Among other things, the internet is an infinite database of knockoffs, each immortalized in the form of electrons for all humankind to laugh at forever. But once every blue moon a knockoff comes along that isn’t just alright, but surpasses the charm of the original, oftentimes hilariously. We present to you such rarities below:
1. Iran loves American fast food as long as it’s not American
right image via Iran Times
That’s no typo. Iran avoids or bans certain goods that America takes for granted, and that includes fast food. This policy is sometimes relaxed when those products or services are delicious — and as long as concessions are made. The menu for the “Mash Donald’s” you see above offers some tweaks over its American “counterpart.” In adjusting for local taste, Mash Donald’s sells items including a 1.5-foot-long sandwich, falafel-related fare, and plenty of turkey-based ham substitutes.
Unfortunately for Iranians, sanctions prevent Western fast food chains from opening in Iran. But fortunately for Iranians, the country doesn’t partake in the International Copyright Convention, so locals can just make their own McDonald’s. Which is how you get Mash Donald’s. Or uh, Pizza Hat:
right image via pizza.hat
This is also the same way you get a cafe that is definitely legally distinct from Starbucks.
right image via Jamal Abdi
WB6UAsSE: Eat Fresh!
right image via Holly Dagres
Legit eateries existed before the 1979 revolution, but Iran currently has zero American food chains. In 1994, a McDonald’s did attempt to reestablish itself but only survived for two days before it was burned down, an act more or less condoned by the national Health Ministry. But recently even hard-liners seem more receptive to the fake food chains, presumably because they’ve discovered the McFlurry.
The goofy names aren’t for any legal reason — this is already the maximum level of illegal — but it’s more of a courtesy to customers. But some don’t even bother with that, including Domino’s and Baskin Robbins. The latter of which is probably better than the original, because it’s 31 flavors of Italian gelato.
Similarly, KFC evolved from Kabooky Fried Chicken and Super Star Chicken to just KFC, or Halal KFC, one of the few restaurants to get shut down by the police.
right image via abcnews
The closing wasn’t due to copyright infringement, but instead because its décor too closely resembled America. The manager denied any connection to the American KFC and instead cited the completely unrelated Halal KFC, “which comes from Turkey” and “belongs to Muslims.” Honest mistake.
2. Turkish “StarsWar” Figurines
right via uzaystarwars
When Star Wars mania swept through Eurasia in the mid-to-late 1980s, it inspired a multitude of contraband, including the now legendary “Uzay” figures from Turkey. Since the official Kenner figures had to be imported and fetched high prices, local bootlegging outfit SB Products created its own line of 14 figures, sold for a dollar a piece in shops of questionable repute across the Anatolian plateau.
SB Products’ team of artists apparently never watched, or had any intention to watch, the actual movies. This was evidenced by the absence of fan-favorite and frankly vital protagonists like Luke, Han and Leia. You know, the people on the poster.
The blister pack art is consistently, uh, improvisational. Some figures feature hilarious typos that
The hypnosis vibe may explain the Stormtroopers’ unwavering loyalty to the Empire, so SB Products scores an unintentional meta observation on this one.
The Uzay figures seem to stick mostly to robots and masked figures. It could be that human faces were too hard to replicate with accuracy, so they stuck to more agreeable character models. Then again, that wouldn’t explain how R2-D2 looks like this:
Luckily, the names include clarifiers for equally lore-deficient shoppers. Chewbacca goes by maymun adam or “Aslan Adam.” A Stormtrooper is an asker, or “soldier,” and Darth Vader is kara lider, or “black leader.”
A couple of the Uzay figures don’t exist in the Star Wars universe. First, a blue palette-swapped Snowtrooper referred to as “Blue Stars.” Not a bad name for an Imperial death squadron.
And of course, the rarest and most prized of all figures, Head Man:
It’s a real shame Disney ditched this part of the Expanded Universe.
