|Also known as||'Clone High U.S.A.'|
|Theme music composer||Tommy Walter|
|Country of origin||
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||21 minutes|
Teletoon Original Production
MTV Original Productions
|Picture format||480i/576i (4:3 SDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Surround 2.0|
|Original release||November 2, 2002 – April 13, 2003|
Clone High (occasionally referred to in the U.S. as Clone High U.S.A.) is a Canadian–American animated television series created by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Bill Lawrence. The comedy centers on a high school populated by the clones of famous historical figures. The show's central cast includes adolescent depictions of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, and Cleopatra. The series also serves as a parody of teen dramas; every episode is introduced as a "very special episode".
Lord and Miller first developed the series' concept while at Dartmouth College in the 1990s, later pitching it to executives at American network Fox Broadcasting Company, who ultimately decided to pass on the program. It was later purchased by cable channel MTV, and was produced between 2002–03. The show's design is heavily stylized and its animation style limited, emphasizing humor and story over visuals. The Clone High theme song was written by Tommy Walter and performed by his alternative rock band Abandoned Pools, who also provided much of the series' background music.
Clone High first aired in its entirety on Canadian cable network Teletoon between 2002 and 2003, later debuting on MTV. It became embroiled in a controversy regarding its depiction of Gandhi soon afterward, which prompted hundreds in India to mount a hunger strike in response. Shortly after, MTV pulled the series, which had been receiving low ratings. Clone High attracted mixed reviews from television critics upon its premiere, but it has since received critical acclaim and a cult following.
Clone High is set in a high school that is secretly being run as an elaborate military experiment orchestrated by a government office called the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures. It's located in the town of Exclamation, USA. The school is entirely populated by the clones of famous historical figures that have been created and raised with the intent of having their various strengths and abilities harnessed by the United States military. The principal of the high school, Cinnamon J. Scudworth, has his own plans for the clones, and secretly tries to undermine the wishes of the Board (Scudworth wants to use the clones to create a clone-themed amusement park, dubbed "Cloney Island", a decidedly less evil intention than that of the Board). He is assisted by his robot butler/vice principal/dehumidifier, Mr. Butlertron (a parody of Mr. Belvedere), who is programmed to call everyone "Wesley" and speak in two distinct intonations.
The main protagonists of Clone High are the clones of Abraham Lincoln (referred to as "Abe"), Joan of Arc and Mahatma Gandhi. Much of the plot of the show revolves around the attempts of Abe to woo the vain and promiscuous clone of Cleopatra, while being oblivious to the fact that his friend Joan of Arc is attracted to him. Meanwhile, John F. Kennedy's clone (referred to as "JFK"), a macho, narcissistic womanizer, is also attempting to win over Cleopatra and has a long-standing rivalry with Abe. Gandhi acts in many of the episodes as the comic relief. Also on a few occasions, the characters that we see learn most of "Life's Lessons" the hard way.
Themes and style
While the clones derive many character qualities from their ancestors, much of the humor in the show comes from the large contrast between the personality of the clones and the actual values and legacy of the historical figures they are descended from. For instance, Gandhi is portrayed as a hyperactive jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold whose biggest dream is to be accepted by those around him, in contrast to his historical legacy of calm nonviolence. Abe Lincoln is similarly portrayed as weak and indecisive, completely lacking the resolve of the President whose DNA he shares. All of the clones are also given mis-matched foster parents who have little in common with them. Gandhi's parents are a stereotypical Jewish-American couple, while JFK is raised by a homosexual, interracial couple; Joan's "foster grandpa" is an elderly blind musician similar to Ray Charles named Toots, a parody of the stereotypical wise old man role (and the magical negro role) found in many teen shows, and who begins many of his declarative sentences with the words, "Now, I may be blind, but I can see..." followed by a wise-sounding observation that has little or nothing to do with anything.
