the most-commonly used camera, the logos appear as they would if printed on a vertical billboard. When viewed from one of the other cameras, however, they look very weird indeed.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Las Noches from Bleach. Located in a vast desert with almost nothing to give a sense of scale, Ichigo and company thought it was close enough to run to... and after they were forced to stop to catch their breath, it still looked as far away as ever. When they finally arrived, it would have taken them three days to walk around to the nearest entrance. You can't really blame them for making their own in that case.
  • Played with in Cahe Detective Club. Ayane is given a cup of coffee which is drawn from an angle which makes it look huge, but doesn't look odd to the characters. It actually was a giant cup used for display, requested by Machi as a prank. And Ayane complained about almost drowning in coffee after drinking the entire thing.
  • GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class mentions this concept in one episode, using the more proper term "trompe l'oeil".
  • The Gundam SEED Character Theater does this with Torii, Kira's robot bird, which here is about the size of a small car (as Shinn, Rey, and Luna learn the hard way).
  • In one episode of Lupin III: The Italian Adventure, Lupin draws a distorted portrait of himself on the floor of his jail cell that looks like a normal sleeping figure when viewed from a slit in the door. Naturally, it's part of an escape plan.
  • In chapter 24 of Monster Musume, the harem believes main character Kimihito is doomed to die because of a dullahan's predictions. The final threat is a truck shown in extreme closeup, including the standard "Corner of a vehicle speeds into the frame before a collision" shot. It's actually a remote-controlled toy that comes up to his knee, and the dullahan is just a young girl with an overactive imagination and a taste for melodrama.
  • It happened early in One Piece, when the crew sailed in a sea populated with huge creatures. They saw a dolphin coming after their ship... but it was huge, and looked normal just because it was at a great distance from them.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series: In the episode "Island of the Giant Pokémon", what Team Rocket thought was Ash's Pikachu wandering towards them turned out to be a gigantic robotic Pikachu that was approaching from farther away. "It's Big-achu!"

  • An auditory version is referenced by Tim Vine in one of his more surreal moments.
    Tim Vine: I thought to myself, "Is that dog getting closer, or is he just barking more loudly?"
    It turned out to be both, so he arrived before I expected.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Tintin book The Shooting Star, when Tintin looks into the telescope first he sees what appears to be a Giant Spider rather than the huge blazing meteorite which was partly obscured by a spider crawling across the telescope lens.
  • Blunt Trauma is attacking Empowered! No, it was just his action figure Ninjette threw into the air to train Emp.
  • From the Italian comic Sturmtruppen, as the sergeant is training the desert troops:
    Sergeant: You'll have to learn how to estimate distances. You! How far is dat palm on the horizon?
    Recruit: I'd zay about a couple of meterz, Sergeant.
    Sergeant: Idiot! Appearences in the desert are deceiving! Now think: how far can be that tiny palm on the horizon?
    Recruit: [pulls out a meter and measures the distance to the palm, that turns out to be inches high and just on top of the nearest dune] Two meters and 15 centimeters, Sergeant!
  • Robin (1993): In an issue where Robin, Catwoman and the Psyba Rats are all investigating a house built by a rich practical joker, the Psyba Rats notice something odd about one hallway:
    Hacker: It's a forced perspective illusion!
    Razorsharp: Really? Because I thought we were actually getting larger.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In the Don Rosa story "Guardians of the Lost Library", Scrooge and the nephews set out to search for the Lost Library of Alexander. Cut to them standing in front of a magnificent view of the lost library.
    Scrooge: There it is! The Ancient Library of Alexandria in all its glory!
    [Next panel show them standing in a modern day library in front of picture]
    Scrooge: ...too bad it is just a mural.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a FoxTrot strip, Jason makes a snow sculpture that despite being about an adult person's size, when seen from the front looks like a towering snowman giant getting ready to stomp. Jason remarks that "Forced Perspective is an underrated art form."
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin used this to surprise his father once; by making the top half of a snowman's head and a few "fingers", he made it look like a giant snowman was peering over a hill at him.
