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. Since the Cabbage Patch Riots of 1983, it seems like the struggle to get the latest in-demand Christmas gift has grown more frenzied. Jingle All the Way screenwriter Randy Kornfield was inspired by watching his in-laws struggle to get their hands on a Power Rangers toy (which explains the similarities between the Power Rangers and Jingle All the Way’s Turbo Man).
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.
19. A real 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 – 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.
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.
17. Joe Pesci was the first choice to play Myron
Arnold Schwarzenegger is by far the biggest star in Jingle All the Way, but if producer Chris Columbus had had his way, Arnie might have been outshone by none other than Joe Pesci, who was the producer’s first choice for Myron Larabee. Columbus had of course directed Pesci in two of the best-loved Christmas movies of the 90s: Home Alone, and its sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Alas, talks quickly stalled, firstly because Pesci already was on the cusp of his retirement (he has only taken four film roles since 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4), whilst execs also had raised about the differences in physicality between Schwarzenegger and the diminutive Pesci. There were fears audiences wouldn’t believe Pesci could physically challenge Arnie in the battle for the Turbo Man doll.
16. Sinbad nearly didn’t star – because of Hillary Clinton
Once Pesci was out of the picture, Schwarzenegger’s agents suggested comedian David ‘Sinbad’ Adkins for the part of Myron, as he is far closer to Arnie in terms of physical size. Unfortunately, Sinbad missed his first audition for the role, though he had a pretty good excuse: he was accompanying then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit to Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with musician Sheryl Crow.
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
A deleted scene, which can still be found in extended and ‘Family Fun’ editions of Jingle All the Way, 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.
Yeardley Smith is best known for playing Lisa Simpson on the eponymous animated show. While her live-action appearances are less famous, Smith had previously appeared in a number of films including Maximum Overdrive and City Slickers, as well as TV sitcom Herman’s Head.
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 action hero-turned-family film star had some experience of improvisation, most notably with some of 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.
13. Jake Lloyd landed the role of Anakin Skywalker thanks to this film
Unknown seven-year-old actor Jake Lloyd manages to be the heart of Jingle All the Way. It isn’t too surprising, therefore, that Lloyd’s 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, who saw Lloyd as a great contender to play the young Anakin Skywalker in his long-awaited Star Wars prequel.
Hired at age eight for what would become The Phantom Menace, Lloyd’s performance was not very well received, which sadly contributed to the actor’s mental health struggles as he matured. Lloyd retired from acting soon afterwards, and it 2016 it was sadly 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
In 1998, studio 20th Century Fox was sued by Murray Hill Publishing, who alleged that Jingle All the Way had stolen ideas from a script they had acquired entitled Could This Be Christmas? 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 later made Jingle All the Way. The lawsuit listed 36 similarities between the final film and Could This Be Christmas?
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 Hollywood’s first post-credits scenes
Since the rise of Marvel Studios, the post-credits scene is ubiquitous – but Jingle All the Way helped start the trend. Okay, films with post-credits scenes had been made beforehand (including Airplane!, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Masters of the Universe, to name a few), but Schwarzenegger’s Christmas comedy was one of the most notable films to do so in the 90s.
In common with more recent post-credits scenes, Jingle All the Way’s stinger seems to tease a potential sequel. We see Arnie’s Howard being asked by his wife about her present – at which he stares into the camera, realising he forgot to get her one too.
10. There was a straight-to-DVD sequel in 2014
Jingle All the Way wasn’t a big enough hit to spawn a sequel straight away. However, 18 years later we finally got a Jingle All the Way 2, which was released straight to DVD in 2014. Neither Schwarzenegger nor any other stars of the original appeared: instead, the film was basically a play on the same concept as the first film, with Larry the Cable Guy in the lead.
Curiously, Jingle All the Way 2 was a collaboration between 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios, and co-stars Santino Marella as Larry’s sidekick. Another wrestler had appeared in the original Jingle All the Way: Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight, playing an unusually buff Santa Claus.
9. The film only happened because Planet of the Apes was delayed
It may surprise you that Jingle All the Way owes its existence to the first remake of Planet of the Apes – or rather, that film’s troubled development. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been attached to a remake of the 1968 sci-fi classic since the late 80s, and the project came close to production in 1994, with Chris Columbus attached as producer.
However, after a troubled creative process and clashes with studio executives, Schwarzenegger and Columbus both dropped out of Planet of the Apes, and together decided to develop Jingle All the Way instead. Eventually Tim Burton signed on to Planet of the Apes, which made it to screens in 2001 with Mark Wahlberg in the lead.
8. It was the biggest movie production to take place in Minnesota
With a budget of $75 million (albeit with a rumoured $20 million fee for the Austrian Oak), Jingle All the Way 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.
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. Later, 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, as many other films have done. 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. Rather than shooting this on location 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
One of the most madcap sequences in Jingle All the Way sees Schwarzenegger’s Howard enter a warehouse full of corrupt Santa impersonators led by Jim Belushi (Arnie’s old Red Heat co-star). After being convinced to pay top dollar for what turns out to be a Spanish-language knock-off, Howard decides to start a brawl against 50 off-brand representations of Saint Nick.
One such Santa Claus is tiny, and played in an uncredited role by Verne Troyer. A few years later, Troyer would achieve worldwide fame as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies. Sadly, the actor’s personal and professional struggles would lead him to commit suicide in 2018.
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. Hartman was one of the most well-regarded comedy actors of the era, famed for his time on TV’s Saturday Night Live and his work as a voice actor on The Simpsons (voicing such characters as has-been actor Troy McClure and struggling lawyer Lionel Hutz).
Sadly, Jingle All the Way was the last film starring Hartman released before his death. In 1998, he was shot and killed by his troubled wife who then ended her own life. Hartman’s final live-action film Small Soldiers was released posthumously and dedicated to his memory.
4. It was Chris Parnell’s first feature film
Jingle All the Way boasts the very first big screen appearance from actor and comedian Jerry Parnell, who appears as 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.”
Parnell has appeared in more movies since, including Anchorman and 21 Jump Street, but he’s better known for his small screen work. He spent several years on Saturday Night Live, played Dr Leo Spaceman in 30 Rock, and also appears in two prominent adult animated shows, voicing Cyril in Archer and Jerry in Rick and Morty.
3. The toy that Myron pines after is real
Turbo Man may have been (initially) fictitious, but one toy which is referenced in Jingle All the Way is entirely 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.
The Johnny 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.
2. Schwarzenegger accidentally signs his own name in the movie
Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t exactly a method actor, but it seems he may have gotten ever-so-slightly lost in the role of Howard Langston. One scene in Jingle All the Way sees the hard-working mattress salesman hastily sign a contract handed to him by his secretary. Except Howard doesn’t sign his own name – he writes ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger.’
We’ll leave it for you to decide whether this was done deliberately as a fun little Easter Egg for Arnie’s hordes of fans all over the world, or if it was an honest mistake which just happened to make it into the final cut of the film by accident.
1. The Twin Cities mall is actually two Minnesota malls 20 miles apart
No matter how many times you’ve watched Jingle All the Way, 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.