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Sometimes fiction leans towards a rather lax interpretation of trademark issues. You may find characters who are not merely an imitation of a character from a popular show, film, or comic, but literally are that character. Somehow.
You can blur their face a bit or simply not name them. Still, this trope is known enough you can expect any work that featured these frequently will get modified a bit if the adaptation's sponsors are worried about pissing anyone off.
On the other hand, if said cameo character is famous enough, you're liable to get away with a more overt reference.
Often used as part of a Take That, but just as often a friendlyShout-Out. If the character being imitated is from Real Life, see No Celebrities Were Harmed. Compare Writing Around Trademarks and Captain Ersatz.
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21st Century Insurance runs comparison ads featuring MythBusters-like tests run by a man who has Adam's glasses and Jamie's mustache.
Anime and Manga
Pokémon: Doyle in "Where Did You Go, Audino?" bears a resemblance to Conan Edogawa.
Cromartie High School's Freddie was so obviously Freddie Mercury that the character couldn't be used in another adaptation for fear of lawyers. This was lampshaded with obscure references nearly every time Freddie appeared, and lampshaded most overtly with the brief appearance of another character, Mr. Mercury, who was noted by the other characters as looking exactly like Freddie (except for his clothes- although both Freddie's and Mr. Mercury were wearing exact copies of outfits worn by Freddie Mercury on stage) and who made a very loud emphasis on a number of dissimilarities between himself and Freddie (and, as a result, contrasting Freddie Mercury as well) It should also be noted that a number of other Queen references, such as many of the chapter titles, and literally hundreds of inside jokes and subtle references were present, making the manga a constant source of knowing grins from Queen fans everywhere.
In School Rumble Harima stays home and watches a movie that is pretty much a rip off of Star Wars that at first covers the opening of episode 4 with Lego like star ships, and what some lines that seems to be taken from episode 6. Needless to say this is quite funny to watch.
In Project A-Ko, it's hinted a few times that Eiko's parents are Superman and Wonder Woman, though they've never appeared onscreen in costume. (Although they have appeared with costume — Mrs. Magami is shown sewing or repairing a Superman outfit at one point.) Dad is also shown reading the Daily Planet.
Colonel Sanders shows up a lot as a figure of menace, thanks to the legend of the Curse of the Colonel. A few examples:
At one point in Project A-Ko, the main characters watch a horror movie - itself a parody of Rin Taro's scifi/horror anime Harmagedon - wherein a victim, panicking, yells "The Colonel! The Colonel!" His pursuer is... Colonel Sanders.
One of the villains in the first series of Slayers dresses up as Colonel Sanders, complete with what appears to be a roast (not fried) chicken, in a particular episode.
Higurashi: When They Cry starts saccharine-cute but quickly becomes the story of a town under a terrifying curse. The first sign that we're about to experience Mood Whiplash? A statue of the Colonel.
Albireo in the later chapters of Mahou Sensei Negima! insists on being called "Ku:nel Sanders" (originally just to cover up his identity, later because he liked it). At one point during his insistence, an image of Colonel Sanders appears behind him (eyes blacked out, of course, as though to protect his "anonymity"). (For those interested, "Ku:nel" turns out to be the title of a Japanese leisure magazine, an involved Japanese pun about the purpose of living as well as a play on "Colonel".)
In a Doraemon movie about Nobita and friends making a toy land with animated dolls, toys, and statues, one of them is a Colonel Sanders statue.
Directly referenced in a chapter of Eyeshield 21, where Hiruma uses a statue he "found in a ditch" as a stand in for Homer, the quarterback for the Nasa Aliens. Said statue has its face covered by a poorly-drawn copy of Homer's face, but it's obviously supposed to be a Colonel Sanders statue.
The Colonel also appeared in Super Milk Chan as a selfish, greedy, sexist man who hires assassins to kill a pair of pigs who escaped from one of his meat-packaging plants.
In Ranma ˝, there is a plotline that involves a man's soul wandering around even though he's not dead yet. In the manga, this was called "the Colonel Sanders Effect".
The Colonel also appears briefly in Excel Saga at least once, where heavy rains flood most of Fukuoka, floating by as debris. Excel even comments on it in the English version.
A lot of hentai features rape by Colonel. So yeah....
In one chapter of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Yugi Mutou from Yu-Gi-Oh! pops out of Bo-bobo's afro and summons Sky Dragon Osiris (AKA Slifer the Sky Dragon) to help battle Halekulani. (This is even more lawyer-friendly, as the scene in which this happened was drawn by the original creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!.)
This later becomes a combo attack for the two characters in Jump Superstars.
Dr. Slump featured "Suppaman", essentially a short, pudgy version of Superman. He popped up during the Dr. Slump Cross Over in the original Dragon Ball series.
Later chapters introduce incompetent Nature Hero Parzan (a play on Tarzan and the Japanese word paa, which can colloquially mean "stupid") and Ultraman knock-off Kintaman (whose name is a play on kintama, or "golden balls").
Haruhi Suzumiya episode 11 had a pixelated version of a Gundam launch, and referred to it as the "Gun3** ".
Also, in episode 1, Haruhi holds up magazines to Kyon and Mikuru, featuring other anime series, one of which is SHUFFLE!, with Kaede and Asa on the cover. Note that Yuko Goto voices both Mikuru and Kaede.
