Put That Cookie Down, NOW, And Read These 20 Facts About Jingle All The Way
Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in a Christmas comedy film is something that could only happen in the 90s – but we’re not complaining! Released in 1996, Jingle All the Way saw Arnie star alongside comedian Sinbad as rival fathers in pursuit of the season’s hottest toy.
Despite receiving a frosty reception from many critics – the film has a meagre 16% on Rotten Tomatoes – Jingle All the Way has become a cult holiday classic, one with a bit more to say about Christmas than you might expect.
20. The filmmakers based the film on their own experiences of hellish Christmas stampedes
Just as Christmas comes around every year, so does the latest toy craze (what a strange coincidence!). From the Nintendo Wii in 2006, to the Optimus Prime action figure back in the 80s, we’ve all rushed from store to store in search of that perfect gift.
It’s some scant comfort, then, that the filmmakers behind Jingle All the Way have been in exactly that position.
The screenwriter, Randy Kornfield, was inspired by watching his in-laws struggle to get their hands on a Power Rangers toy, which explains the clear similarities between the Turbo Man TV show and the Mighty Morphin’ kids’ show that premiered in 1993.
Chris Columbus, who produced Jingle All the Way, was inspired to rework the script and get the film made after his own troubles finding a Buzz Lightyear action figure in 1995.
Interestingly, Tim Allen – the voice behind Toy Story’s space ranger – was initially considered for the part of Howard Langston. This idea might have been dropped because of his existing Christmas commitments to the Santa Clause series.
Naturally, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Arnie battering a bunch of fake Santas!
19. A Turbo Man action figured was released to tie in with the film
Despite the fact that Jingle All the Way is obviously a satire of rampant American consumerism, showing just how far two men will go for a plastic figurine, it was nonetheless criticised for selling out.
This is because a real Turbo Man action figure was released as a tie-in for the film, retailing at $25.
A contemporary Entertainment Weekly review notes, cynically, that “the doll has been sold out since Thanksgiving.” But there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
The film was shot incredibly quickly, and only six and a half months were available for merchandising – with most films taking a year. As such, only 200,000 action figures were made, so it’s only natural that they quickly sold out.
Far more merchandise was sold for other movies in 1996, including 101 Dalmatians and the avalanche of Space Jam tie-ins.
18. It predicted the Tickle Me Elmo craze
Turbo Man might not have been the smash hit of the toy aisle in 1996, but a craze that same year confirmed everything Jingle All the Way had predicted: Tickle Me Elmo.
The Sesame Street toy initially retailed for $28.99, but newspaper and online sellers were demanding $1,500 by the end of the following year.
After a surprise plug from chat show host Rosie O’Donnell, demand for the toy surged, leading to violence and stampeding.
All Tickle Me Elmo did was laugh and do a little dance – it didn’t even have movable arms and legs, nor a boomerang shooter, rock-and-roar jet pack, and realistic voice activator that says five different phrases including, “It’s turbo time!”
17. Joe Pesci was the first choice to play Myron
Despite the cast’s undeniable talent, it’s fair to say that none of them carried the star wattage of Terminator-cum-Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, if Chris Columbus had had his way, Arnie might have been outshone by none other than Joe Pesci.
In the 90s, Joe Pesci was the king of Christmas. Having won an Academy Award for his turn as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, Pesci followed it up with Home Alone, showcasing more of a loveable villainy that caught Chris Columbus’ eye.
Columbus sought Pesci for the role of Myron, but talks quickly stalled. For one thing, Pesci already was on the cusp of his retirement from full-throated acting.
Secondly, not everyone was on board with Columbus’ vision, with concerns raised about the differences in physicality between Schwarzenegger and Pesci.
Arnie had form in this area – who can forget Twins? – but it’s hard to imagine the shorter Pesci wresting a doll from Schwarzenegger’s cast-iron grip.
16. Sinbad nearly didn’t star – because of Hillary Clinton
After the filmmakers and Joe Pesci went their separate ways, the hunt was on to cast Howard Langston’s festive adversary. Schwarzenegger’s agents suggested David Adkins, better known as Sinbad.
But for Sinbad, the path to star-studded jingledom was far from smooth. He even missed his first audition for the role, though he had a pretty good excuse.
The comedian was accompanying then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit to Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia and Herzegovina along with musician Sheryl Crow, to shore up troop morale after an intervention in the Bosnian civil war.
The visit more recently made headlines after Sinbad himself challenged Clinton’s claims that their plane landed “under sniper fire,” suggesting that she was sent because it was too dangerous for her husband.
“What kind of president would say ‘Hey man, I can’t go ’cause I might get shot so I’m going to send my wife,'” Sinbad said. “Oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you.”
