I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Ain't Nothin New -- Rip-offs


by Alex Schab
Nov. 18, 2012

In a world flooded by insidious fake video game systems designed to trick your grandparents into accidentally ruining your Christmas, rip-off Uggs helping people who can't afford the real ones look like the clones who can, and neon knock off Ray Bans worn by YOLO-teens for reasons I still can't understand, authenticity is a hard thing to come by.

And, for better or worse, there are a whole lot of people who could not care less.

Considering how nearly every facet of our lives exists as a knock off somewhere else on this spaceship called Earth, from our fashion to our food, it comes as no surprise that TV and movies are two of the biggest targets.

Sometimes, the knock-off-ness is pretty subtle. Take 1998 films A Bug's Life by Pixar and Antz by Dreamworks. They're both fairly different in terms of plot, and you could be forgiven for not connecting the “rip off” dots on your own. But let's be real here: how did the two biggest CGI film makers decide, independently, to both make movies starring a god damn ant. Answer: they probably didn't (and I'm looking at you here, Dreamworks).

Hell, sometimes they're so subtle that they can slip beneath our pop culture radar. Look at 2003's Kill Bill, for example. Somehow, Quentin Tarantino managed to essentially cobble two Japanese films and one Swedish film together, toss in Uma Thurman, and come out being lauded for his originality by the masses. Go figure.

Other times, all subtlety is thrown out the window, with any shred of creative integrity tied on as weight. These are pieces of “entertainment” designed solely to turn a profit, with movies like 2007's Transmorphers standing out most prominently. I mean, damn, just look at that title.

While you might assume it's a parody, Transmorphers is actually an example of the “mockbuster” genre, which is composed of direct, often foreign, poor quality rip offs of English-speaking blockbusters. Which means that if you thought Transformers was bad, you don't know NOTHING about Transmorphers.

In addition to Transmorphers, films like 1984's Monster Shark and 2006's The Da Vinci Treasure are other examples of this apparently profitable genre. If you're having trouble figuring the source material for those two, here's a hint: they rhyme with “Laws” and “the Da Vinci Chode.”

Most amusing, though, has got to be when a company rips off its own material. Case in point: Hannah-Barbera's The Smurfs and The Snorks. One syllable “S” titles aside, these two shows share a smurfing (or is that a snorking?) ton in common.

Both feature a cast of oddly colored, diminutive creatures, living together in a simple, nearly idyllic, community. Both have an old, wise figurehead to lead their populaces through trouble. Both have a large cast of energetic, young characters with wildly exaggerated personalities. And both were put into animation by Hannah-Barbera, that monstrosity of a company who taught a generation of kids to put up with cut rate animation.

Oddly enough, both were also originally created by Belgians, with The Smurfs beginning as a comic strip drawn by “Peyo” Pierre Culliford in 1958. The Snorks didn't get its start until 1981, when the idea was “conceptualized” by Freddy Monnickendam, who negotiated the contract between Peyo and Hannah-Barbera. It seems that he grew fed up with Peyo's reluctance let The Smurfs become more mainstream, and from that annoyance came The Snorks.

But in Monnickendam's defense, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

OR IS IT?

Check out The Snorks on Network Awesome now and judge for yourself!

SOURCES:

The Gaurdian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2004/apr/06/features.dvdreviews

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Monnickendam

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mockbuster

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peyo

Alex Schab is a freelance writer living somewhere between the woods and the suburbs of Massachusetts. This means he spends way too many lonely nights consuming media and beer. Follow him on Twitter (@Schab) as he tries to wrestle some meaning into his life.