CLOSE
Original image
Disney / Mushi Production

10 Hollywood Movies That May Have Been Inspired by Anime

Original image
Disney / Mushi Production

The recent Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow looks and feels like an anime—partly because it is based on an actual Japanese manga property (albeit one that has so far not been given the animated treatment). And we can speculate that a bunch of other Hollywood movies not credited as being based on any specific anime actually were.

While hyper-real fantasy pictures like Real Steel and Sucker Punch borrow the semiotics/visual vocabulary of Japanese animation, there are some films that lift whole storylines or shots from pretty famous properties developed by our neighbors in the east. Sometimes the filmmakers cop to it, sometimes they don't—but here are ten examples of movies inspired by anime to get you thinking.

1. The Lion King (1994)

Influence: Kimba the White Lion

In the early '90s, the VHS revolution was in full swing, but the internet was in its infancy—it would be a few more years before many people would be talking smack on message boards. So unless you were trading bootlegs at a convention, you were mostly ignorant of animation from other parts of the globe—which is probably what Disney was counting on when they totally ganked elements of The Lion King from Kimba the White Lion wholesale. Created by Osamu Tezuka as a manga in the 1950s, then broadcast as an animated series in the mid-1960s (including syndication in the U.S.!), the similarities to Disney's 1994 feature-film blockbuster go as far as exact shots (Mufasa on Pride Rock, his ghost appearing to Simba in the sky) to identical characters and story elements. In fact, Lion King star Matthew Broderick thought he was initially working on a version of Kimba.

2. The Matrix (1999)

Influence: Ghost in the Shell

Unlike filmmakers who are sheepish to discuss their influences, Lana and Andy Wachowski could not have been more direct: They pitched The Matrix to producer Joel Silver by showing him 1995's cyberpunk actioner Ghost in the Shell, saying "We want to do that in live-action." And indeed they did! From the green digital typography used to descend into the virtual world to jacking-in through ports in the back of a person's neck, the Wachowskis borrowed lovingly from Mamoru Oshii's Ghost as well as the overall cinematic speed-ramping language of anime. They even wore their thievery proudly with side-by-side comparisons on the making-of features! Talk about owning it. Oshii himself became tired of discussing the comparison, stating, "It is an entertaining movie, but I prefer their debut, Bound."

But the directors weren't done with anime: The 2003 direct-to-video feature The Animatrix saw the Wachowskis utilizing some of Japan's finest directors (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Mahiro Maeda) to take The Matrix franchise back to its anime roots. Then they went on to 2008's Speed Racer, the closest anyone’s come to approximating the actual psychedelic flourish of anime in live-action… for better or worse.

3. Van Helsing (2004)

Influence: Vampire Hunter D

This one really only goes so far as an iconic costume. The movie finds Hugh Jackman playing the eponymous vampire hunter who originally appeared in Bram Stoker's Dracula—only in that story, Abraham Van Helsing was an old, half-mad doctor. Here, he's a hunky stud vigilante who turns out to be the earthly incarnation of angel Gabriel. Van Helsing's signature Johnny Cash-style black duds and wide-brimmed hat also happen to be style of choice for a certain Vampire Hunter D, the bloodsucker slayer immortalized in dozens of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi and two classic anime features that rely heavily on western motifs. Its concept of a "dhampir" (half vampire/half human vampire hunter) was also borrowed for the Blade movies.

4. Avatar (2009)

20th Century Fox / Toho

Influence: Princess Mononoke

When anything becomes successful, people tend to come out of the woodwork to claim it was stolen from this or that—especially when you're the most successful thing ever projected onto a plethora of large screens. Such was the case with James Cameron's Avatar, which was a target even before it hit theaters. There were charges of Ferngully-this and Pocahontas-that, but the spirit that the director's "Dances With Wolves-in-space" was really channeling was Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. It was the first anime feature to really gain worldwide box office traction, and featured many of Miyazaki's signature motifs, including environmental degradation, malevolent black goo, and a strong female heroine. Those are also signatures of James Cameron (well, maybe not the black goo), but both feature a human interloper entering a wilderness society, being "chosen" by the elements, falling in love with a warrior chick and ultimately fighting against the human oppressors who want to mine a metal out of the ground. 

5. Inception (2010)

Influence: Paprika

Christopher Nolan acknowledged that Satoshi Kon's colorful 2006 fantasia Paprika was a source of inspiration for him, in that both stories involve an electronic device that allows an outsider to access and affect a person's dreams. Of course, like The Matrix, Inception’s influences are myriad—from Total Recall to James Bond to Philip K. Dick's Ubik—though the most striking thing you can say when you put the two films side-by-side is how vastly better Paprika is, in the sense that it truly revels in dreams as a mental plane where anything the subconscious can muster will happen. Wolfgang Peterson (The Perfect Storm) announced he was working on a live-action version of Paprika just before Inception came out, and it's not hard to believe that Nolan's movie might have stolen his thunder considering we haven't heard a peep in four years.

