30 Fast & Furious Facts for the Ultimate Fan

Do you live your life a quarter mile at a time, just like Dom Toretto? In celebration of the 15th anniversary of The Fast and the Furious, the first installment in the franchise, here are some facts about the first six adventures of Dom and his crew.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

1. THE STORY WAS INSPIRED BY A MAGAZINE ARTICLE.

The May 1998 issue of Vibe magazine featured an article by Ken Li titled “Racer X” that chronicled illegal street racing in Queens, New York. Producers optioned the article for a movie adaptation that became The Fast and the Furious.

2. THE FILM'S TITLE WAS PURCHASED FROM LEGENDARY B-MOVIE DIRECTOR ROGER CORMAN.

Throughout filming, the movie had the working title Redline—which in racing refers to the maximum rate of speed a car can go—before the filmmakers settled on calling it The Fast & The Furious. There was only one problem: That title was owned by B-movie director Roger Corman, who produced a racing movie of the same name in 1955. Instead of having the filmmakers pay for the rights to the name, Corman traded the movie title for some stock footage owned by Universal Studios.

3. THE MOVIE HAS GARNERED SOME FAMILIAR AND UNFAMILIAR COMPARISONS.

The filmmakers of The Fast and the Furious pitched the movie as West Side Story with cars instead of singing, and also incorporated themes and situations found in movies like the surfing action classic Point Break and the undercover crime drama Donnie Brasco.

Director Rob Cohen modeled the film’s third act chases through the Los Angeles hills on similar San Francisco-set scenes in the 1968 car-chase classic Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. Cohen loved the movie so much that he cast actor Paul Walker because he thought he resembled Bullitt’s lead actor.    

FUN FACT: Eagle-eyed fans of this movie and Point Break will notice that Dom and Brian visit a restaurant called Neptune’s Net about midway through the movie. The real-life restaurant, located along Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway, is the same restaurant where Lori Petty's character, Tyler, works in Point Break

4. THEY USED REAL STREET RACERS FOR MOST OF THE RACE SCENES.

Cohen (who visited real illegal street races in preparation for directing the movie and who can also be seen in a small cameo as the pizza delivery guy trying to get through the crowd of cars during the first racing scene) enlisted the help of 200 souped-up cars driven by actual illegal street racers for the initial racing scenes.

5. THE REAL ACTORS PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL … KIND OF.

In order to have the real actors behind the wheel of cars going upwards of 80 to 100 miles per hour, a special rig was built by second unit director and stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers that the filmmakers dubbed the “Mic Rig.” It consisted of a high-powered truck with a long chassis in the back on which the bodies of the custom cars in the movie could be interchanged. A stunt driver drove the high-speed truck while the actors were behind the wheel of the dummy car in back, which made it look like they were really driving at dangerous speeds. 

END CREDIT SEQUENCE: Dom can be seen evading the cops and driving through Baja, Mexico. This footage and the 1970 Chevelle SS he drives will be seen again eight years later in the fourth installment of the franchise, Fast & Furious

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

1. IT’S TECHNICALLY THE THIRD MOVIE (CHRONOLOGICALLY).

A six-minute short film called the Turbo-Charged Prelude was made in 2003 and bridges the gap between the events of the first and second movies. The short shows Walker as O’Connor evading police after the first movie and making his way across the country to Miami, winning countless street races along the way. Actress Minka Kelly (in an uncredited role) stars as the woman who helps him.

2. TWO PEOPLE FROM THE FIRST MOVIE DECIDED NOT TO RETURN.

Vin Diesel declined to appear in the sequel despite being offered $25 million to reprise his role because he was not happy with the script. Instead he and director Rob Cohen, who also didn’t return for the sequel, made the 2002 extreme sports star/secret agent movie, xXx. In the final drafts of the script, Dom’s character was refashioned into Tyrese Gibson’s character, Roman Pearce. It’s the only movie in the Fast & Furious franchise in which Diesel does not appear. 

John Singleton, previously known for making movies like Boyz n the Hood and the remake of Shaft, stepped into the director’s seat for 2 Fast 2 Furious, which was his first PG-13-rated movie. Singleton would bring back a few people he had worked with previously: Gibson (who plays Roman) appeared in Singleton’s 2001 movie Baby Boy; Cole Hauser (who plays the villain) appeared in his 1995 movie Higher Learning; and Mark Boone Junior (who has a small role as a corrupt cop) appeared in the 1997 movie Rosewood

3. SINGLETON HAD THREE SPECIFIC INSPIRATIONS FOR HIS SEQUEL.

He attempted to base the tone and the aesthetic of the movie on Japanese anime, an updated version of Speed Racer cartoons from the ‘60s, and the Playstation video game series “Gran Turismo.” 

