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12 Steps in Bringing Wonder Woman To The Big Screen

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Flickr user EvaFannon

News broke today that the next Superman movie won't just feature Batman; DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman will also be in the mix, making her first appearance ever in a movie. But it's been a long road to the big screen for the character. Here are the stages of production development involved in bringing Wonder Woman to a movie theater near you.

1. The Early Stages

In 2001, producer Joel Silver commissioned screenwriter Todd Alcott to pen a new script based on Wonder Woman, with Warner Bros and Silver Pictures on board to make the would-be film adaptation. Alcott had previously co-written the animated feature film Antz for DreamWorks and had penned the screenplay for the 13 Ghosts remake.

According to IGN, there were initial concerns when rumors arose that pop star Mariah Carey wanted to play the title character, but critics and fans alike felt better after Australian actress Lucy Lawless expressed an interest in playing the Amazonian warrior princess. Other Hollywood actresses linked to the Wonder Woman project were Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and former-WWE wrestler Chyna.

2. Problems with the Script

In 2003, Todd Alcott’s first draft of the Wonder Woman screenplay saw revisions, re-writes, and polishes from screenwriters Jon Cohen, Becky Johnson, and Philip Levens. Ultimately, the script fell in the lap of screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis, who was an executive producer on the TV series Birds of Prey, based on the adventures of Batman and Catwoman’s daughter, the Huntress, another DC Comics superhero.

3. Enter Joss Whedon

In March 2005, Warner Bros and Silver Pictures announced that geek icon Joss Whedon would write and direct the film adaptation of Wonder Woman, which would’ve been Whedon’s next film project after his directorial debut, Serenity. The film would have featured Wonder Woman’s origin story and would’ve included Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s primary love interest.

4. ... And Exit Joss Whedon

But by 2007, Whedon had not produced a completed screenplay and left the project early in the year. Whedon cited differences with the movie studio surrounding early drafts of the script. While Joss Whedon never picked an actress to play Wonder Woman, Whedon-regulars Charisma Carpenter and Morena Baccarin expressed their interests in playing the superhero.

5. World War II-Era Wonder Woman

A few days before Whedon left the project, Silver acquired a spec script, which set Wonder Woman during World War II, from screenwriters Matthew Jennsion and Bret Strickland. While Silver was impressed with Jennsion and Strickland’s work, he had no intentions of turning their screenplay into a movie. Silver only purchased their spec script to take it off the market.

6. Paradise Island

In April 2008, Silver hired Matthew Jennsion and Bret Strickland to write a new Wonder Woman screenplay set in modern times. The new story ditched Wonder Woman's origin and explored her home Paradise Island, also known as Themyscira.

7. Joel Silver Lost Wonder Woman

In 2010, after 10 years of trying to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen, Silver lost the character’s film rights to DC Comics Entertainment. Warner Bros also announced that they would develop the comic book superhero for television and film.

8. TV Pilot For NBC

In 2010, Warner Bros Television partnered up with TV producer David E. Kelly to pitch Wonder Woman as the center of a new TV show. At first, NBC passed on the pitch, but eventually ordered a pilot episode in January 2011. The new TV series would re-invent the Wonder Woman character as Diana Prince, a corporate executive in Los Angeles by day, but a vigilante crime fighter by night. Friday Night Lights actress Adrianne Palicki was cast as Wonder Woman, while Tracue Thoms played Diana’s personal assistant, Etta Candy, and Elizabeth Hurley played the series villain Veronica Cade.

In May 2011, NBC announced that it would not produce a Wonder Woman series.

9. A Dark and Gritty Version of Wonder Woman

In 2011, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn expressed his interest in making a Wonder Woman movie with his Drive star Christina Hendricks in the lead role. While it’s not likely that Winding-Refn’s version of Wonder Woman would have ever gotten made, the Danish director and Mad Men star were quite candid about the would-be project during the Drive press tour in 2011.

10. A Wonder Woman Prequel TV Series

In 2012, The CW, Warner Bros Television, and DC Comics Entertainment announced that they were developing a script for a new TV series called Amazon, which would follow Wonder Woman’s origins. While Scottish actress Amy Manson was considered a frontrunner for the lead role of the Amazonian princess, script problems delayed the TV pilot’s production from 2013 to 2014.

In July 2013, The CW confirmed a new TV series based on another DC Comics superhero, The Flash, but ultimately put Amazon on hold until a good script emerged. The CW President Mark Pedowitz said, "with an iconic character like Wonder Woman, we have to get it right."

11. The Heat Is On For Wonder Woman

In 2013, director Paul Feig expressed an interest in making a Wonder Woman action-comedy for Warner Bros and DC Comics Entertainment. Nothing came of it, though.

12. Man Of Steel Sequel: Batman Vs. Superman

In 2013, DC Comics Entertainment President Diane Nelson and Warner Bros President Greg Silverman hinted that Wonder Woman could make a cameo appearance in the Man of Steel sequel. Later, in December, Israeli actress and former supermodel Gal Gadot was cast to play Wonder Woman in Man of Steel 2, alongside Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman.

Primary image courtesy of Flickr user Eva Fannon.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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