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Copycat Cover

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Covers Always Lie taken up by marketing. Copycat Covers tend to naturally occur during the release of more popular and better movies and games, and their aesthetic similarity seems intended to confuse less observant customers. This is especially common with stories that were originally in the public domain (Disney is a major victim of this) but might also be done retroactively long after the knockoff's release.

This is standard industry procedure with books. Whenever a movie or TV adaptation of a book comes out (or of a book on the same topic, or a completely unrelated topic by the same author), a new edition of the book will almost always be printed with a Copycat Cover and a blurb on it somewhere hawking the movie or show.

Copycat covers can usually be spied out by being much lower quality and suspiciously lower in price.

A tactic often employed by The Mockbuster. See also: Trend Covers, Trailer Spoof. "The Breakfast Club" Poster Homage is a Sub-Trope.


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    Film — Animation 
  • A German company named Dingo Pictures makes these regularly, with badly animated knockoffs of Disney stories and even character designs. A good number of these were released as PlayStation 2 minigame collections by the infamous Phoenix Games.
  • GoodTimes Entertainment does this against any entry in the Disney Animated Canon based on a Public Domain Character.
  • The posters and DVD covers for Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Hey Arnold! The Movie both show the same basic art of the protagonist and his friends in the foreground with the film's villain as an Evil Overlooker, with the only major difference being that Jimmy holds a weapon and Arnold doesn't. This was made especially evident when the movies' DVDs were reissued together as a Double Feature DVD release.
  • This is, of course, a poster for Brave. This is the cover to the direct-to-DVD cartoon Braver. Note that the actual cartoon is traditional cel-animation, the lead character wears a pink dress, and she isn't even a redhead, she's blonde. The film was originally released six years earlier as A Fairy Tale Christmas, and this cover gives a better idea of what it's actually like.
  • An infamous example occured with the Canadian film (the first Canadian All-CGI Cartoon film, at that) The Legend Of Sarila. In America, it was marketed as Frozen Land and given a Frozen-like cover so obvious that Disney filed against them. In this case, it worked against the film because many people passed it off as a mockbuster of Frozen, when the film itself was well-received. The film has nothing to do with Frozen or The Snow Queen. It's actually a film about a Inuit girl living in 1910 Northern Canada.
  • The hand-drawn animated film Help! I'm a Fish was shown in US theaters in 2001. Even though the two films have little in common, a 2006 DVD release gave Help! a cover that made it look like a Shark Tale mockbuster: It was retitled A Fish Tale, and the logo got wavy yellow text like that of Shark Tale. The illustration was replaced with a group of CGI marine creatures, including a prominent shark, and no longer emphasizes that the three main characters are transformed humans. Compare the original cover, the "Fish Tale" cover and this Shark Tale cover.

    Film — Live Action 

  • Nabisco's healthier Snackwells line of products came out with green labeling. Shortly thereafter, other companies started mimicked the packaging for their healthier offerings. Fast forward ten years, and now it's considered the standard identification for a lower fat, lower sugar, lower sodium food alternative.
  • The packaging for artificial sweeteners plays follow-the-leader with the first product to reach the market. Saccharine is always in pink packages (like Sweet'n'Low), aspartame is blue (like Equal), and sucralose is yellow (like Splenda).
  • There are two kinds of store-brand cereals in the US: those that use similarly themed but distinct mascots, which can taste as good as or even better than the premium brands, like Malt-O-Meal... and those that don't even try to hide what they're copying, and whose taste match those efforts, like Super Value Plus. Or "Cheery Oats," which are virtually identical to the more popular Cheerios. Given that Cheerios are also made from oats, it's difficult to tell why there hasn't been a lawsuit.
  • Decaf coffee carafes in restaurants tend to have orange handles. This is because Sanka, a once-dominant brand of decaffeinated coffee, used orange on its labels and its carafes. Although Sanka is almost a forgotten memory (at least in restaurants,) the mighty orange handle soldiers on.
  • Crisps (potato chips) in the UK are generally colour-coded by flavour: red is Ready Salted, green is Cheese & Onion, blue is Salt & Vinegar, pink is Prawn Cocktail, brown is Barbecue Beef (or similar). Except for Walkers - the dominant brand - who switch green and blue... Of course, the "standard" colour coding could be considered a switch in the first place, because the company that came up with it in the first place (Tayto) uses red for cheese & onion and blue for salt & vinegar.
  • The UK supermarket Asda's Puffin chocolate biscuits are their own brand verison of McVities Penguins, and used to come in a very similar wrapper (red, blue writing, picture of a black and white seabird). In 2011, McVities sued and won. They're still called Puffins, but the wrapper design is now completely different.