4. THEY USED SOME PRETTY NOTABLE LOCATIONS.

The movie shot on location in Miami, Florida. The South Beach house owned by Hauser’s villain, Carter Verone, once belonged to Sylvester Stallone. At the time of filming, however, the house was owned by Singleton’s friend, who let the production shoot there for free. 

5. THE ACTORS DID THEIR OWN STUNTS … SOMETIMES.

Paul Walker, who returned as the cop-turned-outlaw Brian O’Connor for the sequel and who goes by the street name “Bullitt” after one of the inspirations for the first installment, actually did some of his own car stunts in the movie. 

The skid into frame in the Nissan Skyline GT-R following his character’s first race at the beginning of the movie was done by Walker himself, and the high-speed 180-degree turn in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII during the highway chase at the end of the movie was Walker's work as well. 

FUN FACT: In the highway chase after the Ford Mustang gets crushed by the tractor trailer truck, the Chevy Corvette crashing into the wreckage was a mistake and wasn’t supposed to happen, but they kept it in the movie anyway. 

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

1. IT’S THE THIRD MOVIE IN THE SERIES, BUT THE SIXTH MOVIE CHRONOLOGICALLY.

This may get a little technical here, but real Fastards (a.k.a. Fast fans) know that Tokyo Drift takes place after Fast & Furious 6. The character of Han is introduced and dies in Tokyo Drift, but miraculously shows up alive and well in the subsequent movie, Fast & Furious. This is because the fourth through sixth movies in the series take place chronologically before Tokyo Drift

How do we know? In a bit of retroactive continuity, the mid-credits sequence in Fast & Furious 6 shows Han’s death in the Tokyo streets is actually caused by Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham), the brother of the villain in Fast & Furious 6 who is out for revenge for his brother’s death at the hands of Dom and his crew! This means that the chronological order of the feature length movies so far is 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7. 

2. A NEW DIRECTOR TOOK OVER AND CAST FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW ROLES.

This is director Justin Lin’s first foray into the Fast & Furious saga (he would also go on to direct movies 4 through 6), and the first movie in the series to feature a new cast of characters. Lin, who started out small with his 2002 Sundance hit Better Luck Tomorrow, went on to make his first studio movie in 2006 with Annapolis before getting the Tokyo Drift gig. He populated the new movie with familiar actors: Brian Goodman (who plays Sean’s father) had previously appeared in Annapolis, while Sung Kang (who plays Han) and Jason Tobin (who plays Earl, one of Sean’s friends) both appeared in Better Luck Tomorrow (funnily enough, Annapolis also starred Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster, who also appeared in the previous and subsequent Fast movies).     

3. IT WAS A BIG-BUDGET STUDIO MOVIE THAT USED SOME INDIE TECHNIQUES TO GET CERTAIN SHOTS.

The movie was shot primarily on location in Tokyo, which doesn’t grant filming permits. So for many shots, including the ones of lead actor Lucas Black wandering around highly populated areas like Shibuya Crossing, the director and a minimal crew just shot Black amongst real pedestrians until the police shut the production down. To make sure Lin wouldn’t get into trouble or thrown in jail and have the production halted, he had the production manager trick the police by telling them that he was the director and not Lin. 

4. THE REAL DRIFT KING MAKES A CAMEO.

Although actor Brian Tee plays D.K. (a.k.a. “Drift King”) in the movie, the real-life drift king, Japanese racing legend Keiichi Tsuchiya, makes a small appearance as the fisherman in the blue jacket who makes fun of Sean as he’s learning to drift near the fish market. Tsuchiya himself performed most of the scenes of Sean learning how to drift.

5. VIN DIESEL AGREED TO DO HIS CAMEO FOR FREE, BUT UNDER ONE CONDITION.

Lin convinced Diesel to reprise his role as Dom Toretto after showing Diesel an early rough cut of Tokyo Drift. The actor would ultimately do the cameo for free but made a deal with Universal Studios: in lieu of an acting fee, Universal would have to give him and his production company the rights to the character Riddick from 2000’s Pitch Black and 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick

Diesel wanted to make a third entry in that franchise, but Universal stalled a new movie because The Chronicles of Riddick bombed at the box office. In the end, Diesel did the cameo, Universal gave him the Riddick rights, Diesel would go on to make a third Riddick movie in 2013, and he would be repositioned as the main character in the Fast franchise from then on. 

