18 Big Facts About Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Walt Disney Home Video
Walt Disney Home Video

What would it be like to be a quarter of an inch tall? Moviegoers in the summer of 1989 were eager to find out. They flocked to theaters to watch as the Szalinski and Thompson kids dodged refrigerator-sized drops of water, befriended a giant ant, fought a fearsome scorpion, and feasted upon a massive cream-filled cookie. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is often viewed as the quintessential live-action Disney film, but its roots are firmly in the horror movie genre. Here are a few surprising facts about the film, in celebration of its 30th anniversary

1. The horror director behind Re-Animator came up with the idea.

Stuart Gordon wasn’t the first filmmaker one would think of to direct a Disney film. With a background in experimental theater—including a trippy, in-the-nude version of Peter Pan—he made his name with campy horror films like 1985’s Re-Animator, about a scientist who brings the dead back to life, and 1987's Dolls, about a murderous collection of dolls (tagline: “They Walk. They Talk. They Kill.”). After he became a father, Gordon decided to make a kids’ movie. Along with Brian Yuzna, who had worked with him on Re-Animator, and Dolls writer Ed Naha, Gordon came up with an idea for a film about a hapless inventor who accidentally shrinks his children and throws them out with the garbage. He pitched the idea to Disney, who loved it and gave Gordon the green light to direct.

2. Its original title was Teenie Weenies.

The title was a nod to William Donahey’s comic strip from the early 1900s, which followed the adventures of a tiny, inoffensive band of characters. Disney executives hated it, thinking the title would turn off adult moviegoers. So Gordon and company changed the title to Grounded, then The Backyard before deciding to borrow a line of dialogue that Wayne Szalinski utters to his wife, Diane.

3. Disney was really nervous about the film.

Although Disney was excited about Gordon’s idea, they weren’t exactly confident the horror director could deliver a family-friendly feature. "Disney was worried that I was going to kill all the kids," Gordon said in one interview. "And I kept saying, 'No, I’m not going to kill them. But I want the audience to think they might die.'" Disney’s trepidations extended to the movie’s creature effects—most notably Anty, the heroic ant.

The studio told Gordon they wanted Anty to look less like a real ant and more like E.T. "I said, 'Well E.T. scared more kids than an ant does,'" according to Gordon. To convince the brass, Gordon invited them to the workshop where crew members were putting the finishing touches on the robotic puppet. Gordon made Anty nuzzle him like a horse to show how friendly the creature could act. And just like that, the executives were convinced.

4. Joe Johnston replaced Stuart Gordon at the 11th hour.

Just as production on the film was set to begin, Stuart Gordon became sick and had to leave the set. Unable to delay the shoot, Disney brought in Joe Johnston, a visual effects specialist who had worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark and all three Star Wars films. It was his first directing job. After the success of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Johnston went on to direct The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, and, most recently, Captain America: The First Avenger. Gordon, meanwhile, finally got his shot at directing Honey, I Shrunk the Kids—albeit 10 years later, helming one episode of the television show, which ran for three seasons in the late 1990s.

5. The movie was filmed in Mexico City.

If you thought the Szalinskis's suburban California neighborhood and backyard looked like the real deal, well, think again. The entire set—including several houses, complete with white picket fences and manicured lawns—was erected on a back lot at Mexico City’s Churubusco Studios. Established in 1945, Churubusco was the epicenter of Mexican film production in the 20th century and a favorite of cost-conscious American producers, with scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Total Recall, Free Willy, and numerous other films shot there. The set work is very convincing, but there are a few seams showing: If you look carefully in the scene where the mailman is walking the neighborhood, you can see the beams in the back lot wall, which had been painted blue to stand in as the sky.

6. Anty took up to 12 workers to operate.

The heroic ant, who befriends the pint-sized Szalinski and Thompson kids and (SPOILER ALERT) tragically dies fighting off a scorpion, took a lot of effort to bring to life. The special effects team built multiple versions of Anty, including a miniature for stop-motion animation sequences. Most of the scenes in which Anty interacts with the actors involved a large robotic puppet whose legs, eyes, head, and antennae were all controlled by separate crew members. “It takes somewhere between seven and 12 people to make the ant run," Peter Zamora, the film’s miniatures assistant, said in a making-of documentary.

7. Marcia Strassman's hair was two different colors.

Two weeks into filming, Marcia Strassman, who played Diane Szalinski, received a note from Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg requesting she change her hair color from reddish-brown to blonde. Strassman complied, and she kept her hair that color for the sequel, 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. "We said, 'But we've been shooting for two weeks,'" Strassman told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "And [Katzenberg] said, 'No one will notice.' And no one did. No one noticed that my hair is two totally different colors in that movie."

8. The set designers used a lot of foam.

From giant broom bristles to towering blades of grass, the movie’s set designers were masters at fashioning latex and polyurethane foam into outsized versions of everyday objects. To show the kids getting swept into Wayne Szalinski’s dustpan, designers attached the giant foam bristles to a hanging screen that swept across the stage. The enormous cream-filled cookie, meanwhile, was also made out of foam, with globs of actual cream mixed in for the kids to shovel into their mouths.

9. The bumblebee flight required some technical wizardry.

By 1980s movie standards, and even current ones, the bumblebee ride that Nick Szalenski and Little Russ Thompson take is impressive. Creating the sequence required a giant bee model for close-up shots with the actors, along with an extended shot by a camera that zipped and dove around the Szalenski backyard. Pretty standard stuff, but visual effects lead Tom Smith added a third element: a small, $30,000 robotic bee with miniatures of the actors on top. The fine movements of the robotic bee were spliced in with the close-up shots against the green screen, then touched up with some added digital effects in post-production to create the final sequence. “We were able to cut them quickly enough and mix them up so that it gives the incredible sense of flight when you see it,” Smith said.

10. The animated opening credits were groundbreaking.

The movie opened with an animated sequence showing two tiny children running from a record needle, a typewriter, and other menacing everyday objects as title credits cleverly materialized. According to the graphic design site Art of the Title, the sequence—created by Kroyer Films—was one of the first to combine hand-drawn animations with 3D models. The team that created the sequence included Andrew Stanton, who would go on to work on Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and WALL·E, along with Eric Stefani, an acclaimed animator and brother of Gwen Stefani. Kroyer went on to produce animated sequences for two other films that year: Troop Beverly Hills and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

11. The opening credits were also grounds for a lawsuit.

The musical score that accompanies the animated credits, written by James Horner, sounds very similar to the 1937 song “Powerhouse,” by jazz composer Raymond Scott—a little too close, by some estimations. Scott’s estate sued Disney for failing to credit the composer. The studio settled the case out of court and made sure the estate received its fair share of future royalties.

12. The movie was a surprise hit.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’s $14 million haul on opening weekend was the biggest opening ever for a Disney movie—by a long shot. It was also a surprise for the studio, considering the movie wasn’t a sequel, and had received mixed reviews from critics. "Our tracking showed that there was awareness of the film out there, but there was nothing to make us think it would do what it did," then-Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg said at the time. In all, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would earn more than $130 million domestically and $92 million in worldwide release.

13. Batman contributed to the movie's success.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids opened on June 23, 1989—the same day as Tim Burton's Batman, which finished number one at the box office and had fans lining up around the block to see it. According to the Los Angeles Times and other sources, many theatergoers who couldn’t get in to see Batman opted to see Honey, I Shrunk the Kids instead, helping to boost that movie to number two at the box office.

14. Disney revived the long-dormant animated short with the film.

Those who saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in theaters may remember the animated short Tummy Trouble, starring Roger Rabbit, that preceded the film. The seven-minute romp—which also features Baby Herman, a swallowed rattle, and a trip to the hospital gone awry—was the revival of the short films that studios often played before a feature presentation. It was Disney’s first “short” in nearly 25 years, and one of several that the studio released aimed at boosting the popularity of classic characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck with younger viewers.

Given the popularity of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released the previous year, Disney figured its goofball hare would also boost viewership for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Indeed, Disney gave the two productions equal space on promotional posters and print ads, despite the difference in run times.

15. It earned an award for poor grammar.

As any English major could tell you, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is not a grammatically correct title (it should be “Shrank”). This earned public ridicule from SPELL, the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature, which awarded the film its Dunce Cap Award for 1989. A Disney executive was quick to fire back that the mistake was deliberate, as it’s taken from a line of dialogue in the film (and the error certainly didn't do anything to hurt the movie's box office haul).

16. It took 20 years for the movie's soundtrack to be released.

Aside from the film’s opening theme, which became tainted by controversy, the music from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids isn’t particularly memorable. Thus the film’s score wasn’t subsequently released as a soundtrack. But\ composer James Horner, who had previously scored Aliens and Cocoon, became increasingly popular in the years to come as he scored films like Field of Dreams, Braveheart, Titanic, and Avatar. Demand for the score also rose as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids became a reliable cable rerun. So in 2009, tiny music label Intrada put out a limited run of 3000 copies of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids soundtrack. It’s sold out, but if you just have to have such classic tracks as “Watering the Grass” and “Lawnmower," you can nab a used copy for around $60 on Amazon. Sadly, Horner was killed in a plane crash in 2015.

17. Only one of the young actors is still working.

A scene from 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' (1989)
Walt Disney Home Video

For the young actors in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, box office success didn’t translate into long-term career success. Robert Oliveri and Jared Rushton, who played young Nick Szalinski and Ron Thompson, respectively, gave up acting in the 1990s. Same with Amy O’Neill, whose only other major role was in 1993’s White Wolves: A Cry in the Wild II (though she popped up in an uncredited role on Baskets earlier this year). Only Thomas Wilson Brown, who played Little Russ Thompson, continues to appear in films and TV shows, and only sporadically at that.

The adult ensemble, meanwhile, fared somewhat better. Matt Frewer (Big Russ Thompson) has worked steadily in films and TV series like Orphan Black and 12 Monkeys, while Marcia Strassman, known for roles in M*A*S*H and Welcome Back, Kotter, made regular appearances on shows like Tremors, Highlander, and Providence, until her tragic death from breast cancer in 2014. And then there’s Rick Moranis, who went completely off the radar in the mid-1990s to focus on raising his two kids after his wife passed away. In recent interviews, he has said that he would return to acting if the right role comes along.

18. It's basically a horror movie.

Consider the evidence: It’s got an obsessive scientist, giant bugs, a near-death by lawnmower, and the Freudian nightmare of a father nearly eating his son. The nod to horror films of the past was intentional on the part of Gordon, who sees the movie as an homage to fright-night flicks like Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Incredible Shrinking Man. In recent interviews, he’s quick to lump it in with other horror movies he’s made. “Really, it’s not that different than Re-Animator,” Gordon said. “It’s about a mad scientist and an experiment that goes wrong, and so forth. The potential for severing some heads was there when you have a giant ant coming at you with those big mandibles. Who knows what could happen?”

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

15 Fun Facts About Betty White

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 98th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. Her name is Betty, not Elizabeth.

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. She's a Guinness World Record holder.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. Her first television appearance is lost to history.

A photo of Betty White
Getty Images

Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. White's initial rise to stardom was derailed by World War II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. Her first sitcom hit was in the early 1950s.

A photo of actress Betty White
Getty Images

Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she has won five times.

6. White loves a parade.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. She has been married three times.


Getty Images

White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. Her meet-cute with husband number three happened on Password.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. White originally auditioned for the role of Blanche on The Golden Girls.

A photo of actress Betty White
Getty Images

Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. If she hadn't been an actor, she'd have been a zookeeper.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. She passed on a role in As Good as It Gets because of an animal cruelty scene.

A photo of actress Betty White
Getty Images

White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A Facebook campaign made White the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. She is the oldest person to earn an Emmy nomination.


Getty Images

In 2014, White earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. She loves junk food.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. She wants Robert Redford.

A photo of actor Robert Redford
Getty Images

White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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