5 Beloved Characters (Who Were Actually Blatant Rip-Offs)
Nobody likes a thief, but as we've previously exposed, some of the most beloved characters in entertainment are total ripoffs. Because nobody ever accused the entertainment industry of having too many original ideas, it turns out those weren't the only examples of blatant IP theft out there. And much like Hydrox is to Oreo, sometimes the cheater is the one we know and love. For example ...
Wolverine Was A Copy Of Obscure DC Comics Character Timber Wolf
Wolverine, the only Canadian with anger management problems, is "the best there is at what he does" ... and what he does is get away with stealing Timber Wolf's schtick.
Aside from the ill-advised hairdos, parallels between the two are too numerous to ignore. Both Wolvie and DC's Wolfie are short-tempered members of superhero teams, have wolf-ish names, have origin stories involving them being experimented on with fictional metals, and have powers which include enhanced strength, agility, and senses. Even their secret identities sound kinda similar -- Londo and Logan.
How did this happen? Well, Timber Wolf debuted exactly ten years before Wolverine, and one of the DC artists who drew him the most was Dave Cockrum, who put his personal spin on the character. Cockrum eventually jumped ship to Marvel, and apparently decided to take some ideas with him (most people only take a stapler). And so, when Cockrum was assigned to draw a throwaway, soon-to-be-killed-off character called Wolverine in the pages of X-Men, he rehashed a bit of Timber Wolf. DC writer Keith Giffen admitted as much himself, although he said it wasn't a "horrible thing to do," which we reckon was a nice way of saying Dave was being a total Cockrum.
In case this wasn't obvious enough, one Cockrum-drawn issue had Wolverine's X-Men teammates fight blatant analogues for Timber Wolf's pals at the Legion of Super-Heroes. At one point, Wolverine even defeats the Timber Wolf stand-in and wears his clothes, which might be a metaphor for something.
Olaf From Frozen Is Suspiciously Similar To A Character From An Indie Cartoon
It's been four years since Disney's Frozen was released, which means that your child has only recently stopped screeching "Let It Go" on infinite loop. One of the most popular characters in the movie is Olaf, a sentient snowman with the suicidal desire to experience summer weather. In fact, the first teaser trailer was a little sketch starring him:
Adorable! Except for the part about a powerful billion-dollar corporation possibly stealing the ideas of a couple of independent animators. That's not so adorable.
You see, in 2010, animators Kelly Wilson and Neil Wrischnik released a short film called The Snowman, which has more than a few points in common with Frozen's teaser. Both start with a dimwitted snowman clumsily dropping his carrot nose ...
... which ends up stuck in the middle of a frozen lake ...
... causing the noseless hero to step on the ice in a comical fashion ...
... in an attempt to reach the nose before it can be eaten by some local wildlife (disheveled rabbits in The Snowman, a reindeer that thinks he's a dog in Frozen). Despite his slapstick efforts, the animal ends up with the carrot, making the snowman very sad ...
... but then, in a twist, the animal gives the carrot back to the lovable ice golem, and all ends well.
Now, the original is more emotional and less wacky, but the similarities were too many for Wilson. So she took her case to court, arguing that not only were the films suspiciously alike, but Disney employees likely saw The Snowman when it screened at a festival in the same category as a short by some Pixar people. Pixar's John Lassetter, incidentally, was "heavily involved" in Frozen's teaser. And in case Disney tried to argue that all their employees were taking a leak while this particular short was screened, the lawsuit points out that someone at the company could also have seen The Snowman when Wilson included it in four separate Disney job applications over the years.
A judge agreed that there were enough fishy connections to justify a trial ... at which point Disney decided to settle the case out of court. Anyway, we're sure Wilson will hear back about those applications any day now!
Yes, Some Of Mortal Kombat's Characters Were Lifted Straight From Big Trouble In Little China
Eagle-eyed gamers may have noticed some similarities between Raiden, Mortal Kombat's ancient thunder god, and Lightning, one of the henchmen from the bonkers '80s action comedy Big Trouble In Little China. Both are mystical flying Asian dudes with straw-brimmed hats who shoot lightning out of every conceivable orifice. It's ... not a big cross-section of folks.