Fast & Furious (2009)

1. THEY GOT THE GANG BACK TOGETHER.

2009’s Fast & Furious was the first direct sequel to the events in the first film in the saga. Vin Diesel returned full-time after his cameo in Tokyo Drift, but also picked up the reins as the film’s producer for the first time (he’d go on to produce the subsequent films in the series as well). 

It was also the first time in eight years that Diesel, Walker, and Jordana Brewster had appeared on-screen together as their characters since the first film. Though Michelle Rodriguez returned as Letty Ortiz, Diesel is the only original cast member she shares screen time with, because her character (allegedly) dies off-screen after the opening sequence.

2. IT’S TECHNICALLY THE FIFTH MOVIE CHRONOLOGICALLY.

Diesel himself wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a 20-minute short film entitled Los Bandoleros with Rodriguez, Sun Kang, Tego Calderón, Don Omar, and Mirtha Michelle appearing again as Dom’s gang in the Dominican Republic. The film shows the backstory of how the characters came together, leading into the tanker truck heist that begins Fast & Furious

3. WALKER’S CHARACTER WAS GOING TO BE IN A VERY DIFFERENT SITUATION.

The screenwriters originally envisioned Walker’s cop character, last seen letting Diesel’s character escape police at the end of the first movie, as a convict locked up in jail. His introductory foot chase sequence was going to be a jailbreak before subsequent drafts of the screenplay changed him back into a reformed F.B.I. agent as seen in the final film. 

4. THEY HAD OPEN CASTING CALLS FOR CARS.

On top of regular actor casting calls, director Justin Lin, returning from Tokyo Drift, held open casting calls for cars to potentially appear in the film as well. They would post a meet-up place for people to bring their cars and the filmmakers would select drivers and cars for background sequences as needed. 

5. THERE WERE NO FULLY CGI CARS IN THE TUNNEL CHASE.

Contrary to popular belief, there were no fully-CGI cars in the smuggling sequences, which were inspired by real-life smuggling tunnels used by drug cartels in Guanajuato, Mexico. 

The production actually built out sparse areas to stand in for the tunnels in a large warehouse in San Pedro, California, and blocked out the paths for each actual car using orange road cones. The dirt, walls, and pillars of the smuggling tunnels were then added with CGI in post-production. 

Fast Five (2011)

1. THEY SPENT A LOT OF MONEY ON THE SET PIECES.

With Fast Five, director Justin Lin wanted to transition the series into more action-oriented territory, and wanted to outdo anything already seen in the previous movies by planning out set pieces that cost some serious cash. The train-heist sequence alone cost $25 million to create, and involved the production buying out a 600-yard stretch of train tracks in Arizona (standing in for Brazil) as well as an entire train in order to be able to destroy it.  

The studio initially told Lin the sequence would cost too much and told him to scrap the idea, but he showed them an entirely pre-visualized sequence using storyboards and computer re-creations for them to put up the money to shoot the sequence.

FUN FACT: Han's full name is "Han Seoul-Oh," an obvious nod to the Star Wars character Han Solo. His full name hadn't been previously mentioned before showing up in the background on Hobbs' team's computer screens during Fast Five.

2. LIN GOT HIS ENSEMBLE EXPERIENCE FROM DOING TV.

Though he’d directed ensembles in the previous two Fast & Furious movies and his debut movie Better Luck Tomorrow, Fast Five proved to be Lin’s biggest movie yet in terms of on-screen characters (there are 10 main characters in Dom’s gang alone). Lin attributes directing three episodes of the TV comedy Community in between Fast & Furious and Fast Five with getting him acclimated to being able to successfully shoot and keep track of such a large amount of speaking characters.

3. BRAZIL IS ACTUALLY PUERTO RICO … AND A COUPLE OF OTHER PLACES

Lin wanted to shoot entirely on location in Rio de Janeiro, but it proved too costly and dangerous. Scenes were shot in Rio (most notably the favela chase sequence), but the majority of the scenes that took place in Brazil in the movie were shot in San Juan, Puerto Rico (the vault heist) and in Atlanta (the street races). These cities were not only cheaper to shoot in, but were better suited for the safety regulations and logistical planning the production warranted for its action scenes.

