Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the 1989 kids’ classic starring Ghostbusters’ Rick Moranis, is one of those magical films we grew up with that has a bit of everything: comedy, action, suspense and – for the time, at least – state-of-the-art special effects. The film follows the story of a hapless inventor whose new miniaturization ray accidentally shrinks his own children, along with the kids from next door.
Here are some fascinating facts about this long-standing family favourite…
20. It took a whole team of crew members to operate Anty
Aside from Rick Moranis as the eccentric inventor/suburbanite dad and the children who are accidentally shrunk, there’s one character who is particularly well-loved in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
This character is Anty, the garden ant who becomes an unlikely ally to the kids as they struggle to make their way back home.
As the film was made in 1989, computer-generated imagery was not yet in common use for bringing such fantastic creatures to life.
As such, Anty was for the most part realised via old-fashioned practical FX work as a large, complex puppet.
Depending on how complicated the sequence was, Anty generally required between seven and ten operators working simultaneously.
Not that Anty was created entirely live on set, as there are also some sequences in which another old-school approach was utilised: stop-motion animation.
19. It was the brainchild of the men behind Re-Animator
It may come as a bit of a surprise that the people who came up with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids were not always known for making family-friendly films.
The idea was devised by the late Stuart Gordon, a prolific horror director best remembered for 1985’s grisly H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator.
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gordon – who decided he wanted to make a child-friendly movie after becoming a father – worked on the story with his long time producer Brian Yuzna (himself a prominent horror director, with credits including Society).
Gordon and Yuzna (below) successfully sold their concept to Disney, who then brought on board screenwriter Ed Naha to help iron out the full script.
- Credit: Lonewolf via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons
Later, writer Tom Schulman was hired to make further revisions, hence Gordon and Yuzna were ultimately credited just for the story, instead of getting full screenwriting credits.
Initially, Stuart Gordon was also going to direct the film, but had to pull out late in the day due to a sudden illness.
18. Chevy Chase was the first choice to play Wayne Szalinski
However, at the time the Canadian funnyman wasn’t necessarily that well established as a Hollywood leading man.
Subsequently, Moranis wasn’t even close to the top of the casting wish list for the lead in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The role of inventor Wayne Szalinski was first offered to Chevy Chase, who had to decline as he was busy shooting National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Bill Murray and Martin Short are believed to have been among the other contenders for the role when Chase said no.
However, it ultimately wound up going to Rick Moranis – and for this, Moranis can thank another of the notable Hollywood funnymen who was offered the part before him.
17. John Candy was the one who got Rick Moranis the job
Before the producers of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids went to Rick Moranis, they offered the part of Wayne Szalinski to John Candy.
It was most likely because of his prior commitment to Uncle Buck that Candy had to pass on the lead role in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
However, it was Candy himself who recommended that the filmmakers consider Rick Moranis for the lead role instead.
Candy was good friends with Moranis, and had worked alongside the actor in TV comedy series SCTV, as well as the movies Little Shop of Horrors and Spaceballs.
The rest is history – Moranis accepted the part of Wayne Szalinksi, and it became his signature role.
16. The film was the directorial debut of Star Wars and Indiana Jones FX maestro Joe Johnston
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
When Stuart Gordon was forced to vacate the director’s chair after falling ill, the race was on to find someone to direct Honey, I Shrunk the Kids at very short notice.
The director who landed the job was Joe Johnston, an experienced visual effects artist who had never called the shots on a feature film before.
Hand in hand with this, the fact that he’d worked closely with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg no doubt helped convince the producers that Johnston could nail the tone they were going for.
Later, Johnston would also call the shots on Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman, and – perhaps most significantly – Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
15. You’ll be surprised what they used to create the giant bowl of Cheerios
Mild spoilers now if you haven’t seen Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: the film’s memorable climax sees Robert Oliveri’s Nick Szalinski swimming in what is to him a gargantuan bowl of Cheerios and milk.
You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that the Oliveri wasn’t actually swimming in cow’s milk, surrounded by actual giant Cheerios.
In reality, the ‘milk’ in the giant bowl was actually chlorinated water, food thickener and pigment.
You may have pondered how the oversized Cheerio which Nick clings to resembles the floats we all played with as kids in the pool.
This is in fact pretty close to the truth, as the cereal pieces were in fact tractor inner tubes that had been coated in foam.
It certainly got the job done for the scene, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near as appetising as a real swimming pool-sized bowl of breakfast cereal!
14. Marcia Strassman’s hair changes colour in the middle of the film at Disney’s request
Marcia Strassman co-stars in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as Diane Szalinski, wife of Moranis’ mad scientist and mother to two of the missing kids.
The shrinking of the children is obviously the most dramatic transformation in the movie – but look closely and you may spot another, less obvious change.
During the course of the movie, Strassman’s hair colour changes from the actress’ natural reddish-brown to blonde.
