Twentieth Century Fox
Defictionalization is when something that previously only existed in a movie universe comes to life. Films and TV shows are now taking advantage of this more than ever before.
In the world of TV, Castle has spawned a series of books by Nathan Fillion’s crime novelist character; Parks and Rec has spawned a guide to Pawnee written by the characters themselves; and Archer is now releasing an album recorded by Judy Greer’s character Charlene (and not, apparently, by Judy Greer).
Here are ten great examples of fictional products from movies that became defictionalized in interesting ways:
10. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
In Forrest Gump, Bubba talks Forrest’s ear off about shrimp while the two are serving in Vietnam. After Bubba’s death, Forrest vows to revive his buddy’s dream of opening a shrimp company with Bubba. In the film (as well as the source novel), he makes good and creates a shrimp company worthy of Fortune 500 Magazine. Similarly, in 1995, the marketing division of Viacom (the parent company of Paramount which produced the movie) decided to partner up with the Rusty Pelican Restaurant Company (also owned by Vicaom) to create the restaurant chain. It has since become a massive success with 38 locations worldwide.
Because of this synergy, The Rusty Pelican chain was given access to the Paramount prop room to stock its walls with Forrest Gump memorabilia. Additionally, the chain had plenty of other kitschy Forrest Gump-related features including being able to hail your waitress with a “Stop Forrest Stop” sign and a menu that serves 12 shrimp-related specialties.
9. Be Kind Rewind’s Mash-ups
The 2008 Michel Gondry film centers on two clerks (Jack Black and Mos Def) at a video store (for those of you too young to remember, it’s sort of like a giant Redbox with humans giving you the videos) who accidentally erase their video library. As a makeshift solution, they recreate Ghostbusters on home video, and when that becomes a hit, the duo creates a cottage industry out of it.
The film coined the term “Sweding” which is the process of creating an amateur low-budget remake of a big box office hit. The film’s closing credits encourage interaction and ask users to Swede videos themselves, but what started out as a trend on YouTube also spawned the SwedeFest.
8. Dystopian Companies
In the Terminator series, a mother and son try to prevent a future in which humanity will be imprisoned in the future by an artificial intelligence network called SkyNet. In the sequel, it is revealed that SkyNet will eventually be built by a present-day corporation called Cyberdyne.
By present-day, we’re referring to the fact that the film is set in the present even though it concerns the future. However, in our real-life present day, there is a multi-national tech corporation called Cyberdyne which was supposedly named without any hint of irony.
On top of that, Cyberdyne has named one of their main research projects (a cyborg suit designed to improve human movement) HAL.
7. Whistle Stop Cafes
Fried Green Tomatoes is based on Fannie Flag’s 1987 novel “Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistlestop Café.”
The Whistlestop Café in the title is based on a café Flag visited in her youth called the Irondale Cafe in Irondale, Alabama. When the film came out in 1992, the actual cafe decided to capitalize on it by creating a line of batters, mixes, marinade, seasonings, cookbooks, and specialty items with that name “Whistlestop Cafe.” That’s not out of the ordinary.
What was out of the ordinary, however, is that the Ironside Cafe got some serious competition from the abandoned general store that was turned into a movie set for the filming of the movie. The owner of the property later turned the set into a real restaurant and filled it with memorabilia from the movie.
As a result, there are now two competing cafes capitalizing on the film. One restaurant can be found here and, to further the confusion, the Irondale Cafe and Whistlestop Product Line can be found here.
6. Star Wars’ Midi-chlorians
In the long-time-ago and far-far-away galaxy where Star Wars is set, midi-chlorians are microscopic organisms that separate Jedi Knights from ordinary folks. The average human has 2,500 midi-chlorians per cell, while Anakin Skywalker has 20,000.
Meanwhile, in our present-day galaxy, Dr. Nathan Lo of the University of Milan discovered a parasitic bacteria living inside of the mitochondria of ovarian cells in 2004. It was originally named IridES1. but Lo decided he wanted a cooler sounding name and renamed it “Midichloria mitochondrii” in 2006 after getting permission from George Lucas himself.
Just like how the Star Wars midi-chlorians are an energy source, the midichloria mitochondrii bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with the mitochondria organelle which is considered the energy center of the cell.
