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9 Unbelievable Movie Fan Theories That Turned Out to Be True

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While most movie fan theories are outrageous and unbelievably bizarre, there are a few that have turned out to be true. Here are nine of them.

1. THE GENIE AND THE PEDDLER ARE THE SAME CHARACTER IN ALADDIN.

Since the release of Disney’s Aladdin in 1992, there’s been a very popular fan theory that suggests the Peddler who opens the film and the Genie are the same character. There are a number of clues that support this fan theory, namely that both characters are voiced by the late Robin Williams and are the only ones who address the audience directly. In an interview in 2015, co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker confirmed the truth about the Peddler and the Genie.

“I saw something that speculates that the peddler at the beginning of Aladdin is the Genie. That’s true,” Clements revealed. “That was the whole intention, originally. We even had that at the end of the movie, where he would reveal himself to be the Genie, and of course Robin did the voice of the peddler. Just through story changes and some editing, we lost the reveal at the end. So, that’s an urban legend that actually is true.”

The original workprint ending of Aladdin (above) included an additional scene of the Peddler revealing his true identity.

2. ROBOCOP IS A CHRIST STORY.

After the release of RoboCop in 1987, many fans speculated about the film’s hidden themes of Christianity and Jesus Christ. After all, the sci-fi movie follows a man who is brutally executed, then comes back from the dead to save the city of Detroit from evil. In 2010, director Paul Verhoeven confirmed the RoboCop as Jesus Christ theory.

“The point of RoboCop, of course, is it is a Christ story," Verhoeven said. "It is about a guy who gets crucified in the first 50 minutes, and then is resurrected in the next 50 minutes, and then is like the supercop of the world, but is also a Jesus figure as he walks over water at the end."

3. DUMBLEDORE IS DEATH IN THE HARRY POTTER SERIES.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermoine tells Harry "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a fable that explains the origins of the Deathly Hallows. The story follows three brothers who come across Death while trying to cross a river. Death felt cheated that the brothers used magic to cross because people would normally drown in the water instead, so he congratulated them for tricking him and gave them gifts for their cunning.

The oldest brother asked for a powerful wand, which he was murdered for once he reached town. The next brother asked for a stone that gave him the ability to bring back his dead lover, whose ghost disappeared as soon as she was brought back from the dead. This led the second brother to kill himself to join her in the afterlife. The youngest brother, who was humble, asked Death for an invisibility cloak to hide from him until it was time to die as an old man. Once it was time, the youngest brother revealed himself to Death and willingly went with him as an old friend.

A theory emerged that the three brothers represented characters in the Harry Potter series: Voldemort is the first brother, who died for power; Severus Snape is the second, who died for his long lost love; and Harry Potter is the third, who "greeted death like an old friend" later in The Deathly Hallows. So who is Death? One fan theory suggested that Dumbledore Is Death, because he ends up meeting Harry in the afterlife and possessed the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak throughout the series.

Eventually, Harry Potter creatorJ.K. Rowling chimed in:

4. DECKARD IS A REPLICANT IN BLADE RUNNER.

For more than 30 years, fans argued about whether Deckard (Harrison Ford) from 1982's Blade Runner was a Replicant or not. There are a number of clues that support both arguments, but director Ridley Scott confirmed the truth for fans: Deckard is, indeed, a Replicant. In the interview above, from 2002, Scott revealed the truth about Deckard’s origins.

5. JESUS CHRIST WAS AN ENGINEER FROM PROMETHEUS.

Ridley Scott’s vision for Prometheus was something much more than a prequel to Alien. Scott conceived the idea that the Engineers created humanity on Earth and when mankind devolved into endless war and chaos, they sent another Engineer, Jesus Christ, to make things right again. However, instead of making a better world, humanity crucified him.

But as it turned out, the fan theory—which started on LiveJournal—is true. Scott just opted to make the Christ analogy more ambiguous than originally conceived because he believed it was “a little too on the nose.”

“If you look at it as an ‘our children are misbehaving down there’ scenario, there are moments where it looks like we've gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire," Scott told Movies.com. "And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, 'Let's send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it.' Guess what? They crucified him.”

6. FROZEN AND TARZAN TAKE PLACE IN THE SAME UNIVERSE.

While Rapunzel and Flynn from Disney’s Tangled appear briefly in Frozen, there is a rumor that suggests Disney’s Tarzan is also linked to Anna and Elsa. As the fan theory goes, the princesses' parents were the same two people who were shipwrecked on a jungle island at the beginning of Tarzan. This would make the King of the Jungle the baby brother of Anna and Elsa.

During a Reddit AMA, Frozen co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (Buck also directed Tarzan), jokingly added fuel to the fire and confirmed the fan theory. “According to Chris, they didn’t die on the boat. They got washed up on a shore in a jungle island. The queen gave birth to a baby boy. They build a treehouse. They get eaten by a leopard,” said Lee.