The show also includes humor based on the historical figures themselves. For example, the diner the clones frequent is called The Grassy Knoll, a reference to the JFK assassination conspiracy theory about a second shooter, dubbed "The Man on the Grassy Knoll". Other references seen are the flag at The Grassy Knoll being permanently at half mast and the car on the roof of the diner containing the original JFK's body leaning over the edge. There are pictures of assassinations hanging on the walls of the restaurant, such as the famous Currier and Ives print of the Lincoln assassination (though this version is in color and considerably more graphic than the original print). The genetic ancestors of all of the five main clones died of similarly irregular causes: three assassinations, one execution and one suicide. Other historical figure-based humor includes offhand coincidental remarks to other students, such as Abe mentioning that the clone of Napoleon is so annoying because of "some kind of complex", or Gandhi telling Catherine the Great to "get off her high horse".
The show is also a parody of "issue" episodes of high-school themed comedies. Each episode is an introduced as a "very special episode." Episodes center on various social issues, including Gandhi being shunned by his school for having ADD (because of misinformation about the disorder), parodying shows which tackle AIDS awareness (it even included a special guest celebrity who tries to educate the students). Other episodes tackle drugs (smoking raisins), the environment, and underage drinking in a similarly ridiculous fashion. In a clear sign that it is parodying the high school genre, it even ends at prom: a stereotypical "high school show" ending. Even the prom is a joke however, as we learn it is only the Winter Prom.
There was a running gag that creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wanted to include in the show "where Clone High – being an exaggeration of typical high schools in teen dramas – would have many proms throughout the year". Planned proms included "an Early Winter Prom, a Late Winter/Early Spring Prom, a Mid-Semester Prom, a Post-Prom Clean Up Prom, etc". The only surviving references to this joke are the Homecoming Prom in episode 6, "Homecoming: A Shot in D'Arc", and the winter prom in episode 13, "Changes: The Big Prom: The Sex Romp: The Season Finale". Another reference to the gag was deleted from episode 8, "A Room of One's Clone: Pie of the Storm".
- Abe Lincoln (voiced by Will Forte) is a clone of Abraham Lincoln and the main protagonist. He admires his clonefather Abraham Lincoln and feels that he is struggling to live up to him. He is in love with Cleopatra and has a very naïve and awkward personality.
- Joan of Arc (voiced by Nicole Sullivan) is a clone of Joan of Arc and Abe's closest friend and confidante. She is an intelligent, cynical and angsty goth. She loves Abe and hates how he ignores her in order to hook up with Cleopatra. She holds liberal political views, and "somewhat naively support[s] every special-interest cause."
- Gandhi (voiced by Michael McDonald) is a clone of Mahatma Gandhi and Abe's other best friend. He, like Abe, is struggling to live up to his clonefather Mahatma Gandhi. As a result, he reinvents himself as a wild party animal.
- JFK (voiced by Chris Miller) is a clone of John F. Kennedy and a handsome, popular, arrogant, and horny jock as well as Abe's on-and-off rival for Cleo's affections.
- Cleopatra (voiced by Christa Miller) is a clone of Cleopatra VII as well as Abe's love interest and later girlfriend. She is a self-absorbed, vain, and often mean-spirited popular cheerleader who is the object of desire for every male in the school, most notably Abe and JFK.
- Principal Scudworth (voiced by Phil Lord) is the literally "mad" scientist principal of Clone High, who secretly plans to use the clones as attractions for his hypothetical amusement park, dubbed "Cloney Island," and many of the series' subplots surround him trying to find ways to accelerate his plans.
- Mr. Butlertron (voiced by Chris Miller) is Scudworth's Mr. Belvedere-esque sane robotic butler and reluctant sidekick in his stupid schemes. He refers to everyone as "Wesley".
- Phil Lord as Genghis Khan
- Nicole Sullivan as Marie Curie
- Donald Faison as Toots, Wally, X-Stream Bob, Martin Luther King and George Washington Carver
- Neil Flynn as Julius Caesar, Buddy Holly, Carl, and Moses, Krabby Kakes, Glenn the Janitor
- Andy Dick as Mr. Sheepman, Police Officer and Vincent van Gogh
- Murray Miller as Catherine the Great
- Judah Miller as Scangrade
- Debra Wilson as Harriet Tubman, Eva Perón, Skunky-Poo, Reporter
- Sarah Chalke as X-Stream Erin, Marie Antoinette
- Zach Braff as X-Stream Mike, Paul Revere
- Joe Flaherty as Abe's Foster Dad
Miller initially developed the show's premise while in college, initially imagining the clones would be at a university rather than high school. The series was originally developed in 2000 under the title Clone High School, USA!. The production was overseen by Touchstone Television. It was originally pitched to the Fox Broadcasting Company, who purchased the show immediately but ultimately decided not to order it to series. Miller deemed it the "easiest pitch ever," considering the show's use of famous figures. Following Fox's rejection, MTV purchased the program in May 2001. All the original character designs were much different from what they would become even though the characters kept the same physical attributes and appearance. Each episode was budgeted at approximately $750,000.
