It’s 1993, and your grandma reveals she bought you a VHS copy of Aladdin. You’re thrilled until you discover it’s a cheap 40-minute knock-off that has nothing to do with Aladdin, Jasmine, and Abu. It’s called a mockbuster: It’s totally legal, quite terrible, and the reason it exists is absolutely wild.
Mockbusters are cheaply made copycats of popular Hollywood movies that first got big in the 1950s with creature features and other B-movies. Since then, we’ve seen everything from Transmorphers to Snakes on a Train. But the biggest mockbuster cash cow is ripping off Disney movies. There are two main ways smaller studios try to do this—sometimes, they’ll change the marketing for one of their existing movies to resemble something Disney is getting ready to release. Then, there are those that are seemingly made for the sole purpose of glomming onto the success of Disney’s biggest films.
You can watch our video above for a deep dive into the history of Disney and Pixar mockbusters, how the Walt Disney Company failed to get them shut down in the early ‘90s, and why companies are still making them today. Check out a few of the strangest Disney mockbusters below!
This is the one that started it all. It was released by GoodTimes Entertainment right around the same time as the Disney version, tricking quite a few folks into buying it instead (yes, including my own grandma). Disney sued GoodTimes over its version of Aladdin in 1993, saying the VHS packaging and cover image were trying to copy Disney’s Aladdin. Disney lost the lawsuit, and GoodTimes kept releasing its mockbusters to ride the Mouse’s coattails. It wasn’t the only one.
2. Lion and the King
German animation company Dingo Pictures may not be the most successful company specializing in Disney mockbusters, but it’s probably one of the most infamous around. The grade-school animation and voice acting sounds like a random person on the street was brought into the studio to voice a dozen characters. It’s a nightmare to witness. Lion and the King, which is designed to rip off The Lion King, is definitely a sight to behold—for maybe five minutes. Any longer and your eyes might start to bleed.
3. The Secret of Mulan
UAV Sterling Entertainment Group released this mockbuster in 1998, which is the year both Disney’s Mulan and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life came out. For reasons technically unknown (but most likely to try and cash in on both movies), The Secret of Mulan tried to recreate the tale of the famous Chinese heroine, with one notable exception: all the characters were bugs.
Plenty of mockbuster studios hopped on the Disney Pixar bandwagon in the early 2000s, with one of the biggest being Video Brinquedo, based out of Brazil. Ratatöing is this studio’s take on Ratatouille. While that movie is a loving tale of a rat with a talent for cooking, this one is a CGI abomination with no plot and no purpose. It’s the kind of mockbuster you have to have a hard stomach for, as it’ll make the average cinephile extremely queasy.
Most mockbuster studios have either gone out of business or been sold to other companies, but one that’s still alive and well is the Asylum. This studio doesn’t just do fake versions of Transformers and Pacific Rim, it’s also delved into the Pixar wheelhouse. The latest one is Homeward, which is clearly a take on Onward. You can tell it’s a ripoff because the Asylum’s trailer is practically a copy-paste of Disney’s first teaser trailer. It’s when you get to the meat of the plot itself, about an elf (played by Joey Lawrence) who tries to murder his adopted orc brother, that things start to take a much different tone.
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