This happens when someone with poor or minimalistic drawing skill has drawn something and another person misidentifies it. It does not necessarily mean the drawing sucks though, often the drawing is so simple that anyone could have mistaken it.
This isn't tied to drawings. Clay arts, handcrafted gifts, needlework or any handicrafts can also be classified into this trope.
- One GEICO commercial shows a game of Pictionary, with a sloth as the artist. A straight line is all it can draw before time expires. (The picture is supposed to be a tandem bicycle.)
- In Azumanga Daioh, not even Sakaki can identify exactly what her knitted dolls are supposed to be.
Sakaki: "That one's a dog, and that's a cat... Or is it the other way around?"
- In Bleach, Rukia is known for loving to draw Chappy the Bunny, being absolutely horrible at drawing, and using her bad drawings to explain concepts with different people being different colors of bunny. Most of the other characters are never really sure what her drawings are supposed to be. The exception is Aizen, she draws him as a bear.
- In Emma: A Victorian Romance, little Colin Jones draws doodles that look vaguely like some animal or other and gets upset if they're misidentified. Eldest brother William is the best at figuring out what's been drawn, mostly because every other Jones child once drew like that.
- In Kyo Kara Maoh!, nobody ever figures out what Gwendal's knitted animals are supposed to be.
- The Strawhats' second ship in One Piece looked like a lion, made by Franky. But everyone else thought it looked like a sun or a sunflower. Franky even intended to name the ship Lion Gang Champion though in the end everyone else went with the Thousand Sunny instead.
- Ranma ½:
- In one episode, Akane bakes some cookies for Ranma in a variety of animal shapes, but the results come out so poorly that Ranma's guesses at identifying them are completely off the mark, with Akane getting increasingly incensed each time she corrects him. (She eventually gives up: "Are you gonna keep guessing or just eat them?!")
- At another time, Akane sewed a "cute" patch on Happosai's gi (which, unbeknownst to him, contained a "Woman Repellant" scent.) Happosai is delighted at the "cute little piggy," which a flustered Akane claims to be a dog.
- And yet another time, Ranma, Akane, and Ukyo try to pacify a rampaging (and ugly as sin) divine horse by drawing a flattering portrait of it . Ranma and Akane's attempts are so terrible that Miss Hinako tries to guess whether they're drawings of shrimp or bugs.
- Sailor Moon S: In the Cloverway Dub, when Chibi-Usa returns from the future along with a letter from Queen Serenity, Minako reads it aloud until she admits she has no idea what the letter says due to its shrewd writing and just made it up.
- Ushio and Tora: Ushio's drawings are so terrible that people can hardly figure out what they are supposed to be. Only Asako and Mayuko know what Ushio's drawings are supposed to be.
- The "What a horrible ugly monster! It's a picture of mommy..." variant is used in Le Chat, a Belgian comic.
- In The Baby-Sitters Club, it is suggested that one say something along the lines of "What a nice picture! Can you tell me about it?" when confronted with a child's drawing, because "you don't want to say 'what a lovely elephant!' and have it turn out to be a picture of their grandmother."
- When Semi and Miranda are turned into a fish and bird monster respectively in Dr. Franklin's Island, they have great difficulty communicating - they have Electronic Telepathy but are too paranoid of being overheard to want to use it much. They can express a fair amount with body language but that has distinct limits. Miranda likes to make patterns of objects and really insists that Semi notices one - five seedpods, six flowers, three bits of melon rind, nine sticks, two dead butterflies - and is frustrated when Semi just sees it as art and not an important key code that Miranda had observed.
- In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel "Camera Obscura", everyone who sees the Doctor's attempted map of a London neighborhood wonders about the round shapes he's drawn. Fitz tries to guess what they might be ("trees", "gardens", or "duck ponds") until Anji gets annoyed and sarcastically suggests they're "gigantic pools of jam". Oddly, Fitz and Sabbath both describe them as "puffy". It's never explained what they were actually meant to be.
- During Harrow the Ninth, the Lyctors and God hold a strategy meeting about the impending arrival of a Resurrection Beast. It's completely derailed when every single person present looks at the squiggle the Saint of Joy drew representing the Beast and has their own idea about what she really drew. A muffin, a cloud with a face, a flower, a snake in a bush...
- In Just So Stories "How The First Letter Was Written", written language was invented to avoid this sort of confusion, after a picture intended to convey "Daddy has broken his spear, he needs his spare one, and this man who doesn't speak our language will bring it back" was interpreted as meaning "Daddy is being attacked from all sides by men with spears".
- In The Little Prince, the narrator explains how he once drew a picture of a snake that had swallowed an elephant, and all the adults told him it was a very nice hat.
- In Nation, Daphne/Ermintrude sends Mau an invitation to join her for dinner. She writes it out, then, in case he can't read, draws a picture of a stick figure with an arrow pointing towards the boat. Mau interprets it as meaning that, when the sun is at a certain angle in the sky, he's supposed to throw a spear at the boat.