FUN FACT: The setting of Fast Five is foreshadowed in the beginning of Fast & Furious when Letty tells Dom, “I hear Rio is good this time of year,” while the pair ponder where to escape to next. 

4. WE HAVE FACEBOOK TO THANK FOR HELPING CAST DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON.

Prior to creating the fifth movie in the franchise, Diesel reached out to fans on his official Facebook page asking for potential ideas of where the story could go, and someone suggested writing a role for Johnson as the bad guy. During the writing phase the filmmakers reached out to Johnson to play Hobbs (he was the only choice to play the role); he agreed to sign on, and the rest is social networking history.    

5. THE PRODUCTION GOT CRAFTY FOR THE VAULT HEIST.

The logistics of the vault heist were so difficult that, like the train sequence, the scene was almost scrapped entirely. To portray a large vault being dragged by Diesel and Walker’s characters on-screen, six separate vaults were built to accommodate certain shots that were needed, including a full-size vault and a lightweight vault that could be easily towed. 

The primary stand-in vault used was actually a shortened pick-up truck chassis with a vault-shaped case that fit over it. In essence the vault was a steerable single-driver mini-car hooked to Walker and Diesel’s cars to make it look like their characters were dragging it. 

END CREDITS SEQUENCE: Eva Mendes reprises her role as U.S. Customs Agent Monica Fuentes from 2 Fast 2 Furious to let Agent Hobbs know that Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, who was previously thought dead in Fast & Furious, is in fact alive. Rodriguez wasn’t told that her character was going to be resurrected until she saw Fast Five for herself, and the filmmakers called her after the release of the movie to ask if she would reprise her role in the next movie. Good thing she said yes!

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

1. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE LAST MOVIE IN AN UNOFFICIAL TRILOGY.

Lin, who returned for the last time as director, and screenwriter Chris Morgan envisioned the sixth installment to be the concluding movie in an unofficial story arc that began with the fourth movie, Fast & Furious. Though the series is usually lampooned because of its irregular naming conventions, they wanted to officially call it Furious Six (after Fast & Furious, and Fast Five) for a cohesive series of titles. The idea was nixed by the studio because of marketing concerns that audiences wouldn’t understand what Furious Six meant, so they made the official title Fast & Furious 6. Lin sort of won out in the end though, as the title card on the movie itself only reads Furious 6

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN TWO MOVIES.

During early stages of development, Furious 6 was initially going to be split into two installments shot simultaneously with the first entitled The Fast and the second entitled The Furious. The tank sequence would have been the end of The Fast and the plane sequence would have capped off The Furious, but eventually the storyline was whittled down enough to fit into one (extremely action-packed) movie.

3. THE TANK SEQUENCE WAS NEARLY ALL PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

Originally the tank sequence was supposed to take place in the streets of London, and the production planned to re-create 12 city blocks on a soundstage to shoot what they needed (London city officials wouldn’t grant the production access to city roads because the Olympics were happening at the same time they shot the movie, so most of the street scenes were shot in Glasgow, Scotland as a stand-in for the UK capital).

When that proved unfeasible they moved the sequence to Spain when they secured and were given free rein to shoot on a newly built and unopened stretch of highway in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Ninety percent of the shots of the tank were the real thing; other shots used a lightweight tank with a fake turret, while others used a truck outfitted with fake tank treads to get low angle shots. 

4. THE FINAL PLANE SEQUENCE WAS ALMOST IN FAST FIVE.

The harrowing sequence was originally supposed to be the ending of Fast Five, and got so far into the production process of that movie that is was storyboarded and pre-visualized before being scrapped for budgetary reasons. The leftover storyboards and pre-viz were simply grafted on to Furious 6 and updated to account for new characters and the new movie’s plot. 

5. THE RUNWAY IN THE PLANE SEQUENCE WAS EXTREMELY LONG.

Though the production used movie magic, some suspension of disbelief, and multiple passes over three weeks to shoot the final plane sequence, the runway as is in the final movie would allegedly be 28.829 miles long if calculated out correctly.   

END CREDIT SEQUENCE: Han’s death from Tokyo Drift is caused by Jason Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, the brother of Luke Evans' Furious 6 villain, Owen Shaw (who previously mentioned his brother in the scene where he confronts Dom after his street race with Letty), which leads directly into the plot of Furious 7

Additional Sources: Blu-ray special features.

