#3. Disney Comics In Europe
Even if you're a fan of Disney, or comics, you might not know that Disney publishes, for example, Donald Duck comics. That's because the readership of these comics in the U.S. is - and I'm giving a rough estimate here - zero.
It's bewildering that the actual home of Disneyland, Disney World, and the corporate headquarters of Disney, not to mention the native home of comic book nerds, has no interest in classic Disney character comic books, while more than one out of every four Norwegians reads Donald Duck & Co.
In this issue, Donald poops during a chess match.
It's not just Mickey and Donald, either. Some countries are really fixated on obscure Disney characters, like the Netherlands on the Big Bad Wolf (apparently from a Three Little Pigs cartoon I don't remember).
Other characters making their appearance in the Netherlands' weeklies include American cultural sensitivity hot potatoes Br'er Rabbit:
and Li'l Hiawatha:
and bit players like Scamp, who is apparently the son of Lady and the Tramp, from um, Lady and the Tramp.
Why isn't classic Disney popular in its homeland? Well, first of all, comic books in America aren't an all-ages product sold at the grocery store like they are in Europe, and second of all, due to being constantly bombarded with Disney marketing in the U.S., we've OD'd on classic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and can only see them as corny corporate mascots.
Which is why all attempts to bring them back here involve a ham-fisted attempt to make them "relevant," like the upcoming gritty Wii game (how did those words get together) Epic Mickey.
Hm, this might actually work though.
#2. Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties In China
In all of China's bloody history, from forced labor at the Great Wall to Tiananmen Square, nothing makes me more ashamed of my ancestral homeland than the fact that Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties was the highest grossing animated film of all time in China.
While not technically an animated film, I suppose there isn't a marketing category for part-animated part-live action abomination, so sure, lump it in with WALL-E and The Lion King (the one that Garfield beat for the record).
I wonder how my people can have such terrible taste, and then I see an old Chinese couple walking down the street wearing a bright green set of these.
So yeah. I guess that makes sense.
The other possibility is that Chinese people for some reason thought Garfield was porn. China's internet filtering software certainly seemed to think so.
So we see a Garfield poster at the box office and we think, "Someone's put a gun to Bill Murray's head again," but maybe Chinese moviegoers see it and think, "FORBIDDEN AMERICAN PORN!" That would explain a lot.
#1. David Hasselhoff In Germany
We had to mention the Hoff. Bring up the idea of oddly popular American exports and half the time people will say, "What, like Hasselhoff in Germany?"
After all, in the US David Hasselhoff is considered a washed-up punchline whose most recent film was his daughter's video of him eating a cheeseburger while completely drunk. However, in Germany, he somehow became a pop star, admired unironically for many years. So what's the deal?
First of all, Germans will try to downplay this, which is understandable, because it's embarrassing. If you try changing the subject to world wars, though, they might suddenly feel more comfortable talking about David Hasselhoff's inexplicable popularity in their country.
You know how embarrassed they get about Kaiser Wilhelm.
It all started in 1989. David Hasselhoff was the washed-up star of Knight Rider, a show in which he had played second fiddle to a talking car.
KITT was the real star of the show, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
He was trying to extend his fifteen minutes of fame by becoming a pop singer, and was touring Europe (the only place that he could promote himself as a pop singer without people screaming "bullshit!" and throwing batteries at the stage) when communism happened to start collapsing right in front of him. Showing more savvy than anyone would expect of David Hasselhoff, he rewrote a German pop song into the English-language song "Looking For Freedom," and sang it everywhere people were taking down communist dictator statues.
The pinnacle was a New Year's Eve concert at the fallen Berlin Wall, where, according to him, he reunited Germany by causing East Germans and West Germans to sing along with his song together.
That publicity probably gave him the leverage to return the floundering Baywatch to the air, where Europeans mistakenly thought he was the main attraction.
Although Hasselhoff fever seems to be more a thing of the past now even in Germany, you have to consider there is no way he would have sold out concerts in America in the 90s, Baywatch or no Baywatch, and if he had attempted to start an inspirational singalong here near readily available chunks of broken masonry, it would probably not have turned out as positively as his 1989 Berlin Wall visit.
And really, is his success any more baffling than the fact that in the Ukrain one third of the households still watch Alf? That means it's more popular there than the NFL playoffs in America. Go figure.