18 Big Facts About Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Walt Disney Home Video
Walt Disney Home Video

What would it be like to be a quarter of an inch tall? Moviegoers in the summer of 1989 were eager to find out. They flocked to theaters to watch as the Szalinski and Thompson kids dodged refrigerator-sized drops of water, befriended a giant ant, fought a fearsome scorpion, and feasted upon a massive cream-filled cookie. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is often viewed as the quintessential live-action Disney film, but its roots are firmly in the horror movie genre. Here are a few surprising facts about the film, in celebration of its 30th anniversary

1. The horror director behind Re-Animator came up with the idea.

Stuart Gordon wasn’t the first filmmaker one would think of to direct a Disney film. With a background in experimental theater—including a trippy, in-the-nude version of Peter Pan—he made his name with campy horror films like 1985’s Re-Animator, about a scientist who brings the dead back to life, and 1987's Dolls, about a murderous collection of dolls (tagline: “They Walk. They Talk. They Kill.”). After he became a father, Gordon decided to make a kids’ movie. Along with Brian Yuzna, who had worked with him on Re-Animator, and Dolls writer Ed Naha, Gordon came up with an idea for a film about a hapless inventor who accidentally shrinks his children and throws them out with the garbage. He pitched the idea to Disney, who loved it and gave Gordon the green light to direct.

2. Its original title was Teenie Weenies.

The title was a nod to William Donahey’s comic strip from the early 1900s, which followed the adventures of a tiny, inoffensive band of characters. Disney executives hated it, thinking the title would turn off adult moviegoers. So Gordon and company changed the title to Grounded, then The Backyard before deciding to borrow a line of dialogue that Wayne Szalinski utters to his wife, Diane.

3. Disney was really nervous about the film.

Although Disney was excited about Gordon’s idea, they weren’t exactly confident the horror director could deliver a family-friendly feature. "Disney was worried that I was going to kill all the kids," Gordon said in one interview. "And I kept saying, 'No, I’m not going to kill them. But I want the audience to think they might die.'" Disney’s trepidations extended to the movie’s creature effects—most notably Anty, the heroic ant.

The studio told Gordon they wanted Anty to look less like a real ant and more like E.T. "I said, 'Well E.T. scared more kids than an ant does,'" according to Gordon. To convince the brass, Gordon invited them to the workshop where crew members were putting the finishing touches on the robotic puppet. Gordon made Anty nuzzle him like a horse to show how friendly the creature could act. And just like that, the executives were convinced.

4. Joe Johnston replaced Stuart Gordon at the 11th hour.

Just as production on the film was set to begin, Stuart Gordon became sick and had to leave the set. Unable to delay the shoot, Disney brought in Joe Johnston, a visual effects specialist who had worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark and all three Star Wars films. It was his first directing job. After the success of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Johnston went on to direct The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, and, most recently, Captain America: The First Avenger. Gordon, meanwhile, finally got his shot at directing Honey, I Shrunk the Kids—albeit 10 years later, helming one episode of the television show, which ran for three seasons in the late 1990s.

5. The movie was filmed in Mexico City.

If you thought the Szalinskis's suburban California neighborhood and backyard looked like the real deal, well, think again. The entire set—including several houses, complete with white picket fences and manicured lawns—was erected on a back lot at Mexico City’s Churubusco Studios. Established in 1945, Churubusco was the epicenter of Mexican film production in the 20th century and a favorite of cost-conscious American producers, with scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Total Recall, Free Willy, and numerous other films shot there. The set work is very convincing, but there are a few seams showing: If you look carefully in the scene where the mailman is walking the neighborhood, you can see the beams in the back lot wall, which had been painted blue to stand in as the sky.

6. Anty took up to 12 workers to operate.

The heroic ant, who befriends the pint-sized Szalinski and Thompson kids and (SPOILER ALERT) tragically dies fighting off a scorpion, took a lot of effort to bring to life. The special effects team built multiple versions of Anty, including a miniature for stop-motion animation sequences. Most of the scenes in which Anty interacts with the actors involved a large robotic puppet whose legs, eyes, head, and antennae were all controlled by separate crew members. “It takes somewhere between seven and 12 people to make the ant run," Peter Zamora, the film’s miniatures assistant, said in a making-of documentary.

7. Marcia Strassman's hair was two different colors.

Two weeks into filming, Marcia Strassman, who played Diane Szalinski, received a note from Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg requesting she change her hair color from reddish-brown to blonde. Strassman complied, and she kept her hair that color for the sequel, 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. "We said, 'But we've been shooting for two weeks,'" Strassman told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "And [Katzenberg] said, 'No one will notice.' And no one did. No one noticed that my hair is two totally different colors in that movie."

8. The set designers used a lot of foam.

From giant broom bristles to towering blades of grass, the movie’s set designers were masters at fashioning latex and polyurethane foam into outsized versions of everyday objects. To show the kids getting swept into Wayne Szalinski’s dustpan, designers attached the giant foam bristles to a hanging screen that swept across the stage. The enormous cream-filled cookie, meanwhile, was also made out of foam, with globs of actual cream mixed in for the kids to shovel into their mouths.

9. The bumblebee flight required some technical wizardry.

By 1980s movie standards, and even current ones, the bumblebee ride that Nick Szalenski and Little Russ Thompson take is impressive. Creating the sequence required a giant bee model for close-up shots with the actors, along with an extended shot by a camera that zipped and dove around the Szalenski backyard. Pretty standard stuff, but visual effects lead Tom Smith added a third element: a small, $30,000 robotic bee with miniatures of the actors on top. The fine movements of the robotic bee were spliced in with the close-up shots against the green screen, then touched up with some added digital effects in post-production to create the final sequence. “We were able to cut them quickly enough and mix them up so that it gives the incredible sense of flight when you see it,” Smith said.

