7 Illustrative Facts About Pictionary

Jun Seita, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Jun Seita, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Ever since it was introduced in 1985, Pictionary has been a party game that requires artistic ambition but not necessarily any artistic talent. In this twist on charades, players take turns trying to guess the word or phrase being drawn on a sheet of paper—often ideas that are difficult to sketch, like “anchovy” or “snort.” More than 38 million copies were sold through 2001, when the rights to the game were purchased by Mattel. For more on the game that people seem drawn toward, keep reading.

1. Pictionary was invented by a bored waiter.

Robert Angel was a waiter working in Seattle in the early 1980s when he struck upon an idea to liven up social parties. Angel would pluck a random word from a dictionary and then attempt to illustrate it, making partygoers guess the word. When Angel saw Trivial Pursuit take off in 1983, he decided to see if his game had any potential on the mass market. Working with friend and fellow waiter Gary Everson, Angel designed a prototype game. Under the Angel Games banner and joined by a third partner, accountant Terry Langston, Angel borrowed $35,000 from his uncle to produce a starting inventory and distribute the game himself.

2. Pictionary was produced in an apartment.

Angel Games rolled out Pictionary in 1985, but without corporate backing from a major distributor like Milton Bradley, it wasn’t easy. They were unable to afford the molding process to make different game pieces, so Everson used blank dice with different colors. To put the package together, including the game board and playing cards, Angel moved everything he owned into his bedroom so he had room for eight banquet tables. The apartment assembly line produced 1000 games, including 500,000 cards that had to be hand-collated.

Business took off when the Nordstrom department store decided to place an order. (The game was soon produced by Western Publishing, makers of Golden Books.) By the late 1980s, stores could barely keep the game in stock. In 1987 alone, Pictionary moved 3 million copies, becoming the second biggest-selling “toy” in December of that year behind the Nintendo Entertainment System.

3. People got into fights over Pictionary.

Demand for Pictionary crested in 1988, when stores were low on inventory. According to Gannett News Service, shortages prompted one fistfight over the last copy of the game in a California store, while another copy was plucked from a shopping cart at a Target in Minneapolis.

4. Pictionary hosted a celebrity auction.

In 1988, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society hosted an auction tied into Pictionary by offering the chance to bid on celebrity renditions of words and phrases. George and Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Carol Burnett, Bob Hope, and Lily Tomlin all participated. A self-portrait of Lucille Ball netted $750 at the charity event.

5. There were two Pictionary game shows.

Like many board games before it, Pictionary was eventually adopted for game show purposes. The first iteration aired in 1989 and was hosted by actor Brian Robbins (Head of the Class). A second Pictionary premiered in September 1997. Hosted by actor Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), the show featured celebrities playing against contestants. During the taping of one episode, actor Erik Estrada (CHiPs) got a bit too overzealous celebrating a correct answer and threw his arms out, knocking guest Bill Maher to the floor. The series could probably have used more of that energy: It was canceled after one season.

6. You can play Pictionary with artificial intelligence.

In an effort to explore the ability of artificial intelligence to recognize images, the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence in Seattle debuted a picture-guessing game called Iconary in 2019. Modeled after Pictionary, the software allows humans to depict a word or concept from a selection of icons. If they draw them, Iconary will “auto-complete” the image into something the machine would understand. The machine, AllenAI, tries to guess the meaning of the image. Players can also try to understand what images AllenAI is displaying. You can play on the Iconary website.

7. You can also play Pictionary in the air.

In 2019, Mattel introduced Pictionary Air, which allows players to use a stylus to draw in the air and have their illustrations appear on a television or other monitor via a Chromecast streaming device. Because people can’t actually see what they’re drawing, it adds a different dimension to the game.

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

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Video Games

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home and Kitchen

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7 Fascinating Facts About Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe performs at the State Theatre in Minneapolis in 2018.
Janelle Monáe performs at the State Theatre in Minneapolis in 2018.