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Comics
20 Things You Might Not Know About Garfield
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Everyone’s favorite lazy, lasagna-loving cat made his debut 40 years ago, but Garfield is still just as popular today. The comic strip spawned a TV show plus a number of video games, feature films, books, and, of course, holiday specials—not to mention one very memorable car window craze. We sat down with Garfield creator Jim Davis to nail down a solid list of 20 things you might not know about the wisecracking feline.

1. JIM DAVIS ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO FOCUS THE STRIP ON JON.


Courtesy of Jim Davis

“I ran some early ideas at a local paper,” Jim Davis tells Mental Floss, “to see how I felt about it and I called the strip Jon. It was about him, but he had this wise cat who, every time, came back zinging him. He always had the great payoff. At the time, I worked for T.K. Ryan—the cartoonist for Tumbleweeds—and I showed it to him and told him how every time I got to the punch line the cat zings him. And T.K. said, 'Well, what does that tell you, Jim?'" he laughs. “The strip must be about the cat. Go with it.”

2. JON WAS A CARTOONIST IN THE VERY FIRST COMIC STRIP, BUT IT WAS NEVER REALLY MENTIONED AGAIN.

“I didn’t want to tread on the fact that Jon’s a cartoonist because my biggest fear was getting a little too inside," Davis says. "That it would be a little too easy for me to write. I didn’t want to lose the readers just for my own enjoyment, or for a handful of peers. Also, I purposely gave him a job right off the top for the reason that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet never explained what Ozzie did for a living. Nobody ever knew because he was always in the house with Harriet and Ricky and David. Just hanging around. So I thought I would give Jon a job right off the top to avoid being asked what he does for a living in interviews.”

3. GARFIELD WAS NAMED AFTER DAVIS'S GRANDFATHER, JAMES A. GARFIELD DAVIS ...

... who was named after President James A. Garfield. That’s quite a connection. Now just imagine a fat, wisecracking, lasagna-eating cat as the President of the United States of America. (Sounds like a dead-ringer for William Howard Taft!)

4. GARFIELD IS SET IN DAVIS'S HOMETOWN OF MUNCIE, INDIANA, BUT THAT'S ALSO MOSTLY LEFT UNSAID.


Courtesy of Jim Davis

“I would like for readers in Sydney, Australia to think that Garfield lives next door,” Davis says. “Dealing with eating and sleeping, being a cat, Garfield is very universal. By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old. It gives me a lot more latitude for the humor for the situations.” The farm that Davis grew up on reportedly had 25 cats, several of which he based the Garfield character on.

5. DAVIS MAINTAINS COMPLETE CONTROL OVER GARFIELD'S FINAL PRODUCT, BUT HE NO LONGER DRAWS THE DAILY COMIC STRIP.

“I’m sitting here working on the writing right now,” he says. “I see gags and I work with assistants on the strip and stuff like that. We do roughs and it all filters through me so that it has one voice. We all get together occasionally in the same room and draw and work on shapes of fingers and gestures and expressions and things like that so that if any one of us draws it, you can’t tell which one did it.”

6. HE REGRETS AT LEAST ONE LICENSED GARFIELD ITEM.

According to Slate, Garfield merchandise brings in $750 million to $1 billion annually. Davis’s creation has been adapted and licensed more times than anyone could probably count, and of all of those items, there's one that Davis isn't thrilled with. “A few years ago there was a Zombie Garfield,” he says. “It was really gnarly and I thought, 'Oh, this will be fun.' So I did it and it sold okay. It was really interesting. But then I looked at it later and I go, ‘It did nothing for the character’s advancement.’ I figured I just did it because it was cool and everybody was doing it at the time. I just didn’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling after doing it. But those T-shirts go away," he laughs.

7. GARFIELD HOLDS THE GUINNESS WORLD RECORD FOR BEING THE WORLD'S MOST WIDELY SYNDICATED COMIC STRIP.

Garfield is syndicated in more than 2500 newspapers and journals. The cat also has more than 16 million fans on Facebook. That’s one seriously popular feline.

8. GARFIELD'S CHARACTER DESIGN HAS CHANGED MANY TIMES OVER THE YEARS.

There's one constant, though: The fat cat has always been—and will always be—fat. “If he lost weight, that would effectively end Garfield as we know it,” Davis says. “Garfield sends a healthy message in that he’s not perfect. He knows that and he’s cool with that. He’s happy with himself. If everybody were, there would probably be fewer disorders of all natures. He’s not perfect. In fact, he’s the imperfection in all of us underneath. I think that makes him probably easier to identify with than a slim, athletic character in the comics.”

