15 Wild Facts About Animal House

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Toga! Toga! Toga! On the 40th anniversary of its premiere, here are some fun facts about Animal House that’ll bring you right back to your college days.

1. THE MOVIE WAS ORIGINALLY ABOUT CHARLES MANSON.

The first draft of the screenplay by Harold Ramis and Douglas Kenney was entitled Laser Orgy Girls, and was about the cult leader and murderer in high school. The script was immediately rejected.

2. THE FINAL SCRIPT WAS THE RESULT OF A THREE-MONTH BRAINSTORMING SESSION.

During a cram writing session, the writers all contributed stories about their Greek life hijinks: Chris Miller of his time in Alpha Delta Phi at Dartmouth, Ramis in Zeta Beta Tau at Washington University in St. Louis, Kenney in the Spee Club at Harvard, and producer Ivan Reitman in Delta Upsilon at McMaster University.

3. THE FILMMAKERS HAD OTHER ACTORS IN MIND FOR THE LEAD ROLES.

They originally wanted Dan Aykroyd to play D-Day, Brian Doyle-Murray to play Hoover, Bill Murray to play Boon, and Chevy Chase to play Otter.

4. CHRIS MILLER'S REAL FRATERNITY PLEDGE NAME FOUND ITS WAY INTO THE FILM.

His pledge name, like Thomas Hulce’s character's in the movie, was “Pinto.”

5. DOUGLAS KENNEY HAS A BACKGROUND ROLE AS A FRAT BOY.

He plays Stork, the Delta brother everyone thinks is “brain damaged.”

6. YOU CAN THANK DONALD SUTHERLAND FOR THE MOVIE'S CREATION.

Universal Studios only greenlit the movie because Sutherland, who was a recognizable star, signed on to appear as Professor Jennings.

7. IT MADE JOHN BELUSHI A STAR.

Belushi had appeared on SNL for three years, but Animal House was his big screen debut. During the film’s production, he shot the movie Monday through Wednesday and flew back to New York to do SNL Thursday through Saturday.

8. IT WAS KEVIN BACON'S FIRST MOVIE.

Bacon plays Omega pledge Chip Diller.

9. FABER COLLEGE IS ACTUALLY THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON.

It was the only school that would let the production shoot on campus.

10. THE OREGON DEAN ACQUIESCED TO FILMING BECAUSE OF A PREVIOUS MISSED OPPORTUNITY.

Years earlier, he had rejected the offer to have the production of The Graduate shoot on campus. Not wanting to let another go at Hollywood pass him by, he approved the production without reading Animal House’s script. He gave them such carte blanche that his own office was used to film Dean Wormer’s office in the movie.

11. THE STUDIO DIDN'T LIKE JOHN LANDIS'S CHOICE OF COMPOSER.

Landis tapped composer Elmer Bernstein to do the score because Landis was childhood friends with Bernstein’s son. At that point his career, Bernstein was known for scoring epics like The Ten Commandments and serious dramas like To Kill a Mockingbird, so the studio was skeptical he’d be a good fit for a gross-out comedy. They were won over after Landis had Bernstein score the comedy as if it were one of his serious dramas, thus playing up the absurdity of what happens onscreen.

12. LIKE ANY GOOD FRAT, DELTA TAU CHI HAS A LATIN MOTTO.

Delta’s motto is “Ars Gratia Artis,” Latin for “Art for art’s sake.”

13. BELUSHI DIDN'T ACTUALLY CHUG A FIFTH OF JACK DANIELS.

Contrary to rumors, it was iced tea—and not real whiskey—in the bottle that Belushi chugs after Delta is expelled from campus.

14. OTIS DAY CHANGE HIS NAME TO HIS CHARACTER'S IN REAL LIFE.

Actor DeWayne Jessie played Otis Day, the leader of the band at the Dexter Lake Club, and legally changed his name to Otis Day after gaining popularity following the release of the movie. He still tours with the band Otis Day and the Knights to this day.

15. ANIMAL HOUSE SPAWNED A SHORT-LIVED TV SPINOFF IN 1979.

Delta House, which aired on ABC, was cancelled after three months. Ramis, Miller, and Kenney wrote the pilot episode, while the actors who play Dean Wormer, Flounder, D-Day, and Hoover all reprised their roles. The show also featured the television debut of Michelle Pfeiffer, who played “The Bombshell.”

The Reason Why the Genie From Aladdin Is Blue

Disney Enterprises Inc.
Disney Enterprises Inc.

Ever since Disney’s original Aladdin movie debuted in 1992, the Genie has always been blue. The Genie in the Broadway musical wears a royal blue costume, and a trailer for the 2019 live-action remake shows a blue, shirtless Will Smith playing the part of the Genie. While Disney has been known to change things up when it remakes classic movies like Beauty and the Beast or The Jungle Book, the Genie’s hue is one area where they're apparently sticking with what worked the last time around.

As Smithsonian explains, the reason for that is both symbolic and stylistic. Eric Goldberg, who oversaw the Genie’s animation for the original Aladdin, said the movie’s color palette was intentional. Specific colors were used to convey subtle messages about what the characters were like, before viewers had the chance to get to know them.

“The reds and the darks are the bad peoples’ colors,” Goldberg told Smithsonian. “The blues and the turquoises and the aquas are the good peoples’ colors.” If you go back and rewatch the movie, you’ll see that Jafar wears black and red, while Aladdin and Jasmine are dressed in cooler shades of blue, purple, and white.

