Coming up with fresh ideas is pretty easy. Unless if by "fresh," you mean "not stolen from someone else." That's actually rather hard. So hard that some people in entertainment don't even bother trying, resulting in hilariously half-assed knockoffs. Like how ...
2016 was the year the world at large discovered that Pokemon still exists, and Pokemon players discovered the world at large. The massive success of Pokemon Go spawned countless imitators, featuring characters with names like "Peecachoo," "Mewthree," and ... "Garfield"?
Yes, the most shameless Pokemon Go ripoff wasn't made by some no-name company in China, but by the people behind America's favorite lasagna-eating, Monday-hating cat. They even named the app Garfield Go, making us suspect that the big slob himself was behind the whole project. The basic premise and presentation are the same, only instead of throwing Pokeballs at hundreds of different colorful monsters, you're looking for "treasures" while flinging lasagna at the same overweight orange feline.
To be fair, there was one thing setting Garfield Go apart from the original game: They jammed in 100% more corporate tie-ins. The app offered players the chance to win gift certificates and coupons for places like Amazon, Starbucks, and Domino's, thus undoing any health benefits they might get from walking more.
Though it never got quite as popular as Pokemon Go, Garfield Go fans did seem to appreciate the game for what it was (a low-quality copy appealing to their nostalgia). The biggest complaints seemed to be that the physics were off, making it hard to catch Garfield and his treasures. But then, if Garfield was realistic, the game would last about 15 seconds before he keeled over from a coronary.
Copying The Simpsons is practically an industry in itself by now, but most people at least mess with the formula a little when making their own versions. At the very least, come up with a catchy theme song of your own and make the characters' skin colors something other than yellow. (Seth McFarlane has done "white" and "black" so far.) The "creators" of The Samsonadzes didn't bother with any of those things.
The Samsonadzes aired in Georgia (the country), and starred a family with a dopey dad, a big-haired mom, two oddball kids, and of course, a crazy talking parrot. (Let's be honest, that's objectively an upgrade from Maggie.) The biggest difference is that the computer animation somehow looks crappier than the hand-drawn animation The Simpsons had in 1989. Hell, they even stole the furniture:
Like The Simpsons, the show features celebrity cameos. For instance, one episode guest-starred wacky ol' Vladimir Putin, who's looking a lot more Mr. Burns-ish than usual.
Despite the obvious similarities, creator/producer Shalva Ramishvili insisted that his show wasn't intended to be a copy of The Simpsons. They simply tried to make something relevant to Georgian society. It's just that Georgian families happen to be as stupid as American ones, apparently. Initially a hit, it appears that the show only lasted one season. So that's one thing it has over The Simpsons -- it knew when to quit.
It's the classic story we all know and love. A small alien gets stranded on our planet, befriends a bunch of kids, hides from adults through the use of baggy clothes, and wows everyone with his magical glowing weirdly phallic fingers. We're talking, of course, about the Filipino sci-fi film Kokey.
Don't let that trailer give you the impression that Kokey is nothing more than an E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial ripoff. It's also a Mac And Me ripoff, since there's a scene in which Kokey enjoys a cold refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola.
Like E.T., Kokey ends with a tearful scene in which the lovable alien says goodbye to his human friends, reunites with his alien family, and leaves in a huge spaceship ... although this one is more noticeably made out of cardboard.
Filipinos loved Kokey so much that it's been rebooted as a TV show not once but twice since 2007 (and the plot summaries are, to put it lightly, completely nuts). Meanwhile, E.T. still has only the one movie and an industry-killing video game. Take notes, Spielberg.
A lot of Disney movies are based on centuries-old stories that are in the public domain, like The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, or the ancient legend of Air Bud. This means nothing is stopping some other studio from cheaply adapting the same stories at the same time as Disney and leeching off their publicity. That was GoodTimes Entertainment's entire business model.
Though they claimed to be based on the same source material as Disney, we have a sneaking suspicion that GoodTimes didn't bother reading those stories, and created their plots based on half-remembered Disney matinee showings. Their version of Aladdin, for instance, begins with a stereotypically Middle Eastern song promising to tell you the tale of a genie, and immediately goes to a dusty marketplace. It's just like the Disney version, if the animation was traced by a group of middle-schoolers.
