Two kids find a board game called Jumanji that brings the game to life. However, this means that monsoons, monkeys, and stampedes start to wreck the town. Their only hope is to reach Jumanji in the center and finish the game.
Jumanji was a 1995 family comedy film starring Robin Williams. The film was based on the 1981 Chris Van Allsburg children's story in which a board game brings a fantasy jungle environment to reality. While being dismissed by movie critics as a mediocre spring release, the film acted as a launching pad for many careers in the late 1990s. Furthermore, Industrial Light and Magic set a milestone in CGI film compositing and actor interaction with its work on Jumanji.
The Outskirts of Brantford, New Hampshire - 1869
Two boys in period garb travel via horse-drawn cart into the deep woods surrounding their sleepy New Hampshire town. They are frightened and nervous as they take a sealed chest from the back of the cart. The boys quickly bury the chest. At one point, the chest pulls the younger boy towards it. The scared children hurry away from the scene. One boy asks the other what will happen if someone finds the chest. The other responds, "May God have mercy on his soul." The sound of drums permeate the forest as a mile marker indicates that the burial site is one mile from Brantford, New Hampshire.
Brantford, New Hampshire - 1969
Another Care Free Day in Brantford.
The town of Brantford has expanded in the previous century. Life bustles in the medium-sized town with cars filling the wide, paved streets and people going about their lives. A boy rides a bicycle down the street, shouting greetings to the people he meets. He is the twelve year old Allan Parrish ( Adam Hann-Byrd). Allan enjoys his time during the sunny day until a group of bullies, also on bicycles, give chase. Allan flees to his father's shoe factory. The bullies await him outside the safety of the footwear makery.
It's Called A "Sneaker."
Allan goes over to his friend Carl Bentley ( David Alan Grier). Carl works as a cobbler and shoe designer. Carl shows Allan a prototype shoe -- a new type of high-toppped, basketball sneaker. Allan's father ( Jonathan Hyde) arrives. Allan absent mindedly places the prototype shoe on a conveyor belt before he asks his father for help with the bullies. Allan's father tells Allan that he needs to be a man and face his problems. Allan leaves. The shoe he left on conveyor belt jams an expensive piece of equipment. Allan's father is angry. Carl takes the blame and is in turn fired for his covering for Allan.
Outside the factory, Allan is beaten mercilessly by the bullies behind the same mile marker that the boys from 1869 passed as they buried the mystery chest. A bloody, bruised Allan stumbles into a nearby construction site. He wanders into the foundation of the in-construction building and pulls a box from the soil. Unsurprisingly, it is the mystery bongo box that the 1869 boys buried. Allan opens the chest and discovers a hand carved board game called Jumanji. He takes it back to his family mansion.
He Hates His Father.
At home, he hides Jumanji for further analysis. His mother asks what happened because Allan's face is cut and swollen. He claims everything is fine. Later, his parents prepare to go to a high class function. Allan's father congratulates Allan on his beating by informing him that he is being sent to boarding school. Have fun. They leave him alone while they go to their black tie event. Allan is upset and yells at his father. He never wants to see him again.
Young People Playing "Jumanji." Disgusting.
Allan's friend comes to the mansion. She is the twelve year old Sarah Whittle ( Laura Bell Bundy). She returns Allan's bicycle and apologizes for her boyfriend, the head bully. For some reason, Allan invites Sarah inside where they rediscover Jumanji. They open the board game and read the rules. It is a game that offers people who hate their lives a way to escape. Each player rolls the dice. The pieces move themselves and a clue is given with dangerous consequences. The objective of the game is to get to the center of the board and declare "Jumanji!" The duo begins a game. Sarah rolls first and gets a clue about bats. Bats start to swarm. Alan rolls. His clue traps him within the board game until someone rolls a five or eight on the dice. True to the clue, Alan is pulled into the board game. Bats attack the freaked out Sarah as she flees the Parrish residence.
Bats Are Affectionate Creatures..
Brantford, New Hampshire - 1995
Aunt Nora Remains Clueless Throughout the Movie Then Ceases to Exist.
Twenty-six years later, young brother and sister Peter and Judy Shepherd ( Bradley Pierce and Kirsten Dunst) move into the Parrish house. Their parents have died in a car crash. Their aunt Nora Shepherd ( Bebe Neuwirth) is their caretaker now. As Aunt Nora starts talking to the real estate agent, Peter and Judy wander off and explore the house.
