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15 Fun Facts About Salute Your Shorts

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Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts. And when we think about you, it makes me wanna fart. I mean, I hope we never part. Sadly, fans did have to part with Camp Anawanna and Salute Your Shorts—the Nickelodeon comedy lasted just two seasons from 1991-1992. Though there were only 25 episodes, the series became a cult hit.

1. IT WAS BASED ON A BOOK.

The show's creator, Steve Slavkin, co-wrote a book called Salute Your Shorts: Life at Summer Camp that was published in 1986. Cut to a few years later, when Slavkin was working as a writer in Los Angeles. He heard that Nickelodeon was looking for kid-focused sitcom ideas and pitched them a television version of his book. They loved the idea of a show based around kids at summer camp and gave him the green light to shoot a pilot.

2. AT ONE POINT, ALL OF THE CAMPERS HAD TO BE RECAST.

After the pilot was shot, the show got stuck in development for about a year. Kids can change quite a bit in just a year, and by the time Nickelodeon decided to move forward with the series, most of them were skewing too old. All Anawanna campers had to be recast—with the exception of one. “Donkeylips was the only holdover from the first show,” Slavkin said.

3. DR. KAHN WAS VOICED BY STEVE SLAVKIN.

Camp Supervisor Dr. Kahn, whom we hear but never see, was invented merely to fill time on the show. “I would go into editing and the show would be, like, a minute short,” Slavkin explained. To fill the minute, Slavin took stock photography, then would “just sit in a booth and make up stuff right there as the clock was ticking and record it. There was no genius involved—it was literally just to fill up the time.”

4. THERE WAS ALMOST NO HAIR OR MAKEUP ON SET.

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According to Slavkin, he wanted his cast to be as much like normal kids as possible. “I was looking for kids that had no acting experience. We put almost no makeup on the kids. We wanted their hair crazy, we wanted buck teeth—we wanted them to be kids.” In fact, when Megan Berwick, the actress who played Z.Z. Ziff, had to get braces in real life, Slavkin wrote it into the script.

5. THE WORD “ANAWANNA” HAS MEANING.

It’s supposed to sound like “I don’t wanna,” which may reflect how those kids felt about going to summer camp ... or listening to Ug the counselor.

6. THE SHOW WAS FILMED AT FRANKLIN CANYON PARK.

Some of the exteriors were shot at Los Angeles's Franklin Canyon Park. Franklin Lake was the go-to for any lake-based scenes. And even if you weren’t a Salute Your Shorts fan, you may recognize Franklin Lake as Opie’s fishing hole on The Andy Griffith Show, or as the lagoon from which the Creature from the Black Lagoon once rose.

7. VENUS DEMILO REALLY WENT TO THAT SUMMER CAMP.

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Some of the outdoor camp scenes took place at Griffith Park Boys’ Camp, also in Los Angeles, and Venus De Milo—who played Telly Radford—had attended the girls’ camp at the same location. "The cool thing was, we’d go to the Batcaves—where they shot the original Batman—and I had already been there," DeMilo recalled. "That feeling of familiarity with the location—it was like camping when we were doing the show.”

8. THERE WERE A LOT OF NOTES FROM THE NETWORK.

Because it was a kids’ show, the Standards and Practices department was pretty strict. One scene Slavkin remembers in particular involved the kids sneaking out of their cabins to get candy. “We got a note: Can’t have candy. Why? Childhood obesity. So what were we supposed to do? They should sneak out and get fruit. I’ve never seen a kid risking a severe punishment for a ripe tangelo. But if that’s what they wanted, that’s what they would get. So there’s an episode of Salute Your Shorts where the kids sneak out ... for fruit.”

9. ONE DIRECTOR WAS CHOSEN BECAUSE OF HIS WORK ON PARKER LEWIS CAN’T LOSE.

Nickelodeon was looking for young directors who had a unique vision for the show. Director Bryan Spicer was brought in after Nickelodeon execs spotted a unique shot he created for the short-lived sitcom Parker Lewis Can’t Lose—a guitar going down a wire from the school.

10. THERE’S AN ODD EASTER EGG IN A FEW EPISODES

According to Michael Bower, who played Eddie "Donkeylips" Gelfen, there’s a rubber chicken with a cigarette in its mouth in several episodes. “Danny [Cooksey, who played Bobby Budnick] was a huge Zappa fan,” Blake Sennett confirmed. “There was ... a rubber chicken reference on one of those records. So that’s where the rubber chicken reference came from.”

