When inspiration strikes, it might not come from some magical, creative place deep down inside a person. Sometimes it’s tied to an idea that already exists, albeit in a fictional universe. Life has a way of imitating art, especially when there’s money to be made, so it’s not surprising that some products and companies beloved in movies, TV, literature, and other places would eventually cross over into real life.
Some of these connections are deliberate, to be sure — turning a fictional shrimp boating business into a restaurant that caters to tourists is no accident — but some of them are entirely coincidental.
Behold: a few of our favorite fictional brands, products, and companies that have made the jump to reality for more than just a promotional fling.
1. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
In fiction: If you don’t remember the part in Forrest Gump where a guy named Bubba recites all the ways you can cook shrimp, you must have been unborn or under a rock. That speech prompted Tom Hanks’ titular character to (SPOILER ALERT) become a shrimp boat cap’n and eventually open Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
IRL: Shortly after the success of Forrest Gump in 1995, the marketing division of Paramount, which is in turn owned by Viacom, partnered with another Viacom property, Rusty Pelican, to bring the restaurant to life. The first location opened in 1996 in Monterey, CA. Today there are 44 restaurants worldwide.
2. Holiday Inn
In fiction: Holiday Inn, the 1942 musical starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. Introduced the world — and won an Oscar for — the now-classic Irving Berlin holiday tune “White Christmas.” (It’s important to note that some broadcasts of the film have since omitted the musical number “Abraham” because of its depiction of a blackface minstrel show that is considered offensive by modern standards.)
IRL: Ten years after the movie debuted, Kemmon Wilson opened his first Holiday Inn hotel in Memphis. According to Wilson’s obituary in the L.A. Times, the name for the chain was indeed taken from the movie musical.
Connection: Intentional, but not directly connected
In fiction: The evil company behind Skynet in the Terminator franchise, Cyberdyne created the Skynet system, which eventually became self aware and tried to exterminate the human race.IRL: Cyberdyne Inc. is a multi-national tech corporation that makes exoskeleton suits. More specifically, it’s a company started by Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba, “in order to materialize his idea to utilize Robot Suit HAL® for the benefits of humankind in the field of medicine, caregiving, welfare, labor, heavy works, entertainment and so on,” according to Google’s English translation of the Cyberdyne Inc. website. If that doesn’t sound like a problem for John Connor, I don’t know what is. In any case, the company was founded in 2004 and decided to use the name Cyberdyne — a combination of the word “cbyernics” (a fusion of human, machine and information systems) with the suffix “dyne,” in a reference to power.
Connection: Unclear, but someone had to have realized the reference
In fiction: Kevin McAllister was already the coolest kid ever left home alone, and his shenanigans in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York only solidified his early ‘90s cachet. Everyone wanted the awesome tape recorder he used to tape snippets and use them to fool adults into doing what he wanted.IRL: Rumors abound that a letter-writing campaign from tweens eager to get their hands on the gadget prompted Tiger Toys to start selling a real life version for $29.99 in 1993. It was a hit: the Seattle Times reported back then that Tiger had trouble meeting demand for the toys. After the success of the first Talkboy, Tiger went on to release several other iterations, including a TalkGirl that was — what else? — pink.
In fiction: Soylent Green is a 1973 sci-fi movie about a dystopian future where people survive on processed food rations made by the Soylent Corporation, including soylent green, a green wafer made of “high-energy plankton.” Except really, [SPOILER ALERT] it’s made out of humans, which is super gross.
IRL: In 2013, a software engineer created and tested a meal replacement drink as a personal experiment, decided to call it Soylent, and started selling it in 2014 with a Kickstarter campaign. But no, it is not made of humans. It does share roots with the movie, however, as the company says they chose the name from Harry Harrison’s 1966 sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room!, the same source material used for the sci-fi flick. The story “explores the impact massive population growth could have on world resources. In the book, ‘soylent’ is made of soy and lentils and is a new food source used to accommodate overpopulation,” the company site says.
