Animals In Entertainment: The Roadrunner

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The Road Runner was introduced to T.V. screens in 1949 in a short film called “Fast and Furry-ous,” along with his long-time rival Wile E. Coyote. The duo continued to enjoy life on the silver screen from that point on until the 1980’s.

The creator of the Road Runner was a man by the name of Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros Studios. Jones also created beloved characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepe Le’ Pew, Marvin The Martian, and more.

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The Road Runner and his foe Wile E. Coyote

Jones already had the Wile E. Coyote character in mind, based off of a Mark Twain description. “The coyote is a long, slim, sick, and sorry-looking skeleton.” “… He is always poor, out of luck …”

All Jones needed now was a partner. Every character he had previously created had one. Bugs Bunny (inspired by cigar smoking Groucho Marx) had Elmer Fudd, and Porky Pig had Daffy Duck. What better foe for a skinny, starving coyote than a native, flightless bird who he can never catch!

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Chuck Jones had a very specific set of rules that he kept himself to when writing each set of animated episodes. For example, “Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy,” and “The Road Runner must stay on the road, for no other reason than that he is a Roadrunner.”

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The Plymouth Road Runner car, built between the years 1968 and 1980 in the US, uses the Warner Bros. character as a notable emblem on their models. As the story goes, one Saturday morning while watching cartoons with his children, the Chrysler-Plymouth design planning analyst Gordon Cherry, realized that the Road Runner always manages to elude his nemesis Wile E. Coyote. Cherry then realized that this was the exact kind of image Plymouth had been hoping to cultivate when planning their next muscle car design.

Plymouth paid Warner Bros. Studios $50,000 to use the cartoon character. Warner Bros. earned $10,000 as well from Plymouth when they created a “beep beep” horn that resembles the iconic character’s soundbite.

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The Geococcyx californianus and G. velox species also known as Roadrunners, can be found in Mexico, Central America, and Southwestern U.S.

The cartoon Road Runner’s creator was not far from reality when depicting the character. One of Jones’ rules after all was that, “All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters- the American Southwest.”

Although in every cartoon episode and per Jones’ Rules, the Coyote would never be allowed to catch the Road Runner; According to wildlife experts, a coyote can actually run faster than a Roadrunner. Since coyotes can reach a speed up to 43 mph, the Roadrunner’s 20 mph limit would mean the end for the Roadrunner.

The Roadrunner has unusual X-shaped footprints which Native Americans believed could ward off evil spirits.

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The Greater Roadrunner is a monogamous species who keeps the same mate for life. Which can help to explain why after each escape from the Coyote’s grasp, he comes back for more.

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Animals In Entertainment: Freddie Mercury’s Cats

The award-winning 2019 film Bohemian Rhapsody starring Rami Malek as Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury, was not far from the truth at all when one scene showed Freddie (Malek) phone calling his fiance/wife, Mary, to subsequently talk to each and every cat in their household while away on tour.

Many interviews with friends and family describe that this was actually a common behavior of the late singer.

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Throughout the course of Mercury’s life, he had owned 10 cats. Dorothy, Tiffany, Tom, Jerry, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar, Romeo, and his favorite Delilah.

Delilah was adopted in 1987 (the same year he was given his HIV/AIDs diagnosis) and was so close to Mercury’s heart that the song “Delilah,” on the 1991 album Innuendo, is said to have been written by Mercury in her honor.

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Freddie Mercury is depicted with a cat on his head and shoulders

Although the majority of the cats were adopted from shelters, (way to go Freddie!) only one was given as a gift. “Tiffany” was a purebred who had been gifted to Mercury by his ex-fiance/wife and forever friend, Mary. (Although Mercury proposed, an official wedding never took place. However, he considered Mary his common-law wife, since none of his male partners could ever compare to her in Mercury’s eyes.)

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Mercury and cat Tiffany

After revealing his bisexuality, Mary offered to mother a child for Freddie, to which he replied that he would rather have another cat.

The 1985 album Mr Bad Guy created by Mercury, was in fact dedicated to his cats.

