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Release Year: 1989
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Director: Joe Johnston
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has all the trapping of a horror movie—a distracted dad turns his normal-sized children into creatures so small they're capable of being terrorized by lawnmowers, brooms, and water droplets. If you add some gruesome special effects and replace the zany soundtrack with something by John Carpenter, you'd end up with something closer to The Fly than The Brady Bunch.
But somehow—through a combo of charming casting, adorable ants, sweet young love, and suburban values—Honey, I Shrunk The Kids manages to be cute rather than creepy and heart-warming rather than horrific.
We know; it sounds unlikely that you'd say "Aww" instead of "Ahhh!" about a movie that features a cooked turkey the size of a VW Bug and bees the size of Cessna airplanes.
But Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was an unlikely success from the get-go. Written by a crew of hardcore Lovecraft fanboys under the original title Teenie Weenies (which is so awful we can't even make a joke about it) the film was seen by Disney as throwaway project with little chance for success.
Fast-forward $222 million at the box office, however, and they changed their tune.
Through the efforts of visual effects-focused director Joe Johnston and an amazing performance by comedic genius Rick Moranis (he is the Keymaster) this strange film captured the imagination of kids the world over. Given how enticing the concept of seeing the world from an ant's eye view is, however, it makes a lot of sense to us just how stupendously successful this movie turned out to be.
Bonus: This silly film about shrink rays is also all about the idea of family. We meet two families (both alike in lack of dignity)—the Szalinskis and the Thompsons.
Wayne Szalinski is uber-focused on his latest invention (we'll let you guess what it is), and his wife and children feel unnoticed and unloved. Big Russ Thompson is the Papa Bear of his disjointed clan and he constantly pressures his kids into following in his super-macho, sports-loving footsteps.
The result is a film that touches on issues faced by anyone who's ever had a father, mother, or sibling. It touches on teenage romance. It touches on feelings of inadequacy. It touches on feelings of disconnection.
And—yes—it touches on what it might be like to be terrifyingly dwarfed by a single Cheerio.
Yes, we know—Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a silly little movie.
But if you think that there's nothing going on underneath the hood, then you're more shortsighted than the businessmen who didn't see potential in Wayne Szalinski's shrink ray.
Putting aside the film's examination of the way we interact with our mothers, fathers, little brothers, and older sisters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is an amazingly well put-together film. (And we're not even just talking about the visual effects, which hold up incredibly well for a movie made in 1989.)
That's because every single character in the film goes through a fully rounded story arc. Big Russ learns to accept his kids as individuals. Wayne learns that there's more to life than work. Amy learns that being popular isn't the most important thing in the world.
Even the non-human characters—Quark the dog and Antie the (unimaginatively named) ant—are fully-rounded characters who grow and change over the course of this briskly paced movie. In an era where three-hour long films are woefully bereft of characterization and plot structure, it might blow your mind how much meat the filmmakers stuff into a slight, ninety-minute frame. You might even say that they...shrunk it down to size. (Low hanging fruit—we couldn't resist.)
So yes: Even though Honey, I Shrunk The Kids dials the zany up to eleven and doubles down on mad scientist jokes, you shouldn't dismiss it as mere fluff.
You should consider it to be fluff of the highest (and highest-grossing) quality: the kind of movie that's made its way into the cultural consciousness through a dynamic combo of adept storytelling and wild inventiveness.
According to director Joe Johnston, Disney was super freaked out that he'd make a horror film instead of a kid-friendly flick. (Source)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids used classic stop-motion animation for many of its visual effects. As it happens, these effects were provided by David Allen, an innovator in the medium who worked on classics like Gumby. That's old school cred. (Source)
The film was originally called Teenie Weenies, which might be the most horrendous title we've ever encountered. Thank Zeus they switched things around. (Source)
Chevy Chase was originally cast as Wayne Szalinski before the part landed in Rick Moranis' lap. Frankly, that would have made the Szalinski patriarch a much grumpier fellow, rather than the lovable weirdo portrayed by Moranis. (Source)
National Inventors Society
Join the club, guys.
Here's some more juicy scientific gold for all of you inventors-in-training. Study up.
A Rare Interview with Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis has spent a lot of time out of the spotlight since the release of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but this interview represents him breaking his long silence.
Joe Johnston on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
In this interview, director Joe Johnston discusses the movie that launched his career as a filmmaker.
How Amateur Inventors Changed the World
There are plenty of real-life Wayne Szalinskis out there who have played a key role in creating many of the technologies we take for granted today.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids at Disney Theme Park
This is the closest you'll ever get to being shrunk, kids.
TED Talks - Amateur Hour
This fascinating series of TED Talks focuses on amateur inventors and their impact on scientific history. We can just picture our boy Wayne up there.
Bullseye with Jesse Thorn Featuring Rick Moranis
This is yet another great interview with the wonderful Rick Moranis, which comes after his long absence from the film industry.
The Making of Honey's Special Effects
This single picture provides great insight into how the filmmakers created the visual landscape of the film.
Rick Moranis and Bert
Sometimes context is overrated.