The Top 7 Product Placements in Animated Films

4. Curious George – USPS, Volkswagen

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While I can’t say it’s entirely inappropriate to see Curious George pimping Dole bananas to coincide with his 2006 Universal movie release, the United States Postal Service logo not only sticks out like a sore thumb, it adds unnecessary confusion towards what we all would’ve assumed anyway: That blue mailbox is where mail goes.

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I hope the USPS plug wasn’t lost on lil’ tots viewing in foreign territories like Germany, but at least they had another ridiculous form of product placement to fall back on. That pickup truck Will Ferrel’s Man in the Yellow Hat borrows? A Volkswagen of course. But you’d have to be a World War II veteran to recognize the make and model since the famous Beetle maker hasn’t actually manufactured a pickup (at least not in the US) for nearly a century. But the plot demanded a truck and the ad team demanded a VW, so here we are.

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3. Free Birds – Chuck E. Cheese

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Since most of the sentient world has never seen 2013’s Free Birds, pardon me if I recap the plot: A couple of turkeys travel back in time to prevent Thanksgiving, the adorable, ritualized holocaust of their species. Now, I have no problem with the anthropomorphic turkeys altering history by introducing the pilgrims and indigenous folk to pizza instead of the juicy tryptophan delight that resides underneath their skin. That’s kind of a cute ending! Nay, the issue is the specific brand of pizza the producers chose to end the cycle of turkey genocide with.

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Here’s my problem: Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza is fucking inedible. Never mind how it’s almost impossible to make pizza suck, Chuck E. Cheese’s dry tortilla topped with wilted salad and Spagetti-Os sauce is hardly a sturdy foundation on which to build a treaty between two warring nations. The injuns would still be throwing rocks through white people’s window every November if this is what they were given. Without the the joys of America’s arcade death rattle and singing androids to distract you, no human would ever intentionally eat a Chuck E. Cheese pizza, let alone have it delivered. Which is why Chuck E. Cheese, thank the Lord, doesn’t deliver… the ending of Free Birds being the sole notable exception.

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Want another reason to hate this sequence? Reel FX, the company behind Free Birds, by pure coincidence, are also the company who redesigned the eponymous Chuck E. Cheese mascot. What a SHOCK.

2. Eight Crazy Nights – EVERYTHING

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No matter how unfunny you find Adam Sandler, please keep in mind that he has a lot of unfunny friends. They must eat too. I have no idea how Sandler goes about securing funding for a $100+ million worth of 90 minute gay jokes, so I almost understand, even sympathize, with the necessity of promoting products in each and every Happy Madison producion. It’s like a charity for rich people! And the only thing more synonymous with an Adam Sandler film than the same dozen actors lazily playing the same dozen characters is specific dialog built around actual products and at least one establishing shot in a fast food restaurant. I’ve accepted that. With all of that in mind, Eight Crazy Nights takes product placement to an absolutely absurd level. First, let’s talk pure fucking volume. Ten minutes into the movie we get an “improvised” song featuring Foot Locker…

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The Sharper Image…

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The Body Shop, Fila!

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Tie Rack…

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GNC!

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Radio Shack!

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Spencer’s Gifts!

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Dunkin’ Donuts and Sbarro for a diabetic double whammy!

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Panda Express!

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See’s Candies!

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Victoria’s Secret!

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And hey, what the hell? Why not a kid holding a Game Boy Advance for no damned reason?!

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I’m not going to sugarcoat this: If anything in this article has bothered you, if you find yourself morally opposed to any of the imagery above, what’s next could push you to the brink of madness. You’ve been warned, I’m sorry.

Seriously, watch that. If I described it to you, I’m not sure you’d even believe me, but I’ll try. A drunken Adam Sandler is serenaded to tears by ailing mall brands. This happened! Not only that, some of those mascots look to be invented specifically for Eight Crazy Nights, seemingly for the sole purpose of allowing a logo to talk to the fucking Waterboy. It’s okay to be disgusted. Let it out – and by “it,” I mean vomit.

