Mark Mancini and Mental_Floss present 10 Invasive Facts About Mars Attacks. Here are three of my favorites…
2. BURTON WANTED HIS MARTIANS TO BE ANIMATED VIA STOP-MOTION.
The concept of a Mars Attacks! movie first surfaced in 1985, but development wouldn’t begin in earnest until 1994, when screenwriter John Gems and director Tim Burton got involved with the project. To bring the aliens to life, Burton intended to utilize stop-motion animation, something he’s “always [loved] and always will.”
Early in pre-production, a set of 12-inch articulated Martian models were built for testing purposes. At first, Burton’s plan was to have these animated in front of a blue screen. They would then be inserted digitally onto miniature sets by the artists at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Ultimately, though, Burton decided to abandon the stop-motion approach when ILM presented him with some impressive screen tests featuring computer-animated aliens.
Despite this, Mars Attacks! still pays tribute to the older effects technique. At Burton’s instruction, ILM animated the digital extraterrestrials as if they were stop motion puppets. This is why the Martians move a bit more rigidly than did most contemporary CG characters, such as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993).
4. WHY DID SO MANY CELEBRITIES JOIN THE CAST? THANK JACK NICHOLSON.
Let’s do a quick head count. Glenn Close, Martin Short, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox, and Sarah Jessica Parker are just a few of the big names on this movie’s mile-long list of stars. And yet, when the casting process began, Mars Attacks! struggled to attract any players with serious marquee value. Gems blames this on the fact that most of its characters either die in some cartoonish manner or end up disfigured.
“Agents didn’t want to see their star clients playing loser roles, and a lot of big acts passed on the project,” he says. “At one point, we thought we were going to have to cancel the film. The guy who saved our butt was Jack Nicholson.” According to Burton, the Academy Award-winner was enthusiastic about joining Mars Attacks! from the very start. After sending Nicholson the script, Burton gave him a call while location-scouting. “Which part would you like to do?” asked the director. “How about all of them?” Nicholson replied.
In the end, he was double-cast as President Dale and a sleazy Vegas businessman. Once word got around that Nicholson would be involved, other celebs lined up to join the ensemble. “We started getting requests from more stars than there were parts for,” Gems notes. “It was like a tidal wave when Jack came on.”
9. INDEPENDENCE DAY OWES ITS TITLE—AND PART OF ITS PREMISE—TO MARS ATTACKS!
While Burton toiled away on Mars Attacks!, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were writing an alien invasion movie of their own, but theirs was to have a more serious tone. The duo knew that both pictures would be released at some point in the summer of 1996.
“I said to Dean, we can’t do our film after a parody comes out. We had to beat [Burton] to it,” Emmerich recently said in an interview with The Guardian. “If it came out on the 4 July weekend, we would beat Mars Attacks!, which was coming out in August. So we wrote the concept around the release date. Dean said: ‘Let’s just call it Independence Day; we can come up with something better later.” The rest is history.