A very easy way to emphasize how slow something is going is to compare it to the speed of another subject. A very easy way to mock the slow thing is to compare it to something really slow. That about sums up this trope, in which the slow pace at which something is going is emphasized by something else that should normally be much slower manages to outpace the former anyway.
As the trope name implies, snails are common for the comparison, but it is not limited to just snails or slow animals. A wide range of subjects can be used ranging from the elderly, a person in very restrictive clothing, or a toy. If the slow subject being compared to is a vehicle and the creators don't want to make the comparison overkill, the traditionally-slow competitor might be a different, but still slow vehicle as opposed to a person or animal.
- In BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense, when Maple first acquires her pet tortoise, Syrup, Syrup is shown to be faster than her.
- Code Geass: During the school festival in R2, C.C. gets stuck in a tub of tomatoes that Arthur then takes to bring to another part of the festival, so Lelouch and several of the other students chase after him. Lelouch, not being in very good shape, manages to get outrun by everyone else chasing after Arthur (despite getting a head start), but it doesn't get truly humiliating until Kallen in a chunky, full-body mascot costume and Milly in a VERY fancy dress both manage to speed past him.
- In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, village chief Mr. Slowy is characterized right from the first episode as being slower than a snail when walking. In that episode, a snail child and its mother pass by Mr. Slowy as he's walking, and the snail child asks his mother if she deceived him since he was told snails are the slowest animals in the world.
- Ron White's segment in The Blue Collar Comedy Tour opens with him complaining about the charter jet flight his manager arranged to get him to Phoenix, AZ from Flagstaff (two hours by car). It's a nine-minute flight, and he complains the plane is going half the speed of smell and got passed by a kite, and a goose. And then they developed engine trouble and had to return to the airport halfway.
- Gaston Lagaffe:
- One strip had Gaston getting angry at Fantasio for saying his car is slower than a turtle with the flu. Gaston then stop and tell Fantasio to continue on foot with Fantasio telling him he didn't need to stop for him to get out of the car. Then it's shown that Fantasio goes faster than Gaston's car by walking.
- Another strip has Gaston's Alleged Car being outpaced by, among others, two rabbits and a group of hikers, and later still Prunelle has Gaston pull over (without stopping) so he can pick a few flowers.
- Rat Man: One flashback issue shows a young Rat-Man (still called Rat-Boy at the time) in a race, bragging that training made his body "the picture of speed itself". Cut to the finish line, crossed, in order, by every runner except Rat-Boy, then a turtle, then a snail, then (after several beat panels) by a sloth.
- The Far Side has a cartoon where a cowboy named Hank loses a quick-draw to a sloth.
- In Cars, Lightning complains that his driver, Mack, is driving him to California way too slowly, and a minivan (which should, for all intents and purposes, be slower than a mack truck) drives past Mack.
McQueen: What? A minivan!? Oh, come on, Mack, you're in the slow lane, this is Lightning McQueen you're hauling here!
- Office Space: During the opening scene, Peter is stuck in traffic and an old man with a walker is moving faster than he is.
- In The Disorderly Orderly, Jerome gets stuck in a straight-jacket originally for a patient and ends up having to awkwardly scoot facedown. His slow speed is emphasized by having a snail outpace him.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, while staying with the Weasleys, Harry plays a few friendly Quidditch matches with them. According to the narration, Ron's old hand-me-down Cleansweep broom is so slow compared to his own Nimbus 2000 that it's occasionally outstripped by passing butterflies.
- In The Phantom Tollbooth Canby demonstrates what he is, including many conflicting qualities:
"I'm as fast as can be," he announced, running around the island twice in no time at all, "and I'm as slow as can be," he complained, waving good-by to a snail.
- This gag is used a few times during The Benny Hill Show's Undercrank moments. Notably, with Benny as a cyclist trying to speed up, only to be outraced by a grandma on her own cycle, and then by a mother pushing a baby carrier.
- iCarly: In "iGo Nuclear", Carly tries to make a battery-powered scooter as an alternative to taking the bus for her Earth Day project. Unfortunately, said scooter only goes at four miles an hour, and a kid with a tricycle and two old ladies manage to move much faster than her, the latter group of which giggles as they speed past.
