10 Wild Facts About Jumanji

Columbia/Tristar
Columbia/Tristar

When it comes to 1990s family movies that offered the perfect mix of adrenaline and anxiety, few films can compete with Jumanji. Directed by Joe Johnston, the blockbuster adventure film tells the story of the Shepherd siblings (Bradley Pierce and Kirsten Dunst) who play a magical board game that unleashes a whole swarm of wild animals and natural disasters that can only disappear once the game is finished. In the process, they free a man, Alan Parrish (played by Robin Williams), who has been trapped in Jumanji for 26 years.

Flash floods, rabid monkeys, blood-thirsty tigers, and a ruthless hunter—Jumanji left no terror to the imagination, which is exactly what makes it such a classic. As a new version of Jumanji is set to thrill a new generation of moviegoers, we're taking a look back at the movie film that started it all.

1. SCARLETT JOHANSSON AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF JUDY SHEPHERD.

In an old, dug-up audition tape, you can watch an 11-year-old Scarlett Johansson put her lines on tape for the role that ultimately went to Kirsten Dunst. Perhaps Dunst won the role because of her deep understanding of the character? In 1995, she did tell the Chicago Tribune that, "Judy's like a normal little girl, but she can't deal with the fact that her mom and dad are dead. She deals with it through her lies."

2. THE CONCEPT FOR JUMANJI WAS BASED ON A 1981 PICTURE BOOK BY CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG.

Chis Van Allsburg, who was admittedly unhappy with the original draft of the film, got to contribute to a later draft. "The premise [of] the book, and which is of value to the film story, is that there's anarchy and chaos and something uncontrollable inside an environment that we associate with control, which is the house," Van Allsburg told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's this surreal contrast of two things that don't go together: the quiet domesticity of a large and carefully tended house, and the utter chaos that shudders through it." This also gave some depth to a film that Van Allsburg complained originally had "movie cliches and a Los Angeles-centric feeling." 

3. VAN ALLSBURG'S FRUSTRATION WITH MONOPOLY IS WHAT INSPIRED HIM TO WRITE JUMANJI.

In a 2004 interview with Scholastic students and teachers, Van Allsburg revealed the thinking behind his picture book. “When I was a little boy and I would play games like Monopoly, they seemed kind of exciting, but when I was done with the game, all I had was fake money,” he said. “So I thought that it would be fun and exciting if there were such a thing as a game board where whenever you landed on a square and it said something was going to happen, then it would really happen.”

4. ALAN PARRISH’S FAMILY LIFE IN THE FILM REMINDED ROBIN WILLIAMS OF HIS OWN FAMILY.

TriStar Pictures

When asked in a roundtable interview whether Parrish’s father was like Williams’s own, the actor admitted a slight comparison. “He was a bit stern and kind of elegant,” Williams said. However, the actor likened the disconnected relationship between Alan and his father to the fractured relationship between his dad and grandfather. “The wonderful thing about [my dad] is he would never force me to do anything ... because something had happened early in his life where he didn’t want that to happen to me. He had to give up a dream,” Williams continued. “His father had been very wealthy and when his father died, they lost all of that and he was forced to work at a strip mine in Pennsylvania ... When I found something I loved, [my dad] saw that ... That’s what makes it nice, when you can connect on that level.” 

5. WILLIAMS RELATED TO ALAN AS AN ONLY CHILD.

In a 1995 interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Williams recalled how his feelings of being an only child helped him connect with Alan. “I've read Jumanji to my four-year-old and six-year-old. They are fascinated and a bit frightened by the black-and-white drawings of monsters under the bed,” said Williams. “But the story has ... something much deeper and more disturbing. It's the fear all children have of abandonment and separation from their parents. That's where my character comes in. I play a boy who has been swallowed up in the game. By the time he is able to come out, 26 years later, his parents are dead, and he feels lost and alone. That's something I can understand. As an only child, I had no siblings to play with, and my parents worked hard, and we moved around a lot.'' 

6. ROBIN WILLIAMS WAS A JOKESTER ON SET.

TriStar Pictures

"Robin Williams was so wonderful to work with," Dunst told the Chicago Tribune back in 1995. "He would crack us up all the time on the set. I learned a lot about improv from him. My favorite impression he did was Nell (the Jodie Foster character) going through a drive-through." She wasn’t the only one to praise him, as co-star Bonnie Hunt noted in a 1995 interview, “When you walk on a set with Robin, it's like you're at a barbecue in his backyard. He really is a joy."

7. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED PETER SHEPHERD ALSO VOICED CHIP IN BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

TriStar Pictures

If hearing Bradley Pierce as Peter Shepherd in Jumanji felt oddly familiar, that’s because the then-child actor kicked off his career voicing the loveable teacup Chip in 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. Today, he continues to be an active voice actor, his most recognizable recent credit being The LEGO Movie video game.

8. THE PARRISH SHOES SIGN IS STILL ON DISPLAY IN KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Ron Schott, Flickr // CC BY 2.0 

In fact, upon news of Williams’ passing last year, the town’s residents gathered by the sign and set up a makeshift memorial for the late actor. “He was amazing, just amazing,” Rene Hammond, the owner of Frank’s Barbershop around the corner from the sign, told The Keene Sentinel. Days after, the town even had a screening of Jumanji. According to Yankee Magazine, Tim Horgan, The Colonial Theatre’s director of audience services, told Sentinel.com, “We thought it might be a good idea for us to do something good for the community in response, not only to commemorate Robin Williams because he was so impressive, but also because a little bit of our city is in the movie.” 

