13 Fun Facts About 13 Going on 30

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

Nearly 15 years ago, 13 Going on 30—a body-swapping rom-com in the vein of Big—arrived in theaters and charmed audiences everywhere. The movie revolves around Jenna Rink, a geeky teen who goes to sleep on her 13th birthday in 1987 wishing to be “thirty and flirty and thriving,” and wakes up the next day in her Manhattan apartment all grown up.

Jennifer Garner, in her first lead movie role, played the adult Jenna, who works for troubled fashion magazine Poise. She spends most of the film trying to reconnect with childhood friend/love interest Matt (Mark Ruffalo) and coming to terms with adulthood. Though the film came out the weekend before Mean Girls, it went on to gross $96 million worldwide (which was less than the $129 million Mean Girls earned, but still not too shabby). To celebrate the beloved film's 15th anniversary, here are some things you might not have known about 13 Going on 30.

1. The studio was worried that director gary winick would turn it into an "art film."

Director Gary Winick made a name for himself with the 2000 film Tadpole, and became a pioneer of the indie film scene, advocating for digital technology and how it could turn storytellers into bona fide filmmakers. Though his previous work was nothing like 13 Going on 30, Winick told the BBC that it was because of Tadpole that Garner requested to work with him on the project.

"Me and Jennifer said, ‘It’s got to be about something,'" Winick explained. “The studio was concerned that I’d turn it into an art film, and I was like, ‘You can’t turn this into an art film! But I can hopefully elevate it and make it better than it is.'"

2. Jennifer Garner hung out with 13-year-olds to prepare for the role.

The film’s production notes mention how Garner spent time with adolescent girls—including a 12-year-old friend—to get into the teenage mindset. “A kid of 13 can seem like an adult, but that can be deceptive,” she said. “You always have to remember they are also incredibly vulnerable, skittish, and childlike. Finding that balance was challenging.”

3. The “Thriller” dance became a major sticking point.

One of the film's most memorable scenes involves Garner and Ruffalo's characters awkwardly recreating the zombie dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video—a scene that Winick didn't quite understand. In an interview with The Telegraph, Winick explained that the studio was adamant that he stage the dance scene. “I kept saying ‘What does that have to with the story?’ and they kept saying ‘We need to put it in the trailers.’ I had to force them to make it work as part of the narrative.”

Ultimately, the dance isn’t in the movie just to be there: Jenna gets her co-workers and friends to dance as a way to save a magazine launch party. “I didn’t want it to feel like a music video,” Winick said in the production notes. “I wanted it to work dramatically. As good as the dancing is, the reason the scene works is because it’s plot-oriented. Jenna is saving the party the way a 13-year-old would, not an adult.”

4. Mark Ruffalo almost turned the part down because of that dance sequence.

In an interview with Blackfilm, Ruffalo admitted that the embarrassment you see on his face in that "Thriller" scene is 100 percent genuine—so much so that he almost turned the movie down because of that single scene.  "The dancing was horrible," he said. "I almost didn't want to do this movie. I literally read it and I'm like 'I can't do this movie. I can't get up and do those scenes.' ... When [Jennifer] dragged me out [onto the dance floor in the film] she was literally dragging me out. I had hours of rehearsal with a dance coach who taught me how to do all the moves and stuff and still, when we got into actually shooting it and there were 300 extras around, I did not want to do that scene."

5. It featured some soon-to-be stars (including one Oscar winner).

In the flashback scenes to Jenna as a teen, you might notice a couple of familiar faces playing members of the popular clique known as Six Chicks: Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson and future Oscar-winner/current Captain Marvel Brie Larson.

6. Judy Greer doesn't think her character was a villain.

Judy Greer plays Lucy, who Jenna knows both as a kid and works with as an adult. Though Lucy manipulates Jenna a lot, both as a teenager and as a thirtysomething, Greer didn't see her as a villain. "I never consider a character I play a villain, even if they are a villain, ‘cause real villains don’t think, ‘I’m a villain,'" Greer told Today. "They just think what they’re doing is right.” (Though she did say it was fun to play “mean.”)

