Matt Frewer and Kristine Sutherland Talk the 30th Anniversary of ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ (Interview)

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Honey I Shrunk the Kids
CR: Disney

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since the Szalinski family and the Thompson family went on the craziest backyard adventure the world had ever seen in Walt Disney Studios’ classic film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. 

The ground-breaking film hit theaters in 1989 and followed scientist, inventor, and dad Wayne Szalinski (played by Rick Moranis) who was hard at work trying to invent the breakthrough machine that would shrink items on contact. Things get crazy when the device accidentally shrinks the Szalinski children as well as the children of the neighboring Thompson family. Now, the two clashing families have to work together to survive the perils of their own seemingly supersized backyard.

In honor of the film’s 30th Anniversary, we chatted with stars Matt Frewer, who played Big Russ Thompson, and Kristine Sutherland, who played Mae Thompson about their fond memories of making such a fantastic movie.

Both Frewer and Sutherland had interesting casting experience when it came to landing their roles in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Frewer says he was a last minute casting, and one day after doing a screen test was on his way down to Mexico City to film. Sutherland auditioned for another role in the movie but ended up not getting the part. She was shocked when she received a phone call months later about the role of Mae Thompson, but she was thrilled about the upcoming adventure in filming such a unique project.

A Little Film’s Giant-Sized Success:

At the time, neither one of them knew how iconic and successful Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would become. When asked if they knew if the film would be as big a hit as it was, Frewer said:

“No, not at all. It was absolutely charming, and I gather it went through lots of different incarnations. The one that we ended up with was obviously the magic formula, and then you add Joe Johnston, the director, into the mix, and he guided it to the heights that it achieved. It was just a great, fun, and really happy experience – the whole thing.”

Sutherland also recognized the potential in the film, but not right away. She said:

“Oh, not at all. Not at all. The first name for the film was The Groundlings, and I think that the name [Honey, I Shrunk the Kids] didn’t come until in the middle of the filming. We all got a present, wish I’d saved mine, but it was a magnifying glass that said The Groundlings on it. I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, The Groundlings. I don’t know. Doesn’t sound good, but I’m sure we’ll have a really fun time doing it.’ So, at least in the first half of the filming, I didn’t know what I was doing. It was such a fantasy world, and it revealed itself more and more each day. When you read it as a script, it didn’t fall into a genre. It was something completely new for its day.”

Supersized Practical Effects:

Part of the film’s groundbreaking charm was the use of massive practical props which created a real-life oversized environment for filming. While Frewer and Sutherland didn’t film in the supersized backyard themselves, they did recall seeing some of the groundbreaking props on set.

Frewer recalls watching the puppetry crew work with the giant ant affectionately called “Antie” in the film. He said:

“The ant was pretty amazing because he’s obviously an oversized giant ant puppet that was being operated by a puppetry crew. It was amazing watching them work. It was completely hysterical because there would be one guy on each leg, and one on each caliper. They would yell to each other, and the leg would come up, and the caliper would come up. It was really fun. They were a terrific crew. The whole thing was just this colorful wild ride. I mean, it just felt like a big adventure making it, and it’s such a happy result that it ended up being somewhat of a cultural phenomenon too.”

Sutherland remembers seeing the oversized sets being built. She said:

“I think they shot all the human side stuff with the parents and everything on set for the first two months. It was after we’d wrapped, so they were still building that stuff. Just as it got close to us leaving, I went onto one of those sets, and it had only recently been finished. You would look at these enormous props filling the entire soundstage. One blade of grass would go almost to the top of the soundstage, so that was pretty amazing.”

What Makes Honey, I Shrunk the Kids So Special:

When it comes down to pinpointing what it is that makes Honey, I Shrunk the Kids such a unique film, both Frewer and Sutherland agree it was a perfect combination of adventure and family fun which added to the film’s longevity.

Frewer said:

“I’d been working as an actor over in England for about 11 years, and actually Max Headroom brought me over to L.A., but Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was my first substantial role in a feature film in the United States. I had such a happy experience courtesy of Joe Johnston and the cast – that’s what sticks out for me most of all. It was a really great time. I think the movie itself harks back to a more innocent time. It was before postmodern irony and cynicism started creeping into everything courtesy of the Internet. There’s a joyousness about it, and it instilled a curiosity in kids to look for adventure in your backyard. You can grab a magnifying glass and see what microscopic creatures you can find in your own backyard.”

Sutherland said:

“I think on one level, it’s just this giant and scary adventure for kids to watch, but it’s also a brilliant comedy. I mean, it was the biggest comedy of the year that it came out. So, it operated on that level too. It’s not just a children’s film, but a family film.”

Yes, it’s a great adventure and a family film which has withstood the test of time. Watching Honey, I Shrunk the Kids today, 30 years after its release, it’s just as captivating and fun as it was back in 1989. Do you remember the first time you watched Disney’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids? Tell us what you love about the film in the comment section below.

You can relive the wonder of this magical film for yourself. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is currently available to stream on HBO NOW.

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