Production designer Richard Vander Wende, who developed the movie’s color script, said the blue hue has even deeper symbolism attached to it. “Certain blues in Persian miniatures and tiled mosques stand out brilliantly in the context of the sun-bleached desert, their suggestion of water and sky connoting life, freedom, and hope in such a harsh environment," he said.

Disney animators and designers often use color to highlight the traits and attributes of different characters. A color wheel created by Venngage shows the colors various Disney characters are associated with, as well as the traits those colors supposedly stand for. For better or worse, crimson-clad characters like Jafar, Mr. Incredible, and the Queen of Hearts remind us of strength, energy, determination, and passion, according to Venngage’s analysis. Blue, on the other hand, stands for trust, loyalty, and confidence.

So even if people aren’t thrilled with Will Smith’s off-putting hue, it would seem the symbolism runs too deep to do away with it now.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Why Are the Academy Awards Statuettes Called Oscars?

Getty Images
Getty Images

In 2013, the Academy Awards were officially rebranded as simply The Oscars, after the famed statuette that winners receive. "We're rebranding it," Oscar show co-producer Neil Meron told The Wrap at the time. "We're not calling it 'the 85th annual Academy Awards,' which keeps it mired somewhat in a musty way. It's called 'The Oscars.'" But how did the statuette get that nickname in the first place?

The popular theory is that the nickname for the Academy Award of Merit (as the statuette is officially known) was coined by Academy Award librarian and future Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick. The story goes that when Herrick first saw the statue in 1931, she said that it looked like her Uncle Oscar. According to Emanuel Levy, author of All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards, columnist Sidney Skolsky was there when Herrick said this and would later write that, “Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette ‘Oscar.’”

While the first documented use of “Oscar” as the nickname for the statuette was made by Skolsky—in a 1934 New York Daily News article—there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Skolsky was actually responsible for the above quote. Skolsky, in his 1975 memoir Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Love Hollywood, claimed he first used the nickname referencing a classic vaudeville joke line, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?” in an attempt to mock the Academy Awards:

"It was my first Academy Awards night when I gave the gold statuette a name. I wasn’t trying to make it legitimate. The snobbery of that particular Academy Award annoyed me. I wanted to make the gold statuette human. ... It was twelve thirty when I finally arrived at the Western Union office on Wilcox to write and file my story. I had listened to Academy, industry, and acceptance talk since seven thirty ... There I was with my notes, a typewriter, blank paper, and that Chandler feeling.

You know how people can rub you the wrong way. The word was a crowd of people. I’d show them, acting so high and mighty about their prize. I’d give it a name. A name that would erase their phony dignity. I needed the magic name fast. But fast! I remembered the vaudeville shows I’d seen. The comedians having fun with the orchestra leader in the pit would say, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?” The orchestra leader reached for it; the comedians backed away, making a comical remark. The audience laughed at Oscar. I started hitting the keys ...

“THE ACADEMY awards met with the approval of Hollywood, there being practically no dissension … The Academy went out of its way to make the results honest and announced that balloting would continue until 8:00 o’clock of the banquet evening … Then many players arrive late and demanded the right to vote … So voting continued until 10 o’clock or for two hours after the ballot boxes were supposed to be closed … It was King Vidor who said: “This year the election is on the level” … Which caused every one to comment about the other years … Although Katharine Hepburn wasn’t present to receive her Oscar, her constant companion and the gal she resides with in Hollywood, Laura Harding, was there to hear Hepburn get a round of applause for a change…”

During the next year of columns, whenever referring to the Academy Award, I used the word 'Oscar.' In a few years, Oscar was the accepted name. It proved to be the magic name."

"Mouse's Return," a September 11, 1939 article in TIME magazine, seems to back up Skolsky’s above claim, stating:

"This week Sidney Skolsky joined the growing stable of writers that Publisher George Backer is assembling for his New York Post. Hollywood thought Publisher Backer had picked the right horse, for Skolsky is one of the ablest columnists in the business (he originated the term “Oscar” for Academy Awards) and by far the most popular …"

Though Skolsky has actual evidence to back his claim, his assertion that he coined the nickname is still slightly in doubt. Many claim that during Walt Disney’s Academy Award acceptance speech for Three Little Pigs in 1934—the same year Skolsky first covered the Awards—Disney referred to the statuette his little "Oscar," which was supposedly an already well-established nickname for it within the industry. The term Oscar was commonly used as a mocking nickname for the Academy Award (as Skolsky claims he used it), but in this theory, Walt Disney was supposedly the first in the industry to publicly use the name in a positive light.

Perhaps Herrick really did think the statuette resembled her uncle. Or maybe Skolsky really did come up with the moniker (whether he did or not, he certainly helped popularize it). In the end, nobody really knows why the Academy Award statuette is called an Oscar.

The idea for the design of the Academy Award statuette was thought up by MGM director Cedric Gibbons. His idea was to have a knight gripping a sword while standing on a film reel. Sculptor George Stanley was then hired to create the actual statuette based on this design idea. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 in the Blossom Room of Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel. The nickname Oscar wasn’t officially adopted for the statuette by the Academy until 1939.

Incidentally, the Academy states that the five spokes on the film reel the knight is standing on signify the original five branches of the Academy: writers, directors, actors, producers, and technicians.

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This article originally appeared in 2013.

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