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12 Proposed Disney Attractions That Were Never Built

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Walt Disney once said, “It's kind of fun to do the impossible.” Well, my fine-mustachioed icon, it may have been fun, but sometimes it is simply impossible. The Disney theme parks had their fair share of true never-lands and rides—and here are 12 of them.

1. Lilliputian Land (Disneyland)

In 1953, Roy O. Disney took a sales pitch to New York to raise money for this little land inspired by Gulliver's Travels. The idea was to build a miniature Americana village populated by 9-inch-tall singing and dancing mechanical people. One of the main attractions of this land would have been a ride on a 17-inch-tall locomotive, just like Lemuel.

2. Edison Square (Disneyland)

Photo courtesy Imagineering Disney Designed in the mid-1950s, this location—designed as a 1920s suburb, complete with a statue of Thomas Edison—would have been a side land to Main Street USA. A main attraction called Harnessing the Lightning would tell the history of electricity and its effects on the American family. This idea was scratched for another similar idea, the Carousel of Progress, which Walt Disney brought to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

3. Israel Pavilion (EPCOT)

In 1980, the State of Israel signed a deal to officially become part of Epcot. The proposed Israel Pavilion would have featured a menorah in the center of the courtyard, along with archaeological artifacts from The Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv. But due to possible security issues and boycotts, the Pavilion wasn’t built. Still, Israel was featured in an exhibit at the Millennium Pavilion from 1999 to 2001. It featured a simulator-movie ride called Journey to Jerusalem, a virtual tour of historic holy sites. 

4. Mt. Fuji Roller Coaster (EPCOT)

This ride was planned for the Japan Pavilion at Epcot, but it was thrown out not long after it was suggested thanks to protests by Eastman Kodak, the sponsor of the Journey into Imagination ride.  Kodak didn’t take kindly to a ride sharing the name of their biggest competitor, Fujifilm.

5. Atlantis Expedition (Disneyland)

Photo courtesy Imagineering Disney This premise was a reinvention of the Submarine Voyage ride. Patrons would use a mechanical arm that extended into the water, so they could get a chance to grab some doubloons and gems. It was based on the animated film Atlantis, but due to its failure at the box office, the ride never came to fruition. In its place now is Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage.

6. Bullet Train (EPCOT)

Image courtesy Jim Hill All aboard would stand in a Japanese simulated bullet train, looking out through the phony windows while taking a gander at all the fake scenery of Japan’s historic sites.

7. Iran Pavilion (EPCOT)

Hop on a ride through Persian history inside a replica of Golestan Palace! ...Or not. The Iran Pavilion was called off when the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979.

8. Soviet Union Pavilion (EPCOT)

Photo courtesy The Neverland Files Developed in the 1990s, this location would have featured recreations of St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square. The proposed area had two rides: a sled journey through the Russian scenery, and a ride-through attraction based on Russia’s famous folk tale The Fool and the Fish.  The story is about Ivan, a young fool who spares the life of a fish, specifically a pike. It just so happens that the pike is magical, and in return, Ivan is granted wishes from the pike.

9. Hotel Mel (MGM/Hollywood Studios)

Photo courtesy The Neverland Files The original Tower of Terror, but with everybody’s favorite Jewish grandpa, Mel Brooks. The premise: Guests would be told they were on the set of a horror film, directed by Brooks, that was being filmed inside an actual haunted hotel. The plot of the ride revolved around the idea of the guests auditioning for a role in the film and boarding studio golf carts. Gags would then ensue, such as Quasimodo as a bellman, Dracula attempting to shave in a mirror, and Frankenstein in a bathroom stall without TP next to the Mummy.

10.  S.S. Columbia Showcase of Nautical Marvels (Tokyo DisneySea)

Photo courtesy The Neverland Files The idea behind this "haunted swing" ride was that guests had booked a trip on the maiden voyage of the S.S. Columbia. It was promised to be the safest, fastest, and most comfortable Atlantic crossing ever, thanks to the ship's "Gyroscopically-Stabilized Self-Leveling Anti-Turbulence Lounges." Once seated for a demonstration of this new technology, the ride was designed to go haywire—the seating would swing up to 30 degrees, and the room would rotate 360 degrees—to disorienting effect. The ride was never built because designers didn't feel it pushed the envelope enough.

11.  Industrial Revolution Roller Coaster (Disney’s America)

Photo courtesy of The Neverland Files Due to be part of Disney's America, a proposed theme park in Haymarket, Virginia, this roller coaster would have traveled through a turn-of-the-century steel mill. The high point of the ride would have been evading a vat of molten steel. Sadly, the park was never built, and neither was this coaster.

12.  Nostromo (Magic Kingdom)

This ride was based on the film Alien. Guests would embark on a rescue mission, entering the ship's corridors to find its missing crewmembers in armored vehicles strapped with laser cannons. Instead, the ride evolved into Alien Encounter, a much tamer version with an original storyline—but Regis Philbin still thought it was scary. This post originally appeared in 2012.
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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