    • Calvin's dad himself once used some Little Known Facts, "proving" to Calvin that the sun is actually about the size of a coin. After all, hold a coin up to the sun, and they're about the same size.
    • In one arc, Calvin and Hobbes use the time machine and accidentally end up in prehistory with dinosaurs. Though they barely escape with their lives, Calvin is pleased that they got some good pictures, which will surely rock the scientific world. When he shows his dad the pictures though, his dad assumes that he just took pictures of his dinosaur toys with the camera really close. Which he may or may not have.
  • In one Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown was impressed by the height that Lucy's kite had reached, until she revealed that it was actually a tiny kite.
  • Used in one of Joan Cornellà's surreal visual strips where a man in a brown sweater sees another man who we assume is in the foreground... until the guy in the sweater rips the other guy's eye out in a spray of blood. The perspective returns to normal while the one eyed man walks away with blood still spurting out.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The whale from Finding Nemo.
    Marlin: I'm a little fella... I don't think that's a little fella.
  • The Little Mermaid: Scuttle sees Ariel through a spyglass from the wrong end, and shouts to her as if she were far away, even though she is actually a few inches in front of him. When she moves the spyglass away, Scuttle exclaims, "Whoa, what a swim!"
  • A deliberately intentional and invoked example in A Bug's Life; Flik invents a telescope for Princess Atta for her to "oversee production". Then Flik demonstrates it by looking at Atta through the scope when she's standing about five feet in front of him.
    Flik: Hello, Princess! My, you're looking quite lovely this morning! Not that you'd need a telescope to see that.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • There is an Olsen Twins film where they parody this when they visit a little person house, at first when they see it and mention how little it looks, the guy with them says that the house is actually far away.
  • Citizen Kane used this subtly:
    • In one scene, a window turns out to both be much larger and much higher up than it initially appears, which means that when Kane approaches it, he suddenly appears a lot smaller and less significant. This, of course, is used for symbolic effect.
    • Also done with the fireplace in Xanadu, which is revealed to be large enough to burn whole trees when Kane goes back to it.
  • Used as a gag in Deadpool, where the title character is apparently just about to run over one of Ajax's injured henchmen with a Zamboni:
    [Camera angle switches, showing that the Zamboni is on the other side of the rink slowly catching up]
    Deadpool: ...IN FIVE MINUTES!
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones misjudges a heroic rope swing onto a moving jeep, missing it, before he says the line below. This, his being fooled by the optical illusion in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and his older self being depicted with an eye patch, have led to some fans believing one of his eyes is going bad.
    Indy: Damn! I thought that was closer...
  • Labyrinth did this with some pieces of scenery that turned out to actually be made up of multiple objects.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Rocket claims the Sovereign fleet was destroyed by a guy "about (this) big." Gamora says, "One-inch tall?" Rocket replies, "He may be bigger up close."
    • In Thor: Love and Thunder, as the heroes are reaching the Shadow Realm, they're heading toward a monochrome planet that appears normal-sized... until their ship suddenly hits it far sooner than expected, revealing it is a Baby Planet.
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Azeem the Moor shows Robin the approaching riders through his telescope. Unfamiliar with this technology, Robin starts swinging his sword at the suddenly-close enemies.
    Azeem: How did your uneducated kind ever take Jerusalem?
  • In This is Spın̈al Tap, after manager Ian Faith gets the Stonehenge monument for the band and discovers it's 18 inches high, not 18 feet high, due to Nigel Tufnel mixing the symbols for feet and inches on the napkin where he draws the design of the monument. When the band performs, and finally the monument appears, as Nigel narrates, the monument appears to remade as the right 18-foot monument and David St. Hubbins is supposedly in awe of it. However, it cuts to show it's actually 18-inch Stonehenge, having never been replaced even after Ian Faith told the designer it's the wrong size. And David was really shocked by how small it was. A little later, just as a confused Nigel sees the monument smaller than the dwarf dancers in the act of the song, he gives a "What the hell" look at Ian and Jeanine, and David fumes at the debacle.
