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The Dinnermobile

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The Big (Hot) Dog of them all.
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One of the most important steps towards starting or growing any kind of business is the simplest, yet one of the most difficult to actually pull off: getting your name and product out there, and making sure people remember who you are. That one truism explains so much about the commercials you see on television: yeah, that commercial may have been stupid and annoying as hell, but if you remember it...well, mission accomplished.

Of course, there are other ways to get people's attention that don't involve annoying commercials or manufactured viral ad campaigns; you could just create something that people don't see every day, and use that as an attention-getter. Something like...say, a van shaped like a 6-ton version of your new snack cake. It'll certainly get bystanders' attention and maybe some exposure on social media, and with a good marketing acumen and a bit of luck, you could parlay that into a successful ad campaign.

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Using vehicles as billboards to advertise products is nothing new — just look at any commerical bus or public transportation — but The Dinnermobile takes the idea to its logical extreme: the food item is not on the vehicle, the food is the vehicle. It refers to vehicles that are actually shaped like a piece of food — a hamburger, a hot dog, a carton of milk, and so on.

While The Dinnermobile is most commonly used as a real-world advertising trope, the general concept (with or without the advertising bent) is also popular in visual media aimed at young children: cartoons, picture books, and so on. Even when they're not trying to sell food, food-shaped cars are memorable, whimsical, cute, and even funny. Some fictional media even take the idea a step further, making the food-based vehicles out of actual food that may or may not be wholly or partially eaten by the end of the episode.

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While most foods could theoretically be designed into a vehicle, things like hot dogs, hamburgers, and fruits are among the most common design choices for Dinnermobiles. This is partly a matter of precedent — after all, the iconic Oscar Mayer Weinermobile popularized the concept — but it's also a matter of practicality. These foods tend to have shapes that are relatively easy to design a vehicle around: they're fairly symmetrical, compact, proportionate, and three-dimensional. Or, more to the point, they're not flat, ridiculously wide or tall, full of appendages sticking out of the sides, or anything else that would make them impractical or even unsafe to drive as a vehicle. That's why a sausage-shaped car makes sense, but even the idea of a car shaped like a thin-crust pizza would give any automotive engineer a migraine.

Subtrope of Shaped Like What It Sells. As an advertising device, compare and contrast Anthropomorphic Food, where companies advertise food by, uh, giving it sapience?

In more fantastical fictions, Dinnermobiles may be driven by Anthropomorphic Food, or a regular character for whom the car resembles a Trademark Favorite Food. If a video game has a Level Ate, then it's highly likely that at least one of these will make an appearance. If the car is especially delicious-looking but not actually edible, a character might go Extreme Omnivore and devour it anyway. Likewise, driving one of these cars may result in being chased by any number of assorted stray animals.

For cases where the food-shaped item is a stationary building, see Bizarchitecture.


Examples:

    Advertising 
  • Any page on food-shaped vehicles would be remiss if they didn't mention the granddaddy of them all, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. The Weinermobile has existed in some form since 1936, and today there are eleven active vehicles, each covering different sectors of the United States. Not a bad tenure for a weird-looking car designed to spread goodwill and advertise hot dogs.
  • In a commercial hocking frozen vegetables, Birds Eye presented a car shaped exactly like a single green pea. The car fell apart as it was driving, as the announcer noted that many vegetables lose vitamin content over time. At the end of the commercial, another, intact Pea Car rolls out of a refrigerated semi trailer as the announcer says that Birds Eye's freezing process locks in the vitamins. The Birds Eye Pea car would presumably not fall apart while driving cross country, but the commercial doesn't deign to demonstrate this.
  • Cadbury Chocolate has promotional vehicles shaped and painted to look exactly like Cadbury Creme Eggs. Like Cadbury itself, these cars are based in or near Birmingham, England.
  • Hershey's answer to the Weinermobile, the Kissmobile, is designed to resemble a row of three Hershey's Kisses sitting on a plank, with the first Kiss serving as the vehicle's cab. While the Kissmobiles are no longer traveling America — they were decomissioned in late 2019 due to age and safety concerns — the cars themselves are now on permanent display at the AACA Museum in Hershey, PA, just down the road from Hershey HQ.
  • Outspan is a South Africa-based purveyor of oranges, but they're perhaps better known in some parts of the world for their adorably squat and tiny, orange-shaped Mini Coopers advertising their oranges.
  • Positioning itself as particularly strange-looking even amongst its highly visually distinctive kin, Pepperidge Farms' Goldfish car looks like a giant, eye-searingly yellow Goldfish cracker decked out in black Ray-Ban-styled sunglasses, its gaping smile serving as the cabin of the vehicle.
  • Not to be outdone in the "elongated food item as vehicle" wars, Planters has the Nutmobile, which, naturally, resembles a very large shell-on peanut. The Nutmobile also featured prominently in Planters' controversial 2020 Super Bowl ad campaign, in which the giant legume-looking lorry was destroyed in a fall and subsequent explosion...along with company mascot Mr. Peanut himself.
  • Hot-air balloon festivals are another place where food companies create vehicles shaped like food to keep their names in the spotlight — some examples include Burger King's Whopper-shaped balloon, Ben & Jerry's ice cream cone-shaped balloon, and even seed company DeKalb's balloon featuring winged ears of corn.

