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15 Facts About The Critic That Don't Stink

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The Critic began as ABC’s attempt at primetime animated programming, a subgenre that gained widespread popularity in the 1990s thanks to the huge success of The Simpsons. Unlike many of the other series that sprang up at the time, The Critic developed a passionate fan base. The show revolved around the misadventures of Jay Sherman, a pretentious New York City film critic who hosts his own movie review show, Coming Attractions. Film references and parodies ran rampant in each of the program’s 23 episodes. The second season aired on Fox, and some Webisodes acted as the show’s brief return in 2000 to 2001. Here are some facts about The Critic to read before the theater usher tells you the show’s over.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY PITCHED AS A LIVE ACTION SHOW ABOUT A MAKEUP ARTIST.

James L. Brooks (co-creator of The Simpsons) asked Al Jean and Mike Reiss (both writers on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and The Simpsons) to write a show going behind the scenes of a network morning show, through the eyes of the makeup lady. Jean and Reiss then began to think about the rest of the morning show staff, like the film critic. After seeing Jon Lovitz in A League of Their Own (1992), Reiss suggested Lovitz as the film critic, and the two realized that was the show. Because Lovitz couldn’t commit to a live-action series because of his busy schedule, The Critic became animated.

2. MARGO SHERMAN AND BART SIMPSON ARE VOICED BY THE SAME PERSON.

Nancy Cartwright’s actual voice is similar to Margo, Jay’s sister’s, voice. In addition to Bart, Cartwright also voices Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, and Todd Flanders on The Simpsons. In other connections between the two animated series, Doris Grau was both the voice of Jay Sherman’s makeup lady Doris, as well as Lunchlady Doris on The Simpsons. She was also a script supervisor for the latter show from 1990 to 1993.

3. JAY’S PARENTS WERE BASED ON A PHOTOGRAPH.

It was James L. Brooks’ idea to make Jay's father, Franklin, a “crazy WASP.” Al Jean teased in a Critic DVD extra that both Franklin and Eleanor’s looks were based on a photograph of a professor and his wife.

4. ABC DIDN’T WANT TO AIR THE "MISERABLE" EPISODE AT ALL.

The network and the show’s producers compromised, resulting in the Misery (1989) parody airing as the fourth episode of the series, even though it was meant to run second.

5. JUDD APATOW AND STEVEN LEVITAN WROTE FOR THE SHOW.

Judd Apatow penned the episode “Marathon Mensch,” received a story credit for “Franklie and Ellie Get Lost,” and even voiced Jay Leno in “L.A. Jay.” Levitan (co-creator of Modern Family) wrote the very same “L.A. Jay” episode, as well as "Miserable." He initially tried to get out of his writing job at Wings to work for The Critic full-time but was told he could not.

6. SISKEL AND EBERT REVIEWED THE SHOW.

Roger Ebert wanted more movie parodies. “Focus this show on the media, and not turn it into another sitcom about a guy and his son and his ex-wife and his girlfriends and so forth,” Ebert advised. Of course, Siskel and Ebert would famously cameo on season two’s “Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice.”

7. MAURICE LAMARCHE ONCE VOICED 29 CHARACTERS IN ONE EPISODE.

Maurice LaMarche (voice of The Brain in Pinky and the Brain and Jeremy Hawke on The Critic) was told by Jean and Reiss that he had beaten the previous record held by Harry Shearer (Ned Flanders, Lenny, Principal Skinner, other voices on The Simpsons) for most characters in an animated episode by one voice. Most of those 29 were nameless characters such as “hot dog vendor” or “taxi cab driver.”

8. JON LOVITZ TECHNICALLY DIDN’T SAY ALL OF JAY SHERMAN’S LINES.

While Lovitz was busy shooting City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), LaMarche voiced Jay for five episodes on the temp track. Engineers flew out to Utah and recorded Lovitz on a digital audiotape in his hotel room doing his lines for the final audio track. Once, the audio mixer made a mistake and left one of LaMarche’s temp track lines in the final cut, believing the voice to be Lovitz’s.

