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The Original Names of 10 Cartoon Characters

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Like most kids, you probably grew up watching all the standard cartoon characters—Mickey, Tweety, and Betty Boop. But had different decisions been made, your Saturday mornings might have been occupied by Mortimer, Orson, and Nan instead. Read on to find out what 10 of your favorite cartoon characters were nearly named.

1. Tweety Bird was Orson

In this 1942 short, Tweety Bird managed to evade a comedic feline duo named Babbit and Catstello. Though Tweety's not specifically named in the cartoon, the staff called him “Orson” on the model sheet. It wasn’t until his second appearance in a short called “Birdy and the Beast” that Tweety received the name we all know him by today.

2. Mickey Mouse was Mortimer

Walt Disney planned on naming his most famous character “Mortimer,” but wife Lillian intervened. She felt that Mortimer didn’t quite fit, and suggested the friendlier-sounding “Mickey” as an alternative. Disney later added a “Mortimer Mouse” to the lineup as a rival for Minnie’s affections.

3. Pluto was Rover

Not only did Pluto have a different name in his first couple of cartoons, he was also Minnie’s dog, not Mickey’s. Walt didn’t think “Rover” had staying power, so he considered names like Pal and Homer before settling on something a bit more distinctive. The dog’s first appearance as Pluto was in a cartoon that debuted in October 1930, just a few months after the discovery of Pluto on February 18, 1930.

4. Goofy was Dippy Dawg

When Goofy debuted in a 1932 cartoon called “Mickey’s Revue,” he had a beard and glasses and was called “Dippy Dawg.” By “Orphan’s Benefit” in 1934, he had found the name we know him by today. There’s also a 1950s incarnation of Goofy who went by the name “George Geef.”

5. Elmer Fudd was Egghead

There’s some controversy over whether Egghead was the dimwitted hunter’s original name or a completely different character entirely. Egghead, a character with a bulbous noggin and khaki-colored hunting clothes, first appeared in Tex Avery’s 1937 cartoon “Egghead Rides Again.” The character was in a handful of shorts under that name before a more refined version shows up in the 1940 toon “Elmer’s Candid Camera.” Here’s a bit of an Egghead cartoon—decide for yourself.

6. Betty Boop was Nancy Lee or Nan McGrew

Before she was a leading lady, Betty Boop was often a supporting character in Fleischer Studios cartoons, going by the name Nancy Lee or Nan McGrew. She was also originally a poodle. Over time, her floppy ears morphed into hoop earrings and she was given a button nose.

7. Mighty Mouse was Super Mouse

The diminutive superhero starred in seven shorts under “Super Mouse, the Mouse of Tomorrow,” wearing colors similar to Superman’s. But it wasn’t the rodent’s similarity to Kal-El that caused the name switch—it was the debut of a Coo Coo Comics character that also went by “Super Mouse.” To prevent confusion, Terrytoons simply decided to make their mouse “Mighty” instead.

8. Yosemite Sam had at least three other potential names

Yosemite Sam’s creators agreed that the rootin’ tootin’ gunslinger had to have a Western-like name; they discussed “Wyoming Willie,” "Texas Tiny,” and “Denver Dan” before landing on the current memorable moniker.

9 and 10. Tom and Jerry were Jasper and Jinx

In their first cartoon “Puss Gets the Boot,” the famous cat and mouse duo were named Jasper and Jinx, though Jasper is the only one mentioned by name. William Hanna and Joe Barbera didn’t feel the names “clicked,” so they tested names until one of them (Hanna doesn’t remember who) came up with Tom and Jerry. Before they moved forward with the official name change, however, they had to make sure there were no legal issues; there’s also a Tom and Jerry holiday cocktail.

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Where to Watch Over 300 British Animated Films for Free Online
British Film Institute
British Film Institute

The history of animation doesn’t begin and end with studios in Japan and the U.S. Artists in the UK have been drawing and sculpting cartoons for over a century, and now some of the best examples of the medium to come out of the country are available to view for free online.

As It’s Nice That reports, the British Film Institute has uploaded over 300 films to the new archive on BFI player. Dubbed "Animated Britain," the expansive collection includes hand-drawn and stop motion animation and many distinct styles in between. Viewers will find ads, documentaries, films for children, and films for adults dating from 1904 to the 21st century. Episodes of classic cartoons like SuperTed and Clangers as well as obscure clips that are hard to find elsewhere are represented.

The archive description reads:

“Through its own weird alchemy, animation can bring our wildest imaginings to life, and yet it can also be a powerful tool for exploring our everyday reality. Silly, surreal, sweet or caustic, this dizzyingly diverse selection showcases British animation's unique contribution to the art form, and offers a history ripe for rediscovery.”

This institution’s project marks their start of a whole year dedicated to animation. UK residents can stream the selected films for free at BFI player, or check out their rental offerings for more British animated classics.

[h/t It’s Nice That]

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Why Mickey Mouse Could Soon Be in the Public Domain
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iStock

Mickey Mouse debuted to the world in the 1928 animated short Steamboat Willie, and has since transformed into an icon recognized around the world. But the mouse’s status as Disney's exclusive property is under threat. As Ars Technica reports, Steamboat Willie is set to enter the public domain in 2024, and unlike in previous years, there have been no moves from Congress to stop that from happening. Once it does, in theory, anyone could use Mickey's image for free.

This is the third time the cartoon has been on the verge of losing its copyright protection. The first came in the 1970s, back when copyright terms only lasted 56 years. That meant every book, song, and movie made in 1923 was scheduled to lose its protected status in 1979, and Steamboat Willie would follow on its 56th anniversary in 1984. But in 1976, under pressure from companies like Disney, Congress extended the statute to 75 years, keeping all works made after 1923 from becoming public domain until 1998 or later. Mickey remained safely out of the public domain for another two decades. Then, when copyright terms were again scheduled to expire in 1998, Congress extended them a second time, this time to 95 years.

Now, the clock is ticking down for these older works once again as the 2018 expiration date of that copyright extension nears. Only this time, it looks like Congress may let them become public property without a fight.

Today’s constituents tend to care more about copyright law now than they did in 1976 or even in 1998. The rise of online streaming and easily accessible pirated content has made the issue more relevant to the life of the average person than ever before. The defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012 made this clear to legislators. That bill, which would have empowered law enforcement to punish or block sites sharing pirated content, was so controversial that it sparked protests across the web. Because of the sheer scale of that public response, lawmakers are now hesitant to change any existing copyright protections, including those set to expire on January 1, 2019.

But even if those protections expire, Disney could still find a way to prevent rival studios from using Mickey’s image when 2024 rolls around. While copyrights are designed to be temporary, trademarks have the potential for serious lasting power. That’s because copyrights only protect a single work of artistic expression (in this case, the film Steamboat Willie), while trademarks are attached to images and logos that represent a brand (so Mickey Mouse, the character). As long as Disney can prove that Mickey has evolved beyond his first screen appearance into a symbol that’s synonymous with its corporation, he’ll remain a protected property. And if you take a look at their theme parks, cruise ships, media, and the dozens of Hidden Mickeys they've hidden in their movies, you’ll see that they can easily make that case.

But few works of art made in the 1920s have taken the same path to corporate dominance as Mickey Mouse, even other works made famous by Disney (like Winnie the Pooh, first introduced in A.A. Milne's stories in 1926). Even if Disney manages to protect Mickey, the public should have a big new batch of copyright-free content to access in the next few years.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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