An occasion is coming up. It may be Christmas, it may be someone's birthday, or it might be a completely different occasion, maybe even a made-up one, but it's an occasion for which this character (who's usually a kid although not always) can expect a gift. So they begin writing a wish list or someone asks what they want or they simply say what they want... and it's something outlandish. Alternatively, there's no special occasion, but they're asking for something outlandish anyway, or it's a traditional opportunity for wishing, like a shooting star, and their wish is ridiculous.
It could be outlandish for many reasons. For example, it might be impractical (e.g. asking for a pony when they live in an apartment), or it might be extremely hard to obtain (e.g. asking for the Statue of Liberty), not exist (e.g. asking for a unicorn), or the character might be too young to use it (e.g. a six-year-old asking for a car).
This trope can be downplayed by having the character ask for a normal pet like a cat or a dog (slightly less ludicrous, but a bit hard to keep secret and it's generally considered a bad idea to give pets as gifts on special occasions because of the commitment), or something that can easily be given as a gift, but it's rather unusual that they'd want it (for example, asking for a rock).
In order for it to qualify as this trope, though, it has to be strange in-universe. If a kid asks for a unicorn but it's in a setting where unicorns are commonly given as gifts, then it's not an example of this trope.
The reason why it's commonly a kid is probably because kids (especially those under seven) generally haven't developed the reasoning abilities to understand that they're probably not going to get their bizarre wish (an adult or teen may still want a jet pack, for instance, but they're old enough to realise it ain't happening, so they don't bother asking for it).
As for the outcome of the Ludicrous Gift Request, it depends on the story. Sometimes, it'll just be forgotten. Sometimes, the character will get a "lesser version" of their wish, for example a kid who wanted a dragon might get a toy one. Sometimes, they may even get their wish. If the kid does not get their wish, they're generally either sad, angry (typically if they're a Spoiled Brat but non-spoiled children sometimes get angry at this too), or not disappointed at all, because they're happy with what they got. Contrast Wasteful Wishing and Mundane Wish. Can overlap with All Girls Like Ponies if a woman or girl asks for a pony and it's seen as a "girl thing". Truth in Television for many kids.
- In Hunter × Hunter, Nanika asks for three things before granting a wish. While these can start as innocuous, Alluka can easily ask for things as lethal as one's spine and liver. Worse still, this is An Offer You Can't Refuse, as doing so will instantly kill you and a number of people proportional to the scale of the last wish it granted.
- Implied in The Far Side when a boy is shown with an ant farm and someone, presumably one of his parents, says, "And if you really look after these guys, maybe next year you can have that puppy."
- At the climax of Aladdin, Genie hurriedly Invokes this trope as a test of whether or not Aladdin's third and final wish for his freedom actually worked.
Genie: *hands Aladdin the now empty lamp* "Quick! Quick! Wish for something outrageous. S-say, 'I-I want the Nile'! Wish for the Nile, try that!"
Aladdin: "I.. wish for the Nile?"
Genie: "NO WAY!" *bursts into jubilant laughter*
- A Charlie Brown Christmas: When forcing Charlie Brown to write her letter to Santa for her, Sally claims that all she wants for Christmas is "real-estate", making him storm off in frustration.
"All I want is what's coming to me...all I want is my fair share."
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the mayor asks for a "pizza stuffed inside a turkey and the whole thing deep-fried and dipped in chocolate" from the food-making machine.
- Little Angels: The Brightest Christmas: Jimmy tells his dad he wants a "horse, with black spots, and white stripes" for Christmas.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey: When Dr. Floyd calls his daughter from space and asks what she wants for her birthday, she replies that she wants a bushbaby. He proceeds to exercise gentle parental honesty regarding the odds of that happening.
- In Brazil, a Mall Santa asks a child what she wants for Christmas. She replies "My own credit card".
- In the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, Veruca Salt asks for a golden ticket and a squirrel like in the book. She also asks for a pony (even though she has one already) and a flying glass elevator.
- In the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, Rowley is seen sitting on a mall Santa's knee and asking for a puppy and a cat.
- There was an example in The Princess Bride where the villain Ruger says, "Please, I Will Do Anything!" to Inigo Montoya. He then says "I want my father back, you son of a bitch." (Note: Inigo's father is already murdered, his whole quest is about avenging him)
- Old joke: A kid in California finds a lamp, rubs it, and out comes a harassed-looking genie.
