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Hollywood Giftwrap

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"Oh, you don't have to untie that. It's just a box made to look like I spent a lot of time wrapping it."
Connie Maheswaran, Steven Universe

Normal people wrap presents such that they are entirely enveloped by wrapping paper, which must be torn off before the contents can be revealed. This is a theoretically simple process that requires a minimum of cutting, taping and assembly (theoretically — many a comedy has enjoyed a catastrophic gift-wrapping sequence). It also ensures that there is no easy accidental reveal of the hidden gift.

In the world of Hollywood, though, there is a bizarro style of wrapping that is used instead: a box and a lid are each wrapped separately, the gift (usually devoid of any manufacturer's packaging) placed within, and the lid simply set upon the box. Nothing (except, rarely, a ribbon) secures the lid to the box. It goes without saying that this is a far more complicated style of wrapping that takes longer and is far less secure than the usual. The point, of course, is to make it easy to quickly show the contents of the box within the limited time of a television program, and to avoid the need for time-consuming rewrapping between takes. It also avoids continuity errors while shooting coverage. And, of course, if it's a cartoon, it's easier to animate it this way as well.

The usual exception to this trope is Christmas gifts for children; the shredding of wrapping and making a big mess of discarded paper and ribbons on the way to getting to the gift is expected and even Hollywood can't ignore that for its own benefit. Once the toy is unwrapped, the kid may ignore the fancy toy and play with the big cardboard box instead.

Beautifully decorated boxes intended for this use have become Defictionalized in recent years — presumably either for the benefit of un-dexterous givers or similarly challenged recipients.

Roger Ebert mentioned this trope in Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary under the name "EZ Open Gift Rule".


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    Comic Books 
  • In The Smurfs, Jokey Smurf's stock exploding gifts take this form.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear arrives in a box wrapped in this manner. Interestingly, Andy also receives a number of packages wrapped in the normal, real-life fashion, but these all get opened off-screen, presumably because rendering tearing paper is hard.

    Film—Live Action 
  • XX: In "The Box", this is how the eponymous box is wrapped. Of course, there is a good chance the man carrying the box wanted someone to look inside. And it is never revealed exactly who the box was a present for...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Friends: Monica and Chandler's wedding presents are an aversion, being wrapped the realistic way with paper over a sealed box, which demonstrates one of the reasons of why this trope exists. In one scene Monica tears open a present and during the subsequent conversation the gift keeps switching between wrapped and unwrapped between cuts.
  • In one episode of The Golden Girls, Dorothy gives Rose a birthday gift wrapped like this. In addition to being ditzy, Rose also shows herself to be Genre Blind: she attempts for a few seconds to tear off the paper, before Dorothy finally takes mercy and removes the lid for her.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "Like Angels Put in Hell by God", the rare and pristine 15th-century copy of The Book of Hours that Lestat de Lioncourt bought for Louis de Pointe du Lac as an Apology Gift is presented in a gift box where the lid is easily removed.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Dr. Forrester's entry in the invention exchange is a machine that transforms presents. All of these presents are wrapped with Hollywood Giftwrap, with lids on the top and the bottom, as a transparently low tech way to depict the transformation of the presents: Clayton opens the top lid to show there's a videogame cartridge in the box, he puts the lid back on and runs it through the machine, then he flips the box over and opens the lid from the other side to reveal that the package now contains socks.
  • In the Roundhouse Christmas Episode, the mother appears in a Parody Commercial advertising a school for TV giftwrapping. During the segment, Amy opens a present wrapped in this manner, finding a dartboard of Shannen Doherty, while Ivan furiously tries to get a normal present open.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, McKay gives the pregnant Teyla a baby present wrapped this way: an iPod filled with recordings of his genius, so she can listen to them and make her son smarter in the womb.
  • Treasure Hunt US:
    • The Game Show The New Treasure Hunt featured 30 (later 66) "surprise packages" from which the contestant had to choose to determine the prize she would win (or pass up); they were all wrapped this way.
    • Inverted with the same show, in the 70's: To select who played the game to begin with, 10 members in each section of the audience were given small boxes, three with numbers in them, that had to genuinely be unwrapped.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Box of Friends from the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is a box that is wrapped this way. Its effect triggers when it is destroyed, apparently meant to represent unwrapping and opening the box.

    Video Games 
  • The Binding of Isaac: The item Mystery Gift is wrapped up like this. Using it consumes the item, spawning a random item from the current room's item pool with a small chance to spawn A Lump of Coal or The Poop instead. Its appearance fits with the game's subversive cartoony aesthetic.
  • Gift boxes of this fashion show up often in Christmas-themed heists of PAYDAY 2. "White Xmas" has them used to covertly transport Columbian cocaine, somehow staying closed in this fashion after the plane they were in crashed in the woods... and often containing things like medical kits, stacks of cash, jewelry, and even giant pieces of toast with cheese on them (a Running Gag in the game, considering normal-sized variations of that would often show up for no rhyme or reason in safety deposit boxes in other heists) instead of the product the plane in question was actually transporting. They also show up in "Stealing Xmas", which makes sense considering it's set in a shopping mall around Christmas.
  • Tattletail: Your Christmas present, the titular Tattletail arrives in one of these. This is justified in that the game requires the player to open their Christmas present early and then place it back in the box — this would be very hard to accomplish if the player's parents had simply wrapped the present up in wrapping paper and the player tore it off.

    Western Animation 
  • In Steven Universe, Connie tells Steven not to unwrap the birthday present she got him because she deliberately got a box with a pull-off lid, even saying it looks like she did more work than she did. Later (during a Flashback), Garnet gives baby Steven a present wrapped the exact same way, and gives about the same explanation of the wrap job that Connie does. Oddly, Pearl and Amethyst also give Steven presents at this time, but theirs are wrapped the normal way with the paper having to be ripped off to reveal their gifts.