- In one episode of One Foot in the Grave, Victor and Margaret are being driven by Mrs. Warboys, who is going far too slow for Victor's liking. Mrs. Warboys protests that she can't drive fast on the narrow mountain road they're following, but Victor points out that while driving on a dual carriageway in Lisbon they were overtaken by "two blokes pushing a Transit van".
- In trouble with a pursuing alien spaceship in Red Dwarf, Lister protests there's no way they can outrtun the chasing ship as their vessel is not built for speed:
Lister: Rimmer, the Eastbourne over-seventies ladies' zimmer frame relay team could overtake us!
- Victorious: One episode revolved around Tori needing a ride to school and asking her friends for help. Robbie agrees to give her a ride on his quadracycle. He brags that this will be the "Car of the future", but is overtaken by an elderly woman and some kids on tricycles.
- Arthur: "D.W. Blows the Whistle" has an Arthur's Imagine Spot about D.W.'s safety patrolling ruining the race by making the cars safe. As the race begins, two snails are shown participating, with one saying "This is my kind of race!"
- Being Ian: The B plot of "Miss Tweenage Burnaby" revolves around Korey being tasked to mow the lawn, except the riding mower he's using is so absurdly slow, even going full speed, that a passing by turtle moves faster than it while laughing at him. This motivates Korey to modify the mower to make it faster, dubbing his creation "Monster Mow", except he winds up making it too fast and powerful for him to control where he's going.
- In Central Park, Season 1 "Live It Up Tonight", when trying to bike to Brooklyn using a rental bike, with Paige pedaling and Owen behind her as a passenger, the bike gets a flat tire that slows them down to the point that an old lady is able to outpace them, so they get off the bike and just walk.
- The Fairly OddParents:
- In "Mooooving Day", after Timmy's family moves to Dimmadome Acres, he joins Chester and A.J. in riding Segways, which run at a pre-approved speed of 2 mph so they won't spill their Dimmadome Farms milk. As an elderly snail slithers past them, Timmy hits a pebble and spills some milk on it, causing the snail to become a grinning zombie like everyone else. This makes him realize there is something strange is going on.
- The Channel Chasers Cut Song "If I Lived In TV" used this to mock The Six Million Dollar Man's Super Speed "effects" by having the "bionic" Timmy, Cosmo, and Wanda get outpaced by a turtle.
- The classic 1937 Looney Tunes cartoon Porky's Railroad features Porky's old clunker of a locomotive slowing to a crawl while attempting to climb up a mountain, to the point a snail is seen outpacing them.
- My Life as a Teenage Robot: After Jenny's failed human disguise in "Raggedy Android" scares the people at the fair, they start an angry mob to chase her out. However, said mob finds chasing after a super-powered robot to be much more taxing on their stamina than they first expect, and their running pace slows down to such a crawl that a snail manages to move faster than them.
- In the Silly Symphony short "The Tortoise and the Hare", Toby Tortoise has snails literally running circles around him.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "I Was A Teenage Gary", after SpongeBob is accidentally injected with snail plasma meant for his pet snail Gary and begins to undergo a transformation into a snail, he finds that Gary is able to go faster than him even before the transformation's final step.
- Talkartoons: In "Sky Scraping", a sleepy Bimbo marches to work at such a pace that a snail slithers past him. At the end, however, Bimbo bolts it back home at quitting time and is shown running faster than a rabbit. This gag was repeated in the Color Classic short An Elephant Never Forgets, this time with a hippo going to and from school.
- In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode, "Cautious Connor", Connor, one of the fastest express engines on the Mainland, decides to go slow after one of his piston rods breaks, deciding he needs to be more careful. At one point, Connor moves so slowly, that Captain Joe manages to row Skiff the Railboat right past him. To get Connor back to his normal fast self, Thomas challenges Connor to a race against Stephen, one of the slowest engines on Sodor.
- German propaganda in 1944 played on Churchill's confident assertion that an invasion of Italy offered a swift attack route via the "soft underbelly of Europe". The Germans pointed out that between the invasion in September 1943 and getting bogged down at Cassino in early 1944, an ordinary garden snail could have covered twice as much distance as the Allies in five months. Propaganda leaflets intended to demoralise British and American soldiers made this point graphically. see here.