15. A deleted scene stars Lisa Simpson voice actor Yeardley Smith
Say what you like about Jingle All the Way – and, believe us, the critics have – but it’s undeniably a pacy film, and one that keeps throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Inevitably, this leaves a lot on the cutting room floor.
In one scene, which can still be found in extended and ‘Family Fun’ editions of the film, Howard pursues a woman who has a Turbo Man box in her bag, offering to buy it.
Unfortunately for Howard, the box contains Booster, Turbo Man’s anthropomorphic tiger buddy and a magenta figure of hatred. The woman in this scene is played by The Simpsons’ Yeardley Smith.
Smith is best known for playing Lisa Simpson on the eponymous animated show, though she had already starred in several films, such as Maximum Overdrive and Toys, before Jingle All the Way.
Fellow Jingle All the Way actor Phil Hartman also had several recurring roles on The Simpsons, most notably as pathetic lawyer Lionel Hutz and greasy has-been actor Troy McClure.
14. Arnie and Sinbad improvised much of their dialogue
It may not come as too much of a surprise to learn that comedian Sinbad improvised many of his lines in Jingle All the Way. Best known as a stand-up comic, Sinbad had previously written and starred in TV comedies like A Different World and The Sinbad Show.
For Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, improvisation was a newfangled endeavour (plus let’s not forget that the actor had begun his career with little command of the English language).
Still, the Predator star had had experience of improvising lines before, most notably the witty one-liners for which he’d become known. “I need a vacation,” delivered by his malfunctioning T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was improvised.
We’re not suggesting that Schwarzenegger should be inducted into the cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (though, on second thoughts, yes we are), but given Sinbad’s ranting and raving, you wouldn’t think Arnie’s responses are largely improvised.
Jingle All the Way is to date Schwarzenegger’s last out-and-out comedy film, though he’ll soon be starring in Kung Fury 2, which is currently in post-production, as The President.
13. Jake Lloyd landed the role of Anakin Skywalker thanks to this film
In Jingle All the Way, Jake Lloyd is only seven years old, and yet manages to be the heart of the film. From his enthusiasm for Turbo Man, to Howard’s hallucination of his son drinking himself into oblivion, it’s a film that proves Lloyd is a class act.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that this performance caught the eye of some major Hollywood movers and shakers – but few could have predicted it’d put Lloyd on the radar of George Lucas.
Hired at age eight for what would become The Phantom Menace, Lloyd would soon become infamous for portraying the legendary Sith Lord Darth Vader as a pod-racing obsessive.
In 2012, Lloyd himself admitted that “When you have something like that there’s a lot of expectations for it to meet the standards of the public and I don’t think George [Lucas] did that.”
Lloyd retired from acting soon after. It has recently been confirmed that the former child actor has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
12. The studio was sued for $19 million for allegedly stealing someone else’s idea
Despite negative reviews, Jingle All the Way was a moderate box office success – especially in the UK, where it reached the number one spot. Unfortunately, the filmmakers had no idea a gargantuan lawsuit was in the pipeline.
In 1998, 20th Century Fox was sued by Murray Hill Publishing, who alleged that the film had stolen ideas from a script they had acquired. Said treatment was entitled Could This Be Christmas? and was said to have 36 similarities with Schwarzenegger’s cookie-filled Christmas quest.
According to Murray Hill president Bob Laurel, the company had purchased the script in 1993 and shopped it for Fox in 1994, who showed no interest. But then Jingle All the Way was made.
In 2001, Murray Hill Publishing won the suit, and Fox was ordered to pay $15 million in damages and $4 million in legal fees. On appeal, this amount was lowered to $1.5 million.
However, the verdict was ultimately quashed in 2004, with a judge surmising that Fox would have had no chance to read the initial treatment before purchasing Randy Kornfield’s screenplay.
11. It has one of cinema’s first post-credits scenes
Long gone are the days of leaving the cinema during the credits. In today’s Avengers-centric movie universe, the post-credits scene is ubiquitous. But did you know it started with Jingle All the Way?
That might be overstating things a little, but it’s true that Jingle All the Way doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the storied history of post-credits.
George A Romero can lay claim to the first post-credits scene, found in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, but it wasn’t until 1980 and Airplane! that such a scene was used for a comedy callback.
In 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off used a post-credits scene to break the fourth wall, instructing the audience to leave the theatre after the credits have rolled.
However, it wasn’t until Jingle All the Way that a post-credits scene was used to tee up a potential sequel, with Howard being asked by his wife about her present. Of course, as Schwarzenegger emotes into the camera with the look of a man who’s been caught sleeping with his maid, we realise he forgot that present too.
