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In the animated film "Curse of the Were-Rabbit" the context is how a community prepares their garden produce for the great vegetable show. The actors have clearly garden-related names like Miss Thripp, Mr. Mulch, Lady Calendula and so on. However there is an odd one, Mr. Caliche.

Caliche in some parts of the world is a dense mineral substrate that is highly alkaline and devoid of organic matter so one would think rather an odd choice of name in a garden context. It is well known that Dreamworks, one of the producers of the film, was worried about the film's predominantly UK flavour and sought in various ways to make it appeal to North American audiences, and it may be that someone in the production team introduced a term that might make American audiences feel more at home in the story with no real knowledge of its relevance.

But maybe it is just my lack of experience with that material - can anyone shed light on the issue? What does caliche have to do with gardening where you dig holes in the dirt?

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The character's name is an odd choice, given that the character is of Indian ancestry, that caliche is indeed an alkaline "hard-pan" that must be broken up for the ground to be worked, and that the word caliche is derived from Spanish. If the character were one who hindered the garden competition, then the name would make more sense, but he isn't. In fact, Mr. Caliche's choice of crop (marrows) would be difficult to grow in a caliche soil because cucurbits favor a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5 and caliche soil is typically basic, with a pH between 7.5–8.5.

In none of my references is caliche considered to be a positive thing. For example, here's a quote from p.87 of Soil Science and Management, 5th edition, by Edward J. Plaster:

Caliche or durapans are layers of soil in which chemicals cement soil particles together. Lime cements caliche, typically a white, hardened layer found in arid regions. Many soils of the American Southwest contain caliche, an obstacle that may need to be broken up when planting landscapes.

As noted above, caliche occurs in only a limited region in the US.

So, I conclude that the filmmakers vaguely knew that caliche had something to do with horticulture and simply liked the sound of the "exotic" word for a character that they may have wanted to emphasize as exotic.

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