    Comic Strips 
  • One The Far Side comic depicts a regular occurence in Dog Heaven: Once every hour, a truck made entirely out of ham drives slowly across the clouds, and all the dogs get to chase and eat it.
  • Garfield: In this comic, Garfield mistakes a hot dog truck for a giant hot dog. He feels rather silly when it proves inedible, but then decides to have "dessert" by doing the same thing to an ice cream truck.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Films — Animation 
  • Cinderella featured the Fairy Godmother turning a pumpkin into a horse-drawn coach... but despite the transformation, it still looks exactly like a ginormous blinged-out white pumpkin sitting on a chassis.
  • In a parody of/homage to Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, the end of Shrek sees Shrek and Fiona ride away in a carriage that was very obviously an onion prior to transformation.
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, SpongeBob and Patrick travel most of the way to Shell City in the Patty Wagon - a large drivable hamburger, originally intended for promotion of the Krusty Krab.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the Sugar Rush game has cute-looking characters driving race cars designed to look like sweet treats, such as candy and cakes. There's even a "bake-a-car" mini-game that lets the player make these kinds of cars.

    Literature 
  • Richard Scarry is arguably the king of this trope, as his illustrations are full of whimsical vehicle designs, many of which are based on food items. While his books hold too many examples to list individually, the most iconic of these is probably Lowly Worm's apple-shaped car (that can fly like a helicopter, no less), followed by Bananas Gorilla's banana-shaped ride.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Mork & Mindy, the Orkans travel the galaxy in spaceships resembling eggs. Justified in-universe as the Orkans worship eggs as part of their religion, because they are descended from birds.
  • Suggested in the first season finale of Chop Shop: London Garage. To promote their coachbuilding business, Bernie and Leepu go on a radio station's morning show. The host commissions them to modify a Rolls-Royce into something resembling a bacon sandwich (as a breakfast theme since they're a morning show). Bernie and Leepu decide the suggestion is silly and go in a different direction.

    Music 
  • In the music video for the Bloodhound Gang song "Ralph Wiggum" (a found-lyrics song consisting of Ralph Wiggum quotes), the lyrics "Go Banana" cut to show a banana-shaped car driving past.

    Toys 
  • In 1991, McDonald's released a line of flip cars based on Tiny Toon Adventures in their Happy Meals. Two of these toys included Buster Bunny driving a car shaped like a carrot and Hamton J. Pig driving a car shaped like a submarine sandwich (with tomato-shaped wheels).

    Video Games 
  • The 1998 PlayStation game Rogue Trip has a vehicle called the Meat Wagon, which is essentially a copy of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile with a hockey mask welded onto the front end of the sausage.
  • Saints Row and Saints Row 2 have the O-Ring, which is a fast-food delivery van modeled after a fast food basket meal. The first game has two cosmetic variants — one is modeled after a burger, the other fried chicken — though both feature a serving of fries housing the exhaust pipe, and a drink cup serving as the car's cabin. The second game only has the burger-based model.
  • Much like the animated feature it's based on, the burger-shaped Patty Wagon also appears in The SpongeBob Movie Game. The game implies that the Patty Wagon is fully edible, judging by its appearance when it has only one Hit Point left.

    Western Animation 
  • In an American Dad! episode Roger starts working in a hot dog company. His company car, naturally, is a huge hot dog.
  • A Christmas Episode of Bob's Burgers has the Belcher family being menaced on the road by an angry trucker whose rig is shaped like a candy cane.
  • In Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, Whiskers invents his own car made out of fruit and bets he can actually make it work. Subverted in that Brandy filled it with rodents to actually make it move. And Double Subverted when its revealed that each rodent decided to just let the rest do the work, meaning the car actually moved by itself.
  • In a Drawn Together episode Toot dreams of the Wienermobile (a rather shameless Expy of the actual Weinermobile), a mythical hot dog-shaped truck that gives out sausages for free. When she finally encounters it she swallows the whole truck in one gulp, ending with her dying in a huge explosion.
  • DuckTales (1987): One episode had Scrooge dreaming he was in a Cinderella story, where he was going to Princess Goldie's ball in a car the Fairy Webby made from Junior Woodchuck cookies.
  • Kim Possible: Snack food king Pop-Pop Porter operates at least eight blimps shaped like his products, including a giant corn dog and his favorite, Shrimp Force One.
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • One episode has Rocko and Heffer stop at a roadside diner after losing their car. Heffer wins a Mega Meal Challenge there and the prize is a hot dog-shaped truck.
      "It's a big weenie, on wheels!"
    • Another episode, "Schnit Heads", has Rocko and Filburt make a sausage-deity-shaped Trojan Horse vehicle to rescue Heifer from a cult, but his weight makes the "jaw" fall off and exposes them.
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