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10 Disney Sidekicks That Got the Axe

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Though the heroes, heroines, princes, and princesses tend to run the show over at Disney, many of your favorite animated characters would be nothing without their sidekicks. Without the dwarfs, Snow White never would have made it out of the woods. Aladdin would have perished in the Cave of Wonders with no Carpet and no Genie. And Belle would have likely starved to death if household items hadn’t started singing to her.

Choosing a sidekick is tricky business, though—there are a number of reasons why a sidekick could end up on the cutting room floor instead of helping to save the day. Here are 10 that didn't quite make the cut.

1. Red Feather, a wild turkey from Pocahontas

John Candy was slated to voice this woodland fowl; it’s rumored that he even recorded some lines. The artists working on the movie were having trouble matching the serious nature of the film with the silly talking turkey, though, and in the midst of figuring it out, Candy passed away. The decision was made to make all of the sidekick characters non-speaking. Somewhere in this process, Red Feather was scrapped for Meeko the raccoon and Flit the hummingbird.

This is what Red Feather would have looked like:

2. Mheetu, Nala’s little brother in The Lion King

An alternative draft of The Lion King showed a lot more of the happenings in the Pride Lands while Simba was out Hakuna Matataing with Timon and Pumbaa. During this time, Nala would be shown protecting her little brother, Mheetu, from the evil Scar. Mheetu, along with another sidekick named Bhati the bat-eared fox, were eventually scrapped.

3. Music Box, Beauty and the Beast

Before Chip Cup stole the show, a little music box was supposed to be the infantilized household object that made you go, “Awwww.” When voice actor Michael Bradley Pierce ended up stealing the show as Chip, however, the music box part was scaled way back and Pierce’s role was increased. The music box can still be spotted in a few scenes, probably hoping Chip Cup will take a tumble off of the table.

4. Senorita Cactus in Toy Story 2

This one may be hard to believe, but at one point, instead of Jessie the Cowgirl, the female lead in Toy Story 2 was “Senorita Cactus.” The prickly plant was apparently supposed to sway Woody into joining the Woody’s Round-Up gang by using her feminine wiles. That could have turned out very badly for ol’ Woody.

5. Breaker the Dolphin in The Little Mermaid

Although a dolphin pal probably would have been way more useful for Ariel, her original dolphin sidekick named Breaker was eventually replaced by the sweet-but-slow Flounder. Breaker wasn’t trashed entirely, though—some of his enthusiastic personality traits were transplanted into Ariel.

6. Four more fairies in Sleeping Beauty

Just like Perrault’s original fairy tale, early versions of Sleeping Beauty included seven good fairies instead of the three you see in the film. Perhaps worried about comparisons to Snow White and her seven buddies, or maybe just aware that seven fairies would take up a lot of space and screen time, the concept was eventually pared down to three core fairies.

7. A regent in Frozen

OK, this one is not a sidekick, exactly, but it’s still fun to imagine what might have been. Ever wonder exactly how Arendelle was being run in the years between the death of the King and Queen and Elsa’s coronation? Scriptwriters had that covered, at one point—it was a regent to be voiced by Louis C.K. “I wanted him so badly in the film. I just wanted him in the film,” co-director Jennifer Lee said. “But the first act is so heavy, it’s still heavy. There’s so much in it.” To make the first part of the movie move a little faster, the role was cut.

8. Rocky the Rhino in The Jungle Book

Described as “a Mr. Magoo of a rhinoceros,” Rocky the Rhino was supposed to be a dim-witted, bumbling, near-blind character. His scenes were completely storyboarded before Walt gave him the boot, deciding that there were too many action sequences in a row.

You see Rocky’s big scene below, as well as a Beatles-inspired version of “That’s What Friends are For,” the song the vultures sing.

9. Hubert the dog in Lady and the Tramp

Instead of reliable neighbor dogs Jock and Trusty, Lady was originally supposed to have just one friend in the neighborhood: a mutt named Hubert who would have a Ralph Bellamy-like personality.

10. A Laurel and Hardy-like chipmunk and squirrel in Bambi

Though Walt liked the “screwball attitude” of the characters, the pair didn't make the final film, presumably because their antics just didn’t match the tone of the movie. Some of the original gags storyboarded by Carl Barks and Chuck Couch still survive.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]