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Walt Disney Studios

15 Enchanting Facts About Beauty and the Beast

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Walt Disney Studios

As the new Beauty and the Beast—starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens—readies for its big-screen premiere, the tale as old as time is ready to enchant a new generation of audiences. Before you check out the live-action update, here are a few facts about the 1991 Disney classic.

1. WALT DISNEY CONSIDERED REMAKING THE FAIRY TALE AS FAR BACK AS THE 1930S.

Walt Disney liked to take his time mulling things over, and while he was pondering Beauty and the Beast, a live-action version of the movie was released by French filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Perhaps not wanting to release an animated version of a movie that had just been released, Disney tabled the idea.

2. A NON-MUSICAL VERSION WAS COMMISSIONED IN THE LATE 1980S.

In the late '80s, Disney hired British animator Roger Purdum to direct a non-musical version of Beauty and the Beast, with Linda Woolverton writing the script. But the company wasn't happy with the result of 10 weeks of storyboarding (which you can see here)—the story was too dark and depressing.

"In the middle of our process, The Little Mermaid premiered, and that changed everything," Woolverton told the Los Angeles Times. "[T]he concept of the musical, the Broadway musical brought to animation by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. So I was flown to Disney in Florida to meet with Howard. Howard and I just clicked. ... In a hotel room in Fishkill, New York, Howard and I pretty much conjured up this version of Beauty and the Beast. Howard and I never clashed. I was his student. He taught me everything I know about musicals."

3. JACKIE CHAN CONTRIBUTED TO AN INTERNATIONAL VERSION.

Jackie Chan dubbed the Beast’s voice for the Chinese translation of the movie—including the singing. Here he is performing the title track in Mandarin with Sarah Chen:

4. "HUMAN AGAIN" WAS CUT FROM THE ORIGINAL MOVIE.

The song “Human Again” was cut from the original movie, in part because it added 11 minutes to the film, and partially because it created a problem with the passage of time. "[W]e kept asking, 'Well what? Is Maurice wondering around in the woods all this time? Is Gaston just sitting around in a tavern drinking beer after beer growing a long white beard?,'" co-director Kirk Wise said. "We couldn't quite figure out what to do with the other characters during this time that Belle's at the castle and keep the motor of the story running." In recent years, the whole sequence has been included on DVD and Blu-ray extras. In case you don’t have either of those sitting around your house, check out part of it here:

5. THREE OF ITS TUNES EARNED "BEST ORIGINAL SONG" OSCAR NOMINATIONS.

Many people remember that the title song from Beauty and the Beast took home the “Best Original Song” Oscar in 1992, but it was just one of three songs nominated from the movie. But “Belle,” the opening song, and “Be Our Guest” were also up for an Oscar. Must have been rough to be the writers of the other two songs in that category: “When You’re Alone” from Hook and “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

6. THE CO-DIRECTOR STARTED HIS CAREER DRAWING CARICATURES.

Co-director Kirk Wise started his career drawing caricatures for tourists—but not Disney tourists. While attending art school, Wise made extra money by working at Universal Studios.

7. THE BEAST IS A MASH-UP OF VARIOUS ANIMALS.

He’s got the mane of a lion, the beard and head of a buffalo, the brow of a gorilla, the eyes of a human, the tusks of a wild boar, the body of a bear, and the legs and tail of a wolf ... and a little something extra. Animator Glen Keane claims that “Beast actually has a rainbow bum, but nobody knows that but Belle.”

8. ONE ANIMATOR WISHED THAT THE BEAST STAYED A BEAST.

Keane wished that the Beast had stayed a Beast instead of transforming into his princely human form. To help bridge the gap, he penned a funny line for Belle to say at the end: “I had them record Belle saying, ‘Do you think you could grow a beard?’ It was a good idea. It’s not in the movie. We should have put it in there.”

9. ANGELA LANSBURY SAID THE DEMO MUSIC WAS A LITTLE TOO ROCK 'N' ROLL.

When Angela Lansbury heard the demo of "Beauty and the Beast," it was "kind of a rock song," she told The Huffington Post. "I told them, 'This is a sweet message, but this really isn't my style. Are you sure you want me to do this?' They told me to sing the song the way I envisioned it, so that's what I did. I created it the way a little English teapot would sing the song."

Producer Don Hahn said that Lansbury "went into the booth and sang 'Beauty and the Beast' from beginning to end and just nailed it. We picked up a couple of lines here and there, but essentially that one take is what we used for the movie."

10. THERE'S A SLY REFERENCE TO DISNEYLAND.

You have to squint to see it, but when Maurice gets lost in the woods toward the beginning of the movie, one of the road signs he finds points the way toward Anaheim—which is home to Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios

11. THE POSTER WAS DESIGNED BY A MASTER OF THE ART.

John Alvin, the artist who created Beauty and the Beast's iconic movie poster, also designed the posters for some other films you might be familiar with, including E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Gremlins, The Lion King, The Color Purple, and Blazing Saddles.

12. BELLE MADE A CAMEO IN THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

Fittingly, she has her nose in a book. You can also see brief appearances by Pumbaa from The Lion King and Magic Carpet from Aladdin. It’s hard to spot Pumbaa—and tragic, as he appears to have been slaughtered—but both directors have confirmed all three cameos.

13. BELLE ISN’T THE ONLY BEAUTY AND THE BEAST CHARACTER THAT POPS UP IN OTHER MOVIES.

The Beast can momentarily be seen in Aladdin as one of the animal stacking toys the Sultan plays with.

14. THERE'S A NON-MUSICAL VERSION.

An earlier version of the movie contained no music. It also gave Belle a little sister named Clarice and a cat named Charley.

15. AUDIENCES WERE SUPPOSED TO SEE THE SEQUENCE WHERE THE YOUNG PRINCE IS TURNED INTO THE BEAST.

The sorceress would chase the prince through the castle hurling magic at him, hitting servants and accidentally turning them into objects instead. Eventually, she hits her target and turns him into an animalistic creature. She leaves, and we see the young Beast looking out from the castle windows, screaming for her to come back and fix him. Wise nixed the sequence. He later said, “The only thing that I could see in my head was this Eddie Munster kid in a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit.”

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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]

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