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bewarethedecks via YouTube

15 Aggro Facts About Nickelodeon's Guts

bewarethedecks via YouTube
bewarethedecks via YouTube

Before American Ninja Warrior, there was Nickelodeon Guts, the 1992-96 series that tested the mettle of America’s pre-teen population with a series of physical challenges—all of it culminating with a climb up the infamous Aggro Crag replica mountainside. Twenty years after it left the air, check out some trivia about bizarre guest stars, the fate of losing contestants, and why the show eventually needed a manual from the Olympic Committee. Let’s go to Mo!

1.GUTS WAS CREATED BECAUSE AN EXECUTIVE COULDN’T DUNK A BASKETBALL.

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Albie Hecht, who went on to become president of Nickelodeon, conceived of Guts in the early 1990s because he couldn’t dunk a basketball. It was “his biggest fantasy,” he told Mathew Klickstein, author of Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age, and thought it would be “fantastic” to help kids realize similar ambitions. Many of the courses in Guts involved contestants wired to bungee cord harnesses that allowed them to perform exaggerated moves.

2. DOUBLE DARE ASSISTANT ROBIN RUSSO WANTED TO HOST.

Klickstein also uncovered that Double Dare personality Robin Russo was hoping to graduate to hosting duties on the channel’s new game show. “I was really upset because I was up for Guts and it went to someone else,” she said. (That someone was Mike O’Malley, future star of Yes, Dear and Glee.)

3. PRODUCERS WOULD SOMETIMES MAKE UP THE NICKNAMES.

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To help personify their contestants, Guts usually used nicknames for participants. If a player didn't have a nickname, they'd pick one for him or her. One former player, Anna Mercedes Morris, told The Onion’s A.V. Club in 2015 that she didn’t have a nickname, so producers decided to call her “the Roadrunner.”

4. THE AGGRO CRAG OBSCURED THE PLAYER’S VISION.

Climbing the 28-foot-tall studio rock known as the Aggro Crag was best handled by touch: Morris told the A.V. Club that the amount of lights, confetti, fog machines, and squirting water meant that players could barely see anything in front of their faces: “There’s just so much coming at you and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, where’s that button?’” she said.

5. MOIRA QUIRK WAS A SCOOBY-DOO VILLAIN.

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British actress and writer Moira “Mo” Quirk was cast as Guts co-host-slash-referee opposite Mike O’Malley in 1992. After the series ended, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue voiceover work that included a stint as a villain on an episode of Scooby-Doo. “I just about peed my pants, I was so happy,” she said. “I got to say, ‘And I would’ve done it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids.’”

6. E.T. APPEARED IN AN EPISODE.

Because Guts was taped at Orlando’s Universal Studios, there was opportunity for some cross-promotion. For a 1996 episode, the show trotted out a cameo appearance by E.T. during a medal ceremony; the figure was likely cribbed from the park’s E.T. Adventure ride, which debuted in 1990.

7. BACKSTREET BOY AJ MCLEAN WAS A COMPETITOR.

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Not yet a Tiger Beat fixture, a 14-year-old A.J. McLean suited up for a 1992 episode. Known as “Mean” McLean, his bio mentioned he aspired to become a cartoonist. He came in second, failing to record top marks for either the long jump or the Aggro Crag.

8. THE AGGRO CRAG WAS A GIANT PUZZLE.

The climatic challenge of Guts was the scaling of the Aggro Crag, a foam, latex, and speed rail-based climbing structure that was designed by Double Dare art director Byron Taylor. Because the show needed to make room for other television tapings, the Aggro Crag was constructed so that it could be stripped down into pieces, stored, and re-assembled later. (The initial construction took a month and 20 workers to erect.)  

9. LOSERS HAD A HARD TIME IN SCHOOL.

Cartoonist Sean Michael Robinson drew a biographical strip detailing his experience as an early contestant in the show. Coming in third to two girls, Robinson wrote that he was mocked in school for his runner-up status. Just when the heckling died down, his episode would air in reruns and the cycle would begin again.

10. NO ONE REALLY CALLED MOIRA QUIRK “MO.”

“Let's go to Mo—Mo!” became host Mike O’Malley’s signature phrase, inspiring legions of nostalgic adults to confuse co-workers whose names even slightly resembled “Mo.” But according to his co-host, O’Malley was really the only one who ever called her that. “And my grandfather,” Quirk said. “[But] no one else has really called me that before or since.”

11. IT WENT GLOBAL IN 1995.

After three seasons of taping in Florida and using primarily local residents as contestants, series producers decided to capture the flavor of an Olympic competition by going international. The fourth season consisted of contestants from 12 different countries competing against one another. The network found it a logistically challenging goal—the show’s concept had to be explained to foreign networks—and required a portion of the Universal Studios audience to be coached on cheering for Portugal instead of the USA. While countries used the same footage, most had their own hosts. To make sure domestic practices like hand gestures wouldn’t be misunderstood, producers even picked up a copy of the Olympic Committee Manual.