- The One and Only Ivan, a gorilla, thinks his art is perfectly comprehensible as portraying items within his "domain". Mac and the other adult humans see it as scribbled nonsense. As a fellow artist Julia can often figure it out, but she's mystified by his collage and has to be prompted in order to tell that it means something. Her own art is something Ivan understands quite well, but confuses the other animals.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Leonard, Sheldon, Amy, and Penny have a Game Night, girls vs. guys. They start out with Pictionary, and Leonard and Sheldon completely fail at it. (Sheldon mistakes 'polish' for 'Polish', so draws Polish sausages and things associated with Marie Curie and Copernicus, who were both Polish. When it's Leonard's turn to draw, Sheldon guesses science things like 'quark-gluon plasma', when it's actually a chocolate chip cookie.)
- One episode of The Bill Engvall Show has Paul with a sculpture of himself, only for it to be mistaken for one of Don Cheadle.
- Community: Pictionary is played in the episode Basic Genealogy and the game devolves into a fist fight when an attempt to draw a windmill looks more like a swastika.
Officer Cackowski: I may just be a simple cop, but people need to know: this isn't gonna stop until Pictionary bans the word "windmill."
- Criminal Minds: Morgan looks at a picture drawn by an autistic kid and can't figure out what it is. Hotch makes a glance, says "It's obviously a dog" and keeps on with what he's doing, leaving Morgan absolutely befuddled.
- German family show Die Montagsmaler was entirely based on invoking this trope - A had to scribble a pic illustrating some word and B had to identify it. Funny moments ensued when a completely inept contestant should draw a navel - and the guesser refused to solve, thinking it was, uhm, something less innocent.
- In one episode of Engine Sentai Go-onger, the heroes are stumped, trying to think of a way to defeat the Monster of the Week. When it's Gunpei's turn to offer an idea, he starts his explanation with a drawing of... something.
Sosuke: What's that?Saki: A koinobori? noteHant: Nope, it's a log.Renn: I'm sure it's UMA.note [gets stared at] UMA is...Gunpei: (exasperated) It's a PENGUIN!The others: No way! This is a penguin?
- Frasier: Used to show how incompatible Frasier and Julia are compared to Niles and Daphne. Daphne draws a circle on the board and Niles is immediately able to guess that her prompt was The Ring of the Nibelung. Julia accuses them of cheating for getting it so fast. On Fraiser's turn he draws a cherry with a sombrero and a moustache for "Cherry Garcia" which Julia completely fails to get.
- In the Friends "The One With All the Poker", Phoebe and Rachel good-naturedly mock Monica for the horrifying "Pictionary Incident," wherein she threw a plate in a moment of frustration at one of her buddies' poor drawing. She insists she was just gesticulating forcefully and the plate slipped out of her hand. In The Tag of the episode, they are playing Pictionary again, and no-one can guess that Monica's sketch of a bird is a clue for Bye Bye Birdie (instead, Chandler guesses each of the Airport films in turn, while Phoebe says, "That's a bird?"). However, when Rachel draws a bean-like shape and starts tapping it with the pencil, this is somehow enough for Joey to guess The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
- In one episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned tries to paint abstract art and the entire school thinks it's a naked lady. At the end of the episode, he actually tries to draw a naked lady and people see it as a fire truck.
- Played with in Stargate SG-1. Daniel and Sam are presented with a thermal image of the symbiote inside of Teal'c, and they play dumb:
Daniel: Oh, that's very good! Did you draw that yourself?Sam: What is it?Daniel: That... That's a duck, isn't it?
- The game show Win, Lose or Draw was basically a game show version of Pictionary. Coincidentally, there were also two official game show versions of Pictionary, but neither was as popular.
- One Calvin and Hobbes strip has Calvin's dad try to draw an island some time after breaking his glasses. Calvin initially thinks he's drawing a Brontosaurus with rabies.
- A For Better or for Worse comic has a young Elizabeth showing her father a painting after a day of preschool. Her dad starts to comment on what a nice face it is, until Elizabeth interrupts to tell him that it's just a pizza.
- In a FoxTrot strip, Roger and Andy are playing Pictionary. He keeps shouting out obviously incorrect answers as the drawing progresses (including "It's a snowstorm!" before she's even drawn anything), culminating in "It's a Christmas tree in a cereal bowl next to a snake!" and "What's with these 'B', 'O', 'A', and 'T' symbols? Are they Pictionary shorthand?"
- Piranha Club: On a double date/game night with Doris' insufferable roommate Felicia, Doris completely fails to guess Ernie's drawing ("An omelet! An amoeba! Ecstacy! A SCUD missile!"). Crosses over into Terrible Artist, since nobody else manages to identify it either, even after being told what it is. note Meanwhile, Felicia's Insufferable Genius boyfriend Basil produces perfect renditions of the Sistine Chapel and Rembrandt's The Night Watch in under 15 seconds.note
- In Episode 2 of The Walking Dead: Season One, Clementine draws a picture of a cat which Ben and Duck mistake for a dog and a goat.
- The Chapel Chronicles, in a reversal of the usual trope, Chapel draws an photo-realistic Mona Lisa, but her opponent Fred can't identify it.
- In Homestuck, Jade Harley owns a Pictionary Modus. It misidentifies an advanced bass for a mecha, the Tangle Buddies for a pair of gloves with some coins and the Magic Cue Ball for the Magic 8 Ball.
