43 Unusual Majors Your College Probably Didn't Offer

kasto80/iStock via Getty Images
kasto80/iStock via Getty Images

Undeclared undergrads are a dime a dozen, but the majority of incoming freshmen—along with most graduate students—have a firm idea of where their professional futures lie.

And it’s not always in a traditional occupation. From beer to bagpipes and pot to pop culture, here are 41 of the strangest college majors and grad school concentrations we could find.

1. CANNABIS CULTIVATION

A doctor's hand with a vial and dropper in front of a marijuana plant
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The College: Oaksterdam University

Leave it to California to open the country’s first cannabis college. Then again, considering the thriving—and legal—industry that existed for medical marijuana in The Golden State before full legalization in 2016, it really only makes sense that there would be a trade school for the cannabis industry. And one where classes in the history, politics, and legalities of herb are taught alongside seminars on growing and methods of ingestion. But don’t be surprised if your classroom time gets interrupted by a raid by the Feds; that’s exactly what happened in April of 2012, when a bevy of DEA, IRS, and U.S. Marshals Service agents showed up on the school’s doorstep.

2. COMEDY

The College: Humber College

Think you’re funny? Whip out your diploma and prove it. Toronto’s Humber College takes its laughs seriously with its Comedy: Writing and Performance program, aimed at helping sort of funny people become really funny people by perfecting their comedic timing and understanding of how the funny business works, utilizing a faculty of working comedians and putting on weekly shows at the nearby Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club and an industry showcase at Second City—all in the name of making it big in stand-up, improv, sketch comedy and/or screenwriting. 

3. FERMENTATION SCIENCES

The College: Appalachian State University

As tempted as one might be to call this a degree in beer-making, there’s a lot more to a career in suds than cracking open a cold one. The official description of this B.S. is “an interdisciplinary degree within the College of Arts and Sciences intended to provide students with a strong background in chemistry and biology and a considerable focus in business, marketing, and entrepreneurial principles.” Hands-on experience comes courtesy of the Ivory Tower Brewery, an on-campus, nonprofit brewery and plant managed by the school’s students and faculty. We’ll drink to that! 

4. SEXUALITY

The College: San Francisco State University

A career in sex doesn’t have to come with an X rating. The M.A. degree at SFSU is an academic program more than five decades in the making, where students immerse themselves in a wide range of topics surrounding human sexuality, from its representation in arts and literature to social justice for sexual minorities. It’s academia at its most titillating.

5. VITICULTURE and ENOLOGY

The College: Cornell University

College-age connoisseurs who know the difference between a Zinfandel (good) and a White Zinfandel (bad) might be ripe for a career in wine—an industry where demand is outgrowing the supply of qualified professionals to oversee the vineyards that produce the best vino and manage the wineries that sell them. Translation: job security, kiddos! While Cornell students will face the unique challenges of growing grapes and making wine in a northeastern U.S. climate, the schooling they get in soils, pests, grape varietals, and growing markets can be easily translated to any of the world’s wine countries (and make the job that much easier).

6. DECISION SCIENCES

Feet in yellow heels in front of two arrows and a question mark drawn in chalk on the sidewalk
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The College: Indiana University

A Ph.D in Decision Sciences is really the antithesis of being “undecided,” with doctoral candidates at IU amassing expertise in a range of quantitative methods in order to make business decisions at the highest level. These aren’t yes or no questions we’re dealing with; graduates emerge with the skills to apply research, data and analysis to solve problems in a range of precise disciplines, from finance to information technology.

7. POPULAR CULTURE

The College: Bowling Green State University

And you thought all those hours spent binge-watching BoJack Horseman had no professional merit! The official pitch for BGSU’s B.A. is that “By examining television programs, movies, cars, houses, music, museums, celebratory events, holidays, magazines and many other manifestations of culture, insights can be used to examine society presently and historically.” On a more practical level, students can parlay their studies into a career in journalism, mass media, advertising, or public relations. 

8. FLORAL MANAGEMENT

The College: Mississippi State University

Running a flower shop isn’t as easy as Janet made it look on Three’s Company, what with all the sourcing, purchasing, marketing, merchandising and selling that’s required. Floral Management students at MSU get an up-close look at what a career in floral retail, wholesale, design, styling or display gardening feels and smells like, courtesy of The University Florist, an on-campus flower shop owned and operated by the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

9. AUCTIONEERING

The College: Harrisburg Area Community College

Do I hear 20 credits? A first step toward becoming a licensed auctioneer in the state of Pennsylvania is completing the Auctioneering program at HACC, where students develop an eye for procuring the best merchandise for auction, utilizing the best appraisal sources and techniques, and developing that all-important auction “chant.” Going once, going twice…

10. POULTRY SCIENCE

The College: Texas A&M

As Jim Perdue would tell you, it takes a tough person to make a tender chicken. Hence the need for an education in the science of poultry, where academics, research, and service play equally important parts in a career in this major agricultural commodity. The program’s wide-ranging curriculum includes courses in biology, chemistry, zoology, and statistics. Bonus points for determining once and for all which came first, the chicken or the egg?

11. ENTERTAINMENT ENGINEERING & DESIGN

Close up of the screen of a slot machine in a row
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The College: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A keen understanding of casino game design and engineering is as essential to the people who design the games in Vegas as it is to the pros who try to beat them. Which makes it all the more appropriate that Sin City is the setting for this B.S. degree, which educates students on both the art and business of the entertainment industry, from venue design and rigging to biomechanics and animatronics. Plus, students are never too far from a casino in which to ply their trade.

12. TURF AND GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT

The College: University of Maryland

Golf courses require a lot of upkeep, so UMD offers a plant science degree in Turf and Golf Course Management to help train the greenskeepers of the future. The B.S. program requires a bit of biology and chemistry, but there are also more enticing classes like “Weed Science” and “Pest Management Strategies for Turfgrass.” One can only hope that the latter class includes a screening of Caddyshack

13. TURFGRASS SCIENCE

The College: Penn State University

For opportunities beyond the local country club, the more generalized B.S. in Turfgrass Science prepares students for careers in professional lawn care, sod production, athletic field maintenance, and beyond. Though the degree may sound like a walk in the park, courses lean toward the science side of the equation (biology, chemistry, and meteorology are required courses).

14. FAMILY ENTERPRISE

The College: Stetson University

Countless entrepreneurs have been warned about the dangers of doing business with friends—but family? That’s another story. Some of today’s biggest corporate success stories—including The Gap, Walmart, Ford, Motorola, and White Castle—are technically “family businesses.” In DeLand, Florida, Stetson’s Family Enterprise Center has been teaching students the right (and wrong!) ways to mix business with relatives since 1998. Topics of interest include personal, professional and leadership development and legal, estate and asset protection.

15. CANADIAN STUDIES

The College: Johns Hopkins University

Canada looms large and expansive just north of the United States, but most of us are pretty uneducated about what the heck goes on there. Master’s students who want to learn more about our neighbors to the north can absorb the culture, politics, and history of Canada through a Canadian Studies concentration at Johns Hopkins. This sounds like possibly the only academic track in which there’s a slight chance you’ll have to watch Strange Brew as part of your coursework. If you’re not ready to go whole hog, a few other schools, like SUNY Plattsburgh and the University of Vermont, offer Canadian Studies minors.

16. EGYPTOLOGY

Two camels lying down with the pyramids of Giza in the background
sculpies iStock via Getty Images

The College: Brown University

We’re pretty sure that all of the great pyramids have been discovered, but on the off chance that there’s still a sphinx or two waiting to be stumbled upon, would-be Indiana Joneses would do well to have a degree in Egyptology. Established in 2005, Brown’s Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies—which offers B.A. and Ph.D degrees—brings students back to the birthplace of Western civilization as we know it with “Introduction to Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language” and “Archaeology and the Ancient World” among their required courses.

17. JAZZ STUDIES

The Colleges: University of North Texas, East Carolina University & University of Louisville

For whatever reason, jazz seems to inspire college music departments to start majors more than its fellow musical genres. A number of colleges around the country offer degree programs in jazz studies. These programs usually include both playing jazz and studying its history, cultural significance, and major figures.

18. Pop Music

The College: University of Southern California

For those who aren't classically or jazzically inclined, USC can set you on the path to writing the next Taylor Swift of Sam Smith jam. The program obviously isn't just about listening to the hits on the radio (although there's almost definitely plenty of that). It's a comprehensive study of the history and construction of popular music that requires the musical know-how necessary to go out and make something big.

19. BASSOON

The College: The University of Arizona

After completing the basic requirements for a bachelor’s degree in instrumental studies, students at UA’s School of Music choose their melodic weapon of choice. And for some would-be musicians, that means a bassoon—that 19th-century woodwind that mimics the sound of a male baritone so well and plays prominently in a number of orchestral and chamber music ensembles.

20. PIANO PEDAGOGY

The College: Belmont University

It may seem odd, since so many folks took their childhood piano lessons from someone who didn’t have collegiate training, but the B.Mus degree at Nashville’s Belmont University doesn’t sound like a bad career move from a stability standpoint: Moms forcing their kids to take piano lessons is an economy-resistant tradition. Want to take that education one step further? The University of Oregon in Eugene offers advanced graduate degrees in the discipline. 

21. BOWLING INDUSTRY MANAGEMENT AND TECHNOLOGY

A red bowling ball resting in front of ten bowling pins on a lane
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The College: Vincennes University

Being a pin monkey may be Homer Simpson’s unreachable dream, but you can make it your reality at Indiana’s first college, which offers the country’s only program in Bowling Industry Management and Technology. Required classes for this A.S. degree include “Lane and Pinsetter Maintenance,” “Pro Shop Operations and Essentials” and “Responsible Alcohol Service.” The program’s site proudly touts its facilities, including an 18-lane bowling center that acts as a laboratory for students to gain hands-on experience.

22. COSTUME TECHNOLOGY

The College: DePaul University

Much like film editors are to movies, costume designers are the unsung heroes of the theater—the people upon whom the audience (unknowingly) relies to take them into a fantasy world. Needless to say, there’s a science to this talent that goes far beyond a flair for fashion. Costume Technology majors within DePaul’s Theatre School will explore the world of costuming from a variety of disciplines, from art and architecture to ethics and business management. Draping, cutting and designing are, of course, part of the package, too. 

23. DIVING BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY

The College: Florida Keys Community College

It’s the dream of many a beach bum to spend their days carting tourists around and showing off the undiscovered corners of their waterfront worlds. The College of the Florida Keys can get you one knot closer to this goal with an A.A.S. curriculum that merges diving science with instruction, leading the way to a thriving—and oh-so-freeing—career as a dive master, scuba instructor, commercial diver, water-based medical technician, research diver or underwater photojournalist. 

24. Foresight

The College: University of Houston

Crystal balls are for Halloween parties. If you’re curious about what the future holds—and who isn’t?—there are scientific ways to make educated guesses. At this school’s College of Technology, M.S. students dive into the amazing world of futurism. Courses like “Introduction to Foresight,” “Social Change,” and “World Futures” will teach you how to anticipate oncoming events by reviewing transformational and systemic changes.

25. ECOGASTRONOMY

The College: University of New Hampshire

In 2008, UNH launched a dual major in EcoGastronomy, a program that educates students on how food gets from farms to their plates. With an eye toward sustainability, pupils study food at a number of steps along the road to their mouth to gauge the ecological impact of what they eat. EcoGastronomy students will also pick up knowledge about the hospitality industry, nutrition and agriculture in this major. And will undoubtedly get to sample a ton of tasty fresh foods.

26. PACKAGING

The hands of a designer over sketches of a cardboard gift box, holding one box
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The College: Michigan State University

MSU’s School of Packaging offers B.S., M.S. and Ph.D programs. What does the School of Packaging study? Exactly what it sounds like: all sorts of packaging in an effort to improve functionality and environmental impact. Since we’re unlikely to revert to a system in which goods are sold loose without packages any time soon, this major might lead to a steady career of putting things into things.

27. EQUINE STUDIES

The College: Becker College

If you like horses, why not major in them? Several colleges offer degree programs in studying horses, each with its own focus. Some programs, like this one at Becker College in Worcester, MA, offer students the choice of concentrating in riding instruction so that they can eventually teach lessons. The University of Maryland has another well-regarded equine studies program, one which covers everything from pasture management to horse reproduction.

28. BAKERY SCIENCE

The College: Kansas State University

Smelling like a loaf of fresh-baked bread might just be the most brilliant way to make new friends. Modern commercial baking relies pretty heavily on science to achieve consistency and efficiency, and this major teaches prospective bakers and managers the cereal science, microbiology and milling expertise they’ll need to run a successful bakery.

29. THEME PARK ENGINEERING

The College: California State University Long Beach

California State University offers a fun twist on electrical engineering with its B.S. in Theme Park Engineering, which readies students for careers in the theme park and amusement industries, where they’ll meld elements of electrical, civil and mechanical engineering to learn the critical specifics of electrical power, hydraulics and pneumatic controls. 

30. Southwest Studies

The College: Colorado College

You’d be hard-pressed to name any region that’s been as thoroughly romanticized as the American southwest. Combining history, ecology, and art appreciation, this unique degree prepares students for careers in a wide variety of fields. Plus, those who major (or minor) in southwest studies at Colorado College get to participate in field trips through some of the most breathtaking countryside on the entire continent. 

31. COMIC ART

Pop art style woman reading a pop art comic book
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The College: Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Master the serious art of storytelling, while studying the use of line, color, and composition, as well as character development, storyboarding and plot. In other words: become the next Stan Lee with this BFA program from the world-renowned Minneapolis College of Art and Design, with a dual emphasis on the history of comic art and individual, experimental expression.

32. GUNSMITHING

The College: Lassen Community College

Founded in 1945, the Gunsmithing school at LCC in Susanville, California is the oldest institution of its kind in the United States. Its NRA-affiliated A.S. degree programs offer such courses as “Machine Shop for Gunsmiths,” “Basic Rifle Barreling,” and “Cowboy Action Shooting Short Guns.”

33. Puppet Arts

The College: University of Connecticut

Like something out of a Spike Jonze movie, puppetry has been an academic specialty of UConn since 1964, when master puppeteer Frank W. Ballard—who passed away in 2010 and for whom an on-campus museum is named—first started teaching classes. In the five decades since the subject’s introduction, the school has put on nearly 500 puppet productions, with graduates of the BFA and MFA programs going on to design and perform for some of the world’s best-known theaters, television shows, film studios, schools, museums and beyond.

34. ADVENTURE EDUCATION

The College: Plymouth State University

There’s a reason why the Boy Scouts chose “Be Prepared” as their motto. Mother Nature is wondrous and enriching, but you can’t just trudge up Mount Washington without the proper training or equipment. PSU’s Adventure Education majors work with ecologists, physicians, and canoeing maestros to build up their outdoor skill sets.

35. ASTROBIOLOGY

The College: Florida Tech

Is there life on other planets (or moons)? Astrobiology, the marriage of astronomy and life science, interrogates that age-old question while considering other big topics like the origin of life on earth. At Florida Tech, you can earn a B.S. in this fascinating discipline. En route, you’ll learn about the ongoing search for Martian microorganisms, discuss the future of lunar colonization, and gaze at extrasolar planets through a spectacularly-big research telescope.

36. Shakespeare Studies

Exterior of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
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The College: King’s College London

England is the land of Shakespeare, so naturally there’s a Bard-centered degree program at one of London’s most prestigious universities. A collaboration between King’s College and the world-famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the course load details both modern and historic perspectives on the great playwright and his contemporaries. Students are also made to grapple with the practicalities of staging classics like Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest at a twenty-first century playhouse. All the world’s a stage, but times do change.

37. PAPER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

The College: North Carolina State University

Michael Scott would’ve loved this curriculum. As NC State’s official website explains, their Paper Science and Engineering majors “learn applied skills on our $12 million in-house laboratory equipment, including a state-of-the-art paper machine. We are the only school in North America with equipment in-house that can convert any biomass material, such as grass, cornstalks and wood, into pulp and paper.”

38. BAGPIPE PERFORMANCE

The College: Carnegie Mellon University

Located in western Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon was founded by a pair of entrepreneurial Scotsmen, Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. In keeping with its ancestral roots, the school’s been training bagpipers for decades. Back in 1990, CMU introduced its Bagpiping Performance bachelor’s degree program, which remains a campus staple. 

39. BICYCLE DESIGN AND FABRICATION

The College: Minnesota State College Southeast

If you love cycling, why not go pro? At Minnesota State College Southeast, you can earn a two-year A.A.S. degree that covers the ins and outs of everybody’s favorite human-powered vehicle. And hey, classes like “Physics for Bikes” ought to make triathlons way more interesting.

40. GREENHOUSE OPERATIONS

The College: Gateway Technical College

Seasonal temperature and humidity extremes are the bane of many-a-gardener’s existence. That’s why good greenhouses, which allow horticulturists to control such factors, are a godsend to plant-growers. Wisconsin’s Gateway Technical College has an Associate of Applied Science degree in their maintenance and care. Completing the coursework can open all kinds of doors into landscape management, floral design, and other botanical career paths.

41. CITRUS AND HORTICULTURAL SCIENCE

Fruiting orange trees in a sunny grove
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The College: Florida Southern College

While oranges technically aren’t native to Florida, the Sunshine State has an ongoing love affair with the fruit. Students enrolled in FSC’s Citrus and Horticultural Science bachelor’s program can choose to—ahem—concentrate in a wide range of topics pertaining to lemons, grapefruits, oranges and whatnot. Some program alumni have attained high-profile jobs within the industry, according to one recruitment video.

42. RESORT MANAGEMENT

The College: Ferris State University

Helping others feel relaxed can be really hard work, especially at a resort. Good thing the professors at Ferris State know what it takes to maintain a golf course, keep a well-stocked bar, and advertise your little slice of heaven. Get ready for a lifetime of enviable Yelp! reviews.

43. SOCIAL MEDIA

The Colleges: Pace University, University of Florida, University of Southern California

A number of schools have created Social Media degree programs in recent years (usually at the Master’s level). And why wouldn’t they? Love it or hate it, this new frontier in information-sharing technology transforms businesses, connects communities, and reshapes our public discourse on a global scale. So yeah, it sounds like something that more of us ought to study.

 

10 Forgotten Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
Rankin/Bass Productions

If you're prone to picturing your favorite Christmas characters as stop-motion puppets, you can thank Rankin/Bass. The production company founded by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass found success in transforming holiday songs and myths into fully-developed television specials in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Their most popular specials, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, are still staples of holiday programming decades after they first aired.

But not every holiday film that played under the Rankin/Bass banner was an instant success. After adapting the most beloved Christmas stories, the company broadened its definition of holiday material, with varying degrees of success. Some films were forgettable, and others were so strange and unsettling that young viewers forced themselves to forget. Here are some Rankin/Bass specials that may be missing from holiday television marathons this year.

1. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)

Scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year.
Rankin/Bass Productions

After the stressful events of his 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph deserved a vacation. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), the red-nosed reindeer barely has a day to rest before being sent on his next adventure. When Santa Claus and his reindeer return home to the North Pole after delivering presents on Christmas, they learn that Happy the Baby New Year is missing. It’s up to Rudolph to bring him home before midnight on New Year’s Eve or else the calendar will be stuck at December 31. And because it wouldn’t be a Rankin/Bass cartoon without a terrifying villain, a vulture named Eon the Terrible is racing to catch Happy first so he can live forever. Thankfully, Rudolph has a caveman, a Medieval knight, and Benjamin Franklin on his side.

2. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)

Scene from The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The Little Drummer Boy from 1968 ends with the birth of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. the events of Christmas. This meant that Rankin/Bass’s most overtly religious Christmas special wasn’t an obvious choice for a follow-up, but the studio still released one in 1976. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II is inspired by "Silver Bells"—a song whose lyrics have nothing to do with the first Christmas at Bethlehem. In the sequel, the drummer boy Aaron and the wise man Melchior join forces to protect silver bells made for baby Jesus from the Roman soldiers plotting to steal them.

3. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

Scene from Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.
Rankin/Bass Productions

By the late 1970s, it was apparent that Rankin/Bass was running out of Christmas myths to expand into television specials. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, their 1977 stop motion film, tells the story of an outcast donkey who experiences a series of traumatic events during the Roman Empire. After being bullied by other animals, left for dead by his owner, and suffering the loss of his mother, Nestor becomes a hero by carrying a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem, where she gives birth to Jesus. Needless to say, Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey didn’t have the same cultural impact as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

4. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)

Scene from The First Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

It may have a happy ending, but The First Christmas (1975) is the bleakest movie on this list. An orphaned shepherd named Lucas is taken in by a group of nuns after he’s blinded by lightning. When snow falls during the abbey’s Christmas pageant, Lucas miraculously regains his eyesight and sees snow for the first time. The story swaps Rankin/Bass's signature humor and fantasy for heavy-handed sentimentality, which may be why it didn’t land as well with kids as the company’s other holiday specials. One highlight is a voice performance by Angela Lansbury as the narrator.

5. Jack Frost (1979)

Scene from Jack Frost.
Rankin/Bass Productions

So this film from 1979 is technically a Groundhog Day special, but its connection to winter means it’s usually lumped in with the rest of Rankin/Bass’s Christmas programming. A groundhog named Pardon-Me-Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) narrates the story of Jack Frost. After Jack Frost falls in love with a woman on Earth, Father Winter agrees to make him human, with the catch that Jack will turn back into a sprite if he fails to obtain a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by the first sign of spring. The special is notable for its weird characters, including a villain with a clockwork horse and henchmen. And—spoiler alert!—because Jack doesn’t get the girl at the end, it’s one of the few Rankin/Bass films that doesn’t have a happy ending.

6. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

Scene from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1979, Rankin/Bass gave two of its most iconic Christmas characters—Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—their own movie. The studio was so confident in the product that Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July even had a brief theatrical release overseas. But the film has failed to take the place of the original specials in the public consciousness—maybe because seeing snow snakes terrorize Rudolph and watching an evil wizard transform into a tree were too much for younger viewers to handle.

7. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)

Scene from Pinocchio's Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The story of Pinocchio may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas, but that didn’t stop Rankin/Bass from turning the classic Italian fairytale into a holiday special. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980) features many of the same themes and characters as The Adventures of Pinocchio—only this version of the tale centers around the puppet’s first Christmas. Santa Claus even makes a cameo appearance.

8. The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

Scene from The Stingiest Man in Town.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most widely adapted stories of all time, so of course it shows up in Rankin/Bass’s filmography. An insect named B.A.H. Humbug narrates this musical retelling from 1978, with Walter Matthau starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Stingiest Man in Town joins Frosty the Snowman as one of the few Rankin/Bass Christmas productions made with traditional 2D animation instead of stop-motion.

9. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold (1981)

Scene from The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Rankin/Bass’s streak of mashing up Christmas with other holidays reached peak weirdness in 1981. That’s when the studio released The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold—a story that follows a young Irish sailor who helps a clan of leprechauns protect their gold from an evil banshee named Old Mag the Hag. By trying to create a special that could air around Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, the filmmakers ended up with something that made little sense at any time of year.

10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

Scene from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1970, Rankin/Bass explored how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus with Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Fifteen years later, the studio produced a film that provided an alternate origin story for the character, based on L. Frank Baum's 1902 children's book of the same name. This second special wasn’t as well-received as the first. It starts with an antler-sporting sorcerer called the Great Ak finding an abandoned baby in the forest. The child is taken in and raised by wood nymphs, eventually growing up to become a jolly man who delivers toys to children—all while fighting monsters called Awgwas on the side. It ends with a council of mythical beings granting Santa Claus immortality. What was arguably Rankin/Bass’s most unusual Christmas special was also the last to use stop-motion animation.

25 Surprising Facts About Love Actually

Bill Nighy stars in Love Actually (2003).
Bill Nighy stars in Love Actually (2003).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it’s officially classified as a romantic comedy, Love Actually—Richard Curtis’s intertwining tale of love and loss in London in the midst of the Christmas season—has become a staple of holiday movie marathons everywhere. Here are 25 things you might not have known about the hit 2003 film.

1. Love Actually‘s airport footage was shot with hidden cameras.

Footage of passengers being welcomed and embraced by loved ones at Heathrow Airport was shot on location with hidden cameras for a week. In the film’s DVD commentary, writer-director Richard Curtis explains that when something special was caught on camera, a crew member would race out to have its subjects sign a waiver so the moment might be included in Love Actually. This was a fitting production device, as Curtis claims that watching the love expressed at the arrival gate of LAX is what inspired him to write the ensemble romance in the first place.

2. Four plot lines were cut from Love Actually.

Curtis initially aimed to include 14 love stories in the film. Two were clipped in the scripting phase, but two were shot and cut in post. Those lost before production involved a girl with a wheelchair, and one about a boy who records a love song for a classmate who ultimately hooks up with his drummer. Shot but cut for time was a brief aside featuring an African couple supporting each other during a famine, and another storyline that followed home a school headmistress, revealing her long-time commitment to her lesbian partner.

3. A fifth of Love Actually is commonly cut from television broadcasts.

Martin Freeman in ‘Love Actually’ (2003)
Universal Studios

It might be of little surprise that the raciest element of this holiday movie rarely makes it on TV. The love story of John and Judy has Martin Freeman and Joanna Page playing a pair of stand-ins on an erotic drama. Their scenes have the pair mimicking sex acts, but even as simulations of simulated sex, their storyline is usually deemed too hot for TV.

4. Martine McCutcheon’s role in Love Actually was penned just for her.

Curtis wrote his screenplay with some stars in mind, including Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and McCutcheon, the charismatic English ingénue best known for her role on BBC drama EastEnders. So sure was Curtis that he wanted McCutcheon for the role of the love interest to the Prime Minister that he had the character’s name as "Martine" in early drafts. Curtis explained in the DVD commentary that the name was changed to "Natalie" before McCutcheon’s audition, "so she wouldn’t get cocky."

5. Richard Curtis sent request letters to his American talent.

Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton, and Denise Richards received letters asking them to consider a role in the film. Both actresses were impressed by the unconventional move, but Linney told The Daily Beast she was even more flattered by its contents.

"I got a letter in the mail from Richard Curtis saying that he’d been trying to cast this part, and he’d kept saying to his partner, Emma Freud, that he’d been looking for a ‘Laura Linney-type,’ and she said, ‘Why don’t you ask Laura Linney?’"

6. Bill Nighy didn’t realize he had auditioned for Love Actually.

Bill Nighy in ‘Love Actually’
Peter Mountain, Universal Pictures

This was the first collaboration between Nighy and Curtis, with the former playing the shameless, comeback-seeking rocker Billy Mack. On the film’s 10-year anniversary, Nighy recalled to The Daily Beast, "I did a rehearsal reading of the script as a favor to the great casting director, Mary Selway, who had been trying to get me into a film for a long time. I thought it was simply to help her hear the script aloud and to my genuine surprise I was given the job."

7. Love Actually‘s actors had their own trailer park village during production.

"We didn’t all film together, but we had a big trailer park for all the cast," Nighy told The Guardian. "There were so many famous people in there, we used to talk about being on Liam Neeson Way or Emma Thompson Road or Hugh Grant Avenue. And it was a masterpiece of diplomacy, too; we all had the same size and type of trailer." Linney remembered the place having a warm sense of community.

8. One scene from Love Actually was lifted directly from Four Weddings And A Funeral.

In Four Weddings and a Funeral, also penned by Curtis, there was a scene where Hugh Grant’s character Charles flirts with a woman at a wedding by mocking the terrible catering, only to discover that she is the caterer. The scene was cut from the 1994 film, but was reshot nearly a decade later with Kris Marshall acting out the flirtatious faux pas. In the commentary track, Curtis admits that some drafts of the Love Actually script still had Charles’s name on portions of the scene.

9. The late Joanna was played by a real-life Richard Curtis crush.

In the commentary, Curtis also confessed his affection and admiration for writer-director Rebecca Frayn and how it led to a heartbreaking scene in Love Actually. She’s uncredited in the film because she never has a scene to perform. But when Curtis needed images to create a slideshow of Sam’s beloved mum/Daniel’s departed wife, he turned to Frayn, asking for "all the prettiest pictures of her from her whole life." In real-life, Frayn is married to Oscar-nominated Scottish producer Andy Harries.

10. Emma Thompson shot her crying scene 12 times.

Arguably the saddest moment in Love Actually is when Thompson’s character realizes her husband has been unfaithful. In the privacy of their bedroom, she listens to Joni Mitchell’s "Both Sides Now" and weeps.

"We decided to do it like how Mike Newell did it in Four Weddings—I shot in medium-wide, and didn’t move the camera," Curtis recalled. "We just let it happen, and Emma walked into the room 12 times in a row and sobbed. It was an amazing feat of acting." He also noted this was the only scene she was asked to perform that day.

11. Hugh Grant did not want to dance.

Though Grant and Curtis had worked together on Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, they had a deep disagreement on how the Prime Minister should be played. Grant wanted it to be a grounded performance and resented Curtis’s push to make the part more whimsical. This came to a head when shooting Grant’s dance number, which the actor refused to rehearse.

"He kept on putting it off, and he didn’t like the song—it was originally a Jackson 5 song, but we couldn’t get it—so he was hugely unhappy about it," Curtis explained. "We didn’t shoot it until the final day and it went so well that when we edited it, it had gone too well, and he was singing along with the words!" It was a tricky thing to cut, but the final result with Girls Aloud’s cover of “Jump (For My Love)” speaks for itself.

12. Tony Blair found it impossible to live up to Hugh Grant’s fictional prime minister.

In 2005, when facing criticism for his dealings with the United States, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair responded by saying, "I know there’s a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there’s the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause."

13. It took 45 minutes to pick out Aurelia’s underwear.

When the loose pages of Jamie’s (Colin Firth) in-progress novel blow into a nearby lake, Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz) is quick to strip down and dive in to rescue them. But in the DVD commentary, Curtis admits that what she wore beneath her cozy sweater was a major matter of debate that involved a lengthy meeting with his producers and 20 different sets of bras and panties to be considered.

14. Simon Pegg auditioned for Love Actually.

Before he broke out with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg was best known for his work on the British sitcom Spaced. It was in this stage of his career that he was eyed for the role of Rufus, the jewelry salesman in Love Actually. However, Curtis ended up casting Rowan Atkinson, who was not only a bigger star but a longtime friend from their college days; the two had previously worked together on Four Weddings and A Funeral, Mr. Bean, and Black Adder.

15. Rowan Atkinson’s character was meant to be an angel.

Rather than just an overenthusiastic gift wrapper with a good Samaritan streak at the airport, Atkinson’s Rufus was initially written as a heavenly helper in disguise. A scene was even shot were he’d evaporate after helping Sam get past security at Heathrow. "But in the end," Curtis said in commentary, "the film turned out so sort of multiplicitous that the idea of introducing an extra layer of supernatural beings was (too much)."

16. Sarah’s apartment is based on Helen Fielding’s.

When Sarah (Laura Linney) takes her office crush Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) back to her flat, a crane shot reveals that her bedroom is perched above the first floor, with a half-wall serving as a sort of balcony. In the DVD commentary track, Curtis mentioned this layout was poached from the Bridget Jones’s Diary author’s home. To him, it seemed a charming staging place for this tender seduction scene.

17. Test audiences spurred a change to the ending of Sarah’s story.

Curtis originally intended for Sarah and Karl’s love story to fizzle out after the phone call from her brother. However, when Love Actually was screened to test audiences, the feedback begged for a clearer resolution. So Curtis provided it, creating an extra scene in reshoots that made it unmistakable that Sarah and Karl would not end up together. "Be careful what you wish for," he warned on the DVD commentary.

18. Andrew Lincoln hand-wrote those romantic signs.


Peter Mountain, Universal Pictures

In 2013, The Walking Dead star reminisced about his climactic gesture in Love Actually with Entertainment Weekly, and revealed, "It is my handwriting! It’s funny, because the art department did it, and then I said, ‘Well, can I do it?’ because I like to think that my handwriting is really good. Actually, it ended up with me having to sort of trace over the art department’s, so it is my handwriting, but with a sort of pencil stencil underneath."

19. The American bar scene included some improv.


Peter Mountain, Universal Studios

Regarding the scene where three American girls (Elisha Cuthbert, January Jones, and Ivana Milicevic) flirt with Kris Marshall, Cuthbert told VH1, "It was such a creative space and we were allowed to improvise and try different things and it wasn’t just completely set into Richard’s writing. I mean we were allowed to sort of venture … It was nice that we got to sort of play around.”

Curtis remembers it differently, noting in the commentary track that the Brits were "respectful" with his script, but these Americans wanted to "pep it up a bit."

20. Bernard is a running joke based on a real man.

Every film Curtis writes contains a "Bernard," and he’s always the butt of a joke. In Love Actually, he’s the son of Thompson’s character who is described as "horrid." This all dates back to a love triangle that didn’t turn in Curtis’s favor. Bernard was the name of a young man who won the heart of Curtis’s crush Anne, and so he will forever be lampooned. In real life, Bernard is a successful politician, namely Bernard Jenkin, Member of Parliament for Harwich and North Essex since 2010.

21. Olivia Olson’s performance of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was too good—which was problematic.

Over 200 girls auditioned for the part of Joanna, the talent show star that young Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) falls hard for. But with pipes that blew away the casting director, Olivia Olson blew the competition away. In the commentary track, Curtis notes that Olson sang the song "All I Want For Christmas Is You" so flawlessly that he feared it sounded manufactured. He had sound editors cut in breaths to the performance to make it more believable.

22. Sam and Joanna reunited in 2008.

Child stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Olivia Olson were utterly adorable together as drum-playing Sam and his grade school crush Joanna. But Love Actually wasn’t the end of the pair’s onscreen romance. They were reunited in 2008 when Olson joined the voice cast of the Disney Channel cartoon show Phineas and Ferb. While Brodie-Sangster lends his voice to the oft-silent Ferb, Olson often sings as Ferb’s crush, the sleek and cool Vanessa Doofenshmirtz.

23. The movie has already been remade—three times!

The central concept of a movie packed with stars and intertwining love stories has been translated into a trio of films. The first is the Indian offering A Tribute To Love, an unofficial remake in the Hindi language. Next, Poland took a turn with Letters to St. Nicolas. The most recent version is Japan’s It All Began When I Met You, which borrows the concept as well as the film’s poster layout.

24. Love Actually got a sequel (of sorts) in 2017.

In March 2017, in celebration of Red Nose Day, Curtis and several members of the original cast—including Grant, Knightley, Firth, Neeson, Nighy, Lincoln, and Atkinson—reprised their characters for a short film, Red Nose Day Actually, that caught viewers up on what the characters are doing today.

"I would never have dreamt of writing a sequel to Love Actually, but I thought it might be fun to do 10 minutes to see what everyone is now up to," Curtis said when the project was announced. "Who has aged best?—I guess that’s the big question ... or is it so obviously Liam?" The short debuted in the U.K. on March 24, 2017, but American audiences had to wait until May 25, 2017 to see what happened to their favorite characters. (Here’s a cheat sheet.)

25. Alan Rickman’s death prevented Emma Thompson from appearing in the sequel.

Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in Love Actually (2003)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When it was announced that Curtis would be revisiting some of the Love Actually characters for a short sequel, he knew right away that out of respect for Alan Rickman—who passed away in early 2016—he did not want to revisit Emma Thompson’s character.

"Richard wrote to me and said, ‘Darling we can’t write anything for you because of Alan,’ and I said, ‘No of course, it would be sad, too sad,’" Thompson explained. "It’s too soon. It’s absolutely right because it’s supposed to be for Comic Relief, but there isn’t much comic relief in the loss of our dear friend really only just over a year ago."

But the 2003 film wasn’t the end of the story for Thompson and Rickman’s characters. In 2015, Curtis’s longtime partner Emma Freud live tweeted some details of what happened to the couple after the credits rolled. The short version? "They stay together but home isn’t as happy as it once was," according to Freud.

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