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10 Famous (or Notorious) Ducks

My children don't watch nearly as much TV as I did at their age. I asked my daughter if she knew any famous ducks. She could only think of The Ugly Duckling! But our pop culture landscape bears the tracks of an entire flock of famous ducks.

Count Duckula

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Count Duckula began as a villainous character on the British TV show Danger Mouse. He was spun off into his own show in 1988 and imported to the US (as well as many other countries), where he was sometimes mistaken for a version of Daffy Duck. Count Duckula was a vegetarian vampire duck who could teleport to any part of the world. The show ran until 1993.

You Bet Your Life Duck

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You Bet Your Life was a game show hosted by Groucho Marx that aired on NBC from 1950 to 1960. If the contestant said the secret word (which the TV audience knew), a duck would fall from above and the contestant won $100. Why a duck? It was a reminder of the famous line from the 1929 Marx Brothers movie The Cocoanuts.

Groucho: And here is the viaduct leading over to the mainland.
Chico: Why a duck? Why a no chicken?

The Ugly Duckling

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The title character of The Ugly Duckling wasn't even a duck! The story was first published by Hans Christian Anderson in 1843, about a baby bird who is ostracized because he doesn't look nice like the other ducklings in his family. When he matures, he finds that he is really a beautiful swan. See the Disney cartoon from 1939 on video. The 1931 version inexplicably has the swan hatched from the nest of a chicken.

AFLAC Duck

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The AFLAC duck, featuring the voice of Gilbert Gottfried, has been hinting for us to buy a certain brand of insurance since 1999. He inspired a generation of toddlers to say "AFLAC" instead of "quack" when asked what a duck sounds like. AFLAC has a video gallery of the ads.

Ping

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The Story About Ping is a children's book written by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese in 1933 about a duck who lives on a boat on the Yangtze River in China. He falls behind, misses the boat, and has to find his own way home. It's a charming story for preschoolers and early readers.

Rubber Duckie

The Sesame Street Muppet Ernie loves his Rubber Duckie. The song was sung by Jim Henson in 1970, and reached number 16 on Billboard's pop music chart in September of that year.

Howard the Duck

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The 1986 George Lucas film Howard the Duck was such a spectacular flop that the title became a metaphor for "awful movie". The jokes weren't funny and the duck character looked only real enough to make his romantic interest in Lea Thompson overly creepy.

Ferdinand

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Ferdinand was the duck in the 1995 movie Babe. He spent his time desperately scheming to make himself so useful that the farm family would never think of eating him. He crowed like a rooster every morning, until Mrs. Hoggett acquired an alarm clock.

Donald Duck

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The Disney character Donald Duck made his debut in The Wise Little Hen in 1934. His distinctive voice, which sounds thoroughly ducky but barely intelligible, made him famous. Donald is best known for losing his temper, allowing him to show off the voice without saying much of anything. He looks dapper in his sailor suit, but never wears pants, except when swimming. Donald has girlfriend (Daisy), three nephews (Hewey, Dewey, and Lewey), a rich uncle (Scrooge McDuck), and various other Disney relatives.

Daffy Duck

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The Warner Brothers character Daffy Duck is possibly the most popular duck of all. He first appeared in 1937 in the cartoon Porky's Duck Hunt. The classic Daffy was voiced by Mel Blanc, but interpreted as slightly different by each animator who drew him. He can be manic or neurotic, smart or stupid, but his understandable responses to a world that seems to be lined up against him makes him easy for audiences to relate to. See Daffy in action in the classic Chuck Jones cartoon Duck Amuck.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I could've added Baby Huey, Disco Duck, and quite a few others. Who's your favorite duck?

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Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
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9 The Shining References Buried in Pixar Films
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Not the most kid-friendly movie! But, as circumstance would have it, it’s a favorite film of Pixar regular Lee Unkrich, who has directed or co-directed five Pixar features—including Toy Story 2 and 3; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; and Coco—in addition to doing editing work on several others. As such, it’s no surprise (or maybe it is) that several references to The Shining, from the obvious to the obscure, have snuck into Pixar’s lineup over the years. Here are nine of them.

1. SID'S DISTINCTIVE CARPET // TOY STORY (1995)

One of the most iconic images from Stanley Kubrick’s filmography is of Danny (Danny Lloyd) cycling through the halls of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. That same iconic carpet can be found in Toy Story, where it adorns the home of the toy-torturer Sid. Unkrich, who was one of the editors on the film, credits that particular Easter Egg to production designer Ralph Eggleston.

2. THE NUMBER 237 // TOY STORY 3 (2010)

The number 237 makes an appearance in 'Toy Story 3' (2010)
Pixar

Unkrich worked several references to the number 237—the room in the Overlook Hotel where some particularly trippy things go down for Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson)—into Toy Story 3, which he directed. The license plate on a garbage truck in one scene reads RM237; Woody instant messages a toy whose code name is Velocistar237; and the model number of a security camera in Sunnyside Daycare is Overlook R237.

