11 Facts About House Party for Its 30th Anniversary

Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin in House Party (1990).
Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin in House Party (1990).
New Line Home Video

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the classic coming-of-age comedy House Party. Written and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the movie starred the rap duo Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin of Kid ‘n Play as well as many other recognizable names including Martin Lawrence, A.J. Johnson, Tisha Campbell, Full Force, Robin Harris (who passed away just weeks after House Party was released), and the late John Witherspoon.

Centering the Black teenage experience in a way that had not yet made it into the mainstream, this now-classic comedy proved to Hollywood that the growing interest in Black cinema seen in the late 1980s was not just a fad. The film centers Black joy in a way media still continues to struggle with today, yet its universal appeal has endured even 30 years later. Here are some fun facts about the beloved film.

1. The idea for House Party started with a song.

While he was still a student at Harvard University in the early 1980s, Reginald Hudlin came up with the idea for a short film that would eventually morph into the feature-length House Party after listening Luther Vandross’s 1982 hit "Bad Boy/Having a Party."

"At the time, Black music videos weren’t really a thing, so I would come up with a music video in my head to a song," Hudlin told The Ringer about House Party's origins. "I kept thinking about what that would be, and then I thought: 'No, that’s a movie.'"

2. House Party could have starred Will Smith.

Much like the film itself, the casting process for House Party all started with a song. The song in question? DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince's "A Nightmare on My Street." Due to some legal issues that arose around sampling the music from A Nightmare on Elm Street, the rap duo ended up in a deal that put the House Party script in front of them. When the pair ultimately decided to pass on making the movie, it opened the door for Kid 'n Play to take on the project.

3. Kid ‘n Play met at a real-life house party.

On a 2016 episode of OWN’s Where Are They Now?, Play recalled meeting Kid at a party where he saw him rap. Both were in different groups at the time, with Play going by Playboy and Kid going by Kid Coolout. As time went on their groups broke up, leading the pair to team up and shorten their names to Kid and Play (or Kid 'n Play).

4. The Hudlin brothers have a cameo in House Party.

House Party writer/director Reginald Hudlin and his brother Warrington, who is also a producer on the movie, appeared in front of the camera, too. They played the two burglars who get chased out of the house by the dog.

5. House Party featured a Fly Girl.

A.J. Johnson, who played Sharane—BFF to Tisha Campbell’s Sidney—was a Fly Girl on In Living Color. Based on her dance background and her experiences in university, it was Johnson who suggested adding a dance battle to the film, which ultimately became one of the movie's most memorable moments. Johnson even choreographed her and Campbell’s moves.

6. Tisha Campbell and A.J. Johnson can still do the House Party dance.

Speaking of the iconic dance-off: Johnson and Campbell recreated their House Party routine in 2015 as a surprise for Alicia Keys's birthday party, which was House Party-themed.

7. House Party featured one of Martin Lawrence’s first roles.

Martin Lawrence and Christopher Martin in House Party (1990).New Line Home Video

Martin Lawrence had only appeared in one film, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, prior to being cast in House Party. He met his future Martin co-star Tisha Campbell while working on House Party.

8. "Ain't My Type of Hype" is not on the House Party soundtrack.

Full Force's "Ain’t My Type of Hype" was the song playing during the iconic dance-off scene, but it is not actually on the movie's official soundtrack. Full Force, the hip-hop group who also played the film’s villains, released the song after the soundtrack was completed and it ended up being one of their biggest hits.

9. There was a lot of improvisation and collaboration on the House Party set.

Robin Harris in House Party (1990).New Line Home Video

Input was taken from the very talented cast assembled: John Witherspoon and Robin Harris improvised most of their lines, and Full Force rewrote their characters to make them more humorous. "We had rehearsals where we would improvise and freestyle and I would incorporate their ideas into the script," Hudlin told Black Film. "You don’t have people that talented and say, 'Stick to the script.' Particularly [when] you’re making a comedy.”

10. House Party launched a film franchise.

House Party has spawned four sequels—House Party 2 (1991), House Party 3 (1994), House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (2001), and House Party: Tonight's the Night (2013)—though none of them were directed by Hudlin. Kid 'n Play have appeared in all but one of the sequels.

11. LeBron James is producing an all-new House Party.

Harry How/Getty Images

In 2018, The Hollywood Reporter announced that LeBron James and his producing partner Maverick Carter were planning to create a House Party movie for a new generation. But James was clear that the film wouldn't be a retread.

"This is definitely not a reboot," James said. "It's an entirely new look for a classic movie. Everyone I grew up with loved House Party. To partner with this creative team to bring a new House Party to a new generation is unbelievable." Though there is no word whether Kid 'n Play will be reprising their roles, Carter did say that they were "trying out some ideas for musicians to be cast in and to be a part of the project."

