22 Fun Facts About Scrooged

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Since the publication of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in 1843, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge has become familiar fodder for adaptations of all sorts—from ballets to operas to a mime performance by Marcel Marceau. But Richard Donner’s film adaptation, Scrooged, has one thing that sets it apart: comedy.

Since its release on November 23, 1988, the holiday comedy starring Bill Murray as a ruthless television executive tasked with pulling off a live Christmas Eve broadcast of A Christmas Carol (starring Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, the Solid Gold Dancers and Mary-Lou Retton as Tiny Tim!) has become a contemporary classic. Here are 22 things you might not know about the movie on its 30th anniversary.

1. THE FILM MARKED BILL MURRAY’S RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN.

Though it’s easy to remember the 1980s as a decade packed with Bill Murray comedies, Scrooged marked a reemergence of sorts of the in-demand comedian. Though he had a brief cameo in Frank Oz’s 1986 remake of Little Shop of Horrors (playing a pain-seeking patient of Orin Scrivello, Steve Martin’s demented dentist character), Scrooged was Murray’s first major role following a self-imposed, four-year exile from Hollywood.

2. MURRAY REFERENCES LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS IN THE MOVIE’S CLOSING SONG.

Scrooged concludes with the cast and crew singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” For his part, Murray went a bit off-script, adding in lines like “Feed me Seymour,” a direct reference to Little Shop of Horrors.

3. MANY MORE OF MURRAY’S LINES WERE AD LIBBED.

In a 1988 interview with Philadelphia Daily News, Richard Donner discussed Murray’s penchant for improvisation and described the experience of directing Murray as follows: “It's like standing on 42nd Street and Broadway, and the lights are out, and you're the traffic cop.”

4. MURRAY HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN APPROACHED ABOUT THE MOVIE TWO YEARS EARLIER.

At that point, he wasn’t ready to jump back into the moviemaking fold just yet. “But when I wanted to work, the scripts were just not good,” Murray told Starlog Magazine in a 1989 interview.

5. BEFORE HE SIGNED ON FOR SCROOGED, MURRAY REQUIRED THAT THE SCRIPT BE REWORKED.


Paramount Pictures

"We tore up the script so badly that we had parts all over the lawn," Murray told Starlog. “There was a lot I didn't like. To remake the story, we took the romantic element [Frank's relationship with his former girlfriend, Claire, played by Karen Allen] and built that up a little more. It existed in the script’s original version, but we had to make more out of it. The family scenes were kind of off, so we worked on that.”

6. THE MOVIE WAS A SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE REUNION OF SORTS.

The script for Scrooged was written by Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue, whom Murray had worked with in the early days of Saturday Night Live.

7. EVEN PAUL SHAFFER WAS THERE.

Before he rose to fame as David Letterman’s musical director, Paul Shaffer was a member of the SNL house band from 1975 to 1980 and appeared in a number of sketches, most notably as the piano player to Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer character. He makes a cameo in Scrooged as a street musician, where he plays alongside fellow musical legends Miles Davis, David Sanborn, and Larry Carlton.

8. A LOT OF FOOTAGE ENDED UP ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.

“We shot a big, long sloppy movie, so there's a great deal of material that didn't even end up in the film,” Murray told Starlog. “It just didn't work. You tend to forget what was wrong. It's hard. I just figured that anyone who's good could step into this part and have a lot of fun with it. It's sort of a wicked character. The idea of making a funny Scrooge was an inspired touch. That's what was appealing to me about it.”

9. RICHARD DONNER HAD HIS RESERVATIONS ABOUT TURNING A CHRISTMAS CAROL INTO A COMEDY.

“It’s a thin line,” director Richard Donner told the Texas Archive of the Moving Image about getting the right tone for the film. “But you have two of the most irreverent writers in the world. You have the most irreverent humorist since W.C. Fields. And you say, ‘Let’s go!’ There’s a thin line you walk, but the line is broken—hopefully—in the end of the picture when you see a man evolve out of a situation.”

10. DONNER CALLS IT THE MOVIE WHERE MURRAY BECAME “AN ACTOR.”

Though Scrooged is mainly a comedy, it concludes with Murray’s character being a changed man, who has to deliver a rather dramatic speech in order to make his character’s transformation clear. But Donner told Philadelphia Daily News that what they witnessed in that pivotal scene was something much greater: “On the last take I saw something happen to Billy. I saw Billy Murray become an actor.”

11. DONNER SAVED THAT DRAMATIC SCENE FOR THE VERY END OF THE SHOOT.

“I always had my car parked facing the gate,” Donner joked to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image about how the film’s ultimate success hinged on that final scene. Which is why he saved it for the end. “When Bill Murray played off that last scene in the way that he did, I felt confident—and slightly insecure—but I felt confident that we had accomplished what we wanted,” said Donner.

12. FOR MURRAY, THE BIGGER CHALLENGE WAS CARRYING A MOVIE ON HIS OWN.


Paramount Pictures

Murray was a bona fide movie star by the time Scrooged hit theaters, but up until that point—in movies like Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters—he had always been part of an ensemble cast. “Scrooged was harder [than Ghostbusters] because I was by myself, really,” Murray told Starlog. “Even though there are a number of people in the movie, they only had cameos. They would stroll in for a day or two and split. I was there every day, and it was like flunking grade school again and again.”

13. ROBERT MITCHUM’S CAMEO WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT MURRAY.

In one of the film’s many aforementioned cameos, Robert Mitchum plays Murray’s boss, Preston Rhinelander. But such a small role for such a major star wasn’t an easy sell, so Donner invited Mitchum to meet with Murray. “Mitchum was not going to play that small a part, but we said, ‘Well come in and meet Bill. Let’s rap, let’s talk,’” Donner told the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. “He came in and we never got a word in edgewise. He’s so wonderful with stories and we didn’t want to talk … The minute you get around Bill, you’re swooning. Everybody is.”

14. SCROOGED IS A MURRAY FAMILY AFFAIR.

Though seeing one of Bill Murray’s brothers in one of his films is nothing new, Scrooged features all three of them—John, Joel, and Brian Doyle-Murray.

15. IT TOOK 23 YEARS FOR THE FILM’S SOUNDTRACK TO BE RELEASED.


Paramount Pictures

It wasn’t until 2011 that Danny Elfman’s score for Scrooged was released. The album, which was limited to just 3000 copies, contained a total of 34 tracks, not all of which were included in the film. The final track is a bonus track that was actually created for Trading Places.

16. KEITH HARING'S WORK MAKES A COUPLE OF CAMEOS.

Look at the background throughout the film and you’ll likely spot Keith Haring’s “Free South Africa” poster on a few occasions. The same poster is seen in Lethal Weapon 2, also directed by Richard Donner, which was released the following year.

17. SAM KINISON WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST.

The part eventually went to David Johansen, and rumor has it that that happened because of Murray’s close friendship with the actor-musician. If Johansen’s face looks familiar to you, but not his name, that’s because he often went by a different name at the time: Buster Poindexter. Yes, the very same guy who sang “Hot Hot Hot.”

18. CAROL KANE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH FUN AS THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT.


Paramount Pictures

Though it’s a running gag throughout the film that Carol Kane, as The Ghost of Christmas Present, be rather abusive toward Murray whenever they meet, the task began to take a toll on the actress. Both Donner and Murray told Starlog that Kane would often break down on the set, and spend 20 minutes or so simply crying.

19. KANE’S SCENES WEREN’T MUCH FUN FOR MURRAY EITHER.

In one scene, Kane is supposed to grab Murray’s lip. Which she did—a little too well. “There's a piece of skin that connects your lip with your gums and it was really pulled away,” Murray explained of the scene to Starlog. “She really hurt me, but it was my idea to be physical and it was her idea just to hit me as opposed to pulling the punches.” Filming had to cease temporarily while Murray healed from the incident.

20. JOHN HOUSEMAN PASSED AWAY LESS THAN A MONTH BEFORE SCROOGED PREMIERED.

John Houseman is yet another one of the preeminent actors who made a brief appearance in Scrooged. Unfortunately, he passed away on October 31, 1988, less than a month before the film made its debut on November 23, 1988.

21. IT WAS THE LAST PERFORMANCE BY THE SOLID GOLD DANCERS.

In the telecast within the movie, one of A Christmas Carol’s selling points is that it will feature the Solid Gold Dancers as The Scroogettes. The movie would mark the small-screen dance group’s final aired performance, as Solid Gold the television series had been canceled back in July.

22. THE STUDIO PLAYED UP GHOSTBUSTERS’S SUCCESS TO PROMOTE SCROOGED.

In an attempt to recapture the attention of Ghostbusters fans, the studio referenced the movie in Scrooged’s marketing materials, most notably with its tagline: “Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it’s three against one.” The tactic probably didn’t get the studio the exact results it was looking for; while Ghostbusters was the second highest-grossing film of 1984 with $229,242,989 in box office totals, Scrooged made about a quarter of that ($60,328,558 to be exact) and was only the 13th highest grossing film of 1988.

7 Fast Facts About RollerCoaster Tycoon

Amazon
Amazon

For Windows gamers, 1999 was dominated by RollerCoaster Tycoon, a now-classic strategy and building game that tasked users with erecting an amusement park and gauging the popularity of rides while maintaining a profit margin and keeping patrons from barfing all over the landscape. For the game’s 20th anniversary, check out some facts about its origins, its association with pizza, and how it became a pinball machine.

