10 Happy Little Facts About The Joy of Painting

Bob Ross Inc.
Bob Ross Inc.

The smooth jazz intro. The calm, welcoming voice. The larger-than-life hair. The low-budget production values. The constant encouragement that even you can create the same fan-brushed “happy little trees” as the jovial onscreen instructor. We’re talking about none other than the long-running PBS series The Joy of Painting, which, 35 years after its debut, continues to both engage and relax audiences via digital outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube.

It was a simple enough premise: Each half-hour episode would feature host Bob Ross demonstrating—in real time—how to create a bucolic landscape (popular vistas included mountains, streams, and forests) using a specific palette of oil paints that would become as iconic as Ross himself. (Seriously, The Joy of Painting could’ve been renamed Titanium White or Prussian Blue and devoted fans would’ve just gone with it.)

Although the series ceased production in 1994—several months before Ross’s untimely death from lymphoma at age 52—The Joy of Painting is showing zero signs of fading into obscurity. Not only is the show ridiculously easy to access, but it also spawned a 2011 documentary, Bob Ross: The Happy Painter (where celebrities like Jane Seymour and Brad Paisley are outed among the Bob Ross acolytes), merchandise galore (including a Funko POP! toy), and a veritable YouTube rabbit hole of hilarious parodies.

So pull up an easy chair and get ready to chillax with these 10 facts about The Joy of Painting, where mistakes didn’t exist, only happy accidents.

1. BEFORE THE JOY OF PAINTING WITH BOB ROSS, THERE WAS THE MAGIC OF OIL PAINTING WITH BILL ALEXANDER.

Sometimes, all it takes to surpass your mentor is a gentle voice and one wild coiffure. Much as history likes to peg Bob Ross as an innovator, his art-for-the-masses television show was nothing new by the time The Joy of Painting premiered in 1983. For nearly a decade prior, PBS stations had been airing a similar series called The Magic of Oil Painting, hosted by German painter Bill Alexander. Ross himself was intrigued by the show and its signature “wet-on-wet” technique, and soon began studying under Alexander.

But this student-teacher relationship would eventually dissolve into a rivalry once Ross’s series took off and Alexander was relegated to a footnote in TV history. In a 1991 article in The New York Times, Alexander, who died in 1997, had harsh words for his onetime protégé.

"He betrayed me," Alexander said of Ross. “I invented ‘wet on wet.’ I trained him and he is copying me—what bothers me is not just that he betrayed me, but that he thinks he can do it better.” (For the record, Alexander did not invent the “wet on wet,” or “alla prima” method; it has been in existence for more than 500 years.)

2. FOR A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF HIS LIFE, BOB ROSS WAS THE EQUIVALENT OF R. LEE ERMEY’S VICIOUS DRILL SERGEANT IN FULL METAL JACKET.

Who would’ve thought that the same guy who became a celebrity off his soft-spoken, hippie-dippy demeanor also spent nearly 20 years in the military barking orders to his subordinates? After joining the Air Force at the age of 18, Ross rose to the rank of First Sergeant, or, as he called it in a 1990 interview with The Orlando Sentinel, “the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work.”

But Ross knew deep down he wasn’t cut out for a career as a hard-ass: “The job requires you to be a mean, tough person,” the Florida native told the Sentinel. "And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.” He was right: While stationed in Alaska, Ross discovered his love for painting, and by the time he retired from the Air Force in 1981, a far more fulfilling job lay ahead.

3. ROSS’S ICONIC HAIRDO WAS INITIALLY A COST-CUTTING MEASURE.

Nope, Ross wasn’t trying to make an ironic fashion statement with his outdated hair. He was just a guy looking to save a few bucks while pursuing a painting career after leaving the Air Force. According to Annette Kowalski, Ross’s longtime business partner, the eventual Joy of Painting host got his hair permed as a way of avoiding regular hair maintenance. “He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts,” Kowalski told NPR in 2016. “So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again.”

