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How One Line of Text Nearly Killed Toy Story 2

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Pixar

Toy Story 2 was one of the trickiest films Pixar ever produced. It was originally set to be a straight-to-DVD release (and video too), until the decision was made to go for a full cinema outing. But barely a year before release, the film was in trouble: as many at the firm were candidly appreciating, Toy Story 2 wasn't working.

John Lasseter, exhausted from directing Toy Story and A Bug's Life back to back, was asked to sort it out. He did—but the intensive year where the film was taken apart and put back together very much took its toll on Pixar. Changes were made in the aftermath of its hugely successful release.

Toy Story 2 had a happy ending for Pixar. It earned rave reviews, and took nearly $500m at the global box office.

And yet one command entered into a computer nearly derailed the entire project.

Writing in his book Creativity Inc, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull recalled that in the winter of 1998, a year out from the release of Toy Story 2, somebody (he never reveals who in the book) entered the command '/bin/rm -r -f *' on the drives where the film's files were kept.

The object of said command is to remove everything from a given location, and to remove it quickly. It did its job.

"First, Woody's hat disappeared. Then his boots. Then he disappeared entirely," recalls Catmull. "Whole sequences—poof!—were deleted from the drive."

One of the film's technical directors, Oren Jacobs, watched it all happen in real time. His call to systems support started with him telling them to "pull out the plug on the Toy Story 2 master machine." When asked why by the person on the other end of the phone (a not-unreasonable question), Jacobs screamed "Please, God, just pull it out as fast as you can."

The plug was pulled, but not in time—90% of the film was gone, erased "in a matter of seconds."

And it got worse. A plan was quickly hatched to restore the data from a regular backup, which meant that only half a day of work would have been lost. But the backup system had failed. Pixar, incredibly, did not have a copy of the Toy Story 2 files on its servers. "To reassemble the film would have taken thirty people a solid year," Catmull recalled.

Toy Story 2 looked doomed.

Yet it was saved by something akin to blind luck. Galyn Susman was Toy Story 2's supervising technical director, and after she'd given birth to her second child, she'd been working from home. As such, once a week, she'd taken an entire copy of the film home with her. 

A minute later, she was zooming home. Her computer was wrapped in blankets and put on the backseat of her car ("carefully"). In Oren's words, the computer was then "carried into Pixar like an Egyptian pharaoh."

While work had been lost, Susman's backup files limited the damage significantly. Furthermore, given the size of Pixar at the time—which was still years away from being the company big enough to merge with Disney—her computer may just have saved the firm (at least in the form that we know it). Unsurprisingly, Pixar put into place processes that stopped this ever happening again.

And, crucially, Toy Story 2 just about made its deadline.

This post originally appeared on our UK site.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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