- “I'll tell you at their size, that backyard is like 10 miles. Giant blades of grass, huge insects; it's a jungle out there!”
- ―Wayne Szalinski
Having problems at home with his wife, Diane (Marcia Strassman), struggling inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) has created an electro-magnetic shrink ray - unfortunately it only seems to make things explode. While at work, his neighbor's son, Ron Thompson (Jared Rushton), hits a baseball into the Szalinskis' attic and starts the shrink ray.
Ron and his older brother, Russ Jr. (Thomas Wilson Brown), and Wayne's kids, Amy (Amy O'Neill) and Nick (Robert Oliveri), go up to the attic to retrieve the baseball. Luckily, it got stuck in the machine and blocked one of the laser components, resulting in it only releasing enough energy to shrink things instead of blowing them up, and the kids, a nearby couch, and chair are shrunk by the ray when it fires.
As Wayne comes home from a presentation at the lab, he notices his kids and his "thinking couch" missing. Without an explanation for this occurrence, he begins to get angry at the machine for being joked about during work. He begins to destroy it as the kids, now 1/4 of an inch tall, try to get his attention, but to no avail. He begins to sweep up the mess and accidentally sweeps them into the trash.
The kids escape the trash bag and find themselves at the far end of the backyard. Knowing that crossing it to get back to the house will take hours at their size, they begin to climb a flower to see how far it is. While clinging to the stem, Nick and Russ Jr. are attacked by a bee. They cling to it for dear life and are separated from Ron and Amy.
Russ Thompson, Sr. (Matt Frewer), Ron and Russ Jr.'s bumbling father, is getting aggravated at his missing sons since he is planning a fishing trip with his family. Russ Jr., who secretly likes Amy, often feels small compared to his dad's standards since he was cut from the football team (although it's revealed later on that he actually quit). While looking at the attic floor, Wayne finds his "thinking couch" in a miniature form. He soon concludes that he has shrunken the kids. Diane comes home and he tells her this. She becomes infuriated with him and tries to help search for the kids.
Meanwhile, Wayne accidentally turns on the sprinklers while searching for the kids in the backyard. Giant splashes of water soon surround them. Amy begins to drown in the muddy water near the flagstone while Wayne turns them off. Russ Jr. saves her before she dies by giving her CPR. The kids continue their journey. On their way, they find a cream cookie in the yard. They meet an ant who befriends them, nicknamed "Antie" by Ron. Wayne and Diane decide to tell Russ and his wife, Mae (Kristine Sutherland), about the shrinking of their sons.
They are not pleased, but Mae seems to understand more. At the end of the night, the kids decide to sleep in one of Nick's LEGOs. During the night, Amy and Russ Jr. admit their feelings for each other and share a kiss, but are interrupted by an attacking scorpion. Antie, trying to rescue them, is fatally wounded by its stinger, though the kids scare it off by bombarding it with stones and sharp sticks (Ron is able to put out two of its eyes). They comfort Antie, who in moments, dies from the venom.
In the morning, Nick's friend, Tommy Pervis, comes to mow the lawn. The kids hear the lawnmower and descend into a wormhole to escape. Wayne and Diane rush outside to make Tommy stop, but unfortunately, he does just as the lawnmower is over the hole. It sucks Nick out of it, but the others hold on to him. They are not killed, but do not get the attention of their parents. They realize that their voices are too high and quiet to be heard by them, but that they can be heard by their dog, Quark. They hold onto his fur and ride him back into the house.
While Wayne is eating a bowl of Cheerios, Nick accidentally lands in it. The others try to get Wayne's attention as Nick is about to be eaten. Quark bites Wayne, who freezes with the spoon halfway to his mouth. Looking through a magnifying glass, he sees Nick. The kids communicate to their parents that the baseball went through the window and started the machine. Armed with this information, Wayne pieces together how the accident made it work and brings the kids back to normal size after using it to shrink and regrow Russ.
A few months later, during Thanksgiving, the two families eat an enlarged turkey and are happy. Russ has come to terms with Russ Jr. quitting football, Wayne and Diane patch up their problems, Nick and Ron finally become friends, and Russ Jr. and Amy begin dating. The movie ends with Quark eating a giant bone as a Thanksgiving treat. But as it begins to black out, it reopens suddenly to Nick, realizing a joke that Russ Jr. made earlier about learning CPR in French class. It closes with him laughing, finally getting the joke.
- Rick Moranis as Wayne Szalinski
- Marcia Strassman as Diane Szalinski
- Amy O'Neill as Amy Szalinski
- Robert Oliveri as Nick Szalinski
- Matt Frewer as Russ Thompson, Sr.
- Kristine Sutherland as Mae Thompson
- Thomas Wilson Brown as Russ Thompson, Jr.
- Jared Rushton as Ron Thompson
- Carl Steven as Tommy Pervis
- Mark L. Taylor as Don Forrester
- Kimmy Robertson as Gloria Forrester
- Lou Cutell as Professor Brainard
- Laura Waterbury as Female Cop
- Trevor Galtress as Male Cop
- Martin Aylett as Harold Boorstein
- Janet Sunderland as Lauren Boorstein
- Craig Richard Nelson as Professor Frederickson
- Frank Welker as Antie/The Scorpion/Quark (voice)
The project was originally brought to Disney Studios by Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna. Gordon was hired to direct the film and Yuzna to produce. The film was written as Teeny Weenies by Stuart Gordon, Ed Naha, and Brian Yuzna. Tom Schulman was later added as a screenwriter. Gordon originally prepped the film but had to drop out as director shortly before filming began due to illness. Joe Johnston was brought in to replace him.
As Teeny Weenies seemed to appeal more to a child demographic, the name was changed to Grounded to appeal to a more mature audience. That name was later rejected in favour of The Big Backyard. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, a line of dialogue from the film, ultimately became its title.
The film was heavily influenced by '50s fare, such as The Incredible Shrinking Man.
Judy Taylor, Mike Fenton, and Lynda Gordon were the casting directors. Before Rick Moranis was cast as "nutty" inventor Wayne Szalinski, the script was written with Chevy Chase in mind because of his popularity in National Lampoon's Vacation. He was filming the second sequel, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and was too busy to portray Wayne.
John Candy was also considered for the role. He declined, but suggested to director Joe Johnston that his friend, Rick Moranis, would be a good choice. Marcia Strassman portrays Wayne's wife, Diane, who is having marital troubles with him.
The film needed four teenagers to play the leads. Russ Jr., portrayed by Thomas Wilson Brown seems to be interested in Amy, and less in football, while Ron, Jared Rushton, appears to be more straightforward and a bully toward Nick, though he warms towards him. Rushton has quoted that he took the role after thinking that the script was "appealing" and he thought his character had progressed throughout the film with his personality.
Amy O'Neill and Robert Oliveri were cast as Amy and Nick Szalinski, Wayne and Diane's kids. Oliveri commented that he was in awe about watching his stunt double do his stunts. O'Neill thought the film was a fun experience and that doing off-set activities, such as swimming or playing cards, was fun to do with the other younger cast members. She accepted the role because it was a "Disney movie".
Joe Johnston was selected to direct the film for his directorial debut, having been mostly working on films as an effects illustrator and art director. It was filmed at the backlot of Churubusco Studios in Mexico City. Gregg Fonseca was the production designer and was in charge of managing several different sets for the scenes in the movie.
Some filming took place in and around Beverly Hills, California. In the scene where Diane walks out of the mall to the pay phone, a sign says 'Beverly Hills Mall'. It is unclear if the whole film takes place there or just that scene, as this contradicts one assertion in the sequel that Wayne was originally from, and thus the Szalinski residence depicted in this one is in Fresno.
Special effects were heavily used for the film, such as the electronically controlled ants and bees. For the most part, the production team tried to use practical effects that would work in camera. For the scene where Wayne lands in the Thompsons' pool, Moranis jumped off a flying board in the form of a teeter-totter on a swing set. A stuntman pushed the board, sending him flying through the air and landing on a mat. Numerous storyboards were used for the film, particularly in the sprinklers scene and the scene involving the bee. Scale models were also used for the bee scene, with miniature Russ Jr. and Nick plastic figures attached. Forced perspective was used in the giant cookie scene, to make it seem bigger. The child actors were strapped in for the scene with the broom. The bristles were actually pieces of foam that were carved and tied to a rig system.
The film has earned a 75% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with generally positive reviews. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times, gave a negative review, stating: "The special effects are all there, nicely in place, and the production values are sound, but the movie is dead in the water." Caryn James, of The New York Times, gave a positive review, saying: "As sweet, funny, and straightforward as its title." Variety gave another positive review stating, "[It's] in the best tradition of Disney -- and even better than that, because it is not so juvenile that adults won't be thoroughly entertained."
- "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)". Box Office Mojo (1989-10-24). Retrieved on 2015-10-14.
- "The Making of 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids'". Retrieved on 17 October 2009.
- "The Making of 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' Part 3". Retrieved on 17 October 2009.
- Sometimes referred as "Greg Fonseca".
- "The Making of 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids' Part 2". Retrieved on 12 September 2009.
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