Happy 20th Birthday, IMDB!
Did you know that Dougray Scott was cast to play Wolverine, in the summer blockbuster X-Men? He had to leave the project because of his work on Mission: Impossible II. Did you know that in Batman: Forever, strings can be seen on the helicopter after it explodes against the “Lady Liberty” statue? Did you know that Simon Weisse, prop-maker of Hellboy, was an uncredited model maker for Inglorious Basterds!?
Of course you did! And it’s all thanks to the Internet Movie Database, IMDb.com… which turned 20 today, October 17th, 2010.
Nerds, cinemaphiles, and popular comicbook/pop culture bloggers have been turning to this amazing source of sometimes useless, sometimes shocking, always acutely specific database of movies and television information now for two whole decades. Just ask yourself, where would you be without it? How many bar fights did you prevent by using your iPhone to assure your comrades that Wil Wheaton did win the 2002 Melbourne Underground Film Festival’s award for Best Actor for his performance in Jane White Is Sick & Twisted? How much money did you win in that local trivia contest because you knew that the imcomparable John Hoyt played Sire Domra in the episode Baltar’s Escape in the 1979 Battlestar Galactica? And how would you ever have wooed your eventual wife, if you didn’t amaze her by knowing that there was a video camera inside Ludo’s right horn that fed to an external video monitor inside it’s own stomach, assisting the puppeteer perform in Labyrinth? Suffice to say, the unbridled girth of information available to the populace thanks to the IMBd has allowed all of us to become living wikipedias of information!
Speaking of wikipedia…how about a little history, shall we? The IMDb was born from a pair of lists generated in early 1989 by participants in the Usenet newsgroup
rec.arts.movies. In each case, a single maintainer recorded items
emailed by newsgroup readers, and posted updated versions of his/her list
from time to time. The founding ideas of the database began with a
posting titled “Those Eyes”, on the subject of actresses with beautiful
eyes. Hank Driskill began to collect a list of attractive actresses and
what movies they had appeared in, and as the size of the repeated
posting grew far beyond a normal newsgroup article, it soon became known
simply as “THE LIST”.
The other project, started by Chuck Musciano, was briefly called the less capitalized
“Movie Ratings List” and soon became the “Movie Ratings Report”.
Musciano simply asked readers to rate movies on a scale of one to ten,
and reported on the votes. He soon began posting “ballots” with lists of
movies for people to rate, so his list also grew quickly.
In 1990, Col Needham collated the two lists and produced a “Combined LIST & Movie Ratings Report”. Needham soon started a (male) “Actors List”, while Dave Knight began a “Directors List”, and Andy Krieg took over THE LIST, which would later be renamed the “Actress List”.
Both this and the Actors List had been restricted to people who were
still alive and working, but retired people began to be added, and
Needham also started what was then (but did not remain) a separate “Dead
Actors/Actresses List”. The goal now was to make the lists as inclusive
as the maintainers could manage. In late 1990, the lists included
almost 10,000 movies and television series. On October 17, 1990, Needham
posted a collection of Unix shell scripts which could be used to search the four lists, and the database that would become the IMDb was born.
In celebration of it’s 20 year history, IMBd is hosting plenty of party games. By party games, we mean video clips (today’s features funnyman Will Ferrell alongside his director/writer in crime, Adam McKay), retrospectives, and tons of stuff to keep your thumbs a’scrollin’. Head over to their Anniversary Page to do what we all do on IMDb… waste a ton of time learning factoids we’ll never need… but can’t stop quoting.