8 Fake Brands Seen in Movies and TV Shows

Miramax
Miramax

From Red Apple Cigarettes to Heisler Beer, Hollywood is full of fictitious "brands" that you've seen pop up in show after show, and movie after movie. Maybe you've never even noticed that they're used across the board, as filmmakers can be pretty sneaky about their placement. Sometimes it's because they truly need a generic brand, while in other cases it's just become a sort of inside joke. How many of these do you recognize?

1. RED APPLE CIGARETTES

There are plenty of directors and writers who create brands and use them across all of their movies and shows, but Red Apple Cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burger (another Quentin Tarantino staple) are some of the most famous.

  • First seen in Pulp Fiction (1994), Red Apple can also be spotted in the Tokyo airport when Uma Thurman walks by an giant advertisement for the brand in Kill Bill.
  • Ted (Tim Roth), the put-upon bellhop, also smokes them in Four Rooms (1995).
  • A pack is tossed in the Gecko brothers' car in From Dusk till Dawn (1996), which Tarantino wrote and Robert Rodriguez directed.
  • The brand makes another appearance in the Rodriguez-directed Planet Terror part of Grindhouse (2007), when the BBQ owner passes a pack to Wray (Freddy Rodríguez).

2. MORLEY CIGARETTES

Carin Baer/FOX

Unlike Tarantino's Red Apple cigs, which appear exclusively in his own movies, Morley Cigarettes are prop smokes used across the board. Here are a few places you'll find them:

  • Beverly Hills, 90210: Remember when Brenda comes home from Paris with a newfound smoking habit? The cigarettes her parents catch her with are Morleys.
  • Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was loyal to the Morley brand.
  • On Heroes, Claire Bennet's real mom tries to light a Morley in Sandra Bennet's house—until Sandra puts the kibosh on it.
  • The American soldiers in Platoon smoke Morleys.
  • Christina Ricci's character in Prozac Nation is a Morley smoker.
  • The infamous Smoking Man from The X-Files smokes—you guessed it—Morleys.

3. HEISLER BEER

Heisler Beer is the barley-and-hops version of Morleys. Some notable appearances:

  • In lots of My Name is Earl episodes.
  • When Silas from Weeds celebrates his 18th birthday, the beverage of choice is Heisler.
  • Beerfest by the Broken Lizard guys features both cans and bottles of the fictitious beer.

4. OCEANIC AIRLINES

ABC

Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Lost is surely familiar with the fictional Oceanic Airlines. But the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 aren't the only passengers to fly the friendly skies with the brand, which has been around since long before Jack and co. crashed on the Island. It's usually specifically used to depict ill-fated airlines, so the next time you spot the name at the beginning of a movie, you'll know something that the person sitting next to you doesn't.

  • Part of the 1996 movie Executive Decision takes place on Oceanic Airlines Flight 343.
  • In "The Bridget at Kang So Ri," an episode of JAG that aired in 2000, terrorists hijack an Oceanic Air flight.
  • Oceanic is referenced in other ABC and/or J.J. Abrams project; the name has made appearances in Chuck, Fringe, and Pushing Daisies.

5. GANNON CAR RENTALS

Speaking of Lost: Gannon Car ads were featured in back-to-back episodes of Heroes and Lost, which led to a lot of speculation among fans that the two shows were somehow connected. This would have been pretty unprecedented, since the shows were on two different networks. Reps for both shows denied that the shows tied together.

  • Gannon pamphlets can be found in at least four episodes of Heroes.
  • Lost fans spotted Gannon advertisements on the back of the Oceanic Airlines boarding pass folders—there are also pamphlets, too, and a Gannon advertisement at a soccer game in an episode with Desmond.

6. FINDER-SPYDER

Finder-Spyder is the official choice when writers need a generic search engine. Sometimes the logo looks suspiciously like Google's, and sometimes it looks nothing like it. Here's where you'll spot it:

  • In at least six episodes of Prison Break, including the pilot.
  • On Dexter.
  • In Two Without a Trace episodes: "Baggage," where they look up a website that was left in a journal, and "Cloudy with a Chance of Gettysburg," where they look up info about Civil War reenactments.
  • On Criminal Minds, when Megan Kane "Finder-Spyders" Special Agent Aaron Hotchner in the episode "Pleasure is my Business."

7. MOOBY'S

The Weinstein Company

Mooby's, a franchise that features a tongue-in-cheek golden cow mascot, is all over Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse. Fans already know this, no doubt, but for the casual viewer, here's a reference guide:

  • In Dogma, you'll see the chain all over the place: Bartleby and Loki visit the Mooby headquarters, they eat at a Mooby restaurant, Silent Bob wears a Mooby hat throughout the movie, and Rufus can be seen wearing Mooby pajamas.
  • In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Silent Bob is still wearing his Mooby hat. A Mooby character gets shot during the backlot chase scene.
  • Clerks II features the clerks relocating to a Mooby location after their Quick Stop burns down.

8. ACME

Acme is obviously associated with Looney Toons, but other shows and movies have picked up on the gag as well. The name originated because when the Yellow Pages were first introduced, tons of businesses started naming themselves "Acme" or "Ace" to get at the top of the listings. The Looney Toons's Acme and other Acme references poke fun at this (and some are referencing the Looney Toons Acme directly).

