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July 12, 2010 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Tasmanian Devils rebranded after Warner Bros cartoon 'ruins reputation'. The Tasmanian Devil is being rebranded in an attempt to restores it reputation, which conservationists say has been damaged by the Warner Brothers cartoon. They believe the animal has been depicted as ferocious, aggressive and bloodthirsty and are now trying to give the devils an image overhaul and portray them as shy and retiring in an attempt to convince the Australian public that they are worth saving. Wild populations of Tasmanian devils are under grave threat from Devil Facial Tumour Disease Previously Discussed Here, a type of contagious cancer that has decimated their numbers by 60 per cent in 10 years.
posted by Fizz (73 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is idiotic. The fact that they are "ferocious, aggressive and bloodthirsty" is what makes them so awesome.
posted by The Bellman at 6:22 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Next will be mice, ducks, and americans.
posted by HuronBob at 6:23 AM on July 12, 2010


Well, if they WEREN'T ferocious, aggressive, and bloodthirsty, they wouldn't constantly spread that cancer around, now would they?
posted by Malor at 6:24 AM on July 12, 2010


I just assumed that all bunnies are wise-cracking smack-talking cross-dressing know it alls.
posted by Fizz at 6:24 AM on July 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


I can respect that Taz's portrayal might not have been the best PR, but is it possible that the very first dent in their reputation was when someone decided to name them "devils"?
posted by hegemone at 6:25 AM on July 12, 2010 [26 favorites]


I'll be the Grammar Dick and point put that had they been decimated, their numbers would been reduced by 10%. They're actually pretty cute, too!
posted by Scoo at 6:25 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


RadioLab on Devil Facial Tumor Disease. It's pretty crazy. Also, they describe the devils as being pretty ferocious, aggressive and bloodthirsty. I don't see how having a famous, beloved cartoon mascot is a bad thing for them. If it isn't ideally suited for your project, harness the parts that are. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by DU at 6:27 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The WB Taz was introduced in 1954. I think they've waited a bit long to whinge about the bad PR.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:28 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hate to be that guy, but "decimated by 60 percent" is bothering me more than it rightly should.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:29 AM on July 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think the ill branding started with the word devil.
posted by Brian B. at 6:30 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this mean cats don't actually know one of the smoothest wooing techniques in the world?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:31 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, if you 'rebrand' something, you give it a new name. I can't find the new name in the linked article, perhaps they'll come up with one later.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:31 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The greatest tragedy of all: these gentle, misunderstood woodland friends are in danger of extinction because they bite each other's faces off all the time.
posted by stammer at 6:31 AM on July 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


If they succeed at rebranding the Tasmanian Devil, a certain segment of tattoo removals are going to skyrocket.
posted by loquacious at 6:32 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does this mean cats don't actually know one of the smoothest wooing techniques in the world?

It's that inter-species kiss at the end that disturbs me the most.
posted by Fizz at 6:34 AM on July 12, 2010


Oh man, I loved this bit in the first link:
Nick de Vos, unit supervisor of Australian animals at Taronga Zoo, said Warner Bros has "a lot to answer for" when it came to the devils' image problem.

"[Warner Bros] have got an animal that chews through everything and anything, that spins around and that is constantly emitting this incoherent scream. Well, real devils never spin around and they have many different calls, including a soft call."
You might say Tasmania ...

*sunglasses*

... is a no-spin zone.

YEEEEEEAH
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:38 AM on July 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


Hey, if the French can turn around the image of their stalkery, nymphomaniac skunks, anything is possible.
posted by Bromius at 6:40 AM on July 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, real devils never spin around

WHAT IN SAM HILL
posted by shakespeherian at 6:41 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I've ever seen a photograph of a Tasmanian Devil (as opposed to the cartoon) until now. This rebranding sounds more like "taking advantage of the popularity of" to me, not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by immlass at 6:43 AM on July 12, 2010


That's funny. I remember Tasmanian Devils as being portrayed as hard-working, family-oriented creatures, lovable and loving, who often banded together with their fellow island-inhabitants to overcome obstacles and outwit enemies, and occasionally enjoyed some golf.
posted by steef at 6:44 AM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Henry C. Mabuse: The WB Taz was introduced in 1954. I think they've waited a bit long to whinge about the bad PR.

