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13 Truly Outrageous Facts About Jem

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For better or worse, Jem and the Holograms will be back in your life again soon with a live-action movie hitting theaters in October. Though it only ran for three seasons, Jem had quite the cult following. Relive her glory days with these 13 facts about the fictional rocker.

1. The actress who provided Jem’s singing voice had never sung professionally.

Jem was actress Britta Phillips’ first professional gig. For her audition, she sang the show’s theme song—not only did she nail the audition, but producers liked this version so much they kept it as the one that was actually used in production.

2. But Jem’s speaking voice was provided by a professional singer.

As a trained singer who started her career at the ripe old age of 7, Samantha Newark has said, “It’s surreal sometimes to be known for Jem and not be known for the singing.”

3. Jem was a doll before she was a cartoon.

Hasbro had already created a couple of cartoon shows to market their toys—G.I. Joe and Transformers. Hoping to strike gold again with a female audience, the company created a doll they hoped would give Barbie a run for her money. They recruited Sunbow Productions, the studio behind the G.I. Joe show, who gave it to writer Christy Marx, because “they liked my work, plus I was about the only woman writer they had."

4. The Holograms’ last names were inspired by scientists.

According to Christy Marx, Hasbro had already chosen the characters’ first names. She had free reign over the surnames, however, and chose ones that corresponded with scientists who worked on holographic technology. Jerrica and Kimber Benton were named after Stephen Benton, the creator of the rainbow hologram. Aja Leith was named after Emmett Leith, the co-inventor of 3-D holography. (Jerrica and Kimber's dad was named Emmett.)

Pizzazz Gabor from the Misfits was named after Dennis Gabor, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing holography. Villain Eric Raymond was named after Marx’s brother, who, incidentally, had nothing to do with the development of holograms.

5. There are JemCons.

Fans' love for Jem hasn’t waned in the years since the show went off the air. Devoted viewers celebrate Jem and her outrageousness at the annual JemCon, which includes guest panels, vendors, entertainment, karaoke opportunities—and, of course, lots of cosplay.

6. There were some famous singers behind the other bands.

The Misfits’ Sheila “Jetta” Burns was voiced by Louise Dorsey, Engelbert Humperdinck’s daughter. Phoebe “Rapture” Ashe and Ingrid “Minx” Kruger of the Stingers got their singing voices courtesy of Vicki Sue Robinson, perhaps better known for her 1976 song “Turn the Beat Around.”

7. Jem originally had a different name.

Before she was Jem, she was simply “M,” which stood for music, metamorphosis, and magic. Instead of having an alter ego named Jerrica, M’s was named Misty. There are a number of reasons cited for why “M” didn’t stick, all involving copyright. Mattel might have complained because people would think an “M” doll was their creation; “M” might have run into copyright problems with “MTV;” and Hasbro was afraid Bette Midler would sue them since she was known as the Divine Miss M.

8. Barbie and the Rockers definitely weren't a response to Jem’s popularity … according to Mattel.

It’s long been said that Barbie and the Rockers were created because Mattel was threatened by Jem’s success and felt they needed to deliver a similar toy, right down to the ethnicities of the band members. Mattel denies this. “It would have been impossible to bring something out by the time we could confirm a rumor of that magnitude,” said Barbie’s marketing manager. “We introduced [Barbie and the Rockers] because rock ‘n’ roll is a big trend. Our Rocker dolls were in production long before we ever heard of Jem.”

9. Despite the success of the show, the Jem doll didn’t actually sell well.

Turns out Mattel didn’t have much to worry about. While the dolls were a huge success their first year, sales quickly dropped off. It’s speculated that one of the contributing factors was purely logistical: The box was poorly designed. The shelves in doll aisles in virtually all retail stores were designed to hold the 11-3/4” Barbie boxes—and Jem’s 14-1/2” packaging was way too large. To reconfigure shelving would have meant lost shelf space for retail stores, so instead, Jem and her buddies weren’t displayed as Hasbro intended.

10. So, Hasbro replaced Jem with “Maxie.”

Thinking they could still appeal to the Jem market, Hasbro later released a similar doll called “Maxie” who was nearly the same size as Barbie. They even tried creating a cartoon series for her called Maxie’s World, but it was canceled after just 32 episodes.

11. Hasbro wanted Jem to have a “social conscience.”

The cartoon touched on issues such as drug abuse and teenage runaways. After the latter episode, the phone number for a hotline for runaways was revealed. Christy Marx has said it resulted in at least two 10-year-olds returning home to their families. “We are forcing Mattel to create an identity for Barbie,” Stephen A. Schwartz, a senior vice president for marketing for Hasbro, told the Los Angeles Times. “Jem really has a social conscience. Her world is not about shopping and dating. She is a working girl, a woman of the ’80s. She’s an executive. She makes decisions. She has lots of pressure.”

12. Song lyrics were usually credited to “Kimber” and “Stormer,” but they were actually written by a veteran theater and TV songwriter.

But Barry Harman doesn’t have any hard feelings: “My job was to create songs that the audience would believe the characters had written. If people actually believed Kimber and Stormer wrote the songs, then we did a good job,” he has said. Harman has a lot of Jem lyrics under his belt—180 songs, to be exact, although several of them were never released.

13. Marx has just one Jem doll.

According to Marx, the only Jem doll she ever received was one her mother bought her.

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11 Terrifying Facts About The Hills Have Eyes
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Image Entertainment

In the late 1970s, Wes Craven was a struggling filmmaker known for only one thing: a little horror flick called The Last House on the Left (1972). Though he was itching to branch out and make other kinds of movies, he could only find financing for horror films, so he agreed to make a movie about a group of hill people savaging a vacationing family. Though he may not have been in a hurry to admit it, Craven found that he was really good at scaring people.