As it usually tries to avoid censoring, Lucky Star references titles and locations only indirectly, Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu being the major exception. However, in one episode, Konata tells a 'ghost story' about a bus driver singing "Danzen!Futari wa *** cure", and in another a thinly-veiled conversation about Gundams between Konata and her father seems to be an exercise in "how far can we go before we get sued?"
They once made a reference to Pocky beyond obvious when they had Misao say the name twice, the first time having the last half blanked out (Po*** ) and the second time the first half blanked (** cky), alongside having chocolate milk or juice sucked up a straw to a certain point before being held in place to look like the snack.
Konata's "fight" with Guile actually has two separate Street Fighter references. The first is the obvious Guile clone, but the second shows up in the form of the "VS screen". The background is taken right out of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.
And the "stage" is Ryu's from Street Fighter II. Finally, she knocks him out with the Tatsumaki Senpyukyaku (Hurricane Kick), one of Ryu and Ken's signature moves.
One episode has Code Geass and Lelouch's name censored out. Ironically, Bandai Entertainment would later pick up the rights to localize both that and Lucky Star.
During the Initial D parody, Kagami refers to Initial D as "chomei-chomei D", "chomei-chomei" being a placeholder name for something well-known.
Kadokawa-Bandai dub: "Bleepin'-D."
Cousin Yui reading manga with Rider on the cover. Also, episode 10, when Tsukasa's gentle nature and Kagami's Tsundere nature become blatantly obvious to Soujirou.
Soujirou: (hands in the air) Sakura! Tohsaka... Tohsaka's your sister!
The Gundam discussion segment is meant to parody the ridiculousness of the censoring. Both Konata and Soujirou's eyes have a censor bar over them, and every third word is bleeped out with a different sound.
That said, the corresponding manga was published in an official Gundam magazine, so...
It's also highly likely that there is a Jigen sighting in an episode of Animaniacs (specifically the "Sir Yakksalot" episode) as a wagon driver bearing a very distinctive slouched fedora and pointed beard drives by the screen. Tokyo Movie Shinsha provided animation work for both the Lupin III franchise and Animaniacs.
Yet another one is an episode of Samurai Jack where a thief that's basically Jigen in a white suit with light-brown hair tries to steal a time traveling jewel.
Or, rather, he looked like Jigen but acted more like Lupin III.
Onizuka himself actually dresses as Doraemon and explicitly calls himself as such when forced to fight a gang with his hands stuck in bowling balls.
At one point he shatters the bowling balls and draws a bunch of Cross-Popping Veins on himself, screaming about a woman named Yuria. Now, he calls himself Kenshiro and even draws Ken's seven scars. To top it all off, in the anime, he beats the gang with Ken's signature Spam Attack, the Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken.
He also dressed up as Devilman (apropos of nothing, naturally) once, and made Tomoko wear a Cutey Honey outfit.
The first chapter of Shonan 14 Days includes Onizuka painting Haruhi Suzumiya on the hood of Uchiyamada's car and threatening to write his name into a Death Note.
An episode has a gangster referring to "Ambassador Mama", a reference to Ambassador Magma from Astro Boy, with an accompanying pixelated image of his spaceship.
Also a couple of Death Notecharacters◊ happened to be at the same place at the same time when Sousuke was getting his haircut
Yu-Gi-Oh! often has characters in the background, while not outright named, Vash the Stampede (Trigun), Ino, Shikamaru, Choji (Naruto) and Ryoma Echizen (The Prince of Tennis) all have brief appearances (Vash is in the background of the characters walking down the street, the other four in the stands of a duel).
The cards for the game are no better. In the card game plenty of cards are named/designed after other Konami products (Gradius games, a card explicitly named DDR, Goemon characters). However, in the anime they do one for another Shounen Jump series. The card Illegal Summon in GX features a character scene from Naruto of Naruto's Frog Summoning training. Big Bang Shot has a picture of Vegetaperforming Big Bang Attack, and Giant Ape is a Saiyan in Ozaru form, and Sonic Duck is a member of One Piece's Supersonic Duck Squadron. There's a card in 5 D's that increases your D-Wheel's speed counter... featuring a thinly-veiled Eyeshield 21.
Ken Akamatsu, being a video game fan, has dropped numerous character cameos into both Love Hina and Mahou Sensei Negima!: the "Mahora Budokai" arc in Negima! featured crowd cameos from M. Bison, Sakura Kusanago, Akuma, Hugo, and Adon from the Street Fighter games as well as Athena, Terry Bogard, Ryo Sakazaki, Chris, Yashiro Nanakase, and the Maximum Impact version of Kyo Kusanagi, all from The King of Fighters and related series, and several others.
Later, when the robot army arrives, one of the characters makes an extraordinarily blatant Lawyer-Friendly Shout-Out:
"Wow! Are those Gu_dams? They have to be Gun_ams!"
Love Hina also has references to Star Wars quite often; in amongst Keitaro/Naru sniping Naru is stabbed with a lightsaber, Motoko wins Su a mini Death Star, and Seta's van has the license plate number R2-D2.
That's nothing: in the official English of Chapter 11, Su asks, "Star Wars: Episode One, what is the name of the actor who played the young Obi-wan Kenobi?!"