Seems like this animal's branding issues long pre-dated the cartoon character:

The animals, named by British settlers for their ear-splitting screams and strong jaws, were immortalised by the cartoon character Taz as slavering, demented and ravenous.

Even among the aboriginal population the devil "had a reputation for being greedy, lazy and cowardly. It was known as a nasty animal."

WB didn't invent the bad image, they simply embraced it.
posted by three blind mice at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, if the French can turn around the image of their stalkery, nymphomaniac skunks, anything is possible.

You forgot rapist.
posted by Fizz at 6:47 AM on July 12, 2010


Just you wait until the rooster lobby hears about this. This is ridi- they'll say- this is ridiculous.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:50 AM on July 12, 2010 [15 favorites]


Anybody got this user's opinion yet?
posted by jonmc at 6:53 AM on July 12, 2010


Are Australians especially prone to watching or addicted to 1950s Warner Brothers cartoons or something? This seems like the classic example of taking a non-problem (the "destruction" of reputation by the Warner Brothers cartoon) and turning it into a problem by whining publicly and pointing fingers about it.
posted by blucevalo at 7:05 AM on July 12, 2010


Next up: Wolverines not actually much like wolves, actually kind of stupid looking.
posted by Artw at 7:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wolverines are just ferrets on steroids.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:09 AM on July 12, 2010


And they don't look much like Danzig, either.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:11 AM on July 12, 2010


My grandparents used to live in Arizona, where they encountered plenty of coyotes, none of which, they have assured me, ordered anything from a catalog.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:13 AM on July 12, 2010


Next up: Wolverines not actually much like wolves, actually kind of stupid looking.

More like:

Next up: Wolverines do not have retractable claws, metal skeletons, and quick healing.

Also: They do not fight the Soviets out West, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:24 AM on July 12, 2010


Main Entry: dec·i·mate
Pronunciation: \ˈde-sə-ˌmāt\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): dec·i·mat·ed; dec·i·mat·ing
Etymology: Latin decimatus, past participle of decimare, from decimus tenth, from decem ten
Date: 1660

1 : to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
2 : to exact a tax of 10 percent from
3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number b : to cause great destruction or harm to

— dec·i·ma·tion \ˌde-sə-ˈmā-shən\ noun


The word was properly used according to definition 3. Now can the pedants shut up about this word forever?
posted by rocket88 at 7:53 AM on July 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Other animals threatened by their ill-thought out names: the Argentinian Shithead, the Eastern American Asshole, and Fox News
posted by waraw at 7:53 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Now can the pedants shut up about this word forever?

Oh, oh, I know this one...!
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


I suspect that the more people talk about the rebranding, the more chances it has to achieve its aims of bringing attention and money to conservation efforts.
posted by parudox at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2010


DoctorFedora: I hate to be that guy, but "decimated by 60 percent" is bothering me more than it rightly should.

Would "hexadecimated" be better? Poor devils.
posted by hangashore at 8:27 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now can the pedants shut up about this word forever?

Pedants would point out that what you have there is a descriptivist dictionary, which probably espouses all sports of higgledy-piggledy usages like imply and infer being synonymous. They would also recommend you get rid of it, unless your desk has a wobbly leg.

Anyway, sextecimate would be a great word for what we have here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:28 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was suckered by the "rebranding" lede too, because as an expat Tasmanian I found it inconceivable: the fact that many tourists seem disappointed that real devils don't spin around is a source of endless amusement back home, and who would want to spoil that? But all is well - if not for the poor devils - because it turns out that in the eyes of Daily Telegraph subeditors, an exhibit at a single zoo attempting to "generate a bit of empathy" for an endangered species is the equivalent of turning every Virgin Megastore into a Zavvi.

