7 Shockingly Dark Origins of Lovable Children's Characters

#3. Grimace

Back in the swinging 70s, the McDonald's marketing campaign revolved almost entirely around McDonaldland, a fictional fairy land where French fries grew on trees. It was populated by characters like Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar, whose obsession with stealing and eating burgers quickly becomes unsettling when you realize that in McDonaldland, hamburgers are people.

"A census-taker tried to test me once. I ate his liver with McNuggets and a vanilla milkshake. Rabble rabble."

And then there's Grimace, Ronald McDonald's dimwitted, roly-poly purple pal, who tags along on Ronald's adventures providing the kind of comic relief that only the morbidly obese can pull off.

But before that, they were:

Pure evil. When Grimace made his first appearance way back in 1971, he wasn't the lovable moron we know him as today. Grimace was "The Evil Grimace," a four-armed monster with a milkshake lust equaled only by history's greatest monsters.

Back then, Grimace's modus operandi was stealing milkshakes from innocent, helpless, parentless children. And somehow, that was really disturbing. Possibly because all old McDonaldland commercials look like they were directed by David Lynch working through some rage issues while overdosing on mescaline. Just take a look at this early appearance by the evil Grimace. Like all horrible, soul-scarring things, it features a young Jodie Foster.

A few years later, McDonald's relaunched the character as simply Grimace, and he was now Ronald McDonald's friend. It wasn't until two years after that, however, that the ad people realized that his four arms made Grimace look like something out of a nightmare, and reduced them to two. Probably by chopping them off in front of a kindergarten class, if past performance is any indication.

#2. Odie

Garfield's dog pal, whose hobbies included drooling, staring vacantly and being kicked off tables. God, there are just layers upon layers! This here is comedy Steinbeck, people.

"We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us."

But before that, they were:

Somebody else's dog. Pop quiz: What's the name of Odie's owner? If you answered Lyman, the guy with the beady eyes and thick mustache, then congratulations, you're correct! There's also a very good chance you don't exist. You may want to consult a physician about that.

But yes, back in the 70s, Jon Arbuckle briefly lived with another groovy bachelor named Lyman and his empty-headed dog, Odie. After a few years of bland, boring adventures, Lyman was slowly phased out of the strip. Eventually he completely disappeared with no explanation, leaving behind nothing but his dog.

Also, they used to look weird.

Minor characters in comic strips come and go all the time, mostly because they're unfunny or kind of hard to draw. But Lyman was one of the strip's three main characters for five years -- this isn't like Chuck Cunningham going off to college and never coming back. This is like George Costanza suddenly disappearing from Seinfeld, and none of the other characters ever mentioning him again. Even though his parents have now moved in with Jerry because they tested better with the audience.

Whenever he's asked about Lyman's whereabouts, Jim Davis usually quips, "Don't look in Jon's basement," which sounds like a joke until you realize that Davis kind of hates Garfield and has never been shy about it. Take, for example, the super-freaky 1989 storyline that implied Jon and Odie might just be figments of Garfield's imagination as he starved to death:

But that's all conjecture on our part based on the creator's morbid joke. There is an actual, official explanation for Lyman's disappearance: Davis says he left to join the Peace Corps and was never heard from again. That's right: Jon's only friend and Odie's former loving owner is most definitely dead, probably from some terrible, exotic disease if he was lucky; tortured to death by the Tonton Macoute if he wasn't.

#1. The Tin Man

The Tin Woodman, or Tin Man, was one of Dorothy Gale's three companions in The Wizard of Oz. The movie tells us nothing about the Tin Man's origin, except that he has no heart and apparently rusts a lot. Even though tin can't rust.


But before that, they were:

A clumsy RoboCop. According to L. Frank Baum's original novel, before he was the Tin Man, he was Nick Chopper: a regular dude and a lumberjack. Then one day he accidentally chopped off his own arm. Then another arm. Then his legs, torso and head. But while slowly chopping his entire body into ragged chunks, Nick Chopper was also replacing his missing flesh with tin, making him literature's first cyborg.

The only thing he forgot to replace was a heart.

That sounds like the tagline for McConaughey's next masterpiece.

Like most problems in Oz, the Tin Man's problems were all caused by a Wicked Witch: Chopper had fallen madly in love with Nimmie Amee, a Munchkin woman forced to work under the Wicked Witch of the East. Wanting to keep all the hot, awkward dwarf sex to a minimum (why would you ever want to do that?), the witch cursed Chopper's axe so it would turn on him when he swung it. Without a body and now without a heart, he was no longer capable of loving anyone.

He's got whiskey dick of the soul.

But it gets weirder. In The Tin Woodman of Oz, Baum's 12th Oz book, the Tin Man decides to once again pursue the woman he once loved. Unfortunately, he learns that she has already married someone else. Someone made entirely out of his old body parts.

Nimmie married a thing called Chopfyt: a Frankenstein-like monster hacked together by the same tinsmith who built the Tin Man's body. Since no one in Oz ever dies (except the Wicked Witch), the tinsmith was left with a whole pile of nondecaying body parts just sitting around in a barrel after fixing up the Tin Man. Rather than giving them a respectful burial or, you know, using them to rebuild the Tin Man's mortal body since he could have apparently just done that in the first place, the tinsmith decided to build a dude out of them to help out around the shop. A lab zombie, if you will.


The tinsmith decided not to use Nick Chopper's face on Chopfyt, though, as he had another man's dismembered head apparently just lying around the workshop. What? What's weird about that? Asking too many questions is what put the first head here, friend.

Oh, but you know that wacky tinsmith: He just can't bear to throw his dismembered body parts away! He kept the Tin Man's original head. He didn't do anything with it, he just kind of held onto it; it lays around the lab, occasionally chiming in with witticisms like a Billy Bass made out of bleeding meat. Later, the Tin Man had an existentially terrifying conversation with his own skull in the tinsmith's shop, and then presumably drank himself unconscious every day for the rest of his life.

Anthony Scibelli is a handsome stand-up comedian and comedy writer. When he's not thinking about cartoons, he's updating his comedy blog "There's No Success Like Failure."

For more bizarre origin stories, check out The Gruesome Origins of 5 Popular Fairy Tales and The 7 Most WTF Origins of Iconic Pop Culture Franchises.

And stop by Linkstorm learn about Cracked.com's violent and incredibly bloody beginnings.

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