10. There was a straight-to-DVD sequel in 2014
While it’s true that the reputation of Jingle All the Way has improved over the years, it’s fair to say there wasn’t much clamour for a sequel. Nonetheless, do not ask and ye shall receive: Jingle All the Way 2 arrived, straight to DVD, in 2014.
Starring Larry the Cable Guy, the film features an entirely new cast and a trendy teddy bear as the consumerist MacGuffin.
Jingle All the Way 2 was produced in collaboration between 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios, perhaps because professional wrestler Santino Marella stars in the film as Larry’s sidekick.
In the estimation of a contemporary Vice review, “some sick space parasite is controlling [Larry]’s body, forcing him into ever more ludicrous career decisions … It’s glorious.”
The original film does, improbably, have a connection to WWE: The enormous Santa that Howard fights is played by Big Show, a professional wrestler.
9. The film only happened because Planet of the Apes was delayed
If we asked you to connect Jingle All the Way to another film, you might mention a Schwarzenegger comedy like Kindergarten Cop, or perhaps a contemporary Christmas film like The Santa Clause. In fact, Jingle All the Way is most closely related to Planet of the Apes.
How? Well, had Planet of the Apes been given the go-ahead in 1996, Jingle All the Way would never have happened – for two reasons.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had originally signed up to star in an Apes remake in 1988, but creative differences and difficulty financing the project led to delays. Arnie then signed on to a 1994 version, but was met with similar issues. Early screenwriters envisioned a comedy, with Fox executive Dylan Sellers insisting on a scene about baseball. When the next draft came in without said scene, the writers were fired.
Chris Columbus was hired as a producer on the Apes reboot, and provided a script written by Sam Hamm, but would later drop out after the project stalled again, taking Schwarzenegger with him for Jingle All the Way.
The eventual 2001 film would see Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, directed by Tim Burton, with thankfully no baseball scene to speak of.
8. It was the biggest movie production to take place in Minnesota
You might not think it given the improvised dialogue and questionable special effects, but Jingle All the Way was not a cheap film to make. With a budget of $75 million (albeit with a rumoured $20 million fee for the Austrian Oak), the film became the most expensive movie production to ever shoot in Minnesota.
The North Star State has long been a darling of indie productions, and received particular attention as a film location after the surprise success of Prince’s Purple Rain. Still, few big-budget films make their way to the so-called land of 10,000 lakes.
For the team behind Jingle All the Way, the reason for the decision to film in Minnesota was simple: as they were shooting in late spring and early summer, they needed a location with semi-wintry weather in order to make their Christmas film believable.
Oh, and the significant tax breaks afforded by the state to incentivise film studios must have helped too.
The world premiere for Jingle All the Way was in fact held at the Mall of America in Bloomington (Minnesota’s fifth-largest city), which was used for several scenes in the film.
7. The parade scene took three weeks to film
The most ambitious sequence in Jingle All the Way is undoubtedly the parade scene, which sees Howard thrust into the limelight as the wearer of a sometimes-defective Turbo Man costume.
You might have assumed, understandably, that this was simply an existing parade that the cast and crew inserted themselves into. After all, that’s exactly what happened in The Fugitive and Miracle on 34th Street. But for Jingle All the Way, producers were feeling more ambitious.
Filming for this single scene took three weeks, involved 1,500 extras, and used three custom-made floats to form the Turbo Man section of the parade.
If you look closely, you might be able to spot the signs that this became a laborious shoot. For example, when Myron is kicked in the crotch, his cape suddenly disappears, and then reappears in the next shot. It’s hard to do continuity on a float!
Rather than shooting in Minnesota, this sequence was filmed on Universal Studios’ New York Street, with the extras bundled up in sweltering California weather.
6. Verne Troyer has an uncredited role as a small Santa
Janet Maslin, for the New York Times, described Brian Levant’s direction of Jingle All the Way as “listless,” and there’s no more listless a scene than the one in which Howard enters a warehouse full of corrupt Santa impersonators, one of whom is Verne Troyer. Yes, this is still the same film.
The toy-hustling Santa ring is led by Jim Belushi, who convinces Howard to pay top dollar for what turns out to be a Spanish-language knock-off.
Enraged, Howard, a well-to-do suburban businessman, decides to start a brawl against 50 off-brand representations of Saint Nick. Yes, this is still the same film.
One such Santa Claus is tiny, and played in an uncredited role by Verne Troyer, who would go on to greater fame in the Austin Powers series.
Troyer’s Claus is accidentally punched by a comically large Santa, and carried away on what are clearly invisible wires. Howard then uses a toy police badge to disguise himself as an undercover officer and escape the premises after it’s raided in a sting operation. And yes, this is still the same film.