9. ROBIN WILLIAMS CLAIMED THAT "JUMANJI" MEANS “MANY EFFECTS” IN ZULU.

Hence all the chaos that ensues in the film. In the same interview with Entertainment Weekly, Williams also mentioned some fake answers he’d give to people who asked him what Jumanji meant. ”I tell them it’s an island in the Caribbean. Book your travel there early,” Williams joked. 

10. ALAN PARRISH’S FATHER AND HUNTER VAN PELT ARE PLAYED BY THE SAME ACTOR. 

TriStar Pictures

For those who never realized Jonathan Hyde played both Alan’s distant dad and villain Van Pelt, you’re welcome. Surely, Joe Johnston had to be playing with symbolism here, as Alan Parrish had to overcome both oppressive men in the film. 

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Perfect Gifts for The Pop Culture Connoisseur in Your Life

Funko/Pinsantiy/Lil Cinephile/Amazon
Funko/Pinsantiy/Lil Cinephile/Amazon

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

Over the past year, most everyone has been marinating in all kinds of pop culture. More than any other era, this moment in time has revealed how much we as a society should value our creators and artists. From cinematic comfort food to walks down nostalgia lane, the holiday season is a perfect time to celebrate the pop culture moments and icons that have kept us happy, engaged, and awed.

Here are 10 perfect gifts the pop culture connoisseur in your life is sure to love.

1. A is for Auteur; $30

Lil Cinephile/Amazon

The same team that put out the delightful, surprisingly adaptable Cinephile card game ($18) last year is out with a new book perfect for the cineastes in your life who love Agnès Varda. This alphabet book goes from A (Paul Thomas Anderson) to Z (Fred Zinnemann) and celebrates the unique elements of more than two dozen filmmakers’ careers. It’s a tongue-in-cheek delight, and if you don’t actually want your child to know about Quentin Tarantino just yet, it makes a gorgeous addition to any adult’s coffee table.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Schitt’s Creek Funkos; 4 for $77

Funko/Amazon

Eww, David! This set is ideal for fans of the Rose family who’d love Moira, Johnny, David, and Alexis peering down on them as they work or sleep or fold in the cheese. If you’re going the extra mile, grab the Amish David edition with hoodie, sunglasses, and rake. Individual figures run from $9-$30, and they all pair perfectly with a banana rosé.

Buy Them: Amazon

3. The Bruce Lee Criterion Collection; $68

Criterion Collection/Amazon

This is a stunning collection showcasing the best of the best of a true master alongside Criterion’s usual insightful commentary. Enter the Dragon has never been released as part of a collection before, and it stands as the crown jewel among The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, and the infamous Game of Death—all digitally restored in either 2K or 4K. The collection also features documentaries about Lee; an interview with his widow, Linda Lee Caldwell; and a conversation about the “Bruceploitation” subgenre that blossomed following Lee's untimely death.

Buy It: Amazon

4. NES Cartridge Coasters; $11

Paladone Products Ltd./Amazon

For the entertainer happy to have guests place their IPAs on SM3. These stylish coasters will protect your tables from coffee rings, wine stains, and barrels thrown by kidnapping apes. Plus, you won’t have to blow into these if they’re not loading correctly.

Buy Them: Amazon

5. Van Buren Boys Tee; $16

Underground Printing/Amazon

Deep into its eighth season, Seinfeld was still making iconic, quote-worthy moments. With this pre-shrunk, 100 percent cotton T, your favorite fan of the show about nothing can celebrate the comical street gang named for the 8th president (and the first president hailing from New York). It’s a handsome, comfortable shirt that comes in four colors and goes great with a Lorenzo’s pizza.

Buy It: Amazon

6. This Television History Puzzle; $49

White Mountain Puzzle/Amazon

This pop collage of more than 250 stars and scenes from TV’s past is a 1000-piece puzzle from acclaimed artist James Mellett. It’s probably the only image in existence where Kunta Kinte is between Superman, Gumby, and Norm and Cliff from Cheers. A gorgeous walk down memory lane, it’s also a healthy challenge that, at 24x30, would make a fine wall hanging if you don’t want to toss it back into the box.

Buy It: Amazon

7. Pictures at a Revolution; $17

Penguin Books/Amazon

Entertainment Weekly veteran Mark Harris is one of the most respected film historians of this generation, and this book, which goes deep on five pivotal films, is a must-have for serious cinephiles. Exploring Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, and the surprise box office bomb Doctor Doolittle, Harris explores how 1967 marked a tectonic shift in American cultural preferences. Pair it with Five Came Back for bonus gifting points (and a book you can watch together on Netflix).

Buy It: Amazon

8. The Art of Mondo; $44

Insight Editions/Amazon

This is high on the list of gifts you’ll end up keeping for yourself. This sublime book boasts 356 pages of gorgeous prints from everyone’s favorite films. Cult, classics, blockbusters, and buried gems, the Austin-based Mondo is world-renowned for limited release posters from the best artists on the planet. One sheets typically sell for hundreds of dollars, so this book is the cheapest way to get them all. For your friend, of course. Right?

Buy It: Amazon

9. A Princess Bride Enamel Pin; $10

Pinsanity/Amazon

I do not think this pin means what you think it means. This playful piece features Vizzini’s shouting face above a stately “Inconceivable!” banner. It’s made of quality metal with vibrant enamel colors, and buying it should also send you down a rabbit hole looking for dozens of other pop culture pins.

Buy It: Amazon

10. Marvel’s Greatest Comics; $23

DK/Amazon

Someone in your life is bound to want three pounds of Marvel comics. This definitive tome showcases 100 issues that changed the world and built a powerhouse pop culture company, from Marvel #1 in 1939 to Avengers #6 in 2018. The eye-popping artwork is accompanied by smart commentary from industry trailblazers and experts, which makes it as informative as it is entertaining. Just remember to say “Pow!” when you gift it.

Buy Them: Amazon

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