Flying Saucer Toy Recalled for Its Misleading Take on Nazi History

Revell
Revell

A German toy has been recalled from shelves over concerns that it promoted an inaccurate glorification of Nazi history, Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog reports.

The toy in question, a 69-part model of a flying saucer called the Haunebu II, was inspired by a Nazi aircraft design that never flew. In the product description, its manufacturer, Revell, called it the "first space flight-capable object in the world," claiming it could fly "up to speeds of 6,000 kilometers per hour," or the equivalent of more than 3700 miles per hour. The image on the box showed a Nazi flying saucer covered in emblems of the Third Reich shooting down Allied planes. (The product is no longer listed on Revell's site, but there's a cached version here.)

The Nazis did want to develop space-ready aircraft, but they didn't succeed. They definitely never made a functional flying saucer like the one Revell was selling—it wouldn't have been technologically possible, historian Jens Wehner of the Military History Museum in Dresden explained to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. You don't get that sense from the product's design, packaging, and product description, though, which claims that "airworthy prototypes" of the flying saucer flew in 1943 and that the project was halted by World War II.

Suggesting that the Nazis had access to secret, superior space technology might lead some model builders to doubt current historical understanding of the Third Reich, fueling conspiracy theories. And it doesn't help that if there are two things conspiracy theorists love, it's Nazis and UFOs. Some already falsely claim that Germans set up a rocket-launch base in Antarctica and landed on the moon as early as 1942 (neither of which happened, we should emphasize), and toys like this only add to those myths.

Germany has strict laws designed to prevent anyone from glorifying its Nazi history, including statutes that criminalize Holocaust denial and banning anything that idealizes or pays homage to the Third Reich, including swastikas and Nazi salutes. In Austria, where Nazi glorification is also illegal, a Hitler impersonator was arrested in 2017 for posing for photos outside the dictator’s birthplace.

Revell's misleading flying saucer toy wasn't discontinued as a direct result of those laws, though. Instead, the company yanked the product after complaints from organizations like the German Children's Protection Association (DKSB) and Dresden's Military History Museum. The company is currently investigating how a product covered in Nazi symbols got to market at all.

[h/t Gizmodo]

8 Facts About Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Kevin Thackwell, also known as Clothes Pin Man, shows his unique talent on Ripley''s Believe It or Not!
Kevin Thackwell, also known as Clothes Pin Man, shows his unique talent on Ripley''s Believe It or Not!
Getty Images

For more than a century, people have considered the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! franchise synonymous with facts, figures, and people too bizarre to be true. But the brand—which was conceived by cartoonist Robert Ripley in 1918 and originally took the form of a newspaper strip before being adapted into other media—prided itself on presenting spectacular stories of the world’s hidden wonders that held up to scrutiny. At one point, 80 million people read Ripley’s strip, which was syndicated to 360 newspapers around the world. The franchise has since grown to include television series and specials, museums, books, and even aquariums.

To commemorate the new Ripley’s Believe It or Not! television series hosted by Bruce Campbell currently airing Sundays at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel, we’ve rounded up some of the more intriguing trivia behind the original fun fact gatherers of the 20th century.

1. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! was originally titled Champs and Chumps.

Robert Ripley's art for his 'Champs and Chumps' cartoon from December 19, 1918 is pictured
Ripley's Believe It or Not!

From the time he was a child growing up in Santa Rosa, California, Robert Ripley—who was born 1890—wanted to be an artist. He contributed cartoons to his school newspaper and yearbook before making his first professional sale to Life magazine in 1908. The following year, he moved to San Francisco, where he secured a job as a sports cartoonist for local newspapers. Urged on by sports writers like Jack London (Call of the Wild), Ripley decided to head to New York and take a job at the New York Globe, where his sports cartoons received both local and national attention in syndication.

During one slow sports news day, Ripley decided to dash off an illustration detailing unusual human feats he had read about, including a man who had held his breath for over six minutes; he called it Champs and Chumps. He revisited the idea again in 1919 and once more in 1920 with a new name: Believe It or Not. The Globe also sent him on trips to the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp as well as around the world, the latter resulting in a strip he dubbed Ripley’s Rambles ‘Round the World. In 1926, he was working at the New York Evening Post when he decided to resurrect the strip. This time, it stuck around. Readers became fanatical about Ripley’s odd collection of arcane facts and both the syndicated strip and its author grew into worldwide sensations.

2. Most of Robert Ripley’s facts were discovered by one man in New York.

The cover to a 'Ripley's Believe It or Not!' book is pictured
Amazon

Although Ripley lived up to his reputation as a globetrotter, traveling everywhere from Tripoli to India to Africa, many of the facts presented in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! were not the result of his expeditions but of one man combing through books in the New York Public Library. In 1923, Ripley met Norbert Pearlroth while searching for someone who could read articles and journals in foreign languages. Eventually, Pearlroth—who was fluent in 14 languages—spent upwards of seven days a week at the library excavating details for Ripley to use in his strip or information he could take with him during a fact-finding mission. He was so relentless that library officials sometimes had to ask him to leave at closing time. Pearlroth worked for the Ripley’s brand as its sole researcher for an astounding 52 years before retiring in 1975. He died in 1983 at the age of 89.

