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14 Fantastic Facts About The NeverEnding Story

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The movie adaptation of German writer Michael Ende's 1979 fantasy novel The Neverending Story (Die unendliche Geschichte) 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. Having recently celebrated its 31st anniversary, now seems like the perfect time to revisit the world of Fantasia with these 14 things you might not know about The NeverEnding Story.

1. IT WAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE FILM 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. 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. He said that "The Sphinxes are quite one of the biggest embarrassments of the film. They are full-bosomed strippers who sit there in the desert."

4. NOT EVERYONE GOT ALONG ON SET.

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. THE DIRECTOR WAS A PERFECTIONIST.

There are two sides to every story, of course. And Noah Hathaway remembers things a bit differently. In a recent interview with The News Tribune, the actor—now 43 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," says Hathaway, 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 at the English language Wikipedia // CC-BY-SA-3.0, via 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 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 U.K.

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 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,” he 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," explains Petersen. “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 more recently 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.

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Aflac's Robotic Duck Comforts Kids with Cancer
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Aflac

Every year, close to 16,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. That news can be the beginning of a long and draining battle that forces kids and their parents to spend large amounts of time with medical providers, enduring long and sometimes painful treatments. As The Verge reports, a bit of emotional support during that process might soon come from an unlikely source: the Alfac duck.

The supplemental insurance company announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it has partnered with the medical robotics company Sproutel to design and manufacture My Special Aflac Duck, a responsive and emotive sim-bird intended exclusively for children undergoing cancer treatment.

When a child cuddles the fuzzy robotic duck, it can cuddle back. It reacts to being cradled and stroked by quacking or moving its head. Kids can also touch special RFID chips emblazoned with emoji on the duck's chest to tell it how they’re feeling, and the device will mimic those emotions.

But the duck isn’t solely for cuddling. In “IV Mode,” which can be switched on while a child is undergoing IV therapy, the duck can help the user relax by guiding them through breathing exercises. Accessories included with the toy also allow children to "draw blood" from the duck as well as administer medication, a kind of role-playing that may help patients feel more comfortable with their own treatments.

Aflac approached Sproutel with the idea after seeing Sproutel’s Jerry the Bear, a social companion robot intended to support kids with diabetes. Other robotic companions—like the Japanese-made seal Paro and Hasbro's Joy for All companion pets for seniors—have hinted at a new market for robotics that prioritize comfort over entertainment or play.

My Special Aflac Duck isn’t a commercial product and won’t be available for retail sale. Aflac intends to offer it as a gift directly to patients, with the first rollout expected at its own cancer treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia. Mass distribution is planned for later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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15 Amazing Kids Who Are Making The World a Better Place
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

From pint-sized activists to elementary school entrepreneurs, the digital world has been instrumental in giving a global platform to anyone who wants to make a difference—regardless of age. Need proof? Look no further than the 15 amazing kids highlighted here, each of whom is doing his or her part to make the world a better place.

1. DALIYAH MARIE ARANA

Daliyah Marie Arana
Haleema Smith Arana

Studies show that the typical American will read around five books per year. Well, 5-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana of Gainesville, Georgia, does that in a week. What's more impressive: She read more than 1000 books before she even entered kindergarten. Her love of reading became so prolific that it caught the attention of the Library of Congress, where she was invited to serve as Guest Librarian in January 2017.

“I want to inspire all the kids at my school to read more,” Arana tells Mental Floss. “I read to my 5-month-old baby brother, Demetrio, every day because I want him to learn to read before age 2!”

That same passion extends to her community, where Arana says, “I want to work with my mom to make my school the best group of readers in Georgia!” —Jay Serafino

2. GISELLE BAZOS

Gizelle Bazos
Courtesy of Ann Bazos

Nine-year-old Giselle Bazos has solved a problem that plagues kids her age: lost retainers. Her invention, the Retainer Container, prevents kids from losing their dental appliances while they eat. “I have a retainer that I lost a couple times,” Bazos tells Mental Floss. “I found it really hard, especially when you are eating, to keep it somewhere where it won’t get thrown away or broken.”

Her storage container can be worn on the wrist, so that a kid’s retainer never actually leaves their person. (Which is good news for parents, too, as it can cost as much as $600 to replace a lost retainer.) Bazos got to present her idea at the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in the summer of 2017. Though right now she’s more focused on being a regular fourth grader than manufacturing the device, we’ll be looking out for her next brilliant invention. —Shaunacy Ferro

3. ROBBIE BOND

Robbie Bond
Photo courtesy of Michelle Bond

This past April, the president issued two executive orders that hit close to home for 9-year-old Robbie Bond. They threatened the protected status of 27 national monuments, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Bond’s home state of Hawaii. He knew he had to do something, so with his family he decided to hit the road. Bond's mission is to visit each of the 27 vulnerable monuments while raising awareness of the issue among both kids and adults. He’s already well on his way to achieving that goal, and tracks his progress on his website, Kids Speak for Parks.

