Pixel Scroll 5/21/24 Cotton Candy Pixels, What Flavor Is Your Favorite?

(1) COUNTERFEIT CHARACTERS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We all now know that A.I. threatens creativity… something we seemed to have missed in SF where A/I. was oft portrayed more as a physical threat. BBC Radio 4 (the BBC’s national news and magazine station that replaced the Home Service) is airing a half-hour programme on A.I. replacing actors…. “Counterfeit Characters”.

What do Artificial Intelligence and digital technology mean for actors and their relationship with audiences?

Leading acting coach Geoffrey Colman, who has spent his working life on the sets of Hollywood movies, in theatrical rehearsal spaces, and teaching in the UK’s most prestigious classrooms, wants to find out.

AI, he says, may represent the most profound change to the acting business since the move from silent films to talkies. But does it, and if so how are actors dealing with it? What does that mean for the connection between actors and audiences?

Geoffrey’s concern is rooted in acting process: the idea that the construction of a complex inner thinking architecture resonates with audiences in an authentic almost magical way. But if performance capture and AI just creates the outer facial or physical expression, what happens to the inner joy or pain of a character’s thinking? The implications for the actor’s technique are profound.

To get to the bottom of these questions Geoffrey visits some of those at the cutting edge of developing this new technology. On the storied Pinewood lot he visits Imaginarium Studios, and is shown around their ‘volume’, where actors’ every movement is captured. In East London he talks to the head of another studio about his new AI actor – made up from different actors’ body parts. And at a leading acting school he speaks to students and teachers about what this new digital era means for them. He discusses concerns about ethical questions, hears from an actor fresh from the set of a major new movie, quizzes a tech expert already using AI to create avatars of herself, and speaks to Star Wars fans about how this technology has allowed beloved characters to be rejuvenated, and even resuscitated.

You can access the programme at this link.

(2) VOICEJACKING. Meanwhile, back in the litigious real world… “Scarlett Johansson Said No, but OpenAI’s Virtual Assistant Sounds Just Like Her” says the New York Times.

Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, the actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant.

It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Ms. Johannson said in a statement on Monday, adding that the reply both times was no.

Despite those refusals, Ms. Johansson said, OpenAI used a voice that sounded “eerily similar to mine.” She has hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using a voice it called “Sky.”

OpenAI suspended its release of “Sky” over the weekend. The company said in a blog post on Sunday that “AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.”

For Ms. Johansson, the episode has been a surreal case of life-imitating art. In 2013, she provided the voice for an A.I. system in the Spike Jonze movie “Her.” The film told the story of a lonely introvert seduced by a virtual assistant named Samantha, a tragic commentary on the potential pitfalls of technology as it becomes more realistic.

Last week, Mr. Altman appeared to nod to the similarity between OpenAI’s virtual assistant and the film in a post on X with the single word “her.”…

(3) WHISKY TASTING EVENT CONCURRENT WITH WORLDCON. [Item by Sandra Childress.] This is an invitation to those attending Worldcon this summer to venture outside of the convention space for a couple of hours and taste some local history and whisky at the Clydeside Distillery Tour & Tasting. This event is a venue takeover being hosted by Joel Phillips’ Friday Night Weekly Whisky Zoom that has been running nearly non-stop since April 2020. This group has hosted parties at Discon 3 and Chicon 8 — all in the name of friendship and whisky. 

The Clydeside Distillery

This time around, the group is doing something different. The Clydeside Distillery is across the parking lot from the convention center. Joel and the Zoom members knew this was not to be passed up. So, on August 9 (Friday) starting at 7:00 p.m. there will be a tour and tastings for up to 150 pre-paid attendees. The cost of $103USD includes the following:

  • 2 tickets for welcome drinks (1 of which can be used at the blind Scotch tasting station if you choose)
  • Welcome drinks are Prosecco, Beer or mixed whisky drink
  • 6 canapes per person
  • 4 wee drams of single malts (your choice) from Clydeside Distillery including a bourbon cask finish and sherry cask finish only available at the distillery and a third single malt yet to be determined.

Additionally, a cash bar will also be available and a station where you may buy a bottle for £68 and create your own personalized label.

Deadline to register and pay is Thursday July 25th or when the count hits 150. There will be no onsite registrations available. Please register via the Google Form (https://forms.gle/QnGmmhTN58Xe76un6) and follow the instructions there for payment. As of May 20, there are 62 registered…so there is still room for you and your friends to join the tour and tasting.