In Hellsing, Alucard's and Seras's main weapons are named Jackal and Harkonnen respectively. Though not explained in the anime, their namesakes show up in the manga as the characters' "spirit guides" during dream sequences: the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from Dune in the case of Seras, and Bruce Willis (who starred in the movie Jackal) for Alucard. (The Baron does appear briefly in the anime's omake-style "next episode" teasers.)
In Rozen Maiden, Buu, the doll that attacks Jun early on, is quite clearly Winnie-the-Pooh. In the anime, Pooh is replaced with a generic clown doll. In turn, Jun makes a brief cameo early in the first episode of Ultimate Girls.
The anime version of Hayate the Combat Butler is full of lawyer-friendly mentions, although the ones in dialogue are always bleeped out. Being a fangirl, Nagi rattles them off quickly enough that it's common to have half of her monologue melodically beeped out.
This happens in the manga as well, although it's so inconsistent (as with the Negima example above), anyone who can put two-and-two together can figure it out.
One of the most notable lampshades being when Hayate tries to correct Nagi when she says "Mushiking" without censorship, to which she explains that they got permission this time.
Honestly, the anime hangs a lampshade on the trope and dances in circles around it, pointing at it as a Running Gag in its own right. And episode where Nagi doesn't make a reference is rarer than one where she does.
Seto no Hanayome features the Terminator as an important character. With lines like "I'll be back"◊ and "You must die, human! TERMINATOR!", and "Who's your daddy? TERMINATOR!", it's kinda hard to miss.
And then there's Bunta Willis, whom Sun is a die hard fan of.
Reversed in Ray The Animation: In the manga, Osamu Tezuka's Dr. Black Jack 'cameos', but his face is never shown and he is never referred to by his full name, due to copyright concerns. In the animation, Black Jack doesn't fall under these restrictions anymore, seeing as how it was produced by Tezuka's animation studio, which of course holds the copyright on the character.
Miami Guns has several of these, such as Bruce Tsuji, the "Die Hard detective" from one episode. The most significant example in the series is the father of "heroine" Yao Sakurakoji — who is a bleached-blonde doppleganger of Gendo Ikari, right down to the design of his office. (For some reason, he has a pet dog who's a parody of Muttley. Hey, why not?)
The Legend of Black Heaven features a scene where Mulder and Scully from The X-Files are investigating a mysterious event at a cemetery in the U.S., where a grave has been dug up in an incredibly precise manner. Former band member Watanabe's body had been stolen by the enemy in order to create a clone to defeat the remaining member of the band. The two agents are unceremoniously pushed into the hole by Layla's sidekicks.
There's also a ripoff of the power rangers in it called the Flying 5.
One chapter of Descendants of Darkness had the main characters in a book world. In the background of the wedding scene you can see the figures of Cloud, Aerith, Sephiroth and Rufus Shinra from Final Fantasy VII.
In the North #2 arc of Naoki Urasawa's Pluto, blind composer Paul Duncan recants a tale in his childhood where he was pulled from the brink of death by a Japanese black market doctor at the cost of his already weak eyesight. Said series is set in the Astro Boy universe. Said doctor was dressed in a black cloak and, according to North #2's investigations, charged his mother a ridiculously high fee for the procedure. Wild Mass Guessing aside, this doctor's identity should be obvious to any Tezuka fan.
Episode 27 of Zettai Karen Children has Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa, Miyuki, Yutaka and Minami appearing in the background briefly; the first four had realistic hair colors and all of them have their backs turned to the camera except for Miyuki, whose face is obscured by a leg. In addition, because Gonzo helped produce the episode, it also has Strike Witches cameos (but how could they get away with their lack of pants in that world?).
Samurai Champloo featured Ogami Ito and Daigoro from Lone Wolf and Cub at the end of the episode "Cosmic Collisions".
Sorcerer Hunters includes a number of these, exemplified by the chapter "Seaside Days in the Springtime of Youth, one of the series' many Beach Episodes. In it, a magical potion turns the protagonists into cosplaying cameos from other series such as Sailor Moon, Urusei Yatsura, and Darkstalkers. Also, for a Fanservice laden shonen series, the frequent cameos from the decidedly shoujo and chaste dating sim of Angelique were amusing, especially when the game's resident cute boy showed up as a slave boy belonging to one of the manga's villains.
In episode 49 of Shaman King, the members Team LCT/Team Insane Asylum were based off Pro Wrestlers Mark LoMonaco (Bubba Ray Dudley/Brother Ray), one of the Hardys (Matt Hardy or Jeff Hardy) and Adam Copeland (Edge) who used tables, ladders and chairs respectively as their weapons in the WWE.
In Rescue Me Mave-Chan, a parody of Sentou Yousei Yukikaze, the villain of the short, For-Getter (which looks like a combination of GunBuster and Getter Robo G), shows off different characters who have been forgotten by fans, including Lum and EVA-01.
Wild and Horned Hermit, one of the official Touhou manga adaptations, had a chapter that involved a mythological creature that emits electricity. Cue Sanae wondering if they were talking about an electric rat while her thought bubble showed a picture of Pikachu with a censor bar placed across its eyes.
In episode 5 of Maria†Holic Alive, when the Dorm Leader mentions about the punishment of watching the entire "Legend of Japanese Heroes" series back to back without blinking, the scene cuts to a shot of Yang Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm whose faces are concealed by stereotypical ninja masks.