6. Black Swan (2010)

Influence: Perfect Blue

Another masterpiece by Satoshi Kon was given the (informal) Hollywood treatment in 2010 in the form of Academy Award-winning psychodrama Black Swan, which took both specific shots and story details from Perfect Blue. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky had previously used several frames from this 1997 animated film for scenes with Jennifer Connelly in Requiem For a Dream, going so far as to buy the rights from Kon. When touting his ballet drama Swan during awards season, he acknowledged similarities—a talented young woman with a tenuous grasp on reality alienates her friends and overbearing mother in order to achieve fame, all while being tormented by a doppelganger who appears in reflections—but insisted he did not draw any inspiration from it.

7. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)

Universal Pictures / Shueisha

Influence: 'Naruto'

Yes, director Edgar Wright was looking to the world of video games and martial arts movies as the primary ingredients in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, being that the original comic book's creator Bryan Lee O'Malley was deliberately aping the style and formatting of Japanese manga, the whole thing has anime in its DNA. The film pulls liberally from the old 8-bit Street Fighter and Mario Bros. games, but during the final boss confrontation with Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) the baddie uses hand signs straight from popular manga/anime Naruto to summon his deadly digitized sword.

8. Looper (2012)

TriStar Pictures / Toho

Influence: Akira

Arguably the most revered anime feature of all-time, Katsuhiro Otomo's 1988 breakthrough Akira was a cyberpunk landmark that took sensory overload to new heights. Rian Johnson's Looper is a clever pastiche of sci-fi tropes—particularly The Terminator—and tells the tale of a young buck (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who murders people sent back in time by the mob, and what happens when he fails to kill his future self (Bruce Willis). Besides the time travel element, you also have a kid named Cid whose psychokinetic abilities will eventually turn him into a monster, something that also plays heavily into the Tetsuo character in Akira. The futuristic setting is much less Blade Runner and more Detroit ten years from now, but Johnson freely admits to cribbing from not only Akira but also Otomo's other manga work in the uncontrolled-id genre, Domu.

9. Pacific Rim (2013)

Influence: Neon Genesis Evangelion/Mobile Suit Gundam/Patlabor/etc

If Japan were to have a pop culture ambassador to the United Nations, it would be a giant robot. Since the dawn of Astro Boy and Gigantor, their culture has literally been stupid with big mechanical marvels, whether they're duking it out with Godzilla or transforming into a boombox. It's fair to say Japanimation has ripped itself off so many times it would be impossible to pinpoint one influence on Guillermo del Toro's mech-vs.-monster epic Pacific Rim. Besides the obvious "nations banding together to defeat giant creatures with big robot defenders" angle, popular anime series Evangelion has the drivers of said robots given a neural link to their rigs. Rim doubled up on this concept by having two drivers telepathically connected and sharing memories, but the influence is there. Both del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham have denied watching Evangelion, but do cite Gigantor (originally Tetsujin 28-go) or Mobile Police Patlabor.

10. Her (2013)

Influence: Chobits

Spike Jonze's Her and the anime Chobits (created by Japanese manga collective Clamp) are both about average, antisocial dudes who fall in love with an artificial being. Although they both boast this central idea—and despite impassioned cries by anime fans—it really is hard to get past a fundamental difference, which is that Chobits' female A.I. named Chi has a body in which to "interact" with her man Hideki, whereas Samantha in Her is a disembodied voice (Scarlett Johansson) with which Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) can impart all of his innermost desires in order to simulate true intimacy. Eventually, both Chi and Samantha become transcendent beings, but Her is so different both aesthetically and emotionally that it's hard to say there's more than the kernel of the idea in Jonze's work.

Original image
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
Original image
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

Original image
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
12 Facts About the Smithsonian's Collections
Original image
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

With 19 museums spread along the East Coast, the Smithsonian Institution has become the country’s richest repository of American history. From culture to science, zoos to space exploration, the federally-backed archive has spent nearly 200 years preserving and educating. Check out some facts on its history, how a new species of dolphin was found hiding in its archives, and how the founder eventually became part of the collection.

1. ITS FOUNDER NEVER SET FOOT IN THE STATES.

Wealthy British globe-trotter James Smithson (1765-1829) had acquired an estate worth roughly $500,000 at the time of his death and ordered that all of his assets be inherited by his nephew, Henry James Dickinson. There was one twist: The estate was to be turned over to the United States in the event Dickinson died without an heir of his own so the country could build a hub for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Henry, then 18, died just six years later, and so President James Polk signed the act approving the Smithsonian Institution into law in 1846. Curiously, Smithson had never even visited the U.S. Why leave such a legacy to a foreign nation? Smithson never commented on his decision, leaving people to guess that it was either because he was impressed by democracy or because he wanted to enrich a country that, at the time, had only a few educational hubs.

2. NO ONE WAS REALLY SURE WHAT SMITHSON WANTED.

A portrait of James Smithson

“Increase and diffusion of knowledge” can be interpreted pretty broadly, and it took the United States a long time—roughly 10 years—before anyone could agree on what to do with Smithson’s gift. Educators, politicians, and civilians all had a unique notion of how to spend his fortune, including opening a university, a library, or an observatory. Ultimately, the Smithsonian Institution was a compromise, involving many of these ideas. By 1855, construction on the main building was complete at the National Mall in Washington; it was designated as a National Museum in 1858 [PDF].

