11. Artie the Artichoke
The strange world of sports mascots includes more than its share of anthropomorphic food - everything from Cayenne at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to the Geoduck at Washington's Evergreen State College to The Fighting Okra at Mississippi's Delta State University. None, however, is likely to endear itself to nerds as quickly as Artie, mascot of the Fighting Artichokes of Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Artie, you see, was deliberately designed to be preposterous. He's the result of a protest vote by students back in the '70s in order to, as the school's website diplomatically puts it, "express a difference of opinion concerning budget priorities." In other words, by students interested in, you know, academics and learning and all that nerdy stuff, irked at the amount of dough SCC was spending on freakin' sports programs. The gesture backfired; Artie became, and remains, beloved.
12. Donut Cops from Wreck-It Ralph
There are all manner of sweets-as-people in the "Sugar Rush" scenes of this first-rate Disney animated adventure, from Sour Bill the sour ball to the spear-wielding Oreo cookie guardsmen. There are even strings of Laffy Taffy that actually laugh.
Most notable, perhaps, is the heat, the Man, the fuzz. Donuts, the traditional favorite repast of law enforcement, are here the cops themselves. An éclair and a frosted donut, ingeniously named Wynnchel and Duncan, represent Sugar Rush's finest. In relentless pursuit of their quarry, the brutal baked goods even employ Devil Dogs in the style of police K-9s.
A classic David Letterman Top Ten List - "Top Ten Least Exciting Superpowers for Comic Book Superheroes" - included "Ability to Communicate With Corn." It sounds ridiculous, until you take a peek into the pages of this witty Image Comics title by John Layman and Rob Guillory. After that, it still seems ridiculous, but also brilliant.
The comic centers on Tony Chu, a detective for the FDA and a "cibopath" - he can receive psychic impressions from food (except beets). The other members of Chu's family, as it turns out, also have food-related psychic abilities. In the most recent issue at this writing (#36), there's even a two-page splash devoted to anthropomorphic "MUTANT CORN AND SUPERFISH - FOOD FIGHTING FURIOUSLY!" How prescient does Letterman seem now?
14. Twinkie the Kid
Assuming you allow them, as Michael Pollan-like critics of the modern diet might not, to be defined as food at all, the snack cakes from Hostess were marketed with a rich gallery of anthropomorphic characters. There was old salt Captain Cupcake, dignified sovereign King Ding Dong and Robin-Hood/Green-Arrow-type archer hero Happy Ho Ho, who for some reason sounded like Ed Wynn. There was also Fruit Pie the Magician ("The Hostess pie technician"), a traveling mountebank reminiscent of Frank Morgan's Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz.
But the star was the rootin' tootin' Twinkie the Kid, who in a series of '70s commercials got to ride to the rescue of the Captain, the King and Happy Ho Ho. Fruit Pie was able to use his magical powers to ward off a ghost without The Kid's help - he conjures up a fruit pie, which inexplicably mollifies the ectoplasmic spirit. But overall the campaign's message was clear: In America, the cowboy archetype always wins.
15. Mr. Hot Dog
Of the antagonists in '80s-era arcade classic BurgerTime, only Mr. Hot Dog really made sense. It was understandable that a weenie, the rival picnic and drive-in favorite, would attempt to interfere with Peter Pepper's short-order production of hamburgers.
Mr. Egg's and Mr. Pickle's reasoning was less clear - their relationship with hamburgers was symbiotic. Eggs and pickles are yummy on burgers.
The somewhat overlooked 2008 animated movie The Tale of Despereaux was based on Kate DiCamillo's much-beloved children's book of 2004, about a stouthearted, adventuresome mouse. One bizarre element that was added for the movie, however, was Boldo, the manic culinary muse of the frustrated royal soup-chef (voiced by Kevin Kline). Boldo communicates by animating fruits and vegetables into a (roughly) human shape and speaking in the voice of Stanley Tucci.
Boldo's name was presumably a reference to the great 16th Century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, whose portraits were often composed out of pumpkins and mushrooms and apples and bunches of grapes, cunningly assembled...
Or maybe the similarity is just a coincidence.
17. Charlie the Tuna
Maybe Charlie doesn't quite qualify for this list, since he was only wannabe food. The poor fish was so desperate for validation that he actually aspired to be hooked, butchered and mutilated, mixed with mayo by some housewife and then stuck into a lunchbox between slices of white bread to be devoured by some kid, as long as it showed that he was up to corporate standards. But all he got for this pathetic ambition - and for his dutiful shilling, since the early '60s, for StarKist - was the same brusque rejection slip, over and over: "SORRY CHARLIE."
The real question is - why wasn't Charlie acceptable to StarKist? Was he - like Herschel Bernardi, the actor who originally provided his voice - a victim of a blacklist?
18. Pee-Wee's Fruit Salad
On Pee-Wee's Playhouse back in the '80s, having declared that he loved fruit salad, host Pee-Wee Herman was, in the longstanding kid tradition, asked "Why don't you marry it?" So Pee-Wee decided to take the plunge, and make an honest fruit salad of it. The officiator at the ensuing nuptials assured us that the fruit salad also said "I do." Presumably a properly demure bridal manner is what prevented us from hearing the vow.
The reflex at this point is to make some sort of joke at DOMA's expense, but hopefully that's no longer necessary.
19. The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man
Possibly the strangest giant monster ever to rampage through the streets of a city in movie history, the titanic SPMM is the physical form taken by the malevolent Gozer in the climactic scenes of the original 1984 Ghostbusters. The title heroes blast him, resulting in the wonderful shot of him grimacing as he's pushed backward and toasted.
The blast fails to quell the rage of the confectionary colossus, however, so it falls to Bill Murray's Peter Venkman to propose a more conciliatory strategy: "He's a sailor, he's in New York; we get this guy laid we won't have any trouble."
20. Japanese Screaming Soup
In 1982's The House Where Evil Dwells, Susan George and Edward Albert are expats who settle, with their daughter, in a beautiful old house in Japan, even though it was the scene of a mid-19th-Century love triangle between a samurai, his wife and her lover, which ended in a gory slaughter. They're also unaware that the spirits of the three still haunt the place, and are determined to possess the new residents - with Albert's pal Doug McClure standing in for the lover - and re-enact their domestic difficulties through them.
Among the many ripe hilarities in this marvelously terrible ghost story, one food-related moment stands out from the rest: Susan George is serving soup to her family, and the daughter (Amy Barrett) looks down into her bowl to see a spectral face floating in the broth, mouthing screams at her.
It's hard to say whether he's screaming in an attempt to frighten the child, or in earnest, finding himself bathed in hot soup. In any case, when she's told to eat her soup, the first question that occurs to the poor kid is, no kidding, "What kind is it?" It's one of the high points of '80s cinema. You half expect one of her parents to say "It's samurai ghost soup. It's good for you."
OK, enough. This is making me hungry.
Previously by M.V. Moorhead: