Visitor gardens have been creating virtual tours for people to enjoy while they are unable to visit in person.
Spring is usually a busy time of year for gardens but government restrictions mean they, along with other attractions and businesses, are temporarily closed.
Exbury Gardens in Hampshire, Great Comp Garden in Kent, Leonardslee Gardens in West Sussex, Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex and Minterne Gardens in Dorset have all been sharing their videos on social media.
It means people who are at home can still get a glimpse of these peaceful places while they are shut.
In the opening scene of Toy Story, released in 1995, a cluster of boxes is scattered across a child’s bedroom. The sun streams into the room as a Mr Potato Head doll demands money from a seemingly stricken cast of plastic and plush toys outside a cardboard bank.
Into the picture arrives the hero – a cowboy sheriff made of plastic and fabric with a pull-string to make him speak. The sheriff casts a shadow over the villainous potato who flees from the law.
It’s a scene plucked from a child’s imagination. It was also the culmination of decades of development in computer animation.
This year two of the men behind those advancements, Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan, are the recipients of the Turing Award. The award recognizes “lasting and major” contributions to the field of computing and is considered to be the “Nobel Prize” of computer science.
The award is given by the Association for Computing Machinery and comes with a $1m cash prize split between the winners.
Dr Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar, the studio behind Toy Story, and Dr Hanrahan, one of Pixar’s early employees, were notified of their win in early March.
It gave the two old friends and former colleagues just enough time to meet for a celebratory meal before coronavirus lockdown measures were put in place in California, where they both live.
“The digital revolution we have seen in all kinds of movies, television, games – probably no one made more of the difference to that then Ed and Pat,” says David Price, author of the book The Pixar Touch.
To make Toy Story and other computer-animated films possible, Dr Catmull, Dr Hanrahan and their teams had to develop ways to get computers to visualize three-dimensional objects.
During his postdoctoral studies, Dr Catmull created a way to make a computer to recognize a curved surface. Once developers had a mathematically defined curve surface they could begin to add more features to it – like texture and depth.
“Step by step you figure out what kind of lighting should be applied. Then you begin to put in the physics of it because plastic reflects light one way and metal reflects it in a very different way,” Dr Catmull explains.
Dr Catmull had always had an interest in animation and film.
After earning, his doctorate and working in a graphics lab in New York, he eventually became the head of computer division of Lucasfilms, founded by George Lucas. The creator of Star Wars and Jurassic Park saw the potential of computer animation in movies.
But Dr Catmull’s says his dream to make a feature-length computer animated film was still seen as “wildly impractical”.
“Most people dismissed the idea as an irrelevant pipe dream.”
Pixar is born
In 1986 the Apple founder Steve Jobs came along. He bought Lucasfilms’ computer division and turned it into a standalone company, Pixar.
At first, the firm tried to sell computer hardware. When that failed to take off, Pixar refocused on computer imagery.
Dr Hanrahan was one of the company’s earliest employees. He was put in charge of creating a minimum standard for the way computer code is used to describe images.
“Pixar was a magic place,” says Dr Hanrahan who now teaches at Stanford University.
He oversaw the creation of RenderMan – the software Pixar uses to create its 3D animation – working with teams from across the industry.
Shading and light
Crucially Dr Hanrahan worked out how to visualize how light reflects off of different surface. On surfaces like human skin some of the light passes through or is absorbed.
Getting this level of light and shade right gave the images a computer could create a realistic look.
RenderMan has been used to create animated films like Toy Story and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. It was also essential for visual effects of live-action films including Terminator 2, Titanic and Jurassic Park.
Developments in computer animation drove the video gaming industry as well as advancements in virtual and augmented reality. And its progress has been tied closely to advancements in machine learning.
“Waiting for computers to catch up
According to Dr Catmull, sharing work across the industry and with other sectors allowed for the bigger breakthroughs, particularly processing power
Computers of the 1980s and 1990s had only a fraction of the processing power laptops and smartphones have today.
“[A lack of processing power] definitely was a limiting factor,” Dr Catmull explains.
“You had to almost bide your time working on the algorithms for the compute power to catch up with the ideas that we had.”
But even today computer animated films rely on small armies of animators.
“It’s a very labour-intensive process, we still have to do a lot of things manually,” says Dr Hanrahan.
“If you just want to have a character walk around a world and have a human-like motion that makes you think it’s natural, that’s a huge problem…we have no idea how to do that well.”
Developments in robotics have helped to make improvements in this area, demonstrating how crucial it still is to share learning across fields.
