14 Facts About The NeverEnding Story On Its 35th Anniversary

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

The movie adaptation of German writer Michael Ende's 1979 fantasy novel The Neverending Story () was released during that special era in the 1980s when a PG rating almost certainly meant nightmares for children under the age of 10 (see: Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal). But that didn't stop Wolfgang Petersen's magical adventure story from becoming a bona fide cult classic.

In honor of the movie's 35th anniversary, now seems like the perfect time to revisit the world of Fantasia with some things you might not have known about The NeverEnding Story.

1. At the time of its release, The NeverEnding Story was the most expensive movie in Germany's history.

At the time of its release, The NeverEnding Story was the most expensive film production in the history of German cinema. With a price tag of about $27 million, the project supplanted 1981's Oscar-nominated Das Boot—also directed by Wolfgang Petersen—as the country's priciest film. Luckily for Petersen and the studio, The NeverEnding Story managed to rake in approximately $100 million worldwide.

2. The book's author called the movie "revolting."

Despite having worked with Petersen on the script, The Neverending Story author Michael Ende publicly bashed the finished product. Following the film's release in Germany, Ende organized a press conference where he referred to the film as "the revolting movie" and demanded that his name not appear in the credits, claiming that "The makers of the film simply did not understand the book at all. They just wanted to make money."

3. Michael Ende was embarrassed by Fantasia's "strippers."

Ende was definitely not on board with the busty, laser-shooting Sphinx statues that Atreyu encounters in the film. "The Sphinxes are quite one of the biggest embarrassments of the film," Ende said. "They are full-bosomed strippers who sit there in the desert."

4. Not everyone got along on the set of The NeverEnding Story.

When asked about working with such a young cast in an interview with SciFiNow, special effects director Brian Johnson said "Barret Oliver (Bastian) was an absolute gem" and Tami Stronach (the Childlike Empress) "was fine ... Noah Hathaway (Atreyu) was a bit of a pain in the arse, frankly. It was very difficult for Wolfgang to get anything out of him. Barret Oliver delivered all the time, he was just brilliant, absolutely brilliant."

5. Wolfgang Petersen was a perfectionist.

There are two sides to every story, of course. And Noah Hathaway remembers things a bit differently. In a 2015 interview with The News Tribune, the actor—who is now 47 years old—says that Petersen, whose English was limited, was a perfectionist who sometimes required up to 40 takes before he was satisfied with a single scene. “A three-month movie turned into a year," Hathaway said, who noted that two iconic scenes—Artax's death in the Swamp of Sadness and the introduction of the giant turtle Morla—took two months to shoot. "It was a lot of work."

6. It took a while to train a horse to "drown."

There's a reason why the Swamp of Sadness scene took so long to shoot. The short version? Most horses won’t walk into deep pools of mud if they have a choice. It took two trainers seven weeks to teach the horse playing Artax to stand still on a hydraulic platform in the swamp with mud up to his chin without trying to swim or run away.

7. Falkor is a luckdragon, not a dog—but he's also part airplane.


Towohlfahrt // CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The 43-foot-long luckdragon’s face looks a lot like a dog's, but according to the source material, his official breed is zero percent canine. While even the special effects director referred to the creature as a “golden retriever/dragon,” Falkor’s appearance was simply the director’s interpretation. At least two Falkor models were constructed; the first, built by Giuseppe Tortora, used airplane steel for the frames and the head alone weighed more than 200 pounds.

8. Bastian is a Canuck.

The real world does not play a major role in The NeverEnding Story, so the city is never explicitly identified. While the bulk of the film was made at Bavaria Studios in Munich, the scenes of Bastian at home, in the bookstore, and running away from the bullies down an alley were all shot in Gastown, a neighborhood in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.

9. The story doesn't end with the credits (but it does have an ending).

If you’re the type of moviegoer who avoids sequels, you may want to rethink that policy in this case—or at least pick up a copy of Ende’s book. Because the film version of The NeverEnding Story ends at around the halfway point of the book, audiences never find out what happens to the beloved characters. George T. Miller's 1990 sequel, The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter, includes plot points from Ende’s novel, but also adds new elements to the storyline. There is a third film in the series (1994's The NeverEnding Story III), but it is an extended adventure that was not part of the book.

10. The movie's theme song was a smash hit.

Written by Keith Forsey, composed by Giorgio Moroder, and performed in French and English by pop singer Limahl (with additional vocals by Ann Calvert and Beth Anderson), the earworm title song is not featured in the German version of the film, but it did infect other parts of the world. The song reached the top spot on music charts in Sweden and Norway, number 17 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and sold more than 200,000 copies in the UK.

