Fictional Tasmanians

Taz, The Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian Devil, often referred to as Taz, is an animated cartoon character featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes series of cartoons. The character appeared in only five shorts before Warner Bros. Cartoons closed down in 1964, but marketing and television appearances later propelled the character to new popularity in the 1990s.

As the youngest of the Looney Tunes, the Tasmanian Devil, or 'Taz' as he has come to be known, is generally portrayed as a dim-witted carnivore with a notoriously short temper and little patience. He will eat anything and everything, with an appetite that seems to know no bounds. He is best known for his speech consisting mostly of grunts, growls and rasps, and his ability to spin and bite through just about anything.

In 1991, Taz got his own show, Taz-Mania, which ran for three seasons, in which he was the protagonist.

Robert McKimson based the character on the real-life Tasmanian Devil, or more specifically its carnivorous nature and voracious appetite. It is believed that the character of the Tasmanian Devil was inspired by Tasmanian born actor, Errol Flynn. The most noticeable resemblance between the Australian marsupial and McKimson's creation is their ravenous appetites and crazed behavior.

Although the bipedal Tasmanian Devil's appearance does not resemble its marsupial inspiration, it contains multilayered references to other "devils": he has horn-shaped fur on his head (similar to the Devil's appearance) and whirls about like a dust devil (similar in appearance to a tornado) which sounds like several motors whirring in unison. Taz is constantly voracious. His efforts to find more food (animate or inanimate) are always a central plot device of his cartoons.

The character's speech, peppered with growls, screeches, and raspberries, is provided by Mel Blanc. Only occasionally would Taz actually speak, usually to utter some incongruous punchline, (e.g. "What for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?") and yet the character is capable of writing and reading. A running gag is that when Bugs Bunny hears of the approach of "Taz" and looks him up in an encyclopedia and starts reading off a list of animals that "Taz" eats; Bugs finds "rabbits" not listed until "Taz" either points out that "rabbits" are listed or writes rabbits on the list.

After the short entered theaters, producer Eddie Selzer, head of the Warner Bros. animation studio, ordered McKimson to shelve the character, feeling it was too violent for children and parents disliked this. After a time with no new Taz shorts, studio head Jack Warner asked what had happened to the character. Warner saved Taz's career when he told Selzer that he had received "boxes and boxes" of letters from people who liked the character and wanted to see more of him.

Young Albert Einstein

Young Albert Einstein is a fictional character based loosely on the notable scientist Albert Einstein, as depicted in the 1988 Australian jmade comedy filom, Young Einstein, directed by and starring Yahoo Serious.

In the film, the early life of the physicist Albert Einstein is relocated to Tasmania. Here, he is the son of an apple farmer in the early 1900s, who splits a beer atom with a chisel in order to add bubbles to beer, discovers the theory of relativity and travels to Sydney to patent it. While there, he invents the electric guitar and surfing while romancing Marie Curie. He invents rock and roll and uses it to save the world from being destroyed due to misuse of a nuclear reactor under the watchful eye of Charles Darwin.

Serious first became interested in Albert Einstein when he was travelling down the Amazon river and saw a local wearing a t-shirt with a picture of physicist on it. The image was that of Einstein sticking out his tongue, taken by photographer Arthur Sasse.

On returning from the Amazon, Serious adapted a previous screenplay called The Great Galute which he had written with David Roach. It was a story about an Australian who invents rock and roll. The two developed The Great Galute into Young Einstein. The film was created on an extremely low budget, so low that Serious sold his car to generate funds, cameras were borrowed, and his Mum cooked for the crew. A 16mm version of the film was completed and taken to the Australian Film Commission, and used to show to investors.

After finding funding from the same investors responsible for funding Mad Max, production of a big screen version of the movie began. Warner Bros contributed A$4 million to the full version of the film, and would go on to spend 8 million on marketing the film in the United States alone.

As well as a starring role, Serious also directed the film, co-wrote it and co-produced it. Serious refused to consider making a sequel to the film, as he stated in interviews that he was opposed to them in general.

Young Einstein was a huge hit in Australia, grossing A$13 million at the box office in Australia. On release in Australia, it became the fifth biggest opening in Australian film history behind "Crocodile" Dundee and its sequel, Rocky IV and Fatal Attraction. It grossed $A1.26 million in the opening weekend, despite being released in only three states. It was only the third film of 1988 to break the $A1 million barrier at the Australian box office. Young Einstein became the tenth most successful film released at the Australian box office, after being the second most successful Australian film ever on release after "Crocodile" Dundee.

It was less successful in the US, where it received a mixed reaction. The film has been released on DVD in region 1. Although the movie is Australian, it has not yet been released in Australia on Region 4 DVD.