This change was made at the behest of Disney executives, who decided after the first two weeks of shooting that blonde hair would look better on the actress.
Though concerned audiences would notice, Strassman complied. Apparently no one spotted the change, and the actress would go blonde again for the entirety of sequel Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.
Sadly, Marcia Strassman passed away in 2014 aged just 66, after a battle with breast cancer.
13. Matt Frewer was only 14 years older than the actor playing his son
Along with Amy O’Neill’s Amy Szalinski and Robert Oliveri’s Nick Szalinski, two of the neighbours’ kids are also accidentally shrunk: Thomas Wilson Brown’s Russell ‘Russ’ Thompson, Jr., and Jared Rushton as Ronald ‘Ron’ Thompson.
The parents of the Thompson boys, meanwhile, are played by Matt Frewer and Kristine Sutherland.
However, when the film went before cameras in 1988, Russ Thompson Sr actor Frewer was in fact only 30-years-old.
This, of course, made Frewer a little young to be playing the father of two teenage boys.
In reality, Frewer is only 14 years the senior of Thomas Wilson Brown, who plays the elder of his sons.
Bonus trivia regarding the Thompson parents: Frewer is best known for portraying 80s icon Max Headroom, whilst Kristine Sutherland went on to play another central mom role on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
12. Pixar legend Andrew Stanton worked on the animated title sequence
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is one of those movies that sets the scene in a delightful way with an animated opening credits sequence.
While this was created via traditional 2D animation, the sequence employed some very advanced techniques for the time.
The sequence also features the work of one figure who would go on to have a big impact in the field: Andrew Stanton.
Stanton got his second gig as an animator on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, although he didn’t receive official credit.
- Credit: E. Perdu/CITIA
Stanton then joined pioneering computer animation house Pixar in 1990, and he has enjoyed a long and successful career with them since.
Stanton’s directing credits include Pixar hits A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E and Finding Dory, plus live action movie John Carter.
11. The film was successful partly because people who couldn’t get Batman tickets went to see it instead
Opening at the height of the summer 1989 season, Disney were bold in their chosen release date for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The studio put the film in US theatres on 23rd June 1989 – the very same day that Warner Bros released Batman.
Director Tim Burton’s DC Comics adaptation was a massive blockbuster, and the biggest domestic hit of the year with US takings of over $251 million.
Opening right alongside such a surefire commercial juggernaut might seem like it should have been commercial suicide for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
However, this was not the case at all – and it has been remarked that opening back-to-back with Batman may have actually helped the film’s box office performance.
Because Batman was selling out screens left and right, many people who couldn’t get tickets opted to see Honey, I Shrunk the Kids instead.
10. It was the first Disney movie to be preceded by a short in 25 years
As Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was squarely aimed at the family audience, Disney used the film to relaunch an old studio tradition: playing an animated short before the feature.
This had been a staple of the studio in its heyday, but by 1989 they hadn’t done it for almost a quarter of a century.
This changed as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was preceded by Tummy Trouble, an original seven-minute cartoon starring Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman and Jessica Rabbit.
These new characters had been introduced in Disney’s groundbreaking 1988 blockbuster Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Roger, Herman and Jessica returned in two more theatrically-screened shorts: Roller Coaster Rabbit, which screened before 1990’s Dick Tracy; and Trail Mix-Up, which screened before 1993’s A Far Off Place.
In recent years, original shorts before the feature have again become a regular fixture before Disney and Pixar animated movies.
9. The original script featured a fifth kid – who was going to be killed off
Given Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna’s horror background, it might not be too surprising that executives at Disney were a bit nervous about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The last thing the studio wanted was a film that was going to terrify its audience – and, in the original script, some scenes may have done just that.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sees four youngsters – the two children of Moranis’ inventor Szalinksy, and the two kids from next door – accidentally reduced to a quarter of an inch in height.
However, the original script also featured a fifth child. This version of the film would have taken a much darker turn – as this fifth child was going to die in the sprinkler scene.
This plot point was considered a bit too much for a kids’ movie, however, and as a result the doomed kid was written out of the film completely.
Stuart Gordon once recalled, “Disney was worried that I was going to kill all the kids… And I kept saying, ‘No, I’m not going to kill them. But I want the audience to think they might die.'”
8. The neighbourhood scenes were all shot on a studio set
Any time you see a movie set in what’s meant to be an ordinary suburb, you’re left wondering whether or not they shot it in a bona fide neighbourhood.
However, in the case of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, this was categorically not the case.
All the exterior scenes to feature the Szalinsky home and its surrounding houses were shot entirely on a studio set.
This set was constructed on the backlot at Churubusco Studios, which is based in Mexico City.
While the crew went to pains to make it look like an authentic all-American suburb, if you look closely you may notice beams in a back wall which have been painted blue in order to pass as the sky.
