Annotated Cinema: The Prequel!

Ed note: Here's a new idea from the All-Star Summer Interns. They're taking a movie everyone can easily find in their collection and developing an annotated "guide" to go with it. Each intern will watch the flick, find behind-the-scenes info and facts about the people, places, and things in the movie, and then compile their findings (along with timestamps and movie stills) in a post or pdf. Think of it as a factual Mystery Science Theater-style commentary, or an off-screen Pop-Up Video.

For an example of the sort of information they'll be covering, intern superstar Ben Smith did a test run with a recent Youtube hit after the jump. Enjoy!


Love in This Club (as performed by the Rockafire Explosion)


  • The Rockafire Explosion was the in-house animatronic band for Showbiz Pizza locations in the 1980s and early 1990s. What made this particular show rise above the handful of other similar shows of the time were its size, construction, and programming. The "performers" took up the entire length of the Showbiz Pizza showroom, and unlike cloth and foam models (like at competitor Chuck E. Cheese), the faces of the characters were made with latex to provide more realistic movement.
  • The company that developed the animatronics used in the Rockafire Explosion also created Whack-a-Mole
  • The shows were originally programmed with reel-to-reel audio tapes with 4 tracks of audio, 2 with the performances and two with the data needed to move the characters, although the characters are now programmed with a modified Tivo. A song like "Love in this Club" usually takes about a week of programming to fully complete.
  • MGMT's video for "Electric Feel" features the Rockafire Band in a few scenes
  • Love in this Club rocketed from #51 to #1 in its third week, giving it the fourth highest jump of all-time, behind Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" (which jumped from 64 to 1), Rihanna's "Take a Bow" (53 to 1) and Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" (52 to 1)
  • Nolan Bushnell, one of the founders of Atari, created the Chuck E. Cheese concept and developed the chain as a way to distribute Atari games. In the early 90s, after Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese's had merged, the restaurants started to phase out the animatronics in favor of "unifying concepts" and focusing on video games.
  • 1:09--Cheerleaders were originally all male
  • Lawrence Herkimer made many cheerleading innovations or improvements, such as "pom-pons," "spirits sticks," and "booster ribbons." He founded the National Cheerleader's Association and formed a Dallas company to produce cheerleading products. He is also credited with creating the "herkie" jump
  • In England, usher is a now obselete name for a schoolmaster, and the word comes from the french "huissier"
  • The original programmer of the Rockafire Explosion, Aaron Fecter, is responsible for the choreography on the youtube videos. Song requests can be made on his website for the project.
  • Usher syndrome, also known as Hallgren syndrome, is one of the leading causes of deaf-blindness.
  • 2:32--Ventriloquism as we know it began in the days of vaudeville in the late 19th century
  • Shari Lewis debuted Lambchop on the Captain Kangaroo show after she was asked to bring something other than the wooden figures she usually used.

So now that you've gotten a taste of what we're looking to do, here's where you come in: We're trying to pick a movie for the second full installment of Annotated Cinema (the first will be a favorite of all three of us, John Hughes' The Breakfast Club). Between the three of us we've suggested everything from Cool Hand Luke to Young Frankenstein. Let us know in the comments what you'd like to see in future installments, both in choice of movie and commentary.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.


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