  • Used as a gag in the movie Top Secret!. A ringing phone seems to be really close to the camera, until a man picks up the three-foot receiver. The scene evokes classic Hitchcock, who was a fan of this trope but for less comedic reasons.
  • The hallway that leads to the Chocolate Room in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is far shorter than it actually appears; the hallway gets smaller and smaller to the end.

  • "Last time I played baseball, I wondered why the ball was becoming bigger and bigger. And then it hit me."

  • Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Sphinx" is about a man seeing a terrifying monster walking on the hill outside the cottage where he's staying. It turns out at the end that it was an insect crawling on a spider web very close to his face.
  • G. K. Chesterton references the trope in the Father Brown story "The Song of the Flying Fish":
    "A thing can sometimes be too close to be seen, as, for instance, a man cannot see himself. There was a man who had a fly in his eye when he looked through the telescope, and he discovered that there was a most incredible dragon in the Moon."
  • A short story about a monstrous dragon on a distant mountain. But in actuality, the dragon always appeared to be the same size no matter how far away the viewer was, so when the protagonist climbed the mountain he found the dragon to be much smaller.
  • In The Unremembered Empire, the narration mentions that this is sometimes done with Roboute Guilliman's office, which has furniture scaled to normal humans, Astartes, and the Primarch, to make the room look far longer or shorter than it actually is.
  • In Hatchet, Brian gets frustrated about repeatedly just missing fish while attempting to spear them until he realizes that light refraction is causing him to misjudge where the tip of his spear is in the water.
  • Parodied by Andy Riley's Great Lies to tell Small Kids:
    There's no such thing as kangaroos. They're just mice standing very near.
  • In Amazon Slaughter, Able Team look out the window of their DC-3 while flying over the Amazon and Lyons points out a motorboat on the river. He's told that's actually a barge. "It looks small because the river's about a half mile wide."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dougal from Father Ted apparently can't tell the difference between small toy cows and real ones which are far away.
    Father Ted: Now concentrate this time, Dougal. These [holds up model cows] are small, but the ones out there [points outside] are far away."
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor once explained that the TARDIS works by neatly subverting this trope. He held two boxes in his hands; one was bigger and one was smaller. After walking away from the larger box, the physically smaller box now had a larger apparent size. But what if you could make it so that the relative dimensions in space were actual?
    • In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", Donna Noble sees a wasp hovering just outside the window, only it turns out to be a huge wasp far away but approaching very fast.
    • The episode "Flatline" plays with this, featuring two-dimensional aliens able to suck three-dimensional beings into the 2D plane. They then disfigure their victims, causing them to be distorted so that one guy is stretched out like spaghetti, while another guy gets diced, but looks like he's 3D from one angle.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, when Den-O's series Final Form Ride activates (turning Den-O into Momotaros), the closeup leads the viewer to believe it's Momotaros gone giant...but it's just an illusion.
  • Like Top Secret! above, in Parker Lewis Can't Lose, a character dealing with the stresses of his job, hears the phone ringing with the phone positioned cinematically in the foreground taking up most of the shot. As he comes up to it and picks it up and we zoom out, it turns out the phone is gigantic with the receiver as long as his forearm.
  • Phoenix Nights features bouncer Max squinting at an approaching group of dwarfs and asking the immortal question, "How far away are they?"
  • An opening segment of Malcolm in the Middle had the idiotic older brother Reese crying in triumph that he has the much, much bigger popsicle than what Malcolm has from his perspective. Malcolm pulls his popsicle next to his to reveal it's the same size.
  • On QI, David Mitchell tried to get a joke on this concerning giant tortoises (no one gave them scientific names because they looked at them from the wrong angle and assumed they were normal-size tortoises). He stumbled over the delivery, as he suddenly realised "they thought they were normal tortoises, but closer" wouldn't work in reality, and got through it only with coaching from Stephen Fry — though that was funny too.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie has a Vox Pops segment where a man says his first impression of his wife was that she was an incredibly tiny woman, and that it wasn't until weeks later, after he'd gotten to know her, that he realized she was actually just far away.