That said, the "placid" angle sounds a teensy bit disingenuous on Taronga's part, assuming that isn't another case of creative reporting:

To dispel the myths, visitors to the exhibition will see devils asleep, when they appear "calm and relaxed", he said.

No doubt - because like many marsupials, they're nocturnal. Every animal on earth looks "calm and relaxed" when it's asleep.
posted by rory at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2010


Would "hexadecimated" be better?

Shirley, that would be one sixteenth...?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2010


The word was properly used according to definition 3. Now can the pedants shut up about this word forever?

No. Definition 3 is in the dictionary due to frequent misuse. "Devastate" is the word that should be used instead.
posted by explosion at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2010


Are Australians especially prone to watching or addicted to 1950s Warner Brothers cartoons or something? This seems like the classic example of taking a non-problem (the "destruction" of reputation by the Warner Brothers cartoon) and turning it into a problem by whining publicly and pointing fingers about it.

Nobody whines about it. Well, apart from park rangers who work with devils and meet tourists who know only the Warner Brothers version - I expect they get sick of hearing the same jokes every day.

The Tarongo Zoo exhibit is about raising awareness of efforts to save an endangered species, not about whining and pointing fingers. The "rebranding" angle is the invention of British journalists and/or subeditors.
posted by rory at 8:40 AM on July 12, 2010


To pick on more of the journalistic interpretation of this story: Tasmanian devils are shy and retiring. They're nocturnal scavengers who hide in the undergrowth, not lords of the plains like lions hunting wildebeest. The only place people ever see them, apart from in wildlife parks, is dead on the side of the road.

But that doesn't make them "placid". They make a hell of a racket when they're squabbling over a carcass. That word looks suspiciously like the Telegraph's to me, not Taronga's.
posted by rory at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2010


I think the initial blame lies with the British, who named them Devils in the first place. And then there's some jackass who is obsessed with the cartoon Tasmanian Devil, and has decorated his whole car accordingly.

Of course, the official "watch out for Tasmanian Devils" sign isn't doing anything to convey the notion that they're kind little critters.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 AM on July 12, 2010


Wait, it's an animal they call a "devil" and they're just now worrying about the damn thing's PR image?
posted by grubi at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2010


(dumbass grubi. I should read the thread before posting.)
posted by grubi at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2010


Now can the pedants shut up about this word forever?

Oh, God, no. We're insufferable people. It's what we do.
posted by grubi at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rebranding would be more like calling them the "Tasmanian Cuddlebunny." It worked for the Patagonian toothfish, after all (for some value of "worked").
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Personally, my favourite unextinct Tasmanian carnivorous marsupial is this one.
posted by rory at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rebranding would be more like calling them the "Tasmanian Cuddlebunny."

Oh, we have plenty of those.
posted by rory at 9:14 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


If asked, I'm sure the orange roughy would have a few words to say about both the efficacy and desirability of being rebranded.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:20 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory, that does look cuddly, although the photo makes it look quite horrified to have been noticed at all....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2010


You use the words "ferocious, aggressive and bloodthirsty" to link to a video that explains ADHD? Surely you could have picked another clip that would not make such an offensive connection.
posted by desjardins at 9:29 AM on July 12, 2010


You use the words "ferocious, aggressive and bloodthirsty" to link to a video that explains ADHD? Surely you could have picked another clip that would not make such an offensive connection.

It was the only video with footage that had the Tasmanian Devil behaving as a Tasmanian Devil. There were others but it wasn't the classic devil that most people know through Warner Bros. Also, a number of them were user-created videos with odd song mash-ups. Maybe there were better options and I just picked something off, for which I apologize.

The link to that video is not meant to be insulting. Sorry if you feel that it makes this connection with ADHD. I did not create that particular video, simply linked to it.

