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10 Literary References in Cartoons You Might Have Missed

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Used as both a teaching device and a subtle nod to adult viewers, literary references have long been a keystone feature in cartoons. Here are some you might have missed the first time around. 

1. JOHNNY BRAVO // CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY 

In the episode, "Panic in Jerky Town," Johnny Bravo wins a trip to a beef jerky factory. Beef jerky is Johnny’s favorite food and his extensive knowledge of the food product impresses the factory owner, who decides to name him the successor of Jerky Town. After finding his companion’s clothing in the machinery, Johnny mistakenly concludes that the jerky is actually made out of humans and announces it during what would have been his inauguration. He later finds out the secret ingredient is healthy soy, which is a nod to the movie, Soylent Green. 

Watch it: DailyMotion

2. LOONEY TUNES // DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE 

In its original, near-40-year run, Looney Tunes covered a lot of ground. The classic cartoon parodied everything from Richard Wagner's opera Der Ring des Nibelungen to Vincent Price. Even Bugs Bunny himself is partly based on Clark Gable’s character in It Happened One Night (1934). The episode “Hyde and Hare,” which aired in 1955, turns its sights on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The plot of the cartoon uses the basic gist of the book (doctor drinks a potion and becomes a monster), but uses it for comedic purpose. Bugs Bunny convinces a kindly doctor to bring him home, only to discover he drank a potion that turns him into a green-skinned, red-eyed monster.

After some hijinks, Bugs and the doctor decide to dump out the rest of the potion. When they discover the vial is empty, the doctor accuses Bugs of drinking it. Bugs leaves, insulted, only to turn into a monstrous rabbit as he walks away. 

Watch it: DailyMotion

3. THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY AND MANDY // HARRY POTTER 

For the first episode of the second season of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, the show decided to blend the plots of Harry Potter and Animal House. The result is a fun episode called “Toadblatt's School of Sorcery.” In it, the titular characters enter a wizard’s school that closely resembles Hogwarts with some comical differences—the Sorting Hat is now a Squid Hat, the potions class also teaches Spanish, and Harry Potter is depicted as the geeky Nigel Planter. Each of the houses is treated like a competitive frat house, with one particular house considered the ire of the frog dean, reminiscent of Animal House.

Watch it: YouTube

4. STEVEN UNIVERSE // A WRINKLE IN TIME

Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe bears many similarities to Madeleine L'Engle's iconic science fiction novel, A Wrinkle in Time. As Tumblr user leeshajoy points out, the character Connie can be seen holding a copy of the book in the intro. There have also been a lot of convincing parallels between the book and the show: Both have a shy but intelligent female character and a social but misfit male character that have some romantic tension. The two team up with three supernatural beings that look like human women to fight against an alien world that values conformity. The show’s creator, Rebecca Sugar, has not gone on record to confirm or deny that the show is based on L'Engle's work, but Connie’s book has since changed to another science fiction novel—likely Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness

Watch it: Amazon

5. RUGRATS // THE GREATEST GIFT 

You might better know Philip Van Doren Stern's short story The Greatest Gift better for the movie it inspired: It’s a Wonderful Life. The movie has been subject to many parodies and spoofs over the years, including one by Rugrats. In the episode “Chuckie’s Wonderful Life,” the audience gets to see what life would be like without the gentlest Rugrat—and it turns out things would be pretty grim. A quick fly through town with Chuckie’s “gardening angel” shows that all the characters are in trouble without a moral compass: Phil and Lil become destructive monsters while their parents huddle in the corner, Tommy becomes homeless, and Angelica forces Tommy’s parents to continuously feed her cookies. Meanwhile, Chuckie’s dad becomes a hermit with only a sock puppet for company. By the end of the episode, Chuckie—clearly as disturbed by the scenes as the audience—learns his place among his friends and family and happily returns home.

Watch it: Amazon 

6. PINKY AND THE BRAIN // AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS 

In the Pinky and the Brain episode, “Around The World In 80 Narfs,” the title characters set out to become world travelers. Because the episode takes place in 19th century England, The Brain assumes that the quickest way to take over the world is to become Prime Minister, and the easiest way to do that is to first become the president of an explorer’s club, which is how they end up attempting to circle the world in less than 80 days. The ill-fated trip leaves the mice stuck in a horse and buggy and unable to claim the presidency, leading to their usual phrase, "What are we going to do tomorrow night?"

Watch it: Amazon 

7. THE SIMPSONS // LORD OF THE FLIES

 

The Simpsons have parodied a ton of classic literature, including Flowers for Algernon, The Shining, and The Crucible. Perhaps one of their best known parodies is “Das Bus,” which mirrors the story of Lord of the Flies. After a bus accident, a group of Springfield students are left stranded on an island. Bart takes on the character Ralph by blowing into a conch shell and asserting himself as the leader. The kids survive on snack food retrieved from the bus until waking up to find the remainder of it gone. Milhouse—who is possibly The Simpsons's version of Piggy—is blamed thanks to his nacho breath and large stomach.