10. The animated opening credits were groundbreaking.

The movie opened with an animated sequence showing two tiny children running from a record needle, a typewriter, and other menacing everyday objects as title credits cleverly materialized. According to the graphic design site Art of the Title, the sequence—created by Kroyer Films—was one of the first to combine hand-drawn animations with 3D models. The team that created the sequence included Andrew Stanton, who would go on to work on Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and WALL·E, along with Eric Stefani, an acclaimed animator and brother of Gwen Stefani. Kroyer went on to produce animated sequences for two other films that year: Troop Beverly Hills and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

11. The opening credits were also grounds for a lawsuit.

The musical score that accompanies the animated credits, written by James Horner, sounds very similar to the 1937 song “Powerhouse,” by jazz composer Raymond Scott—a little too close, by some estimations. Scott’s estate sued Disney for failing to credit the composer. The studio settled the case out of court and made sure the estate received its fair share of future royalties.

12. The movie was a surprise hit.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’s $14 million haul on opening weekend was the biggest opening ever for a Disney movie—by a long shot. It was also a surprise for the studio, considering the movie wasn’t a sequel, and had received mixed reviews from critics. "Our tracking showed that there was awareness of the film out there, but there was nothing to make us think it would do what it did," then-Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg said at the time. In all, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would earn more than $130 million domestically and $92 million in worldwide release.

13. Batman contributed to the movie's success.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids opened on June 23, 1989—the same day as Tim Burton's Batman, which finished number one at the box office and had fans lining up around the block to see it. According to the Los Angeles Times and other sources, many theatergoers who couldn’t get in to see Batman opted to see Honey, I Shrunk the Kids instead, helping to boost that movie to number two at the box office.

14. Disney revived the long-dormant animated short with the film.

Those who saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in theaters may remember the animated short Tummy Trouble, starring Roger Rabbit, that preceded the film. The seven-minute romp—which also features Baby Herman, a swallowed rattle, and a trip to the hospital gone awry—was the revival of the short films that studios often played before a feature presentation. It was Disney’s first “short” in nearly 25 years, and one of several that the studio released aimed at boosting the popularity of classic characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck with younger viewers.

Given the popularity of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released the previous year, Disney figured its goofball hare would also boost viewership for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Indeed, Disney gave the two productions equal space on promotional posters and print ads, despite the difference in run times.

15. It earned an award for poor grammar.

As any English major could tell you, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is not a grammatically correct title (it should be “Shrank”). This earned public ridicule from SPELL, the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature, which awarded the film its Dunce Cap Award for 1989. A Disney executive was quick to fire back that the mistake was deliberate, as it’s taken from a line of dialogue in the film (and the error certainly didn't do anything to hurt the movie's box office haul).

16. It took 20 years for the movie's soundtrack to be released.

Aside from the film’s opening theme, which became tainted by controversy, the music from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids isn’t particularly memorable. Thus the film’s score wasn’t subsequently released as a soundtrack. But\ composer James Horner, who had previously scored Aliens and Cocoon, became increasingly popular in the years to come as he scored films like Field of Dreams, Braveheart, Titanic, and Avatar. Demand for the score also rose as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids became a reliable cable rerun. So in 2009, tiny music label Intrada put out a limited run of 3000 copies of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids soundtrack. It’s sold out, but if you just have to have such classic tracks as “Watering the Grass” and “Lawnmower," you can nab a used copy for around $60 on Amazon. Sadly, Horner was killed in a plane crash in 2015.

17. Only one of the young actors is still working.

A scene from 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' (1989)
Walt Disney Home Video

For the young actors in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, box office success didn’t translate into long-term career success. Robert Oliveri and Jared Rushton, who played young Nick Szalinski and Ron Thompson, respectively, gave up acting in the 1990s. Same with Amy O’Neill, whose only other major role was in 1993’s White Wolves: A Cry in the Wild II (though she popped up in an uncredited role on Baskets earlier this year). Only Thomas Wilson Brown, who played Little Russ Thompson, continues to appear in films and TV shows, and only sporadically at that.

The adult ensemble, meanwhile, fared somewhat better. Matt Frewer (Big Russ Thompson) has worked steadily in films and TV series like Orphan Black and 12 Monkeys, while Marcia Strassman, known for roles in M*A*S*H and Welcome Back, Kotter, made regular appearances on shows like Tremors, Highlander, and Providence, until her tragic death from breast cancer in 2014. And then there’s Rick Moranis, who went completely off the radar in the mid-1990s to focus on raising his two kids after his wife passed away. In recent interviews, he has said that he would return to acting if the right role comes along.

18. It's basically a horror movie.

Consider the evidence: It’s got an obsessive scientist, giant bugs, a near-death by lawnmower, and the Freudian nightmare of a father nearly eating his son. The nod to horror films of the past was intentional on the part of Gordon, who sees the movie as an homage to fright-night flicks like Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Incredible Shrinking Man. In recent interviews, he’s quick to lump it in with other horror movies he’s made. “Really, it’s not that different than Re-Animator,” Gordon said. “It’s about a mad scientist and an experiment that goes wrong, and so forth. The potential for severing some heads was there when you have a giant ant coming at you with those big mandibles. Who knows what could happen?”

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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