  • An example that's laced with Hypocritical Humor: Nancy Stouffer, of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles infamy, claimed that the name and likeness of Harry Potter were ripped off from her character "Larry Potter" (whose last name was added later to bolster the evidence for suing J.K. Rowling for plagiarism, as Rowling's lawyers discovered), and re-released the books with the title resident on covers so blatantly ripped off from the Bloomsbury editions of the Harry Potter novels that they have to be seen to be believed.
  • Pretty much every vampire book published in the last five years has a cover that looks exactly like The Twilight Saga. Even classic romance stories like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice have appeared with Twilight-inspired covers at some bookstores. Canadian bookstore chains Indigo, Coles, and Chapters (all owned by Indigo Books & Music Inc.) even displayed the Twilight-ified classics together during the marketing for Breaking Dawn.
  • Probably to indicate shared elements (a humorous take on a British empire), the Space Captain Smith novels have similar covers to the British Flashman covers.
  • Odd example in which the two books have the same title and the copied book is fairly obscure. The Big Con is a book about con artists that inspired The Sting and has a reissue cover that looks like this. The Big Con is also the title of a work attacking conservative economic philosophies, which has used this cover and later this one.
  • The Quantum Thief, a post-Singularity Space Opera, was first published in England and was given this cover for the United States printing, which is very similar in font and design to the covers for books in the Culture series: compare.
  • Thanks to the huge boost in popularity Game of Thrones has given to his writing, George R.R. Martin's humorous science fiction novel Tuf Voyaging was reissued, and one of its covers definitely plays off of the Medieval Fantasy setting of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • The cover of at least one edition of Divergent has a burning brooch (that looks suspiciously like the mockingjay pin from The Hunger Games) set against a dark background. Sure, the series starts with a 16 year old girl facing a traumatically special day in her life, and it's told in first person but... erm... The Hunger Games it ain't.
  • The 1985 speculative-future-science book Life Off Earth had nothing to do with the Life series of wildlife documentaries by David Attenborough beyond the similarity of the title to Life On Earth ... and a cover that deliberately mimics the book adaptation of the series, only with the tree frog turned into an alien.
  • HarperCollins published a new UK edition of The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie in 2021, under the US title of The Tuesday Club Murders, written in a slanted font not entirely dissimilar to the previous year's bestseller The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. The blurb begins "The ORIGINAL weekday murder club".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Some copies of the History Channel's The 300 Spartans have been modified to look like the cover of 300 soon after the DVD release. The resemblance continues in the documentary itself, sepia-tones and all. Only perhaps more historically accurate.
  • The title card for the MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant rips off Juno.
  • The poster for Yellowjackets has a near-identical composition to that of the first posters for Euphoria, both showing the left side of a distressed teenage girl's face and being heavily color-saturated, the former with blue and purple colors and the latter with yellow.

    Video Games 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

  • Any number of Chinese cars; Shuanghuan CEO (BMW X5), Great Wall Florid (Scion xA with Toyota Yaris nose), Huo Yun Electromobile (Smart Fortwo), FAW F5 (Volkswagen Jetta) and so on. This doesn't count licensed clones and rebadged cars (Daewoo Lacetti/Chevrolet Optra, or Pontiac GTO and Vauxhall (Holden) Monaro), which are a different matter entirely and a long tradition in the auto industry.
  • A sleazy practice among a number of less-reputable for-profit colleges is to rip off the name of a far more respected school in order to trick incoming students into thinking they're affiliated with them. At least one college recruiting envelope said [In large bold print] "Northwestern College of Law" [in small print] "of Lewis & Clark College." There's also a "Berkeley College" that likes to advertise in the New York Tri-State area. More often than not, any degrees offered by these schools are likely to be A Degree in Useless due to the lack of accreditation. Given that for-profit colleges are a major driving force behind the student loan crisis (a massively disproportionate share of American college students with student loan debt got it by attending a for-profit school), these tactics are especially predatory here.
  • Private Eye has a column about examples of this trope with book covers. One of the most popular covers appears to be a man in a dark coat striding dramatically away from the viewer into a winter scene.
  • Instant Immersion, a language-learning software that apes Rosetta Stone's yellow packaging. It's significantly cheaper; however, the contents are... considerably cheaper.

Alternative Title(s): Cuckoo Case