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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 with 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. 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 on the way to getting to the gift is expected and even Hollywood can't ignore that for its own benefit.
Roger Ebert mentioned this trope in Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary under the name "EZ Open Gift Rule".
- In the first 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.
- 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 Smurfs, Jokey Smurf's stock exploding gifts take this form.
- 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.
- An organization called Samaritan's Purse has an event called Operation Christmas Child. Shoe boxes filled with various small toys and other needs are sent to children in the third world. An envelope with money to cover shipping fees must be placed inside the box so this trope is justified.
- 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.