The Shaza(a)m Problem: Mandela Effect Strikes Again

There’s always something new and exciting going on in the wonderful world of the Mandela Effect.

This time, we have an “anomaly” involving the comedian Sinbad and an early 90s movie called Shazam or Shazaam (I’ll refer to it as Shazaam from here on out), in which he played a magical wish-granting genie. The problem? That movie doesn’t exist on this particular worldline.

Just ask Sinbad himself:

People remember hearing about or seeing a Sinbad genie movie as children. Some claim to have watched it over the years, even within the last decade.

Others perfectly remember renting the VHS when it first released, claiming it was produced by Disney or Universal Pictures or some other well-known studio.

Others still have claimed to own a copy of Shazaam on VHS, only to later search through their collections and find that it simply doesn’t exist.

There is no Shazaam.

Secret Origins

Now, when I first started looking into this, I thought, Shazaam? Yeah, I remember that, but it starred Shaq. I didn’t remember any genie movie starring Sinbad. So I did a quick search, and the only thing I found was Shazam — a DC Comics character with a new movie coming out in 2019.

What I was actually thinking of turned out to be 1996’s Kazaam, starring Shaquille O’Neal. And how could I forget? In that bizarre film, Shaq played the titular rapping genie Kazaam who lived in a magical boombox. Not great by any means, but I do remember it.

Image: Kazaam/Touchstone Pictures/Wikipedia

In fact, here’s a Cracked article from 2009 in which the author accidentally refers to Shaq’s Kazaam as Shazaam, the same mistake I made.

What, then, is this mysterious Shazaam, a film that so many people claim to remember yet can no longer find?

A Synopsis from Another World

To begin with, let’s make one thing clear: Most people who claim to remember Shazaam also remember Kazaam, and see them as two completely separate movies. Many remember Shazaam releasing a few years earlier.

The most popular summary of the missing film appears to belong to a Redditor called EpicJourneyMan, who posted his “complete analysis” to the subreddit r/MandelaEffect on October 1, 2016. In it, he presented a rough outline of a fairly generic, and poorly received, early-1990s children’s movie starring Sinbad.

Another Redditor, by the name of SoaringMoon, later shared a similar memory of the film, more or less corroborating EpicJourneyMan’s. If you read them both, you’ll notice the similarities.

Suffice it to say, the film they remember involves two young siblings, a boy and a girl, who stumble upon a genie’s lamp. Chaos ensues. Family hijinks abound.

A happy ending, as always.

The most interesting part of EpicJourneyMan’s analysis, however, is his complete memory of managing a video rental store at the time. He remembers not only seeing the film, but also ordering two copies for the store (“at half the price,” he wrote, presumably given its lack of popularity). He even remembers the film’s VHS cover.

Even more curious, he mentions that on many occasions, people would return the film to the video store, claiming there was something wrong with the VHS tape. He took this to mean they didn’t like it and “just wanted a free rental.” After reviewing the film, he’d find it working perfectly every time.

Perhaps he was right, and the movie was just that bad. Or perhaps its malfunction was actually caused by the early effects of a distortion in our worldline, the beginning signs that a universal erasure was taking place, like Marty McFly fading from existence.


At any rate, multiple “mock-ups” of the film’s poster and VHS cover have appeared on the Internet, either as fakes passed off as real or recreations meant to show what people remember. Many have memories of Sinbad on the cover of Shazaam, smiling with arms folded, wearing a purple turban and golden vest.

In another mock-up, Sinbad appears as a genie rising out of a magical swirl from his lamp, arms crossed and one eyebrow raised. Not entirely unlike the cover of Kazaam.

Shazam is that you?

The recreation EpicJourneyMan shared with his post is a bit more of what I’d expect from a low budget straight-to-VHS family film, showing Sinbad (arms crossed, and also wearing a purple outfit with a turban) along with the two kids and a dog.

With such specific memories, all of this raises the question: How is it possible that some people vividly remember this movie existing, and yet others do not?

Shazam vs. Kazaam vs. All That and Shazzan

Whatever the answer — the multiverse or false memories or any other number of possibilities — it’s a fascinating situation.

There are, however, a few points to consider.

For example, many might remember Sinbad as a genie due to his colorful attire, those Sergio Tacchini sweatsuits (Not windbreakers, as he’ll tell you). It’s not hard to imagine him as a genie of some kind.

Sinbad also played a very genie-like character in an episode of Nickelodeon’s All That back in the 90s, possibly confusing things even further. In the episode, he appeared as the recurring character Ishboo’s father.

There also exists a still image from when Sinbad hosted a Sinbad the Sailor marathon on TNT back in 1994, in which he can be seen wearing an adventurous getup, turban included. Once again, he’s on the case:

And finally, as I’ve seen mentioned several times, in the late 1960s there was a Hannah-Barbera cartoon called Shazzan, about a magical genie who helps two teenage siblings during their adventures.

Alternate Possibilities

So what’s happening here, if not a true Mandela Effect? Are all of these separate things meshing together in people’s minds, forming a memory of a film that never truly existed?

Could this be a form of mass hysteria, as some claim? Or perhaps something akin to psychological priming, in which people are led to remember the film existing by others before they have a chance to remember it on their own?

Is it possible that Shazaam, as a movie, was so terrible, so universally disliked, that the studio successfully pulled a George Lucas and destroyed every copy with hammers, effectively erasing it from this universe?

As I said, there are a number of possibilities.

Then again, many people claim to have taken these other elements into account – Kazaam, the TNT marathon, Sinbad’s appearance on All That – and remain adamant that their memories are real, that a movie called Shazaam did, at one time, exist. It’s the universe that has changed around them. The timeline has shifted.

What do you believe? More importantly, what do you remember?


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

Related Articles