It was dark and downright weird, but that's why we loved Mousetrap so much. In a world full of sugary sweet kids' movies, this bizarre comedy about two brothers trying to evict a genius rodent really stood out.
If you asked your parents to rent this movie over and over and over, you'll get a kick out of these 11 facts.
1. A sneaky ad for the movie poked fun at Disney
Mousehunt was the first live-action family comedy from Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen's studio Dreamworks. It seems the trio couldn't resist poking fun at their biggest competitor in this ad, which didn't wind up on the movie's VHS or DVD copy (for obvious reasons).
2. The studio bosses hated the movie
The original pitch for Mousehunt was much closer to a Home Alone ripoff, which was just what the studio wanted. The dark and weird script turned them off, and things got frosty between the studio and the film's producers.
Mousehunt producer Tony Ludwig remembers former Dreamworks president Walter Parkes had this to say at a special party for the project:
You think I'm going to wish you well and hope that everything goes well. I'm not. I don't think you're ready to make this movie. I don't think this movie is any good. I think this was a big waste of money, and I think that all of you are going off on an adventure of folly.
3. Things weren't so gloomy on set
While it's raining, snowing, or overcast throughout the movie, things were much brighter away from the film's set. As Reddit user CaptainChewbacca reveals, "This was actually filmed in my hometown in late summer, my bus went past the house every day and we could see the fake snow on the lawn.”
4. The project used 60 trained mice
While close-ups used an animatronic rodent, and some scenes involved CGI, most shots were made using a team of 60 field mice trained by animal trainer Boone Narr. The mice were trained for everything from running and climbing to sleeping in a sardine can underneath a tissue paper blanket.
"Mice are very intelligent," Narr said. "There are scenes where they come out and grab an olive and take off with it, or retrieve a Cheerio, or jump from one object to another... multiple things in one take with no cuts. Most people think mice can't do that, but they can."
In fact the cast and crew were so impressed with the mice that they even took a few home as pets.
5. But the mice weren't ready for their close-ups
Certain shots just didn't look "right" with mice in front of the camera, so rats were used a "body doubles" for the rodents instead.
6. It wasn't a hit with audiences
The dark and violent Mousehunt was already a hard sell for families looking to enjoy themselves at the theater, but it didn't help that it premiered the same week as Titanic.
Even movie buffs like Roger Ebert didn't seem to "get" the movie. “Mousehunt is not very funny," he wrote, "and maybe couldn't have been very funny no matter what, because the pieces for comedy are not in place.“ Still, it wasn't a total bomb, and made more than $120 million at the box office.
7. The mousetraps in the infamous scene were 100% real
More than 800 traps were set up for the scene, and each was rigged individually using wires underneath the floor. Of course, it took several takes to get everything right, and every trap had to be reset, baited, and wired by hand multiple times.
Still, we say all that work definitely paid off.
8. The theme music was more popular than the movie itself
Alan Silvestri's theme song for the movie turned out to be perfect for playful but kind of serious comedy movies, and it was played to death in trailers during the early 2000s. Many songs from the movie's score were even recycled and used in other comedies. See if you can recognize them.
9. The film was Gore Verbinski's debut
The director went on to make other strange but funny family movies including Pirates of the Caribbean and Rango, so it's no wonder the movie was such a gem.
10. Timon and Pumba reunited on set
Of course Nathan Lane (Timon) plays Ernie Smuntz, one of the main characters. But the pound owner Maury is also played by Ernie Sabella, the voice of Pumba.
Listen close during the auction scene, too. Ernie greets one of the buyers by bowing and saying "Hakuna Matata." Pretty sneaky!
11. William Hickey was as sick as he looked
The actor played string factory owner Rudolf Smunthz in a few flashback scenes, and this was Hickey's final role before he died from emphysema. The movie was still filming when he passed away, but he had already recorded all his scenes. The film is also dedicated to Hickey.
Share this list if you remember Mousehunt!