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“This album is dedicated to my cat Jerry – also Tom, Oscar, and Tiffany, and all the cat lovers across the universe – screw everybody else!” said Mercury.

In 1991, Donald McKenzie, a friend of Mercury’s, obtained photos of Freddie’s feline friends and painted them on a silk waistcoat, which he wore for the filming of the “These are the Days of Our Lives” video.

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Freddie Mercury would make sure that each cat had a Christmas stocking full of toys and treats.

Mercury’s boyfriend Jim Hutton recalled the day when Goliath kitty went missing from the Garden Lodge Mansion property. “Freddie became frantic, and in deep despair he hurled a beautiful Japanese hibachi through the window of the guest bedroom.”

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Freddie Mercury, Mercury’s boyfriend Tom, and kitty “Dorothy”

Jacky Smith, director of the Official Queen Fan Club explained that, “They did get ordinary cat food at times but mostly it was fresh chicken and fish prepared for them.” Smith also included that photos of his cats would also often appear in the Queen’s club newsletters.

According to Rolling Stone, Freddie Mercury would spend hours trying to paint with watercolor a portrait of his beloved Delilah. His love for her ran so deep that it has been reported that one of his last actions while on his deathbed, was stroking her fur.

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Freddie Mercury looks in on little Romeo

Farrokh Bulsara a.k.a.”Freddie Mercury”

* September 5, 1946 – November 24, 1991 *

Check out this home movie of a day in the life of Freddie Mercury at Garden Lodge. Video includes Freddie following his cats around and sneaking a peek-a-boo at his boyfriend gardening.

 

Animals In Entertainment: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

 

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Scene from the 1964 TV Classic Film Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Montgomery “Wards” Ward is a department store founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1872. In early 1939, one of the store’s catalogue copywriters, who normally wrote descriptions of the stores’ items, was asked to write a promotional short story for the up-coming holiday season. Although the store usually distributed small coloring books for their patron’s children during the Christmas season, those books were purchased through a third-party. Management felt that money could be saved if “Bob” could write a small story for their customers this year instead. The managers had suggested a cheery Christmas themed book, and in particular, an animal as the main character.

The copywriter Robert L. May later gave testament to his attitude towards his life before being given the assignment. “Here I was, heavily in debt at age 35, still grinding out catalogue copies. Instead of writing the great American novel as I’d once hoped, I was describing men’s white shirts. It seemed I’d always been a loser.”

May was in fact a rather sad individual by nature. He had grown up a small and painfully shy Jewish boy from New Rochelle, New York. He identified with underdog characters and in particular, the Ugly Duckling, from the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. It was with himself and the Ugly Duckling in mind that he then formed his main character for his new assignment; Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer.

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Snapshot of original manuscript

Many impacts of May’s personal life had shone through in his writing. His daughter, then 4 years old, had been obsessed with the deer at the Lincoln Park Zoo. That asserted for him that his main character should be some type of cold weather hearty deer, since Santa lived in the North Pole.

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The Reindeer (Rangifer Tarandus) became the animal May chose to base his main character off of. It is an arctic and sub arctic terrain mammal. The Reindeer’s conservation status is listed as: vulnerable. 

He would also read drafts of his story to his daughter periodically, to maintain his works’ integrity of capturing a child’s interest.

He created a list of potential names to give to his main character (and Santa’s 9th reindeer).  He settled on an “R” name for alliterative purposes. However it could have also been that it was Robert May’s way of identifying with his down-trodden character.

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You can see how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was almost Reginald the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

He felt that “Rollo” was too happy of a name for a reindeer facing blatant discrimination, bullying, and more. It was a close tie in May’s list of names between “Reginald” and “Rudolph,” however the name “Rudolph” easily rolled off the tongue.

His wife had also been reflected in his work throughout the development of his manuscript. Rudolph would often cry whole-heartedly at the plight of his life, and his creator did as well. May’s wife had been suffering from cancer during the writing of the children’s book. As Rudolph felt sad, lonely, and short-changed, so did May as well.

