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Photo Doodle Recognition

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This is when someone has an old photograph of someone they don't know, looking through old albums, yearbooks, or in someone's collection of stuff, but there's something familiar about it. Then they start to draw on it, glasses or a hat, scars or some sort of distinctive feature, and find that, holy crap, they do know this person!

They have changed the photo of them as they looked years ago to look more like their contemporary selves.

This can also be done with other types of pictures. The main idea is that someone starts with an image and adds features so the person in it becomes recognizable. Often used as The Reveal.

Contrast Mustache Vandalism, in which additional features are drawn onto pictures with no real purpose except perhaps as an expression of disdain for the person depicted.

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Played with in Gintama. Gin scribbles on a photo of someone whom he assumes has gotten plastic surgery, while his friends deride both his art skills and the possibility that anyone would possibly choose to look like that. They look up from the drawing to see just such a person. It's the wrong guy...who just happens to work with the man they're looking for.
  • In Ranma ½, when Principal Kuno is introduced, he shows a large picture of his long-lost son who is shaved bald in the picture. Ranma promptly uses a paintbrush to paint hair on the head - confirming the son's identity as Tatewaki Kuno.
  • In Show by Rock!! Yaiba draws yellow hair and stars on the unearthed photo of Amatelast so Crow and Aion can recognize the singer as Shu☆zo, who's now in Trichronika.

    Comic Book 
  • Done in Bendis' Daredevil run when a Daredevil costume is drawn over a photo of Matt Murdock.
  • In one pre-Crisis story, Superman is to be featured on a postage stamp. He goes to great lengths to make sure that a side shot of him is chosen, rather than a full-face view, because if the stamp was postmarked in a town with a double-O in its name, the letters might land on his face in such a way that they resemble a pair of glasses, which might give away his secret identity. Presumably kids in the DC universe never doodle glasses and mustaches on newspaper photos, which might also be a bit of a clue.
  • In one Golden Age Batman, Bruce Wayne realises that a new playboy in town and the master thief he is hunting are one and the same when Dick Grayson doodles a moustache and goatee on a picture of the playboy in the newspaper.
  • In one Lucky Luke story, charlatan Dr. Doxey changes his name, shaves his moustache and beard, and has a new picture of him taken for his ads. However, a kid Doxey pissed off defaces the ad to the point it looks exactly like Doxey's old face, allowing Luke to recognize him.

    Films — Animated 
  • Inverted in Tangled: Flynn is easily recognized from his wanted poster after a character uses their hand to cover the ridiculous and inaccurate nose.
  • After Woody is taken in Toy Story 2, the other toys are conducting an "investigation", with Etch drawing a sketch of the guy who took him. When Buzz asks him to draw the man in a chicken suit, everyone gasps as they recognize Big Al, the owner of Al's Toy Barn toy stores.
  • In The LEGO Movie, the citizens of the Wild West town don't recognize Emmet, as shown on a wanted poster. However, one Mecha-Mook asks the hunter to draw a cowboy hat on the picture, at which point he confirms that the stranger that rolls into town was, in fact, Emmet.
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when Bruce Wayne is looking over an old picture of Sal Valestra's gang (i.e the Phantasm's victims), he feels that the last member looks familiar, picks up a red pencil and draws a big grinning mouth over him. Much to his shock, the gangster in the photo is none other than Joker.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the live-action adaptation of Mr. Magoo, Mr. Magoo infiltrates an auction for criminals by disguising himself with black hair and a moustache. He is discovered when Austin Cloquet sees a photo of Mr. Magoo in a newspaper and draws in black hair and a moustache on his photo.
  • A variant happens in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when Ace is trying to find the whereabouts of a former footballer suspected of kidnapping the Miami Dolphins' mascot. At one point, Ace's dog lies on the photo he's using for reference, and the lay of his hair makes him realize the man he's looking for had become a woman he's been dealing with throughout the film.
  • Officer Albrecht from The Crow figures out that Eric Draven is the vigilante that's been killing Top Dollar's gang when he draws the distinctive marks from the vigilante's face on the eyes and lips of a picture of Eric.
  • In Muppets Most Wanted, Fozzie realizes that Kermit has been replaced by Evil Doppelgänger Constantine when he drips some guacamole on a picture of Constantine in the newspaper. The guacamole covers up his mole, making him look exactly like Kermit.
  • Though it's not in the theatrical version, in the Richard Donner cut of Superman II this is how Lois Lane first figures out Superman is really Clark. In the newsroom, Lois finds herself staring at a big picture of Superman in an issue of the Daily Planet, then starts drawing Clark's suit, tie, hat, and glasses on it with a marker, stunned as the result looks exactly like Clark. Shortly after this she throws herself out a window to test her theory, but Clark uses super-breath to get an awning to catch her. In the theatrical version overseen by Richard Lester and the Salkinds, this was replaced by the glasses scene at Niagara Falls, followed by Lois throwing herself in the river.
  • In Spellbound, someone recognizes Dr. Petersen's picture in the paper after a policeman draws glasses on it.
  • In One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing a British spy smuggles a secret out of China. Soldiers are looking for him, with a photo showing him clean-shaven and wearing a monocle, looking as British as can be. They recognize him disguised as a local peasant after scribbling in a Fu Manchu moustache and a coolie hat.