Though Steve Jobs, was known as a very secretive leader at Apple, Dr Catmull says at Pixar he was far more open and understood the need to share innovations.
“Publishing was one of the things that helped us attract the best people. Getting the best people was far more important than any single idea and Steve understood that,” says Dr Catmull.
Creations that last
Mr Job’s was also an essential outside voice for Pixar’s films; he didn’t work on them, but would drop in to give his opinion. One of the memorable things he told the Pixar team was that while computers would be thrown away every few years, the films they were creating would last for generations.
This is only the second time the award has been given for advancement in computer graphics.
The official ceremony to present the Turing Award is scheduled for June 2020.
The outbreak of coronavirus may have meant few people noticed when the announcement of Dr Catmull and Dr Hanrahan’s achievement was made.
But with millions of people across the globe locked down in their homes, it is certain many have been watching the films these men made possible.
A crater-pocked road leading to a cluster of simple plywood homes ringed with vegetable fields might seem unlikely territory to find a Hollywood movie star.
But when New York director Benh Zeitlin was on the hunt for a child to play a wild-eyed Peter Pan in his new movie, Wendy, this tiny Rastafarian village in Antigua is where his search bore fruit.
Not only has the Searchlight Pictures production propelled 10-year-old Yashua Mack into the limelight, it has taken this most private community along for the ride.
For almost four decades, the village’s two dozen followers of the Nyabinghi order, the oldest of all the Rastafarian subgroups, have lived largely shielded from society in the Caribbean island.
Often stigmatised for their belief that smoking marijuana helps attain wisdom, villagers have in turn resisted outside influences deemed harmful to their ascetic, agrarian lifestyle.
Still, “to have one of our sons featured in a movie is an exciting moment”, Yashua’s mother Aziza Roberts tells the BBC.
“It’s given the world an opportunity to take a look at Rastafari from a different perspective. People can learn a lot from us about the simplicity of life.”
Away from the cameras, life here is unchanged.
Women in African dress are slicing star fruit and shelling tamarind under the shade of a mango tree, the tractor is being prepared for a day’s work, and dreadlocked children are heading off on foot to the community’s faith-based school.
Yashua, already bored by his newfound fame, vanishes with his pals.
His father Osagyefo Mack says the movie’s central premise bears similarities to the Nyabinghis’ ethos of remaining youthful at heart.
A diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, while shunning alcohol and meat, “keeps our spirit calm and vibrant”, he explains.
Striving for self-sufficiency
Mr Mack helped found the community in 1983 after researching the African roots of his countrymen brought to Antigua during the slave trade.
His studies led him to the Afro-centric religion which regards former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as God incarnate.
Rastafarianism also teaches a spiritual connection to the Earth. At the compound’s school, education in traditional medicine is as important as religious and conventional studies.
“This is good for fighting fever,” Mrs Roberts says, plucking a neem leaf and chewing it.
“Everything we need for our health is here; seawater, sunshine, herbs, and fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The 11-acre community is predominantly self-sufficient, with fields abundant with produce and its own electricity generators and fresh water ponds, although it is linked to national power and water supplies too.
“Children here have a different life to most kids because they live at one with earth and nature. They’re taught to recognise the seeds they eat, and how to plant them to continue the circle of life,” Mrs Roberts says.
It was precisely the village’s rustic, unspoiled ambience that so endeared Mr Zeitlin when he first visited in 2013.
The hamlet is one of a handful of scenes shot in Antigua to make it into Wendy’s final cut. The remainder of the movie was filmed in neighbouring Montserrat.
The reimagined version of JM Barrie’s classic tale of the boy who never grew up was released into cinemas worldwide in late February.
For the Beasts of the Southern Wild director it was vital that non-actors were cast for its leading roles.
Not only had Yashua never acted before, he is also the first black child to play Peter Pan in a major movie.
“Any kid that was already on track to be an actor wouldn’t have been right for Peter. I wanted a child with a mischievous, wild spirit, who lived among nature and loved to be outside,” Mr Zeitlin tells the BBC.
“We had real trouble finding one. Kids don’t live that way anymore; their imagination is routed through phone screens.”
He admits he had almost given up when he was brought to the Nyabinghi village and met Yashua, who was just five at the time.
Yashua was invited to play an acting game in which Mr Zeitlin played a lumberjack poised to chop down the child’s favourite tree.
“I remember the moment he dropped into character. He was so fierce defending his tree that I wondered if he thought it was real. Then he grinned and I knew we had found Peter,” the director says.
