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12 Pop Culture Cavemen (and Cavewomen)

The caveman movie National Lampoon's Homo Erectus will hit theaters in September. The sitcom based on the GEICO Caveman ads will premiere in October. But cavemen are nothing new to pop culture. A man (or woman) who resembles us but does not understand or fit in with the confusing modern world is a wonderful device for both comedy and adventure. These 12 cavemen and cavewomen are not ranked; who am I to rank cavemen? They are in chronological order.

1932 Alley Oop

The comic strip Alley Oop has been in news papers for 75 years, outliving two of his three illustrators. Oop is your everyday dinosaur-riding caveman who lives in the kingdom of Moo when he isn't time-traveling to different eras of history. He was also the subject of a #1 pop hit by The Argyles.

1958 B.C.
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B.C. is a comic strip by Johnny Hart, who died this past April. The strip will continue under the production of Hart's daughter and grandson. B.C. was also the caveman character, playing straight man to all the silliness going on around him. The strip took on a religious theme in 1977, which led to some criticism and editorial rejection from some newspapers.

1960 Fred Flintstone
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The Flintstones was the first prime-time animated TV series for adults. Original episodes aired from 1960-1966, and for many years after in reruns. Fred and his wife Wilma, and their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble were loosely based on the earlier sitcom The Honeymooners. Although the setting was a prehistoric age, the Flintstones had modern conveniences such as record players and telephones, which were powered by animals, or in the case of the automobile, "Fred's two feet."

1966 Loana
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Loana is undoubtably the only character you remember from the 1966 movie One Million Years B.C. All it took was Raquel Welch in a leather bikini to make it a hit.

1977 Captain Caveman
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Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, originally a segment of Scooby's All-Star Laugh-A-Lympics, and its own series briefly in 1980. Afterwards, he appeared in The Flintstones Comedy Show. Captain Caveman was thawed from the ice by a group of teenagers and became a crime-fighting superhero with his caveman strength, ability to fly, and a magic club.

1980 Ayla
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Ayla is the protagonist of the Earth Children series of books by Jean Aul, beginning with Clan of the Cave Bear. Ayla is a Cro Magnon who is orphaned at age five and taken in by a clan of Neanderthals. Ayla uses her inborn intelligence and psychic powers to domesticate animals, perform surgery, and invent fire, sewing, and the bra. The 1986 movie Clan of the Cave Bear starring Daryl Hannah was critically panned and a box office flop.

1981 Atouk
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Ringo Starr played Atouk in the 1981 film Caveman. Not as big or fierce as the other cavemen, Atouk becomes an outcast from his tribe, and joins with other exiled cavemen to form a new tribe of misfits. However, the misfits use their brains to create fire and defeat dinosaurs, proving that brains trump brawn in the grand scheme of history. The plot foreshadows the later movie Revenge of the Nerds.

1982 Thag Simmons
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Although Thag himself doesn't appear in this 1982 Far Side panel by Gary Larsen, his legend lives on. Scientists have used the word "thagomizer" since at least 1993 to describe a dinosaur's tail spikes. It's now used in reference books and museum exhibits.

1991 Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
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The late great Phil Hartman played Cirroc, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer as a recurring character on Saturday Night Live. He spoke quite eloquently, but always fell back on his caveman background to relate to the jury as a common man.

1992 Link
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Brendan Frasier played Link (the "missing link") in the 1992 comedy Encino Man. Two California teenagers (Sean Astin and Pauly Shore) find a frozen caveman in their backyard and decide to take him to school, where he becomes quite popular. The reviews were awful, but it was nice to see Brendan Frasier in a loincloth.

2004 The GEICO Cavemen
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GEICO Auto Insurance began running an advertising series with the line "so easy, a caveman could do it." Cavemen who heard that line were offended and complained. Several other ads featuring the cavemen were produced, plus the internet sites Caveman's Crib and Up With Cavemen. The TV series (entitled Cavemen) is scheduled to run on Tuesday nights beginning in October.

2007 Ishbo

Ishbo is the hero of National Lampoon's Homo Erectus, which comes out in September. Played by Adam Rifkin, who also wrote and directed the film, Ishbo is smarter than the other cavemen, and carries a torch for a girl who prefers her men big, dumb, and strong.

Which caveman do you fancy the most?

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Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
Henson Company
Henson Company

More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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