(4) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2024. The non-genre novel Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann, has been named the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024. The winner was announced by Eleanor Wachtel, Chair of the 2024 judges, at a ceremony sponsored by Maison Valentino and held at London’s Tate Modern today. 

The £50,000 prize is split equally between author Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann, giving each equal recognition. 

Erpenbeck’s novel, which was originally written in German, follows a destructive affair between a young woman and an older man in 1980s East Berlin, with the two lovers seemingly embodying East Germany’s crushed idealism. A meditation on hope and disappointment, Kairos poses complex questions about freedom, loyalty, love and power. 

(5) SHE’S THE CAPTAIN. “’Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ Series Casts Holly Hunter in Main Role”Variety has details about the actor and the series. If you wondered, this Hunter is no relation to the Hunter who played Star Trek’s first Captain.

The “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy” series at Paramount+ has cast Holly Hunter in a lead role, Variety has learned.

Hunter’s character will serve as the captain and chancellor of the Academy, presiding over both the faculty and a new class of Starfleet cadets as they learn to navigate the galaxy in the 32nd century….

(6) DON’T PANIC. Not that you were anyway… “’3 Body Problem’ Creators Clarify Netflix’s Mysterious Renewal Plan” for The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the biggest 3 Body Problem mysteries since the show ended has been: What did Netflix‘s renewal announcement mean, exactly?

During the streamer’s upfront presentation last week, Netflix promised “additional episodes” of the acclaimed sci-fi drama to “finish the story.”

Of course, “additional episodes” could mean anything from two episodes to five seasons and, naturally, many fans worried that the ultimate answer would be too close to the former for comfort.

But showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Alexander Woo assure things are going to be just fine (for the show, at least, if not for their ensemble drama’s characters facing an alien invasion). While the trio didn’t reveal the exact number of episodes in their new deal, they emphasized it was for “seasons” — plural — and that the number of hours aligns with their original plan to adapt author Liu Cixin’s two remaining novels in his Hugo-winning trilogy.

“We knew going into this how many hours we need to tell the rest of the story because we’ve got a roadmap through to the end,” Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter. “And we have what we need to get to the end as intended from when we started.”

“By the time we finish with the show, it will be seven years we’ve devoted to it,” Benioff added. “We’re now at a place where we get to tell the rest of the story, and, yes, we have enough time to tell the rest of the story the way we want to and that’s immensely gratifying.”…

(7) LECKIE Q&A. The Mountain View (CA) Public Library hosted an online event with author Ann Leckie as part of Sci-Fi September last year.

Critically acclaimed science fiction author Ann Leckie joined us for an exclusive conversation about her new novel Translation State and answered questions from the audience.


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. (Died 1993.) Surely you know Raymond Burr, the man whose Birthday it is today. So let’s get started.

I must of course start with his long running role as Perry Mason which is decidedly not genre. CBS paid Gardener for the rights to two hundred and seventy-two of his stories, a good idea given that Perry Mason would run nine seasons. Many early episodes were based off his stories and novels.  

The role of Perry Mason proved the hardest to cast. Richard Carlson, Mike Connors, Richard Egan, and William Holden were considered. None at all suited the casting team. Burr initially read for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger, but he told them that he was more interested in the Perry Mason role. They had seen him being a lawyer, and said he could play the role provided he lose at least sixty pounds. He did and got the role.

Raymond Burr, right, Frank Iwanaga, left, in Godzilla, King of the Monsters

What a magnificent Perry Mason he made. Burr’s coolness, control and reserved sense of humor were such that he became so identified with the character that, for the television audience, that meant there was no other Mason but Burr. He was not the Mason that had existed, there were four before him, all on film, and the producers tried reviving the series after CBS cancelled it, but it utterly failed. And HBO has a new series that looks at early years of his life. 

In the late Eighties he reprised his Mason role in twenty-six tv movies. The first has the title of Perry Mason Returns.

Now for his genre work.  Mike joked with me when I said when I was doing him that he was the lawyer for Godzilla. Well, he was Steven Martin in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! It is a re-edited for American audiences of the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla which in its original wasn’t available outside Japan for fifty years. He would reprise this role in Godzilla 1985.

He was the Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet. Evil viziers! Dungeons! Magic carpets! Princesses! 

He’s Cy Mill, hulking villain in Gorilla at Large. Remember what was said about his weight in his Burr casting. Well, this film was done just previous to this series and he was quoted as saying there, “I was just a fat heavy.” Burr told journalist James Bawden, “I split the heavy parts with Bill Conrad. We were both in our twenties playing much older men. I never got the girl but I once got the gorilla in a 3-D picture called Gorilla at Large.”