After a trial by Bart and Lisa deems him innocent, the other children attempt to murder Milhouse and chase him into a cave where they find a boar with a bag of chips on his tusk. Milhouse is declared innocent and the stranded children decide to kill and eat the boar.

Watch it: Simpsons World

8. PHINEAS AND FERB // MOBY DICK 

In “The Belly of the Beast,” the Disney show decides to take on the iconic tale of Moby Dick—with just a dash of Jonah and the Whale. In Danville, the town celebrates Harbor Day, where they reenact a story of a shark that terrorized the town before being driven out by the townspeople. While watching preparations, Phineas and Ferb decide they want to build a better and more advanced shark for the event. Candace sees the mechanical shark being lowered into the water and decides to chase after it to prove to her parents that her brothers were up to no good. She—along with her friend and an Ahab-like boat captain—pursue the shark. Eventually the captain gets eaten by the robotic shark, who is confused about why the interior doesn’t look more “insidey.” 

As Candace continues to chase after the shark, it becomes clear that her impossible mission to bust her brothers mirrors Ahab’s futile desire to seek revenge on an animal. Just as she’s about to expose her brothers, a vat of taffy explodes and Candace is once again left empty-handed.

Watch it: Amazon

9. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS // 1984 

In the episode “Back to the Past,” SpongeBob and Patrick accidentally alter their timeline using Mermaid Man’s time machine. The future looks a lot like George Orwell’s idea of it in 1984. Mermaid Man’s nemesis, Man Ray, has taken over with a number of posters that resemble the Big Brother signs, stating “He's Watching You."

Watch it: Amazon 

10. DEXTER’S LABORATORY // THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME

When Dexter’s Laboratory wasn’t following around the boy genius, it was showing us the heroic escapades of The Justice Friends and Dexter’s pet monkey. In “Dial M for Monkey,” the secret superhero is kidnapped by a lion-like alien named Huntor. Similar to the hunter in Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game, Huntor has grown bored of his usual game and is looking for a challenge. After stripping Monkey of his powers, he’s dropped in a game preserve. Using guerilla tactics, Monkey manages to destroy the preserve and get away. Huntor also makes a small appearance in Samurai Jack with a now robotic elephant. 

Watch it: YouTube 

BONUS: RICK AND MORTY // NEEDFUL THINGS

As an adult-geared show, Rick and Morty isn't from anyone’s childhood. Still, it’s worth mentioning the episode “Something Ricked This Ways Comes,” which is a fun spin on Stephen King’s Needful Things. The episode plays out a little differently than the book, thanks to its self-aware characters, who quickly realize the nefarious shopkeeper is the devil. In the book, the town devolves into chaos, but in the show, Rick and Summer get ripped and beat up the shopkeeper. 

Watch it: Amazon

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
15 Things You Might Not Know About Jules Verne
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Jules Verne, widely regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction, wrote some of literature's most famous adventure novels, including seminal works like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in 80 Days. In addition to helping pioneer a new genre of writing, the French author also sailed the world, had a career as a stockbroker, fell in love with his cousin, and was shot by his nephew. Here are 15 facts you probably didn't know about him.

1. HE GREW UP SURROUNDED BY SHIPS.

On February 8, 1828, Pierre and Sophie Verne welcomed their first child, Jules Gabriel, at Sophie's mother's home in Nantes, a city in western France. Verne's birthplace had a profound impact on his writing. In the 19th century, Nantes was a busy port city that served as a major hub for French shipbuilders and traders, and Verne's family lived on Ile Feydeau, a small, man-made island in a tributary of the Loire River. Verne spent his childhood watching ships sail down the Loire and imagining what it would be like to climb aboard them [PDF]. He would later work these early memories of maritime life into his writing.

2. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS COUSIN.

Verne began writing poetry at just 12 years old. As a teenager, he used poetry as an outlet for his burgeoning romantic feelings. Verne fell in love with his cousin, Caroline Tronson, who was a year and a half older than him. He wrote and dedicated poems to Tronson, gave her presents, and attended dances with her. Unfortunately, Tronson didn't reciprocate her younger cousin's feelings. In 1847, when Verne was 19 and Tronson was 20, she married a man two decades her senior. Verne was heartbroken.

3. HIS FATHER PRESSURED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

While Verne had been passionate about writing since his early teens, his father strongly encouraged young Jules to follow in his footsteps and enter the legal profession. Soon after Tronson's marriage, Verne's father capitalized on his son's depression, convincing him to move to Paris to study law.