11. THE KIDS DIDN’T ALL GET ALONG.

As with any group of tweens and teens, the young actors had conflicts with each other, especially when it came to sharing dressing rooms. “They enjoyed me, but I don’t think they got my humor, because I was sort of a weird, fat kid,” Bower said. “Tim Eyster [who played Sponge Harris] and me, we had contradicting egos. That was a conflict, sharing a dressing room with him.”

Eyster, who now goes by Trevor, agreed: “I felt very ostracized. For me, going through that geeky, nerdy, awkward prepubescent phase happened in front of the camera. Whether in high school or on set, I was this lanky—well, lanky would imply tall, and I wasn’t even tall—awkward-bowl-haircut mama’s boy with glasses that had a kinda high voice.”

12. THE THEME SONG COMPOSER HAS A FEW MORE HITS UNDER HIS BELT.

The theme song is part of the reason people are so nostalgic for the show—and we have composer Ed Alton to thank for that. An industry veteran, Alton has also composed music for Head of the Class, The Single Guy, Suddenly Susan, Nikki, My Boys, and Whitney.

It has been said, by the way, that the Salute Your Shorts song is the only TV theme song in history that contains the word “fart.”

13. SOME OF THE ACTING IN THE THEME SONG WAS IMPROVISED.

When Michael Bower hits Venus DeMilo in the face, she didn’t know it was coming. He was mad at her for something that happened earlier in the day, and when they were told to raise their hands at the end of the song, he decided he would smack her in the face to exact his revenge. He did throughout several takes. “You can see it in her face at the beginning of every episode,” Bower said. “She looks right at me when I hit her in the face. It was great.”

The moment where Budnick pushes Sponge’s elbow off of his shoulder was also improv. “[It] would have happened off screen, too,” Eyster said.

14. THE WAY IT WAS SHOT WAS GROUNDBREAKING FOR A KIDS’ SHOW.

“We were doing a half-hour film every week on Salute Your Shorts, for all intents and purposes," producer Courtney Conte said. "Steve Slavkin had the directors push it in terms of directorial style.”

“We wanted to bring film techniques to kids’ television,” Slavkin said. “It was a single-camera show that was shot on video and put through the film-look process to give kids mini-movies about summer camp that were scored from beginning to end. We gave them a whole new look they’d never had before.”

15. IT WAS SHOT ON AN EXTREMELY LOW BUDGET.

“We were doing the show for $180,000 an episode, which is absolutely no money for a five-day shoot,” Conte said. “That’s what I used to spend on craft service for Roseanne."

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Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
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15 Must-See Holiday Horror Movies
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Families often use the holidays as an excuse to indulge in repeat viewings of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Elf. But for a certain section of the population, the yuletide is all about horror. Although it didn’t truly emerge until the mid-1970s, “holiday horror” is a thriving subgenre that often combines comedy to tell stories of demented Saint Nicks and lethal gingerbread men. If you’ve never seen Santa slash someone, here are 15 movies to get you started.

1. THANKSKILLING (2009)

Most holiday horror movies concern Christmas, so ThanksKilling is a bit of an anomaly. Another reason it’s an anomaly? It opens in 1621, with an axe-wielding turkey murdering a topless pilgrim woman. The movie continues on to the present-day, where a group of college friends are terrorized by that same demon bird during Thanksgiving break. It’s pretty schlocky, but if Turkey Day-themed terror is your bag, make sure to check out the sequel: ThanksKilling 3. (No one really knows what happened to ThanksKilling 2.)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Fittingly, the same man who brought us A Christmas Story also brought us its twisted cousin. Before Bob Clark co-wrote and directed the 1983 saga of Ralphie Parker, he helmed Black Christmas. It concerns a group of sorority sisters who are systematically picked off by a man who keeps making threatening phone calls to their house. Oh, and it all happens during the holidays. Black Christmas is often considered the godfather of holiday horror, but it was also pretty early on the slasher scene, too. It opened the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and beat Halloween by a full four years.

3. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This movie isn’t about Santa Claus himself going berserk and slaughtering a bunch of people. But it is about a troubled teen who does just that in a Santa suit. Billy Chapman starts Silent Night, Deadly Night as a happy little kid, only to witness a man dressed as St. Nick murder his parents in cold blood. Years later, after he has grown up and gotten a job at a toy store, he conducts a killing spree in his own red-and-white suit. The PTA and plenty of critics condemned the film for demonizing a kiddie icon, but it turned into a bona fide franchise with four sequels and a 2012 remake.

4. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (2010)

This Finnish flick dismantles Santa lore in truly bizarre fashion, and it’s not easy to explain in a quick plot summary. But Rare Exports involves a small community living at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, a major excavation project, a bunch of dead reindeer, and a creepy old naked dude who may or may not be Santa Claus. Thanks to its snowy backdrop, the movie scored some comparisons to The Thing, but the hero here isn’t some Kurt Russell clone with equally feathered hair. It’s a bunch of earnest kids and their skeptical dads, who all want to survive the holidays in one piece.

5. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

To All a Goodnight follows a by-now familiar recipe: Add a bunch of young women to one psycho dressed as Santa Claus and you get a healthy dose of murder and this 1980 slasher flick. Only this one takes place at a finishing school. So it’s fancier.

6. KRAMPUS (2015)

Although many Americans are blissfully unaware of him, Krampus has terrorized German-speaking kids for centuries. According to folklore, he’s a yuletide demon who punishes naughty children. (He’s also part-goat.) That’s some solid horror movie material, so naturally Krampus earned his own feature film. In the movie, he’s summoned because a large suburban family loses its Christmas cheer. That family has an Austrian grandma who had encounters with Krampus as a kid, so he returns to punish her descendants. He also animates one truly awful Jack-in-the-Box.

7. THE GINGERDEAD MAN (2005)

“Eat me, you punk b*tch!” That’s one of the many corny catchphrases spouted by the Gingerdead Man, an evil cookie possessed by the spirit of a convicted killer (played by Gary Busey). The lesson here, obviously, is to never bake.

8. JACK FROST (1997)

No, this isn’t the Michael Keaton snowman movie. It’s actually a holiday horror movie that beat that family film by a year. In this version, Jack Frost is a serial killer on death row who escapes prison and then, through a freak accident, becomes a snowman. He embarks on a murder spree that’s often played for laughs—for instance, the cops threaten him with hairdryers. But the comedy is pretty questionable in the infamous, and quite controversial, Shannon Elizabeth shower scene.

9. ELVES (1989)

Based on the tagline—“They’re not working for Santa anymore”—you’d assume this is your standard evil elves movie. But Elves weaves Nazis, bathtub electrocutions, and a solitary, super grotesque elf into its utterly absurd plot. Watch at your own risk.

10. SINT (2010)

The Dutch have their own take on Santa, and his name is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands via steamship each year with his racist sidekick Zwarte Piet. But otherwise, he’s pretty similar to Santa. And if Santa can be evil, so can Sinterklaas. According to the backstory in Sint (or Saint), the townspeople burned their malevolent bishop alive on December 5, 1492. But Sinterklaas returns from the grave on that date whenever there’s a full moon to continue dropping bodies. In keeping with his olden origins, he rides around on a white horse wielding a golden staff … that he can use to murder you.

11. SANTA’S SLAY (2005)

Ever wonder where Santa came from? This horror-comedy claims he comes from the worst possible person: Satan. The devil’s kid lost a bet many years ago and had to pretend to be a jolly gift-giver. But now the terms of the bet are up and he’s out to act like a true demon. That includes killing Fran Drescher and James Caan, obviously.

12. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE (2015)

Another Santa slasher is on the loose in All Through the House, but the big mystery here is who it is. This villain dons a mask during his/her streak through suburbia—and, as the genre dictates, offs a bunch of promiscuous young couples along the way. The riddle is all tied up in the disappearance of a little girl, who vanished several years earlier.

13. CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

Several years before Silent Night, Deadly Night garnered protests for its anti-Kringle stance, Christmas Evil put a radicalized Santa at the center of its story. The movie’s protagonist, Harry Stadling, first starts to get weird thoughts in his head as a kid when he sees “Santa” (really his dad in the costume) groping his mom. Then, he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the holiday season, deludes himself into thinking he’s Santa, and goes on a rampage. The movie is mostly notable for its superfan John Waters, who lent commentary to the DVD and gave Christmas Evil some serious cult cred.

14. SANTA CLAWS (1996)

If you thought this was the holiday version of Pet Sematary, guess again. The culprit here isn’t a demon cat in a Santa hat, but a creepy next-door neighbor. Santa Claws stars B-movie icon Debbie Rochon as Raven Quinn, an actress going through a divorce right in the middle of the holidays. She needs some help caring for her two girls, so she seeks out Wayne, her neighbor who has an obsessive crush on her. He eventually snaps and dresses up as Santa Claus in a ski mask. Mayhem ensues.

15. NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Because the holidays aren’t over until everyone’s sung “Auld Lang Syne,” we can’t count out New Year’s Eve horror. In New Year’s Evil, lady rocker Blaze is hosting a live NYE show. Everything is going well, until a man calls in promising to kill at midnight. The cops write it off as a prank call, but soon, Blaze’s friends start dropping like flies. Just to tie it all together, the mysterious murderer refers to himself as … “EVIL.”