5. It was Phil Hartman’s last film released in his lifetime
In Jingle All the Way, Phil Hartman plays Ted, an annoying neighbour with his sights set on stealing Howard’s wife. In the hands of another actor, this part could be bizarre and caricatured, but Hartman – nicknamed ‘the glue’ on Saturday Night Live (SNL) for his ability to keep a scene together – handles it with aplomb. Sadly, however, this was the last film starring Hartman released before his death.
Renowned for his SNL impressions of then-president Bill Clinton, Hartman had a storied career in film and TV that included minor roles in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (which he had helped develop) as well as several fan-favourite roles on The Simpsons.
Janet Maslin of the New York Times lamented that Hartman was “mostly wasted” with Jingle All the Way’s script, with the BBC’s Neil Smith noting that his scenes are the strongest moments of the film.
Two years later, in 1998, Hartman was shot and killed by his wife, part of a pattern of domestic unrest that Hartman and his children had been forced to bear.
A handful of films starring Hartman were released posthumously, including a voice role in the English dub of Kiki’s Delivery Service as Jiji, the cat companion of the titular witch.
4. It was Chris Parnell’s first feature film
Nowadays, Chris Parnell is best known as the voice of the hapless Jerry in Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty – or, venturing a little further back, as Dr Leo Spaceman in 30 Rock – but back in 1996, Parnell made his silver screen debut in a certain Christmas flick.
Parnell plays a clerk in the toy shop that receives a hotly anticipated delivery of Turbo Man dolls. Cackling like a hyena, he looks on as his boss doubles the retail price “in accordance with the laws of supply and demand.”
At the time, Parnell was performing with the Los Angeles-based improvisational comedy troupe The Groundlings, whose alumni also include Maya Rudolph and Phil Hartman.
The future Archer actor hadn’t yet been hired on Saturday Night Live, where he would make his name as the star of memorable sketches like More Cowbell. Parnell was nicknamed ‘ice man’ for never breaking character.
We’re not going to suggest that Jingle All the Way launched Parnell’s career, but given his scene-stealing laugh it must have helped!
3. The toy that Myron pines after is real
For all that it was inspired by Power Rangers, Cabbage Patch Kids and the rest, Turbo Man is a fictional toy – until, of course, it was made real as a movie tie-in. But the toy that left Myron so traumatically bereft is in fact real.
Commiserating in a diner, Myron tells Howard about the Johnny Seven O.M.A. [One-Man Army] Gun that he always wanted as a child, recounting the commercial in exact detail. His neighbour got the toy and became a billionaire. As for Myron: “I’m just a loser with no future.”
The scene is intended to instil in Howard (and the audience) the importance of getting his hands on the plastic doll of his son’s dreams. But if you were left thinking about how cool that seven-guns-in-one toy is, you’ll have to save up your pocket money for a few hundred years.
The Johhny Seven O.M.A. gun was produced by Deluxe Reading in 1964 and became the best-selling toy of that year.
Nowadays, for the full toy, eBay sellers are asking for upwards of $650. Maybe we’ll stick to the action figures…
2. Schwarzenegger accidentally signs his own name in the movie
Howard Langston isn’t exactly Hamlet: within the first few minutes of the film, we know exactly what makes the character tick. A successful head of a mattress company, Howard is rushed off his feet and obsessed with work to the extent that he forgets his son’s karate class.
Sidenote: you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining phrase said in an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent than ‘karate class’.
Constantly on the phone to his customers – and then his wife, whom he calls a customer – Howard hastily signs a contract handed to him by his secretary. Except Howard doesn’t sign his own name – he writes ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’.
Whether or not you think this is a mistake – or an Easter egg – depends on your level of cynicism. Does it really matter what Howard writes? Should Schwarzenegger have learned a different signature, sacrificing the instinctive realism that comes with writing your own name?
Nonetheless, we bet this is a bit of movie trivia for which you’ll keep your eyes peeled the next time you watch Jingle All the Way!
1. The Twin Cities mall is actually two Minnesota malls 20 miles apart
They call it movie magic for a reason – however many times you’ve watched Jingle All the Way, and we’ve watched it a lot, you’ve probably never realised that the mall scene is comprised of two completely different buildings.
As customers throng at the door of a toy store, Howard arrives and pushes himself towards the front of the crowd. Under pressure from the rabid masses, the door opens; the customers pile in and crush a clerk underfoot.
But in this act of pushing into the store, the scene completely relocates. That’s because the entryway shots were filmed at 7th Street Plaza in downtown St Paul, whereas the interior was filmed at the Mall of America in Bloomington.
The two malls are located nearly 20 miles apart, but the transition is remarkably seamless.
For the most part, the film combines St Paul and Bloomington into a single, sprawling urban area called Twin Cities. That’s why the police officers in the film are from the ‘TCPD’, even though no such force exists.