9. IT ELICITED A LOT OF HATE MAIL FROM ABC VIEWERS.

“When we went on ABC we knew they were not FOX so we felt we were soft-pedaling The Critic just a little bit," said Reiss. "Two days later my secretary walked in with a crate and said 'That's hate mail.' We were the most shocking thing anything anyone had ever seen on ABC." Things were different at Fox network for the second season. “When we made the jump to FOX we were doing the same show and the censors said we could be a lot ‘foxier,’" said Reiss. "They were complaining we weren't raunchier enough.”

10. MATT GROENING TOOK HIS NAME OFF OF THE CREDITS FOR THE SIMPSONS/CRITIC CROSSOVER EPISODE.

Brooks said that Groening (co-creator of The Simpsons) was acting like an "ingrate."

11. FOX WANTED TO MAKE JAY NICER.

"Fox has some changes. They wanted to give the character a girlfriend and make him, I guess, a little more likable, not always being made fun of constantly,” Lovitz explained when promoting the second season. Jean admitted he felt some viewers thought Jay was too much of a loser, so the writers made the other characters like him more for the Fox year.

12. THE PRESIDENT OF FOX DIDN’T LIKE THE SHOW.

The Critic was canceled after 10 episodes on Fox, despite retaining most of The Simpsons' audience. Jean had a theory as to why. “What really killed it was when it was on FOX and the guy who ran the network then, John Matoian, just didn't like the show," he said. "He preferred a show that no one remembers called House of Buggin' with John Leguizamo. He liked that show and didn't like ours. Even though our ratings were better, he cancelled us. It was very infuriating.” House of Buggin' was canceled after four weeks.

13. THE WEBISODES WERE FRUSTRATING TO THE CREATORS.

Jean and Reiss worked on the Webisodes for Atom Films by themselves, from 10 p.m. to midnight after working all day on The Simpsons. The two were intrigued with the promise of being able to parody a movie one week after its release. They wrote the episodes quickly, only for Atom Films to not run them for nine months. “They kept saying they were debugging it," Reiss remarked in 2004. "It was computer talk and that's why the dot coms were a bust."

14. THE CRITIC DVDS WERE RUSHED BECAUSE OF FAMILY GUY'S DVD SUCCESS.

“The history of Family Guy is almost exactly our history," explained Reiss. "We were on FOX and successful but then we got cancelled for no good reason. Then the show got successful later. They rushed The Critic DVDs into production. It was kind of breathtaking thing where we were talking about and suddenly they rushed it and wanted it out in two weeks.”

15. THE SHOW MIGHT BE RESURRECTED.

Last year, Jean—who is currently the showrunner for The Simpsons—said he would love for The Critic to return. “We actually have been, just preliminarily, trying to think of a way we could get someone else to do it full-time”, he added. “I would love it to come back.”

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10 Fast Facts About Cars
Pixar
Pixar

Pixar’s Cars was released on this day 12 years ago. So put on your helmets, rev those engines, and let’s take a look at some behind-the-scenes facts about the Oscar-winning animation studio’s fastest-moving film.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY AN UGLY DUCKLING-TYPE STORY ABOUT AN ELECTRIC CAR.

Cars started off life as Little Yellow Car, about an electric car that faces prejudice from its gas-guzzling counterparts. Pixar animator/artist Jorgen Klubien, who developed the story during production on A Bug’s Life, was inspired by real-life automotive history from his home country of Denmark.

“In the 1980s some enthusiastic folks got the idea of making a three-wheeled one-person car that ran on electricity,” said Klubien. “They put it into production and it worked great in the city, but out on the highway it was too slow. People also thought the car was ugly. I thought the electric car was ahead of its time, and it struck me as odd that my fellow Danes didn’t agree. It reminded me of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. This famous Danish character wasn’t accepted at first, but in the end it proved to be right on the money.”

The story was deemed too slight to carry an entire movie, but the small-town setting remained an inspiration.

2. ITS CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR PASSED AWAY DURING PRODUCTION.

Cars is dedicated to Joe Ranft, the film's co-writer and co-director, who died in a car accident on August 16, 2005—while Cars was still in production. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), which Ranft executive produced, is also dedicated to him.

