How Slim Goodbody Helped Kids Discover Their Inner Superhero

Slim Goodbody had all the superhero staples: a secret headquarters, a robot sidekick, and an identity he kept hidden behind a shimmering outfit. He even had a spandex costume that materialized behind a puff of smoke when he was called to action—though it’s safe to say he was the only superhero of his time that resembled a page from an anatomy textbook.

The main mission of the "Superhero of Health" wasn’t fighting bad guys (though he did that as well); it was teaching kids to understand and care for their bodies. John Burstein, the man responsible for bringing Slim Goodbody to life, didn’t initially intend to make a career out of the character. "When I was younger my goal was to be a Shakespearean actor," he told mental_floss. Burstein studied drama at Hofstra University, and in 1973 the 23-year-old took a job as a performer aboard the Floating Hospital in New York City. Playing guitar in front of audiences was something he had been doing since age 13. Using his musical talents, he was able to present health concepts to children in an engaging package.

The response to his songs was so positive that Burstein felt inspired to devise a character to go along with the act. "I wanted to do a body suit but I didn’t want it to be gory,” he said. “I wanted it to be superhero-esque." To create the style he was going for, he started with a leotard purchased from a dance supply company. An artist painted organs onto the suit (with him in it) and set the design through a special heating process (without him in it). The result was Slim Goodbody, possibly the only character in history capable of pulling off the skinless look.

From there, his one-man show moved beyond the Floating Hospital. He began performing at local schools, and in 1976, he landed the gig that would launch his television career. On Captain Kangaroo, Burstein played Slim (alter ego: Chief Hale and Hearty) in biweekly installments of "The Adventures of Slim Goodbody in Nutri-City." Slim Goodbody and his friends fought to uphold the laws of good health and protect the citizens of Nutri-City from villains like the mind-controlling mad scientists Sarah Bellum and Lobe. His four-year stint on the show proved to viewers and networks alike that health-centered programming didn’t have to be bland. Burstein’s work caught the attention of PBS, and in 1980 they offered him his own series titled The Inside Story With Slim Goodbody.

If Captain Kangaroo introduced Slim Goodbody to kids at home, Inside Story brought him into their classrooms. Teachers loved the show for its information-packed episodes told through catchy musical numbers. But unlike other mnemonic devices meant to remind students which parts go where, the songs in Inside Story made biology feel personal. During "The Smart Parts: The Inside Story of Your Brain and Nervous System" Slim walks through a tinsel-like webbing of nerves, singing: "You couldn’t laugh, read, think, dance, dream, have fun, or sing. Without your brain you couldn’t do anything."

And during the tune "Down, Down, Down: The Inside Story of Digestion," he tells the viewer: "When you were a baby your body was smaller, now you grow bigger and very much taller. Because your body takes food you chew and changes some of it into you." Slim was the face of the show, but by placing the wonders of the body center stage, any kid watching could feel like they had a starring role.

In addition to Inside Story and Captain Kangaroo, Slim Goodbody made appearances on Nickelodeon, Good Morning America, The Richard Simmons Show, and various other talk shows. By 1985 he told The Morning Call that "millions, maybe tens of millions" of children knew him by sight.

Even after making it big on TV, John Burstein never abandoned Slim's live performance roots. Over the past four decades he’s played the character everywhere from school assemblies to symphony shows. The 66-year-old continues to get on stage today, albeit much less often than he used to (for him that means 10 to 12 shows a year). He still performs to sold-out theaters of students, thanks in part to the teachers who grew up watching Slim when they were kids.

Burstein’s act has evolved since the 1970s: The visuals he incorporates into the show now include computer animation, and his songs have been remixed to sound "a little hipper." His body suit, originally a glorified art project, has been upgraded several times over the years. Slim’s latest outfit comes from the same costume designers behind Star Trek: The Next Generation and is worth roughly $4000.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the message Burstein hopes to impart on his young audience. According to him, the purpose of Slim Goodbody is to create "some positive feeling about what it means to be a human being." When asked what he wishes kids to get out of his shows, he said, "I hope they take away a sense of how wonderful they are, how wonderful the body is, and that possessing a body that’s so wonderful means there’s something marvelous about themselves."

Disney Enterprises, Inc.
9 Things You Might Not Know About National Treasure
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Released in 2004 to mixed critical reviews but a positive audience response, director Jon Turteltaub’s National Treasure has grown into a perfect rainy-day film. Stumble upon it on a streaming service or a cable channel and the fable about historian-slash-codebreaker Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) excavating the truth about a reputed treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence will suck you in. Check out some facts about the movie’s development, its approach to historical accuracy, and why we haven't seen a third film.