In forming the show's central cast, they found themselves limited in the number of historical figures they could depict, in consideration with avoiding "litigious estates" (such as the families of Albert Einstein or Marilyn Monroe) and keeping in mind the viewership of MTV. The show also parodies teen dramas, such as Dawson's Creek, which Lord and Miller watched in preparation to create the series. The show's art design has been described as angular and "evocative of UPA at its best." It is characterized by a flat and very stylized appearance resembling the animation used in Cartoon Network animated series from the 1990s and early 2000s, such as Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and Time Squad (Lord and Miller specifically cited Samurai Jack as an influence). The characters and backgrounds were traditionally drawn, and frames and cels were frequently recycled. Co-creator Chris Miller explained, "We like the snappy pose-to-pose animation, more for reasons of comic timing than anything else. Things that aren't expected are funnier: If an anvil's going to fall on your head, it had better not take more than three seconds. That's why we like the quick pose-to-pose stuff. For scenes with more emotional content, the characters move a little slower and more fluidly". Phil Lord added, "But we never want the viewer to be paying attention to the animation, because it's there to serve the jokes and the story. We strip out extraneous movements, because we don't want to draw your eye to anything that's not part of a joke." Gandhi is the most animated character on the show; he requires twice as many story-board poses as any other character.
The series was produced by Bill Lawrence, who also produced Scrubs, Spin City and Cougar Town. Many Scrubs alumni, such as Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, John C. McGinley, Neil Flynn, and Christa Miller, provided the voices of characters in Clone High.
Clone High was notable for subtle jokes hidden in the animation. There is an image of a dolphin hidden in almost every episode. The use of dolphins (sounds or images) would be later featured in Lord and Miller's later work. In the episode "Raisin the Stakes", there were numerous hidden messages, which appeared to be a parody of subliminal messaging.
Controversy and cancellation
An article in Maxim Magazine depicting Mahatma Gandhi being beaten up by a muscular man sparked outrage in India. Clone High was caught in a crossfire when citizens in the country conducted internet searches on the Maxim article but also found out about the show's Gandhi character on MTV's website. This sparked an outrage in India over the show's depiction of Gandhi. On January 30, 2003, the 55th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, approximately 150 protesters (including members of parliament) gathered in New Delhi and vowed to fast in response to Clone High. Tom Freston, the head of Viacom (owner of MTV), was visiting the network's India branch and was "trapped in the building," according to Miller. In 2014, he recalled that protestors "basically threatened that they'd revoke MTV's broadcasting license in India if they didn't take the show off the air".
MTV offered a quick apology, stating that "Clone High was created and intended for an American audience", and "we recognize and respect that various cultures may view this programming differently, and we regret any offense taken by the content in the show". Miller would later recall that executives at MTV enjoyed the show, and asked for the duo to pitch a second season without Gandhi. Lord and Miller's two potential versions of a second season included one that made no mention of Gandhi's absence, and another that revealed that the character was, in fact, a clone of actor Gary Coleman all along, and the show continued as normal. "We pitched that, and it went up to the top at Viacom again and it got a big no," he remembered.
Lord and Miller have since stated that they have "considered" a film adaptation of the series. In 2014, they explained that as they at that time were under contract with Fox, Lawrence had a television deal at Warner Bros. Television, and the rights to Clone High were owned by MTV/Viacom, it would be difficult to resurrect the show. References to Clone High are present in their later productions: the duo admitted many jokes in 22 Jump Street were "ripped off straight from Clone High", and Forte also voices a Lego version of Lincoln in The Lego Movie. In a 2014 Grantland article, the two joked that "our entire career has just been about getting Clone High back on the air".
