Merchandising is the backbone of modern entertainment. Ever since one Mr Lucas decided he might keep the merch rights for his little indie space film so he could, I dunno, launch a phenomenally successful line of dolls. It is usual, if not expected, for intellectual property owners to crank out toys, games, posters, DVDs and more, all stamped and officially licensed to ensure their pockets fill up with the hard earned pocket money of screaming children. But that`s a lot of potential pocket money – and less scrupulous people in areas where, shall we say, there are somewhat lax copyright laws want in on it too. Often a big lawsuit hurts though, so these unofficial products have to be recognizable enough to snag their target audience, but different enough to avoid the long arm of the law. The results tend to be confusing, illogical, and often ball-bouncingly funny. Here`s a few of my faves to start you off, but a quick Google search will yield sites upon sites dedicated to this stuff. Check em out!
STAR WARS FIGURES
As mentioned above, Star Wars was basically the start of mass merchandising a property. So to start us off, lets have a gander at a Turkish Star Wars figure knock-off:
Ah, who can forget the iconic character of “Head Man”, the man with the head. And a medieval sword and shield. Note the cunning change of the title to “Stars War”. But stick with us, here`s some more from the Phantom Menace:
Films need promotion, hence the above movie poster. The stony indifference of the assassin machine, the perfect angle of the gun, the readout on the glasses. It is a classic and iconic example of nigh on perfect poster art. But what about those unofficial overseas releases? Without the officially provided promotional material, local artists in Ghana had to dig deep and recreate this iconic poster themselves. Here`s the result:
Sylvester Stallone with half a torso, wonky eyes and tentacles. And the little heart where the `o` should be really emphasizes the romantic sub-plot of the movie.
THE PHANTOM MENACE
There`s a LOT of knock-off Star Wars stuff. Here`s a Chinese bootleg DVD cover for the Phantom Menace.
Everything looks better with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Part man. Part machine. All Cop. Paul Verhoven`s 1986 masterpiece of satire was essential viewing for the under 12s when I was at school. I was painfully uncool and didn’t see it until I was about 16, but the movie`s popularity ensured that the property would be merched to death with toys, games, even a kid-friendly TV series. This bootleg is a toy from Mexico, and appropriately enough it encapsulates everything that`s funny about unofficial products. Gentlemen, meet Robert Cop.
Look at it. Just look at it. It is sublime, brilliant. It looks like it was carved out of a potato and then microwaved. The label brings tears to my eyes with its surreal inaccuracy, misplaced words and utter bat-shit confusion. Futuristic Robert indeed.
For the sake of hilarity, I hope we always have a thriving bootleg industry.