What Ross didn’t count on was his perm’s, well, permanence: Once that look became part of his company’s logo—and The Joy of Painting—there was no turning back, and per Kowalski, it was a thorn in Ross’ side. “He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that,” she said. “He got tired of that curly hair.”

4. THAT POUFY BROWN HAIR CAN NOW BE PART OF YOUR BREAKFAST.

We're not sure how Ross would’ve felt about having his face charred onto folks’ morning toast, but it’s now an option for The Joy of Painting fans and people with breakfast idiosyncrasies. For the price of $40, you can own a toaster that will burn Ross’s immediately recognizable visage onto a couple of slices of bread.

5. SINCE THE JOY OF PAINTING IS ARGUABLY AN EARLY FORM OF ASMR, THE SHOW IS ENJOYING A 21ST-CENTURY REBOOT AS A RELAXATION APP.

In June 2018, it was announced that episodes of The Joy of Painting would be reborn as versions of “Sleep Stories” on the Calm sleep and meditation app. It was the first time that Bob Ross Inc., which manages Ross’s estate, had agreed to license audio of the series, citing the high likelihood of the painting guru’s approval.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What would Bob do?’” Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc. (and daughter of Ross’s business partners Walt and Annette Kowalski), told the Times. “Using his voice to help put people to sleep? Well, he would love that.” This couldn’t have been a better marriage of commerce and tranquility, because Ross, his comforting voice and The Joy of Painting had been honorary members of the ASMR (“autonomous sensory meridian response”) community for years.

6. IF YOU’RE A JOY OF PAINTING COMPLETIST, THEN YOUTUBE IS YOUR BEST SOURCE FOR EPISODES.

The addition of The Joy of Painting to Netflix in 2016 was the cause of both excitement and confusion for viewers. The reason for the excitement was obvious, but the confusion was due to Netflix’s decision to repackage the episodes as two separate, differently named series: Chill With Bob Ross and Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere. Don’t let these catchy titles fool you though, because they’re just fancy names for 52 episodes of The Joy of Painting.

However, if after binge-watching all of Bob Ross that Netflix (and Hulu and Amazon Prime; several seasons are available to subscribers) have to offer, and you still have an irrepressible hunger for more seascapes and woodland vistas, head on over to the official Bob Ross YouTube channel, where you will be able to watch all 403 episodes of The Joy of Painting—for free.

7. WANT TO TEACH THE BOB ROSS TECHNIQUE? YOU’LL HAVE TO BECOME A CERTIFIED ROSS INSTRUCTOR FIRST.

If you live and breathe The Joy of Painting and enjoy preaching Bob Ross’s happy little trees gospel, then perhaps becoming a Certified Ross Instructor is in your future. But don’t think that this program will be as laid-back as a Joy of Painting episode—quite the opposite. The official website for Bob Ross Inc. warns prospective students that “training is intense,” a sentiment echoed by this 2015 HuffPost article. One instructor called the experience “grueling,” emphasizing that the program is “fast-paced and pretty hard. If you are not paying attention, you get lost.”

8. THE JOY OF PAINTING HAS INSPIRED MULTIPLE PARODIES, INCLUDING A DEADPOOL 2 TEASER.

As lovable as Bob Ross is, his style and folksy manner do lend themselves to satire. But when sifting through the innumerable spoofs available on YouTube, anyone can see that they’re made out of love, not disdain—even this NSFW “Joy of Tattooing” clip—for The Joy of Painting.

In late 2017, 20th Century Fox hopped on the R-rated The Joy of Painting parody bandwagon when the studio released a Deadpool 2 teaser featuring star Ryan Reynolds doing an impeccable Bob Ross impression—entirely from beneath his masked bodysuit. While most of the jokes are unprintable, let’s just say Reynolds’s take on how Ross cleaned his paintbrushes was nothing short of genius.

