Category: pop culture

Cats In Movies: 1985’s ‘Explorers’

When I was a kid, my best friend’s dad had a trove of science fiction on VHS tapes, running the gamut from 1950s flying saucer classics to 80s fare like The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator and Explorers, a little-known Disney film that quietly came and went from theaters in 1985.

The Joe Dante-directed movie attained cult status in subsequent years via home video, and it’s easy to see why: Explorers is the stuff kids’ dreams are made of.

The movie follows three boys who dream of a bizarre symbol — a symbol that, when entered into a computer, spawns self-writing code that generates a floating sphere.

The sphere is an an airtight, transparent, inertia-less magnetic bubble. The boys soon realize they can make the sphere move and manipulate its size. More importantly, they can ride in it.

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Wulfgang (River Phoenix) and Ben (Ethan Hawke) activate the sphere for the first time, before Wulfgang’s cat shows them how to make a space ship out of it.
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The dream symbols from Explorers: Not bad for 1985 computer-generated graphics.

Naturally, they build their own space ship out of junk parts — an old Tilt-A-Whirl ride, a garbage can, a TV screen and washing machine doors for windows — and use the magnetic bubble as its invisible shell.

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The boys build a space ship, which they dub Thunder Road, out of parts found in a junkyard.

After their first flight — in which they lose control of their new ship, crash through the snack bar at a drive-in theater and draw the attention of police — the kids refine their invention, discovering a way to reach outer space.

Explorers is Ethan Hawke’s first movie. He plays Ben, the dreamer of the trio, the kid who lays on his roof at night and gazes at the stars, wondering what’s out there.

The late River Phoenix also made his film debut with Explorers and plays Wulfgang, the proud nerd and young scientist who uses his computer to control the ship-in-a-bubble.

And former child actor Jason Presson plays Darren, the kid who comes from a rough existence with an alcoholic dad, and befriends Ben and Wulfgang when he defends them from bullies at school. (This being the 80s, the bullies are very blond, very stupid and very cruel.)

So where does the cat come in? By showing the three kids the potential of their invention, of course.

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Wulfgang’s cat jumps on the keyboard, sending the sphere zig-zagging through his basement.

Wulfgang and the boys first conjure their magnetic sphere into existence in using a computer in Wulfgang’s basement lab, and marvel at it as it hangs in the air, impenetrable and seemingly immobile.

That’s when Wulfgang’s orange tabby does what cats do and flops down on the keyboard, sending random spatial coordinates to the sphere which then zig-zags throughout the basement. As the sphere tears holes in old junk, punctures a window and comes to rest a few feet away, the boys realize it can not only move, it can be guided.

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Takeoff!

Every boy dreams of exploring space at some point, and Explorers is that dream realized through a child’s eyes. Three kids from the suburbs build a ship that can reach outer space, offering answers to the tantalizing questions about what’s out there.

We’re not the only ones with fond memories of the movie. A Hollywood script-writing duo which includes the director of True Detective has been working on an updated version that would play out as a live-action TV series. Here’s to hoping if their project gets the greenlight, the cat stays in.

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Utopia Avenue: Searching For The Moon Gray Cat

I’ve just finished reading David Mitchell’s new novel, Utopia Avenue.

Not only has Mitchell been my favorite novelist for many years, but part of the fun of reading his books is seeing characters from his other novels pop up, pass through, make brief cameos or even take the leap from minor character in a previous book to major player in a new story.

While the vast majority are human, one of those characters is the Moon Gray Cat, a domestic feline who shows up at the strangest times and has a major impact on Mitchell’s characters.

For instance, a war correspondent character in Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks sees the Moon Gray Cat on a stairwell landing in a Baghdad hotel. He bends down to pet the mysterious feline just as a car bomb detonates outside the building, sending shrapnel, shards of broken glass, dislodged pieces of concrete and other debris through the window.

If the character hadn’t seen the Moon Gray Cat and hadn’t stopped at that instant to pet the little guy, he would have been shredded in the blast.

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Mitchell, left, and the cover of his newest novel, right.

In Slade House, Mitchell’s sole foray into the horror genre thus far, the first chapter’s protagonist notices the Moon Gray Cat laying dead in an alley. It’s the only Mitchell book in which the cat appears deceased, and signals that there will be no magical interventions for the characters this time around. (It is, after all, a horror novel. But don’t worry: Mitchell says the Moon Gray Cat isn’t dead and cannot die.)

Sure enough, the familiar feline shows up again in Utopia Avenue, once again marking a major moment in the book.

Of course, our readers here know of a particular Moon Gray Cat. He may not be as literary as his fictional counterpart (his interests lie more in world domination, the procurement and sale of catnip, and eating as much turkey as possible), but he’s just as magical. Since adopting the little dude in 2014, I’ve come to think of him as the mysterious Mitchellverse meowster.

Moon Gray Cat, we salute you!

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“I’m magic!”

Real Life Cats Are The Villains of Nintendo’s Newest Game

Nintendo’s newest game has been out for all of one day and already cats are like “Nuh-uh.”