The film took seven years to make – two spent teaching Yashua how to “swim, sword-fight and leap off two-storey platforms”.
Yashua is slowly getting used to being recognised and says he loved walking the red carpet at January’s Sundance Film Festival.
“I’ve never seen that many cameras and everyone with flashing lights,” he grins.
But his background keeps him “grounded”, his mother says.
Yashua says his favourite pastime is still “playing in the yard with my friends”.
Asked what he would like to do when he is older, he breaks into a smile, looks across at the nearby seagrape trees, and replies “live a normal life”.
There is one part of the film industry booming after the onset of Covid-19 – movies that deal with infections, particularly on a global scale.
Docuseries such as Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak on Netflix, and films such as Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion from 2011 have been enjoying unprecedented streaming numbers as audiences seek to understand current events.
Featuring an ensemble A-list cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard, Contagion documents the spread of a virus which originates in Asia and causes global lockdown. However, its sober tone is the opposite to the bombast of the traditional “disaster” movie, and it was made with the input of medical experts at Columbia University.
“I didn’t want to show 200 people dropping dead at the same time in one scene,” director Steven Soderbergh explained at the time of the film’s release.
“As soon as you make it feel like a movie, you give the audience the ability to step away from it, and put a barrier in between them and what they are seeing – and we didn’t want to do that.”
Contagion may have set a gold standard in terms of movie realism – nevertheless, historically a whole film subculture has historically been rooted in fear of infection and disease.
The “monster” movie, part of the wider horror genre, has acquired new relevance. It’s about the fear of being bitten, and so infected with a contagion that’s irreversible.
“If you look at werewolf films, such as 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, that’s about the fear that something will bite you and you’ll pass the infection on to someone else,” says BBC Culture film critic Nicholas Barber.
“Then you’ve got vampire films, which are even more closely linked to disease and epidemics. In the 1922 Dracula adaptation, Nosferatu, there’s a scene where rats pour out of a coffin, and people start dying in the village and they blame the plague. Vampire films really are about infection and plague and disease.”
Audiences watching zombie movies such as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, or Marc Forster’s 2013 epic World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, might find they resonate in a new way.
In one scene at the start of 28 Days Later, actor Cillian Murphy stands in a deserted London, silent after being ravaged by a mysterious, incurable virus.
“Zombies used to be these shambling, reanimated corpses that lurched through graveyards and they tended to comment on consumerism and social unrest, “explains Barber.
“That really changed with 2002’s 28 Days Later. In that, zombies are actually called ‘the infected’, they’re no longer reanimated corpses, they are people who have been infected by a virus.
“World War Z, on the other hand, is really about globalisation, and how these infections don’t just take over a city, they spread throughout the world, as we’re seeing now. That was the zombie movie that covered it, and that’s what is so unprecedented about what we are seeing now.”
The loneliness of isolation after infection has also been covered by Hollywood – most famously by 2007’s I am Legend, directed by The Hunger Games’s Francis Lawrence and starring Will Smith.
An adaptation of a 1954 novel by Richard Matheson, Will Smith seems to be the only uninfected survivor in New York City after a virus, originally a new cure for cancer, kills billions of people and turns nearly everyone else into cannibalistic mutants called Darkseekers.
Perhaps creating the horrible and fantastical in film has been the human way of dealing with our vulnerability to viruses as a species.
Nevertheless, the idea of the victory of the human spirit – which can defeat and outsmart even a deadly virus – was seen most recently in 2016’s 93 Days, a film directed by Steve Gukas and starring Danny Glover. It was based on a true story of how a dedicated medical team managed to prevent an Ebola outbreak in Nigeria by containing it, even if it meant sacrificing their own lives.
That idea of human triumph against impossible odds is likely to be a recurring theme in the films that emerge from screenwriters’ self-isolation.
“There’s a lot coming out of the coronavirus to inspire countless screenplays to come,” says Nigel M Smith, movies editor for People magazine.
“If you look at what happened after 9/11, it was only a year or so when Hollywood began making films out of these stories. The industry has a tendency to do things like that.”
But perhaps it’s just as well that a sequel to World War Z was cancelled last year. Would the public pay to watch a pandemic full of infected zombies, after living through the time of Coronavirus?
This report is part of a special BBC Talking Movies programme on the effects of Covid-19 on the film industry. It will broadcast on BBC World News, the BBC News Channel and BBC i player from 3 April 2020. Follow @talkingmovies on Facebook and @BBCTalkMovies on Twitter.
Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@
Bill Withers, the acclaimed 1970s soul singer behind hits Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean On Me has died from heart complications aged 81, his family said.
The singer died on Monday in Los Angeles, the family told the Associated Press.
They described him in a statement as a “solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world”.
“He spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the statement said.
Known for his smooth baritone vocals and sumptuous soul arrangements, he wrote some of the 70s best-remembered songs, including Just The Two Of Us, Lovely Day and Use Me.
Although he stopped recording in 1985, his songs remained a major influence on R&B and hip-hop.
His track Grandma’s Hands was sampled on Blackstreet’s No Diggity, and Eminem reinterpreted Just The Two Of Us on his hit 1997 Bonnie And Clyde.
“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” said his family.
“With his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.
“As private a life as he lived, close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”
The star’s signature song Lean On Me has recently become associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, with many people posting their own versions to support health workers and other essential services.
Born in 1938, Withers was the youngest of six children. His father died when he was a child and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.
His entry to the music world came late – at the age of 29 – after a nine-year stint in the Navy
He taught himself to play guitar between shifts at his job making toilet seats for the Boeing aircraft company, and used his wages to pay for studio sessions in LA.
Speaking to another radio breakfast show host on Friday, Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, Lucas said he initially wrote the song for the TV show Shooting Stars, but he gave it a re-write after the virus began to take hold in the UK, as he was “feeling a bit anxious as someone at home with asthma”.
He did not expect people to devour it in the manner they have.
“I wrote the lyrics to this baked potato song just in an idle moment thinking ‘well I’ll just put it on Twitter, I don’t think anything will happen with that.’ And I was a bit wrong!” he laughed.
Brighton Pride has announced that “with a heavy heart” the festival has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mariah Carey had been due to headline festival this summer, playing Pride in the Park on Saturday 1 August.
The three-day event was due to run from 31 July to 2 August. On Sunday, The Pussycat Dolls – who recently reformed – were the headline act.
Brighton Pride said the decision “had not been taken lightly”
A Pride spokesman said: “It is with a heavy heart that Brighton and Hove Pride have taken the difficult decision to postpone our landmark 30th anniversary celebrations.”
He said the organisers had decided to cancel after evaluating the additional pressure the event would put on the emergency services.
Paul Kemp, director of Brighton Pride, said: “It’s been inevitable.
“We are postponing the anniversary celebration to next year and [for] anyone who has got a ticket for the park we’ll roll that ticket over.
“Pride is a celebration for the whole city and brings lots of people in, and of course the emergency services, the police, the NHS and all the other key workers who are often part of that parade,” he said.
“Our focus is on supporting them and supporting people who are going through tough times.”
Alan Robbins, chairman of Brighton and Hove City Council’s tourism, equalities, communities and culture committee, said: “It’s a great shame.
“The message is going out ‘Don’t come to Brighton’ and we very much want to make sure when this is over everybody does come back to Brighton.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure these things go ahead next year.”
The BBC will offer daily programmes to help parents and children with schoolwork at home during the lockdown.
Starting on 20 April, videos, quizzes, podcasts and articles will appear on BBC Bitesize Daily via the BBC iPlayer, red button, BBC Four and BBC Sounds.
Children’s lessons will feature presenters including Oti Mabuse, Katie Thistleton and Karim Zeroual.
BBC director general Tony Hall called it “the biggest education effort the BBC has ever undertaken.”
The corporation said every child in the UK would “have their education supported” and it has teamed up with organisations such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Premier League and Puffin Books to keep the lessons fresh.
The initiative will include 14 weeks of core subject learning to offer “rhythm and routine” for pupils “whatever your child’s age”.
Lord Hall said the “comprehensive package is something only the BBC would be able to provide” adding: “We are proud to be there when the nation needs us, working with teachers, schools and parents to ensure children have access and support to keep their learning going – come what may”.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson highlighted the experience of many families, saying: “As a parent, I know encouraging children to learn at home is no easy task and I am delighted that the BBC has worked with experts and exceptional teachers to create this educational package.”
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden added that this was “public service broadcasting at its best”, and it will “make a big difference to millions of children across the UK while schools are closed”.
“I’m delighted the BBC is working closely with the government to help make sure our children are educated, informed and entertained during these challenging times.”
The content will be divided into age groups and BBC Bitesize online will publish a new Maths and English lesson for every child every day with more subjects to follow.
The lessons will be nation specific, and the BBC has “worked closely” with teachers plus “trusted education providers such as Twinkl and White Rose Maths, the Department of Education in England, the Welsh Government, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive”.