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Disney Princess Wiki

The Faces Behind Disney's Princesses

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Disney Princess Wiki

The women who gave voice to your favorite princesses, from Snow White to Rapunzel.

1. Snow White

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For her role as the sweetly-singing Snow White, 19-year-old actress Adriana Caselotti was paid just $20 for each day of work—a total of $970. She also signed a contract with Disney, which prevented her from working elsewhere. He didn’t want her distinct voice to appear in another work and tarnish his pristine princess. She still managed to land a few bit parts, including the line “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” in the Tin Man's song “If I Only Had a Heart” in The Wizard of Oz. She remained loyal to Snow White until the day she died in 1997: Caselotti’s house in L.A. resembled a certain woodland cottage, including a wishing well in the front yard.

2. Cinderella

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Like Caselotti, Ilene Woods’ post-princess career seems to have been rather limited. In 1963, she married Ed Shaughnessy, the drummer on The Tonight Show. She sued Disney in 1988, claiming that the $2500 she was paid to record the voice of Cinderella in 1948 didn’t include rights to distribute that voice on VHS. She asked for $20 million, and though Woods' case seems to have been settled out of court, Peggy Lee won a similar lawsuit for $3.83 million in 1991.

Perhaps surprisingly, Woods had a pretty modern view of the princess she gave a voice to: “I don’t think she needed the prince,” she once said. “I think she wanted to go to the ball and that was it at the moment. Then the prince wanted her and vice versa.”

3. Sleeping Beauty

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After 22-year-old Mary Costa voiced Princess Aurora/Briar Rose in 1952 (though the movie wasn’t released until 1959), she went on to perform in more than 40 operas across the world. In 1991, she, too, sued Disney over the VHS issue. They settled out of court, and apparently no grudges were held: At the age of 83, Costa is still doing promotional appearances for Disney.

4. Ariel

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Jodi Benson voices not one, but two popular Disney characters: everyone’s favorite flighty mermaid, of course, but also Ken’s better half in the Toy Story movies—Barbie. And Benson’s work doesn’t stop at the House of Mouse. She’s done voice work for The Powerpuff Girls, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, The Little Engine That Could, Camp Lazlo, and Batman Beyond, among others.

5. Belle


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Can you imagine the well-read girl leading the quiet French provincial life singing about her waning sex drive? Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. Head to Vegas and see it for yourself. Paige O’Hara is currently in performing at the Luxor as the Soap Star in the Broadway show Menopause the Musical.

Though O’Hara is no longer providing the voice for Belle—“They did a one-fell-swoop of all of the older actresses and decided to replace all of us,” she said—she’s still very much attached to the role, painting scenes from her most famous movie and selling them through DisneyFineArt.com.

6. Jasmine

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Jasmine’s speaking voice, Linda Larkin, continues to get most of her work from speaking for the Princess of Agrabah. She does occasionally pop up elsewhere, though—you can currently find her as Violet in Grand Theft Auto V.

Since she gave Jasmine and Mulan their sweet singing voices in the 1990s, Lea Salonga has performed in a number of musicals, including separate stints as Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables on Broadway. She has also released several albums that have been internationally successful.

7. Merida

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Boardwalk Empire fans know Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Schroeder Thompson, Nucky’s long-suffering wife. She also played Dolly in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina last year.

8. Tiana

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The casting directors of Private Practice might have a thing for princesses, because they’ve also hired Anika Noni Rose, the singing and speaking voice of Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. Rose has also appeared on The Good Wife, Elementary, and The Simpsons.

9. Rapunzel

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Mandy Moore was a big name long before Tangled took the pink aisle at Target by storm, and she’s still acting and singing. She stars in the CBS drama The Advocates, scheduled to premiere next month, and will also voice the title character in a Disney Junior “animated western” called Oki’s Oasis.

10. Pocahontas

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Since serving as the speaking voice and physical model for Pocahontas, Irene Bedard has been in a number of movie and television roles, both onscreen and as a voice actor. In fact, she appeared as Pocahontas’ mother in Terrence Malick’s The New World in 2005.

The Powhatan princess’ singing voice was provided by Judy Kuhn, a Broadway actress famous for playing Cosette in Les Miserables and Florence Vassy in Chess. Post-Pocahontas, Kuhn continued performing in musicals from Funny Girl to Passion. In 2007, she joined the cast of Les Miserables again, this time playing Fantine. Interestingly, she succeeded Lea Salonga in the role. Wonder if they ever crossed paths and discussed their princess pasts.

11. Mulan

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You already know what Mulan’s singing voice, Lea Salonga, has been up to. But her speaking voice, Ming-Na Wen, has also been pretty busy, with roles on Two and a Half Men, Eureka, Private Practice and Boston Legal. You can see her as Agent Melinda May on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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