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Meet the real rat pack In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA July 24, 2009

G-Force-MoviePopular culture has frequently paid homage to the lowly rodent. Remember Muskrat Love, Captain & Tennille’s ode to arvicoline amour?

“Rubbin’ her toes,” they sang, “Muzzle to muzzle, anything goes.” The rodentia rock roundup doesn’t stop there, though.

The Chipmunks had a chart topper with Witch Doctor, Frank Zappa named not one but two albums — Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Hot Rats — after little furry creatures, and even Michael Jackson rode to the top of the charts on a rat’s back with the tune Ben, possibly the only love song to a rat ever released.

Rodents certainly have left their mark on the pop charts and in movie theatres. This weekend G-Force hopes to do for guinea pigs what March of the Penguins did for tuxedo clad furry birds.

G-Force is just the latest in a long line of movies with rodents in featured roles. Who could forget Mr. Gopher, the burrowing terror from Caddyshack? (Did you know the movie’s gopher “voice” is made up of the same dolphin sound effects used on Flipper?)

Or Rizzo the Rat, the streetwise New Jersey puppet from The Muppets Take Manhattan and possibly the only kid’s character named for Enrico (Ratso) Rizzo, a character in the X-rated Midnight Cowboy.

Those fuzzy actors, along with Despereaux Tilling, Fievel Mousekewitz and the gang from Once Upon a Forest have sold loads of tickets, but likely none would have made much of an impression if not for the pioneering work of the world’s most famous rodent, Mickey Mouse. Created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey is one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world. He’s an Oscar winner with 175 movies, shorts and videogames on his CV; and was the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Mickey’s fame endures, but why? “We felt that the public, and especially the children, like animals that are cute and little,” said Walt Disney. “When people laugh at Mickey Mouse, it’s because he’s so human.”

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