11. Two of the book's biggest scenes were never shot.

Because of the limitations of special effects in the 1980s, two scenes from the book that were written into the script had to be removed. The first was the real introduction of Falkor, during which Atreyu helps him escape from a shape-shifting monster known as Ygramul the Many. In the film, Falkor appears out of the clouds when Atreyu is near death in the Swamp of Sadness, and in the next scene, they are on the mountain where the gnomes Engywook and Urgl live.

The other cut scene found Falkor and Atreyu caught in a fight between four Wind Giants. Instead, the scene was edited to be a brush with The Nothing, where Atreyu falls off of Falkor and comes to on a beach.

12. Some lucky people have The NeverEnding Story tattoos inked by Atreyu himself.

After making a few more movies, Noah Hathaway left acting behind and tried out several other careers, including martial arts trainer and tattoo artist, the latter of which required him to revisit his NeverEnding past. “I wouldn’t do another Auryn (talisman) tattoo because I did 15 in three weeks,” Hathaway told The News Tribune. “It is very flattering though.”

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/entertainment/article29910505.html#storylink=cpy

13. Steven Spielberg owns the original Auryn prop.

Spielberg helped Wolfgang Petersen cut the U.S. version of the film, which is seven minutes shorter than the German version. The pacing needed to be a little quicker for U.S. audiences, Petersen told MTV News, so he asked his friend Spielberg—who had learned his editing technique from George Lucas—for help. “There were little snippets, bits and pieces here and there," Petersen said. “Nothing major. Nothing that’s like ‘take the entire sequence out.’ It was just a polish kind of thing. A pacing thing; a few seconds here, a few things here.” As a thank you for his help, Petersen gave Spielberg the Auryn.

14. The NeverEnding Story book prop allegedly still exists.

Someone claiming to have the original prop has tried to sell it on eBay a couple of times, once in 2012 for $75,000 and again in 2015 for $28,500. He even tracked down Noah Hathaway and had him pose with the book for the listing. Neither listing ended with a sale, so if you’re a big fan of the film, there may still be hope.

This story was updated in 2019.

Pod Search, a Search Engine for Podcasts, Can Help You Find Your Next Binge-Listen

Milkos/iStock via Getty Images
Milkos/iStock via Getty Images

Having too many options definitely seems like the best problem to have when it comes to picking your next top podcast obsession, but that doesn’t make it any less overwhelming. To streamline the hunt, try Pod Search—a website and mobile app that has all the information you need in order to choose a winner.

As Lifehacker reports, the user-friendly site is organized in several different ways, depending on how you’d like to operate your search. You can browse its list of about 30 categories, which range from “Storytelling” to “Crime & Law,” and each has a set of subcategories so you can get even more specific. If you trust the opinions of the general public, you can choose an already-popular podcast from the “Top Podcasts” tab. Or, if you like to be the first to recommend the next big thing to your friends, you can pick a program from the list of new podcasts.

Pod Search also has a handy tool called MyPodSearch which will pretty much do all the work of choosing the perfect podcast for you. All you have to do is check whichever categories interest you and add any additional keywords you’d like (which is optional), and MyPodSearch will deliver a list of podcasts personalized for your tastes. This is great for people who have wide-ranging interests, a proclivity for indecision, or both.

Each podcast has its own landing page with a description, audio samples, places you can listen, website and social media links for the podcast, and a list of other podcasts from the same producers. You can also create an account and bookmark podcasts for the future—so, hypothetically, you could have MyPodSearch create a personalized list for you, bookmark them all, and then have a binge-listening itinerary that’ll last you until next year.

[h/t Lifehacker]

8 Fun Facts About Muppet Babies

The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

Before prequels were a thing, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies imagined a world in which the felt-covered characters of Henson’s Muppets franchise—Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie Bear among them—met up as children in a nursery. Left to their own devices, the animated cast led a rich fantasy life while in diapers. For more on this 1984-1991 show, including why it’s so hard to find anywhere except YouTube, keep reading.

1. Frank Oz didn’t really want Muppet Babies.

The idea to infantilize the Muppets came from Michael Frith, a longtime collaborator of Jim Henson’s, in the early 1980s. Frith believed that regressing the characters could allow them to impart moral or educational messages to children already familiar with them. But Frank Oz, a Muppets performer (Miss Piggy) and film director, argued that the Muppets needed to maintain their subversive edge. It was Henson who found a compromise, suggesting that younger versions of the characters appear in a dream sequence for 1984’s feature film The Muppets Take Manhattan. The response to the scene was overwhelmingly positive, and Henson soon teamed with Marvel Productions and CBS for an animated series that began airing in September 1984.

