20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Jumanji
The sadly missed Robin Williams was one of the most popular actors of his generation. His small screen success in sitcom Mork & Mindy led to Williams landing a succession of major movies – and in the 90s, one of the biggest of these was Jumanji.
Directed by Joe Johnston, the family-oriented comedy adventure sported stunning state of the art special effects, and left audiences all over the world imagining what they would do if they found themselves playing a board game which magically came to life. More than 25 years on, Jumanji remains a beloved favourite for all ages, and it’s even spawned two hugely successful sequels starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
Did you know the following fascinating facts about the original 1995 film that started it all?
20. Williams didn’t have to act startled when he was being ‘shot’ at by Van Pelt
There are lots of effects and stunts on display in Jumanji, which only adds to the jungle-based drama.
Not everything in the movie was the result of clever camera work and advanced acting skills, though.
In the scene where his character is being shot at by Van Pelt, Robin Williams’s reaction was actually genuine.
This was because the fake gunshots on-set were extremely loud and kept making him jump.
Luckily, Williams managed to pull himself together and regulate his heartbeat for the rest of the film.
In Williams’ storied career, this was probably as close to the action as he ever got – besides, perhaps, Good Morning, Vietnam.
19. Robin Williams wrestled too hard with the actor inside the crocodile suit
During an appearance on British TV chat show Clive Anderson All Talk, Williams revealed an insight into behind the scenes of Jumanji.
He recalled the scene where his character is wrestling a crocodile, which we’re sure is no easy feat.
According to Williams, he fully immersed himself in the action; perhaps a little too much.
During one take, Williams got carried away and ended up thumping the crocodile with his elbow.
What the actor had forgotten was that inside the crocodile suit was an actual human being.
Williams only remembered this when he heard a cry of ‘hey!’ from inside the crocodile.
We can’t really blame Williams for reacting this way; even if it’s just a suit, that’s one monstrous-looking crocodile!
18. The prop Jumanji game boards used in the film now sell for thousands of dollars
Over the years since its release, the Jumanji game boards used in the movie have become real collector’s items.
In fact, one board used in the film sold in 2014 for a massive $60,800.
There were a total of 93 bids on the game, with the lucky winner remaining unidentified.
$60,800 is an incredible amount of money to spend on a mere board game, but for die-hard Jumanji fans, it probably felt like the bargain of the century.
The purchase pales in comparison when you consider the prices fetched by some other pieces of movie memorabilia.
For instance, take Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch, which sold for a whopping $4.8 million in 2016.
17. Williams was given the keys to the town where the film was shot
Robin Williams proved to be very popular with the residents of Keene, where Jumanji was shot.
Locals in the New Hampshire city welcomed the Hollywood star into the community with open arms.
- Credit: Expedia.com
After filming, the star was actually presented with the keys to the city by the town’s mayor in 1994.
When Williams died in 2014, the town’s residents were heartbroken and paid tribute to the late star.
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The people of Keene crafted a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers under the Parrish Shoes sign.
Residents even organised a public screening of the film, and joined together to mourn the loss of the legendary comedian.
16. The director was worried that Robin Williams wouldn’t stick to the script
When looking for the star of Jumanji, director Joe Johnston was dubious about casting Robin Williams.
This was due to his reputation for improvising during scenes and Johnston didn’t want anything – or anyone – taking from the film.
Luckily, Williams understood the importance of staying true to the script, although he was still keen to add his own spin on the lines.
Improvisation wasn’t completely forbidden by the director, however, and Williams was allowed his chance to shine.
Johnston would often shoot duplicates of scenes, sticking to the script during one take and allowing Williams to improvise during others.
Reportedly, Williams tended to ad-lib most heavily in his scenes alongside Sarah actress Bonnie Hunt.
15. Scarlett Johansson auditioned to play Kirsten Dunst’s role
Kirsten Dunst was perfectly cast as Judy in Jumanji, but the character could have been played entirely differently.
Another contender for the part was Scarlett Johansson, who auditioned for the role but ultimately lost out to Dunst.
Johansson’s audition tape for Jumanji was later leaked online, and displays what was already a remarkable talent.
Johansson was just 11 at the time she was in contention for the role of Judy, whilst Dunst was 13.
Perhaps Dunst’s advanced age and experience (she had already starred in Interview with the Vampire) won over the filmmakers and landed her the role.
- Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Johansson didn’t have to wait long to find success, however, as she gradually rose to fame with roles in Home Alone 3, The Horse Whisperer and The Man Who Wasn’t There.
