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15 Things You Might Not Know About Space Ghost Coast to Coast

On April 15, 1994, when Space Ghost Coast to Coast made its debut, Cartoon Network officially stopped being a 24-hour channel entirely made up of old cartoons that Ted Turner had acquired. The series was the cable network’s first—and most influential—original animated series. Blending footage from a short-lived 1960s cartoon with a new awkwardly paced, cheaply produced, animated late night "talk show" setup, the series proved to be surprisingly popular with audiences, paving the way for the channel to produce similarly strange and original animated series. In 2001, the channel's tendency toward non-kid cartoons begot the late night programming block Adult Swim, which is now a brand of comedy in itself.

1. THE ORIGINAL SPACE GHOST HAD LESS THAN 90 MINUTES OF SPACE GHOST ANIMATION.

Space Ghost and Dino Boy was a series that ran for just 20 episodes on CBS in 1966 and 1967. It was created by Alex Toth, a cartoonist who himself didn’t care for Space Ghost’s design. Even with such limited material, Space Ghost Coast to Coast animator C. Martin Croker still managed to only have to make five new pieces of animation for the series' first episode, with the rest of the images coming from the original series.

2. TED TURNER INITIALLY REFUSED TO GIVE CARTOON NETWORK ANY MONEY.

Mike Lazzo started working for Turner in the TBS mailroom before gradually becoming Cartoon Network’s first programmer. At first, Turner insisted that he work only with the classic Warner Bros., MGM, Popeye, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons in their library. Lazzo’s frustration with not having any original programming and not having the money to change that fact was the first step to the strange creation of Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

3. JAY LENO AND DAVID LETTERMAN INSPIRED THE CONCEPT.

Lazzo, as well as fellow Cartoon Network staffers Khaki Jones and Andy Merrill, had a meeting trying to brainstorm ways to incorporate their properties into something new. After talking about Space Ghost, Lazzo went home that night and kept thinking about the character, as well as Leno, the recently installed host of The Tonight Show, and Letterman, who didn’t get the gig and was starting his own show on CBS to compete with Jay (with Chevy Chase and Arsenio Hall also competing for viewers). The next day, Lazzo presented his colleagues with the start of an idea.

4. THE ANIMATOR BECAME THE VOICE OF ZORAK BY DOING A GREAT IMPERSONATION OF HIM IN FRONT OF THE BOSS.

The aforementioned Croker was a Space Ghost fan from childhood, and nailed his impromptu audition. He would eventually get the voice gig for Moltar, too. Croker also came up with the idea of setting the show in space and suggested that Zorak and Moltar should be performing their bandleader and producing duties as unwilling prisoners.

5. THE OLD FOOTAGE OF THE CHARACTERS APPEARED ON A NEWLY DESIGNED SET THROUGH ROTOSCOPING.

Croker hand-drew talk show host poses for Space Ghost, like his tapping of index cards against the desk. He purposely didn’t use any technology so that the old footage and new footage wouldn’t look blatantly different.

6. HERVÉ VILLECHAIZE SIGNED UP TO PLAY SPACE GHOST’S SIDEKICK.

Sadly, the Fantasy Island actor committed suicide during pre-production for the series.

7. LA TOYA JACKSON WAS ALSO SUPPOSED TO BE A PART OF THE SHOW.

She was signed to “do some kind of fanfare/dance routine” for the opening, according to Merrill, but nothing came of it.

8. THE ORIGINAL PILOT WAS PRODUCED IN A CLOSET, AND THE GUEST WAS DENZEL WASHINGTON.

When Merrill edited clips of Washington’s interview on CNN Showbiz Today (promoting the movie Malcolm X) with old Space Ghost clips, he did it on a tape-to-tape VHS editing system, with a Radio Shack mic, just to see if Lazzo’s idea had any legs.

9. THE FIRST 15 SHOWS WERE WRITTEN BY THE NETWORK EXECUTIVES.

Lazzo and his fellow employees would schedule cartoons during the day and find an empty conference room to write scripts at night. During this time the editing, which was being done by Mike Cahill, was still taking place in a closet. "We were constantly fighting with the employees of Cartoon Network Latin America because their copier was right next to where he was editing—which was deafening," Lazzo told IGN.

10. WRITERS FROM LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN WERE EVENTUALLY HIRED.

When the budget went up to $30,000 per episode, Spike Feresten, who earned an Emmy nomination for writing “The Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld, and Steve O'Donnell, former head writer for Letterman and future head writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! joined up. Other notable scribes include Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, who wrote on the episode “Urges”, and future Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas got his first TV writing credit penning the season 3 premiere “Explode.”

11. GEORGE LOWE’S OUTTAKES VOICING SPACE GHOST WOULD BECOME PART OF THE SHOW.

For budgetary reasons, famous announcer and original Space Ghost voice Gary Owens didn’t get the late night talk show gig. Instead it went to announcer George Lowe, who enjoyed that his improvising would sometimes make the final cut. In one incident, he inadvertently burped, and attempted to save face by saying he had “Too many Cokes." The ad-lib made it into an episode, to the delight of his guests, The Ramones.

12. THE GUESTS WERE INTERVIEWED AT CNN BUREAUS.

At first, acting students were hired to wear a Space Ghost suit and interview the celebrities, but the guests kept laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. The producers eventually settled on having George Lowe ask the questions through a phone-patch into the guests’ ears, while the celebrities pretend they were able to see the animated host. Later, the writers would add quips from Space Ghost in response to the answers, and give him new questions to ask to make the taped answers sound crazy.

13. THE BEE GEES MISBEHAVED THE MOST.

The singers cursed and laughed so much that only 19 seconds of their interview was able to be used.

14. NASA NAMED ROCKS ON MARS AFTER CHARACTERS.

Space Ghost, Zorak, Moltar, and Brak became names of Mars rocks after NASA’s Pathfinder mission in 1997.

15. ERIC ANDRE BASED HIS LIVE ACTION TALK SHOW ON SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST.

Before he started shooting Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show, "I rented as many seasons I could get my hands on and did a Space Ghost marathon by myself in my house, just so I could absorb as much Space Ghost as I could," Andre told The Huffington Post in 2012. "I picked Mike Lazzo's brain about it ... and he couldn't give a shit about Space Ghost. He's like, 'What? Space Ghost? Space Ghost is dead to me."

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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