He was Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil , the seventeenth film of the Tarzan film series that began with 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man, twenty years earlier.

Television wise, he appeared on Tales on Tomorrow in “The Masks of Medusa” and in the horror film Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, he’s Jonash Sebastian. I thought there’d be more but there aren’t. 

(9) ARMED SURVIVOR. In “Rocket Man No More”, Heritage Auctions introduces one of the headline lots from the May 31 Star Wars Signature Auction: “Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted”.

Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted AFA 60 (Kenner, 1979). The Rocket Firing Boba Fett has been called the “Crown Jewel of Unproduced Toys” It’s become legendary as an iconic Star Wars “Mandela Effect,” (far better termed “Rocket Fett Syndrome.”) The figure everyone thought they had, but didn’t. Offered as a mail-away premium, the Rocket Firing Boba Fett was highly promoted by Kenner, lodging it in everyone’s imaginations. For four proof-of-purchase seals cut from any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure card back it could be yours. It seemed a cruel trick, when the Boba Fett figures that shipped, arrived with their plastic missiles sonically welded in place. It was a clear letdown. Helping along this disappointment was a small polite letter explaining Kenner’s safety concerns over the toy necessitating the change. It offered in substitution any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure of choice if the consumer wasn’t satisfied with the redesign. Looking back, the removal of the rocket launching mechanism should have been no surprise. Almost immediately anything to do with it was being mysteriously obscured by stickers ignoring the feature. Kenner’s legal department already had concerns over the toy’s safety, but the company’s outgoing President Bernie Loomis was highly in favor of the project. As Kenner engineer’s struggled to make the toy safe, another ominous event was happening in the toy world. Rival toy company Mattel was experiencing their own problems with their popular Battlestar Galactica toy spaceships, which fired a similar sized projectile. If accidentally shot into the mouth, the choking potential for children was becoming clear. Already, there were several aspiration induced injuries, and one child’s death. The culmination of these two events ultimately doomed the Rocket Firing Boba Fett. Painfully most would agree Kenner made the right decision, erroring on the side of safety. It’s uncertain exactly how many Rocket Firing Boba Fetts were created before Kenner abandoned the concept for a safer non-firing figure. What survives today in the hobby generally comes from ex-Kenner employees who took examples home. All others are believed destroyed with none (despite urban legends) ever getting distributed to the public. Surviving populations featuring the original reverse “L-slot” latch configuration number about seventy. Mostly injection molded in blue-gray, these “first-shot” figures are generally unpainted and were created to test the mold cavity functions before general production. As such these unpainted “first-shots” lack all copyright and point of origin stamps to the back of the legs. Of the seventy examples believed in collector’s hands today, only five have been found hand painted – two in production paint scheme as this example, and three in unique alternate paint schemes. One of only two examples known to exist…

(10) DOCTOR MEWLITTLE. An SJW credential with credentials! “Meet Max, the cat receiving an (honorary) doctorate from Vermont State University this weekend”Vermont Public has the story.

As Vermont State University Castleton graduates receive their degrees this weekend, so too will a tabby cat. The cat, named Max, is getting an honorary degree as a “Doctor in Litter-ature.”

Once a feral kitten in the town of Fair Haven, Max has lived with his human mom, Ashley Dow, on Seminary Street in Castleton for the past five years. And for most of those years, he’s been venturing up to the university campus….

(11) ANOTHER SPACE CAT. Captain Kirk also picked up an honorary sheepskin on May 20. Forbes reports, “William Shatner Among Geniuses Honored At Liberty Science Center Gala, Underscoring Intrinsic Bond Of Art And Science”.

William Shatner beamed up into the Liberty Science Center (LSC) last night to accept the 2024 Icon Award at the sold-out 12th Annual Liberty Science Center Genius Gala.

“On October 13, 2021, William Shatner, age 90, boldly went where no one else had gone before: into space,” said LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman. “At 93, Will remains incredibly active.”

Shatner was filming in Los Angeles, so Hoffman interviewed him in his Studio City office.

