Iconic Pop Cultural Sets People Brought To Life

Money--and fiction--are no obstacle to a dream
by Luis Prada

You see them in movies, you see them in TV shows, but you never think you’ll ever get the chance to touch them, to walk through them. I’m talking about the sets – those magical, iconic fake places the characters of our favorite stories call home or work. Without speaking a single line, these fake places take on a life of their own. Thankfully, there are some enterprising people out there willing to fork over the cash, time, and effort to bring these places to life for no other reason than to bring fiction into reality.

The Simpsons’ House

In 1997, Fox and Pepsi held a sweepstakes with the grand prize being an exact replica of the iconic home of the Simpsons…or a cash prize of $75,000. Everything, from the pictures on the wall to the sailboat painting behind the couch to the appliances in the kitchen, were recreated and placed exactly where they could be found on the show. It was constructed in Henderson, Nevada, in a community called Springfield.

It’s surreal looking at the pictures of the house. The whole thing looks like a set you’d find at Disney’s ToonTown. It gives you that unique sense that what you’re seeing can’t possibly be real, and by no means should it be, but…there it is; standing there, in real life. People actually once stood within a building that for decades was some guy’s drawing on a TV show. I say once because the winner of the contest accepted the $75,000 cash prize instead, and sadly, the house was eventually stripped of all its Simpsons glory and sold.

Central Perk from Friends was brought to life in China

Du Xin is a massive fan of the sitcom Friends, because when you’re living in the hellish, polluted, smoggy landscape that is modern day China, you’ll take every friend – real or fictional – you can get. Xin was so obsessed with the show that he felt he needed some part of it to be a tangible part of his life. Seeing as David Schwimmer kept ducking Xin’s calls to hangout, Xin decided it was time to take action. So he built a meticulous recreation of the Central Perk café – the Friend’s coffee shop hangout — as a fully-functioning coffee shop in Beijing, China.

As someone who has actually seen the Central Perk café set in person, thanks to an Uncle with deep pockets who gifted me a tour of the Warner Bros. lot some years ago, Xin’s attention to detail is astounding.

The couches, the decor, the coffee table, the brick – it’s all a loving, if obsessive, tribute to a classic American (and apparently global) sitcom. The detail is so intense, it even shines through in Central Perk’s menu, which is based entirely off of items mentioned on the show. Xin serves cheesecake because Rachel mentions it in season 7, episode 11, for example. Not long after Xin’s Central Perk opened, he opened another location in Shanghai. And next door to the original Central Perk in Beijing, Xin extended his already insane fandom — a replica of Joey’s apartment.

The House From Up

Blair Bangerter owns a company that builds custom homes, is the son of a former governor of Utah, and loves Pixar’s Up. Those three facts fused together when Blair decided he wanted to build the home from Up, but knew it would be a pain in the ass, what with Disney being all sue happy. So Blair, using some of his dad’s upper-echelon connections mixed in with some of his own, somehow got in touch with Disney lawyers, and eventually Pixar representatives, and talked them into letting him not only build the home but also keep whatever profit he made after selling it. Disney is notorious for suing the pants off of anyone and anything that can even jog a memory of a Disney property, so this feat in and of itself is astounding.

Blair watched the movie over and over just to nail down every detail. The chairs that Carl and Ellie sit in as the read and hold hands were custom created specifically for this home. Blair even had to fix some architectural errors in the design of the movie house. In the film, the house’s chimney pops out of the center of the roof, but inside the home the chimney is against the wall. So, Blair had to put a fake, non-functioning chimney exactly where it needed to be if he wanted to create an exact replica of his animation-to-reality dream project.

Ghostbusters Firehouse Basement

Ghostbusters is a litmus test for cool. If someone you meet has never seen it or, heaven forbid, they don’t like it, you know they probably aren’t worth your time. That may sound like an extreme level of fandom, but an Italian man who goes by the name Guusc72 has found (or rather, built) an even more extreme example of Ghostbusters fandom. At a Ghostbusters fan convention in Italy, Guusc72 unveiled his painstaking recreation of the basement from the Ghostbuster’s firehouse, complete with a replica containment unit, desk trinkets, and, yes, even an alarm system that recreates the scene in which the dick EPA representative shuts the containment unit down and unwittingly unleashes hell upon New York.

A House Made of Star Trek

Steven Nighteagle is more than just a badass name. He’s also a badass Star Trek fan. As we speak, Steve is in the middle of his life’s work – converting his entire house into the U.S.S. Enterprise. Steve says he hates “to have possessions that every person can have” so rather than have just another boring old house filled with whatever crap we all scrounge up from Pottery Barn and Ikea, he turned his abode into one of the most iconic pieces of sci-fi transportation out there.

The art and design of a Star Trek ship has changed over the years through its various incarnations in film and television, so rather than settle on one set time period and production value, by the look of the different rooms Steve chose a different series and style for each. There’s a room inspired by the original series, a Next Generation-themed room, and even one that is a tip of the hat to the sleek Apple store styling of the J.J. Abrams films.

It’s safe to say that Steve is boldly going where no man has gone before, and that’s to a future in which is house has pretty much zero resale value–or else a very high price among Trekkers.

Does the adorable pilot come standard?

Does the adorable pilot come standard?

Luis Prada’s work can be found on Cracked, FunnyCrave, The Smoking Jacket, and GuySpeed. If you visit his Tumblr page, The Devil Wears Me, he will give you a non-refundable virtual hug.

Although some people shouldn't be living anywhere.

Although some people shouldn’t be living anywhere.

Reality doesn’t get to decide what does or doesn’t exist — that’s why there are 4 Real-Life Robot Suits You Can Wear! Just be careful your sweet new home doesn’t attract Creepy Secret Squatters.

More from Luis Prada

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