3. Ripley discovered "the Star-Spangled Banner" wasn’t actually the national anthem.

Robert Ripley's art for a November 3, 1929  'Ripley's Believe It or Not!' cartoon depicting the origin of the 'Star-Spangled Banner' is pictured
Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Always invested in semantics, in 1929 Ripley discovered that "The Star-Spangled Banner” had never actually been formally adopted as the country’s national anthem. That fact had merely been assumed, never confirmed. The ensuing outrage led to 5 million people signing a petition that was forwarded to Congress, who finally recognized the song in an official capacity by introducing a bill President Herbert Hoover signed into law in 1931.

4. Ripley became one of the most successful cartoonists of his era.

Robert Ripley poses for a photo in front of his drawing board circa the late 1940s
Cartoonist Robert Ripley poses for a photo in front of his drawing board circa the late 1940s.
Ripley's Believe It or Not!

The wide appeal of Ripley’s work wasn’t lost on the media. Following the 1929 publication of a book that compiled both new and original strips, Ripley was inundated with offers. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst hired him for his King Features Syndicate label at a salary of $1200 plus profit-sharing, which amounted to over $100,000 a year. Radio shows, books, and lectures added to the total. Ripley was earning over $500,000 annually in the 1930s and at the height of the Great Depression. In 1936, a newspaper poll found that Ripley was more popular among Americans than actor James Cagney, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or aviator Charles Lindbergh.

5. Ripley was a rather unusual man.

Robert Ripley poses with two Balinese dancers
Robert Ripley poses for a photo with two Balinese dancers.
Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Befitting his curious nature, Ripley himself was a bit of an anomaly. While researching a 1940 profile of Ripley for The New Yorker, writer Geoffrey T. Hellman jotted down various observations in his notebook. Among them: Ripley was found of working in only his bathrobe and wearing his dead mother’s wedding ring; he owned a fish who could only swim backwards, a shrunken head from Tibet, and a whale penis; he could not drive; and he seemingly amassed a number of women from around the world to live with him in what might be described as a harem. At one point, Ripley’s housekeeper observed that of everything in Ripley’s Mamaroneck, New York mansion, “The most unusual thing in the house is Mr. Ripley.”

6. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz had his first published work in the Ripley’s strip.

Wall art featuring 'Peanuts' characters Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Linus are pictured
brian kong, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Before Charles Schulz found acclaim in newspaper pages for his Peanuts strip, he got his start in Ripley’s strip. In 1937, when Schulz was 15 years old, he submitted artwork featuring his dog, Spike, claiming that the canine could eat unappetizing fare like pins and tacks. The strip credited Schulz as “Sparky,” his nickname. Spike also bore a passing resemblance to another, more well-known pet: Charlie Brown’s pet Snoopy.

7. You can visit a number of Ripley’s Odditoriums across the globe.

Magician and escape artist Albert Cadabra performs at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium in New York in 2013
Robin Marchant, Getty Images

In 1933, Ripley displayed some of his more sensational artifacts for crowds at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. Though the exhibit of human marvels—including a live demonstration of a man who could blow smoke out of his eyes and another who could turn his head 180 degrees—was temporary, a permanent location debuted in New York in 1939. Since then, a number of Ripley Odditoriums have opened in San Francisco, Ontario, and Baltimore. There are currently over 30 locations in 10 countries worldwide.

8. Ripley died a somewhat ironic death.

A bust of Robert Ripley sits on display at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Grand Prairie, Texas
A bust of Robert Ripley sits on display at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Many people recognize the Ripley’s brand from a series of television shows, including versions hosted by Jack Palance, Dean Cain, and now Bruce Campbell. But Ripley himself was the host of the first iteration, which debuted in 1949 to great success. While taping his 13th show, the cartoonist suddenly fell over on his desk, dead of an apparent heart attack. The show’s topic? The history of the military funeral anthem “Taps.” Believe it or not.

New Star Wars Furniture Line Brings Wookies and TIE Fighters Into Your Living Room

Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.
Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Star Wars movies have inspired apparel, action figures, and even office supplies. Ahead of the release of Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker later this year, Popular Mechanics reports that Disney has teamed up with famed furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue to create a new line of Star Wars-themed products for the home.

Cobonpue is a Filipino industrial artist known for incorporating traditional techniques and nature-inspired designs into his work. The new collection he created for Disney Philippines riffs on the vehicles and characters of the Star Wars universe.

The TIE fighter armchair allows sitters to relax in a seat made to look like the signature combat craft of the Imperial army. There are also end tables inspired by the TIE fighters that utilize the same iconic, hexagonal wing design. Some pieces are inspired by beloved characters, like the Chewie rocking stool, which is made from a shaggy brown material and flourished with his signature bandolier. If you think the Dark Side has more style, the line also includes chairs that pay homage to Darth Vader and Darth Sidious.

After originally launching it in the Philippines, Disney made the collection available to U.S. buyers in May. The furniture is for sale in select retailers and showrooms in 11 states.

TIE fighter Star Wars chair.
Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.

Chewie stool inspired by Star Wars.
Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.

TIE fighter end table inspired by Star Wars.
Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.

Darth Vader chair inspired by Star Wars.
Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.

Darth Sidious chair inspired by Star Wars.
Kenneth Cobonpue, Lucasfilm Ltd.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

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