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Facts of Interest! Things You Didn’t Know About Futurama Characters

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The people who occupy the strange world of Matt Groening’s Futurama seem like something that could only be created by a twisted merge between the worlds of “Metropolis,” “Eraserhead” and the upper west side of Manhattan. And despite their two-dimensional existence, they actually have very deep personalities, histories and roots that can rival other sitcom characters who are actually full flesh and blood. Just imagine being able to peel them away and uncover their deepest and most awe-inspiring secrets — especially Leela. Dear, sweet, beautiful, shapely, lonely Leela.

Phillip J. Fry

The delivery boy serves as the show’s 20th-century hero to the 30th-century’s cultural complications and technological imperfection. He also serves a personal tribute to some of the actors and creators involved with the show.

For instance, Matt Groening bestowed his main character with the name Phillip in honor of the late Phil Hartman, who had a long history with The Simpsons as Troy McClure and other characters. He was going to join up with Groening again for Futurama, but Hartman was killed by his wife before the show started.

The middle initial “J” stands as Groening’s personal tribute to animator and Rocky and Bullwinkle creator Jay Ward and Bullwinkle, who also shares the same middle initial. Fry isn’t the first of Groening’s characters whose middle name got an injection of vitamin “J.” Other characters include Abraham J. Simpson, Hubert J. Farnsworth, Bartholomew J. Simpson and (of course) Homer J. Simpson.

Turanga Leela

There has actually been a friendly debate brewing over the origins of this plucky, one-eyed alien babe’s name. Pop culture and most Wiki-related sites suggest that Groening and his Futurama cronies got the name from the British series Doctor Who, in which the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker, is accompanied by a plucky brunette babe named Leela.

Her name actually comes from the most famous symphony by French composer Olivier Messiaen called “Turangalila,” according to an LA Weekly profile on Groening from 1999. The title is derived from two Sanskrit words: “turanga,” meaning “time,” and “lila,” meaning “play.” The artist described his piece as an expression of joy that is “superhuman, overflowing, dazzling and abandoned.” Throw in “busty” and “one-eyed” and you’ve got my favorite purple haired cyclops.

Bender Bending Rodriguez

TV’s greatest foul mouthed, chain-smoking, beer-swilling robot since Rosie from The Jetsons gets his first name from John Bender, the hard-edged, angry teen played by Judd Nelson in John Hughes’ classic coming of age film The Breakfast Club.

John DiMaggio, the long-time voice of the iconic robot character, describes the character’s voice as an audible mesh between Slim Pickens, “every drunk at the end of the bar in the Northeast” and a voice that a college buddy would do called “Charlie the sausage lover.” DiMaggio originally auditioned for the role of Professor Farnsworth using what we now know as Bender’s voice. Someone on the show suggested he audition for Bender in his professor voice and he scored the role, according to a DVD commentary from the first season. And speaking of the good doctor…

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The Voices of Futurama – John DiMaggio on Bender
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Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

The scientist, inventor and distant nephew of the elder Fry (Wikipedia claims he is Fry’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great nephew) gets his name from real life inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, the man responsible for bringing the world the great invention of the first all-electric television and, by default, Futurama.

The role went to famed voice actor Billy West, who also voices Fry, Dr. Zoidberg and Earth President Richard M. Nixon. West and DiMaggio would often kill time between recording takes by playing a round of “Dueling Farnsworths,” according to the show’s DVD commentary.

Dr. John A. Zoidberg

Producer and co-creator David X. Cohen came up with the name for the perpetually poor crustacean physician from his childhood. Like most children of the 80s, Cohen spent his days dumping quarters into arcade game cabinets. He was inspired to create his own game on an Apple II computer called Zoid, a game he submitted to the Broderbund software company that created the popular line of Carmen Sandiego history and geography games. The company not only rejected the program, but they also misspelled Cohen’s name in the rejection letter.

Zoidberg’s voice, provided by West, is actually a combination of two impressions from West’s impressive voice arsenal: the reticent tone of character actor Lou Jacobi and the “marble mouth” of actor, singer and “Toastmaster General” George Jessel.

Futurama
The Voices of Futurama – Billy West on Dr. Zoidberg
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Zapp Brannigan

The bumbling and booming spaceship captain and military leader was supposed to be voiced by the late Phil Hartman. The character was created for him and modeled after his unmistakable, striking voice, but after Hartman was murdered, the role was given to West.

West based the voiced on the booming sounds of old-time radio DJs from his days in the AM and FM recording booths, a topic that West said he and Hartman often discussed before his untimely passing. The show’s creators and writers cleverly describe Brannigan’s personality as “if William Shatner ran the Enterprise, not James T. Kirk.”

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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