Jumanji, the original Robin Williams-led children’s fantasy-adventure, was released over 20 years ago, and with the upcoming release of the Dwayne Johnson-starring reimagining, it’s important to remember everything that made the original so great. There are many surprising pieces of trivia from the film, and many fun anecdotes and realizations that came out of the production of the pmovie.
It’s hard to believe that some of these entries are factual, but all of them actually occurred. Some of these stories are from the producers, some are from news outlets, and some are even from Robin Williams himself. There were so many interesting tidbits from the movie that could have made this list, but it was necessary to narrow it down to the top 15. A list like this just makes you think about how many thousands of amazing stories there must be in the magical world of Hollywood cinema.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Jumanji.
15. Alan Parrish’s Life Reminded Robin Williams Of His Childhood
Robin Williams is one of the most gifted comedic talents to ever grace the silver screen. He was able to bring happiness and joy to all of his viewers, and he was never short on a variety of impressions and a natural wit. Of course, life is not always perfect, and Robin Williams grew up as an only child whose parents were constantly working, and he was constantly moving from place to place.
Robin was able to identify with Alan Parrish in this regard, and in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Williams also gave his summation of the purpose of the film itself: “It’s the fear that all children have of abandonment and separation from their parents. That’s where my character comes in. I play a boy who has been swallowed up into the game. By the time he is able to come out, 26 years later, his parents are dead, and he feels lost and alone.”
14. Jumanji Was Created Out Of Frustration With Monopoly
Author Van Allsburg was the creator of the original 1981 Jumanji picture book, and it turns out he created the novel out of pure resentment towards the popular board game Monopoly. Apparently Mr. Allsburg wasn’t too fond of spending eight days locked in a room wasting away at a game that in the end teaches you that money is power. He also wasn’t too fond of the idea of a game that had no real stakes, but that players would invest entire days at a time into.
In an interview with Scholastic, he elaborated on his mental processes when crafting the novel. “When I was a little boy and I would play games like Monopoly, they seemed kind of exciting, but when I was done with the game, all I had was fake money. So I thought it would be fun and exciting if there were such a thing as a game board where wherever you landed on a square and it said something was going to happen, then it would really happen.”
13. Jumanji Is A Zulu Word Meaning “Many Effects”
Unsurprisingly, Jumanji is roughly translated to “many effects” in Zulu, which directly correlates to the insane outcomes that happen when the game is played. The game is full of surprising consequences that the gamers must endure, and the title fits this perfectly. Author Chris Van Allsburg wanted something that sounded both exciting and foreign; Jumanji is a title that inspires great wonder and curiosity, so he really hit the nail on the head.
There are actually 110 spaces on a Jumanji board game, and so the possibilities of facing danger head on are pretty insurmountable. A stampede of elephants, a run in with the king of the jungle, a wrestling match with a crocodile, and a calvalcade of CGI Monkeys; there are indeed “many effects” caused by picking up this inventive game ahead of Scrabble. As an interesting side note, the tag line for the game was, “Jumanji. A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind”.
12. The “Parrish Shoes” Sign Can Still Be Found In New Hampshire
In the film, the setting for Alan’s fathers shoe factory was a real building in Keene, New Hampshire. On a brick wall on the side of the building, the film team painted a sign for the Parrish Shoes factory, and it can still be seen there today. So if you’re ever in Keene, New Hampshire and you just so happen to be a huge Jumanji fan, you’ve got to check out this fictional shoe factory.
An optimist might be inclined to believe that the sign remains there today, just in case Alan manages to wander back in search of his father. It’s interesting how film can have such a tangible impact on the real world, and this is just one of those great examples of a wonderful film standing the test of time. Hopefully one day a true cinema buff will create a tour of all the real life movie locations in the world.
11. The Original Jumanji Game Board Sold On eBay For Over $60,000
If you can’t believe that a single piece of movie memorabilia was sold on the internet for north of $60,000, and that memorabilia wasn’t Star Wars related, then this interesting bit of information might just surprise you. The original game board used for the film was sold at auction on eBay for $60,800. This is an absurd amount of money that probably could have been spent on other more fruitful ventures, but whomever the wealthy collector is who forked over that amount of cash for a board game must be truly happy with this insane purchase.