Their Beauty And The Beast, meanwhile, included the vaguely familiar sight of Belle dancing in a yellow dress to celebrate her acceptance of her weird man/beast fetish.
And check out the Seven Dwarves singing a song about how they love to work in a mine, which turns into whistling:
Disney did manage to sue GoodTimes ... for making their VHS boxes too similar to theirs. A judge decreed that there was nothing wrong about GoodTimes' faux Disney productions, but they had to prominently display their name on the top of every box to avoid confusing any more grandmothers looking for birthday presents. They agreed to do that, and also decided to slap their logo all over the boxes' borders. After all, the company president said, they didn't "want someone to look for ours and take someone else's." Good thinking. There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there.
The early 2010s were a great time for TV shows starring gritty, sexy versions of fairy tale characters in the modern world, like NBC's police procedural Grimm and ABC's ensemble drama Once Upon A Time. All of this can be blamed squarely on the comic book series Fables, which began at DC's Vertigo imprint nearly a decade before.
See, both NBC and ABC tried to adapt Fables as a TV show, but gave up ... only to then turn around and make shows with suspiciously similar premises. ABC was by far the more shameless of the two. Like Once Upon A Time, Fables is set in a town populated by storybook characters who are stuck in the real world. The show and the comic even use a lot of the same characters, like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood, a talking Magic Mirror, Prince Charming, and a sword-wielding Snow White who's an ally of the town's sheriff.
Once Upon A Time's executive producers initially claimed that they didn't even know about Fables, only to later admit they'd "read a couple of issues." Still, they maintained that they're totally different stories set in "the same playground." Following that analogy, they would be the playground bullies who took a toy away from another kid and made lots of TV money off it. For what it's worth, the creator of Fables saysOnce Upon A Time is "probably" inspired by his work, but "probably not" a ripoff. After all, it also takes heavy inspiration from the Disney versions of those characters. That makes it ... better?
In the 1960s, it wasn't unheard of for total randos to successfully pass themselves off as famous musicians and do live shows, since their primitive technology meant most people listened to music with only their ears. Even a young James Brown once went onstage as Little Richard, only for another guy to later pass himself off as Brown. Frankly, we're amazed that any concert finished without two Diana Rosses dueling with katanas while screaming "There can be only one!"
Anyway, the most bonkers musical impersonation story involved that knockoff James Brown. (Lavell Hardy, going by the highly creative name of "James Brown Jr.") One day, Hardy met a nightclub singer named Mary Jane Jones who sounded remarkably like Aretha Franklin, and looked vaguely like her from a distance. So Hardy decided to kidnap her and force her to play as "Aretha Franklin" on a tour of Florida.
Hardy initially lured Jones to Florida promising she'd open for Franklin, but once she got there, he threatened to "throw her in the bay" if she didn't do as he said. Jones was kept locked in a series of hotel rooms and fed only hamburgers, for some reason. They did four shows across the state. In Fort Myers, the 1,400 audience members started shouting that she wasn't Aretha when she walked on, but she immediately shut them up with her mighty pipes.
Everything was going well until the real Aretha arrived in Florida and found out about "her" upcoming gig in Ocala. Shocked by this blatant lack of R.E.S.P.E.C.T., her team contacted the authorities, and Jones and Hardy were arrested by the local sheriff. But there was one last twist. When Jones was released without charge, she found all the publicity had made her a genuine star in her own right. She went on to tour the country, performing with legends like Duke Ellington. The fake Aretha got so big that a fake fake Aretha then started impersonating her. She later retired, financially comfortable, to raise her kids. Meanwhile, Hardy avoided jail time on the grounds that his lawyer had overcharged him so brutally that it counted as punishment. He promptly vanished from history.
Nathan Kamal lives in Chicago and does standup comedy. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Find him on Instagram: @nathankamal. Christian Markle is mostly lazing around so why not give him a nudge on Facebook.
For more, check out How Chris Nolan Stole His Ideas From DuckTales:
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