9. DAVIS REALLY ENJOYED SCARING KIDS WITH GARFIELD'S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE.

"It was such a challenge to try to think of something that could be scary, but fortunately we got to work with animation—we could marry scary sounds with scary music and scary images, and set the stage for a scary experience," Davis says. "Even down to the use of the actor’s voice. C. Lindsay Workman [who voices the old man that tells Garfield and Odie about the vengeful ghost pirates] was just a great character actor. I think we took our time to build to a scary scene where the ghost pirates invaded the house to look for the buried treasure. We tried to throw as many elements together as possible to create a situation where, at least for a few minutes, it could create a scary situation for the young viewers."

10. CREATING THE GHOST PIRATES IN THE HALLOWEEN TV SPECIAL WAS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.

“We did it in our own art department (here at Paws, Inc.) because we wanted to make it just right,” the Garfield creator told us. “It was done with a white, chalky pencil on a rough texture so that everything would be really grainy. Back then, we animated on real film, so in order to get that glow we did what’s called a double burn. We exposed the film twice to overexpose the ghosts, and that gave it that eerie glow. We were totally in control of the process and the results turned out very well.”

11. IN 2011, A FULL-LENGTH STAGE MUSICAL CALLED GARFIELD LIVE WAS STAGED IN MUNCIE.

The musical was supposed to start touring the United States in September 2010, but was delayed until January 2011, when it premiered in Muncie. Davis wrote Garfield Live, while Michael Dansicker and Bill Meade handled the music and lyrics.

12. DAVIS LOVED THE CASTING OF BILL MURRAY AS THE VOICE OF GARFIELD IN 2004'S GARFIELD: THE MOVIE.


Muncie Magazine

“It was because of Bill Murray’s attitude [that he was cast],” Davis tells us. “It wasn’t really so much his voice. It was the fact that he embodies the attitude that Garfield has always displayed in the strip. Lorenzo [Music] obviously wasn’t a choice since he passed away years ago, and when the producers said, ‘Bill Murray would like to do the voice,’ I thought, ‘Oh, cool.’ My biggest concern about doing a CGI Garfield with live action was that people wouldn’t buy into the fact that this was our Garfield—the Garfield we’d known all these years. But I thought that as soon as they heard Bill Murray’s voice they’d get it. There will be that emotional tag going with his voice. That will establish the fact that, ‘Yes, this character has attitude.’”

13. THERE'S A GREAT LINK BETWEEN GARFIELD VOICE ACTOR LORENZO MUSIC AND BILL MURRAY.

Lorenzo Music provided the voice of Garfield in all of the cat’s TV specials from 1982 to 1991, as well as during the 1988 to 1994 run of Garfield and Friends. Music also provided the voice of Peter Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters. Murray, of course, played Venkman in the Ghostbusters films and would, in 2004, provide the voice of Garfield in Garfield: The Movie. “I didn’t know about the relationship with Ghostbusters until years later."

14. THE MACY'S PARADE ONCE CITED SHAMU THE WHALE AS THE PARADE'S LARGEST BALLOON, BUT DAVIS SAYS GARFIELD WAS LARGER.

“In the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they had published that their biggest balloon ever, by volume of gas, was Shamu the Whale with over 18,000 cubic feet," Davis says. "The fact is that the Garfield balloon was filled with 18,907 cubic feet of helium. So we just confirmed that the Garfield balloon, in fact, was the largest one by volume of gas.”

15. THERE ARE ONLY THREE COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD WHERE GARFIELD IS NOT NAMED GARFIELD.

“In Sweden, Garfield is known as Gustav,” the Garfield creator says. “There are only three countries in the whole world where he’s not Garfield and they’re all in the Nordics.” The other two are Norway and Finland.

16. THE STUCK ON YOU GARFIELD PLUSH WITH SUCTION CUPS WAS THE RESULT OF A MISUNDERSTANDING.


Amazon

In the 1990s, it wasn't unusual to see a number of cars with little Garfield plushes stuck to the windows with suction cups. But that wasn't the original design—or the intended use. “I designed the first Stuck on You doll with Velcro on the paws, thinking that people would stick it on curtains,” Davis says. “It came back as a mistake with suction cups. They didn’t understand the directions. So I stuck it on a window and said, 'If it’s still there in two days, we’ll approve this.' Well, they were good suction cups and we released it like that. It never occurred to me that people would put them on cars.”

