Whistle While Iwerks

Most self-respecting Americans would recognize that mouse and that Disney mustache anywhere. But today we celebrate the man on the right, Ubbe Eert “Ub” Iwerks, aka Walt Disney’s oldest and dearest friend. Ub was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1901. His father, Eert Ubbe Iwerks, appears, in naming his son, to have simply switched his own first and middle name, a move that seems frankly lazy to me. Father Eert had emigrated to the U.S. in 1869 from the German village of Uttum in East Frisia. In modern Germany, East Frisians in general are the traditional butt of ethnic jokes, an embarrassment that the American-born little Ub was spared.

Forty years after Eert’s emigration, the fully-grown Ub met Walt Disney while working at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio. Both moved on to work as illustrators for the Kansas City Slide Newspaper Company, and eventually decided to work in animation. They moved to Los Angeles in 1923 to work on a series of cartoons known as “The Alice Comedies” which combined live action with animation. After the end of this series, Disney asked Ub to come up with a new character. The result was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, animated entirely by Ub. Universal distributed the series in 1927. At Disney’s urging, Ub began drawing up new character ideas. He sketched various animals, including a female cow and male horse which would later turn up as Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. But for now, both were rejected in favor of a mouse. Note the similarities between Oswald (on the right) and Mickey Mouse.

Iwerks (as I’ll refer to him now, both names being equally fun) would tweak Mickey into the familiar version we know today.

The first few Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies cartoons were animated almost entirely by Iwerks, including the famous Steamboat Willie. Although he is clearly credited, the public associated Mickey with Disney. Iwerks soon found it difficult to cope with Disney’s demands, and he resented that Walt was getting all the credit for their success.


Eventually, Iwerks and Disney had a falling out, and Iwerks made the fateful decision of cashing in his shares (a regrettable move, as his portion of ownership in the Disney Studio would have been worth a fortune). He then started an animation studio under his own name, with Disney competitor Pat Powers. A decade would pass, with Iwerks finding success with Flip the Frog, before he returned to work for Disney in 1940.

After his return to the Disney studio, Iwerks worked on developing special visual effects, as well as processes for combining live action and animation used in Song of the South, and the xerographic process adapted for cel animation. He was also responsible for developing many Disney theme park attractions during the 1960s. He received an Academy Award nomination in 1963 for special effects work he did outside the Disney studio, in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Although he passed away in 1971, his legacy lives on. His early animation style was imitated by manga artists Osamu Tezuka and Shōtarō Ishinomori, both fabulous names. Iwerks Entertainment was founded in 1985 in his honor. The 1986 DC Comics character Doctor Ub’x was named after him. And now you know about him, too!


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Ever Wonder Where The Edsel Came From?

The good, the bad, the car with a name which will live in infamy: The Edsel.

You should never judge a car by it’s cover or buy stocks from someone named Madoff—or Ponzi for that matter.

But what if you were one of the big three automakers trying to re-establish yourself in the post WWII market place. You do the research, add the features, give it a nifty secret name: “E Car,” create an ad campaign something on the order of a 1957 “Blair Witch Project”, never test market the goods, which are ahead of their time, because you know from investing with Bernie Madoff that past performance guarantees future results.

Then you name it after the founder’s only child, Edsel Bryant Ford, president of FOMOCO (Ford Motor Company) until his death in 1943. Edsel’s oldest child and then president of the company, Henry Ford II, argued against the name; he got out maneuvered. Darn that faulty steering column and other missing parts.

EDSEL released in 1958. Sold through 1960. Production of 116,000 cars. The public confused, they didn’t know what to do with the darn thing. People compared the prominent grill to a horseshoe or some unmentionable part of the female anatomy. (Ahem.) The car priced well beyond the average everyday person’s pocket book. . .the country in a bit of a recession at that time.  The top models lauding high marks with consumer—economy cars. FUEL. FUEL. FUEL. Baby. Sound familiar?

Fast forward several decades: The name symbolizes failure on an extravagant level. Overall sales  of the car less than half the break even point. The company lost $350 million by 1960, so in reciprocal terms to 2015 dollars that’s $2,800,000,000. That’s a lot of bacon. But don’t worry darlings, the car makes a comeback.

There are approximately 10,000 Ford Edsel’s still in existence and they are now worth about $100,000 each. Woohoo!

Edsel Ford, innovator not albatross.

Edsel Ford, innovator not albatross.

But what of the car’s namesake?

Henry Ford groomed his son, Edsel, to take over the company. Edsel pushed for fancier body styling and other innovations, becoming the leading force for the introduction of the model A.

Edsel owned the first ever “hot-rod”, created by Ford’s first designer E.T. Gregorie. A prototype, it is considered one of the most valuable cars in the world.

Edsel sponsored Admiral Richard Byrd’s historic flight over the North Pole—Santa’s first airspace competitor that wasn’t the other kind of bird. And sponsored Byrd’s antarctic expedition, getting a mountain range named after him.  He was the most influential art benefactor in Detroit’s history, and a section of Detroit’s Interstate 94 is named after him. Not to mention 3 high schools in the state.

Edsel was instrumental in the war effort. Arming the US “Arsenal of Democracy”, he set a goal for Ford—producing one B-24 bomber per hour at Ford’s Willow Run manufacturing complex. The stress of the project caused him to develop stomach cancer. Surgery revealed the spreading cancer. At the tender age of 49 Edsel Ford died.