1. Foodfight! – EVERYTHING TIMES INFINITY!

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Every other entry on this list might be filled with garish, ugly commercials inserted directly into a film for maximum profit, but an idea for a story came before any deals were made with fast food or auto manufacturers. But Foodfight! has it all backwards – this CG animated film was financed to unite the many brands found in supermarkets and then came the actual creative process. Unsurprisingly, despite taking over a decade to release, Foodfight! uncreative beginnings led to one of the ugliest and most abysmally unfunny things ever made. And I say that as someone who saw Antz. It’s a new low for everyone involved, even Charlie Tuna…

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Director Lawrence Kasanoff dreamed up the film as a Roger Rabbit-style team up of all the animated food spokespeople you see while buying groceries. It takes place in a world where all the mascots come alive at night and hangout in a Casablanca-esque club. The major characters rep fictional products, but at every turn they meet real world mascots of sugary foods and cleaning products. On top of the aforementioned Charlie Tuna, there’s The California Raisins singing “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”…

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The nearly forgotten Twinkie The Kid…

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Whatever the hell represents IBM…

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And even Mr. Clean hanging out with Mrs. Butterwroth, all of whom have rarely looked worse…

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They all hang out as part of a lazy retelling of Casablanca with Charlie Sheen as the lead voice, and yes, that does mean pseudo-Nazis invade a grocery store and threaten Charlie Tuna’s life. It’s REALLY uncomfortable, made all the more so by about a dozen gay sex innuendos throughout, which you have to assume Proctor & Gamble wouldn’t have appreciated.

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Foodfight! turned into a massive money pit, and only saw a horrendously cobbled together release in 2012 to avoid any future legal troubles. All told, the constant barrage of product placement cameos is the least of Foodfight!’s multitude of problems, and all involved should’ve just burnt it to the ground and never looked back. In the end, Foodfight! ended up being an argument for more subtlety in product placement, proving that there actually is a “too far” when it comes to throwing logos and ads in children’s faces. And that’s why nothing else is more deserving of the top spot.

20 thoughts on “The Top 7 Product Placements in Animated Films

  1. Mother of god, I forgot how grossly blatant those ‘Eight Crazy Nights’ ones were. As if I needed more reason to loath Sandler…

    1. I have never seen 8 Crazy Nights (and never will) so this article was my first introduction to the fresh hell of an animated Sandler and how his corporate whorish-ness invaded an entirely new medium.

  2. Thanks for posting this. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Oliver & Company that I thought I might have imagined all the product placement. Turns out it was a lot more than I remembered, since the only parts that stayed with me were the Times Square shots.

  3. Foodfight! may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I have a habit of watching terrible, half-finished CG practice test films made by ameture hobbyists with no budget or talent, and Foodfight! is below a lot of them in quality alone. If you aren’t hip to the YouTube community, it’s become a bit of a Kung-Pow!-esque tradition to do a full commentary for it, and for good reason: it’s a fantastic mess.

  4. Wow, it’s almost as if movie executives greenlit these terrible, TERRIBLE films just to get that sweet endorsement cash.

  5. i was enjoying the article until i got to food fight, thanks chris!
    anime also does this a lot, i find it quite jarring when you see product placement in something thats animated.

  6. In a fantastically imaginative world like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, all non-fantasy electronics are Sony hardware.

  7. I do remember the California Raisins in their original clay-mation form singing motown songs from when I was very little. Sad to see they were resurrected for that…
    I really thought Adam Sandler would stand atop this list… AMAZED that someone could actually out do him in lazy product placement to the max. You cannot defend him anymore, you just can’t.

  8. I’ve never seen Foodfight! and was barely aware of it’s existence but I almost want to watch it now. That animation is the stuff of nightmares.

  9. wow… I don’t know why I have never noticed or even thought about product placement in animated films. I mean DUH, why wouldn’t it be in there? I don’t know how I had my blinders on all this time to all these obvious things in my beloved animations.
    I love the hand drawn honey nut cheerios box in the Chipmunk Adventure.
    OMIGAWSH, I gotta’ go to my little sisters apartment and we HAVE to watch this together, like NOW! it’s been soooo long. X3
    love this article. shocking how in total denial I’ve been.

    1. Well, that was sort of the point of this article. Product placement is so noticeable in animation it rarely ever happens. When your medium thrives on caricature, exaggeration and heightened reality, a boring ass real-life product takes a steaming dump on cartoons’ entire reason for existing. The Lego Movie being a notable exception…

  10. This was a great list. Probably one of my favorite Top 7’s in recent history. No idea why, but the whole thing tickled and intrigued me so much.

  11. I think I may have to pass if Foodfight becomes a Monday Night Movie. I like you guys, but my doctor warned me that if I take one more viewing of Foodfight to the gut, I’ll die. It can’t be helped.

  12. I HAVE to see Foodfight. My body is ready. Also, Adam Sandler will be visited by the ghost of Foot Lockers’ passed. Oh wait, this is a Hanukkah movie? Nevermind than.

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