In the VHS era, Disney movies built up a reputation as a babysitter in a box, something you could stick on your TV and leave the kids to enjoy. It was a brand that parents recognised as offering quality and something safe for the young 'uns.
But for almost as long, I've been seeing knock-offs and nearly-there copycat films piling up on the shelves, looking to fool the less discerning, less informed, shopper. I've called it the Granny Trap – sticking a lookalike cover on the shelves and shifting copies on the basis of nothing more than confusion.
Some of the knock-offs I've seen over the years have actually tried to rip-off the film in question with their storylines and characters. Witness Ratatoing, the CG toon about a mouse who runs a restaurant, or The Little Cars, or What's Up? Balloon To The Rescue. These CG shorts, made on limited resources and with barely any ambition, masquerade as bigger budget, better quality features, and lift as much of the original material as they need to carry off their cover-up.
It's not dissimilar to what The Asylum do, getting a lower-grade mockbuster onto the shelves in step with many of the big studio releases – from Transmorphers to Age of the Hobbits. It's arguably worse, though, because it's more sepcifically targeting an audience of naive kids.
Sometimes though, films that didn't even start out as rip-offs have ended up being marketed as such.
In a sense, this is even more cynical. In these cases, only the box art bears any resemblance to the big picture that's being vampired, and what comes inside has little or nothing to do with this new mask. It's a double rip off, really.
The most recent iteration of this scam is Braver, a DVD release from Brightspark productions in Brighton. Here's the cover:
And here's a poster for Brave, the actual Disney Pixar film.
Braver wasn't always called Braver. When it was originally released in 2005, it went by the name of Fairy Tale Christmas. Once upon a time, it was a more general purpose Disney Princess knock-off. In the intervening six or seven tears, the film itself hasn't changed, just the box.
Incidentally, if you look at the Lovefilm listing for Braver, it comes with the proviso:
Please note: This is not the Disney Pixar release Brave
But it's arguably not clear enough.
Now, though, the fight is on. Disney have told Brightspark to withdraw their various infringing titles or to face litigation. They've given me this full statement:
People place great trust in the quality and creativity of Disney and when it appears that another company is causing confusion among Disney consumers, we will act to protect ourselves and the consumer. Disney believes that Brightspark has demonstrated a pattern of misleading consumers with numerous releases that confuse and undermine the trust those consumers have in Disney.
And Brightspark have issued their own statement, saying:
Braver is an item for families on a budget and I very much doubt that anyone would confuse our production with the wonderful work of Disney. We are currently talking to Disney to find a mutually acceptable resolution.
Which is a pretty good review of the utter drivel they're selling. Nobody much would confuse their product with a real Disney film. The box art, however, is a different matter altogether. And of course they know it.
Brightspark don't make these films, they just release them. They give them these misleading covers and titles, they price them at bargain-bucket levels and they get them stockpiled in supermarkets. It's quite a brazenly cynical marketing scheme, and it's actually kind of upsetting.
There's a big difference between a Muppet and a Moopet, and the end victim here are the little kids who, frankly, deserve better. It's like giving somebody a candy that you know has been in the gutter and stand back and watch their happy little face as they pop it in their mouth…
Here's a selection of trailers and clips from these knock-off pictures. Some of this stuff is absolutely jaw-dropping, all of it is cringe-inducingly sub-par. You might only be able to stomach a few seconds from each.
This last one has been edited – the on screen captions don't come from the original film. Still, there's plenty of "I've seen it but I don't believe it" stuff in here.
And finally, because I can't find any clips from Braver online, here are a series of still images showing just how un-Brave it is.
The real Brave DVD and Blu-ray will be along in November, but I might recommend that you catch it in the cinema first if you can. I'm rather fond of it.