1. The first RollerCoaster Tycoon sold 4 million copies.

RollerCoaster Tycoon was the brainchild of Scottish programmer Chris Sawyer, who had enjoyed success with his line of Transport Tycoon games in the 1990s that allowed players to build and operate their own railroad, truck, and ship lines. Sawyer decided to marry that concept with his love of roller coasters. An independent effort—Sawyer enlisted only two collaborators, artist Simon Foster and musician Allister Brimble—the first Tycoon game that was released in 1999 sold a staggering 4 million copies.

2. RollerCoaster Tycoon came free with frozen pizza.

In the early 2000s, packaged food companies offered products that came with promotional offers for CD-ROMs. In 2003, Pillsbury offered a free copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon to anyone who sent in proof of purchase barcodes from specially-marked boxes of Totino’s Pizza Rolls or Pillsbury Toaster Strudel.

3. There’s a RollerCoaster Tycoon pinball machine.

A pinball machine released to coincide with 2002’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 took the spiraling coasters of the game and put them under glass. Players could try and direct the pinball—a substitute for the park guest—around and through coasters like The Flying Ghost and The Rocket.

4. RollerCoaster Tycoon helped inspire Minecraft.

If you or a loved one has spent countless hours absorbed in the popular world-building game Minecraft, you have RollerCoaster Tycoon to thank. Minecraft creator Markus Persson was a fan of Tycoon for the way it allowed players to construct elaborate designs. He also enjoyed Dungeon Keeper, which had a fantasy element. Together, the two games encouraged him to develop Minecraft. The game debuted in 2009 and went on to become one of the biggest interactive success stories of all time.

5. RollerCoaster Tycoon inspired real roller coaster designers.

The laborious construction undertaken by players of RollerCoaster Tycoon weaned a number of players on the excitement of the amusement industry. Park designers hoping to break into the industry have used screen shots from the game as examples of their design prowess at trade shows.

6. You can get a spooky update of RollerCoaster Tycoon in time for Halloween.

Atari distributes an Android and iOS version of RollerCoaster Tycoon for mobile phone users. For 2019, the company is offering a Six Flags Fright Fest update to the game that adds a Halloween component. Players can add Skull Mountain, an actual Six Flags coaster, as well as a Demon Rock statue.

7. A RollerCoaster Tycoon fan spent 10 years building a park.

In 2017, a Reddit user declared he was finished building out his own custom park on RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. The 34 coasters and 255 attractions were all minutely detailed, offering a sprawling virtual park with themed areas covering everything from Egyptian attractions to a forest. In comparison, it took only four years to build the actual Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

10 Wild Scooby-Doo Fan Theories

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

For 50 years, the hard-working teens (and dog) of Mystery, Inc. have been investigating the paranormal. What began as a single Hanna-Barbera cartoon series—Scooby Doo, Where Are You!—in the 1960s quickly morphed into a franchise with multiple spin-off shows, comic books, and a few questionable movies. That adds up to a lot of spooky stories, which have inspired fans to come up with their own creepy (or just plain crazed) tales about Scooby and the gang. Here are some of their best theories, including one that somehow connects to Patrick Stewart.

1. Scooby is a Soviet space dog.

For all the cases that Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy solved, they never got to the bottom of the show’s most enduring mystery: How and why does Scooby Doo talk? Some fans think he can’t really speak—that it’s just something his buddy Shaggy imagines while he’s high. But one Redditor has a much more complicated and compelling theory based on the show’s 1960s setting. At that time, America and the USSR were locked in the so-called “Space Race,” competing to see who could claim the first achievements in spaceflight. The Russians famously shot Yuri Gagarin into the stratosphere in 1961, but he wasn’t the first Soviet in space. Canine cosmonauts like Laika beat him by several years, and if the USSR was willing to put a dog in a rocket, who’s to say they didn’t experiment on him first?

According to this fan theory, Scooby is a runaway from the Soviets’ classified space dog program, designed to breed pups capable of operating satellites and understanding radio commands. Scooby was the best of the bunch, the rare test subject who could understand and imitate human speech. Naturally, one of the scientists got attached and defected with Scooby to the USA. When that scientist died, Scooby found a new family with a group of friendly teenagers. But the CIA never stopped searching for this Soviet wunderpup, which is why Mystery, Inc. is constantly traveling by van—and why the original show is called Scooby Doo, Where Are You!