Originally planned for a summer 2000 release, National Treasure—based on a concept by Disney marketing head Oren Aviv and DreamWorks television executive Charles Segars—had a Byzantine plot that kept it in a prolonged pre-production period. Nine writers were hired between 1999 and 2003 in an attempt to streamline the story, which sees code-breaker Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage) pursuing the stash of riches squirreled away by Benjamin Franklin and his Freemason cohorts. Filming finally began in summer 2003 when Marianne and Cormac Wibberley got the script finalized. Turteltaub, who spent three years in development before finally starting production, told Variety that “getting Cage was worth [the wait].”


Nicolas Cage and Justin Bartha in 'National Treasure' (2004)
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Fact and fiction blur considerably in National Treasure, which uses history as a jumping-off point for some major jumps in logic. While it’s not likely the Declaration of Independence has a secret treasure map written on it, Franklin and other Founding Fathers were actually Freemasons. Of the 55 men who signed the document, nine or more belonged to the society.


It can be tricky to secure permission to film on government property, which is why producers of National Treasure probably considered themselves fortunate when they discovered that Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farm fame had built a perfect replica of Independence Hall on his land in Buena Park, California back in the 1960s. The production used it for a scene requiring Cage to run on the Hall's roof, a stunt that was not likely to have been approved by caretakers of the real thing.


One of Cage’s cryptic clues in the film is reading a time of 2:22 on the clock depicted on the image of Independence Hall on the $100 bill. Bills in circulation at that time really did have an illustration that pointed to that exact hour and minute, although it was changed to 10:30 for the 2009 redesign. There’s no given reason for why those times were picked by the Treasury Department, leaving conspiracy theorists plenty to chew on.


Speaking with The Washington Post in 2012, guards and escorts for the National Archives reported that the National Treasure films have led visitors to ask questions that could only have been motivated by seeing the series. One common query: whether or not there really is a secret map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. “I call it ‘that’ movie,” guard Robert Pringle told the paper. “We get a lot of questions about the filming.”


Both Cage and director Jon Turteltaub attended Beverly Hills High School in the late 1970s and shared a drama class together. While promoting a later film collaboration, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Cage revealed that Turteltaub had actually beat him out for the lead in a stage production of Our Town. Cage was relegated to two lines of dialogue in a bit part.


Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger in 'National Treasure' (2004)
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

On a press tour for the film, Cage told reporters that he and co-star Diane Kruger bonded by going out at night and singing karaoke. “We’d go and karaoke from time to time and sort of blow it out and be completely ridiculous, which helped, I think,” he said. “I think it was some Rage Against the Machine, AC/DC and some Sex Pistols.”


Popular films often have the residual effect of drawing interest to the real-life locations or subject matter incorporated into their plots. Mackinac Island, site of the 1982 romance Somewhere in Time, has become a perennial tourist spot. The same influence was true of National Treasure and its 2007 sequel, both of which apparently contributed to an uptick in attendance at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.


It’s been over a decade since National Treasure: Book of Secrets hit theaters, but Cage is still optimistic fans of the series could see another installment. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2016, the actor said a third film was in development, with the convoluted writing process slowing things down.

“I do know that those scripts are very difficult to write, because there has to be some credibility in terms of the facts and fact-checking, because it was relying on historical events,” Cage said. “And then you have to make it entertaining. I know that it’s been a challenge to get the script where it needs to be. That’s as much as I’ve heard. But they’re still working on it.”

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How Accurate are Hollywood Medical Dramas? A Doctor Breaks It Down
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy get a lot of things wrong when it comes to the procedures shown on the screen, but unless you're a doctor, you'd probably never notice.

For its latest installment, WIRED's Technique Critique video series—which previously blessed us with a dialect coach's critique of actors' onscreen accents—tackled the accuracy of medical scenes in movies and TV, bringing in Annie Onishi, a general surgery resident at Columbia University, to comment on emergency room and operating scenes from Pulp Fiction, House, Scrubs, and more.

While Onishi breaks down just how inaccurate these shows and movies can be, she makes it clear that Hollywood doesn't always get it wrong. Some shows, including Showtime's historical drama The Knick, garner praise from Onishi for being true-to-life with their medical jargon and operations. And when doctors discuss what music to play during surgery on Scrubs? That's "a tale as old as time in the O.R.," according to Onishi.

Other tropes are very obviously ridiculous, like slapping a patient during CPR and telling them to fight, which we see in a scene from The Abyss. "Rule number one of CPR is: never stop effective chest compressions in order to slap or yell words of encouragement at the patient," Onishi says. "Yelling at a patient or cheering them on has never brought them back to life." And obviously, taking selfies in the operating room in the middle of a grisly operation like the doctors on Grey's Anatomy do would get you fired in real life.

There are plenty of cliché words and phrases we hear over and over on doctor shows, and some are more accurate than others. Asking about a patient's vitals is authentic, according to Onishi, who says it's something doctors are always concerned with. However, yelling "We're losing him!" is simply for added TV drama. "I have never once heard that in my real life," Onishi says.

[h/t WIRED]