Genie: Alright, you found me, you get one wish. And make it snappy, I don't have all day!Kid: Well, I always wanted to go to Hawaii, but I get seasick easily. Can you build me a highway so my parents can drive there?Genie: A highway to Hawaii? Are you insane? Think of how much cement you'd need, how strong it'd need to be to withstand the storms and waves... Absolutely not. Find something else.Kid: Oh... Can you make it so my mommy and daddy will stop fighting and love each other again?Genie: ... You want four lanes or six on that highway?
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as a result of being spoiled, Veruca Salt often asks for outlandish things, including a golden ticket (of which there are only five in existence), an Oompa-Loompa, and a squirrel.
- In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book "Dog Days", Greg wants a dog and a leather recliner for his birthday. He gets neither, although he ends up getting a dog later on, but never a recliner.
- The end of Frankensteins Cat has a kid asking for a puppy for Christmas and getting Frankenstein's dog Fifi.
- In Gorilla, Hannah asks for a gorilla for her birthday. She gets a toy one... who comes to life and can speak.
- In the kids' book Harriet and the Little Fat Fairy, Harriet the hamster runs away so her owner writes to Santa asking for a new one. She gets two other hamsters, one from Santa and one from her mother, and Harriet comes back, leaving the girl with three hamsters.
- In Lady Lollipop, spoilt princess Penelope demands a pig for her birthday, and she gets one.
- In the Little Bear story "Little Bear's Wish", Little Bear wishes for a cloud to ride on, a Viking boat, and a tunnel that goes all the way to China. His mother tells him he cannot have the wishes, so he settles for a relatively mundane wish for a story.
- Intentional and overlapping with Impossible Task in Tale Of The Bamboo Cutter. Princess Kaguya really doesn't want to get married, so she asks her five suitors a legendary treasure each as a way to indirectly refuse them. The treasures are as follow: the begging bowl of the Buddha, a jeweled tree branch from a legendary island, a robe made from a fire rat, the pearl from the dragon's necklace, and a cowry shell born from a swallow.
- In Time Reavers by Jacob Holo, Amy had wanted a little sister, so her parents adopted seven-year old Nicole as a gift for Amy's eighth birthday. They had Nicole wear a pink ribbon around her waist when they introduced the girls to each other. Years later, Nicole still found the memory mortifying.
- In The Brady Bunch episode "The Voice of Xmas", Cindy asks a department-store Santa to give mommy her voice back for Christmas. (Carol had laryngitis, and she was scheduled to sing in church Xmas morning.) Of course, with most episodes having a happy ending...
- Game of Thrones: When unshackling Danaerys' dragons so they can sleep in contact with each other, Tyrion tells the story of how he'd asked for a small dragon as a child, and was utterly crushed to learn that they'd gone extinct long ago.
- Doctor Who: "The Eleventh Hour" opens on young Amelia Pond asking Santa for someone to fix the crack in the universe in her wall, even though it's Easter. Cue the TARDIS crashing in her garden.
- In a MAD Magazine piece, parents are watching as their kid writes "I want a horse" in a letter to Santa. (Dollar signs appear above dad's head, implying they will go along.) Sure enough, come Xmas morning, a live horse is peeking through the living room window, while a saddle, a sack of oats, etc. is found under the tree. The final panel has dad taking the horse out while the kid shows it off to his friends, explaining that he only wanted a toy rocking-horse-on-springs, but look what he actually got! (As dad's expression says "oops")
- Novelty songwriter Gayla Peevey wrote "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" about a girl who wants only a hippo for Christmas.
- The children's song "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" is about a child who's lost both of their front teeth, which gives them a lisp, and all they want for Christmas is their teeth back so they can wish people merry Christmas and say tongue twisters without lisping.
- Downplayed in "We Wish That Today was Christmas", a parody of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" using the kids from Rugrats for Phil, Lil, Angelica, and Chuckie's requests. Phil and Lil want worms and while Angelica and Chuckie's requests (namely money and a nightlight respectively) are pretty normal, they are taken to ludicrous extremes: Angelica wants a truckload of money and Chuckie wants a bajillion-watt nightlight.