Verne graduated with a law degree in 1851. But he kept writing fiction during this period, and continued to clash with his father over his career path. In 1852, Verne's father arranged for him to practice law in Nantes, but Verne decided to pursue life as a writer instead.

4. HE LIVED IN PARIS DURING A TUMULTUOUS TIME.

Verne's time in Paris coincided with a period of intense political instability. The French Revolution of 1848 broke out soon after Verne moved to the city to study law. Though he didn't participate, he was strikingly close to the conflict and its turbulent aftermath, including the coup d'état that ended France's Second Republic. "On Thursday the fighting was intense; at the end of my street, houses were knocked down by cannon fire," he wrote to his mother during the fighting that followed the coup in December 1851. Verne managed to stay out of the political upheaval during those years, but his writing later explored themes of governmental strife. In his 1864 novella The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution, Verne wrote about the struggles of ordinary and noble French people during the French Revolutionary Wars, while his novel The Flight to France recounted the wartime adventures of an army captain in 1792.

5. HE BECAME A STOCKBROKER TO PAY THE BILLS.

In May 1856, Verne was the best man at his best friend's wedding in Amiens, a city in northern France. During the wedding festivities, Verne lodged with the bride's family and met Honorine de Viane Morel, the bride's sister. He developed a crush on Morel, a 26-year-old widow with two kids, and in January 1857, with the permission of her family, the two married.

There was one big problem. Verne had been writing plays for Paris theaters, but being a playwright didn't pay the bills. Verne needed a respectable income to support Morel and her daughters. Morel's brother offered Verne a job at a brokerage, and he accepted, quitting his theater job to become a stockbroker at the Paris Bourse. Writing was never too far from Verne's mind, though. He woke up early each day to write and research for several hours before heading to his day job.

6. HIS ADVENTURE NOVELS WERE PART OF A SERIES …

A caricature of Jules Verne on the sea floor with fantastic sea creatures on the cover of a magazine.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Modern readers probably think of Verne's most famous books as distinct entities, but his adventure novels were actually part of a series. In the early 1860s, Verne met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, an established publisher and magazine editor who helped Verne publish his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon. This novel served as the beginning of Voyages Extraordinaires, a series of dozens of books written by Verne and published by Hetzel. Most of these novels—including famous titles like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—appeared in installments in Hetzel's magazine before being published in book form.

7. … THAT PROVIDED HIM WITH A STEADY STREAM OF INCOME.

Starting in 1863, Verne agreed to write two volumes per year for Hetzel, a contract that provided him with a steady source of income for decades. Between 1863 and 1905, Verne published 54 novels about travel, adventure, history, science, and technology for the Voyages Extraordinaires series. He worked closely with Hetzel on characters, structure, and plot until the publisher's death in 1886. Verne's writing wasn't limited to this series, however; in total, he wrote 65 novels over the course of his life, though some would not be published until long after his death.

8. HE DREW INSPIRATION FROM HIS OWN SAILING ADVENTURES.

During the 1860s, Verne's career was taking off, and he was making good money. So in 1867, he bought a small yacht, which he named the Saint Michel, after his son, Michel. When he wasn't living in Amiens, he spent time sailing around Europe to the Channel Islands, along the English Coast, and across the Bay of Biscay. Besides enjoying the peace and quiet at sea, he also worked during these sailing trips, writing most of the manuscripts for Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea on his yacht. As he earned more money, he replaced the Saint Michel with a larger boat that he called the Saint Michel II. A few years later, he bought a third vessel, the Saint Michel III, a steam yacht that he hired a crew of 10 to man on long voyages to Scotland and through the Mediterranean.

9. HE'S ONE OF THE MOST TRANSLATED AUTHORS IN THE WORLD …

Verne wrote in French, but his works have always had an international appeal. Since the 1850s, his writing has been translated into approximately 150 languages—making him the second most translated author ever. He has appeared in translation even more often than William Shakespeare. He is second only to Agatha Christie, who holds the world record.

10. … BUT NOT ALL OF THOSE TRANSLATIONS ARE ACCURATE.

Although Verne wrote primarily for adults, many English-language publishers considered his science fiction writing to be juvenile and marketed his books to children. Translators dumbed down his work, simplifying stories, cutting heavily researched passages, summarizing dialogue, and in some cases, nixing anything that might be construed as a critique of the British Empire. Many translations even contain outright errors, such as measurements converted incorrectly.

Some literary historians now bemoan the shoddy translations of many of Verne's works, arguing that almost all of these early English translations feature significant changes to both plot and tone. Even today, these poor translations make up much of Verne's available work in English. But anglophone readers hoping to read more authentic versions of his stories are in luck. Thanks to scholarly interest, there has been a recent surge in new Verne translations that aim to be more faithful to the original texts.

