What’s in a name? In Hollywood, a built-in audience. But not all the famous pop culture characters you know today are the first fictional beings to boast that moniker. From the Ghostbusters to Dennis the Menace, here are six lesser-known versions of famous pop culture characters (not all them related to the better known characters with whom they share a name).
In 1986, there were two animated Ghostbusters TV shows: The Real Ghostbusters and Filmation’s Ghostbusters.
The Real Ghostbusters was based on Ivan Reitman’s wildly popular 1984 movie, while Ghostbusters, production by Filmation, was an animated series based on The Ghost Busters, a live-action Saturday morning TV show that aired on CBS in 1975.
While the former featured the well-known characters of Doctors Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Ray Stantz (and yes, even Slimer the ghost), the latter centered around ghost-fighters Jake Kong Jr., Eddie Spencer Jr., and their sidekick Tracy the Gorilla.
When Columbia Pictures was producing Ghostbusters in 1984, the movie studio licensed the title from Filmation for $500,000 plus one percent of the movie’s profits. However, Columbia claimed that the movie didn’t make a profit (yes, Hollywood accounting is complicated). To profit off the film's success, Filmation produced an animated TV series based on their property after Columbia decided not to partner with them for The Real Ghostbusters TV show. In fact, Columbia added the word “Real” to distinguish the two animated TV shows (and possibly as a jab), even though Filmation’s series was more than 30 years old at that point.
2. THE WIZARD OF OZ
While MGM’s 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz will always be the most iconic version of L. Frank Baum’s children’s book of the same name, Walt Disney wanted to get in on the Oz game and purchased the film rights to all of Baum’s Oz stories (minus The Wizard of Oz) in 1954.
He produced a 10-minute segment of Rainbow Road to Oz as a story pitch with The Mickey Mouse Club and the Mouseketeers in September 1957. However, due to the growing popularity of The Wizard of Oz in the 1950s and ‘60s, Disney scrapped the project and produced Babes In Toyland instead, which borrowed a number of elements from Rainbow Road to Oz.
The Walt Disney Company still owned the rights to the Oz stories, so over the years, Disneyland Records produced a number of Disney Storyteller LPs, featuring some of Baum’s stories and characters, including The Scarecrow of Oz and The Cowardly Lion of Oz. In 1985, Disney released Return to Oz, which is based on The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. While it was made as an unofficial sequel to The Wizard of Oz, Disney worked with MGM and paid a hefty licensing fee to use the iconic ruby slippers—which were silver in Baum’s original story. Years later, in 2013, Disney released Oz the Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi.
3. JAMES BOND
There were two James Bond movies released in 1983: Octopussy was an official movie from Eon Productions that starred Roger Moore as James Bond, while Never Say Never Again was an unofficial remake of Thunderball from producer Kevin McClory (who also produced the original), and starring Sean Connery as 007.
Here’s how it happened: James Bond author Ian Fleming was working with McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham on a script for a potential James Bond movie in 1961. The script never came together, so Fleming turned what they were working on into the novel Thunderball, without giving McClory or Whittingham proper credit. The pair sued Fleming and were ultimately rewarded all copyrights.
When Eon Productions, the production company that owns the film rights to all of Fleming’s Bond stories, was working on the film adaptation, they allowed McClory a producing credit with the stipulation that he wouldn’t produce any other version of Thunderball for 10 years after the film’s release in 1965.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, McClory and Connery worked on another screen adaptation of Thunderball, but the pair ran into problems with Eon Productions. However, after a long development process and a number of court cases, McClory was eventually allowed to remake Thunderball with Connery as Bond. A new title was suggested as Connery said he would never play James Bond again after 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, so Connery’s wife suggested Never Say Never Again as the remake’s title.
Octopussy was released about four months before Never Say Never Again, and actually fared better with critics and audiences (despite Connery’s presence in the latter).
4. AND 5. QUICKSILVER AND THE SCARLET WITCH
The comic book characters Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch, are superhero mutants and properties of Marvel Comics. Back in the 1990s, the comic book giant licensed a few of its top-tier characters to major movie studios and, as a result, the superhero siblings are the property of 20th Century Fox, who acquired the film rights to everything belonging to the X-Men and Mutant universe. In 2014, Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) made his feature film debut in X-Men: Days of Future Past, as a speedy and wild fan favorite. The Scarlet Witch also received a nod in a deleted scene, as Quicksilver’s little sister.
However, in 2015, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch also appeared in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, respectively. While Fox currently owns the film rights to the characters, Marvel Studios and Disney can also use the superheroes because they are members of The Avengers in the comic book world. Marvel Studios is allowed to use the characters without legal recourse as long as they’re not referred to as "Mutants" and are not the children of Magneto, who also belongs to Fox. Marvel got around these stipulations for Avengers by referring to them as being “enhanced” after a series of scientific experiments, and including a back story which states that their parents died when they were younger.
6. DENNIS THE MENACE
In March 1951, two different comic strips from two different countries were released within days of each other that featured the same character name: Dennis the Menace. Hank Ketcham created his Dennis as a newspaper comic strip for the United States, while Davey Law and Ian Chisholm created their Dennis for British children's comic The Beano. The two versions of Dennis the Menace were completely unrelated; that they used the same name, and were released about a week apart, was purely coincidental.
While they share the same name, they are completely different characters. The American Dennis is a kindhearted, overly stimulated boy who accidentally gets into hijinks and is only considered a “menace” by his neighbor, Mr. Wilson, while the British Dennis is a mean-spirited troublemaker.
Over the years, the characters have gained popularity in their respective home countries, while the American Dennis is more popular internationally than his British counterpart. In fact, the British Dennis the Menace comic changed its name to Dennis and Gnasher (his dog) to avoid confusion outside of the United Kingdom. The American Dennis the Menace also had to change its name to simply Dennis when the live-action film version opened in England.