These days, it's helpful for kids to know more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. For parents hoping to introduce their children to computer programming concepts at an early age, there’s a new toy from Fisher-Price designed to do just that.
The Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar uses different segments of its body to demonstrate coding basics, like sequencing and programming, to preschoolers. Each piece is color-coded and marked with a different symbol. Assembling the segments in various sequences can cause the toy to move in different ways, or even move toward a specific marker. Rather than learning through a computer screen, the Code-a-Pillar offers kids a unique and hands-on way to familiarize themselves with these concepts while having fun at the same time. The toy also pairs with a free companion app for iOS or Android.
Parents looking to get even more out of the toy will be able to purchase three different expansion packs, each of which will allow the caterpillar to perform extra actions, like turning 180 degrees or creating different sounds and light patterns. Fisher-Price debuted the $50 product at last night’s pre-CES media event, though it won’t be available commercially until this summer.
The Titanic never completed its voyage across the Atlantic, but a LEGO replica of the infamous ocean liner has officially landed in the U.S. As CNN reports, the model, which was constructed by a 10-year-old boy from Reykjavik, Iceland, holds the record for the largest LEGO replica of the ship ever assembled.
LEGO fans can spot the ambitious creation at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee starting Monday, April 16. Consisting of 56,000 bricks, the structure is 5 feet tall and 26 feet long. It took Brynjar Karl Bigisson, who's now 15, a total of 700 hours to build it over the course of 11 months.
Ships and LEGO bricks are two of Brynjar Karl's greatest interests. When he was 10 he set out to construct a LEGO Titanic that would be proportional to his minifigures. His engineer grandfather helped him convert the original Titanic blueprints to LEGO-size and calculate how many bricks the model would require. With support from a crowdfunding campaign set up by his mom, Brynjar Karl was able to purchase the tens of thousands of LEGO blocks needed to complete the project.
Brynjar Karl is also an outspoken supporter of kids on the autism spectrum like himself. He has given talks about living with the disorder and has even written a book on the subject. "The LEGO Titanic project has taken me on a new exciting journey," he says on his website. "It's about shedding light on the positive side of autism."
After showcasing his replica Titanic in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, Brynjar Karl is bringing his model to America for the first time. The LEGO Titanic will be displayed at the Titanic Museum Attraction through December 2019.
What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.
No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.
1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE BOYS OF SUMMER.
Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.
2. IT WAS PARTLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.
The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.
Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans toldSports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."
5. THE GIANT OAK TREE THAT HOLDS THE TREEHOUSE WAS SALVAGED.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.
6. YEAH-YEAH ORIGINALLY READ FOR BERTRAM.
Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.
7. THE CHEWING TOBACCO WAS MADE OF LICORICE AND BACON BITS.
The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)
8. IT WAS DANGEROUSLY HOT.
It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.
9. IT WAS ALSO REALLY COLD.
On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.
10. SQUINTS WAS GIVEN A STERN REMINDER.
Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”
11. WENDY PEFFERCORN WAS BASED ON A GIRL NAMED BUNNY.
Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.
12. THE KIDS WERE EXCITED TO MEET DARTH VADER.
The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)
13. THE CAST SNUCK INTO A SCREENING OF BASIC INSTINCT.
When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.
14. THE BEAST WAS PARTLY PUPPET.
The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.
Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry toldTime. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”
15. THE MOVIE WAS AT THE CENTER OF A MAJOR LAWSUIT.
The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.