Clone High was shown on Canadian television in 2002 and 2003 before it debuted on MTV in the United States on January 20, 2003. Clone High was removed from its Prime Time rotation before all 13 episodes had been shown due to mediocre ratings.
On August 4, 2016, the series began airing on the newly-formed channel MTV Classic, marking the first time the series has aired on U.S. television since its removal from MTV in 2003.
|No.||Title||Written by||Original air date (Teletoon)|
|1||"Escape to Beer Mountain: A Rope of Sand"||Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Bill Lawrence||November 2, 2002|
In desperation to get with the beautiful and popular Cleopatra, Abe Lincoln is hoping to make a move on her at JFK's party. JFK, however, also has the hots for her and will only let Abe come on the condition that he brings the beer. Meanwhile, Joan of Arc, who is trying to win Abe's heart, starts up a Teen Crisis Hotline in an attempt to impress him with her commitment to community service; their mutual friend, Gandhi, who accidentally agrees to help with the hotline, forwards the calls to his cell phone so he can go to the party. All the while, Principal Scudworth and Mr. Butlertron attempt to crash the party so as to better understand the students.Notable Guest Stars: Michael J. Fox as Gandhi's remaining kidney, Andy Dick as Van Gogh, Donald Faison as George Washington Carver.
|2||"Episode Two: Election Blu-Galoo"||Phil Lord, Christopher Miller||November 3, 2002|
Cleo discovers she cannot continue to run for Student Body President because of term limits, so she convinces JFK to run on her behalf, and when Abe sees that Cleo appreciates leaders, he decides to run as well. But students of Clone High do not care about real issues, and many are infatuated with JFK; Abe employs a corporate sponsor, "X-Stream Blu," to jazz up his campaign. The only problem is that Gandhi becomes horribly addicted to this mysterious food product.Notable guest stars: Marilyn Manson as himself, Sarah Chalke as X-stream Erin, Donald Faison as X-stream Bob, Zach Braff as X-stream Mike.
|3||"A.D.D.: The Last 'D' is for Disorder"||Tom Martin||November 10, 2002|
When Gandhi is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.), the students of Clone High begin to ostracize him. Abe must decide whether to please Cleo by doing the same, or to stand up for his "best dude 4 ever" and lose any chance of being with Cleo. Meanwhile, Joan struggles with living up to the legacy of her 15th century clone mother, and begins hearing strange religious voices in her head. Also, Principal Scudworth starts wearing Mr. Butlertron's sweater vest, in the belief that it gives him the power to relate to the students of Clone High.Notable guest stars: Zach Braff as Paul Revere, Donald Faison as Toots, Tom Green as himself.
|4||"Film Fest: Tears of a Clone"||Erica Rivinoja||November 17, 2002|
When Abe decides to organize a Clone High Student Film Festival, he spends much time working on a movie about a misunderstood football-playing giraffe; Cleo stars in an autobiographical epic about how difficult it is to be as perfect and glamorous as her; Joan directs an avant-garde film which expresses her love for Abe through psychoanalytic dream imagery; and Gandhi and George Washington Carver work together to make a hilarious mixed-race buddy cop action comedy called Black and Tan. Meanwhile, JFK plans a film but never manages to leave the casting couch with his various wouldbe female co-stars, and Principal Scudworth starts to panic when his bosses on the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures invite themselves to his house for dinner, but thankfully for him, Mr. Butlertron is there to save the day.Notable guest stars: Donald Faison as George Washington Carver. Neil Flynn as Boy auditioning for Abe's film.
|5||"Sleep of Faith: La Rue D'Awakening"||Murray Miller, Judah Miller||December 1, 2002|
The PXJTs are right around the corner, but Abe is losing sleep running errands for his beloved Cleo. When Joan keeps trying to warn Abe about his sleep deprivation, a secret of hers is uncovered. Also, Gandhi, overwhelmed by the pressure of studying, decides not take the test and become a trucker instead. Mr. Butlertron and an old foe battle it out for the last time.Notable guest stars: John C. McGinley as Doug Prepcourse.