Edsel Ford created a legacy—including donating his non-voting stock shares to the Ford Foundation.

Not bad for a guy who’s name, unfortunately, will forever be attached to one of the largest failures in automotive history.

Tracy — Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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What’s the Funniest Town or City Name in Finland?

By the time you all read this, I will probably be driving up to

Google Image Result 1 for "Finnish people". I am a huge fan of this lady!

Google Image Result 1 for “Finnish people”. I am a huge fan of this lady!

San Pedro (which is near Long Beach, which is near Anaheim, which is near Los Angeles, which is… LOS ANGELES) to catch a ferry for a 3-and-a-half-day trip to the lovely Catalina Island, where I’ll be frolicking and having tons of fun with 7 other med school classmates. One of the dudes (and it’ll be 8 of us dudes) decided to call it “Lord of the Flies,” which doesn’t bode well for our chances at survival. Luckily, your pal Dave has a strong jab and a mean right cross, so he’ll be delivering a formidable 1-2 punch if it comes to fisticuffs.

I’ll be absent for a few days, and wanted to leave you with a fond memory in case I get burned in a pile of sticks and conch shells, and then was struck by some inspiration…

Google Images Result 2 for

Google Images Result 2 for “Finnish People”.  What if these weren’t tiny shirts, but actually very tall women? We will never know the truth.

So Herra Arto (that’s how you say “Mister Arto” in Finnish) is in the land of Fins (and Finns) and the internet has been known to freeze there. Oh no!

Google Images Result 3 for

Google Images Result 3 for “Finnish People.” Wearing crazy stuff on one’s head seems to be a trend.

That made me wonder, if there’s a whole language of funny-sounding words (for example, the Finnish word for tree is puu – which sounds exactly like you’d think), are there funny-sounding town and city names?

My all-time favorite is Espoo (pronounced ess-poe), because they had a basketball team named the Honka Espoo Playboys! A player from that team even got drafted into the NBA about a decade ago.

But there are other good ones:



Nokia (where the future telecommunications company was founded in 1865 as a pulp mill).

Uusikaupunki (punki is a great way to end a town name)

What a fun language! But don’t just leave it up to me… check out some of the other fun ones in this helpful Wikipedia list, and let me know which were your faves. I promise I’ll check the comments again if when I return from the island!

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Deez Nuts for President?

No FNITN this week because somebody is out in Iceland and Finland, and somebody else is busy making a bunch of science videos and has a lot of random stuff to do and has written the last two FNITNs!

But…. I didn’t want to leave y’all hanging, so I bring you the delightfully strange news that a 15-year-old Iowan named Deez Nuts is polling at 9% in a North Carolina survey.

Deez Nuts


I don’t know much else, other than that the kid seems like a true blue (or true red, or true green because he’s independent?) funny names lover! He said that his next goal is to have a vice presidential running mate, and floated the possibility of Limberbutt McCubbins, a Kentucky cat, who had also filed official presidential paperwork.

Are we about to see a President Deez Nuts? Unlikely, due to that pesky 35-year-old age limit. Not only that, but his favorability ratings leave a bit to be desired. The poll said that 6% of North Carolina voters had a favorable opinion of Deez Nuts, while 13 percent were unfavorable, and 81% weren’t sure. That equals a -7% net favorability rating, and also proves that 19% of people will just make up random stuff for political polls.

We’ve never endorsed a political candidate before at the Blog of Funny Names (although we were blessed last election with Barack Hussein Obama and Willard Mitt Romney), but if Deez Nuts keeps polling in the respectable range, it might be a time to start! I, for one, would love a Nutz-McCubbins ticket, and a surprisingly strong performance in the Iowa caucuses can do wonders for a dark horse political campaign!

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A Céspedes for the Rest of Us? No, Just Mets Fans

At the end of last month, my New York Mets traded for an outfielder by the name of Yoenis Céspedes.

Yoenis Céspedes Milanés to be exact.

This good baseball guy is a 29-year-old native of Cuba, which means that for his life before he came north to play in the major leagues, there isn’t a whole lot of pure storytelling readily available. Wikipedia allows that his paternal name is Céspedes and maternal name is Milanés, and that he was born in Campechuela in the Granma Province. He was a member of the Cuba National Team and played in the Cuban National Series.

He came to the Major Leagues in 2012 as a member of the Oakland Athletics, but was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2014. This year he played for the Detroit Tigers before the Mets picked him up his big bopper bat for the stretch drive for a hopeful division title.

Yoenis Céspedes, you see, won the Home Run Derby attached to the All-Star game in 2013 and 2014. He is a big bopper.

The Mets have gone on a winning tear since acquiring Cespedes and overtook the Washington Nationals for first in the National League East. Many baseball fans have found that funny.

And check this out.

Jerry Seinfeld, funny guy no matter how you look at it, has attached himself to Cespedes via his Twitter account. First Jerry related the player’s funny name to the infamous fictional holiday from the comic’s beloved sitcom.

Then they had a discourse about Cuban sandwiches.

It’s a bromance.

It's a match. (From mlb.com)

It’s a match. (From mlb.com)

After that, a parakeet was caught by cameras at CitField, and of course the world noticed the similarity to the color wrist bands worn by Céspedes. Some now say it’s a canary. No matter. The man took to the comparison.

This is funny. And fun. Let’s Go Mets! That’s the cheer at Citi Field Céspedes is a free agent after this season. No funny business, Mets’ front office. The masses want you to sign the dude!

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