5. A Fake Movie in a Movie Becomes a Real Movie
In 2007, Quentin Tarantino had the ambitious idea to recreate the “double feature” experience of B-movie theaters where for the price of admission, viewers could see two movies on one bill. Tarantino directed the 87-minute Death Proof while friend Robert
Rodriguez directed the 91-minute Planet Terror. To simulate the moviegoing experience, the film included fake movie trailers – including a fake film titled Machete which included Rodriguez mainstays Danny Trejo, Cheech Martin, Jeff Fahey, and Tito Larriva.
Grindhouse ended up bombing, but many of the moviegoers enjoyed the fake movie trailers enough that it created the buzz necessary for Rodriguez to turn the Machete trailer into a full-length feature film. And now a franchise.
Students at Middlebury College decided to turn the fictional game into an actual sport and in 2007 the first intercollegiate game was played against Vassar. In 2010, some 60 Universities were playing it as a club sport and its advocates were even trying to get it sanctioned as an NCAA varsity sport.
There is also an International Quidditch Association which regulated the sport for some 300 teams around the world. They’re even hosting a World Cup this April.
3. Kevin McAllister’s Prank Machine
The movie studios that made many children-oriented action films in the 1980s and 1990s were highly conscious of merchandising tie-ins for toys and action figures, but one of the best-selling, movie-based toys wasn’t even conceived as merchandise until after a letter-writing campaign from pre-teens encouraged Tiger Toys to turn fiction into reality.
In Home Alone 2, trickster Kevin McCallister gets a lot of mileage out of a dual tape recorder and cassette player that allows him to vary the speed upon playback. In the film, the device was a non-working prop but when children saw the device, they reacted strongly.
A letter-writing campaign by preteens convinced the studio to create a real-life version based on the specifications in the script. Manufactured by Tiger Toys, the Talkboy (retailing for $29.99) ended up being an overwhelming hit. The Seattle Times reported that Tiger Toys was unable to meet the demand and was fielding 300 phone calls a day nationwide.
2. Willy Wonka’s Candy
One of the most famous examples of defictionalization is the emergence of the Willy Wonka Candy Factory in Itsaca, Illinois as a result of the 1971 film. It produces the Everlasting Gobbstoppers in addition to Nerds, Pixy Sticks, and the Wonka Bar.
What few people know is that the 1971 film’s connection to the eventual candy company was no accident.
In 1971, The Quaker Oats Company partially funded the film as a way to promote their new expanding candy line. The candy line we know today as the Willy Wonka candy factory was licensed by a different company, Breaker Confections, that same year so they could be used as a merchandising tie-in. In 1988, the Willy Wonka subsidiary changed hands to Nestle.
Ironically, the Wonka Bar has been one of the factory’s least successful products and was discontinued in the U.S. in 2010. The Wonka Bar did enjoy a resurgence in 2005 when the movie was remade, and Nestle launched a promotion in which selected golden tickets attached to the bars would give away prizes and factory tours.
1. Star Trek-Inspired Science
In the 45 years since Star Trek debuted, science and technology has made progress on many of the inventions that seemed centuries away at the time: ultrasound surgery, military phasers and life sensors.
Some advances in technology, however, have come from people watching Star Trek and deciding to literally invent what they were seeing on screen.
Martin Cooper was an inventor working at Motorola at the chief systems manager in the 1960s when Star Trek came on the TV. Cooper watched Captain Kirk walk on different planets talking to his crew without a pesky telephone chord and decided that he had to invent something that could do that. So, in 1973, Cooper succeeded in inventing the world’s first cell phone. He filed the patent for the Motorola Dyna-Tac.
Additionally, Robert Haitani, designer of the Palm Pilot, has said that his first drafts were based on the Enterprise’s bridge panels. In some cases, an invention like the automatic door which was invented in by Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt in 1954 became popularized (especially for shopping malls) after people began watching it on screen.
Of course, the set designers on the bridge used stage hands to move the doors whenever Captain Kirk passed through them. When a builder in Santa Barbara wrote Star Trek production executive Herb Solow asking for ideas on how to build sliding doors that work as quickly as the Enterprise, his “recommendation to Bob was to tell the builder to get a different assistant director and a faster offstage guy.”