3. THE SUNNYSIDE INTERCOM // TOY STORY 3 (2010)

Speaking of Sunnyside Daycare’s security system: It features an intercom that’s an exact (albeit animated) duplicate of the one used by Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) in The Shining. Several feet away from the intercom is a tissue box, the pattern of which resembles that aforementioned carpet pattern in the Overlook Hotel.

4. THE "KALINGA" TECHNIQUE // FINDING NEMO (2003) & TOY STORY 3 (2010)

For both Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo, Unkrich asked his composers—Randy Newman and Thomas Newman, respectively—to utilize the “kalinga” technique at particular moments where the audience was meant to feel unsettled. Favored by Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music was featured in The Shining, the “kalinga,” per Unkrich, “is when the violin players tap their bows against the strings rather than strumming. It's almost a plucky sound. If everybody does that throughout the orchestra you get a crazy, almost insecty sound, it's so unsettling.”

5. “HEEEEERE’S JOHNNY!” // FINDING NEMO (2003)

This one’s easy: In Finding Nemo, Bruce the shark echoes Jack Nicholson’s most famous line from The Shining when he snarls “Heeeere’s Brucey!”

6. JACK TORRANCE’S AXE // COCO (2017)

    Early in Coco, there’s a scene where Dante the dog abruptly wakes up from a nap. In the background, we see a normal-looking axe stuck into a tree trunk. An axe could just be an axe ... were Unkrich not sitting in the director's chair. Earlier this year, in an interview with Cinema Blend, he confirmed that the axe is in fact modeled after “one of the axes from The Shining.”

    7. REDRUM // COCO (2017)

    There are two 'The Shining' references in this one scene from 'Coco' (2017)
    Disney/Pixar

      In that same shot, right behind the axe, is a red metal storage drum, a reference to REDRUM, Danny Torrance’s favorite phrase and (er, spoilers for The Shining?) “murder” spelled backwards.

      8. THE GRADY TWINS // COCO (2017)

        As Coco’s Miguel runs through Frida Kahlo’s underworld art studio, he passes a painting of two girls who, per Unkrich, represent a “Día de los Muertos-inspired version of the twin girls from The Shining.”

        9. APOLLO 11 // TOY STORY (1995)

          Stick with us for a moment on this one, as it's not as straightforward as the other ones: Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear was named after Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon. Apollo 11 looms large as part of the mythology of The Shining, as there are famously some conspiracy theorists who believe that Kubrick faked the moon landing and used The Shining as a quasi-confession. (At one point Danny Torrance wears an Apollo 11 sweater, which Lee Unkrich now owns.) This is very likely a coincidence, not an outright nod to The Shining, but given the level of The Shining appreciation in the halls of Pixar, it’s not a stretch to believe that someone at least got a chuckle out of it.

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          Take a Look at What Studio Ghibli's Theme Park Will Look Like When It Opens in 2022
          A recreation of the house in My Neighbor Totoro built for the 2005 World's Fair.
          A recreation of the house in My Neighbor Totoro built for the 2005 World's Fair.
          anthodomi, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

          Miyazaki mega-fans may want to start planning their next trip to Japan. The much-anticipated Studio Ghibli theme park is now set to open in 2022, The Japan Times reports. The animated film studio just released several new images that show what the park (originally projected to open in 2020) will look like.

          Ghibli Park will be built on the site of the 2005 World's Fair in Nagakute, a city about 90 miles east of Kyoto in central Japan. The park's creators envision it as a place where the fantastical films of director Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, are brought to life. The mysterious forest in My Neighbor Totoro—one of Miyazaki’s most iconic films—will be reimagined in an area of the park called Dondoko Forest. The park property already features a recreation of the house from that same film, originally built there for the World’s Fair.

          Other famous films by Studio Ghibli will be represented in the park as well. There will be a Princess Mononoke Village and antique shops modeled after the one in Whisper of the Heart. The main gate to the park will be built in a 19th-century style reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle.

          Witch Valley will feature attractions inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the Big Ghibli Warehouse will contain exhibition areas, a theater, and play spaces. The Japan Times reports that the park will also have giant installations of spiders and “boar-shaped spirits”—recurring motifs in Miyazaki’s movies. And if the concept art is anything to go by, Ghibli Park will be filled with beautiful walking paths surrounded by lush greenery.

          Miyazaki fans have more of the legendary director's work to look forward to in the next few years. He recently came out of retirement to make one last film, which will be released by 2020, Forbes reports. The 77-year-old filmmaker said he wanted to leave something for his grandson to remember him by after he dies.

          [h/t The Japan Times]

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