Later, the Shepherds start moving into the house. Moving boxes litter the hallways as Aunt Nora tries to match keys to doors. She sends Peter to the attic. He gets scared by a bat of a species native to Africa. He shrieks and runs. Nora calls an exterminator who finds no bat. The kids find the house creepy. The next day, Aunt Nora must go into town. She leaves Peter and Judy alone to wait for the school bus. Drum beats attract Peter and Judy to the attic, and they find the Jumanji board game.
Supernatural Board Games Are Awesome.
The children start playing. Judy rolls. The children are attacked by giant mosquitoes. Peter rolls. Monkeys attack. The monkeys escape the house and begin terrorizing the town. Getting the hint about rolling dice equaling animal attack, the children attempt to stop playing, but the board game will not let them. Luckily, Peter gets a second turn. He rolls a five. A lion attacks, and the board game releases a much older Allan Parrish (Robin Williams). Allan, dressed as a wild man in animal skin and leaves, leaps to the rescue of the children. The big bushy beard of a man locks the lion in the master bedroom.
Temporarily safe, Allan commiserates with Peter and Judy. Allan is happy that someone has final released him from the board game. He has spend the last quarter century living in the jungle within the board game. He is ecstatic that he can resume his life. Allan slowly realizes that times have changed. Both his parents are dead, and he is now Robin Williams. Allan runs into the street and jumps onto a passing police car. It is driven by Carl Bentley, who became a police officer after being fired from Allan's father's shoe factory. Allan is confused after he learns the amount of time that has passed. Allan acts crazy and runs into town to find his parents. Peter and Judy follow him.
Allan Realizes He Is Now Old.
Allan finds that Brantford has fallen on hard times. Shops are closing, graffiti and crime are rampant, and there is a general sense of defeat. Apparently, the staple industry in Brantford was the shoe industry. Allan's father closed the shoe factory and devoted his life to searching for his lost son. When the shoe money dried up, the town fell into an economic depression. Allan finds his parents -- buried in the cemetery. He pays his respects.
The animals that the Shepherds unleashed on the town are causing problems. The mosquitoes have started biting people and causing them to swell. The monkeys are having fun. Judy suggests that they complete the game and things will go back to normal. It is an interesting theory. Allan and the Shepherd kids take shelter in a crashed car. They are attacked by the mosquitoes. The group escapes by driving the car back to Allans/the Shepherds' home.
Hi. Please Don't Kidnap Me.
Once there, Judy presents Allan with Jumanji. He recoils in terror. The board game has done nothing but torture him. Allan refuses to help the children complete the game. Instead, he cleans himself up and continues to deny that any of the events have happened. Peter insinuates that Allan is a coward. They continue to taunt him about being a coward. Allan objects and agrees to help. They try to roll the dice, but discover that it is not their turn. It is Sarah Whittle's turn -- the girl from 1969.
They go to her childhood home. Fortunately, she still lives there. Older Sarah Whittle, now Sarah Whittle-Hunt ( Bonnie Hunt), answers the door as a low rent psychic. Allan introduces himself as her childhood friend. She at first does not believe him. Sarah thinks that she is having a psychotic episode brought on by childhood trauma. She calls her psychiatrist. Allan shares intimate details of their lives that convinces Sarah to trust him. Somehow, Allan convinces her to continue playing the board game by kidnapping her.
Feed Me, Seymour.
Sarah rolls the dice. Vines attack. Allan warns them about the flora. He has spent a majority of his life evading the animated plants. A vine snares Peter, and a plant tries to eat him. Allan frees Peter by cutting the vine. The group barricades the house and continue the game. Allan rolls, and a 19th century British hunter bursts from the game. He is Van Pelt -- who suspiciously looks like Allan's father with a big mustache. Van Pelt fires an elephant gun at Allan. The hunter accuses Allan of being a coward and to "face him like a man." The group pretends to flee into the street. Van Pelt is fooled and runs into Police Officer Carl. Van Pelt shoots at Carl before heading into town. Back in the house, the board game players argue. Judy takes her next turn. A stampede of animals tear through the house. A final animal, a stork, steals the Jumanji board game before flying from the house. The group must now track down the board game.
In town, Van Pelt enters a gun store to buy more ammunition. The cartridges for his elephant gun no longer exist. Instead, he pays a large sum of gold coins to purchase a new rifle.