  • In "Magical Mysteries", the Saturday Night Live parody of the Insane Clown Posse song "Miracles", one of the mysteries is: "Are children small, or just far away?"
  • Sherlock episode "The Empty Hearse" depicts Sherlock and Mycroft apparently playing chess, though never actually handling the pieces — because the chessboard is in fact between the camera and the game of Operation they're really playing.
  • The former Channel 4 Station Ident series has the camera pan through an environment with lots of floating bars at odd angles, until suddenly they resolve into the 4 logo, and then it's gone again.
  • Top Gear. While in Dubai, Hammond is boasting about the six-wheeled Mercedes G63 AMG he's driving, which is certainly bigger than the old WW2-era jeep he points out on the horizon. Until he drives up to it and finds himself dwarfed by a 21-foot tall jeep replica.
  • In an episode of Arrested Development, Gob attempts to fool some Japanese investors that a housing development project has been completed by constructing a model village. He's even aware of the limitations of the trick, instructing the investors to stand still in the one spot where it looks convincing. Of course, it's not long before the village gets a kaiju-style trampling courtesy of Tobias wearing a mole costume.
  • The sixth episode of season 2 of The Sketch Show has Lee as a school student who believes there's no such thing as little people. He believes that their appearances in film is just a trick of Forced Perspective and that the actual little person teacher at the school must be really shy because he always "stands miles away from you in the distance".

  • Played with in Squeeze's "Hourglass", involving such things as a row of doorways that get progressively smaller and a phone with a really big receiver.

    Theme Parks 
  • Used extensively at Disney Theme Parks.
    • This is how the Matterhorn Bobsleds can achieve an impressively tall appearance even though it's actually the same height as Sleeping Beauty Castle: the further up the mountain, the smaller the rocks and trees on it are. This is best demonstrated observing the climbers: Near the bottom, the trees are much taller than a human, but towards the top, they become shorter than the climbers.
    • The various castles the stones, windows, etc. get smaller as they go up, so if you reasonably assume they're actually the same size, the castle appears significantly taller than it actually is.
    • The buildings on Main Street have facades making them appear (mostly) to be three stories tall; behind the facade, the upper floor (singular) is about the same height as the first floor.
    • Also on Main Street: standing at the train station looking towards the hub, Main Street seems to be easily two or three blocks long and the Castle at the far end must be huge. Standing at the hub looking towards the train station, it looks like one short block at most.
    • It's easy to see that the buildings/trees/whatever right on the banks of the Storybook Land Canal Boats are miniatures and not full size (especially when a real duck which in scale appears to be about fifteen feet tall is waddling around), but set pieces which are further away from the canal have the scale decrease as they get taller/further away to make them seem larger than they really are even so.
    • At the Magic Kingdom, the effect of Main Street and Cinderella Castle is amplified compared to Disneyland by the park being on a second story. The earth scooped out to form the Seven Seas Lagoon was used to create a "platform" at ground level that hosts the Utilidors, the series of "underground" tunnels that hold cast member areas. Main Street USA actually slopes upward as you approach the castle, combined with forced perspective and a castle over 100 feet taller than the one at Disneyland to make it seem gigantic.

    Video Games 
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary: In the cutscene introducing Captain Olimar and Captain Falcon, the ROB Olimar is fighting made to be huge so that it seems the Captain and his Pikmin are still only an inch tall. Then Captain Falcon shows up then punches out the giant robot.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, before the Observatory was destroyed, it was possible to look through the telescope and discover "a giant space mosquito".
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In Super Mario 64, the room where you can enter Tiny Huge Island is a T-junction with a painting at the end of each hall, all of which appear to be the same size when you first enter: the one in the center is normal-sized and non-functional, the one on the left is actually slightly smaller than usual, and the one on the right is gigantic. The two paintings that actually warp Mario are also set in hallways that use forced perspective, meaning that until you start walking toward one, the images all look the same size. Which is actually quite jarring when first seen. Walk towards the small one and it's MUCH closer to you than it should be, with the hallway going inwards. Walk towards the large one and you're gonna be walking a looooooooooong time.