Big Finish does not have permission to use elements from the New series of Doctor Who in its plays, but three Fourth Doctor stories involved him interacting with the Eleventh Doctor through Timey-Wimey Ball, recorded message means. This is got away with by simply identifying the Eleventh Doctor as one of Four's 'future incarnations' and delivering his dialogue in reported speech rather than having the actual actor play him, but it's obvious from his personality which one he is supposed to be.
Asterix in Switzerland had a repairman who looked like the mascot of a French oil company. He was redrawn in the English edition to look like the Michelin man instead.
During Walt Simonson's run on The Mighty Thor, the thunder god becomes permanently separated from his mortal alter ego. He must disguise himself as a mortal, and as "Sigurd Jarlson," does so using glasses for a secret identity. One scene humorously includes a quick cameo by a well-built reporter named Clark. He also had Supergirl appear in a Fantastic Four issue's group of discontinued universes.
An issue of Ultimate Spider-Man has a cameo from two prostitutes dressed as Power Girl. This is part of a Running Gag where prostitutes dressed as famous superheroines can be seen in the police station Spidey often visits, but this instance is notable since the women in question are almost always dressed as Marvel Comics heroines.
Alan Moore's Swamp Thing had a story "Pog", whose title character was Pogo in a spacesuit. Amusingly, Pog had a brief cameo in a later issue by another writer who didn't seem to recognize the reference.
Top 10 has a ton of these, sometimes a dozen on a single page, ranging from the extremely well-known to the rather obscure.
An Invincible storyline had the title character being bounced around alternate universes. While he had a full issue experience with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up, he also encountered Batman (though only his arm is seen and his name is implied without having to say it outright thanks to a running joke from the MTU issue), a world similar to Y: The Last Man and possibly the world of The Walking Dead, one of Robert Kirkman's other books.
During Christopher Priest's first issue of Deadpool, the title character briefly encountered a bunch of heroes and villains that Priest had written in the past. This included non-Marvel characters like Green Lantern and Hawkman, who had to be partially obscured to avoid any possible litigation from DC Comics.
Throughout Preacher, Jesse Custer has a spirit advisor called The Duke, who is clearly meant to be John Wayne but never explicitly referred to as such and always drawn with face in shadow. However, his father, John Custer, is shown and referred to as meeting the flesh-and-blood John Wayne while serving in Vietnam. Also, in issue #53, Jesse gives a lift to a fat, aging Elvis (this one's a lot harder to identify, but it's definitely him). Plus there's the sequence where Herr Starr meets (and insults) a number of unnamed world leaders - we only see Starr's face, but can identify who he's addressing by the insult (e.g. "You've got a girl's haircut, Colonel.")
Group scenes in Legion of Super-Heroes like to slip in famous aliens or other odd looking characters. An alien resembling Dr. Zoidberg of Futurama was seen being arrested by the Science Police. Another comic had a pair that looks suspiciously like Kermit and Miss Piggy.
In Action Comics #579, Superman is sent back in time to 253 AD, where he finds himself in a Gaulish village that has been fighting off the Romans thanks to a magic potion - so successfully, in fact, that they're unaware the Empire has fallen. Jimmy Olsen puts on the outfit of their unnamed "greatest warrior", while a mind-controlled Superman fights "Columnix", an overweight Gaul with a white dog, who fell in the potion as a baby.
An early Usagi Yojimbo comic features one from a young Godzilla, who ends up saving Miyamoto Usagi's life in return for rice cakes. Just in case you somehow missed it, Usagi actually asks "Are you a god, Zylla?" to which the creature responds "Godzylla?"
In a backup story in an issue of X-Men Classics (earlier issues has a secondary story featuring "before they were X-Men" or "between the issues" tales), a story is recounted of an inadvertent meeting between Logan (while he was a roughneck on the run from Weapon X) and Banshee (while he was just a humble Interpol agent). Banshee is hot on the trail of three jewel thieves, one of whom is named Arsene, and who look like the Lupin Gang with a few cosmetic alterations. Guess who that makes Banshee, of course...
Chris Claremont has put Lawyer-Friendly Cameos of anime in quite a few of his stories. Both the Dirty Pair and Speed Racer, for instance show up in an issue of Excalibur, and yes, the lawyer-friendly Dirty Pair are as destructive as the genuine article.
The Ghostbusters made a rather extensive appearance during the Inferno storyline during Claremont's run of Uncanny X-Men, then appeared again when Jubilee was introduced. One notable change is that the Ghostbusters' secretary, Janine, was a member of the group.
The Howard and Nester comic strip in issue #9 of Nintendo Power has Howard accompanying a duck on an expedition to the moon (with Nester stowing away). The duck in question is never addressed by name and doesn't look like it, but the reader can probably guess, judging from the fact that this particular installment was based on the DuckTalesNES game, that he is supposed to be Scrooge McDuck.
The same comic has a character named Roboduck, who is clearly an Expy of Gizmoduck.
In Black Summer by Warren Ellis, you never actually see The President or any pictures of the President, and his name is never given, but, he was in office in July 2006, made a lot of questionable decisions during the events of September 11th 2001, he's implied to be something of a Warmonger, and the Liberals weren't happy with him.
This occurs several times in Star Wars Tales; there are minor appearances of characters from outside the franchisee who appear in the background such as Buzz Lightyear, Bender, a Predator... among the few characters who sometimes pop up.