Now, Mortal Kombat connoisseurs might claim that Raiden is based on the Japanese god Raijin, but there are a couple of problems with that explanation: 1) Raiden's motifs are distinctly Chinese (no, it's not the same thing), and 2) Raijin looks like a hideous grinning goblin, not a monk with a lampshade hat. Also, he isn't the only character Mortal Kombat cribbed from this movie. Shang Tsung, the game's evil, shapeshifting, centuries old, soul-stealing sorcerer who controls an army of eclectic villains, is rather reminiscent of Big Trouble's Lo Pan, the evil, shape-shifting, centuries old, soul-stealing sorcerer who controls an ... ah, you get the point.
While he has never spelled it out, the game's co-creator John Tobias has acknowledged that "Big Trouble In Little China ... had some real obvious influences on Mortal Kombat." Influences. Right. That's what we're calling those.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire Copied Almost Everything From An Anime
Disney's 2001 feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire has a shocking number of "similarities" to a 1990-1991 Japanese anime series called Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water. The similarities in plot have been chalked up to both stories being inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but that doesn't account for the striking number of near-identical characters who aren't in that book. Both star a nerdy, bespectacled skinny dude with a bow tie ...
... who meets an exotic jewel-wearing chick who turns out to be Atlantean royalty ...
... and owns a powerful, highly sought-after blue pendant that's used to protect the mythical underwater city.
Both submarine crews include a bald black doctor, a mustachioed gunnery sergeant, and a blonde female first mate ...
... and both stories conclude with the magical Atlantean girl merging with the aforementioned pendant to save her homeland.
But other than that, they're completely different. Unfortunately, the anime's creators didn't see it that way, but they never took the case to court. Partially because they were terrified of Disney's lawyers, but mostly because their parent company didn't much give a crap. But don't worry, we're sure this was the first and last time the House of Mouse did something like this (the Frozen entry above doesn't count).
So Many Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Were Copies Of Live-Action Shows
Plagiarism was basically a business model during the golden age of Hanna-Barbera, the animation studio behind Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and many other pantsless cartoon classics.
For starters, everyone's favorite family of troglodyte animal abusers are nothing more than the cast of The Honeymooners in a prehistoric setting. Both shows star a shouty, bowling-loving everyman (Fred/Ralph), his dimwitted friend and accomplice (Barney/Ed), and their smarter, long-suffering wives (Wilma/Alice and Betty/Trixie). There was no attempt to hide it. The characters looked, acted, and almost sounded the same. The similarities were so glaring that Jackie Gleason, who played Ralph, reportedly thought about suing the studio, but was convinced not to do it so that he wouldn't become the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air.
Not content with getting one hit show out of ripping off The Honeymooners, Hanna-Barbera also used Ed's personality, speaking style, look, and mannerisms as the basis for Yogi Bear ...
... who, of course, got his name from legendary baseball player Yogi Berra. Berra wasn't too amused by the "tribute" (and was even less so when people started asking him if it was the other way around), but his attempts to sue didn't hold up in court.
Next up, the studio set their sights on Sgt. Bilko, a streetwise army officer who routinely roped his platoon into get-rich-quick schemes. HB took the idea, turned the cast into a bunch of alley cats, and called it Top Cat. They went so far as to hire a former Bilko writer for the cartoon, and brought one of the main actors to voice his own feline version.
And finally, Snagglepuss, the pink mountain lion with a flair for the dramatic, was such an obvious copy of Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion from The Wizard Of Oz that they even got a renowned Lahr impersonator for the part. Snagglepuss' catchphrase -- "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" -- was even cribbed from one of Lahr's movies. The cartoon was so successful that Kellogg's eventually recruited the Snag-meister as a spokes-lion for their cereals ... which was a problem for Lahr, since people now thought he was endorsing those products. He sued for $500,000. And now, of course, everybody remembers Bert Lahr and not Snagglepuss.
Get that blasted "Let It Go" song into the heads of parents you hate by buying their kids an entire Frozen toy instrument set!
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For more stolen characters, check out 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs and 16 Famous Characters That Are Secretly Rip-Offs.
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