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10 Royal Facts About Babar the Elephant

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From a bedtime story shared between a mother and her sons to a children’s series that has sold over 10.1 million copies in the U.S., Babar and his adventures have captivated children for generations. Learn more about the French pachyderm king with the following facts.

1. THE BOOK SERIES IS WRITTEN BY TWO AUTHORS: A FATHER AND HIS SON.

Jean de Brunhoff was working as a painter in France when his two sons brought to him a story of a resilient elephant who runs away to the city after his mother is shot by a hunter. Jean published The Story of Babar in 1931 and wrote seven books about the elephant. His son, Laurent de Brunhoff, eventually took over the family character after his father’s death—even when his mother said there would never be another Babar book—and published an additional 35 Babar books.

2. THE CHARACTER WAS CREATED BY THE MATRIARCH OF THE DE BRUNHOFF FAMILY.

To distract his younger brother, Mathieu, from a stomach ache, de Brunhoff’s mother, Cecile, made up the story that would eventually become Babar. She later would refuse to add her name as an author on the stories. De Brunhoff says he has no memory of hearing the first story, but remembers watching his father paint the elephant (Jean is credited with adding Babar’s bowler hat and bright green suit). It was de Brunhoff’s uncles who convinced his father that Babar’s story could appeal to a wider audience.

3. THE DEATH OF BABAR’S MOTHER WAS INSPIRED BY A FAMILY MEMBER’S SAFARI.

De Brunhoff had family in both Africa and France, including a distant relation, Giselle Bunau-Varilla, who lived in Kenya. While on safari, Bunau-Varilla shot an elephant, but after Bunau-Varilla found out soon after that she was pregnant, she vowed never to hunt an elephant again. The branch of the family instead focused on conservation work and Bunau-Varilla’s daughter eventually worked for Save the Elephants.

4. DE BRUNHOFF TOOK OVER THE JOB OF COLORING THE PROOFS FOR THE BABAR STORIES WHEN HE WAS 13.

When Jean died of tuberculosis in 1937, he left two more stories about Babar that were in need of illustrations. Laurent, who was only 13, was assigned to finish the artwork, but it wasn’t until he was 21 that he wrote his first book about the character.

5. LAURENT NOW WRITES THE STORIES WITH THE HELP OF HIS WIFE, PHYLLIS ROSE.

Babar has taken some more offbeat adventures in recent years, including a story in which the elephant king and his family are swept into outer space on a rocket, one in which Babar is shipwrecked on a deserted island, and a book that reveals that elephants, in fact, have been practicing yoga for years.

6. LAURENT DE BRUNHOFF THOUGHT HE WOULD BE A PAINTER.

Laurent attended Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, the same art school as his father, with hopes of working in abstract art. However, he continued to sketch elephants in the manner of his father and eventually revived the character. "I wanted to make Babar, who was my friend, live again after the death of my father,” Laurent said in an interview with USA Today. While the father’s and son’s versions of the elephant are almost exactly the same, art critics have noted that Laurent's illustrations have more “painterly qualities.”

7. BABAR HAS BEEN CALLED THE MOST FAMOUS FRENCHMAN IN THE WORLD.

For some, more than an ambassador from an elephant kingdom, Babar shows the world what it means to be French—which includes exercising every morning before your croissant. General Charles de Gaulle famously loved the elephant because he gave the world “a certain idea of France,” and former cultural minister Frédéric Mitterrand bestowed a medal of arts and letters upon Laurent.

8. THE CHARACTER’S NAME WAS BORROWED FOR A MALWARE PROGRAM.

Last year, researchers into cyber espionage released details of a malware program, known as “Babar,” which some thought to be the work of the French. The software was capable of listening into conversations on Skype and MSN and Yahoo! messengers, logging keystrokes and watching which websites users visited.

9. BABAR HAS FACED SOME CONTROVERSY.

In East Sussex, England, the Babar books were removed from library shelves because of their portrayal of black Africans, which some critics deemed racist. Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman leads a movement of thought against the books because, according to The New York Times, he sees Babar's story as "a lesson in colonialism with racist overtones."

For his part, Laurent agrees with Dorfman's assessment and has even asked the publisher to withdraw more problematic stories.

10. EVEN AT 85 YEARS OLD, THE STORIES OF BABAR LIVE ON.

For six seasons, a cartoon-version of the Babar stories was broadcast in 30 languages in more than 150 countries, which makes the series one of the most widely distributed animated shows in history. Former First Lady Laura Bush listed the book series as one of her favorites to read with young children, and the characters have made an appearance at the White House Easter Egg Roll for many years.

