Spark Blog Notes from the Spark Team

April 6, 2012

6 Celebrity Inventions

Being a celebrity takes work. Not only must they avoid paparazzi and autograph hounds, but they also face unique problems in the workplace. Michael Jackson wanted to lean 50 degrees forward during a dance routine—but the tools didn’t exist to let him do that. And Prince was frustrated that his keyboardist couldn’t rock-n-roam around the stage freely during concerts.

So what did they do? They built their own tools. 

6. Michael Jackson's Method for Creating the Anti-Gravity Illusion

Beyond the lone sparkly glove, MJ was probably best known for his dance moves. There was the moonwalk, his signature spin, and of course, his seemingly-supernatural anti-gravity lean. This lean wasn't made possible by MJ's superhuman dance skills, but rather U.S. Patent 5,255,452. That's right, the illusion required special shoes and a specially designed portion of the stage that allowed him to hitch the footware in. The result: a gravity-defying illusion of epic proportions. 

(H/T Boing Boing)

5. Walt Disney's Art of Animation

No big deal, guys. Disney just invented animation as we know it. As described by The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Disney created the multi-plane camera. It allowed designers to create more realistic 3D images, giving the 'toons more realism and depth. That’s the difference between a pre-multi-plane cartoon like Steamboat Willie, and a post-multi-plane cartoon like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.


4. Margaret Thatcher’s Soft Serve Ice Cream

Before becoming a political powerhouse, the Iron Lady was involved with something much more sweet: soft serve ice cream. Fresh out of Oxford with a chemistry degree, one of her early jobs was to figure out a way to pump more air into ice cream, creating a yummy new version of soft serve, says The Daily Mail.

3. Kevin Costner’s Ocean Therapy Machine



Kevin Costner, star of 1995's Waterworld, spent $20 million of his own money to create the Ocean Therapy Machine, most recently used to clean up after the BP oil spill. According to the NY Daily News, it works like this: high-speed centrifuge vacuums placed on a barge pull in polluted ocean water at a rate of 200 gallons per minute. They spin to separate out oil, leaving behind water that is 97% clean. 

2. Prince's Purpleaxxe Keytar 

Way more popular than the piano-key necktie is Prince's fabulous Prince-inspired, Prince-branded, Prince-keytar aptly named the Purpleaxxe. Hoping to liberate his keyboardist from the confines of his post on stage, Prince co-created the guitar/keyboard hybrid to let his bandmate roam freely while looking ‘80s-tasctic.

(H/T The Atlantic)

1. Steven Spielberg's Dolly Track Switch 

Spielberg blessed filmmakers with the hand steadiness of a surgeon with his Dolly Track Switch. The device allows camera operators using a dolly to smoothly switch between tracks, helping to avoid those Blair Witch-esque moments on the silver screen.

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