- A skit from The Whitest Kids U' Know has a child showing a picture he drew to his parents. While it appears to be something rather inappropriate (read: penis), he explains to his parents after they fail to recognize that it is actually an elephant. Subverted moments later, when the child shows them a drawing that looks exactly what it meant to be.
- Adventures in Odyssey: During an actual game of Pictionary, Tamika attempts to draw a tank and Marvin keeps guessing that it's something to do with a fish.
- Amphibia: During a burying-the-hatchet dinner party with two former adversaries, the Plantars end up playing "Draw-si-Doodle". Hop Pop and Grime open with incredibly crude drawings that are correctly identified as a dirtsnake and "Sergeant Campbell Bilgewater and the Horsefly Rebellion of '48". Sasha draws a fairly detailed picture of a tree, which somehow all the Plantars identify as the time they blew up Toad Tower.
- In Animaniacs, the Warners play Pictionary with Pablo Picasso. The Warners are unable to decipher his realistic drawings, while their weird-looking doodles leave him flummoxed. When an art dealer arrives and sees the Warner's drawings, he mistakes them for Picasso's and praises his new "Cubist" style.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this happens to Sokka several times.
Sokka: Designing the lost Appa poster was my job. I've been working all day on my Appa! (holds up a poster of what appears to be a diseased potato)
Aang: Sokka, the arrow is on Appa's head.
Sokka: This is his head!
Katara: Why are feet coming out of it?
Sokka: Those are his horns! ...I haven't seen him in a while, okay?
Toph: It look just like him to me.
Sokka: Thank you, I worked really- Why do you feel the need to do that?
- Family Guy:
Stewie: It wasn't right the first time you said it! Why the hell would it be right the next ten times?!
- "Lois Kills Stewie":
Peter: Stewie, uh, how long you been all messed up and evil like this?Stewie: Oh, so now you're interested in Stewie. Last week when I made that macaroni picture of an owl, you didn't give a damn!Peter: That was an owl?
- Another episode features Stewie actually playing Pictionary with a family who had moved into the Griffins' house. The husband of the family keeps shouting, "It's a jackal! Jackal! It looks like a jackal! Jackal!", much to Stewie's irritation once time runs out.
- "Lois Kills Stewie":
- O'Farrell's attempt at assembling a sketch of the serial shredder in Fillmore!:
Tehama: Okay. What the heck is that?
Fillmore: Uh, no offence, Danny, but that kinda looks like Tiger Woods on a very bad morning.
Ingrid: (squinting) Oh yeah, and that's his elbow...at least, I hope that's his elbow...
- Happened in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy in a episode in which Dracula's pictionary drawing of Abraham Lincoln is mistaken for successively more absurd things.
- In the Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "The Big Date", one of the things Jimmy and Beezy try to do to keep Jez busy while Lucius deals with a problem at his factory is the trope. Hilariously, Jimmy draws an extremely accurate horse representation but Beezy constantly identifies it as things like a waffle.
- The Penguins of Madagascar: Julien and Marlene are missing and Kowalski shows a picture he drew of them to Fred the squirrel.
Fred: Which one's the otter?Kowalski: This one, obviously. Note the whiskers?Fred: Oh, I thought that was a cat.Kowalski: Did I ask "have you seen this lemur and cat?"Fred: No, that's why I thought it was odd that you drew a cat.Kowalski: It's not a cat.Fred: Then why does it have whiskers?Kowalski: You know what? Forget the otter.Fred: Cat.Kowalski: Whatever!
- A variation in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Put That Putter Away". Candace apparently has such poor handwriting that when she writes the word "busted" on a piece of paper, both Stacy and Phineas mistake it for a drawing of dancing weasels.
- Parodied in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Cabin Fever". Bev Bighead invites Ed to try hand shadow puppetry with Rocko and Heffer, and despite Ed being able to create the unmistakable shapes of "The Thinker", the Eiffel Tower, and a prancing deer, none of the other three can get anywhere close to the right answers. This raises Ed's temper to the point that he causes the Hair-Trigger Avalanche driving the remainder of the episode's plot.
- The Simpsons
- In "A Milhouse Divided," the Simpsons host a dinner party with a game of Pictionary. Maude Flanders guesses "cornstarch" from three dots drawn by Ned, while Kirk Van Houten is unable to draw "dignity," though Luanne is. Homer thinks that Kirk is also unable to draw "a door".
- In "You Kent Always Say What You Want", Maggie and Marge play some amazing rounds of Pictionary against Selma and Patty, but despite Maggie's drawings being incomprehensible, Marge always knows what they are.
- Steven Universe attempts to communicate via drawings in two different episodes ("Bubble Buddies" and "Escapism") when he's able to draw, but not speak, to someone. No one ever understands it. In "Bubble Buddies", Connie just writes what Steven was trying to convey, which is Steven's ultimate solution in "Escapism" as well. Nephrite/Centipeetle is actually significantly more successful with this method of communicating to Steven when neither speech nor writing works. Steven is able to interpret a lot from her drawings, which may explain why he tends to resort to it over writing.