A futuristic-looking video communication system called the Picturephone was a prominent feature on the show, remaining virtually unchanged throughout the series, except for the phone's ringing, details of the lip-doors, and interior. The interior walls of the Picturephone are a giraffe print. A large phone booth-like area in the shape of a woman's head was the exterior, with a shower curtain in-between the face where her nose would be. The lips served as saloon doors that could be opened and closed at will. Inside was a cathode ray tube television monitor for viewing the individual on the other end, a tin can handset, several controls for the user to pull, press and twist, and lights to brighten the inside (done so by pulling a lever resembling a red rod with hand-grip indentations). In seasons 2 through 5, on occasion when Pee-wee would turn on these lights a coiled spring sound effect could be heard. Also, a pull-down background was often seen; it parodied a lot of modern-day artwork, such as American Gothic (as seen at the end of Miss Yvonne's Visit). On some occasions, Pee-wee wore a silly hat that matched the background's theme, such as a pirate hat or a beach umbrella. The phone's "ringing" was accompanied by a flash of shapes and patterns on the monitor. The interior only had one seat, but three people could get inside it, as demonstrated in the Store. The "conversations", which implied the existence of other "Picturephones", were actually pre-recorded video films of any character that Pee-wee "called". He would usually call "I'll get it! I'll get it!" and answer "Pee-wee's Playhouse. Pee-wee speaking." before the caller's image would appear on the monitor. The phone itself was always an empty tin can of Del Monte fruit cocktail and/or vegetables, connected to a telephone cord (hence the name Picturephone). At the beginning of Accidental Playhouse and the start of Pajama Party, the Picturephone's ringing was also accompanied by horns blaring and buzzer sounds, respectively. The episode Sick, Did Somebody Say Sick? shows us that there is a keypad that is used to dial numbers, but in later shots of the viewing screen and controls for the Picturephone, the keypad is nonexistent.
In one of the commentaries for the Christmas special, the Picturephone was described as being "way ahead of its time" for its capability of showing picture with a person's voice when calling them on the phone.
The Picturephone was designed by Ric Heitzman.
Some of the people called/calling on the Picturephone:
- Rhonda (operator)
- Daryl (officer)
- Roger and Roger's Mom
- Zyzzybalubah (from his crystalline command center)
- Dr. Jinga Janga
- Miss Yvonne
Conky, Pterri, Globey and Jambi are a few of the characters that haven't called anyone on the Picturephone in the playhouse, but Jambi called Pee-wee from another phone while on his vacation.
- The Picturephone was presumably inspired by the one from the movie 2001:A Space Odyssey. Both are boothlike videophones with a chair and viewing screen.
- The episode Miss Yvonne's Visit is the only episode where Pee-wee uses the Picturephone four times. Pee-wee even comments that it was ringing off the hook.