17. THE GARFIELD COMIC STRIP BOOKS HAVE BEEN HUGE HITS.

“The 11 Garfield comic strip books have all been number one on the New York Times Bestseller List,” Davis says. “At one time there were seven on the list simultaneously. At that point, they changed the way the list was done because other publishing houses were complaining that their authors couldn’t get on the list because of Garfield. Garfield at Large (1980) was number one for two solid years. Over 100 weeks.” The title of every compilation book is a reference to either food or Garfield’s weight.

18. STEVEN SPIELBERG AND STEPHEN KING ARE AMONG THE MANY CELEBRITIES WHO OWN ORIGINAL GARFIELD STRIPS.

They both contacted Davis personally for the strips; the cartoonist happily obliged.

19. DESPITE GARFIELD BEING INSANELY POPULAR FOR DECADES, DAVIS IS STILL MOSTLY ANONYMOUS.


Muncie Magazine

“Being a cartoonist, you really enjoy a lot of anonymity,” he says. “You take a half-dozen of the biggest cartoonists and walk them down any street, nobody would notice them. They only know their characters. So I just hide behind Garfield. The only time anyone knows the name or spots me is if I’m out on book tour and I’m meant to do publicity. We don’t suffer any of the kind of attention problems that I think people do on TV or in movies. It’s not a big deal. I’m sitting here in the countryside of East Central Indiana, so it’s pretty quiet.”

20. DAVIS'S FATHER'S FAVORITE COMIC STRIP WASN'T GARFIELD.

Davis's father and namesake, who passed away in 2016, liked Garfield but preferred another comic strip: Beetle Bailey. “Nobody else knew that until today,” Davis tells us.

This article originally appeared in 2014.

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History
13 Incredible Facts About Frederick Douglass
Photo Illustration: Mental Floss. Douglass: Glasshouse Images, Alamy. Backgrounds: iStock
Photo Illustration: Mental Floss. Douglass: Glasshouse Images, Alamy. Backgrounds: iStock

The list of Frederick Douglass's accomplishments is astonishing—respected orator, famous writer, abolitionist, civil rights leader, presidential consultant—even without considering that he was a former slave with no formal education. In honor of his birth 200 years ago, here are 13 incredible facts about the life of Frederick Douglass.

1. HE BARTERED BREAD FOR KNOWLEDGE.

Because Douglass was a slave, he wasn't allowed to learn to read or write. A wife of a Baltimore slave owner did teach him the alphabet when he was around 12, but she stopped after her husband interfered. Young Douglass took matters into his own hands, cleverly fitting in a reading lesson whenever he was on the street running errands for his owner. As he detailed in his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he'd carry a book with him while out and about and trade small pieces of bread to the white kids in his neighborhood, asking them to help him learn to read the book in exchange.

2. HE CREDITED A SCHOOLBOOK FOR SHAPING HIS VIEWS ON HUMAN RIGHTS.

Engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa the 1850s.
Engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa the 1850s.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

During his youth, Douglass obtained a copy of The Columbian Orator, a collection of essays, dialogues, and speeches on a range of subjects, including slavery. Published in 1797, the Orator was required reading for most schoolchildren in the 1800s and featured 84 selections from authors like Cicero and Milton. Abraham Lincoln was also influenced by the collection when he was first starting in politics.

3. HE TAUGHT OTHER SLAVES TO READ.

While he was hired out to a farmer named William Freeland, a teenaged Douglass taught fellow slaves to read the New Testament—but a mob of locals soon broke up the classes. Undeterred, Douglas began the classes again, sometimes teaching as many as 40 people.

4. HIS FIRST WIFE HELPED HIM ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY.

Portrait of Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass's first wife.
First published in Rosetta Douglass Sprague's book My Mother As I Recall Her, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Anna Murray was an independent laundress in Baltimore and met Douglass at some point in the mid-1830s. Together they hatched a plan, and one night in 1838, Douglass took a northbound train clothed in a sailor's uniform procured by Anna, with money from her savings in his pocket alongside papers from a sailor friend. About 24 hours later, he arrived in Manhattan a free man. Anna soon joined him, and they married on September 15, 1838.

5. HE CALLED OUT HIS FORMER OWNER.

In an 1848 open letter in the newspaper he owned and published, The North Star, Douglass wrote passionately about the evils of slavery to his former owner, Thomas Auld, saying "I am your fellow man, but not your slave." He also inquired after his family members who were still enslaved a decade after his escape.