A year after appearing on Reddit, Buck double-downed on the theory in an interview with MTV News. “I said, 'Of course Anna and Elsa's parents didn't die,'" he continued. "Yes, there was a shipwreck, but they were at sea a little bit longer than we think they were because the mother was pregnant, and she gave birth on the boat, to a little boy. They get shipwrecked, and somehow they really washed way far away from the Scandinavian waters, and they end up in the jungle. They end up building a tree house and a leopard kills them, so their baby boy is raised by gorillas. So in my little head, Anna and Elsa's brother is Tarzan—but on the other side of that island are surfing penguins, to tie in a non-Disney movie, Surf's Up. That's my fun little world."

7. SPIRITED AWAY IS AN ALLEGORY FOR THE SEX INDUSTRY.

While many people see Spirited Away as a children’s movie about a young girl who learns to embrace the spirit world to return to her parents, some fans view Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning film as an allegory for prostitution in Japanese society during the 19th century. The film’s protagonist, Chihiro, is forced to work in a bathhouse for an evil witch after her parents foolishly ate food that was meant for the gods, which turned her mother and father into pigs. Chihiro works as a “yuna,” which is Japanese for “a woman who works with bathers,” or a bathhouse prostitute. According to Miyazaki, “I think the most appropriate way to symbolize the modern world is the sex industry. Hasn’t Japanese society become like the sex industry?”

Studio Ghibli also wrote one Spirited Away fan a lengthy letter explaining why Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs and what their transformation represents which, according to Miyazaki, is a metaphor for greed and materialism.

8. PRINCESS MONONOKE IS ABOUT LEPROSY.

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There is a longstanding urban legend in Princess Mononoke (1997) that suggests the workers covered with bloody bandages at the factory in Irontown have leprosy (or Hansen’s disease). In its original Japanese version, the characters are described as “gyobyo,” which means “incurable disease” or “suffering the consequences” in English. The word “leprosy” doesn’t appear anywhere in the original Japanese version, but the fan theory grew in popularity.

“While making Princess Mononoke, I thought I had to depict people who are ill with what’s clearly called an incurable disease, but who are living as best they can,” Hayao Miyazaki said during a conference for World Leprosy Day. He also met with patients at a hospital in Tokyo that treated people with Hansen’s disease during the film’s production.

9. ALL QUENTIN TARANTINO MOVIES TAKE PLACE IN THE SAME UNIVERSE.

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For years, fans would speculate about how Quentin Tarantino movies were connected. Aside from Red Apple Cigarettes appearing in almost all of the director’s movies, several of his characters share the same last names and traits: Sergeant Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) from Inglourious Basterds and Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek) from True Romance are related, while Pete Hicox (Tim Roth) from The Hateful Eight and Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) from Inglourious Basterds are also related.

In an interview on Australian TV, Tarantino admitted that all of his movies belong in a shared universe, but in a different way than you’d expect. “There are actually two separate universes," Tarantino said. "There’s the realer than real universe, and all the characters inhabit that one. Then there’s this 'movie' universe, so From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill take place in this special movie universe. Basically, when the characters from Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction go to the movies, Kill Bill and From Dusk Till Dawn is what they go see.”

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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10 Tantalizing Tidbits About Star Trek: The Next Generation
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

by Kirsten Howard

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in September 1987, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, this was a new Enterprise with a new crew trying to revitalize a franchise that had only lasted three seasons the last time it was on television. And while the movie series was still bringing in solid box office returns, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would play no part in this new Trek.

The Next Generation was a gamble for Paramount, and for the first few seasons, it looked like one the studio was going to lose. But once the series got over some initial behind-the-scenes chaos, it blossomed into one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows of all time. Even as bigger and shinier installments in the franchise continue to come out, this is the definitive Star Trek for countless fans. So lean back in your captain's chair and enjoy 10 facts about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

1. THE SHOW GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START.

Things were tumultuous at best behind the scenes during the first season of the show, as writers and producers clashed with creator Gene Roddenberry over themes, characters, and ideas on a weekly basis. The in-fighting and drama became such a part of the show's legacy that William Shatner himself chronicled all of it in a 2014 documentary called Chaos on the Bridge (which is currently streaming on Netflix). In it, producers, writers, and actors recounted anecdotes about the difficulties they had dealing with Roddenberry's somewhat overbearing mandates, including his infamous rule that there never be any direct conflict between the Enterprise crew members (unless one was possessed by an alien, of course) and his habit of throwing out scripts at the last minute. This led to 30 writers leaving the show within the first season, according to story editor and program consultant David Gerrold.

As Roddenberry’s health began to deteriorate after the first season, his influence over the writers waned, freeing up ideas that were departures from the creator's original vision. He would pass away in 1991, but his presence would never completely leave the series. For years, a small bust of Roddenberry sat on executive producer Rick Berman's desk with a blindfold wrapped over its eyes. "Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like," Berman said, "I blindfold him when we discuss the story."

2. GENE RODDENBERRY REALLY DIDN’T WANT A BALD CAPTAIN.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For years, William Shatner had cast the mold by which all future Star Trek captains would be judged. And it was that image of the confident, swashbuckling James T. Kirk that Roddenberry wanted to preserve when bringing a new captain in for The Next Generation. So when Berman wanted to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the issue was clear: he was no Shatner.

