Tigger the Tiger is a carefree, bouncy character from the world of Winnie the Pooh. He typically causes trouble and grief for the other anthropomorphic animals who live near Pooh’s Corner, as his well-intended actions regularly lack an awareness of their likely consequences. Tigger has the maturity of a three year old and the wisdom to match, wrapped up in the spring-bottomed body of a hyperactive cartoon tiger. But he’s kind-hearted.
Gargamel, on the other hand, is few of these things. The evil, failed alchemist is friendless, save for his pet cat, living in a dilapidated tower far from anyone. His sworn mission: to hunt down Smurfs and turn them into gold. His tactics know no limits and his lack of compassion striking. He is a misanthrope who lacks a conscience; one may wonder if he has a heart at all.
But Tigger and Gargamel do have one thing in common: their voice. Both were performed by Paul Winchell (above), famed ventriloquist and voice actor, who now has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for his contributions to television. But Winchell’s range was much wider than the gap between Tigger and Gargamel. Winchell, a pre-med student at Columbia University before he made himself a name via his voice, never lost his interest in medicine. As a hobby and side job, he’d practice acupuncture and medical hypnotism. And, as a ventriloquist, Winchell also had a knack for tinkering with things, making them work like real people would. Which is why it shouldn’t be all too surprising that Winchell helped invent the world’s first artificial heart.
Working with Dr. Henry Heimlich (who invited the eponymous Heimlich Maneuver), Winchell developed and patented his design in the early 1960s. Soon after, Dr. Robert Jarvik, at the University of Utah, developed another model for the artificial heart, but the university could not patent it as Winchell’s was considered prior art. Winchell donated his work to the university, allowing development to continue. In 1982, Jarvik’s model (which, Dr. Heimlich argues over the objection of Dr. Jarvik, was based on Winchell’s work regardless) was successfully implanted in the first-ever artificial heart transplant patient.
Bonus fact: According to the Smurfs Wiki, Smurfette was created by Gargamel, who “thought that a girl would cause jealousy and hatred among the usually happy Smurfs.” But his plan failed, because, according to the wiki, Smurfette was originally too ugly.
Related: Your very own ventriloquist’s dummy. If it only had a heart.
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