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Josh Willis // Pizza Planet
Josh Willis // Pizza Planet

6 Things We Learned from Pizza Planet, the Toy Story Punk Band

Josh Willis // Pizza Planet
Josh Willis // Pizza Planet

Pizza Planet is a "pizzacore" band from College Station, Texas. The duo consists of Josh Willis on drums and Nic Shields on guitar and vocals. Here's the twist: all their songs are based on the movie Toy Story. Indeed, even their name refers to the pizza/arcade in the movie.

In their first EP released on Bandcamp, Escape From Pizza Planet, the band's opening tune is "Snake In My Boot," referring to Woody's famous line when his string is pulled. Other songs include "Double Bypass Brain Surgery" (Sid's disassembly/torture of toys), "The Claw," "To Infinity," "And Beyond." (The last two songs are a little light on lyrics, with Shields simply hollering the song titles over grinding riffs.)

Here's a quick phone video of the band performing "Snake In My Boot":

It's not every day that you encounter a band so singly dedicated to its premise, and having such fun doing it. In order to understand more about Pizza Planet, mental_floss conducted an email interview last week. Here are some keepers, lightly edited for clarity.

1. THEY ARE TRUE FANS OF TOY STORY

mental_floss: How old were you guys when Toy Story came out?

Nic Shields: I was almost 2.

Josh Willis: I was 3? Maybe a late 2. It's definitely one of the first movies I remember watching.

mental_floss: When was the most recent time you saw Toy Story?

Shields: Probably 4 or 5 months ago.

2. THEY INVENTED "PIZZACORE"

mental_floss: ... Your Bandcamp page says [your band is] "pizzacore." Where does Pizza Planet fit in the world of musical genres?

Shields: ...We are definitely pizzacore. Which I believe is a genre we invented.

3. NEITHER BAND MEMBER IS A "BUZZ" OR A "WOODY"

mental_floss: Would you describe yourselves as more like Buzz or Woody? (And why?) Alternately, is there some other character is the Toy Story universe you really identify with?

Shields: I want to feel like I am Mr. Shark because I just make fun of everybody all the time and enjoy mockery in general. And that's exactly what this band is, mockery.

Willis: I really identify with Slinky, he's super sarcastic but also I have the ability to stretch my body to absurd lengths.

4. THEY PUT ZERO EFFORT INTO THIS BAND, AND THAT'S OKAY

mental_floss: The message of the Toy Story movies (especially Toy Story 2) seems to boil down to, effectively, "Accept your situation and enjoy it while you can." Does that message resonate with you?

Shields: (laughing) That's exactly how I feel about this band because we put zero effort into it. We play in serious bands that we put time and effort into, but everybody just cares about our joke Toy Story band. So I've just learned to take whatever comes and stop trying.

Willis: Yeah, I'm in the same spaceship as Nic [Shields] on this one. I have a lot of disdain toward this band because of how little effort I've put into it and how little I care compared to my serious band that I drop a lot of time and care into and write about stuff that is important to me. But I'm learning recently to just accept it and enjoy it while it lasts.

mental_floss: How long does it take to write a typical Pizza Planet song?

Shields: About twice as long as it takes to play it.

Willis: None of our songs are longer than 2 minutes I don't think. We usually practice maybe an hour a month. We weren't kidding when we said pretty much zero effort is put into this band.

5. AUDIENCES HAVE MOSHED TO PIZZA PLANET

mental_floss: What's the biggest audience you've ever played to, as Pizza Planet? How about the smallest?

Shields: Probably a little over 100, and smallest would probably be like 10.

Willis: Yeah, we played in a taco shop in Denton Texas called "Killers Tacos," there was probably 100+ people there. They were moshing and going crazy enough that we had to tell them to calm down because I could feel the floor moving underneath us.

mental_floss: Does the audience understand the whole Toy Story thing? Like, do you explain it to them first?

Shields: Absolutely, we treat them like children and walk them through every song we play.

Willis: Yeah, we usually will describe what each song is about from the movies and between almost every song say "All our songs are about Toy Story" so hopefully nobody has misunderstood.

6. MORE SONGS ARE COMING

mental_floss: Any plans to record more Pizza Planet songs?

Shields: Yeah!

Willis: Yeah, we just booked studio time with a friend of ours, we're going to re-record the original songs on our [EP Escape From Pizza Planet] plus some more songs. I think it'll be like 10-11 songs total.

mental_floss: Have you learned anything doing this project?

Shields: That hard work doesn't pay off and to not take anything too seriously.

Willis: Yeah definitely that I need to stop taking stuff as seriously with music. I'm just having a blast and doing stupid stuff with one of my best friends and if people are into it, whatever, and if they're not, who cares? I'm in a band that plays music about Toy Story and you're not. So yeah.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE BAND AND FIND THEIR MUSIC

For a bit more on the band and their dreams of getting a cease-and-desist order from Disney, read this article from The Daily Dot. Their Facebook page is a lot of fun, and their music is on Bandcamp.

We salute you, Pizza Planet—The Claw has chosen wisely.

(All images courtesy of Josh Willis, used with permission.)

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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Pop Culture
Treat Yo Self to a Piece of Pawnee, Indiana, at this Parks and Recreation-Themed Auction
Chris Haston/NBC
Chris Haston/NBC

They'll never get to eat JJ's world-famous waffles or attend a Mouse Rat concert, but Parks and Recreation fans can still purchase a piece of Pawnee memorabilia featured on the late NBC sitcom. As Slashfilm reports, auction house Screenbid has partnered with NBC Universal Television to sell nearly 300 props, clothing items, and accessories used by the fictional parks department and their fellow Pawneeans.

The auction starts on November 27, 2017, and runs through December 1, 2017. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the LA Conservation Corps, which describes itself as "the nation's largest urban conservation corps and L.A.'s preeminent youth development organization."

Items for sale include, but aren't limited to, Leslie Knope's campaign merchandise (including buttons, T-shirts, and mugs), a Raggedy Ann Halloween costume worn by Ann Perkins, and multiple Mouse Rat CDs. And for fans of Tom Haverford, there's plenty of Entertainment 720 swag to go around (and wear out around town).

View some selected auction items below, or treat yo' self by checking out the full online catalogue here.

 "The Final Word with Perd" mugs, featured on the NBC TV show "Parks and Recreation" and on sale in a new themed auction hosted by auction house ScreenBid.

The Final Word with Perd mugs, featured on the NBC TV show Parks and Recreation.

Courtesy of ScreenBid

Entertainment 720 Dollars Stack, featured on NBC show "Parks and Recreation" and on sale in a new online auction hosted by auction house ScreenBid.

Entertainment 720 Dollars Stack, featured on Parks and Recreation

Courtesy of ScreenBid

An Entertainment 720-branded T-shirt, featured on the NBC show "Parks and Recreation" and on sale in a new auction hosted by auction house ScreenBid.

An Entertainment 720-branded T-shirt, worn on TV show Parks and Recreation

Courtesy of ScreenBid

A bottle of Tom Haverford's Snake Juice, featured on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," is on sale in a new auction hosted by auction house ScreenBid.

A bottle of Tom Haverford's Snake Juice, from Parks and Recreation

Courtesy of ScreenBid

An "I met Li'l Sebastian" T-shirt, once featured on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," is on sale in a new online auction hosted by auction house ScreenBid.

An "I Met Li'l Sebastian" T-shirt from Parks and Recreation

Courtesy of ScreenBid

[h/t Slashfilm]

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