2. The show takes place during an economic depression.

A still from 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You!'
Warner Home Video

A classic Scooby-Doo mystery might take place at a theme park, museum, or mine—so long as it’s grimy and deserted. That’s a weird coincidence when you think about it: why are all these places so rundown? Well, that tends to happen when you’re weathering a financial collapse, and many clues indicate that’s just what’s happening in the world of Scooby-Doo. The towns he and his friends visit never seem to be doing well. No one has any money: Not the many scientists posing as monsters for cash, not the operators of every haunted attraction the gang investigates, and certainly not Shaggy and Scooby, who gorge on dog treats and lose their minds whenever they so much as smell a burger.

3. Mystery, Inc. is actually a cult.

Let’s break down the core members of the gang: You have Fred, the handsome and friendly frontman of the group. Then there’s Daphne, the fashionable and pretty one who mostly follows Fred around. Velma has the brains and Shaggy has full-blown conversations with a dog. When you really think about, doesn’t this all sound a bit like a cult? Fred would obviously be the cult leader, who recruits groupies like Daphne to obey his every command. Velma’s intelligence makes her a useful addition, and she could also be seeking acceptance from the “cool” kids. As for Shaggy, well, men who claim dogs can talk to them have a famously disturbing history—much like cult members.

4. They’re all draft dodgers.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You! premiered in 1969. Also happening that year? The Vietnam War. As able-bodied men (seemingly) over 18, Fred and Shaggy would both be eligible for the draft, which begs the obvious question: is Mystery, Inc. just a bunch of draft dodgers? The boys could be driving that van straight to Canada to avoid deployment, along with Fred’s fiancée Daphne and their antiwar activist friend Velma. Scooby’s stance on the war remains unclear, but he’s along for the ride.

5. Scooby Snacks alter your genes.

What if Scooby’s preferred treat is really a steroid capable of editing genetic code? It would explain why Scooby—and other members of his canine family, like Scrappy-Doo and Scooby-Dum—can talk, as well as their ability to perform “completely ridiculous stunts.” (Also, if Scrappy-Doo is on steroids, it would explain why he’s always trying to fight.) But what about its effect on humans? As far as we know, Shaggy is the only person who eats Scooby Snacks, and he seems to have a freakishly high metabolism, considering the mile-high sandwiches he eats and his super skinny frame.

6. Fred drives the Mystery Machine because the real owner is too high.

Whenever the gang piles into the Mystery Machine, there’s only one person behind the wheel: Fred. Mystery, Inc.’s de facto leader is constantly driving his friends from one haunted house to the next, which would imply that the Mystery Machine is his car. But why would a clean-shaven, preppy kid like Fred own a lime green van with flowers plastered over the doors? That car obviously belongs to a hippie, and in this group, that’s Shaggy. His hippie lifestyle, however, may be the reason Shaggy never drives. He’s either lost his license from driving under the influence, or Fred is worried he will, so someone else serves as his designated driver.

7. Shaggy is Captain America’s son.

This theory starts with small coincidences, like the fact that Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and Steve Rogers share a last name. Then it builds to something bigger when you factor in a detail from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While out on a morning run, Sam Wilson (a.k.a. Falcon) claims that Steve can run 13 miles in half an hour, a rate that breaks down to 26 mph. Shaggy, meanwhile, frequently keeps pace with Scooby, a Great Dane. Those dogs run up to 30 mph. Ergo, Shaggy is Steve’s son.

8. Monsters really do exist in the Scooby-Doo universe.

A still from 'Scooby Doo, Where Are You!'
Warner Home Video

Each time the gang catches a new “monster,” it always turns out to be a human in disguise, grumbling about how they “would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” Monsters, the show tells us over and over again, are not real. But this Reddit theory poses an important question: If monsters don’t exist, why is there a business dedicated to catching the fake ones? The fact that Mystery, Inc. keeps getting calls implies that “supernatural fraud” is an entire category of crime, one that wouldn’t make sense or work if people didn’t believe in monsters. Everyone in the Scooby-Doo universe also seems to accept monsters as a normal and everyday occurrence, suggesting that monsters are real—the gang has just never caught one.

9. Shaggy and Scooby are actors.

When danger calls, Shaggy and Scooby tend to run the other way. But what if the group’s most cowardly members were actually actors pretending to be scared of ghosts, monsters, and other paranormal entities? According to this fan theory, Shaggy and Scooby are faking their over-the-top fear in order to draw the monsters out. By posing as easy targets, they know they’ll get spooked first, and thus make it easier for Mystery, Inc. to trap the ghost/witch/pirate. That’s why Fred always pairs Shaggy with Scooby when they split up to investigate, and it’s why after many years of investigating the supernatural, the two of them still don’t seem remotely used to it.

10. Green Room is just a gritty Scooby-Doo reboot.

The 2015 horror movie Green Room is about a band with a van that squares off against an evil old Nazi. The Scooby-Doo franchise is about a team (that was supposed to be a band) with a van that squares off against evil old men (who could also, theoretically, be Nazis). You do the math.

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