3. MATER IS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE NASCAR ENTHUSIAST.

The country bumpkin tow truck Mater got his name from NASCAR superfan Douglas “Mater” Keever, whom the filmmakers met while on a research trip to North Carolina’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway (now called the Charlotte Motor Speedway). Keever has a voice cameo in the film, as the motor home who says “Well dip me in axle grease and call me slick” early in the film. (Keever improvised the line, which was originally “Well dip me in axle grease and call me lubrication.” Producer Darla Anderson opted to change it, Keever speculated, because “maybe she thought it sounded sexual, I don’t know.”)

4. MANY AUTO WORLD LUMINARIES LENT THEIR VOCAL TALENTS.

Reigning racing champ Strip “The King” Weathers is voiced by legendary racer Richard Petty, who has the same nickname as his animated counterpart. Weathers’s wife, credited as “Mrs. The King,” is voiced by Petty’s wife, Lynda Petty. Several other automotive notables contribute their vocal talents: announcer/former racer Darrell Waltrip plays “Darrell Cartrip”; Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR’s radio show Car Talk, voice Lightning McQueen’s sponsors, Rusty and Dusty Rust-eze; and racers Michael Schumacher, Mario Andretti, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voice automotive versions of themselves. (Despite voicing announcer “Bob Cutlass,” sports analyst Bob Costas doesn’t actually cover racing.)

5. SEVERAL ACTORS CHANGED FOR INTERNATIONAL RELEASES.

For Cars’s UK release, Jeremy Piven was replaced as the voice of Lightning McQueen’s never-seen agent Harv by Top Gear co-host Jeremy Clarkson. “The King” was also voiced by different racers in some international releases, as Richard Petty isn’t as well known outside of the United States. In Germany, The King is voiced by Formula One champ Niki Lauda, while in Spain he is Formula One’s Fernando Alonso.

6. MOST CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON REAL CARS.

Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Chick Hicks are all original Pixar designs, but most of the other characters are based on existing cars. Among them are Doc Hudson (1951 Hudson Hornet), Ramone the body paint specialist (1959 Chevy Impala), tire salesman Luigi (1959 Fiat 500), hippie Fillmore (1960 Volkswagen Microbus), military surplus store owner Sarge (1942 Willys Jeep), and Mack, the truck that drives Lightning around (Mack Superliner). Sally, as a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera, is the only Radiator Springs character modeled after a contemporary car.

7. IT BROUGHT A NEW STANDARD OF REALISM TO ANIMATED FILMS.

Cars was the first Pixar feature to utilize a technique known as “ray tracing,” which properly renders the way light passes through and collides with surfaces. More simply, it enables artists to accurately depict reflections without having to go through and “paint” them individually. Ray tracing takes up a massive amount of computer power; as a result, each frame (or about 1/24th of a second) of Cars took an average of 17 hours to render. Some frames took up to a week.

8. IT WAS PAUL NEWMAN’S FINAL FILM—AND HIS HIGHEST-GROSSING.

Cars marks the final film of Paul Newman, who in addition to being an actor/entrepreneur/philanthropist also became a racing enthusiast after starring in the 1969 racing drama Winning. Cars is also the highest-grossing film of Newman’s career (not adjusted for inflation).

9. ONE OF LIGHTNING MCQUEEN’S CHARACTER INSPIRATIONS WAS KID ROCK.

To help get a handle on the character of rookie racing sensation Lightning McQueen, directing animator James Ford Murphy “put together a series of little bios of great personalities that were really cocky but really likeable.” Among the people he pulled inspiration from were sportsmen Muhammad Ali, Charles Barkley, and Joe Namath, plus musician Kid Rock.

10. YOU CAN VISIT THE MOUNTAIN RANGE THAT SURROUNDS RADIATOR SPRINGS IN REAL LIFE (SORT OF).

The mountain range surrounding Radiator Springs is inspired by the real-life Cadillac Ranch, an outdoor art installation located outside Amarillo, Texas that consists of heavily spray-painted Cadillacs, half-buried facedown in the ground.