    • Super Mario 3D Land encourages the use of the Nintendo 3DS's 3D effect in some sections. Without the 3D effect, forced perspective causes a block that appears to be part of the background may be in the foreground. There are subtle differences, but at first glance, you won't see it.
    • Some of the uses of the Cutout mechanic in Paper Mario: Color Splash work in this way. One example is in Port Prisma, where at a certain angle, a window awning, the top of a storefront sign, the flat top of a tree, and an otherwise inaccessible second-floor walkway line up to form a stair shape—Mario can then use Cutout to use those objects as if they're a set of stairs to get to that second-floor walkway. It and other examples can be found here.
  • A few of the off-path rooms in LEGO Star Wars II appear "correct" from certain angles, but are revealed to be skewed when you actually walk into them. For instance, the very first Protocol droid door in the very first level; a few gimmick objects are included to help sell the illusion.
  • One dungeon in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne has several fake hallways that are actually painted walls. You will often reach a junction where you need to choose between the real hallway and a wall. If you choose the wall you are booted to the beginning.
  • The third chapter of Tales of Monkey Island uses this trope to reveal the true size of La Esponja Grande.
  • In Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, in the Haunted House section of Joilant, there's a room with a straight path lined with ordinary Moos... except only some of them are normal size. Others are on a parallel path in the background, and when they jump over to your path, they are revealed to be at least ten times bigger.
  • Equinox embodies this trope. Items are the same size regardless of their distance from the camera, meaning it is often impossible to tell where objects are except by trial and error. What appears to be a tower made of discs might actually be a staircase.
  • Naya's Quest, by Terry Cavanagh, uses this as its fundamental game mechanic: it uses a deliberately deceptive version of Isometric Projection to make it appear that platforms are in different locations than they actually are.
  • A combination of this and Depth Perplexion are Invoked Tropes in a puzzle in God of War III; the puzzle shifts the camera to the perspective of a statue overlooking the area, so that stairs, walkways, aqueducts etc. look like they're connecting to each other when in the 3D world they're nowhere near each other. However, since this is Olympus and the statue is magic, while the effect is active you are able to treat the "illusion" as if it's real, and thus beat the area in ways that would be impossible with normal dimensions.
  • Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game loaded with puzzles that depend on playing with perspective. The various puzzles are based around picking up items, whether near or far, and using the camera's perspective to "adjust" their size. In addition to objects being only as close or as far away as the player perceives them to be, there are occasionally walls painted with illusions, such as a corridor that looks just like an ordinary wall until you walk down it. Some objects have to be created by lining up the depth deception properly, and others can disappear into depth deception illusions.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "unnatural" Marzipan is teaching Strong Sad about perspective in art by pointing out a large apple is "just in the foreground". When a giant Bubs turns up immediately after, she says the same thing about his foot.
  • In the fourth ASDF Movie, a father is throwing a ball to his child off in the distance. Actually they're just really small. Squish.

    Web Comics 
  • The trick is played on the reader in this strip of The Order of the Stick. Played with later on, when it turns out that the tiny piece of starmetal actually is huge, relatively speaking; the swordsmith says she's never seen a chunk anywhere near that big before.
  • Played with in this page of Dr. McNinja where the Doc says that armoured space suits were originally created to fight space monsters observed through telescopes. Of course, it turned out that they had gotten the scale wrong, and the space monsters are actually planet sized. Now, the strategy for dealing with them is to pray they continue to ignore us.

    Web Videos 
  • Jerma985 and STAR_ used forced perspective for comedic effect in the beginning of this video. Jerma positioned the camera so that it initially appears that he and STAR_ are sitting on a staircase. It's then revealed that they're actually in an invisible car which proceeds to rapidly accelerate down the street.
  • In a funny cats video (at the 1:00 mark), a chessboard looks like it's in the foreground, while it's big and in the background.