  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes recognizes the Big Bad from a series of Baskerville family portraits, and demonstrates to Watson by putting his arm over the hat and period costume. Now seeing only the facial features, Watson sees the similarity at once which gives them the motive, the Big Bad is the son of the Baskerville Black Sheep, and so is set to inherit the manor (And perhaps more importantly, the seven figure fortune that came with it) if the current owner dies.
  • In Time Scout, Skeeter Jackson uses this to show that a few missing people went downtime to the Old West disguised as a caballero, a fancy lady, and a porter headed for a shooting competition.
  • Similar to the Hound example, in Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Poirot attaches a false moustache to the portrait of the murder victim, thereby confirming that the heavily moustached investigating officer is his illegitimate son.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Belgian series Largo Winch, Largo recognizes an attacker as someone who tried to murder him earlier by adding glasses and removing his stubble from the police sketch.
  • In Agent Carter, SSR agent Sousa snaps a picture of a blonde woman suspected in an assassination, who is really his (brunette) coworker Peggy in disguise. The photo is taken from the back, though, so he doesn't have enough to recognize her. A witness he interrogates later reveals the woman is actually a brunette, so Sousa tries darkening the woman's hair in the photo. It's still not enough for him to recognize Peggy, though, until he later sees scars on her shoulder that match the photo's.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, Season 14 "West to Mexico", in a Western-based story, Stan is a wanted man who is running from Roger the bounty hunter. Stan grows a mustache and later on his face is bruised badly by Bullock and his gang. Roger doesn't recognize Stan at first due to his mustache and bruised face, but when his cough causes him to spit blood over the wanted poster of Stan, he recognizes him when his blood forms the same features on Stan's face.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, season 2 episode 18, "Make 'em Laugh", Joker is discovered to be the one responsible for brainwashing famous comedians into committing crimes when Alfred shows Batman and Robin a video tape of the previous Gotham Comedy Competition. When they realize one of the contestants sounds familiar, Batman edits the video to show the Joker's regular eyes on the contestant's face, showing a perfect match.
  • Once when Drake Mallard was flipping through his high school yearbook on Darkwing Duck Goslyn thought the science nerd in his class looked strangely familiar and started drawing on it. Drake was initially irate, until she showed him that he'd actually gone to school with Megavolt.
  • Subverted in China, IL, when Baby Cakes kidnaps five professors, among them is his dad, because he thinks they're witches and wizards and locks them in his basement, the news reports their disappearances and people are lead to believe a serial killer is loose among the college. When the police releases a sketch of the suspect which is basically a face of a generic hairless person, Baby Cakes fails to realize that's him and thinks a wizard is killing the people that looks like his prisoners. He is lead to believe it was Steve after setting a square bottle on the wanted poster that leaves a stain on the eye of the face which inspires Baby Cakes to draw a pair of glasses and hair on the side.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: "The Laughing" has Dee Dee showing Dexter that he's the were-clown terrorizing the neighborhood by taking a newspaper picture of the clown and drawing Dexter's glasses, hair, lab coat and boots over it.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug episode "Lady Wifi", Alya uses an app on her phone to draw Cat Noir's mask on Adrien's picture and notices that they look similar. Unfortunately, the idea is shot down by Marinette.
  • In one episode of Static Shock, when Static and Gear are looking at an old photo of SheBang's parents and their colleagues, Static catches sight of one of the scientists. By doing a little digital doctoring, he confirms that the scientist is Bigfoot, the villain of the episode.


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