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13 Excellent Facts About Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon invented the characters William "Bill" S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan way back in 1983, while performing improv with their UCLA classmates. Two years after Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure hit theaters in 1989, Matheson and Solomon decided to put their creations in front of brand new hurdles and challenges in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, a sequel that some regard as the superior movie of the two. In the latter, our heroes are murdered by their evil robot selves from the future and must go through hell and heaven to get their vengeance. Here are some facts about the film, which was released 25 years ago today.

1. ORION PICTURES INITIALLY INSISTED ON BILL AND TED KIDNAPPING CHARACTERS FROM FAMOUS BOOKS.

While Matheson and Solomon wanted to write about Bill and Ted dying and going to hell, the studio wanted the leads to enter famous works of literature to pass an English test. "The literature idea sounds different from time travel," Solomon said, "but it ends up being the same thing: Bill and Ted go into historical settings and meet famous characters, except now the characters are fictional." The two tried to write that version before telling Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter their initial idea, which the actors preferred. Reeves and Winter told the studio that Matheson and Solomon's movie was the one they wanted to make.

2. IT WAS PETER HEWITT'S FEATURE DIRECTORIAL DEBUT.

Despite never having directed a feature film, British director Peter Hewitt beat out 50 other directors for the chance to replace Excellent Adventure director Stephen Herek (who directed 1991's Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead instead). "To this day I don’t know why," Hewitt admitted in a 1992 interview. "I think I never imagined they’d consider me so I decided to say exactly what I thought about their script ideas: what I didn’t like and would want to change as much as what I wanted left in to build on. Perhaps they admired my honesty and the fact I wasn’t scared to speak my mind."

Though he had never directed a feature film, Hewitt had plenty of veteran help. Special effects supervisor Richard Yuricich (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner) teamed up with Kevin Yagher, who designed the Chucky doll in Child’s Play (1988) and who was also responsible for designing and applying make-up in three of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, to help Hewitt execute Matheson and Solomon's vision.

3. PRODUCTION WAS DELAYED TO ACCOMMODATE KEANU REEVES' BUSY SCHEDULE.

Orion wanted the film to be released in the summer of 1991, but the 10-week shoot had to be delayed until January 7, 1991. Reeves couldn't make it until then because he was working on My Own Private Idaho (1991). They stuck to the 10-week schedule by editing the movie as they went along, shooting five days a week and editing on Saturdays.

4. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS BILL & TED GO TO HELL, WHICH POSED A MARKETING PROBLEM.

Producer Scott Kroopf explained to The New York Times why they ultimately decided against using a title with the word 'hell' in it: "The problem was—and it was a real one—we couldn't advertise on TV until after 9 o'clock."

5. THE WRITERS FOUND THEIR WAY INTO THE FILM.

Solomon (with glasses) and Matheson (white shirt) appear as New Agers at Missy's seance. The Nomolos in the character name of the evil Chuck De Nomolos is Solomon spelled backwards.

6. THEY KNEW THEY WERE PARODYING INGMAR BERGMAN AND THE SEVENTH SEAL.

"The biggest set piece in the movie is that in order to get back to life, Bill and Ted have to play Death in games," Kroopf explained. "And the games they play are Battleship, Clue, Twister. So your life is on the line; you're playing with Death, but you're playing games that Bill and Ted know how to play. This is a clear parody of Bergman."

7. WILLIAM SADLER HELPED WITH SOME OF THE LINES.

"I think I had more fun doing Bill and Ted than I’ve ever had making anything I’ve ever shot," William Sadler, who played the Grim Reaper, said in 2015. "It was, once I came up with the Czechoslovakian accent and had the funny make-up done, and the idea that he’s almost effeminate. He starts off as a scary dude and almost immediately it all unravels and he becomes this kind of insecure doofus who all he really wants is for them to like him. At the end it was so sweet. I also got to be creative, I wrote the Reaper Rap. I kept having ideas, like when he goes by—I said to Peter Hewitt the director, 'Wouldn’t it be great if he walks past somebody who’s smoking and says ‘See you real soon’ as he goes by, and the person who’s smoking goes ah and puts it out?’ Peter liked the idea and said bring the camera over here, that’s Peter Hewitt as the smoker. We didn’t have an actor to play it, the idea happened on the set, while we were shooting other stuff."

8. THERE WERE STAR TREK CONNECTIONS.

Bill & Ted University was at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California. It was later used for Starfleet Academy in Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001). Bill & Ted give Death a melvin at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park near Agua Dulce Springs. It was shot there because shooting the scene in Utah was too expensive. When Hewitt first came across the jagged rock at Vasquez he turned to his first assistant director and said, "Isn’t this the alien planet in every Star Trek episode?" Hewitt rented a VHS of the "Arena" episode from the original series, froze the shot, and worked out the exact place for the crew to place the camera.

9. THERE WAS A CIRCULAR MOTIF THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE.

Production designer David L. Snyder and Hewitt worked it out so that 25 sets were built on three soundstages and other outside locations, each with circular shapes. "I chose a through-line of curves and circles in a desperate need to tie it all up stylistically," Hewitt explained. "Each place is instantly recognizable, but not stereotypically otherworldly. Otherwise Bill and Ted would have had to have said at some stage, ‘Where are we?,’ as they aren’t the smartest guys in the world."

10. AN ALTERNATE ENDING INVOLVING A CAR CHASE BETWEEN BILL AND TED AND THEIR BIGGEST FEARS WAS CUT.

Alex Winter said it was "insanely funny." It was storyboarded. To get rid of their reanimated "Personal Hells," Bill gives his Granny a kiss on the cheek, Ted calls his brother and apologizes for stealing his Easter candy, and both of them are nice to Colonel Oats.

In the original ending, Bill and Ted brought themselves back from the future every minute for 10 years to make full armies of themselves. Preview audiences didn't like it, and a new ending was shot over 10 days.

11. THE DIRECTOR'S CUT WAS MUCH DARKER.

Hewitt claimed the first cut of Bogus Journey was much darker. "That’s a definite British trait," he added. "The humor was black comedy almost. The Evil Us’s were really evil! I went for it and had them running riot doing despicable things. But test screen audiences couldn’t take it ... My original cut would have played well in Britain."

12. JOSS ACKLAND REGRETS BEING IN IT.

Joss Ackland played Chuck De Nomolos. He said that many of the roles in his 50-plus-year acting career were taken just for the money or to settle bets. "I do an awful lot of crap, but if it's not immoral, I don't mind," he explained. "I'm a workaholic." As for Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey? "I can't tell you how embarrassing that was," he told BBC News.

13. ALEX WINTER SAID A THIRD MOVIE IS COMING SOON.

In April 2016, Winter said that a third film was imminent—and that both he and Reeves would be reprising their roles: “We have a script, we have a director, we have a studio—we’re just trying to nail down a start date.”

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New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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