“I saw a great deal that made me cry, and I didn’t know why I was crying, literally crying. I was weeping uncontrollably when I landed,” said Shatner. “I realized, oh my God, I’m in grief! For what I’ve seen of the world, you look at your telescopes, it’s fantastic, it’s magical. Space is magical. I’m looking at space from the spaceship and all it is is palpable blackness, it’s black death. I look back and I see blue, beige, and white. The planet is calling to us. You can’t believe how small this rock we’re living on is. You can’t believe how thin the fertile earth is. … That’s how precious our topsoil is. And then there’s the air. I’m a pilot. I know you can’t go above 3,500 feet for oxygen. Two miles of oxygen, a handful of dirt that we’re going to live on, and live on with increasing numbers. We now know everything is connected, interconnected. Everything is part of each other. All of nature is alive and vibrant with intelligence and life.”…

(12) SPACEPLANE MISSION TO ISS. “World’s first commercial spaceplane in final stages before debut ISS flight” reports New Atlas.

The world’s first winged commercial spaceplane has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its final destination before its first mission to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

Following rigorous testing at Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, the Dream Chaser DC-100 spaceplane named Tenacity got the green light to commence final pre-launch preparations, such as finishing its thermal protection system and payload integration, before it hitches a ride on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket to deliver 7,800 pounds (3,540 kg) of food, water and science experiments to the ISS….

(13) MILKY WAY. [Item by Steven French.] A collection of absolutely stunning photographs: “Milky Way photographer of the year 2024 – in pictures” in the Guardian. Photo at the link —

The vanity of life | Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

Photographer Mihail Minkov: ‘The concept behind this shot is to highlight the stark contrast between the vastness of the cosmos and the minuscule nature of humanity. The composition intentionally draws the viewer’s focus to a small figure, underscoring our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, while the majestic Milky Way core dominates the background’

Photograph: Mihail Minkov/2024 Milky Way photographer of the year

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Heritage Auctions has an interview with Former Kenner Engineer Jacob Miles about the Boba Fett – Star Wars action figure pulled from production.

[Thanks to Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Sandra Childress, Daniel Dern, Heath Row, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

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35 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/21/24 Cotton Candy Pixels, What Flavor Is Your Favorite?

  1. (1) “…made up from different actors’ body parts…” So it’s kind of like Frankenstein’s monster.

    (2) I hope she is able to sue — and win. (The law is still thrashing about trying to find its way in this arena.)

  2. 3) 103 bucks seems a little steep for two beers four whisky shots (singles?) and six canapes, but not outrageous. Tempted …

  3. 8) Prior to the Prime-Time Television “Perry Mason” CBS Radio aired a daytime “Perry Mason” produced by Proctor & Gamble as a soap-opera. The Radio version ran Monday thru Friday 15 Min a day. The format was that a Client would come to Perry’s office with a case and then for 13 weeks or so Perry, Della, & Paul Drake would then become involved with the lives of the Client as they investigated the case and took the case to trial, when the trial concluded a new Client would walk into Perry’s office the next day and they would start all over. Gardner disliked the show being on Daytime instead of once a week on Primetime, and he refused to allow the Radio Perry Mason to transfer to TV. The Radio version ran from 1943 thru 1955. When CBS discontinued the Radio Version so that they could do the Primetime Television version Proctor & Gamble took the cast and writers of the Radio version and re-worked it and it became “The Edge of Night” which continued for 28 1/2 years on first CBS and later on ABC Daytime.

  4. 1) On the other hand, there are other uses of AI that can enhance the work of SF authors. For example, I asked ChatGPT to analyze the working anarchy in Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and got a surprisingly cogent response, including the following:

    While the society aims for non-hierarchical interactions, interpersonal conflicts and power dynamics still emerge. These conflicts reveal the complexities of human behavior that can challenge the ideals of an anarchist society.

  5. (2) Until we all get UBI (that’s “universal”), I won’t patronize robot restaurants or hotels, and why should I go to their movies? I mean, the people that did the job before, where are they going to work? On top of that, give me one explanation, other than greed, that the ability to clone someone’s voice is legally allowed.
    And then there’s the article in The Atlantic I saw today, and can’t find, about how the CGI industry is killing the people who do the work, as in sleeping under their desks, bosses blocking doors, and a suicide or two.
    (3) I would love to, but at $103 each… the trip will be immensely expensive. No way I can add $206.
    (5) Um, wait: I didn’t see Picard, but I thought the Federation had collapsed by the 32nd century.
    (10) And that’s one SJW who won’t lie back and take it!
    (12) Where we should have been 25 years ago, dammit!
    (13) Those are mind-bogglingly beautiful.

  6. mark: I seem to recall Dr. Pournelle in the Seventies evangelizing for a spaceplane and railing against the plans to do something else (the Shuttle). But his concept was a spaceplane that would power itself to space, not ride a booster, if I recall correctly. So they’re still not doing what he hoped.

