There are pretty much no rules when it comes to cartoon character names. So, if you had the exciting opportunity to name one, where would you look for inspiration? Your favorite weird friends? Your favorite politicians? Your favorite songs? Every now and then, we’ll come across a well-known cartoon’s truly peculiar background story. Really, who would’ve thought that Scooby-Doo would be the direct result of a Frank Sinatra song? Check out the fun inspirations behind ten cartoon character names after the jump, and hit the comments to let us know about the others that you’ve discovered over the years.
Have you ever listened to Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” and childishly giggled to yourself, “Ruh-roh, he just sang, ‘Scooby-Dooby-Doo'”? If so, you might find it reassuring to know that Ol’ Blue Eyes is indeed the inspiration behind our favorite crime-solving Great Dane’s name. Fred Silverman, a CBS executive in charge of children’s programing, was intrigued by Sinatra’s scatting and subsequently named the pup “Scooby-Doo” in 1969. Mystery solved.
Bart Simpson, The Simpsons
Famed cartoonist Matt Groening named most of the Simpsons after his own family members — his parents, Margaret and Homer, and his younger sisters, Lisa and Maggie. Bart, on the other hand, was intended as an anagram for “brat,” as he shares the rebellious tendencies of Matt’s older brother and Bart’s primary inspiration, Mark Groening. Sorry, Mark.
See that triumphant fellow above? He was originally known as “Mr. Video” and “Jumpman.” Weird, right? Well, once upon a time, there was an angry warehouse landlord who came to demand rent from Minoru Arakawa and his financially struggling company, Nintendo of America. The landlord bore a humorous resemblance to Nintendo’s lady-saving, name-needing Donkey Kong character, and the rest is history. Here’s to you and your gold coins — er, “rent,” Mario Segale.
Turanga Leela, Futurama
Leela’s full name, “Turanga Leela,” is a reference to Olivier Messiaen’s famous orchestral piece, the Turangalîla-Symphonie. Because — well, that 1948 symphony screams “purple-haired sexy cyclops chick,” don’t you think?
Huey, Dewey, and Louie, DuckTales
According to creator Al Taliaferro, these little troublemakers were named after a politician, an admiral, and an animator — Huey Long of Louisiana, George Dewey of the Spanish-American War, and Louie Schmitt of Bambi. We’re not really sure what the first two have to do with cartoon ducks, but the folks over in Duckburg could “rewrite history,” so we’ll stop asking questions and succumb to the duck blur.
Kenny, South Park
Everyone has that unpredictable childhood friend. Y’know, the one who wears his orange jacket with the hood drawn tight and has a habit of inexplicably going missing. For South Park creator Trey Parker, that friend was named Kenny. Real-life Kenny, like cartoon Kenny, would disappear fairly often, leaving Trey and his friends to ponder the muffled kid’s whereabouts. Parker’s buddies would jokingly insist that Kenny had died whenever he wouldn’t show up for the school bus, thus creating the “I/you/he/she/it/they killed Kenny” meme.
This guy was originally named Sniffy, but another comic strip already had a dog of the same name. So, Charles Schulz recalled his late mother’s statement that if she were to adopt another dog, it would be named Snoopy for “snuppa,” a Norwegian term of affection.
Yen Sid, Fantasia
In Fantasia, Mickey Mouse is an apprentice to Yen Sid, otherwise known as that sorcerer fellow who mildly terrified you as a kid. Legend has it, the sorcerer’s nose and eyebrow length are the same as Walt Disney’s (and probably Abe Lincoln’s, but that’s just a rumor we’re starting). The fun part? Spell ‘Yen Sid’ backwards. How’s that for some sorcery, Nic Cage?
Jon Arbuckle, Garfield
Here we have good ol’ Jon Arbuckle from Garfield. Jim Davis took this Debbie Downer’s name from a 1950s Yuban coffee radio commercial that mentioned John Arbuckle, the man who invented a coffee bean aroma preservation method by coating roasted beans with a special gelatinous egg mixture. But, of course, John didn’t have a lasagna-loving cat, so we’re all much more familiar with his comic namesake, “Jon.”
It’s no secret that most of the main Winnie-the-Pooh characters are based on stuffed animals that belonged to A. A. Milne’s son. The story behind Pooh’s name, however, goes a little further than Christopher Milne’s whims. The “Winnie” part of the name came from a black bear that had been purchased for 20 bucks by a Canadian Lieutenant, Harry Colebourn. She was named after his town of Winnipeg, where Winnie served as the mascot for The Fort Garry Horse. While her owner was in France during World War I, Winnie lived at London Zoo and became a beloved sight for children. She was eventually donated to the zoo and lived there full-time, thus inspiring the first half of our honey-loving fictional bear’s name. The “Pooh” part is an ode to a swan that Christopher once met on a vacation. Put ’em together and you’ve got a “Winnie the Pooh” on your hands.