Mars Attacks! is a 1996 American comedy science fiction film written and directed by Tim Burton. Based on the cult trading card series of the same name, the film stars Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, and Danny DeVito, with Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie Smith, and Sylvia Sidney in supporting roles. The film is a spoof of science fiction B movies, with elements of black humour and political satire thrown in for good measure.
Filming took place in California, Nevada, Kansas, Arizona, and Argentina. The soundtrack is well known for the Martians’ peculiar speech pattern, which was generated by reversing the sound of a duck’s quack. After their initial idea to use stop motion, directed by Barry Purves, fell through due to budget constraints, the directors recruited Industrial Light & Magic to create the Martians using computer animation. On 13 December 1996, Mars Attacks! was released to mixed reviews from critics. The picture grossed around $101 million at the box office, which was considered a failure. Mars Attacks! was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and received many Saturn Award nominations.
A fleet of Martian spaceships surrounds the world’s major cities, as humanity waits to discover if the alien visitors have “came in peace,” as they claim. President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is assured by science professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) that the Martians’ mission is harmless. However, when a peaceful exchange results in the utter annihilation of the United States Congress, military leaders demand for full-scale nuclear counterattack.
Mars Attacks! has a stellar cast – here is some of the top actors:
- Jack Nicholson as President James Dale / Art Land
- Glenn Close as First Lady Marsha Dale
- Annette Bening as Barbara Land
- Pierce Brosnan as Professor Donald Kessler
- Danny DeVito as Rude Gambler
- Martin Short as Press Secretary Jerry Ross
- Sarah Jessica Parker as Nathalie Lake
- Michael J. Fox as Jason Stone
- Natalie Portman as Taffy Dale
- Tom Jones as Himself
- Christina Applegate as Sharona
- Jack Black as Billy-Glenn Norris
22 Fun facts about Mars Attacks!:
#1. Since there was no zipper or buttons on the Martian Girl dress (in order to make it as smooth as possible), the actress, Lisa Marie, had to be sewed into it every day.
#2. The dialogue for the Martians was written as “ack, ack, ack, ack” since the writers weren’t sure how they should sound. This ended up being the Martians’ real dialogue in the movie.
#3. Tim Burton’s old collection of trading cards served as the inspiration for the aliens’ design.
#4. The US Army uniforms, tanks, jeeps, artillery, etc. are all from the 1950s, when the movies being parodied were produced, despite the fact that the action is supposed to be taking place in the 1990s.
#5. When people had their flesh vaporized from their bones, the remaining skeletons were either red or green. Tim Burton explained this had been done because the movie had been scheduled for a Christmas release. Also, the red and green skeletons were first seen in Beetlejuice (1988). When Barbara and Adam were in Juno’s office you can see them with other ghouls looking at the screen.
#8. Tim Burton approached Tom Jones after one of his Las Vegas shows and asked him to appear in his film. Furthermore, Darelle Porter Holden, Christi Black, and Sharon Hendrix, Jones’ real-life backup singers at the time, played Jones’ doomed backup singers in the film.
#10. Tim Burton filmed and incorporated a real-life demolition in Las Vegas into the film. The casino was called The Landmark, and it was once owned by Howard Hughes. The location is now an extension of the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot.
#11. The Martians’ ray-guns had a variety of lethal and graphic effects on people in the first drafts of the script and novelization. People have been bisected, had body parts cut off, literally exploded, melted, been shredded, had huge holes blown into their bodies, and literally turned into flame when hit by a Martian ray. However, in order to avoid a “R” rating from the MPAA, the film’s producers were forced to reduce the effects of the Martian rays to simply reducing people to skeletons.
#13. Tim Burton reunites with Danny Elfman after not working together on Ed Wood (1994). Burton and Elfman experienced “creative differences” during The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
#14. When Jack Black’s character Billy-Glenn bids his grandmother farewell, she addresses him as “Thomas,” Jack Black’s real first name.
#15. The Martians land in Pahrump, Nevada, the home of radio talk-show host Art Bell, who is well known for featuring guests on his show who are involved, in some way, with the subject of outer-space life forms, ranging from scientists investigating the possibility to people who claim to have been kidnapped, examined, impregnated (sometimes all at the same time) by space aliens or have had other kinds of contact with creatures from outer space.
#16. Tim Burton had hoped to bring the Martians to life with stop-motion animation, but ultimately settled on CGI. The animators suggested that Burton animate the Martians without motion blur to make them look more “stop-motiony,” but Burton declined.
#17. When Martin Short is courting the Martian Girl (Lisa Marie), he takes her into a secret room with a fish tank used by John F. Kennedy. Almost the entire cast of Finding Nemo (2003) is present in the fish tank, including Nemo, Gill, Dory, and Bubbles (no sharks, shrimps, whales and pelicans though.) The coincidence occurred most likely because these fish species are among the most popular and colorful salt-water aquarium fishes.
#18. During the normal Warner Brothers logo title sequence, a flying saucer is shown flying through the clouds with the company’s trademark shield against a cloudy sky background.
#19 Tim Burton co-wrote the screenplay but declined credit. The novelization was dedicated to Burton by Jonathan Gems.
#20. This is the second of three films in three years starring both Pierce Brosnan (Professor Donald Kessler) and Joe Don Baker (Richie’s Father). GoldenEye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies are the other two (1997).
#21. Tim Burton Director Trademark: Features many actors cast in previous Burton films: Sylvia Sidney from Beetlejuice (1988), Jack Nicholson from Batman (1989), O-Lan Jones from Edward Scissorhands (1990), Danny DeVito from Batman Returns (1992), Sarah Jessica Parker and Lisa Marie Smith from Ed Wood (1994).
#22. Crazy Credits: Special effects: No living animals were barbecued during the production of this film.
Mars Attacks Topp Trumps Card Trading Game
Topps created the Mars Attacks trading card series in 1962. Inspired by Wally Wood’s cover for EC Comics Weird Science #16, product developer Len Brown pitched the idea to Woody Gelman. Gelman and Brown wrote the story and created rough sketches, with Brown writing the copy. Wood was brought in to flesh out the sketches, and Bob Powell was brought in to finish them. The 55-card set was painted by Norman Saunders.
Topps tested the cards, which sold for five cents per pack of five, under the name Attack from Space through the dummy corporation Bubbles, Inc. Sales were sufficient to justify expanding marketing efforts, and the title was changed to Mars Attacks. The graphic violence and implied sexuality in the cards sparked parental and community outrage. Topps initially responded by repainting 13 of the cards to reduce the gore and sexuality, then agreed to halt production in response to inquiries from a Connecticut district attorney.