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On May 31st, 2007, ten-year-old Jonathan Ware was visiting the Rose Festival in Portland, Oregon. While at the fair, Jonathan had his face painted to look like a Zombie, and was soon approached by KGW correspondent Nancy Francis. When asked to comment about his face paint on camera, Jonathan responded with “I like turtles.” As of May 2011, the video has received over 29 million views.
A copy of the KGW newscast was uploaded uploaded to YouTube 10 days later by user 3mediapro, who seemed to recognize early on that this moment of Live TV awkwardness was too valuable to let slip away unarchived.
Nancy Francis: “Back here live at the Waterfront Village with my friend the zombie, Jonathon. You’re looking good, Jonathon. Jonathon just got an awesome face paint job. What do you think?”
Jonathan: I like turtles!
In the following weeks, views of the video soon shot into the millions. Parodies, mashups, and other video remixes appeared (see video gallery below). Shirts have popped up on several site including Zazzle, Snorgtees. CafePress, Screened, and Shirtstastegood.
Search queries for “i like turtles” saw their biggest spike in July of 2007, around a month after the original video was uploaded to YouTube. Search queries saw a second spike in September of 2010, which may correspond with the Tosh.0 appearance.
Jonathan and his family were unaware of the phenomenon that Jonathan’s simple phrase had become; that is, until July 7th when his sister learned about the viral video via Myspace.
By August, KGW caught up with the Wares again, to hear their opinions of Jonathan’s newfound fame.
On September 15th, 2010, Jonathan appeared on an episode of Tosh.0 as part of the “web redemption” series. He explained that on the day the video was recorded, he had just seen a turtle exhibit before having his face painted, and that was why he had turtles on his mind.