9. THE JOY OF PAINTING IS AT THE CENTER OF A NEW TREND: PAINT-ALONGS AT LOCAL LIBRARIES.

It sounds like something that might have happened during The Joy of Painting’s 1980s heyday: Crowds of people gathering at the library to watch Bob Ross paint wispy clouds while putting their own brushes to canvas. But this analog activity is a very real craze happening right in the digital depths of 2018. Back in July, The Washington Post reported that across the United States, there are now six-month-long waiting lists at certain local libraries just for the privilege of watching an episode of The Joy of Painting—and painting along with the show’s bushy-haired master.

This latest Bob Ross renaissance can be chalked up to the divisive headlines permeating the country, at least according to one Salt Lake City librarian who helps organize these paint-alongs. “In these times when everything seems so controversial and everyone fighting with each other and all of this bad news all the time—it’s very uplifting to hear [Ross’ positive quips],” Jen Scott told the Post. “People feel this connection with Bob Ross—that he’s their friend.”

10. BOB ROSS BAR CRAWLS ARE ALSO A THING, APPARENTLY.

The New York Times brought this phenomenon to the world’s attention back in 2015, when it reported on a now-defunct annual Chicago event that saw attendees dressing in curly wigs, facial hair (both men and women, mind you), jeans, and oxford shirts to traipse around various watering holes in honor of Bob Ross. Although the Windy City Bob Ross Bar Crawl has ceased operation (the last post to its Facebook page was in September 2017), others have since popped up in the Cleveland area and in Macon, Georgia.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Almost Had a Different Title

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a favorite for fans of both the Harry Potter book series and its film franchise. In addition to offering readers a more mature outing for Harry and the gang, the stakes are far more dangerous—and the characters’ hormones are all over the place.

The name Goblet of Fire is a pretty literal title, as that’s how Harry is forced into the Triwizard Tournament. In addition to being accurate, the title has a nice ring to it, but it was previously revealed that JK Rowling had some other names in the running.

In JK Rowling: A Bibliography 1997-2013, author Philip W. Errington reveals tons of unknown details about the Harry Potter series, so much so that Rowling herself described it as "slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling." In it, Errington revealed that Goblet of Fire had at least three alternate titles: Harry Potter and the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Fire Goblet, and Harry Potter and the Three Champions were all working titles before the final decision was made.

While Death Eaters sounds far too depressing and scary to market as a children’s book, Fire Goblet just doesn’t have the elegance of Goblet of Fire. As for Three Champions? It's as boring as it is vague. So kudos to Rowling and her editor for definitely making the correct choice here.

It's not the only time a Harry Potter title led to a larger discussion—and some confusion. In 1998, readers around the world were introduced to Harry through the first book in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. But elsewhere around the world, it was known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

As Errington explains in his book, the book's publisher wanted “a title that said ‘magic’ more overtly to American readers." They were concerned that Philosopher's Stone would feel "arcane," and proposed some alternatives. While Rowling agreed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she later admitted that she regretted the decision.

"To be honest, I wish I hadn't agreed now," she explained. "But it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy."

The 20 Best-Selling Movie Soundtracks of All Time

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Movie soundtracks can be big business—sometimes bigger than the movie itself. (And sometimes better than the film itself.) In early December 2018, three soundtracks were in the Billboard Top 10, and Mariah Carey’s Glitter soundtrack has been in the news recently for reentering the charts. But they have a long way to go before entering the top echelon.

Here are the 20 best-selling movie soundtracks of all time—many of which have been on the list for decades.

(The following list is based on RIAA certified units).

1. The Bodyguard (1992)

Certified units: 18 million

Elvis Presley originally wanted to record Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” but his people wanted half the publishing rights. Parton refused and later commented that “when Whitney [Houston’s version] came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland."

2. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Certified units: 16 million

CPR will never be the same.

3. Purple Rain (1984)

Certified units: 13 million

Prince wrote around 100 songs for the movie—and "Purple Rain" wasn’t even in that original group.

4. Forrest Gump (1994)

Certified units: 12 million

Like a box of chocolates, except songs, with everything from Jefferson Airplane to Lynyrd Skynyrd featured in Robert Zemeckis's Oscar-winning hit.

5. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Certified units: 11 million

Maybe don’t rush to get the album if you love the film’s songs: According to executive producer Jimmy Ienner, “We needed different mixes for the film and record ... For example, the guitars were dropped way down for the film because guitars weren’t a dominant instrument back then; saxophones were. We took out most of the synthesized stuff and replaced it with organs in the film version.”

6. Titanic (1997)

Certified units: 11 million

Céline Dion told Billboard that when she was recording "My Heart Will Go On," her thoughts were: “Sing the song, then get the heck out of there."

7. The Lion King (1994)

Certified units: 10 million

"Nants ingonyama" apparently translates to “Here comes a lion.” And if you've seen this Disney classic—which is about to get a live-action remake—you certainly know what "Hakuna Matata" means.

8. Footloose (1984)

Certified units: 9 million

When Ann Wilson of Heart was prepping to duet for the song “Almost Paradise” for Footloose, she broke her wrist. But she refused painkillers because they’d affect her singing voice.

9. Top Gun (1986)

Certified units: 9 million

The songs of Top Gun “still define the bombastic, melodramatic sound that dominated the pop charts of the [mid-80s],” according to AllMusic

10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Certified units: 8 million

According to Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, they were introduced to bluegrass through the Coen brothers's O Brother, Where Art Thou, saying “That movie kind of heralded the advent of bluegrass in mainstream British culture."

11. Grease (1978)

Certified units: 8 million

According to Box Office Mojo, Grease is the second highest-grossing musical of all time, beaten only by 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.

12. Waiting To Exhale (1995)

Certified units: 7 million

The song “Exhale” is famous for its "shoop" chorus. But writer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds explained that it’s a result of every time he wanted to write actual lyrics, they just got in the way.

13. The Little Mermaid (1989)

Certified units: 6 million

According to co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, “Part of Your World” was nearly cut from The Little Mermaid after a black-and-white and sometimes sketched version made a test audience squirm with boredom. Everyone kept with it until a more polished version solved the problem.

14. Pure Country (1992)

Certified units: 6 million

Not bad for a movie that only grossed $15 million (and one you've probably never heard of).

15. Flashdance (1983)

Certified units: 6 million

The song “Maniac” was originally inspired by a horror film the songwriters saw (the lyrics were rewritten for Flashdance).

16. Space Jam (1996)

Certified units: 6 million

Not only was "I Believe I Can Fly" the best-selling soundtrack single of 1997, but third place was Monica’s “For You I Will”—which is also from Space Jam.

17. The Big Chill (1983)

Certified units: 6 million

By RIAA certified units, The Big Chill soundtrack is the fifth biggest Motown album of all time.

18. City of Angels (1998)

Certified units: 5 million

One of the chief songs from the soundtrack—“Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette—caused some piracy issues. A California radio station got their hands on a bootlegged copy and played it. Someone recorded the song off the radio and uploaded it to the internet (this was in 1998) and even radio stations began playing illegally downloaded versions. As a result, Warner Music was forced to release the album to radio stations a week earlier than planned.

19. The Jazz Singer (1980)

Certified units: 5 million

Fun Fact: Neil Diamond won the first Razzie for Worst Actor for this movie and was also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor.

20. Evita (1996)

Certified units: 5 million

Evita started off as a concept album in 1976. Then two years later it premiered on London’s West End. In 1979 it debuted on Broadway and an album was released that went platinum in the U.S. before Madonna got to it.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Certified units: 5 million

Whether a Broadway cast recording counts as a soundtrack or not is debatable, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cultural powerhouse managed to shift as many units as Madonna and Neil Diamond, according to the RIAA .

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