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6 Unproduced Pixar Films and Sequels

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Slashfilm.com

For more than 20 years, Pixar has dominated theatrical animated releases with high-grossing films and critical acclaim. Along the way, there have been a handful of ideas they haven't moved forward on. Here are six unproduced short films, feature films, and sequels from Pixar and Disney.

1. Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost In Scaradise

Before Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Disney’s distribution deal with the animation studio included retaining the Pixar characters' sequel rights—so if Disney wanted to make a sequel to a Pixar film, they could without the involvement of Pixar. Disney opened an animation studio called Circle 7 whose sole purpose was to develop sequels to Pixar properties.

Enter Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost In Scaradise. The unproduced film’s storyline followed Mike and Sulley from the first Monsters, Inc. film as they drop in to surprise their friend Boo for her birthday in the human world. But when they discover that Boo’s family has moved away, Mike and Sulley go on an adventure to try to find her.

The sequel film was later scrapped when Disney closed down Circle 7 in 2006 as part of the Pixar acquisition, but not before Circle 7 developed unproduced sequels for Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo. Pixar followed up Monsters, Inc. with the prequel Monsters University, which hits theaters today.

2. A Tin Toy Christmas

In 1988, John Lasseter won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Pixar’s Tin Toy. Following the Oscar win, Pixar started getting more commercial and television work. In 1989, Pixar was commissioned to make a Christmas TV special called A Tin Toy Christmas. When funding for the project ran out, Pixar shelved the project to develop a feature film instead.

A Tin Toy Christmas eventually evolved into the first Toy Story film. Tinny the tin toy soldier became Buzz Lightyear, while the ventriloquist’s dummy became his friend Woody.

3. George and A.J.

After the success of the film Up in 2009, Pixar wanted to make a short film that followed the Shady Oaks Retirement Village employees George and A.J. The short film followed their misadventures after Up’s protagonist Carl Friederickson levitated his house with over 20,000 helium-filled balloons. The film was never finished, but because of Up’s popularity, Pixar decided to release the short film as a bonus feature.

The animation is crude and in a limited “storyboard/animatic” style, but in true Pixar fashion, the short film still conveys a lot of big laughs and touching moments.

4. Car Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales - Backwards to the Forwards

One of the most successful Pixar properties is, surprisingly, Cars. Although the films aren’t as successful as other properties like the Toy Story trilogy or Finding Nemo, Cars merchandise is one of the highest selling markets for Pixar, so spinning off the Cars characters is a top priority.

Pixar has made a number of short films surrounding Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen, but Backwards to the Forwards was one that Pixar abandoned. The short followed the Cars pair through a mysterious thunderstorm that opens up a time portal where Mater and Lightning become trapped. The short was a parody of the science fiction film Back To The Future.

Animator Scott Morse developed the story for the short film, but then scrapped the idea when it wasn’t coming together. Scott Morse also worked on Your Friend the Rat, which accompanied Ratatouille’s DVD release.

5. and 6. The Original Storylines for Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3

Toy Story 2 was originally supposed to be an hour-long direct-to-video sequel, but when Disney executives watched a few completed sequences, they wanted to open the film in theaters instead. So Pixar's artists and writers had to re-assemble the film’s storyline to make it longer for a theatrical release. Pixar executive John Lasseter took over the project and started the story process over again, with only nine months until the film was due to be released in theaters.

While Toy Story 2’s storyline always involved Woody being kidnapped so a toy collector could complete his set of limited edition toys, the original storyline incorporated different toys as part of “Woody’s Roundup” gang. The film introduced a Prospector, who was later developed to become Stinky Pete; Bullseye, Woody’s horse who could talk in the original version; and Senorita Cactus, the Prospector’s evil sidekick, who was eventually replaced with Jessie in the film’s final version.

Toy Story 2’s original storyline was expanded with the addition of Jessie the Cowgirl. Her character gave the final film much needed heart, along with the film’s theme of a toy left behind and forgotten by its owner.

During the film’s nine-month redevelopment, Toy Story 2 was almost completely erased from Pixar’s network and mainframe. Someone at Pixar mistakenly used a command keystroke that led to the film’s disappearance from the Pixar servers. With Toy Story 2’s backup files also corrupted, Pixar would have to start the animation process again with only a few months until its release date. Luckily, the film’s technical director made copies of the film on her home computer, so Toy Story 2’s production was miraculously saved.

In 2005, Disney’s Circle 7 animation studios developed a sequel to Toy Story 2 without Pixar’s involvement. Disney’s script for Toy Story 3 involved a worldwide recall of the Buzz Lightyear toy, so Andy’s mom sent Buzz back to Taiwan, where he had been manufactured, while Andy’s other toys planned a daring escape to save their friend. Tim Allen agreed to voice the character of Buzz Lightyear even if Pixar refused to return.

But in 2006, Disney acquired Pixar, and the original Disney storyline for Toy Story 3 was scrapped. Pixar developed their own version of Toy Story 3. Lee Unkrich was named director and Michael Arndt was commissioned to write a new screenplay. The film was released in 2010 and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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