11. HE HAD MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Starting in his twenties, Verne began experiencing sudden bouts of extreme stomach pain. He wrote about his agonizing stomach cramps in letters to family members, but he failed to get a proper diagnosis from doctors. To try to ease his pain, he experimented with different diets, including one in which he ate only eggs and dairy. Historians believe that Verne may have had colitis or a related digestion disorder.

Even more unsettling than the stomach pain, Verne suffered from five episodes of facial paralysis over the course of his life. During these painful episodes, one side of his face suddenly became immobile. After the first attack, doctors treated his facial nerve with electric stimulation, but he had another attack five years later, and several more after that. Recently, researchers have concluded that he had Bell's palsy, a temporary form of one-sided facial paralysis caused by damage to the facial nerve. Doctors have hypothesized that it was the result of ear infections or inflammation, but no one knows for sure why he experienced this.

Verne developed type-2 diabetes in his fifties, and his health declined significantly in the last decade of his life. He suffered from high blood pressure, chronic dizziness, tinnitus, and other maladies, and eventually went partially blind.

12. HIS MENTALLY ILL NEPHEW SHOT HIM IN THE LEG …

In March 1886, a traumatic incident left the 58-year-old Verne disabled for the rest of his life. Verne's nephew Gaston, who was then in his twenties and suffering from mental illness, suddenly became violent, to Verne's detriment. The writer was arriving home one day when, out of the blue, Gaston shot him twice with a pistol. Thankfully, Verne survived, but the second bullet that Gaston fired struck the author's left leg.

13. … LEAVING HIM WITH A PERMANENT LIMP.

After the incident, Gaston was sent to a mental asylum. He wasn't diagnosed with a specific disorder, but most historians believe he suffered from paranoia or schizophrenia.

Verne never fully recovered from the attack. The bullet damaged his left leg badly, and his diabetes complicated the healing process. A secondary infection left him with a noticeable limp that persisted until his death in 1905.

14. HIS WORK CONTRIBUTED TO THE RISE OF STEAMPUNK.

Verne's body of work heavily influenced steampunk, the science fiction subgenre that takes inspiration from 19th century industrial technology. Some of Verne's characters, as well as the fictional machines he wrote about, have appeared in prominent steampunk works. For example, the TV show The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne explored the idea that Verne actually experienced the fantastic things he wrote about, and Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea appeared as a character in the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

15. MANY OF HIS PREDICTIONS WERE SURPRISINGLY SPOT-ON.

Some of the technology Verne imagined in his fiction later became reality. One of the machines that Verne dreamed up, Nautilus—the electric submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—came to life years after he first wrote about it. The first installment of the serialized Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was published in 1869, and the first battery-powered submarines were launched in the 1880s. (Similar submarine designs are still in use today.)

In addition, Verne's Paris In The Twentieth Century contains several surprisingly accurate technological predictions. Written in 1863, the dystopian novel imagines a tech-obsessed Parisian society in 1960. Verne wrote about skyscrapers, elevators, cars with internal combustion engines, trains, electric city lights, and suburbs. He was massively ahead of his time. He even wrote about a group of mechanical calculators (as in, computers) that could communicate with one another over a network (like the Internet). Pretty impressive for a guy born in 1828.

But Verne's influence goes beyond science fiction, steampunk, or real-world technology. His writing has inspired countless authors in genres ranging from poetry to travel to adventure. As Ray Bradbury wrote, "We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne."

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TASCHEN
Everything You Need to Know About Food in One Book
TASCHEN
TASCHEN

If you find yourself mixing up nigiri and sashimi at sushi restaurants or don’t know which fruits are in season, then this is the book for you. Food & Drink Infographics, published by TASCHEN, is a colorful and comprehensive guide to all things food and drink.

The book combines tips and tricks with historical context about the ways in which different civilizations illustrated and documented the foods they ate, as well as how humans went from hunter-gatherers to modern-day epicureans. As for the infographics, there’s a helpful graphic explaining the number of servings provided by different cake sizes, a heat index of various chilies, a chart of cheeses, and a guide to Italian cold cuts, among other delectable charts.

The 480-page coffee table book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $56, is written in three languages: English, French, and German. The infographics themselves come from various sources, and the text is provided by Simone Klabin, a New York City-based writer and lecturer on film, art, culture, and children’s media.

Keep scrolling to see a few of the infographics featured in the book.

An infographic about cheese
TASCHEN

An infographic about cakes
Courtesy of TASCHEN

An infographic about fruits in season
Courtesy of TASCHEN

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