Also, the words in the post are clipped from the article. I just pasted it onto metafilter.
posted by Fizz at 10:08 AM on July 12, 2010


so, just so I understand: rebranding the tasmanian devils will keep them from getting cancer?
posted by shmegegge at 10:19 AM on July 12, 2010


Anybody got this user's opinion yet?

OMG SHE'S GOING TO EAT THAT PUPPY!
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The facial cancer thing is so sad. They are magnificent creatures.
posted by rosswald at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2010


Now I'm imagining the WB TD wearing a smoking jacket and bunny slippers sitting next to a fireplace reading a book on anger management.
posted by Skygazer at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2010


I'm still waiting for authorities to take a stand on whether it is rabbit season or duck season.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2010


Here's my Taz mug. Its ferocity is offset by the very calming blend it contains.
posted by Stan Carey at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I honestly thought they were already extinct.
posted by doublehappy at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2010


Same here. A population in the wild can only take so many falling anvils and TNT kegs disguised as deer.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Tiger

Jesus. That's in addition to the many poisonous snakes, spiders, octopuses, saltwater crocodiles, cassowaries and weird duck-beavers. It's a wonder anyone actually survives on the Australian continent.
posted by electroboy at 12:12 PM on July 12, 2010


Would anyone outside Australia (or Tasmania) even know or care about tasmanian devils if it weren't for the cartoon? The cool-looking Tasmanian tiger (AKA Tasmanian wolf, talk about a branding problem) went extinct in the 1930s and I'd bet most people have never even heard of it.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2010


Here is an awesome animal that far too few people have heard of.

12 wavelength eyes and Rolling your whole body into a wheel like Escher's curl ups.
posted by poe at 1:05 PM on July 12, 2010


I guess that the main reason why animals like the Tasmanian devil, the hyena, the jackal, the coyote, the wolf, or even the vulture have always had rather bad press is that they just happened to occupy very much the same ecological niche as a certain clever primate...Nobody likes competition.
posted by Skeptic at 1:37 PM on July 12, 2010


Which ecological niche? Carrion? Omnivorous? Apex predator? People neither prefer wombats as a food source, nor do any of those animals derive any significant part of their calories from plants.
posted by electroboy at 2:23 PM on July 12, 2010


Every animal on earth looks "calm and relaxed" when it's asleep.

Except for the West Indian Sleep-Stabber, of course.

And pademelons are adorable. We've got a couple of them at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, and for a while one of them had a cast on for a broken leg. So cute!
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:08 PM on July 12, 2010


People neither prefer wombats as a food source

Don't knock it until you've tried it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:09 PM on July 12, 2010


My grandparents used to live in Arizona, where they encountered plenty of coyotes, none of which, they have assured me, ordered anything from a catalog.

You'd think that, but it turns out they just use stolen credit cards so it doesn't show up on their statements.

They're wily that way.
posted by Sparx at 3:50 PM on July 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Years ago, my boyfriend and some mates were on their way home from the country when they came across a dead wombat on the side of the road. It was still fresh so, being zoolology students, they decided to take it home and have a closer look.

So you're standing in the kitchen with your skinned, dissected wombat carcass, looking out the window, when you notice...the barbecue. Apparently it's not a nice meat at all. Goanna however? Delicious.
posted by Wantok at 7:41 PM on July 12, 2010


Thylacine.
posted by ovvl at 7:55 PM on July 12, 2010


It's a wonder anyone actually survives on the Australian continent.
That is very true for some Tasmanian people.
posted by unliteral at 12:33 AM on July 13, 2010


Doublehappy said: I honestly thought they were already extinct.

A local council of mine is considering a devil breeding facility. If you knew my kids you would probably suggest I donate my ummm... time.
News article
posted by Duke999R at 2:30 AM on July 13, 2010


Seriously, I do hope they figure out how to stop the tumours. Tassie Devils are awesome, cranky little beasts and it'd be good if they got a second chance.
posted by harriet vane at 2:34 AM on July 13, 2010


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