12. YOU COULD’VE BOUGHT A PIECE OF THE AGGRO CRAG.

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Those who conquered the obstacle course and the ascent up the Aggro Crag were awarded a medal and a replica piece of the faux-rock itself, which one contestant described as a kind of rock lamp with a pull string. In 2009, a player successfully auctioned off the artifact for $1449. (He kept the medal, though.)

13. THERE WAS A 2008 REBOOT.

My Family’s Got Guts! was Nickelodeon’s attempt to revitalize the Guts franchise in 2008. Substituting host Ben Lyons for Mike O’Malley and with no British referee in sight, the series took a cue from Family Double Dare and tweaked the format to include parents. Notable for being the channel’s first shot-in-high-definition offering, it only lasted a year.

14. MIKE AND MO GUEST-STARRED ON SANJAY AND CRAIG.

Nickelodeon

Mike O’Malley and Moira Quirk played animated versions of themselves on Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig, a half-hour series about a kid and his pet snake. In the show, the two appear on a road-show version of Guts.

15. THERE WAS A THROWBACK GUTS NIGHT.

Last summer, the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team took to the field wearing customized jerseys bearing the Guts color scheme. It was part of the franchise’s Guts theme night, which also included a collectible piece of the Aggro Crag and a complimentary pouch of Capri Sun. Unfortunately, they dropped the game to the State College Spikes by a score of 7-6.

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UsTwo
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This Augmented-Reality App Makes the Hospital Experience Less Scary for Kids
UsTwo
UsTwo

Staying in a hospital can be a scary experience for kids, but a little distraction can make it less stressful. According to studies conducted by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK, distracted patients have an easier time with their appointments and require less pain medication. Now, Co.Design reports that the hospital is releasing its own app designed to keep children entertained—and calm—from the moment they check in.

The Android and iOS app, called Alder Play, was designed by ustwo, the makers of the wildly popular smartphone game Monument Valley and the stress relief tool Pause. Patients can download the app before they arrive at the hospital, choosing a virtual animal buddy to guide them through their stay. Then, once they check into the hospital, their furry companion shows them around the facility using augmented-reality technology.

The app features plenty of fun scavenger hunts and other games for kids to play during their downtime, but its most important features are designed to coach young patients through treatments. Short videos walk them through procedures like blood tests so that when the time comes, the situation will feel less intimidating. And for each step in the hospitalization process, from body scans to gown changes, doctors can give kids virtual stickers to reward them for following directions or just being brave. There’s also an AI chatbot (powered by IBM’s Watson) available to answer any questions kids or their parents might have about the hospital.

The app is very new, and Alder Hey is still assessing whether or not it's changing their young hospital guests’ experiences for the better. If the game is successful, children's hospitals around the world may consider developing exclusive apps of their own.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Cell Free Technology
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This Pixel Kit Will Let You Play Tetris With Jellyfish DNA
Cell Free Technology
Cell Free Technology

Forget playing Tetris on your phone. Now you can play it with jellyfish DNA. Bixels is a DIY game kit that lets you code your own games using synthetic biology, lighting up a digital display with the help of DNA.

Its 8-by-8 pixel grid is programmed to turn on with the help of the same protein that makes jellyfish glow, called green fluorescent protein (GFP). But you can program it to do more than just passively shine. You can use your phone and the associated app to excite Bixels' fluorescent proteins and make them glow at different frequencies, producing red, blue, and green colors. Essentially, you can program it like you would any computer, but instead of electronics powering the system, it's DNA.

Two blue boxes hold Bixel pixel grids.

Researchers use green fluorescent protein all the time in lab experiments as an imaging agent to illuminate biological processes for study. With Bixels, all you need is a little programming to turn the colorful lights (tubes filled with GFP) into custom images or interactive games like Tetris or Snake. You can also use it to develop your own scientific experiments. (For experiment ideas, Bixels' creator, the Irish company Cell-Free Technology, suggests the curricula from BioBuilder.)

A screenshot shows a user assembling a Bixel kit on video.

A pixel kit is housed in a cardboard box that looks like a Game Boy.

Bixels is designed to be used by people with all levels of scientific knowledge, helping make the world of biotechnology more accessible to the public. Eventually, Cell-Free Technology wants to create a bio-computer even more advanced than Bixels. "Our ultimate goal is to build a personal bio-computer which, unlike current wearable devices, truly interacts with our bodies," co-founder Helene Steiner said in a press release.

Bixels - Play tetris with DNA from Cell-Free Technology on Vimeo.

You can buy your own Bixel kit on Kickstarter for roughly $118. It's expected to ship in May 2018.

All images courtesy Cell-Free Technology

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