Roddenberry was completely unconvinced that Stewart was right for the role, with Berman saying the Trek creator didn’t like the idea of “a bald English guy taking over.” But after countless auditions with other actors, Berman continued to bring Stewart up to Roddenberry, who eventually caved and agreed to bring him in for a final audition under one condition: he wear a wig. So Stewart had a wig Fed-Exed from London and auditioned for Roddenberry and Paramount Television head John Pike one final time. 

That audition was enough to win Roddenberry over, and Stewart was finally brought aboard as Picard with the wig cast aside. Roddenberry would eventually go on to fully embrace Picard’s follicular shortcomings, and according to Stewart, when a reporter at a press conference once asked him why there wouldn’t be a cure for baldness in the 24th century, Roddenberry responded by saying, “No, by the 24th century, no one will care."

3. ONLY ONE PERSON HAS EVER PLAYED HIMSELF IN STAR TREK HISTORY.

Stephen Hawking was visiting the Paramount lot during the video release of the film A Brief History of Time when he requested a tour of the Next Generation set. After making his way onto the iconic Enterprise bridge, he stopped and began typing into his computer. Suddenly, his voice synthesizer spoke: “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain's seat?"

Hawking asking to be removed from his chair was basically unheard of, so his wishes were granted immediately. Later, with writers having become aware that he was such a huge Trekkie, Hawking himself was written into the sixth season finale episode “Descent – Part I” by Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to reimagine the Battlestar Galactica universe.

4. A WHOLE EPISODE WAS WRITTEN FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Late actor and comedian Robin Williams was also a huge fan of the show and was desperate to appear in it, so an episode of the fifth season—"A Matter of Time"—was drawn up by Berman to allow Williams to shine at the center of a mystery about Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling historian from the future visiting the past to observe the Enterprise crew completing an historic mission.

Unfortunately, when it came time to shoot the episode, Williams found himself unavailable to appear in the episode. So Max Headroom star Matt Frewer was cast as Professor Rasmussen instead.

5. PATRICK STEWART APPROACHED BEING TORTURED ON SCREEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

In the episode “Chain of Command, Part II,” Picard has been captured by Cardassians and is subjected to a variety of torture methods by his interrogators. As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Stewart did not want to shy away from the realities of torture, so he watched tapes sent to him that included statements from people who had been tortured and a long interview with a torturer explaining what it was like to be the one inflicting pain on others. Stewart also insisted on being completely nude during the first torture scene, so as not to betray the experiences of those who had undergone similar horrors.

6. THEY USED SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

The transporter effect on the show may look completely computer generated, but in fact it’s all done quite organically. First, a canister is filled with water and glitter and then a light is shone through it. After stirring the liquid briskly, the resulting few seconds of swirling glitter are filmed and then superimposed over footage of the actor standing in the transporter area, with an added “streak down” effect to blur the glitter further.

7. LORE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.

Android Lieutenant Commander Data had many adventures during the series, on and off the Enterprise, but his evil twin brother, Lore, stands out for many fans as one of the show’s greatest antagonists. Surprisingly, Lore was originally created as a female android character for the show, but the actor who plays Data, Brent Spiner, came up with a different idea: an evil twin nemesis in the shape of a long-lost brother.

8. THERE WAS AN OPEN SUBMISSION POLICY ON SCRIPTS.

When Michael Piller took over as head writer on the show in 1989, an open submission policy was launched where absolutely anyone could submit up to two unsolicited scripts for consideration. Opening up the possibility of writing for TV to people outside of the Writers Guild of America and talent agency pool was unheard of at the time, and over 5000 spec scripts were received a year at one point. "Yesterday’s Enterprise," one of the show’s most popular episodes, was based off a spec script from the open submission policy.

9. SOME SCRIPTS WERE RECYCLED FROM THE SCRAPPED PHASE II.

A still from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
Paramount Pictures

A decade before The Next Generation debuted, there was a failed attempt at a revival called Star Trek: Phase II. Though a first season was mapped out, it never saw the light of day, and the movie series was produced in its place. However, the scrapped scripts and concepts lived on in various Trek projects over the years. For the second season premiere of The Next Generation, producers reclaimed the script for "The Child" as a way to get a story quickly into production during the 1988 writer's strike. The season four episode "Devil's Due" was also taken from the backlog of Phase II scripts. 

More elements from Phase II would influence Trek for years, such as the pilot being reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the now-familiar elements of the Japanese-inspired Klingon culture being introduced in the shelved episode “Kitumba.”

10. THE TRANSPORTER IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

In what was either a cost-cutting move or a sly Easter egg (or both), the ceiling of the Enterprise's transporter room in The Next Generation is actually the floor of the transporter room from the original series. That's far from the only recycling that went on between the Trek series. The orbital office complex from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was reused as the Regula I station in The Wrath of Khan, which was then itself reused as a number of different space stations on The Next Generation (plus Deep Space Nine and Voyager).

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