6. HE TOOK HIS NAME FROM A POEM.

He was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, but after escaping slavery, Douglass used assumed names to avoid detection. Arriving in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Douglass, then using the surname "Johnson," felt there were too many other Johnsons in the area to distinguish himself. He asked his host (ironically named Nathan Johnson) to suggest a new name, and Mr. Johnson came up with Douglas, a character in Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lady of the Lake.

7. HE'S CALLED THE 19TH CENTURY'S MOST PHOTOGRAPHED AMERICAN.

Portrait of Frederick Douglass
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There are 160 separate portraits of Douglass, more than Abraham Lincoln or Walt Whitman, two other heroes of the 19th century. Douglass wrote extensively on the subject during the Civil War, calling photography a "democratic art" that could finally represent black people as humans rather than "things." He gave his portraits away at talks and lectures, hoping his image could change the common perceptions of black men.

8. HE REFUSED TO CELEBRATE THE 4TH OF JULY.

Douglass was well-known as a powerful orator, and his July 5, 1852 speech to a group of hundreds of abolitionists in Rochester, New York, is considered a masterwork. Entitled "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," the speech ridiculed the audience for inviting a former slave to speak at a celebration of the country who enslaved him. "This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine," he famously said to those in attendance. "Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?" Douglass refused to celebrate the holiday until all slaves were emancipated and laws like the Compromise of 1850, which required citizens (including northerners) to return runaway slaves to their owners, were negated.

9. HE RECRUITED BLACK SOLDIERS FOR THE CIVIL WAR.

The Union attack on Fort Wagner, Charleston, during the American Civil War. The fort was under attack from July 18 to September 7, 1863, by soldiers including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first African-American regiment in the U.S. Army.
The Union attack on Fort Wagner, Charleston, during the American Civil War. The fort was under attack from July 18 to September 7, 1863, by soldiers including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first African-American regiment in the U.S. Army.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Douglass was a famous abolitionist by the time the war began in 1861. He actively petitioned President Lincoln to allow black troops in the Union army, writing in his newspaper: "Let the slaves and free colored people be called into service, and formed into a liberating army, to march into the South and raise the banner of Emancipation among the slaves." After Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Douglass worked tirelessly to enlist black soldiers, and two of his sons would join the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, famous for its contributions in the brutal battle of Fort Wagner.

10. HE SERVED UNDER FIVE PRESIDENTS.

Later in life, Douglass became more of a statesman, serving in highly appointed federal positions, including U.S. Marshal for D.C., Recorder of Deeds for D.C., and Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti. Rutherford B. Hayes was the first to appoint Douglass to a position in 1877, and Presidents Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison each sought his counsel in various positions as well.

11. HE WAS NOMINATED FOR VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

As part of the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872, Douglass was nominated as a VP candidate, with Victoria Woodhull as the Presidential candidate. (Woodhull was the first-ever female presidential candidate, which is why Hillary Clinton was called "the first female presidential candidate from a major party" during the 2016 election.) However, the nomination was made without his consent, and Douglass never acknowledged it (and Woodhull's candidacy itself is controversial because she wouldn't have been old enough to be president on Inauguration Day). Also, though he was never a presidential candidate, he did receive one vote at each of two nomination conventions.

12. HIS SECOND MARRIAGE STIRRED UP CONTROVERSY.

Frederick Douglass with Helen Pitts Douglass (seated, right) and her sister Eva Pitts (standing, center), circa the 1880s.
Frederick Douglass with Helen Pitts Douglass (seated, right) and her sister Eva Pitts (standing, center), circa the 1880s.

Two years after his first wife, Anna, died of a stroke in 1882, Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white abolitionist and feminist who was 20 years younger than him. Even though she was the daughter of an abolitionist, Pitts's family (which had ancestral ties directly to the Mayflower) disapproved and disowned her—showing just how taboo interracial marriage was at the time. The black community also questioned why their most prominent spokesperson chose to marry a white woman, regardless of her politics. But despite the public's and their families' reaction, the Douglasses had a happy marriage and were together until his death in 1895 of a heart attack.

13. AFTER EARLY SUCCESS, HIS NARRATIVE WENT OUT OF PRINT.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, his seminal autobiography, was heralded a success when it came out in 1845, with some estimating that 5000 copies sold in the first few months; the book was also popular in Ireland and Britain. But post-Civil War, as the country moved toward reconciliation and slave narratives fell out favor, the book went out of print. The first modern publication appeared in 1960—during another important era for the fight for civil rights. It is now available for free online.

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