Additional Source: The Pixar Touch, by David A. Price

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Finding Nemo
Pixar/Disney
Pixar/Disney

Although we now recognize 2003's Finding Nemo as one of Pixar’s most critically and commercially successful films, the underwater masterpiece didn’t exactly kick off production as a guaranteed goldmine. Here are a few little-known facts about the rocky road leading up to the film’s status as a bona fide blockbuster, on the 15th anniversary of its release.

1. THE FILM WAS INSPIRED BY THE DIRECTOR’S OVERPROTECTIVE NATURE.

“Autobiographical” isn’t exactly the first adjective you’d expect to assign to a road comedy about marine life, but Finding Nemo co-writer/director Andrew Stanton’s story came from a very personal place. As a relatively new father during the film’s development, Stanton found himself at odds with his proclivity to veer into overprotective territory, much in the way viewers see Marlin combating his neuroses in raising his son Nemo. Stanton also had a love for all things aquatic that dated back to a childhood fascination with his dentist’s fish tank, so he used this lifelong interest as a funnel for a deeply emotional story about the challenges of being a good father.

2. ANDREW STANTON WROTE A SCRIPT LONG BEFORE HE WAS “SUPPOSED TO.”

Pixar’s multi-tiered film production process begins with a basic premise pitch to the creative higher-ups, followed by (for all greenlit projects) a written story treatment. Stanton already had a script completed before this second step took place, the only Pixar project to proceed in this manner. 

3. IT TOOK ONLY ONE WORD TO GET THE GREEN LIGHT FOR FINDING NEMO.

“You had me at ‘fish.’” That is precisely what Pixar’s chief creative officer told Stanton following his exhaustive pitch for his passion project.

4. THE MOVIE’S ART TEAM WENT THROUGH MARINE TRAINING PRIOR TO PRODUCTION.

A scene from 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
Disney Pixar

In order to get the look and the feel of Finding Nemo’s characters and world just right, Pixar’s in-house art team was required to take courses and audit lectures in marine biology, oceanography, and ichthyology while enrolling in scuba diving classes.

5. DOGS WERE USED AS MODELS FOR THE FISHY FACIAL EXPRESSIONS.

While the Pixar team’s extensive research on the denizens of the deep yielded a wide variety of spectacular shapes and colors perfectly suited to an animated feature, the underwater populace proved consistently lacking when it came to one anatomical component. The dull eyes of the average finned critter weren’t especially conducive to building expressive characters, so Pixar had to look elsewhere for its optical models. The crew chose one of the most openly expressive members of the animal kingdom on which to model the eyes of its fish characters: dogs.

6. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT HAD A DIFFERENT TREATMENT FOR THE BARRACUDA INCIDENT.

At first, Stanton kept the inspiration for Marlin’s overprotective attitude—the loss of his wife and all but one of their unborn children in a barracuda attack—a secret to reveal gradually through intermittent flashback sequences. Ultimately, this technique made the revelation obvious and anticlimactic while making Marlin feel substantially less likable, so the script changed.

7. MEGAN MULLALLY WAS FIRED AFTER PRODUCERS HEARD HER REAL VOICE.

In the early 2000s, Megan Mullally was best known for playing the rude and eccentric Karen Walker on Will & Grace. Chief among the character’s recognizable characteristics was her high-pitched voice, which Pixar producers apparently thought would be perfect for an animated fish. Upon hiring Mullally to voice an undisclosed character in the movie, the crew discovered that the actress’s natural voice was of average pitch and that Mullally was unwilling to reproduce “the Karen voice” for the film. As such, Mullally was dismissed from the Finding Nemo cast.

8. GILL WAS A VILLAINOUS CHARACTER IN AN EARLIER VERSION OF THE STORY.

Willem Dafoe as Gill in 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
Pixar/Disney

While the combination of somber coloration, a scowling beak, and the menacing vocals of Willem Dafoe render Nemo’s fish tank pal Gill an intimidating presence, we learn soon enough that he is in fact a good guy who has the best interests of his fellow captives at heart. The original cut of Finding Nemo was more ambiguous about Gill’s integrity, however, making him the owner of a falsified identity that he swiped from a nautical-themed children’s book housed in the dentist’s waiting room.