2. Skeeter was the result of a gender imbalance on Muppet Babies.

Most of the principal Muppet Babies cast was made up of recognizable characters, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf, Gonzo, Animal, Bunsen, and Scooter. But Frith, Henson, and producers Bob Richardson and Hank Saroyan decided that the babies were skewing a little too male. Aside from Piggy and their caretaker, Nanny, there were no female characters. To balance the scales, they introduced Skeeter, Scooter’s twin sister, a brainy problem-solver.

Skeeter has made only fleeting and sporadic appearances in the Muppet franchise since, leading to speculation she might be caught up in rights issues between CBS and the Jim Henson Company, which was purchased by Disney in 2004. Fortunately, the somewhat murky situation appears to be at least partially resolved: It was recently reported Skeeter will resurface in the new computer-animated iteration of Muppet Babies, which is currently airing its second season on Disney Junior and has been renewed for a third season.

3. One of the major creative forces behind Muppet Babies was Moe Howard’s grandson.

In 1985, Muppet Babies writer Jeffrey Scott received a Humanitas Prize from the Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute for an episode of the series which the Institute declared did the best job of any kid’s show that year to “enrich the viewing public.” The episode centered on the group fearing one of them might be sent away. The prolific Scott actually wrote all 13 episodes of the first season. His father, Norman Maurer, worked at Hanna-Barbera Productions and got Scott’s foot in the door. His grandfather was Moe Howard, founder and head Stooge of The Three Stooges fame.

4. The Muppet Babies live-action segments were a result of budgetary constraints.

A hallmark of Muppet Babies is when the cast finds themselves thrust into scenes from famous films, a Walter Mitty-esque bit of fantasy fulfillment that blends live-action sequences with animation. According to Frith, devoting a portion of each episode to clips wasn’t entirely a creative choice. By inserting clips, producers could save money on animation. It was also easy for Henson to secure the rights to popular films like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark because he was friends with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. While some believe those clips are the reason the show isn’t available to stream—sifting through the legal entanglement of reairing the segments might prove costly—that’s never been confirmed.

5. Muppet Babies never explained what the Muppets were doing in that nursery.

Given time to reflect, it seems odd that the Muppet cast would find themselves in a nursery without being supervised by their own parents. Speaking with the Detroit Free Press in 1987, Michael Frith said that the situation was purposely left vague. “I really appreciate the fact that they don’t [ask],” Frith said of his kid viewers. “Is this a day care center? Is this a foster child home? The more we talked about it, the more we felt it should just exist. The kids accept it.”

6. The voice recording sessions of Muppet Babies included copious farting.

Speaking with CNN in 2011, actor Dave Coulier (Full House) recalled that recording sessions for Muppet Babies sometimes involved flatulence. Coulier, who portrayed Animal and Bunsen, among others, said that “lots of fart humor” punctuated the recording studio. “In one scene, Fozzie [played by Greg Berg] and Animal had to climb a ladder,” he said. “As Animal was pushing Fozzie up the ladder, they were making [grunting] sounds. In mid-scene, Greg Berg farted. I looked at [actor] Frank Welker and we couldn’t contain ourselves. Uncontrollable laughter ensued. I was literally on the floor of the studio laughing.”

7. There was an offshoot of Muppet Babies called Muppet Monsters—and it never aired in full.

Following the success of Muppet Babies, CBS and Jim Henson decided to expand on the Muppets' potential as Saturday morning stars by creating a 90-minute block in 1985 titled Muppets, Babies, and Monsters. (Muppet Babies often aired consecutive half-hour installments for an hour total.) In addition to regular Muppet Babies episodes, the program featured another half-hour of Little Muppet Monsters, which featured puppets of new Muppet monster characters named Tug, Molly, and Boo. The three appeared in a framing device that introduced animated segments of adult Muppets. Only three episodes aired out of 15 produced, reportedly due to both Henson and CBS being unhappy with the finished product and Muppet Babies standing strongly on its own. The remaining episodes have yet to see the light of day.

8. Muppet Babies was turned into a live stage show.

To further incite their juvenile audience and monetize their popularity, the Muppet Babies franchise eventually wound up live and on stage. Muppet Babies Live! debuted in 1986 and featured performers in oversized costumes dancing and acting to a prerecorded track. In one skit, the cast appeared in a Snow White homage. In another, Rowlf became Rowlfgang Amagodus Mozart and played the piano. The arena show toured the country. Hank Saroyan, one of the animated show’s producers, wrote the stage show. The performer for Baby Piggy, Elizabeth Figols, also appeared in a live production of Dirty Dancing. The show ran through 1990.

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