14 things you (probably) didn't know about Jumanji

  • 14 things you (probably) didn't know about Jumanji

With the new Jumanji sequel starring The Rock, Kevin Hart and Jack Black hitting cinemas on boxing day, we're taking a look at the Robin Williams 1995 original.

Here are some cool facts about the much-loved fantasy adventure film that you might not have known...

1. The film is based on a picture book

All the way back in 1981, American illustrator Chris Van Allsburg released Jumanji - a picture book about a magical board game which brings real jungle dangers into the real world.

The book features children Judy and Peter finding the game and playing it, releasing stampedes, a monsoon and lion, but the adult characters Alan and Sarah don't feature at all.

The book won Van Allsburg a Caldecott Medal - presented for the year's "most distinguished American picture book for children".

Van Allsburg won his second Caldecott Medal in 1985, for The Polar Express.

2. The story was conceived from the author's disappointment with Monopoly

Van Allsburg explained in a 2004 interview that he came up with the idea of Jumanji - which put its players in peril by deadly creatures and forces of nature - because board games like Monopoly weren't very rewarding.

The illustrator explained: “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 that it would be fun and exciting if there were such a thing as a game board where whenever you landed on a square and it said something was going to happen, then it would really happen.”

According to Van Allsburg, the word 'Jumanji' is Zulu for "many affects," which the writer states, alludes to "the exciting consequences of the game" that we see unfold.

3. Jumanji pushed the boundaries for CGI

The film was one of the biggest and earliest adopters of CGI for films, including virtually of the animals that appeared on screen - most of which still hold up to this day.

For a while, there was a rumour that an elephant was killed during the stampede scene, which was completely unfounded as all of the animals in the stampede were completely CGI.

When it came to filming the scene in which the stampede smash through the wall of the library, the studio suggested training a herd of rhinos to stampede through balsa wood.

The crew, however, used a hydraulic ram to fire a 16-tonne steel rhinoceros through the set's wall at 60mph, then replacing the steel rhinoceros with a herd of CGI animals.

4. Robin Williams claimed acting in the film was like being on LSD

Robin Williams struggled with imagining the CGI animals, comparing acting in the effects-heavy film to being on LSD - because you are forced to 'hallucinate' everything that was happening around you as it would look when the CGI had been inserted into the final film.

5. The book's author helped to rewrite the script after initially hating early drafts

Chris Van Allsburg admitted that he was very unhappy with the film's original draft, and helped to contribute to a later draft.

The author explained: The premise of the book is that there's anarchy and chaos and something uncontrollable inside an environment that we associate with control, which is the house,"

"It's this surreal contrast of two things that don't go together: the quiet domesticity of a large and carefully tended house, and the utter chaos that shudders through it."

6. The film had a vast budget at the time

The many CGI effects helped to bolster the film's budget to $65 million.

It more than made up for it at the box office, with a return of over $262 million in worldwide gross, making it the tenth highest-grossing film of 1995.

Of the other nine highest-grossing films of the year, only three films; Batman Forever, Die Hard with a Vengeance and the ill-fated Waterworld had a higher budget.

These days, however, its once-lofty $65m budget has now been matched by films such as Step Brothers, Resident Evil: Retribution and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

7. The cast could have been very different

Tom Hanks was actually the first choice to play Alan Parrish, but the actors also considered included Sean Connery, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Michael Keaton, Bill Murray, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Travolta.

Meanwhile, a young Scarlett Johansson auditioned for the role of Judy Shepherd, and her audition tape has made it to YouTube.

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8. Peter Shepherd's Disney connection

Kirsten Dunst has gone on to have the most notable movie career of the two Shepherd children, with her onscreen brother Bradley Pierce's other most notable role coming before Jumanji's release, back in 1991 when he voiced Chip in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

9. Robin Williams got a bit overzealous with the stuntmen

On a UK chat show, Robin Williams recounted the story of, while filming the crocodile scene, he jumped onto of the crocodile to wrestle the beast.

Williams let himself get carried away, and forgetting there was a stuntman inside the crocodile costume, he landed an elbow on the crocodile, only to hear stuntman Tom Woodruff Jr yell "Hey!" in protest.

Woodruff was also inside the mechanical lion and was probably thankful that Robin Williams didn't have to wrestle that too.

10. The cast spent a fortnight in a water tank

While filming the monsoon scenes, the cast spent two weeks floating in a water tank, and Robin Williams revealed that after spending 12 hours in the water tank for shooting, that his “genitals looked like raisins”.

Meanwhile, with Kisten Dunst and Bradley Pierce were in the tank for so long that Dunst's mother would send sandwiches over to the kids on rafts.

Alan tells everyone to get to higher ground, as in the actual jungle, the rainfall and dense humidity can rot human flesh in no time, so his advice is sound.

11. There is a massive continuity error that is overlooked

Just like every film, Jumanji has its share of continuity errors, including the stampede running together despite being made up of animals that run at different speeds, and the jungle-themed board game releasing a lion, which lives on grassy plains (despite being called the king of the jungle).

But the biggest continuity error, which filmmakers are glad that most people don't pick up on, is that the stampede has made a giant hole in the side of the house when crashing through it, yet the monsoon fills the house with water.

A tenuous excuse is that the vines which grew after the stampede helped to seal the holes in the house.

12. Robin Williams wouldn't let his children watch it

In his two-star review, famed film critic Roger Ebert stated: "Jumanji is being promoted as a jolly holiday season entertainment. The movie itself is likely to send younger children fleeing from the theater, or hiding in their parents' arms. Those who do sit all the way through it are likely to toss and turn with nightmares inspired by its frightening images."

Meanwhile, Robin Williams admitted in an interview that he wouldn't let his kids watch the film.

13. A board game inspired by the film's board game was created

Jumping aboard the film's success, American board game manufacturer Milton Bradley created a board game to match the one in the film.

Disappointingly, players weren't thrown into a dangerous jungle, but elements of the film were incorporated, including a ‘Rhino space’ which allowed a player to set the Rhino piece to block any player, and ‘suspenseful’ and ‘danger' cards.

Meanwhile the real game board, or one of them, that was used in the film was sold in 2014 for $60,800.

14. It already has a sequel... of sorts

While there has been mixed reaction to the news that Jumanji would be receiving a 2017 sequel, most don't realise that the original film had a pseudo-sequel in the form of 2005's Zathura: A Space Adventure.

Starring Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins and Josh Hutcherson, Zathura was marketed as a spiritual sequel to Jumanji and is loosely based on Chris Van Allsburg's follow-up book to Jumanji.

It tells the story of two young brothers who find a magical board game which hurtles their house through space into an intergalactic adventure.

While it received a positive 75% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it was a box office flop, possibly because, despite making no reference to Jumanji, the studios' attempted to heavily tie it in with the Robin Williams film.

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