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The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
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Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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Check Out These 10 Fun Facts About Supermarket Sweep
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Lifetime Television

Thanks to a recent deleted SNL scene in which host Melissa McCarthy lost her mind on a segment of Supermarket Sweep, we started reminiscing about the heart-pumping, family-friendly game show back in early 2016. Back in the day, you couldn’t watch the show—which debuted in 1965—without fantasizing about reenacting it at your local grocery store. On it, pairs of contestants would race through supermarket aisles, attempting to pack their carts full of the most valuable items, in between quiz-style segments. Revivals of the series stopped filming in 2003, but there's good news for fans who can't let the dream of appearing on the game show die: Deadline reports that it's about to make a television comeback. Relive the high of Supermarket Sweep with these fun facts about the game show.

1. THE MEAT WAS FAKE.

In a special for Great Big Story, former host David Ruprecht confirmed, “All the meat was fake.” Former contestant Mike Futia reaffirmed the fact to The A.V. Club saying, “Everything that was meat, cheese—all that was fake because they’d get the meat juices on their sweaters. And that’s not telegenic, so they wanted to get rid of that.”

2. A LOT OF THE FOOD WAS EXPIRED.

“We shot for about five months every year and they used the same food over and over again,” Ruprecht admitted to Great Big Story. “A lot of the food, having been thrown in and out of the carts for three, four months had gotten pretty beaten up.”

3. WINNERS DIDN’T GET TO KEEP THE FOOD.

Given what Ruprecht said above, contestants were probably thankful that they didn’t get to keep the food. And according to Great Big Story, they didn’t get to keep their sweatshirts either. “They got $5000 but they didn’t get their sweatshirts,” said Ruprecht.

4. BEAUTY PRODUCTS COULD WIN YOU THE GAME.

Pro tip: Heading for the beauty aisle instead of the meat freezer could very well have won you the game. “Those who [used this strategy] won,” Ruprecht told Great Big Story. “Instead of five hams and five turkeys that load up your cart, you ... get five hair colorings ... get five of all these expensive health and beauty products. With one cart, you could beat everybody.”

5. FOR CONTESTANTS, PERSONALITY WAS KEY.

Supermarket Sweep was a TV show, after all, and vibrant personalities have always made for good television. “When we were going through the process, they put you in a room with a few other people and ask you sample questions,” former contestant Mike Futia recalled to The A.V. Club. “And you could sense it was because they wanted to see if you were slouching and things like that ... I felt pretty confident that we’d get the callback to have a taping.”

6. WINNING DURING THE TAPING DIDN’T GUARANTEE YOU’D ACTUALLY COLLECT YOUR WINNINGS.

“It was a syndicated show,” Mike Futia explained to The A.V. Club, “so they taped all the episodes, and you didn’t even know if you were going to get the money if you won unless it aired, which could be six months later, because they then had to sell it.” On the bright side: Even if you didn’t collect, at least you could always say you played Supermarket Sweep.

7. SHOOTING DAYS LASTED 12 TO 14 HOURS.

Most of that time consisted of waiting around. “We literally got in a room when we got called back for the actual taping, and they said, ‘Be prepared to be here. It could be a 12- to 14-hour day because there are three pairs of people on each show,’” Futia explained to The A.V. Club. “That day, I want to say they were taping something like eight shows. So you had 48 people just in a room, and the first thing they tape is your introduction where you run down to the camera and everybody gets introduced to [host] David Ruprecht ... Then they call you back and you tape the first segment.”

8. CONTESTANTS WORE DICKEYS.

Talk about dated fashion: “By winning, we didn’t get to keep the sweaters because we got paid,” Futia recalled to The A.V. Club. “But if you lost, your consolation prize was that you got to keep the sweater—but you didn’t get to keep the dickey.”

9. CONTESTANTS GOT TO MAP OUT THEIR ROUTES.

To prevent contestants from looking like chickens running around with their heads cut off, the show allowed them some time to strategize. “When you’re taping the show before the …  Supermarket Sweep round, you get about 10 minutes or so to walk around the supermarket so you can see the prices,” Futia told The A.V. Club. “Everything has a price on it, so ... you map out what you’re going to do. And it’s the weirdest things that were expensive, like hoses.”

10. THE “SUPERMARKET” WAS REALLY, REALLY SMALL.

“A little bit bigger than a bodega in the city” was how Futia described the supermarket set that was built for the 1990s revival of the series. “It’s very tiny. It looks huge, but it’s small. Even in the aisles, you had to be careful if you and your cameraman were running and another group was coming down that aisle. You had to make sure you were all the way to the side or there could have been an accident.”

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