  • Techmoan briefly pulls this trick in his review of the Sega Toys Grand Pianist. He starts by talking about how he has always found player pianos fascinating, and dreamt of owning one, before showing what appears to be a full-size grand piano playing in his living room... until he cuts away to reveal it's a 1:6 scale toy piano (albeit a very sophisticated electronic toy piano) with a picture of his living room behind it as a backdrop.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In "The Land Ship", the citizens of Seymour's Bay celebrate a momentous event in the town's history. During the War of 1812, the villagers managed to move the town's only sailing vessel onto the land, tricking a fleet of British troops which arrived that night into thinking the shore was further away than it was. This caused the British to run their ships aground, where they were ambushed by American militia-men.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Little Dipper", Dipper gets a bit confused when he finds the grove with the size-changing crystals:
    Dipper: Is that mountain lion tiny or just really far away in perspective?
    [Mountain lion roars and pounces]
    Dipper: Ah! Perspective! Perspective!
  • The Simpsons:
    • In episode "Deep Space Homer", reporter Kent Brockman makes TV contact with a space mission just in the moment an ant set loose in the spaceship floats by the camera lens. Brockman's reporting jumps to the conclusion that a master race of giant ants has conquered the spacecraft and is about to invade Earth. He then pauses, looks at camera, and delivers the immortal line: "And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."
    • In the episode where the Simpsons act out folk tales, Homer as the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan runs towards Marge, who thinks he's just a normal-sized man until he gets near enough for her to see his true scale.
    • In the episode where Homer joins the Army, he escapes during wargames. As he's lying in bed with Marge, he looks out the window and comments on the helicopter in the distance... except it's a spy drone the size of an RC toy, and it's right in his window.
    • Also in "Hurricane Neddy", when the folks want to help Ned rebuild his house, they end up doing a very poor job. One hallway looks normal from a distance, but due to Forced Perspective it is actually shorter and narrower than it looks.
      Ned: Oh, something is definitely wrong with this hallway. (opens mini-door at the end of the hallway)
      Barney: Come on in! It's your master bedroom! (Ned shuts door) Ow! My nose!
    • In "Fear of Flying", we go to a front view of what seems to be Marge watching TV from the couch. A turn to the side reveals that she's actually sitting on thin air and is close to the TV.
  • In an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks, a bug on the lens of Simon's telescope caused them to think there was an alien invasion on its way to Earth.
  • In an episode of The Pink Panther, the Panther plays a trick on his human foil (who is an astronomer this time) with a puppet show at the end of his telescope that convinces the guy he has discovered aliens on the Moon.
  • In the Donald Duck war short "Home Defense", Donald's nephews are able to convince him that they're being attacked... by parachuting gingerbread men. Later in the short, a bee does a similar (but unintentional) dupe job.
  • In the opening of the Futurama episode "Fear of a Bot Planet", Fry, looking out at a Saturn-like planet, comments on how the size of space puts everything in perspective. A few seconds later, the "planet" splats like a bug on their windshield.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Ballad of Badbeard", the children leap across a perilous gorge while monsters snap at their feet. Isabella then chastises Buford for playing around with his nifty, newly-found, monster hand puppets, right in front of the "camera".
  • Cow and Chicken: This is how Chicken managed to use a golf-ball and fool the Red Guy (who was at that point an astronomer), and the entire world, into believing that the earth is about to be hit by a comet, and get everyone to buy "protection devices" which were just random junk he found around the house. When it turns out there IS a comet, it's in turn revealed to be the size of a golf-ball, and it hitting several of his "protection devices" was enough to minimize the damage it causes.
  • On Planet Sheen, Sheen volunteers to capture a feared beast called a chocktaw after seeing a picture of one dwarfed by a flower. Then he discovers that flowers on Zeenu grow to the size of redwoods.
  • In one episode of the Babar animated series, Arthur and Zephir panic when they look through a telescope and mistake the glow of a firefly for an invading alien spacecraft.
  • In Korgoth of Barbaria, Korgoth points to some pigeons below them when asked how to get to the floating castle. Turns out they're twenty-foot tall pigeons.
