Horned. Screech. Barn. Snowy. Owls are amazing and wonderful and bizarre. They can rotate their heads 270 degrees, their ears are usually asymmetrical, their eyeballs aren’t actually eyeballs, and some can spot prey from half-a-mile away. Can you do that? Spot your burrito from that far?
Of course not. You’re not an owl. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have plenty of owls populating our pop culture–from movies to TV to advertising–so we can hang out with them even when we’re not camping or attending an ancient magic academy.
With The Big Game (aka The Superb Owl) this Sunday, let’s use that pretext to celebrate a parliament of the superbest owls on the pop culture block.
X the Owl
Perpetually slightly sleepy and sounding oddly like Mr. Rogers, X was the most curious of the denizens in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. X was also the world’s biggest Ben Franklin fan, diligently studied for his Owl Correspondence School courses, and had trouble making up his mind (which totally makes him the Chidi of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood).
Who do you turn to when you need to know the unknowable? Engineering students at Purdue? No. A cartoon owl? Yes. Mr. Owl was wise, adhered to the scientific method, and, let’s face it, didn’t have time for this kid’s nonsense. Just eat the Tootsie Pop, man.
Don’t tear up or anything. It’s just Big Mama (voiced by Pearl Bailey) helping an adorable orphaned fox. This is the kind of nurturing kindness the world could use more of.
Yes, Soren was the young hero of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (aka Justice League: The Snyder Cut), but Ezylryb was the grizzled best. Voiced by Geoffrey Rush, the screech owl was cantankerous, but sincere enough to recognize when a young owl knew best. That’s real wisdom.
Infinitely intelligent or just long-winded? Where Winnie-the-Pooh is always unsure of himself in spite of his intentions, Owl is egregiously sure of himself no matter if he knew what he was droning on about or not. Still, he’s charming and kind (in his own way) and has excellent comedic timing.
The Owls of Twin Peaks
They’re not what they seem. So, what are they? And what do they seem to be? Your guess is as good as millions of others, and I hope David Lynch never explains it.
A snowy owl, Hagrid got her as a gift for Harry Potter (his first ever birthday present). Hedwig remained a close and intelligent ally, as well as a silent sounding board for Harry’s existential quandaries, and perhaps the most important symbol of Harry’s childhood innocence.
“If man were meant to fly, he’d have been born with wings.” Perhaps the ancestor of Owl from Winnie-the-Pooh, Archimedes (voiced by Junius Matthews) was delightfully puffed up, and so snarky that you just knew he kept a burn book somewhere in his birdhouse.
The Great Owl
Terrifying, other-worldly, ancient. The Great Owl (voiced by John Carradine) was accompanied by horn blasts and ghostly cobwebs, but if you braved his lair, and were worthy of his help, he’d tell you everything you needed to know to save your family.
The best ever. No contest. Bubo was the R2-D2 of Clash of the Titans, a fierce companion that Perseus borrowed from Athena herself which was, for some reason, made out of metal and beep-boop noises. Did we mention how popular Star Wars had been? But seriously, Bubo was dependable and loyal, if not all that street smart. Or book smart. Or smart in any other ways.
What are your favorite pop culture owls? Give a hoot and comment below.
Images: PBS, Walt Disney