Eventually, both Kirsten Dunst and Scarlett Johansson would enjoy their highest-profile roles in Marvel movies: Dunst as Mary Jane in the Spider-Man movies, Johansson as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
14. Bradley Pierce’s monkey makeup took three hours to apply each day
During the film, Peter, played by Bradley Pierce, starts to undergo a transformation into a half-monkey, half-human boy.
To achieve this effect, Pierce had to spend three hours per day in the make-up chair for more than 70 days.
Pierce was only supposed to appear monkey-like for 40 days of filming, but the makeup took so long to apply that his scenes ended up being delayed.
According to the actor, he couldn’t eat with the makeup on, meaning he had to suck protein shakes through a straw instead.
To save the young star from boredom, the crew set up a TV in his make-up room.
Appropriately, Pierce is said to have watched Planet of the Apes whilst his makeup was being applied.
13. The film is dedicated to the Visual Effects Supervisor, who died before release
When it was released, Jumanji was dedicated to Stephen L Price, in honour of his memory.
Price was the Visual Effects Supervisor on the film and sadly passed away the year the film was released.
During filming, Price had been battling prostate cancer, which ultimately took his life at the age of just 35.
The supervisor worked for one of the leading industry specialists, Industrial Light and Magic.
Prior to Jumanji, Price had worked on the special effects for several major big budget blockbusters.
12. Williams found it a surreal experience having to imagine creatures that weren’t really there
With its story of two very different worlds mystically colliding, Jumanji was a film that entailed the use of heavy special effects.
While a lot of this was achieved practically through make-up, props and puppets, a lot more of it was completed during post-production.
The production was one of the earliest adopters of heavy CGI use, meaning that the cast had little to no previous experience with the tool.
In order for the scenes to play out as realistically as possible, the actors had to ‘hallucinate’ the CGI creations, pretending as though they were really there.
They would have to react accordingly to the actions of these imaginary beings, acting against a green screen.
Williams likened the experience to trying to act whilst under the influence of mind-altering substances.
As the use of CGI and green screens is considerably more commonplace in filmmaking today, it’s not quite so weird for modern actors.
11. Williams told fans Jumanji was an island in the Caribbean as a prank
In true Robin Williams style, the actor would often prank his fans by inventing meanings for the word Jumanji.
According to the star, he once told someone that it was ‘an island on the Caribbean’, adding that they should ‘get their tickets early’.
However, the real meaning of the word has actually been revealed by the author of the original Jumanji book.
According to Jumanji author Chris Van Allsburg, Jumanji is a Zulu word meaning ‘many effects’.
This points to the exciting outcomes of the various decisions within the game.
It’s also appropriate considering how many special effects shots are used in the movie itself.
10. Robin Williams could relate to Alan Parrish’s lonely childhood
Williams had an innate ability to make others laugh, perhaps stemming from a lonely, somewhat isolated childhood.
The child of two working parents, young Williams was often left to his own devices as a kid.
His primary caretaker was the family’s maid, with whom he spent the majority of his time.
This experience allowed him to relate to the character of Alan Parrish, and fully inhabit the part.
Alan’s experience encapsulates the biggest fear most young children have: of losing their parents.
By the time he is released from the game, his parents are dead, and his worst fear has been realised.
9. Williams saw similarities between Parrish’s father and his own
When asked in an interview whether Williams’ own father was similar to Parrish’s, Williams revealed that there was a comparison between the pair.
When talking about his father, Williams described him as ‘a bit stern and kind of elegant’.
Williams also likened the relationship between Alan and his father and his own father and grandfather.
The actor and comedian recalled, “The wonderful thing about [my dad] is he would never force me to do anything.”
Williams explained, ‘something had happened early in his life where he didn’t want that to happen to me. He had to give up a dream.’
‘When I found something I loved, [my dad] saw that … That’s what makes it nice, when you can connect on that level.’
8. The author’s dislike of Monopoly inspired Jumanji
Chris Van Allsburg wrote the original Jumanji picture book in 1981, and has since revealed the inspiration behind the concept.
It turns out he created Jumanji due to his frustration with the board game Monopoly.
- Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos via Wikimedia
We’ve no doubt most readers can relate: the time-honoured family favourite can be a most frustrating game.
According to the author, he was tired of spending eight hours at a time locked away playing the game, only to discover its true meaning was that money equals power.
He also disliked the fact that the game had no real stakes, despite players investing hours into playing it.
‘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’, Van Allsburg explained.
7. The ‘Parrish Shoes’ sign can still be found in New Hampshire
The setting for Alan’s father’s shoe factory was actually a real location in the town of North Berwick, New Hampshire.
In reality, the ‘shoe factory’ was formerly a woollen mill, which now gets a lot of tourism from Jumanji fans.
- Credit: Ron Schott on Flickr/Creative Commons
Fans of the movie are also regular visitors to the city of Keene, just over 100 miles from North Berwick.
Keene was used as the main location on Jumanji, and the city proudly celebrates its role in the beloved film.
- Credit: The Keene Sentinel
There’s a Parrish Shoes sign painted on a wall in Keene, which has become something of a tourist attraction.
The locals are immensely proud of the sign, using it as a base for their tributes to Williams after his death.
6. Peter actor Bradley Pierce was also the voice of Flounder in The Little Mermaid
Bradley Pierce was just 13 at the time of filming Jumanji, and despite his young age, had racked up a wealth of experience.
After the success of Jumanji, the actor went on to enjoy a successful career in the film industry.
- Credit: Robin Beck/AFP via Getty Images
If you’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, you’ll probably be familiar with the adorable tea cup, Chip.
What you might not have known is that Chip is actually voiced by Pierce – as is The Little Mermaid’s Flounder.
Pierce doesn’t act much these days, having done most of his performing work in his childhood.
However, he can still be seen in the occasional film and heard in the odd video game, and he does a lot of behind the scenes work.
5. The author of Jumanji also wrote The Polar Express
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Jumanji wasn’t the only book that garnered success for author Chris Van Allsburg.
Van Allsburg also wrote the popular children’s novel The Polar Express, which was written just four years after Jumanji.
The book was later made into a film by director Robert Zemeckis in 2004, and starred a plethora of well-known actors, including Tom Hanks.
This was the first all-digital capture film ever made, and is even recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as such.
Another Chris Van Allsburg book which was adapted to the big screen was Zathura, a semi-sequel to Jumanji.
This 2002 book was the basis for the 2005 film starring Josh Hutcherson and Kristen Stewart, directed by Jon Favreau.
4. The film’s final scene was shot first
The finale of Jumanji, where Alan and Sarah see the children at the Christmas party, is one of the most memorable moments in the film.
Although this scene appears at the end of the film, however, it was actually shot at the beginning of filming.
This was to avoid using more than one mansion set, seeing as the mansion was completely destroyed during filming.
The walls were actually torn down by the crew in order to mimic the stampeding animal scenes.
Filming in the dilapidated mansion would not have been quite so fun for the cast and crew.
Rebuilding the set all over again would have been costly and time consuming, hence they saved the destruction for later in the shoot.
3. The crew had to shovel in snow from nearby mountains for the Christmas scene
On top of the ending being shot first, Jumanji’s conclusion also needed a classically wintery look in a not-so wintery climate.
Jumanji’s final Christmas scene was shot on location in Vancouver, BC, not far from Seattle.
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Unfortunately for the crew, Vancouver isn’t particularly known for its snowy winters, instead having rather rainy conditions.
This presented problems for the crew, who desperately sought the snowy scenery needed for the final scenes.
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In the end, they resorted to shovelling snow from the mountains in order to achieve the desired effects.
We must say, they did a pretty good job, creating the snowy scenes of a fairytale.
2. There are various fan theories about Alan’s father and Van Pelt being played by the same actor
Actor Jonathan Hyde plays both Alan’s father and the hunter who ends up stalking Alan as prey.
It was decided Hyde should play both roles, as Mr Parrish and Van Pelt are both the most oppressive authority figures in Alan’s life.
However, there are other theories circling the internet, some of which seem to be legitimate suggestions.
One of these is the rather bizarre speculation that Van Pelt wasn’t actually real, and rather a figment of Alan’s imagination.
This theory gains some traction when you consider that Alan had been stuck in a dangerous jungle world for 26 years, so it’s unlikely he would be of sound mind after this experience.
However, the fact that other people encounter Van Pelt in the real world would discredit this.
1. There’s a real Jumanji board game
If you’re anything like us, watching Jumanji probably gave you some serious board game envy.
But fear not, for now you can bag yourself your very own Jumanji board game to play at home.
Board game manufacturer Milton Bradley was quick to the mark in making a replica of the iconic board game (albeit a slightly less magical version).
The game completely mimics the rules of the game in the film, instructing players to roll a dice to move and apply strategy in order to make it out alive.
Originally released in 1995 to tie in with the film, MB have since re-released the game thanks to the renewed interest following the recent sequels Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: the Next Level.
Luckily, as of yet, there have been no reports of any players having been sucked into the game and forced to exist there for 26 years.