7. Greer didn’t think the younger version of her looked liked her. But everyone else did.

Alexandra Kyle played the 13-year-old version of Greer's character, Lucy. When Kyle met Greer’s mom, she said “It’s like seeing my daughter again,” Kyle said in the behind-the-scenes featurette.

“Gary and the producers all thought she looked so much like me, but I think she’s so cute,” Greer said. “They’re like, ‘Did you look just like her when you were her age?’ I was like, no, I looked like a little boy, and she’s gorgeous.”

8. Andy Serkis had to work hard to find his character's balance.

In the behind-the-scenes featurette, Andy Serkis—who played Richard, Poise’s editor-in-chief—said he had to work to find “that balance between [Richard's] flamboyant nature and actually keeping the reality of who he is and the stress he’s under.” Serkis said Winick probably got frustrated with him, though.

“He [kept] coming up to me and going, ‘Bring it down, just bring it down,'" Serkis explained of his director's instructions. “I kind of think I’m doing nothing here and he’s going, ‘bring it down.’ I’m thinking, if I bring it down anymore I’m going to be lying down. Having done Golem for ages, my face has gotten more animated. I make Jim Carrey looked relaxed.”

9. Garner and Winick “had the most successful collaboration possible.”

Director Gary Winick actress Jennifer Garner (C) and actor Mark Ruffalo talk at the after party for the film '13 going on 30' following the premiere of the film April 14, 2004 in Westwood, California
Carlo Allegri, Getty Images

In 2011, Winick passed away from brain cancer. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly following the director's passing, Garner shared just how much she loved working with Winick on 13 Going on 30. “Gary and I had the most successful collaboration possible," she said. "I don’t mean success in terms of box office, or from anyone else’s point of view other than my own. I left it better at what I do.” She also revealed that they planned on working on more projects together, but “didn’t get them done quickly enough.”

10. Jenna had a very expensive lifestyle.

Entertainment Weekly broke down just how much it would cost real-life Jenna and Matt to live in Manhattan, and it turned out to be a pretty tidy sum: Jenna’s Fifth Avenue apartment would cost $5 million, or $10,000 per month to rent. A pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, of which Jenna has several, cost around $995, and just one Gucci purse goes for $1800. Matt, meanwhile, lives in the West Village. And even though he’s portraying a struggling photographer, he manages to cough up $5000 a month in rent.

11. Ariana Grande watched (and maybe still watches) the film every night.

In November 2018, Grande released the music video for her hit song “thank u, next.” It pays tribute to Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, 13 Going on 30, and Bring It On. In one part of the video, a disheartened Grande—like Jenna Rink—carries the dollhouse Matt built for her. Garner saw the video and complimented the singer on Instagram. “I watched this movie every night before bed growing up (and I still do sometimes, especially when I’m sad),” Grande replied. “And by sometimes, I literally mean every night still.”

Hannah Lux Davis, the video’s director, told Pitchfork that the dollhouse scene was originally going to be in the beginning of the video. “I cut together scenes from the original films to see how the pacing would look,” she said. “[The 13 Going on 30 scene] just wasn’t feeling natural there, but then you get to that third verse when Ariana talks about the wedding and walking down the aisle with her mom. It had a more organic structure that way.”

12. The film is about second chances.

“I chose 13 Going on 30 because it had more substance,” Winick said in the film’s production notes. “It’s about second chances. It’s about getting everything you ever wanted only to realize that none of those things make you happy, and then having a second chance to make the right choices.”

13. Christa B. Allen still gets recognized as Jenna Rink.

Actress Christa Allen (L) and actress Jennifer Garner hug at the after party for the film '13 going on 30' following the premiere of the film April 14, 2004 in Westwood, California
Carlo Allegri, Getty Images

Christa B. Allen was just 13 years old when she was hired to play the younger version of Jennifer Garner's character in 13 Going on 30. It was her first credited role, and she had a lot riding on her shoulders. Though she's now 27 years old, she recently told Today that she still gets recognized for the film. 

“I think because it meant so much to so many people, and it was just such a beloved film, that people are all so excited to see a person that was part of that zeitgeisty moment in the flesh,” Allen said. She also confirmed that she's looking forward to turning the big 3-0 herself. “People always quote back ‘30 and flirty, and thriving,'" Allen said. "I can't wait for that to be the theme of my 30th birthday."

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Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.