3. THEY HAD TO HIDE THEIR COLLECTION FROM AXIS FORCES.

At the height of U.S. involvement in World War II, museum curators knew that Axis forces would have designs on destroying the vibrant culture housed at the museum’s main location at the National Mall. To protect these irreplaceable items, the Smithsonian arranged to have them shipped to an undisclosed location—now known to be near Luray, Virginia—and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. They didn’t return until 1944.

4. SMOKEY BEAR LIVED AT THEIR ZOO.

Smokey Bear takes a bath at the National Zoo

Yes, that Smokey Bear. (And there’s no “the” in his name.) In 1950, a bear cub that survived a raging forest fire in Capitan, New Mexico, was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service and named Smokey after the popular ad campaign mascot of the era. As a living symbol of the effort, he spent his remaining 26 years at the National Zoo, a constant recipient of visitor attention and hundreds of jars of honey.

5. THEY DISPLAY JUST ONE PERCENT OF THEIR COLLECTION.

In order to execute Smithson’s mission statement, the Smithsonian has had to morph into the greatest display of hoarding the world has ever seen. All told, the Institution’s various artifacts, specimens, and other arcana is believed to number in the neighborhood of 137 million, with an official museum estimate of 154 million. Just 1 percent of that is available for viewing at any given time.

6. ONE CATEGORY IS USUALLY OFF-LIMITS FOR VIEWING.

17th century human remains found in Jamestown, Virginia

Evolving public attitudes over the decades have prompted the Smithsonian to be very wary of displaying human remains. While they’ve collected everything from shrunken heads to the “soap man”—a corpse whose body turned to a soap-like substance thanks to a chemical reaction to soil—most of it remains out of public view.

7. AN EXHIBIT ON NUCLEAR WAR STIRRED CONTROVERSY.

For a planned exhibit of the Enola Gay, the bomber plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II, museum organizers drew criticism in 1994 for presenting material that some veterans groups and members of Congress felt was politically charged. The museum agreed to omit text near the display that some felt dwelled on the horrific effects of the bomb, as well as references estimating the U.S. and rival casualties that might have been suffered if the bomb had not been deployed.

8. THE WEIRDEST ITEM THEY’VE CATALOGED IS A CRAPPY VIDEO GAME.

The box art for the Atari 2600 game E.T.

Amidst many internet lists of strange Smithsonian catalog items—taxidermied animals, beards, and other miscellanea—nothing seems more incongruous than the 2014 inclusion of a 1982 Atari video game based on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Renowned for being produced quickly and for helping to fuel the video game crash of the early 1980s, supplies of the cartridge were buried in a New Mexico landfill and only recently excavated. One went into the museum's archives.

9. THEY TURNED DOWN JIMMY DURANTE’S NOSE.

In the 1950s, actor and comedian Jimmy Durante was easily identified by his bulbous nose, a three-inch-long (from bridge to tip) feature that led to his nickname, “the Great Schnozzola.” Sensing a publicity opportunity, Durante’s management arranged for a makeup artist to create a plaster cast of Durante’s nose and offer it up to the Smithsonian as a piece of Americana. Frank Setzler, the museum’s head of anthropology was unimpressed. “Heavens, no,” he was quoted as saying. “Who would want that? The only place we could use it would be in the elephant display.”

10. AN UNDISCOVERED SPECIES OF DOLPHIN WAS LURKING IN THEIR INVENTORY.

A dolphin skull from a recently-discovered species

With so many specimens, the bowels of the Smithsonian almost certainly harbor secrets that can surprise even scientists. In 2016, two researchers in search of fossilized marine mammals stumbled across the skull of a 25-million-year-old river dolphin they named Arktocara yakataga. Said to have been found in Alaska, the dolphin may have dwelled in the Arctic. It was estimated that the skull—plucked from obscurity because one of the researchers found it “cute”—sat on the shelf for 50 years before being identified.

11. THEY’RE COMMITTED TO PRESERVING DOROTHY’S SLIPPERS.

Possibly the most iconic pair of footwear in pop culture, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz have become a Smithsonian trademark. In 2016, the Institution successfully raised over $300,000 on Kickstarter to build a state-of-the-art preservation case to protect the kicks from deterioration. While star Judy Garland wore several pairs during filming and the Smithsonian’s are mismatched, it’s clear that visitors want to keep them in condition for any future travels along the yellow brick road.

12. SMITHSON EVENTUALLY BECAME PART OF THE COLLECTION.

James Smithson's final resting place within the walls of the Smithsonian

In 1904, some 75 years after his death in Italy, Smithson’s remains were about to be disturbed. U.S. Smithsonian officials were alerted that his grave site would be displaced because of a nearby stone quarry expansion. The Institution took the opportunity to have his casket shipped to America so he could be interred at the site of his legacy—the Smithsonian itself. Escorted by Alexander Graham Bell, the casket traveled 14 days by sea. The body was entombed and topped off by a marker in the Smithsonian, where it remains viewable by the general public.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios