11 Classic Facts About Wishbone

PBS
PBS

Between 1995 and 1998, PBS fed kids classic tales like Ivanhoe and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow through a wise-cracking dog named Wishbone. The imaginative Jack Russell Terrier inserted himself into the plots of countless books and always found a way to connect even the most esoteric tome to the real-life problems of his owner, Ellen Talbot, and her teenage son, Joe.

But how did PBS pull off this canine-focused, kiddie Masterpiece Theatre? How Wishbone save college GPAs? And what's the story with the news that Wishbone could be making his way back to the big screen? Read on for more facts about the hit kid's series.

1. Wishbone's creator was inspired by his own Jack Russell Terrier.

Wishbone creator and executive producer Rick Duffield was long intrigued by the concept of telling kids stories from the point of view of a dog, like his own Jack Russell Terrier. It just took a fateful glance at his own library for the full idea to take hold. “I had gotten into the habit of giving voice to my own dog’s expressions and exploits around the house,” Duffield told The New Yorker. “One afternoon, as I struggled to convert that impulse into a show, I gazed at the row of books on my credenza. The one that caught my eye that day was Frank Magill’s Masterpieces of World Literature. Well, what if a little dog with a big imagination could take us into some of the greatest stories ever told? And, why not make him the hero?”

2. A total of five dogs played Wishbone over the years.

The coveted role of Wishbone went to a Los Angeles-based pup named Soccer. But Soccer couldn’t be in every shot. Although he did the bulk of the screen work, the studio also employed three other Jack Russell Terriers for stunts (Phoebe, Slugger, and Shiner) and another just for publicity stills (Bear).

3. Soccer, the main dog to play Wishbone, won the creators over with his backflip.

According to an “interview” Soccer gave to Boys’ Life magazine, he was chosen out of a pool of about 100 dogs for his personality—and his impressive tricks. During the 1994 casting call, Soccer did a backflip that bowled over the producers. Admittedly, he had a great teacher. Soccer’s owner, Jackie Kaplan, was a seasoned dog trainer who also coached the Dobermans that chase Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies.

4. Jensen Ackles got his start on Wishbone.

You can currently see Jensen Ackles on TV as Dean Winchester, one of the ghost-hunting brothers on Supernatural. His first television credit, however, came from Wishbone. Ackles got his big break playing Michael Duss, the preppy teen with a knack for “mechanical things,” in the season 1 episode “Viva Wishbone!” Check him out in the clip above.

5. Amy Acker appeared in three episodes of Wishbone.

Similarly, Joss Whedon regular Amy Acker—of Angel and Dollhouse fame—showed up in the book fantasy sequences of three different episodes of Wishbone. This gave her famous literary roles such as Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey, Priscilla Mullins from The Courtship of Miles Standish, and even Venus from The Aeneid. Watch above to see her turn as that Roman goddess.

6. Wishbone wasn't just for kids.

Duffield received tons of letters from young children, parents, and teachers while Wishbone was on the air. But the series hit another, unexpected audience. “We were tickled that so many college students liked the show,” he said. “Some would write us thank you notes for helping them pass freshman lit class.”

7. Mo Rocca wrote for Wishbone.

You’ve probably caught comedian Mo Rocca on I Love the ‘80s, The Daily Show, or CBS Sunday Morning. Back in 1995, though, he was just another writer for Wishbone. As Rocca recalled in his 2016 commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence College (which you can watch above), “Writing on that show meant taking some of the greatest stories ever told—the books I was supposed to read in college but hadn’t and which I’m sure you have—and retelling each in a half-hour for kids, with a dog in the lead role … It was storytelling boot camp.”

8. Wishbone's voice actor made a cameo ... as a voice actor for Wishbone.

Wishbone was voiced by Larry Brantley. The actor appeared in voice only throughout the series—with one exception. In the episode “Rushin’ to the Bone,” Brantley has a brief cameo as an actor named Larry Brinkley. This Larry is also dubbing for Wishbone, as he shoots a dog food commercial involving a fake Scottish castle and period garb.

9. Wishbone went on a mall tour across America.

In between the first and second seasons of Wishbone, Soccer hit the road. He appeared at malls across America, greeting his fans from a red armchair. And his accommodations were none too shabby. While traveling, Soccer flew first class, stayed in four-star hotels, and had his own security detail. People noted that the handlers even gave Soccer a codename: The President.

10. Wishbone got a spinoff movie and several book series.

Wishbone was mostly an episodic kind of dog, but he did manage to score one feature-length film. Wishbone’s Dog Days of the West premiered on Showtime in the spring of 1998. It was based on the O. Henry short story collection Heart of the West, and it went directly to video soon after its television debut.

One movie may be a slim filmography, but Wishbone’s bibliography is much larger: Between 1996 and 2001, there were nine different Wishbone book series. The first franchise, Wishbone Classics, consisted of straightforward novelizations of the TV series. But soon there were Adventures of Wishbone, Wishbone Mysteries, and even Wishbone: The Early Years, a series that followed Wishbone as a puppy. The last spate of Wishbone books came in 2000 and 2001, all by the same author (A.D. Francis). You can still get those on Amazon.

11. Wishbone could be making a big-screen comeback.

Nearly 20 years after Wishbone ended its original series run, the literary-loving dog is ready for his close-up (again). In July 2020, The Hollywood Reporter announced that a Wishbone movie was in the works, with comedy legend Peter Farrelly set to produce, with Mattel Films and Universal teaming up to distribute the film.

"Our deep library of iconic franchises continues to offer cinematic storytelling opportunities," Mattel Films's Robbie Brenner, who will executive produce, said. "We're thrilled to be working with Peter Farrelly, Roy Parker, and Universal to take the beloved dog classic into a new direction with a modern reimagination of the franchise."

This story has been updated for 2020.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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What Movie Do You Want to Watch? This Website Analyzes Film Critic Reviews to Help You Choose

She's smiling because it only took her two minutes to choose a movie.
She's smiling because it only took her two minutes to choose a movie.
Rowan Jordan/iStock via Getty Images

Much like sommeliers can detect subtle notes of who-knows-what in a sip of wine, film critics are fantastic at identifying influences and drawing parallels between movies. Cinetrii is a handy website that crowdsources all that movie knowledge to help you find your next favorite film.

Basically, you enter the name of a movie you enjoyed in the search bar, and the site will show you a node graph with film recommendations splintering off the search query. Click on one, and you’ll see a quote from a critic (or critics) who referenced the films together. This way, you get a list of recommendations based on different aspects of the movie, and you get to decide for yourself what you’d like to see more of.

If, for example, you were blown away by the special effects in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, you might like Doctor Strange; according to Variety, it boasts “a staggering visual effects innovation, in which the building-bending seen in Christopher Nolan’s Inception is taken to an extreme that would blow even M.C. Escher’s mind.” If what the Chicago Tribune calls an “elegant brain-bender” quality appealed to you more, The Matrix might be a perfect fit.

Films above your search query were released before the movie you typed in, while films below came out after it. The shorter the line, the more closely the films are related, as calculated by the website’s algorithm. And, as Lifehacker points out, that algorithm doesn’t give any special treatment to massive Hollywood blockbusters, so Cinetrii is an especially great way to find hidden gems. Because it shows you the critics' actual quotes, you’re not left to wonder why a certain film landed on the recommendations list—which can’t always be said for “Watch next” lists on streaming services.

You can explore Cinetrii here.

[h/t Lifehacker]