The idea behind Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is clever yet simple and seemingly tailored for the pandemic era: Using a Nintendo Switch, players control a tiny Mario Kart equipped with a camera and race it around courses they design in their homes. Because players are controlling the kart through a screen and seeing things from the kart’s point of view, the game augments the race course by generating obstacles to dodge, coins to collect and opponents to race against.

It’s called augmented reality, because it adds layers of computer-generated imagery over things we can see with our own eyes. It’s the same concept behind smart glasses and floating heads-up displays.

But there’s one wild card Nintendo’s designers may not have anticipated: Felis catus.

Nothing grabs a cat’s attention quicker than a small, fast-moving object, and the little karts have been triggering the predatory instincts of countless cats.

Some cats go all “You shall not pass!” Gandalf-style on the karts:

Others aren’t sugar coating what they think of the invasive little cartoon racers:


Finally, some cats just don’t know what to make of it:

The best part about this is that, from the kart’s eye view, house cats look like furry kaiju — giant, lumbering beasts hell bent on sending the racers careening off course.

It also begs the question: Is there anything in existence that cannot be improved by adding cats?

Star Trek: Discovery Casts A Handsome Maine Coon

A regal Maine Coon is the newest cast member of CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery, continuing the proud tradition of felines serving aboard Starfleet vessels throughout the franchise’s half century of existence.

Leeu, an 18-pound fluffster, will play Grudge, the feline companion to David Ajala’s new character, Cleveland Booker. Science fiction fans may remember Ajala from his excellent performances in 2016’s Kill Command, about a military AI gone rogue, and Captain Roy Eris in 2018’s Nightflyers, which was based on a short story by George R.R. Martin.

“We put out a casting call for a large cat … and he fit the bill. So far he seems to be a one-take wonder,” said Leslie Lawrence, one of Leeu’s trainers.

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Grudge making himself comfortable in the captain’s chair on Discovery.

For Discovery’s crew, getting a solid acting performance out of Leeu isn’t much different than a photographer getting a cat to pose for a picture.

“Everybody says that their cat can make a good set cat,” Lawrence said. “But it does take a specific animal to be able to stay cool and calm and collected, because when cats are done, they’re done.”

Find out more about Grudge in the video below:

Dear Buddy: Did You Hear About The Dating Site For Cat People?

Dear Buddy,

Have you heard about the new dating site for humans who love cats? It’s called Tabby and launched this month. I hope my human finds a match with lots of kitties I can make friends with. I’ve always wanted siblings!

What about you? Are you excited? Maybe Big Buddy will match up with a nice woman who has lots of friendly cats!

Good luck!

Friendly in Fairview


Dear Friendly,

FAKE NEWS.

Buddy


Dear Buddy,

No, it’s true! The site is real! Aren’t you excited?

Friendly


Dear Friendly,

FAKE NEWS! There is no such dating site. Don’t go giving my human any ideas. He can date women WITHOUT cats. If he meets a human female with her own cats and they get married, that would mean I would have to share my territory — MY KINGDOM — with other cats.

That’s unacceptable.

Buddy


Dear Buddy,

Oh, come on, don’t be such a curmudgeon! I bet you’d be an awesome cat sibling. You’d have feline friends to play and snuggle with. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Friendly


Dear Friendly,

No, it would not be awesome. There is only one king, and that’s me. Buddy the King. I don’t share litter boxes, I don’t share sleeping spots and I sure as hell don’t share yums!

I trust you will keep news of this “dating site” a secret, or I will be forced to murder you.

Buddy


Dear Buddy,

I’m afraid you’ll have to murder a lot of people, because the word’s out and the site has already gotten lots of press. In fact, Big Buddy may have a profile there already. Haha!

Friendly


Dear Friendly,

I checked. Big Buddy does not have a profile on this Tabby site you speak of. However, one can never be too careful, which is why I’ve taken it upon myself to create a profile for him and make sure no woman on this Earth will ever contact him or agree to a coffee date.

Name: Big Buddy

Likes: Star Trek, speaking Klingon, learning to speak Cardassian, long walks on the Holodeck, deep conversations about astrometrics and the Bajoran-Dominion conflict during candlelight dinners while drinking Chateau Picard, running diagnostic tests on plasma induction manifolds.

My perfect match: A woman who loves Star Trek as much as I do and has always dreamed of a Star Trek-themed wedding. We will get married on a replica of the USS Enterprise 1701-D bridge and honeymoon on the pleasure planet Risa.

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What I look for in a woman: Fluent in Klingon, knowledgeable about subspace harmonics, Tachyon field theory and passionate about LCARS submenu design. Must be able to properly mix drinks with synthahol, but also enjoys Romulan ale on occasion.

What women will appreciate about me: I’m skilled in the art of Pon Farr, have been practicing Ambojitsu for 15 years and I’m in the process of remodeling the interior of my home to look like the crew deck of the USS Enterprise.

What do you think? Are there enough Star Trek references to ensure women on this app will be horrified and immediately swipe left? One can never be too careful. If there’s even a chance that a woman will respond, I must make the profile even more unpalatable. What else can I add? What if I say he’s a Bronie who loves Jersey Shore, or an otaku who has a waifu body pillow? Help me out here, my comfort depends on it!

Buddy