- A story in the Gospels speaks of King Herod Antipas being so impressed by his stepdaughter dancing that he promises her anything he can grant. The girl doesn't know what to ask for, so she goes to her mother Herodias, former wife of Herod's deceased brother Philip, whom Herod had married. In the past, Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist for speaking out against this marriage, so Herodias instructed her daughter to ask Herod for John the Baptist's head on a silver platter. Despite being more than a little put-off by the request, he delivered.
- In Brawl in the Family, for one of the Christmas songs, Gandondorf sings about wanting the Triforce as a gift (to the tune of "All I Want for Christmas is You"). As he would use its power to destroy and/or conquer Hyrule, he doesn't get it. In a later comic, Ganondorf finally gets the Triforce as a gift in a secret Santa exchange. Zelda is pissed... Not because of the impending doom to Hyrule, but because everyone agreed on a $20 limit.
- One promotional video for The Loud House has Lana wanting dog biscuits for Christmas.
- In one of the "Dumbest Tweets" videos on Most Amazing Top Ten, one of the dumb tweets is somebody saying, "I want a life-sized globe!".
- Conversed in one of TheOdd1sOut's videos, where James points out that three songs with the lyrics "All I want for Christmas" involve "my two front teeth", "a hippopotamus", and "you", and he decides that it'd be a pretty weird person who'd put all three of those on the same list.
- The Translator Fails version of "All I Want for Christmas is You" turns the title into "All I want for Christmas is your baby".
- Their version of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" sees Anna's requests to Elsa grow from a "snow male" to a "yeti" to a "snowman corporation" as the song progresses.
- There are several online lists of weird letters to Santa:
- This one includes letters asking for a puppy, a hamster, a dragon or the ability to turn into one, a picture of him, five-foot long hair, an elf, and Justin Bieber.
- This one involves an AK-47 assault rifle, a hover board, three golden chains, a dog, for her dad's truck to be unstuck, to be an elf on the shelf, a pony, and a "rainbow unicorn that poops ice cream".
- One episode of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 has Bowser's Bratty Teenage Daughter, Kootie Pie, ask for America as a birthday present, even using her patented Tantrum Throwing when her father reminds her that America's in the Real World. Being a shining case of Daddy's Little Villain, she eventually gets her wish, via the White House itself being thrown into an ocean in the Mushroom Kingdom thanks to a gadget on the Doomship. The success is short-lived though, as Mario and Luigi soon hijack the Doomship and use the same gadget to return the White House to its proper place, where Kootie Pie happened to be napping at the time.
- The Fairly OddParents: Inverted in "Merry Wishmas"; during the song "Not On The List", everyone laments that they didn't get anything they asked for for Christmas, and instead just got random things. Most of the asked for gifts were pretty reasonable (cash, eggnog, a dress), while the received gifts were quite unusual (a talking horse, a shaver for back hair, a trashcan...).
- In the Animated Adaptation of Father Christmas, Father Christmas is seen looking at the children's letters to him and saying, "A pony?! How am I gonna put that on the sledge?!".
- Invader Zim: The Christmas Episode has a scene in which GIR unwittingly torments a Mall Santa by rattling off a long list of bizarre things he wants for Christmas:
GIR: I wants me a barrel of floss! I wants me two balls of glue- TO BE MY FRIENDS! And I wants to go dancing NAKED! And I want... (time skip) And a chair made 'a cheese... And a table made 'a cheese and a...Mall Santa: Uuuh! No more! Get this kid away from me!
- The Little Bear cartoon features an episode called "Little Bear's Wish", which is based on the book story. Like the book story, it involves him wishing for a cloud to sit on and a Viking boat, but instead of wishing for a tunnel to China, he wishes to meet a princess and when he imagines meeting her, she lives in a place which resembles China. Also, instead of saying he can't have his wishes, his parents shoehorn something bedtime-related onto his wishes since it's meant to be bedtime (for instance, when he wishes for a cloud, they talk about him sleeping on it).
- The Simpsons: In early seasons, Lisa would often ask for a pony for Christmas. The episode "Lisa Gets a Pony" deconstructs this, showing how Homer buying one puts a strain on the family's finances.
- Spongebob Squarepants: In "Christmas Who?", the citizens of Bikini Bottom first learn about the holiday, and accordingly, all of them want some really outlandish gifts from Santa. Standouts include "a new hairstyle", "a glass of water for my teeth", and "another piece of paper".