In a year plagued by large tanks aimed at bringing “the whole family” to theaters (among the ten highest-grossing films of 1995 are Pocahontas, Casper and the magnetic Toy Story, Pixar’s first feature film) a name caught everyone’s attention: Jumanji.
Although part of the public knew the children’s story with that title of the American writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg –A book published in 1981 and praised by critics–, it was only when he saw the face of Robin Williams in the shoes of the protagonist Alan Parrish who made the story popular, full of jungle animals that invade a small town, wild plants that grow in a mansion, a dangerous hunter who goes around everywhere shotgun in hand and the mystery of a “cursed” board game.
Full of fantasy and shocking special effects for the time, the film was directed by Joe Johnston and starred Williams himself, Bonnie Hunt and two children who surprised with their performances: Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce.
25 years after its premiere, it is worth reviewing the secrets of a feature film that, in addition to being remembered by several generations became a box office hit: With a budget of 65 million, it raised almost 263 million dollars.
1. A “lie” about the name. During the numerous interviews that Robin Williams gave to promote the film, jokes and doubts arose around the title. The word Jumanji it caught everyone’s attention. In fact, even the specialized magazine Entertainment Weekly ruled on the subject, in its edition of December 8, 1995.
“Since the premiere of Rapa Nui that the title of a feature film did not generate as much confusion as Jumanji”The publication noted. There, the word of Williams himself appears, surprised by what was happening in those days with the title: “It is impressive how many times it is mispronounced. There are even people who tell me ‘you’re doing the Jim Janee biography (N.R .: a fictitious name that might sound like Jumanji), I heard about him’ ”.
Shortly after the actor himself clarified that they told him that, in Zulu, Jumanji means “many effects”. However, she also insisted on jokingly confusing the public with a kind of lie: “Now, when people ask me, I tell them that it is an island in the Caribbean. Book your trip soon to meet her! ”.
2. The fight with the crocodile. In a 1996 interview with the British show Clive Anderson All Talk, the actor revealed a detail that no one knew about the filming of the film. In one of the most remembered and vibrant scenes, protagonist Alan Parrish fights a giant crocodile.
Williams said that, driven by emotion, during one of the takes of that sequence he began to hit the crocodile hard with his elbow. He related that everything could have ended in a tragedy until at one point he remembered that inside the giant animal there was, in reality, a man disguised in a special suit. In the middle of the beating, the actor heard a cry of protest and stopped his movements.
3. Inspiration. During a meeting with students and teachers in 2004, the writer Chris Van Allsburg revealed how he came to imagine the book about the amazing board game that was later brought to the movie screen.
“When I was a kid I played some games like Monopoly and they always seemed exciting to me. But when they ran out, all I had left was that fake money and nothing else, “he described and added: “So I thought it would be fun if there was a board game in which, at whatever point or square you landed, something was announced that was going to happen and then that would happen in reality.”
4. The choice of Kirsten Dunst. Around 1994, when it was recorded Jumanji, The actress was in seventh grade and had already surprised the world with her participation in Interview with the Vampire, alongside leading actors such as Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Although the name of Scarlett Johansson for the role of Judy, the producers were delighted with Dunst, for her freshness and the depth with which she embodied each role.
In an interview with the newspaper Chicago Tribune In 1995, when she was elected, the girl pointed out about her role: “Judy is like a normal child, but she can’t deal with the fact that her parents are dead. She tries, through her lies ”.
5. A known voice. Another of the protagonists who impressed the public with his performance was the little Bradley Pierce, in the role of Peter Shepherd. Among other difficulties, the boy had to face the challenge of working characterized for some scenes in which he becomes a monkey. According to the producers, the makeup and characterization process took almost three hours each time and the filming of those sequences was done in 15 days.
By then, Pierce’s name was known for another memorable role: he had provided the voice for a long-remembered character in the animated film. Beauty and the Beast, the kettle named Chip.
The actor continued for some time to put his voice for other animated characters and participated in The little Mermaid and in Lego. The movie.
6. A connection point. A theme runs throughout history: the role of the father in the life of the protagonist. Over the years, Robin Williams was asked in numerous interviews if he found any kind of link between Alan Parrish’s father and his own father: “My father was a bit stern and elegant.”
The actor pointed out that the bond between the Parrishes actually reminded him of his own father’s with his grandfather, who had had a lot of money and lost everything. The actor’s father had to work as a miner and had to sacrifice himself to raise his son.
“The amazing thing is that he never forced me to do anything. Because something had happened in his life and he didn’t want the same thing to happen with me. He had had to abandon a dream, “he said.
At the same time, Williams also pointed out that the role of Alan reminded him a lot of his own childhood: he was an only child and that marked him in some way. “I play a boy who is caught up in the game. By the time he manages to escape, 26 years later, his parents are dead and he feels lost and alone. That is something I can understand. As an only child, I had no siblings to play with, my parents worked hard and we had to move all the time, ”he revealed in an interview.
7. An actor for two roles. Although it was never fully clarified whether it was some kind of message or symbol behind the decision, fans of the film were struck by the fact that Jonathan Hyde will play two characters. On the one hand, the actor plays Alan’s father, the wealthy and distant man with his son, and on the other, he is the fearsome hunter Van Pelt, who appears in several scenes with his shotgun.
8. Top off. The fascination with Jumanji made several fans compulsively search for the board game and want to acquire the original boards used during filming. One of them was auctioned online by eBay in 2014 for more than 60 thousand dollars.
In addition, there are numerous replicas that are currently offered online.
9. The Williams jokes. Also in dialogue with the Chicago Tribune, Kirsten Dunst said that filming Jumanfi was a lot of fun because of the jokes that Robin Williams used behind the scenes. Among other things, she said that the actor imitated different characters from movies of the time. “My favorite was when I played Nell (the character that actress Jodie Foster played in the 1994 film with that name),” said the young actress.
For her part, the other protagonist, Bonnie HuntHe said at the time that Williams’ jokes improved everyone’s mood. “When you share the set with Robin it is like being at a barbecue in the backyard of his house,” he said in an interview.
10. A tribute. The tragic death of Robin Williams in 2014 shocked the world and also the residents of Keene, the small town in New Hampshire where it was filmed Jumanji. Ten years earlier, the authorities had given him the keys to the city in gratitude for bringing that town to movie screens around the world and the actor was well liked there.
In fact, when the news of the death of the protagonist of so many memorable films and series was known, the locals paid him a small tribute: under the poster of “Parrish Shoes” of the feature film, which the town still keeps on one of its walls, they left flowers and candles to remember Williams, as reported by the local newspaper The Keene Sentinel.
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