“I love when I visit schools and interact with my peers and they tell me about their experiences visiting national parks and monuments,” Bond tells Mental Floss. “At every National Monument I have visited, the community has welcomed me and people have taken the time to educate me about the uniqueness and significance of each monument.” —Michele Debczak

4. HENRY BURNER

Henry Burner
Sarah DeNike

When a school trading post project tasked fourth grader Henry Burner with bringing in something to sell to his classmates, he didn’t want to go the traditional baked goods route. Instead, Henry made and sold his own pinback buttons with the help of his mom’s button machine. The success of his creative project spawned an idea.

“I did so well at my trading post that when I got home I asked mom whether I could ‘make real money doing this,’” Burner tells Mental Floss. He began selling his buttons at farmers markets, but when the season ended and the markets began to close, he said, "My mom suggested e-commerce and that's when the business really took off!” 

Now as the founder of Buttonsmith, Inc., Burner—who was named as one of Forbes's notable 30 Under 30 in the retail and ecommerce industry—is creating jobs in his hometown of Carnation, Washington. With a patent pending on the design, his products are available both online and in Walmarts across the country. While Burner cites "selling more than $1 million gross in 2017, being in 1600 Walmarts, [and] being able to sell custom products on Amazon" as some of his biggest achievements, he's also very conscious about the kind of company he wants to run. He's proud of Buttonsmith's "products [being] 100 percent made in the USA, being a union shop, and creating 10 good jobs for our employees!” —JS

5. AMARIYANNA COPENY

Mari Copeny
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

For years, residents of Flint, Michigan have had to deal with a water supply known to contain dangerous levels of lead and other contaminants that irritate the skin. To make sure President Barack Obama was aware of the situation, 8-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny wrote a letter to the White House in March 2016. After not hearing back for months, Copeny’s mother, Loui Brezzell, got a call from Washington: The President was coming to Flint and wanted to meet Copeny.

Known as “Little Miss Flint” from her days in beauty pageants, Copeny became a lightning rod for the water crisis in her town. “When we found out the water was making us sick, I decided I wanted to stand up and give a voice to the kids in Flint that couldn’t stand up and speak for themselves,” she told Fortune.

Copeny—who has more than 21,000 Twitter followers—has since spearheaded a charity movement to donate 1000 school backpacks to area students. In November 2017, her tireless community efforts were recognized by Central Michigan University, which presented Copeny with a $25,000 scholarship to the school. —Alvin Ward

6. SOPHIE CRUZ

Sophie Cruz
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SOZE

Sophie Cruz has proven that you’re never too young to start caring about national issues, especially when your family’s fate hangs in the balance. Her story got global attention in 2015 when, at just 5 years old, she handed the Pope a letter and a hand-drawn illustration in hopes that he could help change U.S. immigration laws, which threaten to deport her parents, who are both undocumented immigrants. The illustration was of Cruz, her family, and the Pope joining hands, with “My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color,” written in Spanish across it.

Her story continued at the Women’s March in January 2017, where she made a speech to the crowd in both English and Spanish, pleading with them to fight for immigrants around the country. “We are here together making a chain of love, to protect our families,” Cruz, who was just 6 at the time, told the massive crowd. “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.” Cruz's story has become a rallying cry for nonprofit organizations like Fighting for Families. —JS

7. ADDISYN GOSS

Addyison Goss
Courtesy Snuggle Sacks

Ten-year-old Addisyn Goss, of Fenton, Michigan, met her grandfather for the first time in 2015. He was very sick, with one leg amputated, and had been homeless for six years. “So many of his stories made me sad, and I wanted to help others that might be homeless,” Goss tells Mental Floss. With her family’s help, she bundled donated toiletries, clothes, snacks, and blankets into 50 individual bags she dubbed Snuggle Sacks, which they delivered to the homeless in Lansing and Flint. Soon they were giving out 50 each month; now it’s 500. Goss’s nonprofit has handed out 3200 survival kits so far.

“I like seeing how the Snuggle Sacks really help people,” she says. “We have met lots of very nice people, and see them over and over again. They tell us how happy they are to get a new pair of socks, or the gloves, and how it helps them stay warm and safer. That makes us feel good. And, my brother and sister help me every day, so we are very close now.” —Jennifer Pinkowski

8. RYAN HICKMAN

Ryan Hickman
Photo courtesy Damion Hickman

Ryan Hickman’s passion for the environment began early. When the 8-year-old was just a toddler, his father, Damion Hickman, would take him on trips to their local recycling center in Orange County, California. These outings inspired Ryan to launch his own recycling business, Ryan’s Recycling, with help from his community.

In just five years, Hickman has recycled nearly 300,000 cans and bottles. He has also raised more than $5000 for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a marine mammal rescue center, by selling company-branded T-shirts. “I love recycling because it helps keep trash from getting into the ocean near where we live and that helps the animals in the ocean,” Hickman tells Mental Floss. —Kirstin Fawcett

9., 10., AND 11. JACKSON, TRISTAN, AND VIOLET KELLEY

Tristan, Jackson, and Violet Kelley
Photo courtesy Heather Kelley

In the summer of 2009, the Kelley brothers—Jackson, then 10, and Tristan, almost 8—launched Backpacks for New Beginnings, a charity that provides backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged kids around the Boston area. “We wanted to create a charity where we could do more than donate money or toys," the brothers told Mental Floss by email. "We wanted it to be a charity for kids run by kids.”

They fundraise, shop for items—which also include warm clothes, toiletries, and other basics—manage around 30 volunteers, and coordinate deliveries themselves, donating more than 7500 backpacks in the past nine years. And they show no signs of stopping—especially now that their 7-year-old sister Violet has gotten involved.

Though Jackson is now a freshman in college, he still plans on staying involved from afar and during the summers, and hopes to found a new chapter wherever he ends up after graduation. In the meantime, 16-year-old Tristan is spearheading the effort at home, and Violet is preparing to take over the operation in the future. —SF

12. ROBBY NOVAK

Robby Novak

Navigate past YouTube’s sea of unboxing videos and famous cats and you’ll sometimes find someone worth your time—Robby Novak being a prime example. Since 2013, the 13-year-old has been posting videos as “Kid President,” featuring optimistic and enthusiastic addresses from his cardboard Oval Office that have promoted charitable causes, like urging people to donate clothes and meals to the needy. In other clips, he uses humor to make salient points about empathy. “Before you say something about the barbecue sauce on somebody else’s shirt, take a look at the barbecue sauce on your own shirt,” he says.

Novak’s high spirits are in contrast to his osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes his bones to be abnormally brittle and has prompted over 70 bone breaks in his life. Novak’s infectious energy has been viewed by—and inspired—millions, including Real President Barack Obama, who visited with Novak when he invited the performer to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Hunt in 2013. —AW

13. SUNSHINE OELFKE

Sunshine Oelfke
Photo courtesy Jackie Sue Oelfke

Most kids break open their piggy banks to buy games or toys, but 5-year-old Sunshine Oelfke found a more important way to use her savings. She started gathering up her own change after learning that a friend at school didn’t have enough money to buy milk. Sunshine’s mom, Jackie Oelfke, helped her fill a baggie with cash and take it to school, but they didn’t stop there. They decided to extend Sunshine’s good deed with a GoFundMe campaign that raised money for more kids who can’t afford milk. “I want all my friends to have milk and lunch,” Sunshine tells Mental Floss. “I want all my friends to be happy.” —MD

14. GITANJALI RAO

Gitanjali Rao
Discovery Education/Andy King

Gitanjali Rao, a seventh-grader from Colorado, won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and was named "American's top young scientist." Her winning project? An inexpensive, portable, accurate device that tests lead contamination in drinking water and a smartphone app that analyzes the results, which she created after seeing news stories about lead in Flint, Michigan's water system. With her $25,000 prize, Rao hopes to fine-tune her invention—which she named Tethys, for the Greek goddess of fresh water—and ultimately help people make sure their water is clean. “I believe [Tethys] could have helped the people of Flint if they had it earlier,” Rao told The Denver Post. “My next step is to find out for sure.” —Kat Long

15. CARL SCHECKEL

Carl Scheckel
Photo courtesy William Scheckel

Carl Scheckel, 10, uses his love of comics to entertain soldiers and veterans. It all began when Carl (with help from his dad, William Scheckel, an adjunct professor at New York Institute of Technology) launched a website, Carl’s Comix, to post reviews of works and interviews with comic book creators. “One of my readers asked me if I would want to donate comics to veterans,” Scheckel tells Mental Floss. “I liked the idea and took 400 comics of my own and asked dealers, collectors, and creators I know if they would like to donate comics too. I raised 3500 comics!”

The Department of Veteran Affairs arranged for Scheckel's comics to be donated to a local veterans hospital and Army base, and thousands of additional donations poured in when news spread about his good deed. Scheckel plans to give a portion of these extra works to Maryland’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “I hope that when people get these comics, it reminds them of home and gives them something fun to do!” he says. —KF

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