Culture Pop Bestiary


Image for Ollie

One in a series of posts dedicated to pop-culture depictions of owls — as stand-ins for educated, highbrow humans — from 1924–1983. The series derives its title from Owl’s home in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

In a 1963 cartoon, “Ollie the Owl”, from Noveltoons — the Paramount Pictures’ Famous Studios anthology series that brought us animated versions of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Good Little Witch, etc. — Ollie Owl Jr. is a child prodigy who uses a “Junior G-Man” detective kit to outsmart and arrest a bank robber.

When we first meet Ollie, he is hard at work in his playhouse, the sign atop which proclaims it an Experimental Laboratory. A complex machine delivers him an ice cream cone as he reads a book on Einstein.

In a 1964 appearance, in a short called “Whiz Quiz Kid”, Ollie goes on a children’s quiz show and answers all the questions correctly, to the dismay of the corrupt TV studio execs. The final question involves a race between Ollie and a computer… which the owlet wins by writing from the ends of his equation towards the middle… which, come to think of it, is how the xenolinguist (played by Amy Adams in the 2016 adaptation, Arrival) in Ted Chiang’s 1998 story “Story of Your Life” cracks the aliens’ language.

Ollie walks offstage, at the end of “Whiz Quiz Kid,” licking a lollipop. Foreshadowing the famous 1969–1970 Tootsie Pop commercial, which we’ll get to later in this series.

Unlike other owls we’ve seen in this series, Ollie really is a genius. And quite capable at handling himself. Although we’re supposed to find his prodigy-like mannerisms amusing, I think.

Tags: Bestiary