Writer Steve Skeates famously began a story in an issue of Aquaman (published by DC Comics), only to resolve it in an issue of Namor (published by Marvel Comics) after the former series was cancelled. The Namor installment contained a very brief Broad Strokes recap of the events of the previous issue, and thanks to the obvious copyright problems, Aquaman could not be named or explicitly shown. This resulted in only his hand being seen, and the narration itself refusing to identify the hero by name.
Who that man is... and why he wished to destroy the satellite... that need not concern us!
In the "Dawn of X" story arc in Mega Man, Xander Payne travels through time and witnesses the events of Worlds Collide. He sees Mega Man talking to a "giant talking animal", though all we see is a speech bubble coming from off panel. Though when Xander later ends up in prison, he carves what is unmistakably Sonic's face on his cell's wall, so...
Johnny Turbo, being a "spokesman" for NEC and the Turbo-Grafx 16, led his personal crusade for the console's superiority not against real-world rival Sega, but against their robot-run counterpart Feka. It's probably pronounced similarly, too, as in "Fake-uh".
WildC.A.T.s #8 features a brief appearance by a honeymooning Scott Summers and Jean Grey. Scott thinks Voodoo and Spartan might be mutants and wants to talk to them, but drops it when Jean insists he direct his attention, ahem, elsewhere.
Wildstorm-universe comics did a lot of these, most of them at a Good Guy Bar called Clark's. The owner is basically an older Superman, and the place is usually packed with heroes from other companies.
The Kane Chronicles graphic novel gives us Happy-O's, which is obviously a parody of Cheerios. Yellow box? Giant heart filled with the respective cereal? Lowering cholesterol? Happy-O's has all of them.
Other than the main cast, most characters who show up in normalman are either parodies or used with permission from their creators, but Astérix and Obelix make a cameo appearance when norm is in Roman times. It's more lawyer-friendly than most examples — their faces are never shown, but the silhouettes are unmistakable and they even give norm some of their potion.
In the final issue of Jack Kirby's Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, Kirby included a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo of his own characters. Captain Victory faces the spirit of his evil grandfather Blackmass, former ruler of the planet Hellikost. In both name and appearance Hellikost suggests Apokalips, and Blackmaas's ghostly silhouette resembles Darkseid, implying that Victory is the son of Orion of the New Gods. He even restores his father's Astro-Harness.
His New Gods run was heavily implied to be a Stealth Sequel to The Mighty Thor, with a character who looks a lot like Thor appearing in a Flashback in the first issue. In a later story, one of the characters finds Thor's winged helmet among the ruins of an ancient city that is strongly hinted to be Asgard.
Peter David: Can I say this is Linda Danvers? Of course I can't. However, it's pretty freaking obvious that it is.
The first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a young Daredevil appear as it is a recreation of the scene where Daredevil gets his powers in the first issue of that comic. The can of green ooze is shown hitting him and then falling onto the turtles.
Nickelodeon Magazine had a 3-D comic about pirates going to different comic and cartoon universes because they believed "3-D" to refer to some kind of treasure. On their journey, they encounter obvious pastiches of Bart Simpson, Superman, and Porky Pig.
There's a rather Anvilicious issue of Spawn in which the titular character meets a bunch of superheroes imprisoned in Hell. You never quite see any of them due to heavy shadows, but the one they call the "First" and the "Most Powerful of All" has tight blue sleeves with no gloves and a spitcurl. (The Anvilicious part is that it's a Take That against publishers denying royalties to the creators of their most iconic characters ... Spawn himself is rather famously creator-owned, which is why he's free instead of chained like the others.)
Despite the real cameos, this trope is still played straight at points; one member of Bad Guys Anonymous is clearly based on Kano from Mortal Kombat, and in a clear Fatality reference, there's even a point during the meeting where he rips out Zombie's heart. Despite that, he's only called "Cyborg". Given the game had Australian authorities on the lookout for anyone importing the game, it's little surprise a Disney movie wouldn't go there.
A rather strange version occurs in Spider-Man 2; as Mary Jane runs away from her wedding, she passes by a man in a long black trenchcoat. The audio commentary reveals that this man is Thomas Jane's stunt double from The Punisher (2004), and that the character is in fact meant to be Frank Castle; however, as the rights to the two films are owned by different studios, they couldn't have Jane appear as the character.
Coming to America has McDowell's, which not only is an obvious ripoff of McDonald's, but is treated as such in the movie. It even has a scene where the owner has to describe the subtle differences between his store and the McDonalds that is right next door. When they actually made the building for filming, the owner of the adjacent McDonalds actually threatened to sue.
Murder by Death was little more than a showcase for such cameos, referencing famed literary/movie detectives:
Sidney Wang = Charlie Chan
Sam Diamond = Sam Spade
Dick and Dora Charleston = Nick and Nora Charles
Miss Marbles = Miss Marples
M'sieu Perrier = Hercule Poirot
There was also apparently, going to be one for Agatha Christie, in the form of "Dame Abigail Christian." The character was dropped when Katherine Hepburn pulled out (due to Myrna Loy refusing appear as Dora Charleston — she had originated the character "Nora Charles" in the Thin Man movies)
The film originally ended with a cameo from two characters who looked and acted very much like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. In fact, the resemblance was close enough that Arthur Conan Doyle's estate eventually got this scene excised from all home video releases.