Other films of the era to be shot at Churubusco Studios include Free Willy and Total Recall.
7. The film’s original title was The Teeny Weenies
Today, it’s hard to imagine the film under any title other than Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
However, it actually took quite a while for the filmmakers to settle on this as a title.
When Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna sold the film to Disney, their working title was The Teeny Weenies.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were concerns this title was just a bit too childish and silly, and would put off older viewers.
Producers briefly changed the title to Grounded, but as that didn’t seem quite appropriate they then considered The Big Backyard.
Finally, it was decided that the best title was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, itself based on a line of dialogue spoken by Moranis in the film.
6. The title won the film an (insulting) award
While the title Honey, I Shrunk the Kids may have helped draw an audience, it also saw the film attract some unwanted criticism.
The title saw the film ‘awarded’ the Dunce Cap Award from The Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL).
This, as you may have guessed, was down to the glaring grammatical error in the film’s title.
In case you haven’t spotted it, the problem lies in the title’s use of the word ‘shrunk.’
As it is in the past tense, the correct wording would be Honey, I Shrank the Kids.
However, Disney defended their grammatically incorrect title, telling The LA Times, “it was done deliberately.”
5. It was the highest-grossing live-action Disney movie ever
As it came from a first-time director and was conceived by relatively small-time horror filmmakers, Disney hadn’t necessarily expected a huge hit from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
However, the film about tiny children made a very big splash indeed on release in June 1989.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids wound up making $222 million at the worldwide box office: a pretty hefty sum at the time.
This made it the seventh-highest grossing film of 1989 – out-earning Disney’s other major film of that year, The Little Mermaid, by over $38 million.
Even more significantly, this was the highest sum ever grossed by a live-action Disney movie up to that point.
As such, it can be said that Honey, I Shrunk the Kids helped pave the way for Disney as we know them today: producers of such live-action mega-franchises as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.
4. It launched a franchise
When a movie makes big bucks at the box office, there’s usually one word on everyone’s lips right away: sequel.
No surprises, then, that the commercial (not to mention critical) success of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids resulted in further adventures for Wayne Szalinski and family.
1992 saw the release of Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, which brought back Moranis, Marcia Strassman, Amy O’Neill and Robert Oliveri, and introduced Daniel and Joshua Shalikar as Adam, the new, third Szalinski child.
In a reversal of the first movie’s gimmick, the sequel saw the littlest Szalinski accidentally enlarged to gargantuan size.
Moranis was the only original cast member to return for the third instalment in the series, 1997’s Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves.
Released direct to home video, this second sequel was the last live-action film Moranis made before going into semi-retirement.
3. It inspired Disney theme park attractions
- Credit: Flickr
By turning an ordinary house and garden into a dangerous wilderness, there’s a sense of theme park ride fun to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Small wonder, then, that the concept was used as the basis for a number of theme park attractions.
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
First, there was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure, a specially built playground based on the film’s sets at Walt Disney World in Florida. This was open from 1990 to 2016.
Next came Honey, I Shrunk the Audience! This 4D movie ride featured new specially shot footage featuring cast members from the first two movies.
- Credit: Flickr
This attraction opened at Disney’s theme parks in 1994, where it remained until 2010.
Since then, another Disney attraction – Journey into Imagination with Figment – was reworked to incorporate elements of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
2. There was a spin-off TV series
In September 1997 (six months after the home video release of Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves), Disney premiered Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show.
Peter Scolari took over from Rick Moranis in the lead role of Wayne Szalinski, and the Szalinksi family were the only characters from the movies to appear.
Shrinking wasn’t the show’s only angle, as every episode featured different forms of sophisticated technology that sent the family on a variety of madcap adventures.
The show would have some input from the creators of the franchise, as screenwriter Ed Naha was a writer and producer in its final two seasons.
Also, Stuart Gordon – the man who dreamed up the story in the first place, and was originally going to direct the movie – came on board to direct an episode.
Never a huge success in the ratings, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show got the axe in 2000 after 66 episodes.
1. There’s a reboot in the works, with Rick Moranis on board to appear
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
After 1997’s Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, Rick Moranis retreated from acting (aside from a few voice acting jobs).
Moranis went into semi-retirement in order to raise his children, following the untimely death of his wife – and in the years since, the actor has remained unwilling to return to the screen.
Famously, he was the only surviving member of the Ghostbusters cast to turn down a role in the 2016 reboot, as well as the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
However, the now 67-year-old Moranis has finally agreed to appear on camera once again – in a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sequel/reboot, tentatively entitled Shrunk.
Joe Johnston will once again call the shots on the film, which will see Josh Gad (Frozen) take the role of a now-adult Nick Szalinksi, who’s followed in his father’s footsteps as an inventor.
Shrunk had been poised to go into production in early 2020, but this was put on hold due to the lockdown, and at present there is no confirmation of when shooting is expected to start.