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How Did Nickelodeon Make Green Slime?

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Nickelodeon’s iconic slime made its first appearance on You Can't Do That on Television, the Canadian-made sketch comedy show that ran from 1979 to 1990. From there, it became a staple of almost everything the network did, with regular slimings on many programs, at the Kids' Choice Awards and at the Nickelodeon Studios attraction at Universal Studios Florida.

According to Bill Buchanan, a crew member on You Can't Do That on Television for its whole run, the slime was invented early in the show’s history. He was working in the props department one weekend when he got a rundown of items needed for an upcoming show. One of the sketches called for “this kinda disgusting slimy green stuff,” but there were no further details, or even an indication of how the stuff would be used.

Another propmaster, Paul Copping, was given the task of making the slime, and even after asking the director and the scriptwriter, he couldn’t get any more details on what the slime was suppose to be. So, he just went with his gut and mixed up a whole garbage can full of slime. Buchanan says he knows the color came from green latex paint, but didn’t know what else was in it. It smelled and looked foul. People avoided the can while walking through the studio. Bits of sausage may have been floating in it.

The day the slime scene was shot, the propmasters learned the slime’s purpose. It was supposed to be dumped on one of the actors. There was an argument. The producers wanted to go ahead and do the scene, but the prop guys were worried there was something in there that could hurt the actor or make them sick. The sketch got pulled until a new slime could be made. While the old stuff stayed in the garbage can and festered in a corner of the studio, Buchanan, Copping and company got started on a new formula that could get in someone’s eyes and mouth without causing any problems.

This second batch was made mostly from green Jell-O that had been set in the fridge, then pulled out the day before shooting to liquefy and get mixed with flour.

That slime recipe was used for a while, but it required too much preparation time. If the crew had to have the slime ready earlier than expected, it wasn’t fluid enough and had solid chunks of Jell-O in it. They needed a way to make lots of slime on short notice, and turned to Quaker Oats Crème of Wheat for the next generation of slime. They’d basically stir the cereal up cold on the spot in whatever amount they needed, and then dump in green food coloring. The problem with that recipe was that it turned pasty as it dried, and the actors found they couldn’t get it out of their hair. They countered that problem by adding a couple of drops of baby shampoo to the mixture, and stopping tape after a sliming so the actors could rush off the set and into the showers before the slime hardened.

JEFF CHRISTENSEN/REUTERS/Landov

Slime evolved for other shows over the years. Cottage cheese and vegetable oil are sometimes mentioned as ingredients. As Double Dare host Marc Summers explained, most of the slime used on his shows was made of “vanilla pudding, applesauce, oatmeal, green food coloring, and by the third day, anything else that was on the obstacle course.” Yum.

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Big Questions
Why Is Holly a Symbol of Christmas?
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Santa Claus. A big ol’ red-and-white stocking hung by the fire. Nativity scenes. Most classic Christmas imagery is pretty self-explanatory. Then there’s the holly, genus Ilex, which found its way onto holiday cards through a more circuitous route. 

Christmas is kind of the new kid on the block as far as holly symbolism is concerned. The hardy plant’s ability to stay vibrant through the winter made it a natural choice for pre-Christian winter festivals. The Roman feast of Saturnalia, celebrated at the darkest time of the year, celebrated the god of agriculture, creation, and time, and the transition into sunshine and spring. Roman citizens festooned their houses with garlands of evergreens and tied cheery holly clippings to the gifts they exchanged.

The Celtic peoples of ancient Gaul saw great magic in the holly’s bright "berries" (technically drupes) and shiny leaves. They wore holly wreaths and sprigs to many sacred rites and festivals and viewed it as a form of protection from evil spirits. 

Christianity’s spread through what is now Europe was slow and complicated. It was hardly a one-shot, all-or-nothing takeover; few people are eager to give up their way of life. Instead, missionaries in many areas had more luck blending their messages with existing local traditions and beliefs. Holly and decorated trees were used symbolically by new Christians, just as they’d been used in their pagan days.

Today, some people associate the holly bush not with the story of Jesus’s birth but with his death, comparing the plant’s prickly leaves to a crown of thorns and the berries to drops of blood. 

But most people just enjoy it because it’s cheerful, picturesque, and riotously alive at a time when the rest of the world seems to be still and asleep.

NOTE: Holly is as poisonous as it is pretty. Please keep it away from your kids and pets.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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