In music, there are artists, original artists, and then there’s Janelle Monáe. Since breaking out a decade ago with her first album, 2010's The ArchAndroid, Monáe—who was born on December 1, 1985—has seemed unstoppable, pushing the envelope with her astonishing blend of different musical styles, daring fashion sense, and serious acting chops. Bottom line: If Janelle Monáe has a new project, it’s going to be worth checking out. Here are some fascinating facts about the talent behind The Electric Lady.

1. Responding to a fan got Janelle Monáe fired from her job at Office Depot.

Before hitting it big, Monáe paid the bills by working at Office Depot while she was attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. She received an email from a fan and sent a response—on a company computer. She was let go, but the experience inspired her to write the song “Lettin’ Go.”

2. Janelle Monáe is still annoyed about losing the lead in a high school production of The Wiz.

Monaé's talent was clear at a young age. Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, she won three consecutive Juneteenth talents shows by covering songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill each year. However, while Monáe headlined many of her high school's musicals, she lost one major part—Dorothy in The Wiz—because family duty called. Monaé's mom needed to be picked up from work, which meant that the aspiring actress had to leave her audition early. As a result, a fellow classmate got the part; according to Rolling Stone, it's something that still bothers Monáe to this day.

3. Janelle Monáe’s acting career had an animated start.

Janelle Monáe stars in Antebellum (2020).Lionsgate

As if Monáe's music career wasn't impressive enough, she's also shown some serious acting talent in the last several years. Monáe has been a powerful presence in films like Moonlight and Hidden Figures, along with her starring role in the second season of Homecoming. However, her first film appearance was a voice acting role. In the animated sequel Rio 2, Monáe played the aptly named Dr. Monáe, a veterinarian. Her song "What Is Love" was also featured on the film's soundtrack.

4. Janelle Monáe had a close friendship with Prince.

There are countless musicians and artists who can claim the late Prince as an inspiration. Few of them can actually call him a friend. The Purple Rain mastermind championed Monáe and helped guide her creative process. According to Rolling Stone, he was the first person to receive a copy of Monáe's debut studio album, The ArchAndroid, which was delivered with flowers and a handwritten tracklist.

5. Janelle Monáe’s albums have had a narrative thread.

Monáe’s love for science-fiction is quite apparent, based on her discography and expressed fondness for films like Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking silent film Metropolis, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her debut EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite, and first two studio albums, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady, each centered around an alter-ego: Cindi Mayweather. This titular "archandroid" was meant to serve as a bridge between humans and robots. During The Electric Lady tour, fans were given pamphlets labeled "The Ten Droid Commandments." The Afrofuturism and sci-fi elements of Monáe's earlier music aren't emphasized as much on her most recent album, Dirty Computer, but the excellent quality is.

6. Janelle Monáe has been honored by Harvard.

Monáe has racked up numerous awards, including an MTV Video Music Award, a Satellite Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, two Soul Train Music Awards, and even more nominations. She also has some serious Ivy League endorsements. In 2014, after headlining Harvard’s annual Yardfest event, Monáe was the first recipient of the award for Achievement in Arts and Media by the Harvard College Women’s Center. That same year, the Harvard Black Men’s Forum named Monáe Woman of the Year.

7. Janelle Monáe pays tribute to her parents through her outfits.

Janelle Monáe performing at the 2016 Boston Calling Music Festival.digboston via Flickr // CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to her fashion sense, Monáe is known for her daring styles. One of her most iconic looks is a black and white tuxedo. Discussing this on Fresh Air, Monáe said she did this to honor her parents, who had to wear uniforms throughout their work lives. Her mother even worked a catering job with a tuxedo uniform dress code. "So that was one reason why I was constantly wearing the black-and-white tuxedo," she said. "And then I wanted to rebel against the gender norms and what it meant to dress like a woman or what it meant to dress like a man."