  • The Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! episode "Warp Speed Wubbzy" involves Walden spotting what he thinks is an incoming alien visitor, but is actually just a firefly, and Wubbzy and Widget pretending to be aliens to keep him from being disappointed.
  • Dan Vs. "The Beach": While out on the ocean, Chris looks through binoculars and spots what looks like his wife getting a back rub from the lifeguard, but the lifeguard was actually just smoothing the sides of a sand castle he built behind her.
  • Bear's cave in WordWorld for some reason shows a room painted onto a wall for a door rather than an actual entrance containing a room. Makes people wonder how Bear is able to go in and out of her cave in the first place.
  • In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "The Unruly Hare", Bugs screws with surveyor Elmer by sticking things in front of his transit (the device surveyors use to measure distances). First he holds up some magazine pin-ups, which Elmer wolf whistles at, then smacks his own lips near the lens, which is when Elmer reaches out for a kiss. Later, Bugs holds up a lit match so that Elmer thinks the forest is on fire.
  • In the Recess episode "The Box", T.J. is forced inside a square drawn in chalk on the ground as punishment. An overhead shot and the color patterns make him look like he's trapped in a deep hole to show how claustrophobic he feels.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "The Big Job", Señor Senior Junior enlists Shego's assistance to pull off "a big job" as a birthday present for his father. An online search for a target points them to a valuable sculpture... which turns out to be far too large to carry off when they actually reach the site.
    Señor Senior Junior: It did not look so large on the Internet.
  • In one post-episode sketch on Uncle Grandpa, he's lost at sea (actually in a giant bathtub) with Pizza Steve and Mr. Gus and they see a ship in the distance. The ship comes to them and turns out to be a bathtub toy.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Home Sweet Pineapple", SpongeBob's house is eaten by nematodes. When he and Patrick try to build a new one, the one they make is actually a miniature replica that SpongeBob can barely fit in and shatters a few seconds after he puts it on his head.
  • On Rick and Morty, Rick and the Smith family are locating a new planet after Earth is taken over by the Galactic Federation. The first planet they go to looks normal-sized at first, but when they attempt to land on it, it turns out that the planet is barely larger than their ship.
  • Justice League
    • In the Cold Open of "Legends", a giant Green Lantern appears to fall to the ground in front of several normal-sized people. Turns out GL is just closer to the screen than these bystanders, and this Reveal Shot is followed by the actual giant mecha that knocked Green Lantern down.
    • In the ''Justice League Unlimited episode "Fearful Symmetry", Professor Hamilton opens a door to reveal the torture device in Supergirl's dreams, a huge tank-like Killer Robot! It trundles towards her and is revealed to be a surgical robot that only comes up to her knees. This is used to show that Supergirl's nightmares are apparently just a stress reaction to having been injured and operated on in a previous episode. The truth, however, is quite different.
  • The Family Guy episode "Gronkowsbees" has Rob Gronkowski moving in next door to the Griffins and being unbearable to live next to. At one point, he's standing in the distance and throws Peter what looks like a football but turns out to actually be a bus that crushes him.

    Real Life 
  • A story about André the Giant relates how, when first entering the business in his native France, he approached the promoter's table alongside a friend of normal stature. Because of Andre's condition (whereby he was relatively in proportion, despite his size), the promoter couldn't tell how massive he was from a distance, and apparently looked at André's friend and said to someone sitting next to him, "We'll never hire that midget..."
  • This YouTube video shows head tracking with a Wii Remote. Because the objects move and obey where they should be in depth, you can get the perception that you're seeing a 3D video, even though it's from a 2D video (and this doesn't require a 3D screen either)
  • In the Pulfrich Effect, viewing a scene moving horizontally with one eye covered with a dark lens causes that eye to lag. The amount of lag is enough that other eye sees a different enough perspective to trick the brain into seeing depth.
  • A traffic reporter, reporting on a slowdown at a local vehicular tunnel, said it was due to a giant spider attacking cars at the entrance. A normal-sized spider had crawled onto the lens of the camera, and quite by chance gave the appearance of a giant spider attacking the cars.