Stupid Jerk Bird.
You're All Crazy.
Alan chases the purloining stork to a nearby creek. He tries to take Jumanji back but the stork continually bites at his fingers. The board game is knocked into the river during the scuffle. Peter nimbly climbs a tree and plucks the board game from the water. Some would say his movements were monkey-like -- not that such a reference would ever have any significance. Carl finds Peter. He arrests Peter. This detention presents a problem. They no longer have a way of completing the game. Peter decides to take Peter's turn. This action violates the rules of Jumanji, and Peter is turned into a monkey as punishment.
As Carl drives Allan to the police station, Allan tries to convince the police officer that he is indeed Allan Parrish, the boy that got him fired and then disappeared. Carl brakes the police car hard as he realizes that Allan is Allan. Back in town, animals control the streets. The monkeys from earlier drive by on a police motorcycle. People loot stores as law and order breaks down. Van Pelt steals the Jumanji board as a way to lure Allan into a trap. Peter steals it back less than ten seconds later and runs into a mob fleeing a stampede of big animals. Peter is crushed into a car by an elephant. Van Pelt double steals the Jumanji board back from Peter. Sarah and Judy arrive and free the trapped Peter. Van Pelt sets his trap inside the local discount store. The trap fails as Judy, Peter, and Sarah attack Van Pelt.
Go, Rocket Canoe! Go!
Is There A Problem, Officers?
Carl mulls over whether or not to free Allan. Allan claims he can put an end to all the chaos. Carl frees Allan but regrets it as Allan handcuffs him to the door. Allan hears over the police radio that Van Pelt has Sarah and the children hostage. He climbs into the police car causing Carl to contort. Allan drives poorly in the direction of the discount store. On the way to the store, Allan and Carl run into the monkeys on a cop motorcycle. They are angry and armed. At the discount store, Judy and Sarah play keep away with Van Pelt over the Jumanji board. Peter rigs an elaborate contraption made of junk from the store. Van Pelt hunts the board game players. Van Pelt nearly has Judy, but Peter activates the rocket canoe he had been building. Van Pelt is knocked into the canoe and shot across the store. Van Pelt buries the trio under a pile of tires. Allan arrives to save the day. However, the brake lines were cut on the police cruiser and the car crashes through the side of the building. It knock Van Pelt over. The board game players escape with Jumanji. They head back to the Old Parrish Place. The board game players discover the house has turned into a swamp.
Aunt Nora runs into the stampede of animals. Carl saws the handcuffs off his hand. Van Pelt resumes the hunt. Carl drives his car towards the Parrish house and runs into Aunt Nora. He offers her a ride, but a plant eats his car. The board game players take their turns playing the game. They overcome the remaining problems that Jumanji throws at them -- monsoons, earthquake, giant spiders, etcetera. Van Pelt eventually finds Allan. As he is about to execute Allan, Allan rolls the dice. His piece moves to the center of the Jumanji board. Van Pelt asks if Allan has any final words. Allan simply breathes the word "Jumanji!" This declaration finishes the game. Everything from the Jungle World of Jumanji is pulled back into the board game. Sarah and Allan close the board game.
Brantford Again - 1969
And We All Learn A Valuable Lesson.
They look up and discover that they are in 1969 again. Everything that just happened did not. Yet, they still retain their memories of the last twenty-six years -- having to relive their lives will be fun. Allan's father returns home. Allan greets him with a hug. He apologizes and has learned much from his experiences in the Jungles of Jumanji. Allan reconciles with his father. Young Sarah and Allan weight the Jumanji board and toss it into a river.
Brantford Yet Again - 1995 Again
Why Is It Christmas? Who Cares!
Jumanji 2 Has Not Been Made... Yet.
Another twenty-six years pass. Allan now controls the shoe factory. Carl is one of his top executive designers. Sarah and Allan are happily married. At a Christmas Party, adult Sarah and Allan meet the Shepherd parents. They did not die in a car crash in this timeline. The parents introduce Judy and Peter once again. Sarah and Allan are happy to see them again; however, the kids are confused as to how the two adults know them. On a beach somewhere in the world, two French speaking girls come across the Jumanji board. It drums out an ominous beat.
Symbolism in Jumanji
If It Were Any More Blatant, It Would Be Flashing In Large Letters.