9. ALBERT BROOKS REPLACED ANOTHER BIG STAR.

Although Albert Brooks’s background in films like Broadcast News and Mother seems like it would have made him an obvious candidate to play the high-strung Marlin, the first actor cast in the role was William H. Macy. The Fargo star recorded his dialogue for an early screening of Finding Nemo, but producers ultimately felt that he lacked the warmth required for the role of the father fish.

10. THE DIRECTOR RECORDED ALL OF ONE CHARACTER’S DIALOGUE WHILE LYING ON A COUCH.

Stanton never intended to commit his voice to the final cut of Finding Nemo, but only to sub in as a placeholder until the right actor could be cast to play Crush, the easygoing sea turtle with the California accent. Perhaps due to his understanding of his vocal contribution as merely temporary (or maybe, in fact, to get into the “slacker” mindset of his character), Stanton recorded all of Crush’s dialogue while lying on a couch in the office of his co-director, Lee Unkrich.

11. THE CEO OF DISNEY THOUGHT FINDING NEMO WOULD BE A FAILURE.

The combination of a poorly cast Marlin, an unsympathetic Gill, and the running flashbacks made the earliest versions of Finding Nemo feel pretty dismal. Still, nobody was quite as defeatist as Michael Eisner, the Walt Disney Company's then-chief executive officer. Eisner predicted the underwater adventure would be a “reality check” for the yet unchallenged Pixar. Eisner’s only positive spin was that a commercial struggle would be helpful during contract renegotiations with the Disney subsidiary. Of course, Eisner’s judgment (and fund-cutting aspirations) came up short when Finding Nemo became Pixar’s highest grossing film—a superlative it would maintain until the release of Toy Story 3 in 2010. It has since been surpassed twice more: first by 2015's Inside Out, then in 2016 by its own sequel, Finding Dory (which maintains the top position).

12. THE MOVIE’S POPULARITY LED TO POPULATION STRESS FOR CLOWNFISH.

Albert Brooks and Alexander Gould in 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
Pixar/Disney

Children were so taken with the adorable Nemo following the release of the film that demand for clownfish as pets instantly skyrocketed. Excessive capture and sale of the ocean dwellers led to a steep decline in the organic population of the species; some natural habitats, such as the waters surrounding Vanuatu, saw a 75 percent drop in clownfish numbers.

13. THE MOVIE ALSO LED TO SOME MISGUIDED FISH LIBERATION MOVEMENTS.

On the other hand, Finding Nemo’s anti-tank agenda did provoke a few ecologically-minded viewers to set their aquatic captives free. Unfortunately, not everyone took the necessary steps to ensure that their newly liberated pet fish were being transported to amenable waters. Certain marine communities suffered from the introduction of predatory and venomous species in unnatural locales, resulting in, once again, ecological imbalance. 

14. SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS RELEASED “ANTI-FLUSHING” PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS FOLLOWING FINDING NEMO.

While tanked fish Gill’s proclamation that “all drains lead to the ocean” contains a grain of truth, the movie fails to acknowledge the fact that a flushed fish is unlikely to survive a trip down the typical drain. Water treatment company JWC Environmental and Australia’s Marine Aquarium Council were among the companies that offered public warnings that flushing would prove fatal to any pet fish. The former organization suggested that a movie that realistically portrayed a household sea creature’s voyage through the municipal sewage system would be more accurately titled Grinding Nemo.

15. A CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR UNSUCCESSFULLY ACCUSED FINDING NEMO'S CREATORS OF PLAGIARISM.

Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Nicholas Bird in 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
Pixar/Disney

A year before the release of Finding Nemo, French author Franck Le Calvez self-published the children’s book Pierrot Le Poisson-Clown, featuring a young clownfish on a quest to reunite with his estranged mother. (In fact, Le Calvez first wrote the story as a screenplay in 1995, but was unable to generate interest in the concept.) After Pixar’s admittedly similar tale hit theaters, Le Calvez sued the studio for copyright infringement, but lost two lawsuits and was ordered to pay $80,000 in damages and court costs.

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