Taz was so crazy, he convinced the world that Tasmanian devils didn't exist
A real unicorn in the Looney Tunes universe, Taz had some 'splainin' to do.
People accept that fantasy creatures like unicorns and dragons do not really exist, and it was that kind of categorical thinking that led many Looney Tunes fans around the world to assume that a Tasmanian devil is not a real animal.
They'd never seen one before. They'd never heard of one before. It must be a made-up animal!
When the cartoon devil called "Taz" was introduced in cartoons in the 1950s, creator Robert McKinson had no idea he would be creating so much confusion with his brand-new character, which he never foresaw becoming such an icon.
As a more obscure Looney Tunes character, we only saw the Tasmanian Devil a few times in 1950s cartoons like "Devil May Hare" or "Bedeviled Rabbit," with Bugs Bunny ending up on Taz's menu.
Then the character vanished — until he became a breakout star in the 1990s with the cartoon show Tiny Toons Adventures and his own spin-off Taz-Mania, which even became a video game of the same name for the Sega Genesis.
Although he wasn't consistently seen across those four decades, the character remained exactly the same.
McKinson meant to base Taz off a real Tasmanian devil, but as he was looking for inspiration, the animator was only drawn to certain aspects of the animal.
He liked that the animal was seemingly always hungry and always angry. He loved that they were carnivorous, frequently baring their teeth and emitting startling shrieks.
But he wasn't crazy about the look of the creature, so he made a few embellishments that led many to believe the Tasmanian devil wasn't an animal you could find in the real world.
The real Tasmanian devil is a vicious marsupial that walks on all fours. About the size of a dog, it's got beady eyes, large, round ears and a long furry tail. It's coated in black fur with a horizontal white streak across its chest. The only thing it has in common with the cartoon look of Taz are its deadly white fangs that stick out from its upper lip.
Taz, on the other hand, shapes his hair into devil horns that draw attention away from tiny round ears. He's got a wide mouth full of pointy fangs, and he travels upright on two legs — and sometimes by spinning furiously like a tornado.
If you were to go to Australia and spot a Tasmanian devil in the wild, you'd see it run, climb trees, and swim, but not kick up dust by spinning across the landscape the way Taz does.
However, just because Taz doesn't look like his very real cousins in the real world, that doesn't mean he doesn't care about their well-being.
In 2008, the Tasmanian devil was declared endangered, and efforts to raise awareness for the species required first convincing more people in the world that the animal was not fictitious and second generating donations to help save the species.
Taz came to the rescue, becoming a cartoon spokesman for the cause of the Tasmanian devil, and every time a kid bought a certain model of stuffed Taz, that act of love raised money to research a cure for the disease that threatened their survival. Efforts to save the Tasmanian devil still continue today.