The film was a pop cultural boom, though, as it grossed $262,797,249 worldwide, so it makes sense that there would be some die-hard fanatics in the world that would love to own a glorified piece of movie history. There were a total of 193 bids on the board game, but some lucky fan got the gift of a lifetime.
10. Milton Bradley Created A Jumanji Board Game
Board game manufacturer Milton Bradley was quick to jump on the success of Jumanji and create a board game that operated similarly to the one used in the film. Generally speaking, it is more common for movies to created based on films, but this was the first occurrence of a board game being created from a film.
It took all the plot points from the film and threw its gamers head first into the adventure. Of course, you and your living room were kept safe from all the more treacherous adversaries in the film. The board game completely mimicked all of the rules of the game used in the film as well, as players were prompted to roll dice to move, and to apply strategy in order to make it out alive. Also of note: no players were sucked into the game for twenty-six years, and forced to fight lions.
9. Zathura Was Barely A Sequel
Many of you might be aware that a film adaptation of the pseudo-sequel to the original novel was created in 2005, and starred Josh Hutcherson and Kristen Stewart. What you might not be aware of is that Zathura was completely and utterly forced into the same universe as Jumanji to sell both books and movie tickets.
At the end of Jumanji, a pair of children manage to find the game and it’s assumed they begin playing it. These children are named Danny and Walter, which are the same names as the main characters in Zathura. However in the Zathura book, the children find a secondary board game, Zathura: A Space Adventure, and play that instead. Though the book acts as a direct sequel to Jumanji, but it doesn’t reference the events of the earlier book at all.
Not to mention, the game is a sci-fi adventure, whereas Jumanji is a safari-based game. It’s all types of confusing, but the real take away is that Jumanji rules and Zathura drools.
Zathura also made it on our list of Movie Sequels That Inexplicably Went To Space.
8. The Actor Who Plays Peter Also Voiced Chip In Beauty And The Beast
If you just so happen to be a sucker for animated Disney classics, you might have stumbled upon this realization on your own. Actor Bradley Pierce, who played Peter in Jumanji, was the original voice of the teacup, Chip, in Beauty and the Beast. He also just so happens to voice numerous other characters from television and video games. He was the voice of Tails in Sonic The Hedgehog, and also voiced Flounder in The Little Mermaid series in 1993.
Pierce is still working today, in fact, and some of his other more notable performances include voicing characters from The LEGO Movie Video Game, Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+, and Kingdom Hearts II. It’s impressive that such a young and talented actor was able to lend his voice to so many great and beloved properties. Voice acting is an incredibly difficult and impressive facet of acting work, and for Bradley Pierce to be able to do both so well is rather amazing.
7. The Author Of The Jumanji Picture Book Also Wrote “The Polar Express”
Chris Van Allsburg has had a long and impressive career as an illustrator and writer of children’s books. And Jumanji wasn’t his only great commercial success, as he also wrote the famous The Polar Express. World-building to the scale of both of these children’s books requires a specific and insanely rare talent for narrative fiction, and it’s apparent that Mr. Allsburg had that in spades. It’s interesting that both of these books involve a child who is taken from their home for an extended period of time, and is forced to face great peril and trials along the way.
The Polar Express was written four years after Jumanji, in 1985. The Polar Express was also adapted into an animated film in 2004, and featured the voice talents of Tom Hanks, Josh Hutcherson, and even Steven Tyler. It was also the very first all-digital capture film ever made, and it is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records for that very accomplishment.
6. The Finale Of The Film Was Shot First
The filmmaking team actually shot the ending of the film, when the children are seen at the Christmas party by Alan and Sarah, at the beginning of production, so as to avoid using more than one mansion set. The mansion was completely destroyed during the making of the film, as walls were torn down by giant wrecking crews to mimic the stampede scenes in the film.
The final Christmas scene was so crucial to the filmmakers that the production team even had to shovel fresh snow in from the mountains of Vancouver for a shot of the mansion at night. It’s apparent that the team went to great lengths to ensure that everything was perfect for the final product. This definitely seemed like the right move to make, though, as it would have been rather awkward to hold a Christmas party in a dilapidated house in a different timeline altogether.