  7. @ Mike Glyer: If I recall right, the spaceplane seemed pretty popular in ‘80s Analog stories. There was at least one libertarian-oriented serial that was centered around them—it could have been by G. Harry Stine but I’m not sure.

  8. Mike: the original NASA design was a lot smaller. But – go ahead and argue, but I believe the story the guy I worked with in the mid-eighties told me – that the DoD forced the upscaling in size.

    And for SSTO, we need better power.

  9. (1) & (2) I can see some uses–such as using AI to complete a movie in which an actor had been acting but died before shooting was finished–as being legitimate, assuming they have consent to do that. New movies the actor was never involved in? No.

    And if that’s not Scarlett Johansen’s voice, easy solution. Voiceprint the two voices. I would not be surprised to learn that the Johansen team has already done so, and it is her voice. And that’s another problem. Currently, the people running the companies doing this kind of “it’s not really AI; we just call it that to make it look all shiny” are crooks and fraudsters.

  10. PierreEP: I just looked up “the burn”. I hate Hollywood. I hate morons who have no idea what they’re talking about. Esp. when they throw words like “galaxy” around, as though you could manage that even on one planet. They have no idea of scale.

  11. (8) I loved the original Perry Mason with Raymond Burr. It’s as close as network television ever got to film noir.

    (13) Goblin Valley is indeed amazing. It featured notably in Galaxy Quest.

  12. (8) I saw one episode of Perry Mason (or, as it was known in our house, “Merry Pason”) where he was gotten onto a case by a character played by a very young George Takei.

    I am reminded of Connie Willis’ “Remake” where Hollywood doesn’t make new movies anymore but relies on using digital models to remake movies.

  14. Wow. I had no idea that things had progressed that far!
    I urge everyone! attending Worldcon to visit that distillery!
    I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the opportunity to watch horses making whiskey!


  15. @Robert Thornton

    What you’ve got there is the chatbot parsing your question, then looking through its huge library of “literary criticism” and “The Dispossessed”, and finding what people are most likely to say about the subject. Just like autocomplete guessing the end of your words, except with whole paragraphs.

    Large Language Models can provide insightful commentary… provided somebody else has already had the insights.

    Which might be fine, except 1) the chatbot doesn’t credit the people who actually came up with the insight, 2) just answering that question uses enough energy to power a small community for a week, and 3) techbro grifters are trying to con us all that it is the machine coming up with original ideas, which it isn’t.

  16. (12) OK, spaceplanes are cool, but what advantage does this have over a capsule? Also, the thumbnail in the youtube video makes it look like a running shoe…they should have called it the Heart of Gold.

  17. 1), 2) — Was it Ben Bova’s Starcrossed that had a TV (well, holovid) studio ultimately replacing actors with AI holograms?

  18. @P. J. Evans
    “(8) I saw one episode of Perry Mason (or, as it was known in our house, “Merry Pason”) where he was gotten onto a case by a character played by a very young George Takei.”

    Other episodes featured Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. And a ton of people guest-starred in both shows: Elisha Cook Jr., Skip Homeier, Malachi Throne, Vic Perrin, William Campbell, Gary Lockwood, Harry Townes, Madlyn Rhue, John Fiedler, Michael Ansara, Nancy Kovack, Warren Stevens, Lee Meriwether, Jeff Corey, John Hoyt, etc., etc.

    The wife and I often will watch an episode or two of Perry Mason before we go to bed, and it is often an exercise in “where did we see that guest star before?”

  19. @ Robert Thornton (May 21, 2024 at 7:56): it seems you’re thinking of Manna by Stine writing as Lee Correy (see https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?7136 for more details); it’s been awhile since I’ve read it (and so have no idea what the Suck Fairy might have been up to in the meantime), but from what I remember it seems a good candidate for your recollection.

  20. AcousticR: with a plane, you have a lot more control over where you land, in case of weather, etc.

  21. SoonL: Back in the nineties, Daniel Pinkwater had a piece on NPR (back when they were good) where he went through they don’t make movies, they only remake movies, and they only remakes ones that made Enough.

  22. @Acoustic Rob, @mark

    Also, a spaceplane is ideally completely re-usable. It launches into space, drops off its payload, lands on a standard, albeit long, runway, and is ready to go again in a short period of time.

    Whether that’s at all realistic I am not capable to say.

    Filk time:

    “Everybody’s talkin’ bout free speech
    Out in the public square,
    But when the Pixel Scroll gets here
    Everybody’s gonna comment there.

