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If Nokia tried to expand into the burrito market tomorrow, or McDonald's suddenly started manufacturing jeans, they'd have a hard time finding customers. We mostly like businesses to stick to what they're good at. But there are some famous companies out there that took a leap into a wildly different industry ... and shattered both ankles once they slammed into the cold, hard ground of reality.

5
Disney Has A Mad Science Division

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Disney Imagineering, originally WED Enterprises, is the engineering arm of the entertainment behemoth. They're the ones responsible for creating all those rides and attractions for the company's various theme parks, as well as this abomination (an animatronic caveman built for the 1964 World's Fair):

Popular Science
"I'm anatomically correct!"

But in 2008, Imagineering evolved for the modern world, launching Disney Research, "an international network of research labs, with the mission to push the scientific and technological forefront of innovation." That's PR talk for "We're trying to make the replicants from Blade Runner."

Disney Research is taking the first steps toward building robots that look and act like people. Ostensibly, their mission is to develop things like robot butlers. Creepy humanoid robot butlers with the ability to learn, and presumably to seek vengeance as well.

But that's not all the Disney equivalent of Aperture Science is cooking up for our future nightmares. Did you say "intelligent robot bug swarms"? Because they've got intelligent robot bug swarms. There are some words you simply don't want to be associated with robots, and both "bug" and "swarm" are way up there.

Hell, they're even working on assimilating plants into the unfeeling hive mind. They are, no bullshit, working on cyborg plants.

So, uh ... maybe you should slap on a pair of Mickey Mouse ears and show a little allegiance while there's still time to claim space in one of the more upscale harvesting pods.

4
Hooters Started Its Own Airline

Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Hooters restaurant chain has a pretty straightforward business model: Surprisingly decent hot wings served to you by attractive waitresses who are contractually obligated to pretend not to be creeped out by your staring. It's only natural that they've broadened their services to include cheap exploitative crap like sexy calendars, anatomically correct mugs, and budget flights from Myrtle Beach to Vegas.

Oh wait ... one of those things is not like the others.

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"Welcome aboard flight 3-4-D-D with nonstop service to your pants."

Hooters Air jiggled onto the nation's runways in 2003. Check out the mayor of Gary, Indiana, where the venture was launched, look increasingly forlorn as he struggles to justify what he allowed to happen to his community:

If you're wondering why you've never seen those garish orange planes or their tank-top-and-crotch-pocket-clad flight crew at your local airport, it's probably because Hooters Air lasted a mere three years before it was canned (pun enthusiastically, recklessly, and unrepentantly intended).

Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"As a cost-saving measure, flotation devices will now ... I'm sorry, I can't do this."

According to Hooters, the experiment went under entirely because of increased fuel costs in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Not because the whole idea was so cringeworthy that the narrow consumer base of "guys who want to be mildly aroused on airplanes" couldn't keep it afloat.

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3
All Sorts Of Unlikely Companies Have Manufactured Weapons

Clockready/Wiki Commons

During World War II, a lot of companies that that didn't make war stuff suddenly started making war stuff. That generally happens when somebody throws a war. Rolls Royce started making tank engines, Hugo Boss started making Nazi uniforms, you get the idea. But those wartime efforts are usually still kind of in line with what the companies did in peacetime. Less expected was when IBM, the computer company, went whole hog and started up a massive Tony-Stark-style weapons division.

Pre98
Well, that's not so bad. When has a computer company getting into defense ever turned out wrong?

Yes, the folks who brought us the ThinkPad were also responsible for various types of ordnance, including bomb sights, parts for 90mm anti-aircraft guns, automatic rifles, and 30-caliber M1 carbines. But maybe that makes a certain amount of sense as well, considering IBM was making typewriters and other complicated machines at the time, like the ones that the Nazis used to facilitate the Holocaust.

At the same time, Chrysler took a break from making cars, which are usually made specifically not to explode, and started putting their technological know-how into heading the United States missile program, building missiles and rockets.

Chrysler
"Rockets, cars -- how different could they be?"

Instead of hiring Ron Burgundy to sell you your next Durango, they might have been better off reminding the public about how that little rocket program of theirs was instrumental in putting a man on the Moon. But perhaps the strangest diversion from standard business practice was the time Samsung built a tank. Oh wait, you thought we were still talking about World War II? No, that happened in 1989, when Samsung's line of K9 Thunder tanks was developed for the South Korean military.

Defense Citizen Network
Which, ironically, only supports iPhone connectivity.

2
Baseball Card Companies Sold The DNA Of Dead Historical Figures

Chris McGrath/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Collecting baseball cards isn't as popular as it used to be, so card companies have had to get a bit more creative in order to boost sales. And by "a bit more creative" we mean "basically insane." Around 2008, Upper Deck began including rare cards in their packs featuring genuine hair samples from dead historical figures, who ranged from "King George III to Marilyn Monroe." It's like something Willy Wonka would do in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

To ensure the authenticity of what we truly hope is not ancient pubic hair, Upper Deck consulted with one of the few "famous hair collectors" who aren't currently serving time in a federal penitentiary: collectibles expert John Reznikoff. Also known as the "Indiana Jones of Paper," Reznikoff holds the distinction of having amassed the planet's largest stockpile of famous people's hair, as well as several allegations of forgery and fraud. But hey, we're sure what you'll be receiving actually came from the heads of people like George Washington and Napoleon, and not the shower floor of the YMCA.

Upper Deck
"This hair seems kinda short and curly--"
"We only specified who, we never said where!"

Upper Deck wasn't the only company engaged in this marketing ploy. Fellow card purveyor Topps also sold the bodily flotsam of kid-friendly favorites like Geronimo, Charles Dickens, and Beethoven. And as if that wasn't enough to send the average child into paroxysms of glee, imagine their excitement over some of their other recent offerings, which have included fragments of the Berlin Wall and strips of Mylar from the 2009 "Balloon Boy" hoax.

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1
Target Does Forensic Work For The Government

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When the ATF needs help with the more technical aspects of crime solving, like DNA testing, fingerprint analysis, or zooming in super-close on closed circuit surveillance footage, they hire the experts. We're not talking about the CSI squad. We're talking about Target. Yes, the department store chain.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
And now you'll hear this every time you walk through the doors.

On top of providing Walmart services without the Walmart experience or the Walmart hepatitis, Target runs one of the top-rated forensic crime labs in America. It does kind of make sense -- Target originally set up its lab to help curtail petty thieves wantonly liberating them of their discount merchandise. Then Target forensics became so good at what they do that they now work as consultants for real law enforcement agencies.

Back in 2005, the ATF were looking to identify a serial robbery suspect, and took the unusual step of contacting Target for help. Six months later, the retail sleuths were able to help investigators secure a conviction and put a wanted felon behind bars. Since then, law enforcement has made use of Target's forensic expertise several times, including a homicide case in 2006 in which Houston investigators needed help repairing a fire-damaged surveillance tape -- a task that even freaking NASA was unable to achieve. Target did it, and they cracked the case. Target has even helped coordinate undercover operations and worked hand-in-hand with customs agencies.

Target
Plus, the everyday low prices on polymerase chain reaction tests saves law enforcement a bundle!

In fact, they've reportedly gotten so many requests of late that they've been forced to scale back their volunteer efforts to include only "large-scale" crimes. So the lesson here is that if you're planning on shoplifting a pair of Hello Kitty socks from the Juniors aisle, try to do it during a major murder investigation.

Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!

For more bad choices by famous brands, check out The 6 Most Blatantly Evil Product Recalls Of All Time and 4 Problems Companies Accidentally Revealed To The Public.

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