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10 Fun Facts About Muppet Treasure Island

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By the time Muppet Treasure Island came along in 1996, five other adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island had already been made. Nevertheless, it’s notable for being the first adaptation to cast an amphibian as Captain Smollett—and the first to provoke a lawsuit from the makers of Spam.

1. WE COULD’VE GOTTEN A KING ARTHUR MOVIE INSTEAD.

After the success of The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Jim Henson Productions decided to cast Kermit and friends in another period piece. “There were a whole bunch of ideas out there,” Kirk Thatcher, a writer who had worked with the company on the ambitious ABC sitcom Dinosaurs, said. Of those suggestions for a new Muppet flick, Thatcher's two favorites were “Treasure Island and a King Arthur story with medieval dragons and knights.” Once the former idea was chosen, Thatcher co-wrote the script alongside veteran Muppet performer Jerry Juhl and screenwriter James V. Hart.

2. ORIGINALLY, GONZO AND RIZZO WERE GOING TO BE THE LEADS.

The first draft split the Jim Hawkins character into two. “We had written Treasure Island with Gonzo and Rizzo as ‘Jim’ and ‘Hawkins,’” director Brian Henson recalled. “It never really worked, because, ultimately, Treasure Island is a story about a boy becoming a man. Kind of hard to do that with a rat and a whatever.” The reunified Jim Hawkins role was later claimed by the first actor who auditioned for it: teenager Kevin Bishop, in his feature film debut. Meanwhile, Gonzo and Rizzo were recast as his sidekicks.

3. TIM CURRY COPIED A FAMILY MEMBER’S VOICE WHILE PLAYING LONG JOHN SILVER.

“Well, certainly the inspiration for the way that [Long John Silver] sounds was my grandfather,” Curry revealed on the film’s DVD commentary. “Long John Silver talks exactly like [he] used to talk.”

4. FRANK OZ’S HECTIC SCHEDULE PRECLUDED HIM FROM PUPPETEERING MISS PIGGY AND FOZZIE BEAR.

Often described as Jim Henson’s “right-hand man,” puppetry maestro Frank Oz was an integral part of The Muppet Show. On that groundbreaking program, he originated Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and countless other characters. But a hectic schedule made it impossible for him to fully participate in Muppet Treasure Island. Though he voiced Fozzie and Miss Piggy, puppeteer Kevin Clash handled almost all of their physical movements.

5. OZ WASN’T (INITIALLY) A FAN OF THE RUNNING “MR. BIMBO” GAG.

Apparently, Frank Oz didn’t like all of the dialogue he was supposed to recite. Throughout Muppet Treasure Island, Squire Trelawney (a.k.a. Fozzie) converses with Mr. Bimbo—an imaginary friend who lives in his finger. According to Henson, he was told by Oz that “This joke will never work … I just don’t even get it, it’s such a stupid joke.” Nevertheless, he eventually warmed up to the gag and cited it as one of his favorite jokes in the film.

6. THE FILM’S MAIN SONGWRITERS ALSO CO-WROTE THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS’ “YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVIN’ FEELIN'.”

To create the film’s original songs, Henson tapped a couple of pop music legends: husband-and-wife composer Barry Mann and lyricist Cynthia Weil—a songwriting duo that has worked with artists from Tony Orlando to Dolly Parton. In 1964, they helped write The Righteous Brothers’ hit “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”—which Broadcast Music Incorporated has called the most-played song of the 20th century.   

7. THERE WAS AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT INVOLVING MOTION SICKNESS MEDICATION.

Many sequences were filmed on indoor boat sets. Beneath each one was a huge, custom-built gimbal rig. To simulate the motion of the ocean, powerful hydraulics would gently rock these vessels. This illusion worked, but the director was worried about potential side effects. “I thought people were going to get seasick,” Henson admitted on the DVD’s making-of documentary. So, before shooting Long John’s introductory scene, the director made everyone take anti-nausea pills. Alas, his cure backfired and the medication ended up triggering a drowsiness epidemic. “No one could stay awake—including Tim [Curry],” Henson explained. “I remember he looked at me at one point and said ‘I’m going to kill you.’” Once the effects of the medication wore off, the shoot continued as planned. 

8. THERE’S A SMALL NOD TO HENRY KISSINGER.

While searching for the treasure map in Billy Bones’ trunk, Gonzo and Rizzo happen upon a copy of Diplomacy. Written by Henry Kissinger in 1994, this bestselling book has been called “the seminal work” on international negotiation. As it happens, Alex Rockwell, who headed project development for Muppet Treasure Island, is his daughter-in-law.

9. PUBESCENT VOICE CRACKS COMPLICATED KEVIN BISHOP’S BIG SONG.

Jim Hawkins’ first number is “Something Better,” a hopeful song in which he, Gonzo, and Rizzo fantasize about seeing the world. During his audition, Bishop sang the song beautifully. However, as the actor told Den of Geek, his “voice had broken” by the time shooting began several months later. Thus, the filmmakers had no choice but to dub over Bishop with the recording from his aforementioned tryout.

10. THE CREATORS OF SPAM SUED THE FILMMAKERS.

Miss Piggy plays Benjamina Gunn, a tribal leader and (of course) Smollett/Kermit’s estranged girlfriend. Among her fellow residents on Treasure Island is a wild boar high priest—whose followers call him “Spa’am.” Get it? So did the Hormel Foods Corporation, the Minnesota-based makers of Spam, who claimed that Muppet Treasure Island had infringed on their trademark. As such, the company wasted no time in suing Jim Henson Productions.

Reporters soon nicknamed the odd trial “Spam v. Spa’am.” Hormel’s legal team accused Henson of “intentionally [portraying] the Spa’am character to be evil in porcine form.” Moreover, it was feared that the “nasty pagan brute” might harm canned meat sales. Ultimately, the court ruled in Henson’s favor. “One might think,” opined the appeals court, “that Hormel would welcome the association with a genuine source of pork.”

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8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up in a new Animal Planet series, Cat Vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

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Animals
10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.

1. THEY’RE SEA CUCUMBERS.

The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”

2. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN.

Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.

3. THEY EAT WITH MUCUS-COVERED TENTACLES.

Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.

4. THEY’RE ACTIVE AT NIGHT.

Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.

5. THE MOVE ON TUBULAR FEET.

The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.

6. SOME FISH HANG OUT IN SEA APPLES' BUTTS.

Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.

7. WHEN THREATENED, SEA APPLES CAN EXPAND.

Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.

8. THEY CAN EXPEL THEIR OWN GUTS.

Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.

9. SEA APPLES LAY TOXIC EGGS.

These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.

10. THEY'RE NOT EASILY CONFUSED WITH THIS TREE SPECIES.

Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.

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