  • Reports of big cats roaming parts of the English countryside, the most famous being the "Beast of Bodmin", may just be normal-sized feral cats — domestic moggies gone wild — that look farther away than they really are. Fortean Times regularly combines such sightings and potential explanations for them.
  • Reportedly, this happens all the time to people who live in jungles because they're so used to seeing everything close up. One anthropologist brought one of these people in a plane with him. The man commented about the beetles on the grass. The anthropologist couldn't convince the man that they were actually very large buffalo seen from far away. Another time someone else brought them outside the jungle, they accused the man of witchcraft because he "made the animals shrink in size".
    • More minor versions may happen when someone used to living in a city (so anything more than a few hundred metres away becomes "just part of the background" rather than a relevant distance that they have to judge) visits landscapes involving mountain ranges or massive canyons; they can get a pretty good sense of some of the closer ridges, but find anything past that suddenly seems to turn into a 2D backdrop.
  • The Moon is about 1/400th the diameter of the sun, but is around 400 times closer to earth. As a result, the two appear to be similar sizes. However, the Moon is still far enough away that you could fit every other planet in our system between it and the Earth and still have room to spare. And yet, humans have always believed it was just hanging up there in our sky.
  • Quasars and their red shift. For decades, scientists were unsure whether these strange objects moving away from us were nearby and fairly faint, or as distant as the Hubble Law suggests and therefore brighter than anything else that we have ever experienced. It was only through gravitational lensing from distant galaxy superclusters that we found out just how far away these things really are.
  • The Apollo astronauts had trouble judging the sizes of distant objects because of the way light works in space. While binocular vision is great at short distances, it's relatively useless farther away. For farther objects, we take visual cues from the way air gradually absorbs and disperses light, making distant things look fainter. With no air on the Moon, that effect doesn't exist. There is footage of Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke bounding off to an apparently small nearby rock. And they keep hopping. And keep hopping. Until they're dwarfed by the gigantic rock that they're standing beside.
    Duke: LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT ROCK!... The closer I get to it, the bigger it is!
  • A star's apparent and absolute magnitudes. The apparent magnitude is how bright it appears in Earth's sky, while the absolute magnitude is how bright it actually is, corrected for distance.note  Apparent magnitudes have been known (approximately) since ancient times; absolute magnitudes had to wait until the mid-1800s, when astronomers' equipment got good enough to measure the distance to stars.
  • Constellations look like a lot of similar stars relatively near one another, but most are made up of somewhat dim stars that are coincidentally in the same general direction as much brighter stars much farther away.
  • In good visibility conditions, the coast of France is visible from the nearest landfall in England, around Dover and Folkestone on the Kent coast. Looking out over twenty-one miles of sea offers no visual cues and even large ships at sea appear closer than they are. This might explain why long-distance endurance swimmers might have gotten the idea — "Hey, I could swim that!"
  • The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Going downtown, it looks like a fairly large city with a few huge buildings. Then, one goes through it and realizes the buildings are a quarter as large as they appeared to be, and that it doesn't take more than 10 minutes to walk through the entire downtown district.
  • The British journalist John McCarthy, after being imprisoned in Lebanon for several years, lost his depth perception (he had been chained to a radiator, in a tiny room, with a bag over his head). He only realized this after he had driven hundreds of miles to Wales for a well-earned holiday shortly after his release, and noticed the "funny looking mountains" (actually valley sides, a few hundred meters away).
  • An Ames room looks like a pretty normal room, except that one side is smaller but closer than the other. As a result, people, animals, or things moving around the room will appear to grow traveling in one direction and shrink traveling in the other. The Tiny-Huge Island room in Super Mario 64 is an example of an Ames room.
  • According to legend, the armoured train used by the Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch Railway (a minimum-gauge line) during World War II caused this - a Luftwaffe pilot thought he was going to bomb a full-sized train, misjudged his height, and crashed.


Boulder trap

A trap triggers and sends a boulder rolling at the Storm Hawks.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / IndyEscape

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