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Page 4 of the original manuscript.  Rudolph cries whole-heartedly

When first presented with May’s ideas on the book, Montgomery Ward management scoffed. “For gosh sakes. Bob, can’t you do better than that?,” his manager exclaimed. May approached his friend and co-worker Denver, who worked in the art department. He asked Denver to illustrate parts of his manuscript to re-pitch his idea. Denver’s sketches brought the story to life and at the second look-over, Montgomery Ward management became enthralled with the story. “Forget what I said, and put the story into finished form.,” were the manager’s words described by May in a 1975 interview.

May’s wife passed away in July of 1939, a month before the book was completed. May’s boss had offered to relieve May from his duties of writing in light of the event, but May refused. “I need Rudolph now more than ever.,” he said.

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The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sold 2.4 million copies at its release. However, being a promotional item for the store, the book had been distributed at no cost. A couple of years later, a small publishing company printed hardcover copies of the book. In that year, another 3.6 million copies were distributed.

Montgomery Ward gave May the copyrights to Rudolph in 1947. In 1948, May’s bother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote song and lyric to May’s story, which would be sung by Gene Autry, and was released in 1949.

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Autographed copy of Mark’s songbook selling for $3,583.09

The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer has been inspiring children for decades to overcome adversities such as physical deformation, prejudice, discrimination, bullying, and more, which was May’s intention when writing the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animals In Entertainment: The Godfather’s Stray

In the beginning of The Godfather film, Marlon Brando is seen holding, petting and even playing  with a silver tabby.

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Don Vito Corleone with his cat

Francis Ford Coppola explained in an interview with Time magazine that the cat had been found running around the studio. Coppola scooped up the stray and, “Put it in his (Brando’s) hands without (saying) a word.” Reportedly, the cat purred so loudly throughout the scene that Brando’s dialogue was almost inaudible.

Marlon Brando was a huge cat fan to begin with.  On one occasion, he was reported to have said, ” I live in my cat’s house.”

Marlon Brando and his cat

It’s no wonder Brando and the stray were able to create such a powerful opening scene. Which, for some people, lead to the development of a few metaphoric meanings behind it.

Not much is known about the cat’s whereabouts after the scene was filmed, but we can be sure that the cat knew he could go to Brando for “protection” if he needed it.

 

 

Animals in Entertainment: Bubba!

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Bubba’s Award Winning Photo

Recently a member of our own household became an Animal In Entertainment. Bubba won the Pets’ Pride week #14 Contest from our local radio station WBLM!

Bubba showed his Patriots pride by wearing his Tom Brady shirt. That and his adorable face won him his spot on week #14.

WBLM is giving all of their winners a $50 gift card to a small niche’ pet shop in the Portland area.

When I was contacted by ‘BLM staff, they asked for a bit of history on Bubba. Here it is:

Bubba (Formerly known as Bobby) was surrendered to a shelter in Macon, Ga when he was 3 months old. After his stay there for a couple months, he made his way North. Many Southern shelters like to reach out to their Northern friends becasue there are far less “kill” shelters in the North.

So Bubba (Bobby) made his way to the frozen northern states to be taken in by a shelter there.

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Bubba at the shelter

And there he stayed for 3 years!

Until we came along in September. I had all intentions of looking at puppies that day but Bubba’s non-chalant kitty way pursuaded me otherwise. I quickly and quietly opened the latch of his kennel door. I wasn’t sure if the general public was allowed to hold the cats without a shelter employee’s permission, but Bubba was worth the risk.

I opened up that door and put him right on my lap. He was so cool, calm, and collected. I fell in love.

I was able to convnce my mate that Bubba was needed in our household and soon after that we had signed off on his adoption papers.

Bubba didn’t come without flaws. He doesn’t really know how to purr since, he didn’t have much reason to. He also didn’t know how to be around other cats since he had grown up being rather anti-social. He had some dental issues and wasn’t very used to being touched and handled.

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Bubba gets to see the outside world

 

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But in spite of his initial challenges, Bubs has blossomed into the most loving kitty.

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Congratulations Bubba!