  • Calvin and Hobbes often referenced Acme on the box when Calvin was making transmogrifiers and other imaginative machines.
  • The Far Side used the company name in various comics, too.
  • Bullwinkle once pretended to sell Acme vacuums on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
  • The Simpsons makes reference on a somewhat regular basis, including during Itchy and Scratchy episodes.
  • The candy factory Lucy and Ethel work at in that famous episode is the Acme Candy Factory.
  • The detective agency in the Carmen Sandiego series is the ACME Detective Agency.
  • The Last Action Hero references Acme products.
  • Wally's Filling Station in The Andy Griffith Show sells Acme fuel.

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

Amazon
Amazon

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If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

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How It's a Wonderful Life Went From Box Office Dud to Accidental Christmas Tradition

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Director Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life is sacred in the holiday movie pantheon. It's not as quotable as A Christmas Story (1983) or as lyrical as 1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, but the story of George Bailey has a universal message behind it that endures more than 70 years later. Though the movie is the quintessential Christmas tale today, when it was first released in 1946, audiences and critics were lukewarm toward the picture, resulting in a box office disappointment that killed Capra's nascent production company, Liberty Films. In a strange twist, decades after it was first released, an unlikely clerical screw-up managed to turn It's a Wonderful Life into the Christmastime staple we know today.

In the 1930s, Capra became a magnet for Academy Awards, directing movies like the screwball comedy It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After Pearl Harbor, Capra knew he could contribute something to the war effort, so he took a post in Washington overseeing the development of U.S. propaganda films for the government—most notably the award-winning Why We Fight series of documentaries.

Upon returning from Washington in 1945, Capra—along with other wartime directors William Wyler and George Stevens—helped finance Liberty Films, an independent production company poised to give filmmakers the one thing they all dreamed of: freedom. The company's first film would be an adaption of a short story titled "The Greatest Gift," which would also appear in Good Housekeeping under the title "The Man Who Was Never Born," and would be adapted for the screen as It's a Wonderful Life. It's one of the few movies Capra also received a screenwriting credit for, and with a proposed budget of $2 million, it was a huge gamble for Liberty.

Something akin to a nightmare

In the book Five Came Back, writer Mark Harris describes It's a Wonderful Life's production process as something akin to a nightmare. Script rewrites, a bloated shooting schedule, and an ever-changing crew cost the studio nearly all of the original $2 million budget—well before filming was even wrapped. The spending became such a concern for Capra's partners at Liberty that George Stevens remarked, "Why the hell couldn't it be springtime?" when he saw how much it cost the production to produce fake snow for shots. Capra bet Liberty's future on audiences looking for some comforting nostalgia after the war, but he was about to see firsthand just how much the world had changed since he came back.

The original plan was to release It's a Wonderful Life in January 1947, after the Oscar deadlines, but when RKO—the film's distributor—needed a movie to release in time for Christmas, Capra's project was the easy solution. It opened just weeks after William Wyler's major studio film The Best Years of Our Lives, a hard-hitting drama about a U.S. soldier coming home after the war to pick up his life again. The two films couldn't be any more different, and the reviews reflected that.

Even at nearly three hours long, The Best Years of Our Lives was an absolute hit with critics and at the box office, recouping its budget multiple times over. It's a Wonderful Life, with its inflated budget and saccharine tale touting old-timey values, was met with a whimper, making only an estimated $3.3 million against a $3.7 million budget. Wyler beat Capra in every way: reviews, box office, and awards. The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, while It's a Wonderful Life received only a lone technical award—ironically for the fake snow Stevens loathed.

Liberty Films had borrowed more than $1.5 million to make the film, and with such a disappointing box office return, the production company was soon sold off to Paramount. Capra only directed five feature films afterwards, none of which ever reached the heights of his pre-war work. As unlikely as it seems today, It's a Wonderful Life was seen as a flat disappointment destined for anonymity—until a clerical error changed its fate.

A Wonderful free-for-all

In 1974, the movie entered the public domain after the film's copyright holder simply forgot to file for a renewal. This meant that TV stations everywhere could play It's a Wonderful Life all day and all night and not have to pay a cent for it. Networks aren't necessarily shy about exploiting free Christmas content, and the film's reemergence on television gave Capra's story new life. While a post-World War II crowd may have rejected the movie's sentiment, subsequent generations seem to revel in the opportunity to visit the nostalgic whimsy of it all.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Capra once told The Wall Street Journal about the film's revival. “The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud ... but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

Legalities rewrote the history of It's a Wonderful Life yet again in 1993. The Supreme Court's previous ruling in Stewart v. Abend established a precedent that allowed the film's original copyright owner—Republic Pictures—to regain its ownership of the movie. The ruling claimed that since Republic owned the copyright on the original short story which the movie was based on, and the score for the film, they, in essence, still owned the movie. So what was once a near barrage of networks airing It's a Wonderful Life has since been pared down to just one: NBC.

The network paid for exclusive rights to air the movie, which is why you'll only see It's a Wonderful Life on TV once or twice during the holidays. But the movie's modern appeal exists because of that scarcity. The film that killed a production company 70 years ago is now an annual television event and part of countless family traditions around the globe. It turns out Capra always knew what audiences wanted, he just needed to wait for the right clerical error to prove it.

This story has been updated for 2020.