5. Robin Williams Was Not The First Choice To Plan Alan
Although Robin Williams turned out to be the perfect casting for Alan Parrish in the final version of the film, he was not the first choice for the role. There were countless talented individuals that were being considered for the role as the time, but it turns out Tom Hanks was the first choice to play Alan. Some other notable contenders include Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Douglass, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Michael Keaton, Bill Murray, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s crazy to think that a version of Jumanji could have existed with Bond, The Terminator, or Han Solo as the lost and alone Alan Parrish.
It’s a good thing Williams ended up getting the role, though, as numerous stories point out that his comedic timing and craving for improvisation kept the cast and crew entertained for hours on end. Not to mention it turned out to be one of his most recognizable roles, and more Robin Williams is never a bad thing.
4. Robin Williams Compared Acting Against A Green Screen To Being On LSD
Acting is a very difficult and demanding profession, and in today’s cinematic climate, it has become even harder to actualize a character when most of the special effects are done in post-production. Often actors are staring at a tennis ball and imagining Superman is flying by, or they’re face to face with a man in a giant green suit pretending that he’s some kind of extraterrestrial organism.
Jumanji was one of the early adopters of heavy CGI use and, apart from those CGI monkeys, most of the leaps and bounds accomplished by the special effects team were groundbreaking and still hold up. Robin Williams compared acting against a green screen to being on the drug LSD, because you were forced to hallucinate everything that was going to be happening around you in the finished version of the film. This also just so happens to imply that Robin Williams had taken LSD at some point, and one could only hope that he saw himself going on an adventure with his Genie from Aladdin.
3. Scarlett Johansson Auditioned For The Role Of Judy Shepherd
Kirsten Dunst is an incredibly well-known and talented actress, and her performance in Jumanji was the first sign of the impressive trajectory her career would ultimately take. However, there was another actress who auditioned for the role and has also managed to build an immaculate acting resume over the years. Scarlett Johansson, of The Avengers and Lost in Translation fame, also auditioned for the lead role of Judy Shepherd, but the individuals in charge of casting ended up going with young Ms. Dunst instead.
Johansson’s audition tape was actually released online years ago. As you can see, she was also incredibly talented at such a young age, and probably would have been a great fit for the role of Judy. Maybe if she did end up landing the gig, she could have been Mary Jane in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, and Kirsten Dunst would have been the butt-kicking Black Widow.
2. Robin Williams Got A Little Carried Away While Wrestling A Man In A Crocodile Suit
This particular piece of trivia is possibly the most hilarious of them all, as Robin Williams got a little too enthusiastic while wrestling a grown man dressed up like a crocodile for the movie. In an interview with Clive Anderson, Williams told a story about how he thumped the crocodile a little too hard with his elbow, forgetting that there was actually a man inside of the suit. It’s great when an actor loses themselves in their roles, but maybe elbowing a man in a crocodile suit is taking it a little too far.
Robin Williams also stated that he heard a distinct “Hey!” come from the inside of the suit, which both shocked and reminded him of the fact that he wasn’t actually wrestling a crocodile on set. It would be great if we could get this story from the point of view of the man inside the suit, as it must have been a pleasure to be jabbed out of nowhere by the great Robin Williams.
1. Alan Parrish’s Father and Van Pelt Were Portrayed By The Same Actor
One of the most intriguing bits of trivia from the film was the fact that actor Jonathan Hyde portrayed both Alan’s father and the hunter that would eventually be stalking Alan as prey. Of course, the internet has a possible explanation for this casting decision, and it actually makes Jumanji even more interesting.
Fans of the film claim that Van Pelt was actually just a hallucination by Alan, created by the various chemicals that he was exposed to while trapped in the world of Jumanji. This would mean that Alan sees his father as a strong man, and that Van Pelt was actually just the man that Alan hoped he could become while in the world of Jumanji. It’s a terribly heartbreaking realization, but it adds a lot of emotional weight to the lengthy chase, and it also makes sense that, after 26 years stuck in a dangerous jungle world, that maybe Alan would lose just a little bit of his mind along the way.
So did any of these bits of Jumanji trivia catch you off guard? And are you excited about the new upcoming movies, or do you think they should just leave the classic alone? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below.