3. Ghana’s hand-drawn movie posters are better than the movies themselves
When it comes to entertainment, we don’t realize how lucky we are. America has had at least a couple of Golden Ages of movies, whereas other countries have only had a single Golden Age of movie… posters. Like Ghana in the ’80s and ’90s, when bootlegged movies from around the world poured in and artists cranked out ludicrously inaccurate poster after poster to lure patrons to local cinemas.
Well, they were more like cinema clubs. And if you’re picturing surround sound or even the indoors, you’re already wrong. Cinema clubs often constituted an outdoor seating area set around a VCR hooked up to the largest TV in town, all powered by a portable generator.
The artists that hand-painted the posters on flour sacks knew little of the movies’ plots or even what the actors looked like. Some had only a vague idea of what white people, in general, looked like:
But accuracy didn’t matter, only that the posters attracted crowds. Which they did, with amplified violence and gore.
A few posters sort of miss the point of the movie. The Ghanaian Cujo fails to terrify and looks, at best, dehydrated:
Sadly, the poster mill ran dry in the early 2000s, because of real cinemas, DVDs, and automatic printing technologies. But some of the artists still make a living at their craft thanks to commissions from international buyers. The original posters are considered stand-alone art pieces, worth several thousand dollars each, with some topping the $10k mark.
Are they the most expensive bootleg products out there? Not by a long shot.
4. China bootlegs an entire theme park
Most bootleggers manufacture small, saleable goods. They’re easy to dispense and federal agencies are less likely to trace a box of unlicensed wookies to their source. At the opposite end of the spectrum, China pirated a $32 million theme park. Changzhou’s World Joyland is a 600,000-square-meter mishmash of pop culture illegality. The entrance, seen above, is Universal Studios on a budget:
Inside, the park splits into eight themed sections. Most notably the Blizzard-inspired Universe Starship, where everything is ripped from Starcraft, and Terrain of Magic, unashamedly based on WoW lore.
Basically, World Joyland is a theme park-sized claw machine game full of off-center franchises. Everywhere you turn, monuments stand in proud defiance of copyright law. Here’s a statue of what is obviously supposed to be Warcraft’s ice mage Jaina Proudmoore.
Some of the branding is so lazy it’s kind of hilarious:
With the depressing, as per this anemic copy of Island of Adventure’s Seuss Landing, made even bleaker by the polluted gray backdrop:
Something tells us The Lorax might not approve.
One of the most audacious areas is the “Disney Store” located on Main Street, complete with costumed actors. Despite vast amounts of unambiguously trademarked materials, it’s hard to believe everything here is on the level (especially considering the bootleg nature of everything else in the park).
If you want to experience the world’s bootleg holy land, you might want to do it sooner rather than later. It’s already cracking and rusting, and legal issues may eventually bring it down for good.
5. Bart Simpsons legacy of bootlegged shirts
No franchise has been ripped off as consistently or as variously as the Simpsons. In fact, it’s been ripped off so much that the rip-offs have gained life of their own, like some Frankensteinian monster.
Bootleg Bart Simpson-themed shirts appeared in the early 1990s to cash in on the show’s booming popularity and quickly became an international, self-sustaining culture. Simpsons creator Matt Groening is more amused than anything, possibly because he’s happy enough with his gold house and his rocket car. Groening did wield his legal might when shirt-makers turned Bart into a Nazi, but is otherwise a fan of the movement and supposedly a collector.
Immortalized on Instagram thanks to super fan “Leo” and fans worldwide, every Bart shirt is a time capsule capturing the trends and sentiments of the ’90s. Race-swapped Bart is a common theme, with an almost endless variety of black Barts across several degrees of racistness:
Like the show itself, bootleg Bart swag is inclusive when it comes to who it depicts (and lampoons), as there seems to be a shirt for pretty much every country on the planet.
Not all counterfeit clothing is edgier than the source material. Some churches took Bart in the opposite direction, perhaps to appeal to the younger generation.
Since it too was unavoidable in the early 90s, the Gulf War inspired a few shirts. Most of which depict Bart single-handedly defeating Iraq:
Finally, there exist shirts that will topple your childhood in the span of a few seconds: