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20 Lesser-Known Facts About Jumanji (1995)

Facts about Jumanji

A lot of people reading this must have grown up watching the 1995 movie Jumanji. Based on a picture book, this movie was a big hit at the box office. And why not? This movie has everything that one expects in a good entertaining movie – danger, action, suspense, love, and Robin Williams! In spite of all this (or maybe because of all this), there are many details in the movie of which most of us are just unaware. We bring to you 20 such lesser-known facts about the original Jumanji.

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1. The movie Jumanji was based on a picture book by Chris Van Allsburg that was released in 1981. According to him, the word “jumanji” translates to “many effects” in Zulu. This implies “the exciting consequences of the game” as mentioned in the film.

Jumanji picture book & movie
The cover of the picture book (left) and the poster for the movie (right). Image Credit: Wikipedia, Wikipedia

Jumanji is a children’s fantasy picture book. The book was written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, an American author. This book was adapted in 1995 into what we know as the first Jumanji movie. The book, as well as the movie, depicts a magical board game in which whatever happens in the game happens in real life as well. This leads to the emergence of animals and other jungle elements in the real lives of the players.

The author Van Allsburg stated that the word “jumanji” translates into “many effects” in Zulu. This sounds apt considering the various exciting occurrences that are portrayed in the story. In 2011, in honor of the book’s 30th edition, Robin Williams, the actor who plays the role of the protagonist in the movie, recorded an audiobook. (source)

2. Bradley Pierce had to undergo three hours of prosthetic makeup sessions every day for 70 days for his scenes as a monkey. 

Bradley Pierce played the role of Peter in the 1995 movie Jumanji. He was one of the two orphaned siblings who uncover the game and start playing it without realizing the extreme consequences. In a certain move in the game, Pierce’s character, Peter, starts developing ape-like features.

Bradley Pierce
Bradley Pierce in the movie Jumanji (left), in his ape-like form (middle), and current (right). Image Credit: TriStar Pictures, IMDB

This meant that 12-year-old Pierce had to go through a painstaking make-up routine for the role. In an interview with The New York Times, Pierce recalls that it took three and a half hours to apply the make-up and another hour to remove it. Originally, the plan was to shoot the monkey-sequence in 40 days, but the timeline got extended to 70 days. So for 70 days, Peter had to go through the make-up ordeal every single day.

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He recalls, “I couldn’t eat once the makeup was on because it would destroy the makeup around the mouth, so I was drinking protein shakes through straws.” (1, 2, 3)

3. Bradley Pierce, who played Peter Shepherd, also voiced Chip in the original Beauty and the Beast. Also, Scarlett Johansson auditioned for the role of Judy Shepherd. 

Bradley Pierce was the actor who played Peter Shepherd in the 1995 movie Jumanji. He was just 12 years old when he auditioned for the role. He is also well known for providing the original voice of Chip in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast.

Kirsten Caroline Dunst was not the only currently-famous actress to have auditioned for the role of Judy Shepherd. Scarlett Johansson also auditioned for the same role. Despite the ridiculously cute audition, the role finally went to Kirsten Dunst which shot her up to stardom. (1, 2, 3

4. Carl Bentley is shown to be an adult when Alan Parrish was a child. But the actor who played Carl is four years younger than Robin Williams, aka Alan. Moreover, Williams was ten years older than Bonnie Hunt who plays Sarah Whittle. But in the movie, they are portrayed as being kids together at the same time. 

Carl Bentley
Young Carl Bentley in 1969 (left)/ Grown up Carl Bentley in 1995 (right). Image Credit: TriStar Pictures

There is an enormous difference between real life and “reel life.” That is quite apparent in this movie too. When Alan was a child, he visits Carl Bentley in the shoe factory. But in real life, David Alan Grier who played Carl in the movie is not even older than Robin Williams, the actor who portrayed Alan. In fact, Alan Grier is four years younger than Williams.

The same happens with Bonnie Hunt, the actor who portrayed Sarah Whittle. In real life, Hunt is ten years younger than Williams. (1, 2, 3)

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5. The actor who played the bully Billy Jessup in the movie had only one other acting credit throughout his life. He appeared on the Law & Order episode “Wannabe” (1995), in which he, ironically, plays a bullying victim.

Gary Joseph Thorup
Gary Joseph Thorup in Law & Order episode Wannabe (left) and in Jumanji (right). Image Credit: IMDB, TriStar Pictures

Gary Joseph Thorup is the actor who plays the bully Billy Jessup in the 1995 Jumanji.  He was born on December 11, 1980. Apart from Jumanji, he had made only one other acting appearance. He played a bullying victim in the “Wannabe” episode of Law & Order. (source)

6. Director Joe Johnston had doubts over casting Robin Williams as Alan as he feared the actor’s reputation for improvisation. Despite being the most highly-paid actor in the movie, Robin Williams appears only after twenty-eight minutes into the film.

Joe Johnston
The director Joe Johnston on the set of Jumanji. Image Credit: The New York Times

Robin Williams had a reputation of not adhering to the script and wanting to improvise. This made Director Joe Johnston a little reluctant in hiring him as the lead. Johnston recalls, “I was a little apprehensive at first based on what I’d heard about Robin and how he wants to ad-lib and go crazy.” But, fortunately, nothing of the sort happened. Williams understood that it was very vital for post-production for him to adhere to the script. He understood the story was tightly structured and never applied his out-of-the-box ideas.

Also, he earned a whopping $15,000,000 for his role in Jumanji. But, he only first appears 28 minutes into the movie. His entry can be seen in the above movie clip. (1, 2)

7. The end of the movie was shot first as the set was needed to be clean for the Christmas scene. After this, the rest of the movie was shot, and the set was slowly destroyed with each scene. 

Christmas scene Jumanji
The Christmas scene from the movie. Image Credit: TriStar Pictures

This is logical. This eliminated the need for another set to be built up just to shoot the last scene. Above is an image of the Christmas scene where the set looks clean and beautiful. The stage set, for the scenes that were shot inside the house, was built inside the Bridge Studio in Burnaby. (source)

8. When Judy and Peter uncover the Jumanji board game, it lies next to another board game called “Password.” Password was based on a TV show, Password All-Stars, that used to air in the 1960s.

Password
Password game can be seen from this scene of Jumanji. Image Credit: TriStar Pictures

Judy and Peter are waiting for the school bus to arrive when they hear drumming noises. They go up to the attic and discover that the sound is coming from a box that lies under the board games. There are many board games, but the most prominent one is Password.

Password All-Stars was a game show that aired between 1961 and 1967. The game consists of two teams. Each team has a celebrity player and a regular contestant. The objective was for one contestant to convey mystery words to the other contestant using just single-word clues. The winner would walk away with cash prizes. (source)

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9. When Alan is sucked into the board game, he shouts to Sarah, “ROLL THE DICE!” If Sarah had rolled a five or an eight instead of running out of the house, Alan would have had the chance to get out of the Jumanji game right then.

Well, that would have completely changed the movie!

10. Alan’s Dad and the hunter, Van Pelt, are played by the same actor. This is to show that the hunter represents the qualities that Alan’s dad wanted him to have.

Jonathan Hyde
Jonathan Hyde as Sam Parrish (left), Alan’s father and as Van Pelt (right), the hunter. Image Credit: TriStar Pictures

The role of Alan’s Dad and the hard-core British hunter was played by the same actor – Jonathan Hyde. The hunter was depicted as being fearless, strong, and with an air of masculinity. These are all characters that Alan used to lack as a child. His father, on the other hand, wanted him to have all these characteristics. So maybe, using the same actor, the director wanted to portray a message that Alan feels the same unreasonable and unassailable pressure with the hunter as he did with his dad. (source)

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