No matter how many times you re-watch Spirited Away (2001), some aspects of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated classic will always remain a mystery. Twitter user @0910noncha wasn’t content with accepting this as part of the film’s fantastical charm. So the Spirited Away fan wrote to animation house Studio Ghibli with some questions, and received a detailed letter back addressing each one, Rocket News 24 reports.
Three big questions were posed in the initial letter: Why did Chihiro’s parents turn into pigs? What was the food they ate that made it happen? And how was Chihiro able to pass her final test?
A Studio Ghibli employee wrote back saying that the transformation of Chihiro’s parents was meant to symbolize greed. Miyazaki reportedly cited the greed he witnessed during Japan’s recession in the 1980s as his inspiration for the metaphor. As the letter details, when someone becomes a pig in the film, he or she eventually develops the “body and soul of a pig” instead of turning back into a human. The respondent explained that this applies to greed in the real world as well as in the fantasy realm.
One of the movie’s greatest mysteries comes at the end, when Chihiro guesses correctly that none of the pigs she’s presented with are her parents. According to the letter, she was able to do so using “special abilities” obtained in the spirit world:
“Chihiro, as a 10-year-old girl, could understand the difference because she had overcome difficulties and had managed to acquire the ‘energy to live’ – which is something everyone can do naturally.”
The writer explains that Chihiro’s journey to harness this so-called “energy to live” by confronting her fears makes up the core of the film.
The remaining question about what food turned Chihiro’s parents into pigs still remains a bit of a mystery. The employee writes: “It’s not actually made clear what the food is—it’s just ‘very delicious,’” then goes on to hint that the feast was possibly laid out on purpose as a trick to lure humans who had lost their way.
While some filmmakers are hesitant to explain their work after it has been released, Miyazaki and the rest of Studio Ghibli have been especially generous to fans. Earlier this year, the director confirmed a long-held fan theory about his 1997 film, Princess Mononoke. Hopefully these tidbits will be enough to sustain fans on the off-chance that Miyazaki ever retires for good.
On March 8, 1993, Beavis and Butt-head made its debut on MTV—to the delight of young viewers, and the annoyance of their parents. While some people considered it the end of the civilized world, TIME Magazine critic Kurt Andersen lauded its irreverence, writing that it “may be the bravest show ever run on national television.”
From its original 200-episode run to the books (yes, plural), movie, and soundtrack it inspired—plus its brief return in 2011—Beavis and Butt-head has not lost any of its original charm. On the 20th anniversary of its original finale, here are some things you might not have known about Mike Judge's animated headbangers.
1. BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD GOT THEIR START ON LIQUID TELEVISION.
Mike Judge went from teaching himself animation and playing bass for Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets to having one of his cartoons played on MTV’s animation showcase program Liquid Television in one year’s time. Cartoon short Milton, the origin of the character from his live-action cult classic Office Space, appeared in a 1991 episode. In 1992, Beavis and Butt-head made their loud, violent first impression in his short Frog Baseball. MTV then paid Judge for the rights to the two characters and ordered 65 four-minute cartoons.
2. MTV PULLED THE SHOW SOON AFTER IT BEGAN.
Shortly after greenlighting Beavis and Butt-head, MTV had to halt production. Not because of any controversy, but because Judge and his animation staff couldn’t keep up with the demand for new material, forcing MTV to stop airing the show entirely two weeks after it premiered. It made its return more than six weeks later on May 17th with “Scientific Stuff” and “Good Credit.”
3. MIKE JUDGE IMPROVISED MOST OF THE DIALOGUE DURING THE MUSIC VIDEOS.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Judge voiced virtually all of the characters on the show and was one of just a handful of people who made up the writing staff. He opted to add to his workload by winging it when it came to Beavis and Butt-head's taste-making opinions on music. Time was saved on the animation for the music video commentaries by having an editor take footage from earlier episodes and sync it up with new mouth positions.
4. BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD WERE NAMED AFTER KIDS THAT LIVED IN MIKE JUDGE’S NEIGHBORHOOD.
Bobby Beavis was “kind of an athletic kid” that lived three blocks from Judge while he was in college, and not similar to the character with the Metallica shirt christened with his surname. There was also a 12-year-old who called himself “Iron Butt” (because he claimed to never get injured from a kick to the posterior) who had a friend called “Butt-head.”
5. ALL REFERENCES TO FIRE WERE REMOVED PERMANENTLY AFTER THE SHOW WAS BLAMED FOR A DEATH.
In October 1993, a 5-year-old boy set fire to his Ohio home, which killed his 2-year-old sister. Their mother claimed Beavis’s fire-making and blatant spoken love of arson were responsible. MTV’s quick response was to only air the show after 10:30 p.m. and to wipe all fire references from all of the previous episodes—only fans who taped the offending episodes on their VCRs have proof that the word was ever uttered. “Fire” was banned for the rest of the series’ original run, but it was allowed again in 2011.
6. A SENATOR REFERRED TO BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD AS ‘BUFFCOAT AND BEAVER.’
Soon after the fatal fire accident, Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina, spoke at a Senate hearing as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Hollings attempted to argue that TV broadcasters needed to be forced to clamp down on their offensive programming and used the most controversial show at the time as a specific example ... or at least he tried to.
7. PRISON OFFICIALS IN OKLAHOMA BANNED THE SHOW.
There were also documented reports of South Dakota schools outlawing Beavis and Butt-head-related clothing.
8. MARLON BRANDO WATCHED THE SHOW.
According to Mike Judge, Johnny Depp told him that Depp and Marlon Brando would imitate Beavis and Butt-head, with Depp as Beavis and Brando as Butt-head. This occurred when the two worked together during 1994’s Don Juan DeMarco.
9. MATT GROENING WAS A FAN, TOO.
The creator of The Simpsons claimed that he liked the show because it took “the heat off Bart Simpson being responsible for the downfall of western civilization.”
10. DAVID LETTERMAN WAS THE VOICE OF THE MOTLEY CRUE ROADIE WHO MIGHT BE BUTT-HEAD’S FATHER IN BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA .
David Letterman was credited as Earl Hofert, which is actually the name of Letterman's uncle. Letterman was a fan of the show and had the Highland teens on The Late Show in 1996 to promote their movie.
11. BEAVIS ALMOST SAID SOMETHING TOO CLEVER.
In 1993, Judge toldThe New York Times that one of the big challenges of the show was to keep the two in character and, therefore, dumb. An original line had Beavis telling his classmates that they had “Beavis envy” because he received a school pass. It was cut because it almost made the 14-year-old with the underbite too smart. In 2011, Judge admitted to “cheating” and probably making them smarter than they are during the music video commentaries.
12. DARIA WAS CREATED WITH JANEANE GAROFALO AND DARLENE CONNOR IN MIND.
The character of Daria was created after then-MTV president Judy McGrath expressed concern about the show’s lack of smart or female characters. Garofalo and Sara Gilbert’s Roseanne character were the models for Daria Morgendorffer. Morgendorffer was the maiden name of the show writer David Felton's mother, and was deemed perfect for the new character.
13. THE FRIENDS ARE HANGING OUT AT BUTT-HEAD’S HOUSE.
While it isn’t officially canon, Judge responded to a reporter’s assumption that the two were always at Butt-head’s abode by saying he “always imagined” that to be the case.
14. BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD WERE FEATURED ON THE COVER OF ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE THREE TIMES.
Their first appearance in 1993 ended up being the best-selling issue of the magazine that year.
15. THE TWO STARRED IN THEIR OWN LIVE-ACTION THANKSGIVING SPECIAL WITH KURT LODER.
The night before their (first) series finale, “Beavis and Butt-head Are Dead," MTV put Beavis and Butt-head in charge of broadcasting the Thanksgiving Day Parade, then later put them at a dinner table with the veteran MTV News broadcaster. The one hour special only aired on television once.
16. THE SHOW ENDED DUE TO CREATIVE BURNOUT.
In 1997, toward the end of the show's original run, Judge was running on empty. "I actually wanted to stop a little sooner," Judge told the Los Angeles Times. "We've done over 200 episodes [since 1993]. After the second season, I thought, 'How are we gonna do this anymore?' I was completely burnt out. I got a second wind in season three, and again in season five. But I don't know, you do it as fast as you can, get it on the air as fast as you can, and there's never a break. I felt, like, why not retire before it gets too stale or whatever?"
17. KANYE WEST WANTED TO BE ON THE SHOW.
In contrast to the more innocent 1990s, Judge and his team had to get authorization from all of the parties involved in a music video to have it appear on Beavis and Butt-head when it returned in 2011. Kanye West wanted to have one of his videos featured on the show, but another credited songwriter on the undisclosed track declined immortality.
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 Thanksgiving—wrote 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.”