House of Leaves: Features appearances by Steve Wozniak, Stephen King, Walter Mosley, Anne Rice, and Camille Paglia, among others, all of whom have quite a bit to say about both the house and the film that it's the subject of.
In the Solar Pons story "The Adventure of the Orient Express", Pons encounters several characters who are thinly disguised (very thinly) famous fictional spies and detectives, including Ashenden, Hercule Poirot, and The Saint.
Pons himself is something of a Lawyer-Friendly Star based on Sherlock Holmes.
He's one of many pastiches of Holmes. It's a popular mystery fiction sub-genre.
The Destroyer practically lives on this trope in almost every one of its 144+ books.
Fanon has agreed that Fantastico and his group the Good Ol' Boyz (the G.O.B.) in the Whateley Universe are George W. Bush and his cabinet and staff, but with superpowers. It's pretty obvious, since Fantastico is a Texan named Bert Walker Jr. and he's even used some famous George Bush lines. The weird part is that the author writes Phase as a millionaire who is a serious Republican and fiscal conservative, and defends those positions.
It's possible that the author is a serious Republican and fiscal conservative... who hates Bush. (Not unheard of: GWB was not a fiscal conservative, and was highly unpopular among certain kinds of Republicans by the end of his second term.)
In Night Probe (part of the NUMA Series), the British bring one of their old spies out of retirement, who had changed his name to Brian Shaw to avoid assassination attempts. It is strongly implied that Shaw is actually James Bond.
A major element of Neil Gaiman's short story The Problem of Susan is that the character of "Professor Hastings" could be a much older Susan Pevensie (Hastings also being just along the coast from Pevensey, Sussex), although the narrative never outright confirms it.
Towards the end of Esther Friesner's Harpy High, the main character's mother started dating Dr. Faustus and drawing a comic strip called Mr. Mephisto which, in the words of the main character's best friend, was about "this wizard and this demon and they go around with this fat orange kitten that thinks all these funny things and eats lasagna and-"
Simon Scarrow's Historical Fiction novel The Fields of Death, set around the Battle of Waterloo, includes an English rifle commander who looks and sounds exactly like Sharpe. Oh, and he's named Richard.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco appears in an episode of Justified, though they had to rename her Karen Goodall for rights reasons. She's even played by the same actress who played Sisco in the short-lived TV series, and a reference is made to her new married surname.
Kind of an odd one here: Actor Patrick Mc Goohan starred in a show called Danger Man (renamed Secret Agent when imported to the US) in which he was, well, a secret agent named John Drake. His next series The Prisoner had him as a retired secret agent of some sort who was kidnapped and imprisoned in "The Village", where he was addressed only as "Number Six". Number Six was never outright stated to be John Drake, but ...
Gary Gygax's own seemingly aborted version of the castle (of which only the top levels have been published due to his untimely death) were a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo storm of their own — many names and locations had to be changed since they were Wizards of the Coast IP, even though Gygax tried to keep as much of the Greyhawk feel so that canny DMs could fill in the blanks if they wanted to. In one section, he takes a brief Take That against TSR, talking of the corrupt city of Dunfalcon...
Actually, Pokémon makes quite a few references. For starters, Rotom◊ is based off of Pulseman◊ and Volt Tackle is based off of his signature move. It helps that the creator of Pokémon also made Pulseman, however. Anything outside of that is rare.
In Romancing SaGa 3, there is a Zorro-esque character called Robin, and in the credits, said character pulls off Zorro's infamous Z cut (Strongest Foil technique)
The first print versions of The Revenge of Shinobi for the Sega Genesis featured Spider-Man, Batman, The Terminator, and Godzilla as some of Joe Musashi's adversaries. To avoid any potential lawsuits, Sega released a revision of the game which replaces Godzilla with a metal skeletal dinosaur and Batman with a winged bat-like creature. Spider-Man was kept as an official cameo (with a new copyrights screen acknowledging Marvel Comics' ownership of the character), since Sega had the Spider-Man license for a couple of other games (namely the Spider-Man arcade game and the Genesis game Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin). In the Virtual Console rerelease, Spider-Man is now colored pink (Due to Sega losing the rights to use Spider-Man to Activision). Ironically, The Terminator has appeared in all versions of The Revenge of Shinobi.
Shinobi III, on the other hand, was able to get away with Mechagodzilla.
In the VGA remake of Space Quest I, the Droids-B-Us shop (which itself features an android Geoffrey the Giraffe as its logo!) has a "Dalick" for sale, which bears a striking resemblance to a certain creature from Doctor Who. There's also the robot from Lost in Space, as well as another droid, HA-Y-AO, which clearly was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky. The Blues Brothers also have a cameo as bar singers.
ZZ Top had a cameo in the original, but this wasn't so lawyer-friendly, as Sierra got slapped with a lawsuit and had to remove them in the remake. The robot shop was originally called Droids-R-Us, which also attracted a lawsuit; apparently changing the R to a B was enough to satisfy them.
ZZ Top was replaced by a band of similarly dressed midgets, while The Blues Brothers were replaced with a pair of blue-skinned MIBs. Their respective musics were also changed. The former's sprites could still be found Dummied Out in the game data.
There was a robot called the "Def-Tech" resembled a Rifleman 'Mech
Space Quest IV features a Radioshock store which suffered the same case with Droids-R-Us which was renamed to Hz. So Good.