Produced on a tight budget, under sometimes grueling conditions, The Hills Have Eyes cemented Craven as one of Hollywood’s great horror masters. The film was released 40 years ago today, and it’s just as brutal as ever. So let’s look back on its unflinching terror with 11 facts about the film’s production.

1. IT WAS BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

According to writer/director Wes Craven, The Hills Have Eyes was inspired by the story of Sawney Bean, the head of a wild Scottish clan who murdered and cannibalized numerous people during the Middle Ages. Craven heard the story of the Bean clan, and noted that the road near where they lived was believed to be haunted because people kept disappearing while traveling on it. He adapted the story to instead be about a group of wild people in the American West, and The Hills Have Eyes was born.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY NECESSITY.

After Craven released The Last House on the Left in 1972, he tried his hand at making films outside of the horror genre, but according to the late director, “Nobody wanted to know about it.” In need of money and searching for a better career path, he finally answered the request of his friend, producer Peter Locke, to write a horror film. At the time, Locke’s wife Liz Torres was performing regularly in Las Vegas, and so Locke was frequently exposed to desert landscapes. He suggested that Craven set the film in the desert, and Craven began to craft the screenplay.

Budget was also a concern, so Craven structured the film to feature a relatively small cast and very few locations.

3. JANUS BLYTHE WON HER ROLE BASED PARTLY ON SPEED.

For the role of Ruby, the filmmakers needed an actress who could pull off the flighty and feral character convincingly, so, in the words of Locke: “We had sprints.” Actresses trying out for the role were asked to race each other, and Blythe’s speed won out.

4. PETER LOCKE PLAYS A SMALL ROLE IN THE FILM.

Because of the film’s small budget, even Locke was drafted to join the cast. He appears as “Mercury,” the feather-covered savage who appears only twice: once in the film’s opening minutes, and then again as he’s pushed off a cliff by the Carter family’s dog, Beast.

5. THE TARANTULA SCENE WASN’T PLANNED.

The scene in which Lynne Wood (Dee Wallace) discovers a tarantula in the family trailer is a foreboding moment that signals the trauma to come, but it wasn’t in the script. According to Craven, they simply found the spider on the road during shooting, put it in a terrarium, and decided to add it into the film. Don’t worry, though: Wallace didn’t actually stomp the spider in the scene.

6. THE DEAD DOG WAS REAL (BUT THEY DIDN’T KILL IT).

During the scene in which Doug (Martin Speer) discovers the mutilated body of the family’s other German Shepherd, Beauty, a real dog corpse was used. According to Craven, though, the dog was already dead.

“Let’s just say we bought a dead dog from the county and leave it at that,” Craven said.

7. THE FILM WAS ORIGINALLY RATED X.

Though it might seem relatively tame by modern standards, the film’s graphic violence earned it an X (what we now call NC-17) rating from the MPAA, which meant cuts had to be made. According to Locke, significant footage was removed from the scene in which Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth) kills Fred (John Steadman), the scene in which Pluto (Michael Berryman) and Mars (Lance Gordon) terrorize the trailer, and the final confrontation with Papa Jupiter.

8. MICHAEL BERRYMAN CONSTANTLY FACED HEATSTROKE.

Berryman, who became a horror icon thanks to this film, was apparently game for just about anything Craven and company wanted him to do, though he personally told the producers he was born with “26 birth defects.” Among those birth defects was a lack of sweat glands, which meant that the intense desert heat was particularly hazardous to his health. He soldiered on, though, even in intense action sequences.

“We always had to cover him up as soon as we finished these scenes,” Craven recalled.

9. THE CLIMACTIC EXPLOSION COULD’VE BEEN DEADLY.

Because the budget was small, production on The Hills Have Eyes often meant taking risks. Actors performed stunts themselves, sometimes putting themselves in harm’s way. For the scene in which Brenda (Susan Lanier) and Bobby (Robert Houston) set a trap to kill Papa Jupiter by blowing up the trailer, the crew members who set the explosion actually couldn’t tell Craven whether it was safe to have the actors in the foreground of the shot.

“We didn’t know how much of a blow-up it was gonna be,” Craven said.

10. THE ORIGINAL ENDING WAS MUCH MORE HOPEFUL.

According to Locke, the film’s original scripted ending involved the surviving family members reuniting at the site of the trailer, including Doug and the baby, signifying that they had survived and could finally look forward. Craven, though, opted for something more bleak, and so the film ends on a shot of Doug brutally stabbing Mars while Ruby looks on in disgust, a reversal of roles that the director liked.

11. IT STARTED AN INTERESTING CHAIN OF HORROR HOMAGES.

The Hills Have Eyes is admired by fellow horror filmmakers, so much so that one of them—Evil Dead director Sam Raimi—chose to pay homage to it in a strange way. In the scene in which Brenda is quivering in bed after having been brutalized by Pluto and Mars, a ripped poster for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is visible above her head. Raimi saw it as a message.

“I took it to mean that Wes Craven … was saying ‘Jaws was just pop horror. What I have here is real horror.’”

As a joking response to the scene, Raimi put a ripped poster for The Hills Have Eyes in his now-classic film The Evil Dead (1981). Not to be outdone, Craven responded by including a clip from The Evil Dead in his classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Additional Sources: The Hills Have Eyes DVD commentary by Wes Craven and Peter Locke (2003)

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Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
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Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

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