GeekMom: 15 Totally Random and Geeky Facts About Fictional Tigers

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The Lunar New Year starts right at the beginning of the month this year, with 2022 marking the Year of the Tiger

This is a year for brave people, as tigers are known to love challenges and adventure. They are active and confident, but according to the site ChineseNewYear.Net, Tiger’s confidence lost it the position as first in line on the Zodiac. Tiger, assuming his speed and stamina would win the celestial race, emerged from the river thinking he had won it. He soon learned Rat with his cunning and Ox with his strength had used their own talents to come in first and second. Tiger had to settle for third place on the calendar, but that doesn’t make him any less dynamic.

In celebration of one of the coolest and most beautiful animals in the Chinese Zodiac, here are 15 random and geeky facts about fictional tigers.

1. Tony the Tiger, one of the most well-known food mascots in the world, was created in 1952 as part of a contest for their new “Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes of Corn.” Three other animals were also introduced for consideration: Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant, and Newt the Gnu. Tony won out as most popular, and the others were removed from the packaging. Here he is in one of his vintage ads (voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft) with his son “Tony Jr.”

2. Tony, who also has a daughter named Antoinette, has come a long way and is celebrating his 70th birthday this year. He has become an outspoken advocate for school sports with his own foundation, “Mission Tiger,” to promote healthy active lifestyles in kids. He made a CGI appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to promote this mission and is the title sponsor of the college bowl game, Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

3. Two other tigers had a trademark controversy with Tony; the Exxon Tiger (who started out as the Esso Tiger) had been happily coexisting with Kellogg until the early 1990s when the opening of their Tiger Marts stores caused some trademark issues. The official mascot of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, an Amur tiger named “Hodori,” was also said to resemble Tony too closely. That’s all in the past now, as all these tigers have done their duty representing their brands.

4. When the hit animated feature Kung Fu Panda debuted in 2008, of Po’s Kung Fu animal heroes in the “Furious Five,” the leader Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie) was the strongest and most studious of them all. This stands to reason, as Tiger Style Kung Fu is a popular and sometimes-lethal martial art. The Tiger military officer rank in the Chinese empire has been around for more than five centuries.

5. Tigers aren’t always heroes, and one of the most famous baddies in the big cats is Shere Khan, the antagonist in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. As Kipling used Hindi words to name the animals, Shere (or shir) meant tiger, but the word Khan was meant to show he regarded himself as a king. This title was self-imposed, as he was born with a lame paw in the book and his own mother gave him the nickname Lungri or “The Lame One.”

6. Voice talent for Shere Khan in the Disney series depicts him from powerful to an upstart elitist. In the original 1967 animated movie was prolific British actor George Sanders, and by Tony Jay in later animated Disney properties. In the 2016 The Jungle Book adventure from Disney, a motion capture Shere Khan was played and voiced by Idris Elba. This was not long before Benedict Cumberbatch played a motion capture Shere Khan for the Warner Bros. film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle in 2018. Love him or hate him, Shere Khan had some impressive voices.

7. In 2012, that animated Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood debuted on PBS, based on the long-running Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood. Daniel, the 4-year-old tiger host in his Fred Rogers sweater and tennies, was based on Mister Rogers hand puppet, Daniel Striped Tiger. He first appeared on Mister Rogers in 1968, but according to the official Mister Rogers site, his debut was on The Children’s Corner in 1954 popping out of a cuckoo clock instead of a bird. Rogers was given the tiger puppet as a gift the night before the show by a station manager named Dorothy Daniel.

8. We all know Winnie the Pooh’s huggable tiger pal Tigger is “bouncey, trouncey, ouncey, pouncey, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun” in the Disney version, but he wasn’t even in the first Winnie the Pooh book by A.A. Milne. He first appeared in the print of the second book House on Pooh Corner in 1928. He first appeared on screen in 1968 in the short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and finally got his own film, The Tigger Movie, in 2000.

9. Disney’s tigers tend to be rather kingly, as like Khan, the name of Jasmine’s pet tiger in the 1992 Aladdin, Rajah, also means “king.”

10. Cringer (aka Battle Cat) is the talking green-and-yellow tiger who has a pretty hefty personality (or two) in the animated Masters of the Universe series, but he was originally the result of budget constraints from Mattel. According to Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, Mattel wanted He-Man to have a vehicle, but they didn’t have the budget to produce one. Instead, they just upcycled the tiger mold from another toy line, Big Jim. The tiger was painted green by one artist to try and discourage it from being used. They put a saddle on him and used him anyways. This “talking green tiger” is now a prominent part of the He-Man world.

11. One of the most beloved tiger pets in print is Hobbes from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Watterson was inspired by artists like Charles Schulz and Walt Kelly, but the names of the title characters were inspired by some more “thoughtful” sources. Six-year-old Calvin was named from the 16th-century theologian John Calvin, while Hobbes was named for the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Although Hobbes appeared as just a stuffed toy when others were around, it is left up to the reader whether or not his “real tiger” persona was just in Calvin’s imagination.

12. Shiva, the ill-fated and loyal pet tiger of a former zookeeper and Kingdom leader, Ezekiel in The Walking Dead, first appeared in issue #108 of the comic and in Season 7 of the television series. As beautiful as Shiva was, she was created, according to Walking Dead’s fan wiki, completely from CGI effects embedded on a stuntman in a blue suit.

13. The invisibility-achieving and highly intellectual Tygra was the architect of the ThunderCats that debuted in 1985, produced by the same company that owned Rankin/Bass. However, it was the cheetah-like Cheetara who had the biggest impact. Mentalfloss.com wrote from 1985 to 1987, the Social Security Administration recorded 29 girls had Cheetara on their birth certificates.

14. In the 2013 hit film, Life of Pi, based on the novel by Yann Martel, the role of the tiger Richard Parker was played by four real tigers, as well as an award-winning CGI effect. Real tigers were used in many scenes, and some motion capture, but digital took over whenever the actor needed to interact with the tiger. Pi and a “real” Richard Parker were never really together in a boat. Here’s a look at how they did it:

15. Yes, there is a tiger-like Pokémon, Arcanine, the evolved version of Growlithe. Arcanine has the markings and build of a tiger, but the face of a canine. It may be based on the Asian mythical anima, Xiezhi, a fire-eating dog that has similarities to tigers and lions. Good luck catching it… it apparently is able to run 6,200 miles in 24 hours. That’s one fast Pokémon.

Tigers are known to be solitary animals, but they certainly have a great many friends in the world of fiction.

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