Jumanji is a simple Coming of Age and Be Careful What You Wish For fable. Young Allan Parrish dislikes his life. He believes his father hates him. The other kids in town attempt to murder him daily. He wants to escape his life. Jumanji offers this escape. It touts itself as a way to escape into another world. The world of Jumanji is drawn from Allan's psyche -- primarily his fears. A key theme in the movie is confronting one's fears. Allan has to struggle to survive in a jungle to overcome his. However, Allan cannot overcome his most important fear: his father. Van Pelt the Hunter is the surrogate for Allan's father -- because he is literally Allan's father. He accuses Allan of being a coward while forcing him to do things he does not want to do. Although, the fact that Van Pelt is hunting Allan mirrors what is happening in the real world -- a fact that Allan has no knowledge of. Allan's father hunts him out of love, but Van Pelt hunts him out of spite.
The book upon which the film is based is short and contains primarily Allan and crew learning lessons while escaping the dangers of the jungle. The film itself attempts to expand upon this limited plot. The superfluous scenes have little to do with the main motifs of the movie. In fact, the movie recognizes the unnecessary scenes and vehemently denies that they ever happened by movie's end. The board game ends and Sarah and Allan return to their childhoods to reconcile their lives.
Later, Titanic would copy this exact scene.
Jumanji received an average reception by critics. Many saw the film as fun children's fable, light entertainment for developing minds. Others saw the movie as simple with many plot holes and a convoluted plot that resolved itself too abruptly. This film also helped start the refrain by critics that the advanced visual effects technology added visual flair while hindering the actual storytelling. Audiences disagreed with critics. The relatively high budget was matched with audiences flocking to see the fun and entertaining movie. The film grossed over $262 million dollars -- a high-water mark for children's films at that point. For a generation of children, the film left an indelible mark of light action-adventure films. As such, the film sold well on home video and continues to sell well as a discount DVD.
While the production invested a great deal of effort into physical effects such as special effects, animatronics, and weather effects, Industrial Light and Magic developed and utilized a great deal of state of the art technology to bring fantasy to life in Jumanji. The film set a precedent in computer generated imagery interacting with onscreen elements. Advanced digital animation was combined with live action shots. To accomplish this feat, ILM developed used advanced techniques in compositing and motion tracking and control.
Compositing in the combination of different images to create the illusion that the two images exist in the same space. In film, there are various ways to create this illusion. Filmmakers can use multiple exposures, chroma and luma keying, matte composition, and transparency overlays. Jumanji used all of these techniques, but what was impressive at the time was the use of digital compositing. Matte composition and transparency overlays leave artifacts of their usage whether a black border around composited images or ghostly see through images. Digital compositing is a per pixel combination and is nearly seamless.
To get the digital animation to coexist with the live action footage, the visual effects artists needed a way to track motion so that the virtual camera moved with the actual camera. The traditional way was to either lock down the camera so there was no motion or use a computer controlled Motion Control Camera rig that recorded the movement. While Jumanji used these techniques it also pioneered digital motion tracking. Markers are placed around a set that are later removed. These markers create points that a computer can recreate in three dimensional space. From this recreation, the computer can move the virtual camera to match real world movement.
All of the CG Creatures Lack the Color Green.
Still, the visual effects had faults. The composition techniques in their infancy had a limited color pallete. CGI objects and creatures appeared to have a red hue due to a lack of green pixels. Lighting solutions had not yet been fully realized. These problems caused many of the CGI effects to have odd borders, colorations, and shadows. The issues caused some of the effects to hover above the scenes they were supposed to be integrated into.
Even with the problems with visual effects, the tremendous effort put into Jumanji developed technology that spawned new generations of visual effects interactions that created more realistic illusions that ever before. In fact, you can probably thank Jumanji for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. More specifically, thank Jumanji for Jar Jar Binks.
Other Jumanji Projects
May Or May Not Pull You Into a Jungle World.
Milton Bradley created an actual board game based on the film. Digital versions of the game have been released on different platforms including on CD, Internet Flash Game, and mobile phones.
The Cartoon Ran For Three Years.
In 1996, an animated series was created based on Jumanji called Jumanji. It ran for three years in syndication. The plot altered that of the movie. Allan was trapped in the board game Jungle because he missed his clue and therefore could not fulfill it. Judy and Peter would enter the board game at the beginning of the episode with a clue. They would learn a lesson while solving the clue while helping Allan try and find his. Van Pelt also hunted the three of them.