Space Quest V featured the rear end of the USS Enterprise in the Starcon hangar bay. Captain Picard also appears in the conference room on the station. There's also Spike. No lawsuits, somehow. Of course, the entire series is filled with this sort of stuff.
Street Fighter has the character "Mike Bison", a boxer, in the Japanese version. However, his name was changed to "Balrog" in the US release to avoid lawsuits. It's still obvious who he's based on, however. The name Mike Bison was shortened to M. Bison and given to a different character.
Chrono Trigger even did one better; Star Wars also contains an Admiral Piett, who cameos alongside "Vicks" and Wedge.
Final Fantasy I basically used the original Dungeons & Dragons bestiary (complete with their original names) in its original Japanese release. To prevent a lawsuit, many of the monsters were renamed (not always sensibly) when the game was first ported, turning many of the monsters into this. This has slowly been reversed as remakes have been made with names more closely matching the originals.
And how could you forget Captain Gordon, Defender of Earth!
The second game also features a conversation with a member of monster-type demon race that's usually considered female for pretty much the rest of the game. At the end of the conversation the monster reveals that it is, in fact, a boy. At this point, you realize/remember that the monster in question is named Bridget.
In Prototype, a fellow who looks suspiciously like Chinese superstar Andy Lau is one of the random civilians. For reals.
The Masters in MadWorld are explicitly said to use the For—— Magnets! (With that exact wording.) And other reminiscent things.
World of Warcraft isn't exempt from this either. In Un'Goro Crater, a gnome wearing a green tunic and cap, named Linken, sets you on a long quest line that references everything from "Eastern peninsula is the secret", to tossing a sword into a spring and receiving it tempered, to receiving a magical boomerang that deals ranged damage and stuns or disarms. And not too far away you'll find Dadanga, and the hammer-wielding dwarves Larion and Muigin. The list goes on. The zone is basically one long shoutout to Nintendo, but there are plenty of other examples of this trope in the rest of the game.
Gunbird 2 is full of expies and Shout Outs, but the one that takes the cake is the end boss, who attacks with pills, and above all is a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo of Sato Pharmaceutical's mascot.
The Super Smash Bros. series has "Lightsabers" and "Blasters" as usable weapons, even going so far as to using the original sound effects (or at least something similar) for when the items are used.
Transport Tycoon featured real-life vehicles in the original British release. Just to give a few examples, there were aircraft from Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, and Airbus; road vehicles from British Leyland, Ford, and Volvo; train locomotives designed by Stanier and Gresley, and later in the game the Eurostar and TGV. For the American release, these were changed to fake companies to avoid litigation. These were carried forward into Transport Tycoon Deluxe and OpenTTD.
The Dark Mod, a fan remake total conversion inspired by the original Thief series, uses this for some of the more uniquely named concepts, creatures and factions. Hammerites become "Builders", Haunts become "Revenants", Burricks become "Belchers", the "Inventor's Guild" is a loose analogue of the Mechanists, etc.
In Moai: Build Your Dream the main character's rival is a vaguely Harrison Ford-ish dude named Indie-Anah.
Silent Dragon features Jagi as the third boss, except he's called "Wolfkid." The flyer states that you can't see him in the daytime despite the boss fight taking place in broad daylight.
Chronicles of Albion 2: The Wizbury School of Magic features a talking painting called Tripstaff. After you hang it on the art room wall, clicking on it produces a wide variety of increasingly ridiculous excuses, one of which is "Sorry, can't talk now, I'm watching a Fluffy the Werewolf Slayer marathon."
Royal Envoy has a girl pirate named Tippy Long-Boots.
The player character in Spandex Force reminisced about what a shock it was when "meek Kenneth Clarke" revealed his secret identity as "Miracle Man."
Each story in Devilbear features a "special guest" character that represents a more famous character such as "Winnie the Pimp" instead of Pooh or "Pandatchoo" instead of Pikachu...
Sonoda Meimi from MegaTokyo is suspected to be Haneoka Meimi from Kaitou Saint Tail. At one point a character even starts to refer to her as "Myster..."(ious Thief Saint Tail), but gets cut off. (On two other occasions, he only gets as far as "Mys".)
A supporting character in It's Walky! was a short, quiet girl with coke-bottle glasses named Marcie. No mention is made of what she was like as a child, but it's safe to take a guess. (For bonus reference points, she's openly bisexual.)
In The Order of the Stick Rich drops an entire lamp, never mind the shade, on the subject with the Mind Flayer.
To Boldly Flee features as a major villain an alien of an unnamed species named Ferdinand von Turrell, who is quite clearly Terl the Psychlo from Battlefield Earth; he even goes by his last name, pronounces it Terl, and originates in a review of Battlefield Earth.
Legion Of Net Heroes: At one point in Decibel Dude & Vigilante Guy, Decibel Dude was ready to quit being a superhero due to a number of extremely stressful plot developments. A quiet chat with four guys known only as Clark, Bruce, Frank, and Peter convinced him to get back in the game.
In Codename: Kids Next Door a kid dressed exactly like Ash Ketchum (wearing Ash's outfit in the original series) from Pokémon can be seen often in the stands. He's usually next to Yugi. They were seen together in a couple episodes with large crowds of KND operatives. There was also an expy of Kairi in the Lotus-Eater Machine.
