Mars Attacks! is a 1996 American comedy science fiction film directed by Tim Burton and written by Jonathan Gems. 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 supporting roles played by Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie Smith and Sylvia Sidney. The film is a parody of science fiction B movies with elements of black comedy and political satire.
The film was shot in California, Nevada, Kansas, Arizona and Argentina. The soundtrack became famous for the Martians’ quirky speech pattern, which was created by reversing the sound of a duck’s quack. The filmmakers hired Industrial Light & Magic to create the Martians using computer animation after their previous plan to use stop motion, supervised by Barry Purves, fell through because of budget limitations. Mars Attacks! was released on December 13, 1996 to mixed reviews from critics. The film grossed approximately $101 million in box office totals, which was seen as a disappointment. Mars Attacks! was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and earned multiple nominations at the Saturn Awards (source: Wikipedia).
A fleet of Martian spacecraft surrounds the world’s major cities and all of humanity waits to see if the extraterrestrial visitors have, as they claim, “come in peace.” U.S. President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) receives assurance from science professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) that the Martians’ mission is a friendly one. But when a peaceful exchange ends in the total annihilation of the U.S. Congress, military men call for a full-scale nuclear retaliation (source: IMDb).
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. The Martian Girl dress had no zipper or buttons (to make it as smooth as possible), so Lisa Marie had to be sewn into it every day.
#2. The writers weren’t sure what the Martians should sound like so the script read “ack, ack, ack, ack” for all of their lines of dialogue. This became the actual words spoken by the Martians in the film.
3. The appearance of the aliens was inspired in an old trading card collection that Tim Burton had collected.
#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 visited Tom Jones backstage after one of his Las Vegas shows to ask him to appear in his film. Additionally, Jones’ real-life backup singers at the time-Darelle Porter Holden, Christi Black, and Sharon Hendrix-played Jones’ doomed backup singers in the movie.
#10. A real-life demolition in Las Vegas was filmed by Tim Burton, and incorporated into the movie. The casino was The Landmark, once owned by Howard Hughes. The location is now an expansion of the parking lot for the Las Vegas Convention Center.
#11. In the first drafts of the script and in the novelization, the Martians’ ray-guns had a variety of lethal and graphic effects on people. Examples of this include people being bisected, body parts cut off, literally exploding, melting, being shredded, having huge holes blown into their bodies, and literally turning into flame when hit by a Martian ray. However, to avoid an “R” rating from the MPAA, the film’s producers were forced to tone down the effects of the Martian rays to simply having people be reduced 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 says goodbye to his grandmother, she calls him “Thomas,” Jack Black’s real first name.
#15. The Martians land in Pahrump, Nevada, home of radio talk-show host Art Bell, who is well known for his penchant for featuring guests on his show who are involved, in one way or another, with the subject of outer-space life forms, ranging from scientists investigating the possibility of it 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 wanted the Martians brought to life via stop-motion animation, but finally went with CGI. The animators told Burton they could animate the Martians without motion blur to make them look more “stop-motiony,” but Burton decided against that.
#17. When Martin Short is courting the Martian Girl (Lisa Marie), he brings her into a secret room used by John F. Kennedy with a fish tank. The fish tank contains almost the entire cast of Finding Nemo (2003) including Nemo himself, Gill, Dory and Bubbles (no sharks, shrimps, whales and pelicans though.) The coincidence occurred probably because these species of fish are the most popular and colorful types of salt-water aquarium fishes.
#18. A flying saucer is shown flying through the clouds during the normal Warner Brothers logo title sequence showing the company’s trademark shield with the cloudy sky background.
#19. Tim Burton co-wrote the screenplay but asked to not receive credit. Jonathan Gems dedicated the novelization to Burton.
#20. This is the second of three films in as many years in which both Pierce Brosnan (Professor Donald Kessler) and Joe Don Baker (Richie’s Dad) appear. The other two are GoldenEye (1995) and Tomorrow Never Dies (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
The Mars Attacks trading card series was created by Topps in 1962. Product developer Len Brown, inspired by Wally Wood’s cover for EC Comics Weird Science #16, pitched the idea to Woody Gelman. Gelman and Brown created the story—with Brown writing the copy—and created rough sketches. They enlisted Wood to flesh out the sketches and Bob Powell to finish them. Norman Saunders painted the 55-card set.
The cards, which sold for five cents per pack of five, were test marketed by Topps through the dummy corporation Bubbles, Inc. under the name Attack from Space. Sales were sufficient to expand the marketing and the name was changed to Mars Attacks. The cards sparked parental and community outrage over their graphic violence and implied sexuality. Topps responded initially by repainting 13 of the cards to reduce the gore and sexuality, then, following inquiries from a Connecticut district attorney, agreed to halt production. (source: wikipedia)