|6||"Homecoming: A Shot in D'Arc"||Eric Kentoff||November 24, 2002|
Since the CHHS basketball team refuses to allow girls or animals to play, the athletic Joan decides to cleverly disguise herself as "John D'Arc", becoming the star player. Cleo then falls for D'Arc, making team-captain Abe "Weakest"-Lincoln jealous. But Cleo's not the only one falling for John, as fellow athlete JFK finds himself having confusingly sexual feelings about the whole affair. Meanwhile, Gandhi and Genghis Khan kidnap the mascot of Clone High's rival school, Genetically Engineered Superhuman High.Notable guest stars: Chris Berman as himself, Dan Patrick as himself, Neil Flynn as Julius Caesar.
|7||"Plane Crazy: Gate Expectations"||Tom Martin||December 8, 2002|
Abe and Cleo's new relationship is threatened when she is picked to be on a Canadian Spring Break Dance show, hosted by Ashley Angel from O-Town. Meanwhile, Gandhi becomes an international rap sensation with the help of JFK as his manager. Also, Principal Scudworth is constantly being tricked by a pesky skunk.Notable guest stars: Ashley Angel as himself, Neil Flynn as Buddy Holly.
|8||"A Room of One's Clone: The Pie of the Storm"||Adam Pava||December 15, 2002|
Storm's-a-brewin' when Joan's house burns down and her family has no choice but to move in with Cleo's, where conflict ensues; Abe attends a Conflict Mediation Seminar to learn how to more effectively resolve disputes between the two. Gandhi and JFK find themselves in escalating arguments. Meanwhile, Mr. Butlertron becomes jealous when Principal Scudworth forms a relationship with a robotic toy dog.Notable guest stars: Donald Faison as Martin Luther King Jr. and Toots, Neil Flynn as Moses.
|9||"Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts"||Phil Lord, Christopher Miller||January 12, 2003|
After an anti-drugs assembly at the school, a rumor goes around that one can get high smoking raisins, leading the clones to embark on a musical, mystical journey of intoxication and irresponsibly long hair. Sober Joan is trying to keep Abe from turning into a drugged-out hippie, while Principal Scudworth and the PTA build a giant wall in an attempt to fence the students in. Also, Gandhi goes on a raisined-out subconscious mindtrip where he encounters a hummingbird-unicorn-donkey creature, a two-headed Olsen Twins monster, a talking Italian pencil, and a stereotypically Australian dragon, on his quest to rescue a princess who he believes will have sex with him.Notable guest stars: Jack Black as Larry Hardcore/the Pusher.
|10||"Litter Kills: Litterally"||Murray Miller, Judah Miller||January 19, 2003|
JFK's long time best friend, Ponce de León, literally dies, causing JFK to sink into a spiral of depression. This causes tension between Abe and Cleo, who dutifully attempts to comfort JFK, her former boyfriend, during his grief. Meanwhile, Gandhi is mistakenly sent to death row where he has trouble getting high fives, but makes new friends in the showers.Notable guest stars: Luke Perry as Ponce, Neil Flynn as Glenn the Janitor and Julius Caesar.
|11||"Snowflake Day: A Very Special Holiday Episode"||Erica Rivinoja||April 13, 2003|
It's the politically correct Snowflake Day season, and everyone is in the holiday spirit, except for Joan, who is against the commercialism of the made-up holiday. But a homeless urchin who may be an angel or the pop sensation Mandy Moore teaches Joan an important lesson. Meanwhile, Abe and Gandhi attempt to invent and market an interesting device, so that Abe will have money to buy Cleo an expensive Snowflake Day gift.Notable guest stars: Mandy Moore as herself.
|12||"Makeover, Makeover, Makeover: The Makeover Episode"||Eric Kentoff||January 26, 2003|
|With prom not too far away, Abe wants to ask his girlfriend, Cleo, but cannot stop thinking about Joan's prom date situation. Meanwhile, Gandhi goes on a desperate search for a date. So, Abe and Cleo each have a go at making over Joan for prom, JFK gives Gandhi a makeover, and Mr. B gives Scudworth a makeover to help him execute a sinister, evil plan to "win" the prom king vote.|
|13||"Changes: The Big Prom: The Sex Romp: The Season Finale"||Phil Lord, Christopher Miller||March 2, 2003|
As all the clones are preparing for the winter prom, Abe decides whether to ask Cleo or Joan; Gandhi concocts a brilliant plan to get dates for all the school geeks; and Principal Scudworth attempts to execute his sinister, evil plan, while the Secret Board of Shadowy Figures prepares to abduct the clones on prom night to advance their own evil plan.Notable guest stars: John Stamos as himself, Tommy Walter as himself.