Done quite often on Drawn Together. In "Gay Bash", Elmer Fudd and Snagglepuss (their faces covered by Pixellation) show up at Xandir's "coming-out-of-the-closet" party. In "Requiem for a Reality Show", a masked Charlie Brown and Natasha Fatale (from Rocky and Bullwinkle) with a black bar over her eyes show up as the new BDSM partners for Foxxy Love and Captain Hero, respectively. In another episode, a down-and-out Wooldoor Sockbat is lying on the street when two characters, one fat wearing a white shirt and green pants, and one slender wearing a blue blouse and off-white pants (whose heads are cut off by the screen) walk by and give him some change. The skinny one, in a voice a little more than very reminiscent of Lois from Family Guy (because it was done by the very same actress as Lois), chastises her pudgy counterpart for it.
In another episode when Toot, Xandir, and Wooldoor get high off Ling-Ling's sweat, the next day following their hangovers, Homer Simpson can be seen lying next to them.
"Oh my god! It's Mickey [beep]!" "I can't believe it! It's [beep] Mouse!"
An episode of Phantom 2040 features a guest appearance by an "old family friend" who strikingly resembles, but is not named as, Mandrake The Magician, the other famous character created by Lee Falk, the writer who created The Phantom.
In the episode "Cartoon Wars Part II", Cartman is joined in his quest to get Family Guy taken off the air by a kid who's obviously supposed to be Bart Simpson from The Simpsons, but is never referred to by name. In a turnaround, an episode of The Simpsons has Bart and Milhouse watching an unnamed version of South Park. Which was in turn a reference to the South Park episode "Simpsons Did It".
"I shouldn't have bought this LEGO tee-shirt." "Don't you mean BLOCK-o?" "Oh, yeah, right. BLOCK-o."
During one episode, Lisa and Bart fight over the TV remote. Although the TV screen isn't shown,a man with a Texas accent can clearly be heard saying "I got propane in my urethra."
Possibly due to its anime influence, Kappa Mikey has a few of these. A few of the guest appearances include a fat, middle-aged Speed Racer, a palette-swapped version of Puchiko from Di Gi Charat, and Yugi Muto with ridiculously exaggerated hair.
In one of the first episodes, you can also see a figure that looks like Mega Man X and Zero combined.
Let's make this very clear: you do not have to write around any copyrights to use characters from the first book (and a few others, all the ones written before about 1923) of the Oz series (it's in the public domain now) ...the movie, on the other hand, is copyrighted. No ruby slippers for you.
The Venture Bros. plays with this A LOT. Many of the characters on the show are parodies, which doesn't stop them from interacting, or existing alongside, the things they're making fun of. For instance, Dr. Rusty Venture is a parody of Jonny Quest - a boy adventurer with a genius scientist for a father - which doesn't stop his bodyguard/Race Bannon parody Brock Samson from being old friends with the actual Bannon, or Rusty from being in a therapy group with "Action Jonny" himself. Not to mention the time that the Impossible Family won a costume contest by dressing as the Fantastic Four.
The Duck Dodgers short "Attack of the Drones" was written by Eric Kaplan and directed by Rich Moore, both of whom worked regularly on Futurama; thus, Zoidberg is clearly visible at the council early on.
Same scene had a Klingon and The Great Gazoo in the council. Not to mention the Langoliers.
In another episode, "Guess Ho's Coming To Dinner", there's a girl in the beginning who looks remarkably like W.I.T.C.H.'s Will Vandom.
Freakazoid! loves "The guy who hits stuff with mallets". He's obviously talking about 80s comedian Gallagher, who's main schtick was to hit watermelons with giant mallets. But he's referred to as "Gulliver".
The Powerpuff Girls episode "Knock It Off", has the villain of the episode sell Powerpuff Girls knockoffs to Japan and when he does, the camera pans to find expies of Great Mazinger, Getter Robo, and Ultraman bowing their heads in defeat, along with a giant, face always obscured somehow, Wally Gator.
In the pilot "Big House Blues" dog versions of Fred Flintstone and George Jetson can be seen at the pound.
The episode "I Was a Teenage Stimpy" features Stimpy inviting a few friends over; although not named they are obvious parodies of Archie Andrews and Jughead Jones. Jughead can be seen tattooing Archie's back with their high school graduation years which date back to the 1950's to the 90's referring to the fact that the characters never age.
In the spin-off Equestria Girls, there is a character named Naomi Normal who is often seen with a girl with red hair in a ponytail, akwardly resembling Tsubomi Hanasaki and Erika Kurumi.
An accidental example that has since become Ascended Fanon is the pony named Time Turner, AKA "Doctor Whooves", who strongly resembles the Tenth Doctor
The comics have even more examples. You can find Mario and Luigi, Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece, Loki from The Avengers, and tons of others. The comics also imply that Discord actually is Q from Star Trek.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, while a very prominent holiday figure, hasn't appeared in many Christmas specials lately because he is a registered trademark of The Rudolph Company and using him would entitle The Rudolph Company to royalties. Nevertheless, the Christmas Episode of Earthworm Jim features a brief appearance by an unnamed red-nosed reindeer who complains about Santa barring him from the reindeer games and only needing his help because of his nose.
When a movie remake of The Lone Ranger was in production, former TV Lone Ranger Clayton Moore was legally prevented from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger... so Moore varied his costume slightly and exchanged the mask for similar-looking wraparound sunglasses until he won his countersuit.