Growing up in the desert my daughters, like myself, have developed an appreciation for something many others may find slimy or unattractive: lizards!
We call all the little geckos on our patio in the summer “Alonso” and all the cool blue-tailed desert whiptails who pop up “Bill.” I used to enjoy having conversations with the bearded dragon who resided in the lobby of a former veterinary office. Well, I’d talk to him, and he would stare at me sorta judgy. That’s what bearded dragons do.
There is just something spunky and fun about this member of the reptilia class that makes them cool characters in live-action, animation, books, and comics.
With Earth Day events still taking place all weekend, and The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs gearing up for its 100th episode next week, I thought it would be fun to share 10 random and geeky facts about pet lizards!
1. Avid viewers of the Shudder series The Last Drive-in With Joe Bob Briggs know Joe Bob and Darcy aren’t the only mainstay hosts. There is also Ernie the bearded dragon. Ernie isn’t actually the pet of Joe Bob but of the show’s director, Austin Jennings. Jennings refers to himself on social media as “Ernie the Lizard’s less famous roommate,” and also uses a young fan’s drawing of “Banana Ernie” for his profile picture. No, Ernie does not have his own official social media, but he does have his own official “action figure” as part of the Darcy the Mail Girl set.
2. Ernie has his own little Airstream Trailer in his tank, but another bearded dragon, Eli, lived in an Airstream with a past-his-prime Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) in the Evil Dead series Ash vs. the Evil Dead. In the episode where Eli speaks, he has the same voice as the demon Eligos, voiced by actor Jared Turner. “Eli” is short of Eligos, if you didn’t guess.
3. One of the coolest and cutest pets in all of comics is Quincy the iguana from the comic strip Foxtrot. The pet of eternally 10-year-old Jason Fox, Quincy isn’t an anthropomorphic or personified version of a lizard. However, thanks to Jason, he is an avid cosplayer and has been dressed as such characters as “The Lone Iguana” and “QUINCE-E.”
4. Other than in a dream sequence, Quincy has only spoken in the comic once. In a strip where Jason’s malfunctioning Spider-Man web launcher caused his mom to say “Comics aren’t real,” Quincy later breaks the fourth wall and replies to Jason’s protests with “Listen to your mother, Jason.”
5. Not all pet lizards are good guys. In Disney’s first animated feature sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, villain McLeach owns the nasty-tempered pet lizard Joanna the Goanna Lizard, a type of lizard indigenous to Australia. Joanna isn’t a talking animal in the film, but was originally going to be. Were this the case, according to Villains wiki, her voice would have been provided by Bart Simpson portrayer and prolific voice actor Nancy Cartwright.
6. On the good guy side of animated Disney pets is Pascal, the adopted pet chameleon of Rapunzel in Tangled. The color-changing and feisty lizard was a popular character in the movie, but it wasn’t until the Rapunzel spinoff series Tangled: The Series we learn his origin. Pascal’s mother sacrificed herself to save her baby, setting the little Pascal down the river to flee from a snake. The snake caught up with him while he passed Rapunzel’s tower, and he climbed it to escape. Long story short, she saved him from the snake and they’ve been pals ever since (even though she first thought he was a frog).
7. James Bond has always had to face dangerous animals from sharks to scorpions to crocodiles to piranhas, but the casino pets at Macau’s Golden Dragon Casino from Skyfall, a pair of dangerous Komodo dragons, were actually CGI. They were, however, based on a real Komodo dragon, Raja, from the London Zoo.
8. In the Gore Verbinski animated film, Rango, the very domestic pet chameleon falls off his trailer into the wild desert and takes on the persona of a rough gunslinger, Rango. This movie gives nods to several other films from Chinatown to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, but one of the most meta is when little Rango splats into the windshield of a car driven by Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego Raoul Duke, a character also played by Johnny Depp in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Depp, of course, voices Rango and the animated Duke as well.
9. Many kids grew up learning from Ms. Frizzle in the world of The Magic School Bus, but class pet Liz, a Jackson’s chameleon, often gets herself in several dangerous situations. She can, however, drive the bus, act as sort of a substituted stand-in teacher if Ms. Frizzle isn’t there, and knows how to don costumes.
10. There have been several reptilian mascots in commercials, but Geico Insurance’s lovable pet spokeslizard, the Geiko Gecko, is a favorite. He was created during an actor’s strike in 1999 and has been voiced most commonly by British actor Jack Wood. Now the company’s longest-running mascot, this Gecko’s original appearance and voice were very different. The voice was provided by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer
Something both nature lovers and pop culture and horror fans call all agree on, whether they love studying animals of all kinds or have a love for all things considered less cuddly, is that lizards come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and temperaments. In short, these little critters are just plain “groovy.”