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10 Surprising Ways Senses Shape Perception
The American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History

Every bit of information we know about the world we gathered with one of our five senses. But even with perfect pitch or 20/20 vision, our perceptions don’t always reflect an accurate picture of our surroundings. Our brain is constantly filling in gaps and taking shortcuts, which can result in some pretty wild illusions.

That’s the subject of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience,” a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Mental Floss recently took a tour of the sensory funhouse to learn more about how the brain and the senses interact.

1. LIGHTING REVEALS HIDDEN IMAGES.

Woman and child looking at pictures on a wall

Under normal lighting, the walls of the first room of “Our Senses” look like abstract art. But when the lights change color, hidden illustrations are revealed. The three lights—blue, red, and green—used in the room activate the three cone cells in our eyes, and each color highlights a different set of animal illustrations, giving the viewers the impression of switching between three separate rooms while standing still.

2. CERTAIN SOUNDS TAKE PRIORITY ...

We can “hear” many different sounds at once, but we can only listen to a couple at a time. The AMNH exhibit demonstrates this with an audio collage of competing recordings. Our ears automatically pick out noises we’re conditioned to react to, like an ambulance siren or a baby’s cry. Other sounds, like individual voices and musical instruments, require more effort to detect.

3. ... AS DO CERTAIN IMAGES.

When looking at a painting, most people’s eyes are drawn to the same spots. The first things we look for in an image are human faces. So after staring at an artwork for five seconds, you may be able to say how many people are in it and what they look like, but would likely come up short when asked to list the inanimate object in the scene.

4. PAST IMAGES AFFECT PRESENT PERCEPTION.

Our senses often are more suggestible than we would like. Check out the video above. After seeing the first sequence of animal drawings, do you see a rat or a man’s face in the last image? The answer is likely a rat. Now watch the next round—after being shown pictures of faces, you might see a man’s face instead even though the final image hasn’t changed.

5. COLOR INFLUENCES TASTE ...

Every cooking show you’ve watched is right—presentation really is important. One look at something can dictate your expectations for how it should taste. Researchers have found that we perceive red food and drinks to taste sweeter and green food and drinks to taste less sweet regardless of chemical composition. Even the color of the cup we drink from can influence our perception of taste.

6. ... AND SO DOES SOUND

Sight isn’t the only sense that plays a part in how we taste. According to one study, listening to crunching noises while snacking on chips makes them taste fresher. Remember that trick before tossing out a bag of stale junk food.

7. BEING HYPER-FOCUSED HAS DRAWBACKS.

Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to disappear? If you can’t recall the feeling, watch the video above. The instructions say to keep track of every time a ball is passed. If you’re totally absorbed, you may not notice anything peculiar, but watch it a second time without paying attention to anything in particular and you’ll see a person in a gorilla suit walk into the middle of the screen. The phenomenon that allows us to tune out big details like this is called selective attention. If you devote all your mental energy to one task, your brain puts up blinders that block out irrelevant information without you realizing it.

8. THINGS GET WEIRD WHEN SENSES CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.

Girl standing in optical illusion room.

The most mind-bending room in the "Our Senses" exhibit is practically empty. The illusion comes from the black grid pattern painted onto the white wall in such a way that straight planes appear to curve. The shapes tell our eyes we’re walking on uneven ground while our inner ear tells us the floor is stable. It’s like getting seasick in reverse: This conflicting sensory information can make us feel dizzy and even nauseous.

9. WE SEE SHADOWS THAT AREN’T THERE.

If our brains didn’t know how to adjust for lighting, we’d see every shadow as part of the object it falls on. But we can recognize that the half of a street that’s covered in shade isn’t actually darker in color than the half that sits in the sun. It’s a pretty useful adaptation—except when it’s hijacked for optical illusions. Look at the image above: The squares marked A and B are actually the same shade of gray. Because the pillar appears to cast a shadow over square B, our brain assumes it’s really lighter in color than what we’re shown.

10. WE SEE FACES EVERYWHERE.

The human brain is really good at recognizing human faces—so good it can make us see things that aren’t there. This is apparent in the Einstein hollow head illusion. When looking at the mold of Albert Einstein’s face straight on, the features appear to pop out rather than sink in. Our brain knows we’re looking at something similar to a human face, and it knows what human faces are shaped like, so it automatically corrects the image that it’s given.

All images courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History unless otherwise noted.

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