The previous animated MTV series Daria and Beavis and Butt-head had used then-current popular music as a soundtrack, but, in contrast, Clone High featured a wide variety of music, usually exclusive to alternative rock, indie rock, punk rock, pop rock, metalcore, from mostly unknown and underground bands and musicians; a previous MTV animated series, Undergrads, had also done this. Of these include Alkaline Trio, Ritalin, Catch 22, Ilya, The Gentleman, Drex, Taking Back Sunday, The Stereo, Jo Davidson, Saves the Day, Hot Rod Circuit, Thursday, Helicopter Helicopter, Owen, Dashboard Confessional, Elf Power, Abandoned Pools, The Get Up Kids, Mink Lungs, Mates of State, Snapcase, The Mooney Suzuki, Jon DeRosa, Ephemera, Jinnrall, Avoid One Thing, DJ Cellulitis, DJ Piccolo, Whippersnapper, Matt Pond PA, Mad City and Bumblefoot. The series' other background music and original score was written and produced by Scott Nickoley and Jamie Dunlap of Mad City Productions. Nickoley and Dunlap went on to score other shows such as South Park, The Osbournes and Newlyweds.
Television critics gave Clone High mixed reviews upon its 2002 premiere. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the show has a score of 60, based on seven reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". David Bianculli of the New York Daily News praised the series, commenting, "In a year of variations and ripoffs of established themes and genres, it's a true original. It's also a cartoon, and is truly, outrageously bizarre." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Rob Owen complimented the show: "Yes, Clone High has the MTV-requisite sexual innuendo, but it's more clever than much of what passes for humor in prime time today. And like Scrubs, it has heart, particularly when it comes to Abe and Joan." Anita Gates of The New York Times opined that "the dialogue isn't always exactly funny, but it's smile worthy," observing, "the characters are intriguing in a lightweight way but could lose their appeal fast." Scott Sandell of the Los Angeles Times felt the show's debut episode lacking: "The problem is that the first episode, which focuses on crushes and beer, doesn't quite live up to the obvious comedic potential behind the killer premise." The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Farkash felt similarly, writing, "The premise sounds intriguing, but what hatches in the first episode is a disappointing, weak strain of comic material, lacking the cunning, subversive quality of, say, South Park."
Because of the series' early cancellation in 2003, it quickly fell into obscurity, especially in the US. However, it has garnered a large fanbase throughout the Internet and still occasionally airs reruns on Teletoon's Teletoon at Night (formerly Teletoon Detour) block and formerly aired on MTV, MTV2 and Razer (now MTV2) in Canada. Much in Canada has also aired reruns of Clone High for a short time.
Heather Marulli, of the website Television Without Pity, called the series "a mini-masterpiece of the animated genre; an opus to the primetime cartoon".
David Broermann, from the website Freakin' Awesome Network, gave the series an "A+", saying it has "some really really good character development and depth" and an "amazing soundtrack" He notes the fantastic use of multiple running gags keeping viewers on their toes.
Jesse David Fox of Vulture, in a retrospective piece on the series, wrote that "Clone High still holds up more than a decade later as a brilliantly funny, completely nuts, surprisingly heartfelt, tonally inventive masterpiece."
|"Season 1"||September 20, 2005||13|
The DVD was released in Canada by Nelvana with the help of Teletoon. The DVD contains the complete first season, including the 5 episodes which did not originally air in the United States.
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- Erickson, 2005. p.205
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Clone High|
- Official website
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- Clone High at TV.com
- DVD press release at the Wayback Machine (archived March 15, 2005)
- UWO Gazette article about Clone High
- Flak Magazine: Clone High