    “Come all who file,
    Come all who lol
    You’ll not see nothing like the Pixel Scroll”

  23. RandallM: they need to do maintenance on the heat tiles, either replace, or repair. Those as semi-disposable.

  24. 9) and 14) About that Boba Fett figure, there was a big and much needed push for more toy safety in the 1970s, which led to things like toxic paints and materials and small parts which posed a choking hazard for young kids being banned and strictly regulated.

    In Europe, particularly in Germany, there was also a massive moral panic around the same time about so-called “war toys”, which encompassed anything from cap guns and toy soldiers to Star Wars and Masters of the Universe. I remember the war toy moral panic from my childhood and how weird it was to me, because while adults were very upset about war toys, I hardly ever saw anything that might be considered a “war toy” on the shelves. I also argued that Star Wars and Masters of the Universe were not war toys, because they had nothing to do with the real world.

    Projectile firing toys unsurprisingly came under fire during this time, because they actually can be dangerous when e.g. someone shoots their own or someone else’s eye out accidentally. I remember growing up with horror stories of kids shooting out their eyes with bow and arrow toys while playing cowboys and indians (which totally happened to a classmate of my Mom’s, as she kept telling me) The bow and arrow issue is also when you buy e.g. a Green Arrow or Hawkeye or Bow action figure or any other archer character, they’ll either come with an arrow mouded into the bow or with a stringless bow (sometimes with helpful little holes, so the buyer can add a string) and arrows molded firmly into the quiver.

    But what really doomed the missile firing Boba Fett toy was a tragic accident in 1979 where a kid managed to fire the little projectile included in a Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper toy into his mouth and subsequently died. The kid was not even two when he died and clearly much too young to play with such a toy, but it was still a massive scandal and toy companies are expected to take parents and grandparents being stupid and giving unsuitable toys to too young kids into account.

    There still were projectile firing toys post 1979 – Masters of the Universe, MASK, Transformers all had such toys and other lines probably as well. But what changed was that the projectiles were made bigger to prevent accidental swallowing (and Star Wars figures are small, 3.75 inches tall, so that missile would have been tiny enough to accidentally swallow) and also blunter and softer to prevent eyes shot out. You can still buy projectile firing toys to this day. I have a few in my collection and when I try out the firing mechanism, I make sure to have plenty of space and face the damned thing away from me or anybody else, because these projectiles can fly surprisingly far and I certainly wouldn’t to be hit by one.

    As for the Boba Fett rocket firing feature being advertised on TV, it happens more than you think that toys which never went into serial production nonetheless were shown in catalogs and advertising materials, because catalogs and advertising materials are produced quite far in advance in order to persuade retailers to order the toys. Many of these toys which were shown off but never produced gain near legendary status among collectors, because many people remember seeing them in catalogs and ads back in the day and there’s usually someone who misremembers having owned this toy. In many cases, there are surviving prototypes and test shots, too.

    I remember a few years ago on some antiques roadshow type program on German TV, someone showed up with a hand-painted prototype of a never produced He-Man New Adventures figure from the late 1980s and all the German collectors started hyper-ventilating, because while a prototype of this figure clearly had existed at one point, since it was shown in advertising materials, no one had ever seen one in the wild. The experts on TV, meanwhile, had no idea what to make of it.

  25. @Steve Davidson: is that a big deal? Here in Unistat, horses have been making beer for as long as Bud, Miller, and Coors have been around.

  26. @mark – that GQ article on the vfx business is really good. They mention MPC, Pixar Renderman’s biggest client outside of the internal studio and ILM. MPC are notorious in the industry for operating like sweat shops. I’ve not heard of artists described as ‘pixel fucked’ before. The way I’ve heard the term, pixel fucking is what artists do: making subtle and endless changes to the image at a supervisors behest. ILM’s unofficial drinking get together is called ‘Lighter Darker’ as a joke about conflicting notes artists receive about their work. At least at ILM they pay you overtime.

    But yeah, it’s a tough business for sure, and profit margins are razor-thin. I remember when I was at ILM they underbid the effects work for Battleship massively. We were tasked with improving the fluid simulation software by a factor of seven, which we managed to do. Simulations used to take up to a week to run and would often fail because of numerical instabilities. We got it down to simulating in just a few hours and much more robustly. Good times 🙂

    As of Tuesday, Pixar laid off 14% of their workforce, including myself. I’m a bit unhappy about it all right at the moment. Still, Inside Out 2 looks like it might be pretty good.

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