6. Stay Puft Marshmallows
In fiction: If your city is gonna get wrecked, a rampaging giant made of marshmallows is a pretty delicious choice. Thus, the popularity of the Stay Puft marshmallow man that clomps around New York City in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters . So menacing, and yet so yummy!IRL: Though the Stay Puft Marshmallow Corporation doesn’t exist outside the Ghostbusters universe, in 2010 and 2012, Stay Puft Quality brand of gourmet marshmallows were available online and in Urban Outfitters as official Ghostbusters merchandise, first by a company called FMCG Manufacturing, and later through a licensing deal between Columbia Pictures and FMCG’s sister company, The Parallax Corporation (which itself is a nod to the 1974 Warren Beatty thriller, The Parallax View).
7. Willy Wonka Candy
In fiction: In Roald Dahl’s book Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, candyman Willy Wonka invites a few lucky children in to witness firsthand all of his fantastical creations, like candy that changed flavors and never, ever ran out. The 1971 movie based on the book starring the inimitable Gene Wilder, had its name tweaked slightly and was released as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
IRL: Real Wonka-branded candy products were originally the result of a licensing deal between Quaker Oats and an Illinois company called Breaker Confections. Quaker had provided some financing for the movie in exchange for a candy bar tie-in, according to Pure Imagination: The Story of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, a 2001 documentary about the movie detailed by Moviefone.com. The company went on to have success with the brand after the movie disappeared from theaters, and Breaker changed its name to Willy Wonka Brands before selling itself to a British company in 1986. In 1988, Nestle purchased the brand and renamed it the Willy Wonka Candy Company.
8. Duff Beer
In fiction: If you’ve seen even five minutes of The Simpsons, you know that Duff is Homer’s preferred swill of choice. It also may secretly be the fuel that keeps him alive and unchanging for 30 years.
IRL: After shutting down various efforts by other brewers to sell Duff Beer, 21st Century Fox announced in January 2015 that it would roll out an official version of the brew starting in Chile, before launching the product in other parts of South America and Europethe Wall Street Journal reported at the time. The company chose Chile as its kickoff point because it was “a case of, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” the WSJ noted: Fox had been trying to beat back the rising tide of unauthorized versions of Duff beer in the Chilean market, with some success. An intellectual property complaint filed by 21st Century Fox led Chilean police to seize contraband bottles by the tens of thousands. American Duff fans were disappointed though, as the company never sold it stateside, with the exception of The Simpsons section of Universal’s theme parks in Orlando and Los Angeles.
9. Scooby Snacks
In fiction: Anyone who’s watched Scooby-Doo knows that the only way to motivate the titular pooch into action is by rewarding him with treats appropriately dubbed Scooby Snax.IRL: Pet owners can now convince their dogs to go solve ghostly crime sprees in real life with actual dog treats under the Snausages brand, made by Del Monte Foods. Human friends with the munchies might not want to partake, but we won’t judge.
In fiction: Characters in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World regularly ingested the “ideal pleasure drug” — soma. The book describes the euphoric effects of the fictional soma: “Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles.”IRL: Soma is a brand name drug of muscle relaxant carisprodol that’s often prescribed for back pain, and has been marketed since 1959.
Connection: Unknown, but likely coincidental.
11. Red Swingline stapler
In fiction: “Excuse me? I believe you have my stapler?” You may recognize that simple plea as the plaintive refrain of Milton Waddams from Office Space, begging for his favorite office equipment back.IRL: Swingline didn’t actually make red staplers — the stapler in the movie was spray painted red, Time reported. Fan demand is a strong thing, however, and the company eventually released a red Swingline stapler in April 2002.
12. Omni Consumer Products
In fiction: There’s always gotta be a megacorporation in the sci-fi world, and in the RoboCop franchise, it’s Omni Consumer Products, the company that manufactures RoboCop himself. Itself?IRL: Not only is Omni Consumer Products real, but it’s dedicated to peddling movie spinoff products (why do you think we saved this one for last?), including its current offering, Sex Panther cologne (Anchorman), as well as past products Fight Club soap (Fight Club, natch), Brawndo Thirst Mutilator Energy Drink (Idiocracy), Stay Puft Caffeinated Gourmet Marshmallows (different than the previous Stay Puft product we mentioned above), and a Tru Blood beverage (from TV show True Blood).
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