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

How It's a Wonderful Life Went From Box Office Dud to Accidental Christmas Tradition

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Director Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life is sacred in the holiday movie pantheon. It's not as quotable as A Christmas Story (1983) or as lyrical as 1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, but the story of George Bailey has a universal message behind it that endures more than 70 years later. Though the movie is the quintessential Christmas tale today, when it was first released in 1946, audiences and critics were lukewarm toward the picture, resulting in a box office disappointment that killed Capra's nascent production company, Liberty Films. In a strange twist, decades after it was first released, an unlikely clerical screw-up managed to turn It's a Wonderful Life into the Christmastime staple we know today.

In the 1930s, Capra became a magnet for Academy Awards, directing movies like the screwball comedy It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After Pearl Harbor, Capra knew he could contribute something to the war effort, so he took a post in Washington overseeing the development of U.S. propaganda films for the government—most notably the award-winning Why We Fight series of documentaries.

Upon returning from Washington in 1945, Capra—along with other wartime directors William Wyler and George Stevens—helped finance Liberty Films, an independent production company poised to give filmmakers the one thing they all dreamed of: freedom. The company's first film would be an adaption of a short story titled "The Greatest Gift," which would also appear in Good Housekeeping under the title "The Man Who Was Never Born," and would be adapted for the screen as It's a Wonderful Life. It's one of the few movies Capra also received a screenwriting credit for, and with a proposed budget of $2 million, it was a huge gamble for Liberty.

Something akin to a nightmare

In the book Five Came Back, writer Mark Harris describes It's a Wonderful Life's production process as something akin to a nightmare. Script rewrites, a bloated shooting schedule, and an ever-changing crew cost the studio nearly all of the original $2 million budget—well before filming was even wrapped. The spending became such a concern for Capra's partners at Liberty that George Stevens remarked, "Why the hell couldn't it be springtime?" when he saw how much it cost the production to produce fake snow for shots. Capra bet Liberty's future on audiences looking for some comforting nostalgia after the war, but he was about to see firsthand just how much the world had changed since he came back.

The original plan was to release It's a Wonderful Life in January 1947, after the Oscar deadlines, but when RKO—the film's distributor—needed a movie to release in time for Christmas, Capra's project was the easy solution. It opened just weeks after William Wyler's major studio film The Best Years of Our Lives, a hard-hitting drama about a U.S. soldier coming home after the war to pick up his life again. The two films couldn't be any more different, and the reviews reflected that.

Even at nearly three hours long, The Best Years of Our Lives was an absolute hit with critics and at the box office, recouping its budget multiple times over. It's a Wonderful Life, with its inflated budget and saccharine tale touting old-timey values, was met with a whimper, making only an estimated $3.3 million against a $3.7 million budget. Wyler beat Capra in every way: reviews, box office, and awards. The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, while It's a Wonderful Life received only a lone technical award—ironically for the fake snow Stevens loathed.

Liberty Films had borrowed more than $1.5 million to make the film, and with such a disappointing box office return, the production company was soon sold off to Paramount. Capra only directed five feature films afterwards, none of which ever reached the heights of his pre-war work. As unlikely as it seems today, It's a Wonderful Life was seen as a flat disappointment destined for anonymity—until a clerical error changed its fate.

A Wonderful free-for-all

In 1974, the movie entered the public domain after the film's copyright holder simply forgot to file for a renewal. This meant that TV stations everywhere could play It's a Wonderful Life all day and all night and not have to pay a cent for it. Networks aren't necessarily shy about exploiting free Christmas content, and the film's reemergence on television gave Capra's story new life. While a post-World War II crowd may have rejected the movie's sentiment, subsequent generations seem to revel in the opportunity to visit the nostalgic whimsy of it all.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Capra once told The Wall Street Journal about the film's revival. “The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud ... but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

Legalities rewrote the history of It's a Wonderful Life yet again in 1993. The Supreme Court's previous ruling in Stewart v. Abend established a precedent that allowed the film's original copyright owner—Republic Pictures—to regain its ownership of the movie. The ruling claimed that since Republic owned the copyright on the original short story which the movie was based on, and the score for the film, they, in essence, still owned the movie. So what was once a near barrage of networks airing It's a Wonderful Life has since been pared down to just one: NBC.

The network paid for exclusive rights to air the movie, which is why you'll only see It's a Wonderful Life on TV once or twice during the holidays. But the movie's modern appeal exists because of that scarcity. The film that killed a production company 70 years ago is now an annual television event and part of countless family traditions around the globe. It turns out Capra always knew what audiences wanted, he just needed to wait for the right clerical error to prove it.

This story has been updated for 2020.